QUB Tackles Indian Diet Epidemic

Local academics are at the forefront of advances to determine the link between diet and disease in India.

The work carried out by researchers at Queen's University Belfast will soon enable healthcare professionals and policymakers in the south Asian province to tackle the disease endemic using national data.

While there is limited information on the issue, it's known that a disproportionately high number of premature deaths in the region are caused by preventable diet-related disease.

The country continues to experience the double burden of malnutrition, where high levels of undernutrition coexist alongside over-nutrition, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Some 60% of early deaths in the region can be attributed to preventable cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, while others die early due to undernutrition complications such as anaemia.

Queen's University Belfast teamed up with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the University of Southern California to develop a tool that captures data at a national level based on the need for further research.

An initial pilot with adults aged 45 and over proved "extremely positive", according to School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Science Lecturer Dr McEvoy.
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She said: "Through working with leading researchers, dieticians and medical clinicians in India, we have developed a suitable measure of habitual diet that takes into account diverse eating patterns and socioeconomic gradients in the population who have high susceptibility to both nutrient deficiency and non-communicable disease.

"As the population is set to increase, the double burden of malnutrition will become a bigger challenge. It is vital that we begin to collate this data now at a national level, so that we have the knowledge to inform healthcare policies and healthcare planning around this epidemic. The next stage of our research will be to test the feasibility of the diet measure on a wider scale."

India's population is growing at an exponential rate, with the country set to become the most populous in the next 30 years. This rapid growth will lead to increased preventable disease in the population as well as an increased demand on food supply.

To date, there has been limited research around diet in India, making it difficult to implement informed healthcare policies for the population in a bid to tackle the double burden of malnutrition.

Dr Claire McEvoy and Professor Jayne Woodside from the Institute for Global Food Security and Centre for Public Health at Queen's University Belfast are working in collaboration with colleagues from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the University of Southern California to develop a measurement tool to capture dietary data at a national level. The pilot project was funded by the Department from the Global Challenges Research Fund.


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