Page content

The proposal to form the International Union of Nutritional Sciences was first discussed in July 1946 in London, where a meeting had been convened by the British Nutrition Society. This meeting was attended by 22 research workers from 13 countries. Two years later, a meeting of an International Provisional Committee was held with sessions in London on 10 and 11 June 1948. Statutes and bylaws were discussed, and the principal objects of the Union were defined as: a) the exchange of information, b) the organization of international congresses, c) the publication of the results of scientific investigation. A small Executive Committee was appointed, and Professor E.J. Bigwood (Belgium) was elected Chairperson, and Dr Leslie J. Harris (UK) Secretary General.

Since then the Union has grown steadily. At first the holding of the congresses was its main task, but, in the course of the years, other equally important activities have developed which need long-term planning and efficient administration.

The work of the Union is directed by the General Assembly, which meets at the time of the international congresses. The General Assembly, consisting of delegates appointed by the Adhering Bodies, is the highest authority of the Union, and the Council serves as an executive group between the meetings of the Assembly. The number of the delegates from the Adhering Body depends on the membership category which the Body has chosen. Members adhere to the Union through National Academies or other appropriate scientific groups. At present, IUNS has 80 Adhering Bodies and 15 Affiliated Bodies.

According to the IUNS Statutes and Rules of Procedure, Commissions and Committees are established to accomplish more extensive international cooperation among scientists in nutrition-related research and education. The work of the Committees is expected frequently to result in reports that are published, subsequent to their approval by the President. Several important meetings of individual Committees have been held and large conferences of the Commissions and Committees have been arranged. In the selection of the personnel for the Committees, due consideration is given to balanced geographical representation from different areas. The Commissions and Committees work in close collaboration with each other under the supervision of the President and the three Vice-Presidents. For financial reasons much of the work is done by correspondence.

At the 1968 meeting of the General Assembly of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), the IUNS was elected to membership. The admission to ICSU was an important step in the history of IUNS: the Union’s status as an independent scientific body was thus recognized; its financial situation was improved by ICSU grants; and appropriate collaboration with other scientific organizations and participation in current international projects were strengthened. The International Unions of Biological Sciences, Physiological Sciences, Biochemistry, Pure and Applied Biophysics, Pharmacology, Immunological and Micro-biological Societies, with the IUNS, form the so-called “Bio-Unions” of ICSU.

The IUNS has a special consultative status with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Administrative Committee on Coordination/Subcommittee on Nutrition and is an associate member of the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS), and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations University (UNU). Close cooperation exists with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and various ICSU bodies, and with the International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST), including establishing joint committees and working groups.

Barbara A. Underwood, Ph.D. Past IUNS president 1997-2001. IUNS: An Overview 

To learn more about the history of IUNS we have published three history documents over the years. The most recent, “Reflections on 75 Years of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences”, edited by Catherine Geissler and Margaret Ashwell, was published in 2022.

Barbara A. Underwood, Ph.D. Past IUNS president 1997-2001. IUNS: An Overview 

To learn about about the history of IUNS, continue reading the unabridged version of “IUNS: An Overview”.

International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS): An Overview

by Dr Barbara A. Underwood. 2001.

The International Union of Nutritional Sciences A Brief History

by Leslie J. Harris. 1963

Current and Former Members of the IUNS Task Force on Traditional and Indigenous Food Systems and Nutrition  

Historical report of Task Force activities (1990-2021)