Niyati Parekh

Faculty

Niyati Parekh's additional information

Prof. Niyati Parekh’s research and teaching are motivated by a deep commitment to reduce nutrition-related disease outcomes in at-risk groups. In pursuit of this goal, as a nutritional epidemiologist, she has developed a robust research portfolio that examines the intersection of biological and behavioral factors of non-communicable diseases in US populations.  The overarching theme of her research program is to examine the role of nutrition and diet-related factors in the etiology of non-communicable diseases, with a particular focus on obesity, metabolic dysregulation and cancer. Her multidisciplinary research integrates the intricacies from four distinct areas of expertise: disease biology, nutritional biochemistry, epidemiology and biostatistics. She has developed a research program with three interconnected areas that are unified under the theme of investigating diet and non-communicable diseases in populations, using epidemiologic methods. The first arm consists of leveraging existing data to identify dietary patterns, dietary quality and food consumption patterns in populations of interest. The second is to identify dietary determinants and biomarkers that predict disease outcomes including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. The third arm is to measure diets using novel dietary assessment methods that will contribute to more accurate and multi-dimensional measurement of diet. The three areas of her work complement each other and reveal preventive measures for populations, inform health policy and guide clinical practice. She has 75 peer-reviewed publications and her work has been supported by awards from the American Cancer Society and NIH.

Prof. Parekh holds an MS in Clinical Nutrition from Mumbai University and a PhD in Nutritional Sciences with a minor in Population Health Sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2005). After completing a 2-year postdoctoral fellowship in Cancer Epidemiology at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey-Rutgers, she joined New York University Steinhardt’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health in January 2008. With doctoral and postdoctoral training in epidemiological methods, she cross-pollinated the fields of nutrition and public health. In 2015, as Associate Professor of Public Health Nutrition, she transitioned to NYU’s newly launched School of Global Public Health (GPH), as Director of the Public Health Nutrition program (until 2019). She also has an affiliated appointment at the Department of Population Health-Grossman School of Medicine.

Her recent honors include being inducted as a New York Academy of Medicine Fellow, and her appointment as Independent Consultant at UNICEF. She has served the American Society for Nutrition as Chair of the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Group. She teaches graduate courses in the New York Campus and at study abroad sites (Mexico, Abu Dhabi and Florence). Graduate courses taught include Global Nutrition, Nutritional Epidemiology, Perspectives in Public Health and Global Cancer Epidemiology for which she has received awards. Prof. Parekh served as the Executive Director of Doctoral Programs at GPH from 2017-2021. In this role, she supported PhD students school-wide, and promoted all aspects of their rigorous research and professional development towards impactful careers. Prof. Parekh was appointed as the Associate Vice Provost of Faculty Initiatives in August 2021 and is responsible for mentoring early career tenure track-faculty.

PhD, Nutritional Sciences (minor Population Health Sciences), University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
MS, Foods, Nutrition, and Clinical Dietetics, Mumbai University, India
BS, Life Sciences and Biotechnology, Mumbai University, India

Faculty Honors Awards

Publications

Concordance between Dash Diet and Hypertension: Results from the Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) Study

Hussain, B. M., Deierlein, A. L., Kanaya, A. M., Talegawkar, S. A., O’Connor, J. A., Gadgil, M. D., Lin, Y., & Parekh, N. (2023). Nutrients, 15(16). 10.3390/nu15163611
Abstract
Abstract
High blood pressure is an important predictor of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), particularly among South Asians, who are at higher risk for ASCVD when compared to other population groups. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) dietary pattern is established as the best proven nonpharmacological approach to preventing hypertension in adults. Using data from the Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) cohort, we calculated a DASH dietary score to examine the association between adherence to the DASH diet and its components, and prevalent and incident hypertension and systolic and diastolic blood pressure, after five years of follow-up. We found that the relative risk ratio (RRR) of incident hypertension was 67% lower among participants in the highest DASH diet score category (aRRR: 0.33; 95% CI: 0.13, 0.82; ptrend = 0.02) compared with those in the lowest DASH diet score category in fully adjusted models. These findings are consistent with previous clinical trials and large prospective cohort studies, adding to evidence that supports the diet-disease relationship established between DASH diet and hypertension. This study is the first to examine DASH diet adherence and hypertension among South Asian adults in the U.S.

