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World-leading diet and ageing researcher joins Sydney

1 August 2018
Professor Luigi Fontana appointed fourth ‘Picasso chair’
Professor Luigi Fontana - a biogerontologist in the field of diet and its role in healthy longevity in humans - has joined the University of Sydney as the Leonard P Ullmann Chair of Translational Metabolic Health.
Professor Luigi Fontana leaning against stairs.

Professor Luigi Fontana at the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre.

Credited with conducting the foundational research that gave rise to the 5:2 diet, Professor Fontana’s revolutionary work on the long-term effects of calorie restriction led to its acceptance as an intervention to reduce risk factors in cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Professor Fontana  joins the University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health and Central Clinical School as a clinician at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, working from the University’s multidisciplinary Charles Perkins Centre. He arrives at Sydney from Washington University in St. Louis and Italy’s University of Brescia.

Professor Fontana’s work in the ecological sphere also places him as a recognised environmental activist, connecting the need for reduction of calorie intake with the importance of reducing intake of animal-based foods.

An Editor-in-Chief of Nutrition and Healthy Aging, Professor Fontana has published widely in high calibre journals including Science and Nature.

“We’re tremendously excited to welcome Professor Fontana to the Charles Perkins Centre through his appointment to the Central Clinical School,” Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Duncan Ivison said.

His pioneering approach to the human ageing process will add a new and critical dimension to the Charles Perkins Centre’s quest to impact on chronic diseases related to metabolism.
Professor Duncan Ivison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

"Professor Fontana’s critical research and engagement with media and community means he continues to have significant research impact in the fields of planetary and human health.”

Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre, Professor Stephen Simpson, warmly welcomed Professor Fontana’s arrival.

“We’re immensely pleased Professor Fontana has accepted this position at the Charles Perkins Centre, and look forward to supporting the continuation of his ground-breaking work into the role of diet on ageing,” he said.

The Charles Perkins Centre’s complex systems and multidisciplinary approach to tackling some of the world’s most challenging health issues is a perfect fit for Professor Fontana’s ambitious and collaborative style of enquiry.
Professor Stephen Simpson, Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre

Professor Fontana said he was looking forward to collaboration with colleagues at the University to develop innovative, cross-disciplinary teaching, research and clinical programs that emphasise the role of nutrition and physical exercise in preventing chronic disease and promoting healthy longevity.

“Every day I observe many unhealthy people around me that are suffering and believe that chronic diseases are due to bad genes or misfortune,” he said.

“We now know that many of the most common chronic illnesses are preventable. Modern medicine makes it possible for patients to live with multiple chronic diseases for decades. But these years are characterised not by joy, freedom, action, independence and creativity, but rather by suffering, fear, debility and dependence on increasingly costly medical systems."

My research and clinical practice in Sydney will focus not only on increasing longevity, but also on understanding the precise mechanisms by which nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle interventions can lead to a healthy old age, and a creative, successful and fulfilling life.
Professor Luigi Fontana, Leonard P Ullmann Chair of Translational Metabolic Health
A colourful painting of a woman resting her head on her arms, eyes closed.

Pablo Picasso's Jeune fille endormie, donted to the University of Sydney.

Professor Fontana is the fourth and final Leonard P Ullmann Chair to be appointed to the University of Sydney, thanks to the $21 million sale of the 1935 painting by Pablo Picasso, Jeune fille endormie – a gift to the University from an anonymous American philanthropist in 2010. The painting was given to the University on the condition that it be sold, with the proceeds directed to medical research.

Alongside Professor Fontana’s position as chair of translational metabolic health, the gift funds research chairs in nutritional ecology, psychology and metabolic systems biology.

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