KARACHI: Eminent nutrition and diet experts stressed for more research on nutrition based issues in Pakistan during the ‘Nutrition Research Symposium’ held on June 29 in Karachi. Young researchers and academicians attended the seminar, which was organised by the Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society (PNDS).

In her welcome address, Dr Salma H. Badruddin stressed upon the need of critical thinking in research.

Later, the Editor of the journal, Pakistan Medical Association (JPMA) and the chief guest , Dr Fatema Jawad said that nutrition science is integral for every field of medicine and is essential for the prevention of many diseases.

Lack of Nutrition Research

In a very important lecture, Dr Nilofer Fatimi Safdar, the director of the nutritional science program at the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) and the president of PNDS said that the numbers of nutrition based papers from Pakistan is very low. She said that only 99 papers of nutritional research were published in Pakistan between 1965 and 2003. All of them were published in JPMA.

‘The lack of funding and leadership and old curriculum is responsible for the low research in the field,’ she added.

Giving tips to the young researchers, Safdar stressed for hard work and said that research and clinical practices should go together.

Research presented

Tooba Latif, a scholar from Jinnah University for Women presented the link between flavonoids in apricots and lowering cholesterol in animals.

Latif shared her findings that flavonoids in apricots could reduce triglycerides (TG), cholesterol (C ) and low density lipoprotein (LDL) when tested in three groups of rabbits in the lab. However, the research is still far away from being applied on humans.

Gulshan Bano, from the Aga Khan University presented an innovative way to pursue patients about dietary intake via SMS.

She and her colleagues texted 35 messages a week to a group ranging from 35 to 70 people with diabetes.

The Urdu messages were sent to remind them to eat healthy proportion of food, vegetables and other items.

She, however, was unable to reach any conclusion but this innovative approach could further be used in various medical situations.

Shelina Aamir from the Aman Foundation presented the interventions of micro nutrient sprinkles in food for children ranging from 6 to 24 months.

She said the cheap sachet contained sprinkles of Zinc, Iron, Vitamin A and D ready to be mixed in cooked food.

The sprinkles were given for 60 days to a small group and as a result, the overall health of children who consumed them improved. The supplement increased their appetite, weight and height and also cured anemia in children.

The Balochistan scenario

Ayesha Zahid Khan presented her qualitative research about infant feeding practices in three districts of Balochistan. They studied 10 focused groups in Qila Abdullah, Quetta and Gwadar.

Zahid said that Balochistan urgently needed nutritional emergency to be imposed as 39 per cent of children below five years are under weight and the percentage of stunting (low growth) is 56 per cent.

Researchers found some cultural practices to be hindering the health of children as well.

She said that nutrition based education was needed in Balochistan.

How to publish clinical research

In her very useful presentation, Dr Fatima Mir from the Aga Khan University shared valuable tips about publishing clinical research.

With the help of examples, she stressed that mentorship is very important for publishing clinical research as mentors can guide the novice for possible funding, resources and conferences.

She also urged new researchers to carefully calculate the time frame for completing the paper, networking and true assessment for the budget as well.

‘(Clinical) research is not easy, be patience, follow the protocols and move step by step with deadlines,’ Mir added.

Mir said that fact checking, accuracy and flow of writing is also important in publishing the paper as efficiently styled work can turn a paper to be more highlighted and cited.

The conference was attended by some 200 teachers, nutritionist and researchers.

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