Vulnerable members of society in Malaysia will benefit from new government-partnered research, seeking to reduce premature deaths in the region.

The newly formed Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics Research and Training Unit (N2RTU) will see researchers from the University of Reading and the Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) in Malaysia work with Malaysia’s Ministry of Health and the Nutrition Society of Malaysia.

Using the latest advances in nutrigenetics, which better understands how an individual’s genetic makeup interacts with nutritional sciences, Mothers, children, teenagers and young adults will particularly benefit from the research to reduce lifestyle-related health problems, such as obesity and malnutrition.

The project will be supported with funding through the British Council’s ‘Going Global Partnership’. It will gather data to better understand health issues in the country and provide professional training and new technologies to build capacity to tackle them.

Professor Vimal Karani, Professor in Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics and Deputy Director of Institute of Food, Nutrition & Health at the University of Reading, said:

“Obesity is a major problem in Malaysia and will continue to take a significant toll on the health of its population unless something changes.

“This project will boost Malaysia’s capacity to tackle health problems affecting the most vulnerable among its population. It will provide a new wave of professionals equipped with specialist knowledge and fresh data. We hope this will result in an improvement in public health in Malaysia over the next decade and provide an economic boost to the country.”

The N2RTU project seeks to develop template approach that could be applied across South East Asia.

The new nutrigenetics framework it creates will bring together experts from relevant fields to carry out new research and strengthen evidence-based data that is limited in Malaysia at present.

Experts from Reading’s Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health and UTAR’s Centre for Biomedical & Nutrition Research will apply findings from the newly-gathered data to medical practice and dietary recommendations. Outreach activities and workshops will also take place, with support from the University of Reading Malaysia.

Adults living in cities in Malaysia are the main contributors to the obesity epidemic in Malaysia. Malaysia currently has the highest rate of obesity among adults in South East Asia.

The project will support the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals target to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable disease by one-third through prevention and control measures, and the National Plan of Action for Nutrition of Malaysia.