Dr Helen Eyles is a Research Fellow and Public Health Nutritionist at the National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI). Helen is a member of the DIET Programme Steering Committee and leads the NutriSales project. She is also an investigator on the Virtual Supermarket and Starlight trials.
Helen’s key research interests include food reformulation, food pricing, and food labelling. In 2011 Helen developed Nutritrack, a brand-specific food composition database which is updated annually and includes nutrient information for major processed foods on sale in New Zealand supermarkets and fast food restaurants. Last year she led the New Zealand development of FoodSwitch, a new smart phone application using this data. The aim of FoodSwitch is to help New Zealand shoppers make healthier food choices at the supermarket. Helen is currently leading a trial called SaltSwitch to see whether a modified version of FoodSwitch can help people with heart disease to make lower salt food choices. Previous key nutrition research projects Helen has been involved in include the SHOP trial (n=1,104), which evaluated the effects of price discounts and tailored nutrition education on supermarket food purchases; and SPEND, which estimated the impact of food taxes and subsidies on diets and non-communicable disease in New Zealand.
Helen is currently supported by a Heart Foundation of New Zealand post-doctoral fellowship and is a member of the Heart Foundation Tick Criteria Working Group. She is also an Associate Editor for BMC Public Health and a member of the Nutrition Society of New Zealand, the International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, and the Global Food Monitoring Group.
How she spends her time...
Helen spends half her time researching and the other half teaching population nutrition at the University of Auckland. Helen’s research time is largely focused on the DIET programme, but also leads SaltSwitch, the findings of which are due at the end of 2015 and will be quite novel as few robust smart phone trials have been completed to date.
Helen is particularly interested in improving the food supply to make healthier food choices easier. One of her key passions is finding ways to reduce consumption of highly processed foods (and increase consumption of whole foods!). She is currently looking into the availability of fresh and processed foods in different settings in New Zealand and exploring how we can reduce people’s exposure to sodium, saturated fat and sugar. She is also interested in consumer action for change and exploring the question: How can consumers lead changes in our food supply to improve population nutrition?
Helen is looking forward to attending the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Conference in Scotland later this year where she will present preliminary findings from the SaltSwitch study and check out local, fresh food. In her spare time Helen loves to swim, run, cycle, and cook, and she has recently developed a passion for making cultured veges (think sauerkraut but with beets, carrots, and other yummy veges)!