Development of a Food List to Assess the Diet of South Asians Living in the U.S.: Preliminary Results From a Formative Study

Hussain, B. M., Harris, S., Talegawkar, S. A., Shivakoti, R., Mohsin, F. M., Weiss, R., & Parekh, N. (2023). AJPM Focus, 2(2). 10.1016/j.focus.2023.100073
Abstract
Abstract
Introduction: South Asians are an underrepresented population subgroup in the U.S., yet they have higher rates of chronic diseases. There is currently no tool that assesses the nutrition intake of South Asians in the U.S., despite their unique dietary profile that may be associated with disease outcomes. The objective of this preliminary study was to create a food list, inclusive of herbs and spices, that will be used in the development of the web-based South Asian Food Intake System for dietary assessment of South Asian adults living in the U.S. Methods: Authors used a Qualtrics survey to collect sociodemographic information (n=66), and 24-hour diet recall and Home Food Inventory interviews were conducted through Zoom (n=31). Grocery store tours and cookbook and existing food frequency questionnaire review were conducted. Results: A food list of 484 individual food items was generated. These items were sorted into 12 main food categories and condensed into 302 line items. Most respondents (68%) reported consuming South Asian meals regularly and utilizing herbs/spices during food preparation (83%). Conclusions: This pilot study describes the data collection to develop a food list for the South Asian Food Intake System, which can be utilized by educators, clinicians, and researchers to more accurately collect information about dietary intake among South Asian Americans.

Dietary Self-Management Using Mobile Health Technology for Adults With Type 2 Diabetes: A Scoping Review

Zheng, Y., Campbell Rice, B., Melkus, G. D., Sun, M., Zweig, S., Jia, W., Parekh, N., He, H., Zhang, Y. L., & Wylie-Rosett, J. (2023). Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 17(5), 1212-1225. 10.1177/19322968231174038
Abstract
Abstract
Objective: Dietary self-management is one key component to achieve optimal glycemic control. Advances in mobile health (mHealth) technology have reduced the burden of diabetes self-management; however, limited evidence has been known regarding the status of the current body of research using mHealth technology for dietary management for adults with type 2 diabetes. Methods: Literature searches were conducted electronically using PubMed, CINAHL (EBSCO), Web of Science Core Collection, PsycINFO (Ovid), EMBASE (Ovid), and Scopus. Keywords and subject headings covered dietary management, type 2 diabetes, and mHealth. Inclusion criteria included studies that applied mHealth for dietary self-management for adults with type 2 diabetes and were published in English as full articles. Results: This review (N = 15 studies) revealed heterogeneity of the mHealth-based dietary self-management or interventions and reported results related to physiological, dietary behavioral, and psychosocial outcomes. Twelve studies applied smartphone apps with varied functions for dietary management or intervention, while three studies applied continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) to guide dietary changes. Among 15 reviewed studies, only three of them were two-arm randomized clinical trial (RCT) with larger sample and 12-month study duration and 12 of them were pilot testing. Nine of 12 pilot studies showed improved HbA1c; most of them resulted in varied dietary changes; and few of them showed improved diabetes distress and depression. Conclusion: Our review provided evidence that the application of mHealth technology for dietary intervention for adults with type 2 diabetes is still in pilot testing. The preliminary effects are inconclusive on physiological, dietary behavioral, and psychosocial outcomes.

Evaluating the healthfulness of Asian American young adult dietary behaviors and its association with family structure: Disaggregated results from NHIS 2015

Ali, S. H., Parekh, N., Islam, N. S., Merdjanoff, A. A., & DiClemente, R. J. (2023). Nutrition and Health. 10.1177/02601060231151986
Abstract
Abstract
Background: Asian Americans (AA) young adults face a growing non-communicable disease burden linked with poor dietary behaviors. Family plays a significant role in shaping the diet of AA young adults, although little is known on the specific types of family structures most associated with different dietary behaviors. Aim: This analysis explores the changes in dietary behaviors across different AA young adult family structural characteristics. Methods: Nationwide data of 18–35-year-old self-identified Asians surveyed in the 2015 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) was analyzed. Family structure was measured through family size, family health, and family members in one's life. The Dietary Screener Questionnaire (DSQ) measured the average intake of 10 food and nutrient groups. Published dietary guidelines were used to calculate the number of dietary recommendations met. Results: 670 AA young adults with dietary data were analyzed (26.1% Asian Indian, 26.1% Chinese, 19.3% Filipino, 28.5% other Asian). Participants had an average family size of 2.3. In weighted analyses, 19% of AA young adults met none of the examined dietary recommendations, and only 14% met 3–4 guidelines. Living with a child was associated meeting more dietary recommendations (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]: 1.22; 95%CI: 1.05, 1.42). The adjusted association between living with an older adult and lower odds of meeting dietary recommendations approached significance (AOR: 0.70; 95%CI: 0.49, 1.00). Conclusions: Findings revealed the important role of children and older adults in influencing the diet of AA young adults. Further mixed-methods research to disentangle mechanisms behind the influence of family structure on diet is warranted.

