Nutrition

Lead Research Organisation: London Sch of Hygiene and Trop Medicine

Abstract

The Nutrition Theme at MRC Unit The Gambia @LSHTM aims to understand how inadequate diets affect health worldwide. We focus on five sub-themes:
Early Growth and Development: We want to understand the interplay between diet, infection, poor hygiene and gut dysfunction in causing growth failure and associated deficits in cognitive development.
Genetics and Epigenetics: We have demonstrated that a mother’s diet around conception affects how the baby’s genes are expressed. We now seek to understand precisely which nutrients are critical and how the changes affect health.
Iron, Infection and Anemia: Iron deficiency and anemia remain a major threat to good health in Africa. We have described how low-grade inflammation, especially related to airways infection, blocks iron absorption. We are testing ways to circumvent this blockade in randomised controlled trials.
Calcium, Vitamin D and Bone Health: We study the effects of low calcium diets on bone health throughout life.
Nutrition-Related Chronic Diseases: As Africa becomes wealthier there are increasing numbers of overweight and obese people, especially women. In a new research programme we seek to understand the causes of atypical African diabetes and hypertension to help devise new public health interventions and guide pharmacologic treatment choices.

Technical Summary

The Nutrition Theme at MRC Unit The Gambia @ LSHTM aims to understand the mechanisms linking inadequate diets to adverse health outcomes affecting poor populations worldwide; and thereby to design novel clinical and community interventions. In recognition of the importance of the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) our research takes a lifecourse approach from conception to ageing. We focus on five sub-themes each of which addresses an important area of diet-related disease. Early Growth and Development: We seek to understand the interplay between diet, infection, poor hygiene and gut dysfunction in causing growth failure and associated deficits in cognitive development. We also conduct randomised controlled trials of micronutrient supplements in pregnancy and early childhood with outcomes related to growth, iron status and anemia, immune function and cognition. Nutritional Genetics and Epigenetics: We have demonstrated that a mother’s diet around conception affects DNA methylation in her offspring with likely influences on later disease. A major focus of our on-going work seeks to understand precisely which nutrients are critical to these processes, which genomic regions are affected and why, how methylation differences at these loci affect placental and fetal development, and what are the likely lifelong consequences. This work could help define peri-conceptional diets (or nutrient supplements) to optimise placental, fetal and lifelong outcomes. Iron, Infection and Anemia: The discovery of hepcidin, the master regulator of iron metabolism, has provided important new insights into the links between diet, infection and iron deficiency anemia. We have described how low-grade inflammation, especially related to airways infection, induces hepcidin-mediated blockade of iron absorption, and are testing ways to circumvent the blockade in randomised controlled trials in pregnant mothers, very young infants and pre-school children. Calcium, Vitamin D and Bone Health: Most populations in low- and middle-income countries have very low calcium intakes. We have studied the effects of such diets on bone health throughout life with an increasing emphasis on older persons and on the related condition of sarcopenia. Nutrition-Related Chronic Diseases: As the demographic transition hits Africa there are increasing numbers of overweight and obese people, especially women. In a new programme of work we seek to understand the metabolic mechanisms leading to atypical African diabetes and hypertension with a view to defining new public health interventions and to help guide pharmacologic treatment choices.

Publications

10 25 50

 
Description Food System Adaptations in Changing Environments in Africa (FACE-Africa)
Amount £480,795 (GBP)
Funding ID 216021/Z/19/Z 
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 09/2021
 
Description Infection, inflammation and hepcidin-mediated iron deficiency anaemia in African children
Amount £851,865 (GBP)
Funding ID MR/R023360/1 
Organisation Medical Research Council (MRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 09/2022
 
Description Inter-generational risk factors for obesity: a path to prevention in LMICs based on a modifiable epigenetic signature in the POMC gene
Amount £244,447 (GBP)
Funding ID MR/S006516/1 
Organisation Medical Research Council (MRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 09/2021
 
Description MillNETi collaborators 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We will be assessing iron bioavailability from fortified millet.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners led the funding request and lead the partnership.
Impact Collaboration recently started. Outputs pending.
Start Year 2019