Personalised nutrition approach to Malaysian health problems
28 February 2022
Providing personalised dietary advice to individuals in Malaysia will be key to reducing high rates of obesity and malnutrition, scientists behind a new international project say.
At an official launch ceremony for the Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics Research and Training Unit (N²RTU) in Malaysia, University of Reading scientists leading the project joined representatives from the Malaysian government in describing how the nutrigenetics approach could help improve public health in the country.
N²RTU is the first project of its kind in Malaysia, and will focus on knowledge and technology transfer in the emerging field of nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics via research and training. It is led by the University of Reading and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) in Malaysia, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health Malaysia, Nutrition Society of Malaysia and the Malaysian-Industry Government for High Technology (MIGHT)MIGHT as associate partners.
The project aims to investigate the use of personalized nutrition plans to combat prevalent health risks like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease in Malaysia, recognising that different individuals often have different responses to the same nutrients due to their genes and lifestyle.
Professor Vimal Karani, the UK project lead from the University of Reading, spoke in person at the launch, held at UTAR on 16 February, along with Professor Ian Givens, Director of the IFNH based at the University, and Paul Inman, Reading’s Pro-Vice Chancellor: International, who gave virtual speeches.
Professor Karani, Professor in Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics and Deputy Director of Institute of Food, Nutrition & Health (IFNH) at the University of Reading, said: “Personalised nutrition should replace the one-size-fits-all approach which is not getting to grips with the health risks currently affecting Malaysian people. Developing an optimal diet for an individual based on their genetic make-up has the potential to drive down rates of common diseases.
“We look forward to working with our Malaysian partners to roll out this approach across the country, through research and providing training to students and healthcare professionals.”
Also in attendance at the event were Dr Anto Cordelia, the project Malaysian lead at UTAR Centre for Biomedical and Nutrition Research; Datuk Dr Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman, President and CEO of MIGHT; Jezreel Goh, the Country Director of British Council Malaysia; and policy makers from the Institute of Medical Research, National Institute of Health, Ministry of Health Malaysia and Nutrition Society of Malaysia.
In their respective speeches, Datuk Yusoff and Mr Inman stressed the importance of the meaningful research partnership between the UK and Malaysia and their governments, as well as the ambition to bring about positive changes in different parts of the world through research and collaboration.
Professor Faidz Bin Abdul Rahman, UTAR Vice-President to Research, Development and Commercialization, said he believed N²RTU will strengthen Malaysian researchers and healthcare practitioners to use nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics to prevent diseases.
Professor Givens highlighted the role of the IFNH in the collaboration and the importance of sharing information and implementing nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics research and training activities in Malaysia, to benefit students and health practitioners.
Dr Cordelia, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Science at UTAR, said: “The main objective of the N²RTU is to strengthen partnerships and capital building with the transfer of technology and knowledge on nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics research.
“I hope, with the support of all collaborative partners, we can take this to the next level and succeed to move toward precision nutrition.”