Family Involvement in Asian American Health Interventions: A Scoping Review and Conceptual Model

Ali, S. H., Mohsin, F. M., Rouf, R., Parekh, R., Dhar, B., Kaur, G., Parekh, N., Islam, N. S., & DiClemente, R. J. (2023). Public Health Reports, 138(6), 885-895. 10.1177/00333549221138851
Abstract
Abstract
Family members play a crucial role in the health of Asian American communities, and their involvement in health interventions can be pivotal in optimizing impact and implementation. To explore how family members can be effectively involved in Asian American health interventions and develop a conceptual framework of methods of involvement at the stages of intervention development, process, and evaluation, this scoping review documented the role of Asian American family members in interventions (across any health objective). Of the 7175 studies identified through database and manual searches, we included 48 studies in the final analysis. Many studies focused on Chinese (54%) or Vietnamese (21%) populations, were conducted in California (44%), and involved spouses (35%) or parents/children (39%). We observed involvement across 3 stages: (1) intervention development (formative research, review process, material development), (2) intervention process (recruitment, receiving the intervention together, receiving a parallel intervention, enlisting support to achieve goals, voluntary intervention support, agent of family-wide change, and participation gatekeepers), and (3) intervention evaluation (received evaluation together, indirect impact evaluation, and feedback during intervention). Impact of family member involvement was both positive (as sources of encouragement, insight, accountability, comfort, and passion) and negative (sources of hindrance, backlash, stigma, obligation, and negative influence). Suggestions for future research interventions include (1) exploring family involvement in South Asian or young adult interventions, (2) diversifying types of family members involved (eg, extended family), and (3) diversifying methods of involvement (eg, family members as implementation agents).

Food Insecurity and Health Behaviors Among a Sample of Undergraduate Students at an Urban University

Hussain, B. M., Ryan, R., Deierlein, A. L., Lal, S., Bihuniak, J. D., & Parekh, N. (2023). Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 18(1), 65-80. 10.1080/19320248.2022.2119119
Abstract
Abstract
Students at universities are experiencing food insecurity, which may be associated with health behaviors. In a pilot study to build a survey that assesses food insecurity and health behaviors among undergraduates, we distributed the survey before (Wave 1; fall 2019) and during (Wave 2; summer 2020) COVID-19. During Wave 1, 41% of students reported food insecurity and 61% met criteria for poor sleep. In Wave 2, 26% reported food insecurity and 49% met criteria for poor sleep. Students experiencing food insecurity were more likely to report poor sleep. This survey will inform recruitment and design of a scaled-up multi-campus study. (100/100 words).

Identifying and Estimating Ultraprocessed Food Intake in the US NHANES According to the Nova Classification System of Food Processing

Steele, E. M., O’Connor, L. E., Juul, F., Khandpur, N., Galastri Baraldi, L., Monteiro, C. A., Parekh, N., & Herrick, K. A. (2023). Journal of Nutrition, 153(1), 225-241. 10.1016/j.tjnut.2022.09.001
Abstract
Abstract
Background: The degree of food processing may be an important dimension of diet in how it relates to health outcomes. A major challenge is standardizing food processing classification systems for commonly used datasets. Objectives: To standardize and increase transparency in its application, we describe the approach used to classify foods and beverages according to the Nova food processing classification in the 24-h dietary recalls from the 2001–2018 cycles of What We Eat in America (WWEIA), NHANES, and investigate variability and potential for Nova misclassification within WWEIA, NHANES 2017–2018 data via various sensitivity analyses. Methods: First, we described how the Nova classification system was applied to the 2001–2018 WWEIA, NHANES data using the reference approach. Second, we calculated the percentage energy from Nova groups [1: unprocessed or minimally processed foods, 2: processed culinary ingredients, 3: processed foods, and 4: ultraprocessed foods (UPFs)] for the reference approach using day 1 dietary recall data from non-breastfed participants aged ≥1 y from the 2017–2018 WWEIA, NHANES. We then conducted 4 sensitivity analyses comparing potential alternative approaches (e.g., opting for more vs. less degree of processing for ambiguous items) to the reference approach, to assess how estimates differed. Results: The energy contribution of UPFs using the reference approach was 58.2% ± 0.9% of the total energy; unprocessed or minimally processed foods contributed 27.6% ± 0.7%, processed culinary ingredients contributed 5.2% ± 0.1%, and processed foods contributed 9.0% ± 0.3%. In sensitivity analyses, the dietary energy contribution of UPFs ranged from 53.4% ± 0.8% to 60.1% ± 0.8% across alternative approaches. Conclusions: We present a reference approach for applying the Nova classification system to WWEIA, NHANES 2001–2018 data to promote standardization and comparability of future research. Alternative approaches are also described, with total energy from UPFs differing by ∼6% between approaches for 2017–2018 WWEIA, NHANES.

