The Nutrition Group forms the core of nutrition research and teaching at the School and works with other experts within the institution and elsewhere to explore the impact of nutrition on human health.
The Nutrition Group conducts research on the major nutrition and food-related problems that affect human development and well-being. The Group runs the face-to-face MSc Nutrition for Global Health that is accredited by the Association for Nutrition, as well as an open access online course in nutrition and agriculture. The Group supports research degree students in the UK and overseas.
Undernutrition is a major contributor to the global burden of disease, particularly for children and mothers. We generate knowledge towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2: to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition. Research activities focus on the basic biology and measurement of undernutrition including severe malnutrition (wasting, kwashiorkor and stunting) and the causes of important nutrient deficiencies (e.g. hepcidin and iron deficiency anaemia). The group also develops and evaluates initiatives to address malnutrition, including management of acute malnutrition, nutrient supplements, fortified foods, breastfeeding promotion programmes, and community care and counselling. Staff contribute to various global initiatives including No Wasted Lives and the International Malnutrition Taskforce.
Long-term implications of undernutrition
The Nutrition Group studies the long-term health implications of undernutrition, including the effects of severe acute malnutrition on risk factors for non-communicable disease. Staff based at LSHTM and the Medical Research Council International Nutrition Group study immune system function in relation to nutrition, including how a mother’s nutrition could affect their children’s immunity via epigenetics.
Sustainable food systems
Food systems are rapidly changing and influencing population nutrition, health and the environment. The Nutrition Group is investigating ways to shape food systems to improve health, reduce environmental impact and increase resilience to environmental change.
Nutrition transition and the double burden of malnutrition
Rapid nutrition and epidemiological transitions are occurring in low- and middle income countries, driven by urbanisation, economic growth, technological development and globalisation. This is leading to a ‘double burden’ of disease related to under- and over-nutrition. The Group studies how changing food systems and diets contribute to this phenomenon and how new strategies are required to address persistent under-nutrition alongside rising over-nutrition in resource-constrained settings.
Agriculture and health
Agriculture is the major source of food globally, producing the energy and nutrients required for healthy living. Agriculture is also the main livelihood for ~2.5 billion people worldwide. The Nutrition Group works in conjunction with the Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health and IMMANA to support sustainable food and agriculture systems that promote health and well-being for all people, including farmers. We are measuring the links between agriculture, the environment and health, and assessing agriculture-led interventions to improve nutrition including novel strategies such as videos to help farmers adopt agricultural methods that maximise benefit for nutrition.
Design and evaluation of nutrition interventions
Ensuring good design and evaluation of nutrition interventions is important for rigorous research and to inform policy uptake. Staff help to develop tools for nutrition programme planning and work with NGOs and the public sector to build capacity in programme impact and process evaluation.
Food and nutrition policy analysis
The Group works in collaboration with the Faculty of Public Health and Policy to evaluate food and nutrition-relevant public health policies, drawing on social science research methods. Research activities include investigating the effectiveness of policy mechanisms such as public-private partnerships, and the (increasingly complex) political geography of decision-making on food and nutrition.
Interactions between infections and chronic disease
As countries undergo the nutrition and epidemiological transition from high levels of infection and undernutrition to high levels of obesity and chronic diseases, it has become apparent that undernutrition and infection in early life may increase risks for overweight and chronic non-communicable diseases in later life. For example, advanced HIV infection, followed by lifelong treatment with antiretrovirals, increases risks for diabetes, lipodystrophy, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Understanding the nutritional and metabolic issues at the interface of infectious and chronic diseases is essential in order to improve management of both in resource-constrained settings.