Science Meets Society: Integrating Food, Gene and Population outreach event held

by KT Leong

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) and the University of Reading (UK) hosted a community outreach programme themed “Science Meets Society: Integrating Food, Gene and Population” at Yayasan Ipoh last Sunday. This event was funded by the British Council and the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) through the Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics Research and Training Unit (N2RTU) project.

The event was inaugurated by Encik Mohd Zakwan Bin Mohd Zabidi, Senior Vice President of MIGHT, representing Yang Berbahagia Datuk Dr. Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman, President & CEO of MIGHT. The UTAR Vice President for R&D and Commercialisation, Prof. Ts. Dr. Faidz Bin Abd Rahman, presided over the event. Among the VIPs present were the Director of Institute for Medical Research (IMR), National Institute of Health, Ministry of Health Malaysia, Dr. Haji Tahir Bin Aris, Head of Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Research Centre, IMR, Dr. Mohd Fairulnizal Bin Md Noh, Vice President of Nutrition Society of Malaysia, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mahenderan Appukutty, CEO of Yayasan Ipoh, Dato’ Dr. Ramanathan Ramaiah, and Dean of UTAR Faculty of Science, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lim Tuck Meng. Also present was Mr. Albert Ho Wai Mun, representing Yang Berbahagia Dato’ Rumaizi Bin Baharin @ Md Daud, the Mayor of Ipoh.

Two key speakers were Dr. Anto Cordelia, N2RTU Lead (Malaysia), Centre for Biomedical and Nutrition Research, UTAR and Prof. Vimal Karani S, N2RTU Lead (UK), Deputy Director of Institute of Food, Nutrition & Health (IFNH), University of Reading. They explained the objectives and roles of the N2RTU, in which its implementation is funded by the British Council and MIGHT.

In layman’s terms, nutrigenetics is the study of how nutrients and genes interact with one another. For instance, a person who is genetically at higher risk of obesity can avoid becoming obese by having the right diet.

The objective  is to foster a Fat-to-Fit (F2F) Malaysia, which has the highest prevalence of obesity among adults in Southeast Asia, with nearly 50.1% of the population reported as overweight (30.4%) or obese (19.7%), and nearly 30% of obese people having developed diabetes. This has an estimated cost of RM70.1 billion to the economy.

Asked on what are their upcoming plans for N2RTU, Dr. Anto Cordelia and Prof. Vimal Karani stated that they will continue to raise awareness among the populace , and that they are focusing on the scientific side, in order to gather data and present their research to the public. They are currently focusing on studying the Malay population in urban areas, as they represent the largest population and obesity is more prevalent in urban areas.

However, the event was not just a presentation, rather, it was a fun and educational outing for families catering for all ages. With many booths set up, a particularly popular booth was the Fitness Challenge booth, which saw participants competing with each other on who could do the longest push-up, plank or squat. Free lunch and refreshments were provided to the attendees, along with door gifts like fresh vegetables and probiotics.


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