Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society | Nutrition Research Symposium 2013
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Nutrition Research Symposium 2013

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 Nutrition scientist points out gaps in research

To commemorate its 10 year anniversary, Pakistan Nutrition & Dietetic Society (PNDS) organized a one day “Nutrition Research Symposium: 2013” on Saturday, June 29th, 2013 at The Avari Towers.


By Fayza Khan

Vice President,PNDS


Most of the research studies done in Pakistan have failed to address the root causes and effects of malnutrition because they focus more on assessing indicators and less on identifying causal factors. Hence the lack of qualitative data and the absence of qualified nutritionists amongst the teams that conduct nutrition research results in a failure to address the causes of malnutrition. The rich and multifaceted education that a nutrition graduate is equipped with can enhance and improve the quality and application of nutrition research, Nilofer F Safdar, a noted nutritionist pointed out in her plenary address delivered at the Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society (PNDS) Research Symposium:2013 ,which was organized at 10th Anniversary of PNDS.

Dr Nilofer F. Safdar, who is director of the Nutritional Science Program, School of Public Health, Dow University of Health Sciences, in her speech entitled ‘The Importance of Research: Putting Pakistan on the Nutritional Map’, said: “Research plays a vital role in the practice and advancement of any science. Its importance is reflected in the standards of its professional practice. To many food and nutrition professionals, the term ‘research’ brings thoughts of data, numbers and measurements. It may relate to identifying an issue, answering a question, or advancement of knowledge of scientific and practical issues in nutrition and dietetics.” She was addressing the Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society Nutrition Research Symposium: 2013 which was attended by about 200 professional nutritionists / Dietitians from all over Pakistan.

Highlighting the gaps and challenges in nutritional surveys, research and interventions in Pakistan, she pointed out: “Regrettably, many of them have failed at addressing the root causes and effects of malnutrition. The focus is often mainly on assessing indicators and less on identifying causal factors. Lack of qualitative data to address the cause of  malnutrition, and absence of a qualified nutritionist among teams that conduct nutrition research, result in a dismal situation.”

Dr Nilofer Safdar added that “Paramount with documenting the effectiveness of nutrition professionals is their ability to conduct well-designed studies and use research in practice to improve the nutritional status of Pakistani people. Research skills are so vital in today’s world of cutting edge science that education, formal training and experience in this area has become an integral part of health sciences.”

Citing some examples of nutrition research and interventions, she said, “Hardly a week goes by when a breaking-news food and diet related study is reported. Public interest in food, diet and nutrition has increased dramatically. Regardless of the magnitude of research work in the area of nutritional sciences, the few research studies which included the expertise of a nutrition scientist have benefitted in a considerable manner the population at large. Putting the results of such research into practice might make a difference in the public’s understanding of diet and health.” She concluded her talk with suggestions how PNDS can help in developing research ability and sensitizing our members to the research culture.

Dr Safdar is Director, Nutritional Science Program, School of Public Health, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi. She has a PhD in Nutrition from School of Public Health, University of Massachusetts, USA. Her master’s degree is in Clinical Nutrition from The City University of New York, USA. She graduated from College of Home Economics, Karachi. She has done  professional training in International Nutrition from Cornell University, USA.

Dr Safdar is a two time recipient of Fulbright Scholarship. From USA, she was recently awarded the Delta Omega Public Health Excellence Award in recognition of her academic and professional achievement in public health. Her clinical work in nutrition spans over 25 years. She has worked with Aga Khan University and The Kidney Center Postgraduate Institute as head of the Nutrition department. She is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association. She is the Founder Member of PNDS and is currently its President. She represents   PNDS  in Asian Federation of Dietetic Association, British Dietetic Association & American Overseas Dietetic Association. Her research interests are dietary patterns, diet in the prevention of non-communicable diseases, community health and public health nutrition.

Calcium depletion: Samia Samar of the Food and Nutrition Department, RLAK Govt College of Home Economics Karachi, in her paper, ‘A Comparative Study of Bone Mineral Density and Associated Factors among High- and Low-Income School Children’, disclosed that in a study it was found that poor eating habits and inadequate physical activity have led to lower Bone Mineral Density (BMD) in children even from High Income Areas in spite of a higher intake of minerals. The overall mineral consumption was better in higher income area (HIA) children as compared to those from the lower income area (LIA). The HIA children were consuming more carbonated drinks and junk food and less active then children from LIA but their activity level was higher than that of children from HIA, she concluded. BMD was measured by Ultrasonic Densitometry in the region of the heel and the information regarding dietary habits and physical activities were obtained through a questionnaire.

Pre-school eating habits: Sidra Sirajuddin of the Tabba Heart Institute did a study on the differences between the food habits and behavior of preschool children whose mothers had Home Economics education versus non-Home Economists. The study concluded that food habits of the former were better than the later while the food behavior of both groups was same. Food habits include food choice, method of eating, numbers of meals per day, time of eating and portion size of foods consumed. Food consumption was compared with food guide pyramid for young children (USDA).

