Nutrition (NUT)


Scientific Strategy

The NUT is at the forefront of global efforts to combat under‐nutrition and, in recognition of the quality and impact of our science, NUT staff play influential roles in both the design and implementation of international policies. Nutrition science within global health has been bedevilled by frustrations; it should be straightforward to reverse nutritional deficiencies and reverse the many ill‐effects of micro‐ and macronutrient under‐nutrition, but it is not. Meta‐analyses of major intervention trials in pregnancy, lactation or childhood (with crucial outcomes such as birth weight, preterm birth, pre‐eclampsia, stillbirths, neonatal deaths, stunting, anaemia, etc.), all show effect sizes below 0.25 Z‐scores (frequently around 0.1) against an actual deficit that is usually well in excess of 1 Z‐score and frequently close to 2. The Gates Foundation’s major investment in lipid‐based nutrient supplements (LNS) is about to report similarly disappointing outcomes in both pregnancy and infancy. The design of more effective next‐generation interventions will only succeed once we have better mapped the pathophysiological pathways linking poor diet with adverse outcomes; this is the challenge that we set ourselves. Over the past 15 years, ING has developed a worldleading infrastructure at MRC Keneba in order to support its core mission of discovery science directed towards understanding the pathophysiology of diet‐disease interactions in the belief that these new insights will accelerate the development of more effective next‐generation community and clinical interventions. Our vision is to engage with outstanding collaborators worldwide in order to bring the immense power of modern methodologies to bear on the long‐standing challenges of poor reproductive and post‐natal outcomes in sub‐Saharan Africa, in the hope of achieving transformatory breakthroughs. A critical element of this strategy is our determination to keep the intellectual centre of gravity within MRCG; we set the agenda, decide on the most appropriate scientific strategy, and then engage external collaborators to harness their intellectual and technological assistance.

Background to recent MRC ING full integration within MRCG

As of April 2015, MRC ING is now fully integrated within MRCG and the Nutrition Theme, led by Prof Andrew Prentice, forms one of the 3 MRCG themes. This creates an additional impetus to the already‐existing collaborations and increases the geographical horizons of the NUT both within Gambia and the wider region. Nutrition is a key determinant of maternal and child health, child survival, immune responses, and interactions of the human host with pathogens. Therefore, there is strong potential for cross‐talk with the other two themes. Nutrition also plays a key role in the cross‐cutting work on maternal and child health since this is at the very core of our activities.