The main research focus of our group can be broadly termed "international nutrition" as we study factors that influence nutrition and health in developing countries. There are two specific aspects of our research. First, we investigate the long-term health implications of poor growth (Growth and metabolism). Second, as growth is a biological outcome associated with the economic status of a country, we also study changes in household food intake during economic crises. (Economics and diet in transitional countries.) These two areas of research, one being primarily clinical and physiological and the other being epidemiological and economic, are complementary as the physiological outcomes we study only become manifest when the economic conditions of a country improve.
Growth and metabolism: Through our research program, we aim to better understand the long-term implications of poor nutrition early in life. A large number of epidemiological studies have established that nutrition in utero and during early childhood may have lifelong, and perhaps inter-generational, effects on health. The objective of this area of research is to explain the physiological mechanisms behind the associations from population studies.
We first reported in 2000 that stunted children, whose are shorter than 90% of healthy populations, had lower fat oxidation than normal height children. In a longitudinal study, we also found that stunted children deposited more fat in their central trunk compared to children with normal height. This work has been the basis for additional research to determine how growth retardation is associated with metabolic adaptations that favor fat deposition.
Currently, we are studying complementary topics including how stunting is a predisposing factor for poor lipid profiles during childhood (Federal University of Health Sciences, Porto Alegre, Brazil), the association between stunting and adapted substrate metabolism in children from North Korea (Inha University, Inha, South Korea), and changes in body composition during recovery from undernutrition (Federal University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil).
Economics and diet in transitional countries: When a country develops economically, there are a number of structural and marketing changes that prompt changes in the availability of new and different foods. At the same time, economic changes are never smooth and often countries experience some economic crises as was reported in Argentina, Russia, parts of Asia, and Eastern Europe. How households respond to such crises in terms of food purchasing and dietary intake is generally poorly understood.
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