Head and neck surgery patients: Early nutritional intervention in long-term enteral support patients improved nutritional status. This was the finding of a study conducted by Mozamila Mughal on pre- and post-surgical nutritional status in head and neck surgery patients who are at nutritional risk for depletion due to altered ability to swallow. She is from the Nutrition and Food Service Department, AKUH. Further studies are needed to study the impact of nutritional intervention on wound healing, infection rate and readmissions, she added.

Vitamin B Intake in Ramadan: Summayya Irshad Khan of the Food and Nutrition Department, RLAK Govt. College of Home Economics, in her study, found that there was a significant decline in vitamin B complex intake during the month of Ramadan except for folate intake possibly due to an increased intake of fruits. The present study aimed to investigate the difference in the intake of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, folate and cobalamin of subjects between 12 and 90 years. The vitamin B intake among the females was found to be significantly lower than the males.

Milk Intake Perception: In a qualitative study, Dr Asma Makhani, Ayesha Zahid Khan, Ghazala Rafique of the The AKUH Human Development Programme, found that despite ethnicity and media advertisements having an impact on mothers, a majority of babies had an adequate intake of milk and milk products. The study was conducted in view of the fact that micronutrients deficiencies in young children have profound effects on their immune system, growth and mental development. This research explored the perceptions and practices of mothers in Karachi regarding milk and milk products intake in children of age 2-5 years.

Assessing literature / Research: Dr. Syeda Kanwal Aslam from School of Public Health, DUHS, described ‘How to critically appraise the scientific literature’. Since scientific research is considered an integral source of information for a health practitioner, she elaborated how it is imperative for health practitioners to have a sound knowledge of how to do critical appraisal.

How to translate Clinical work into a Published Research : Dr Fatima Mir of the Department of Pediatrics & Child Health, Aga Khan University, discussed the various skills required to translate clinical experience into publications and why it remains an uncomfortable challenge for the best of us. She gave simple tips to the young researchers on how to start and finish a research manuscript.

  • Dr Syeda Kanwal from School of Public Health, DUHS, discussed the various steps required to do a critical appraisal of the scientific literature. She enumerated various guidelines that a keen scientific reader can use to recognize good quality research papers.
  • Deneize Asim Puri, Saba Shahid, Bushra Sadiq and Ayesha Khalid from Indus Hospital, Korangi, presented a paper on ‘Efficacy of Dietary Counseling in Management of Moderate Malnutrition’.
  • The study on ‘Perceptions on Infant Feeding Practices of Women in Balochistan’ was conducted by Ayesha Zahid Khan, Syeda Amber Syed of the Human Development Programme, AKUH.
  • ‘Assessment of Dietary Compliance among Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus’ was done by Gulshan Bano, Romaina Iqbal, Syed Iqbal Azam, Shariq Khoja and Jaweed Akhtar of the Departments of Community Health Sciences and Medicine, AKU.
  • ‘Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome’ was carried out by Maleeha Mohsin of the Indus Hospital.
  • ‘Impact of Nutritional Assessment and Intervention on the Nutritional Status of Bone Marrow Transplant Patients’ was conducted by by Maryam Saeed and Mozamila Mughal of the Nutrition and Food Service Department AKUH.
  • ‘Compliance with Use of Micronutrient Sprinkle for Children aged 6-24 Months: The
  • Qualitative Aspect’ was a study done by Shelina Aamir of the Aman Foundation.
  • ‘Therapeutic Effect of Flavonoids Rich Extract of Apricots on High-Fat Diet Induced Hyperlipidemic in Rabbits’ was carried out by Tooba Lateef, Samia Asif and Shamim A. Qureshi.
  • ‘Socioeconomic Determinants of Maternal and Child Food Security in a Rural District of Pakistan’ was done by Atiya Hussain Khowaja, Nadia Shah and Sidra Zaheer of the School of Public Health, DUHS.
  • ‘Diabetes Self Management Practices of People with Diabetes in Karachi’ was the subject of a study carried out by Nida Jawed of the Food and Nutrition Department, RLAK Govt College of Home Economics.

The award for the ‘best oral research paper presenter’ went to Tooba Lateef, Jinnah University for Women, and the ‘best poster presenter’ to Sidra Sirajuddin of the Tabba Heart Institute.

A number of noted health and dietetics professionals also addressed the annual symposium. Dr Salma H. Badruddin, in her welcome address, emphasized the importance of critical and analytical thinking for doing research, and reminded young researchers that the software and the computers were mere tools while it is the brain that really matters.

Eminent diabetologist Dr Fatema Jawad said that nutrition science, being integral to health, is essential for prevention of many diseases. Nutritionists are required to design and implement effective nutrition policy and programs, she added. She said high quality research in the field of nutrition is lacking and PNDS should provide training and opportunities to its young members to look at the nutrition related problems in our country and provide solutions to build the health of the nation. /END

The writer is current president, PNDS. Email: Fayza Khan<>



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