A Multi-Stage Dyadic Qualitative Analysis to Disentangle How Dietary Behaviors of Asian American Young Adults are Influenced by Family

Ali, S. H., Cai, J., Kamal, F., Auer, S., Yang, K., Parikh, R. S., Parekh, N., Islam, N. S., Merdjanoff, A. A., & DiClemente, R. J. (2023). Behavioral Medicine. 10.1080/08964289.2023.2298766
Abstract
Abstract
The dietary behaviors of Asian American (AA) young adults, who face a growing non-communicable disease burden, are impacted by complex socio-ecological forces. Family plays a crucial role in the lifestyle behaviors of AA young adults; however, little is known on the methods, contributors, and impact of familial dietary influence. This study aims to deconstruct the mechanisms of AA young adult familial dietary influence through a multi-perspective qualitative assessment. A five-phase method of dyadic analysis adapted from past research was employed to extract nuanced insights from dyadic interviews with AA young adults and family members, and ground findings in behavioral theory (the Social Cognitive Theory, SCT). 37 interviews were conducted: 18 young adults, comprising 10 different AA ethnic subgroups, and 19 family members (10 parents, 9 siblings). Participants described dietary influences that were both active (facilitating, shaping, and restricting) and passive (e.g., sharing foods or environment, mirroring food behaviors). Influences connected strongly with multiple SCT constructs (e.g., behavioral capacity, reinforcements for active influences, and expectations, observational learning for passive influences). Familial influence contributed to changes in the total amount, variety, and healthfulness of foods consumed. Intra-family dynamics were crucial; family members often leveraged each other’s persuasiveness or food skills to collaboratively influence diet. AA family-based interventions should consider incorporating both passive and active forms of dietary influence within a family unit, involve multiple family members, and allow for individualization to the unique dynamics and dietary behaviors within each family unit.

Development of an Integrated Approach to Virtual Mind-Mapping: Methodology and Applied Experiences to Enhance Qualitative Health Research

Ali, S. H., Merdjanoff, A. A., Parekh, N., & DiClemente, R. J. (2022). Qualitative Health Research, 32(3), 571-580. 10.1177/10497323211058161
Abstract
Abstract
There is a growing need to better capture comprehensive, nuanced, and multi-faceted qualitative data while also better engaging with participants in data collection, especially in virtual environments. This study describes the development of a novel 3-step approach to virtual mind-mapping that involves (1) ranked free-listing, (2) respondent-driven mind-mapping, and (3) interviewing to enhance both data collection and analysis of complex health behaviors. The method was employed in 32 virtual interviews as part of a study on eating behaviors among second-generation South Asian Americans. Participants noted the mind-mapping experience to be (1) helpful for visual learners, (2) helpful in elucidating new ideas and to structure thoughts, as well as (3) novel and interesting. They also noted some suggestions that included improving interpretability of visual data and avoiding repetition of certain discussion points. Data collection revealed the adaptability of the method, and the power of mind-maps to guide targeted, comprehensive discussions with participants.

Food Insecurity, Associated Health Behaviors, and Academic Performance Among Urban University Undergraduate Students

Ryan, R. A., Murphy, B., Deierlein, A. L., Lal, S., Parekh, N., & Bihuniak, J. D. (2022). Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 54(3), 269-275. 10.1016/j.jneb.2021.08.008
Abstract
Abstract
Objective: To explore associations between food insecurity, health behaviors, and academic performance among undergraduates at a private, urban US university. Methods: A cross-sectional web-based survey was conducted among a convenience sample of New York University undergraduates. Multivariable logistic regression estimated associations of food security (using the 6-item US Household Food Security Survey Module) and health behaviors (fruit/vegetable, beverage and alcohol intakes, and sleep), self-rated health, and academic performance. Results: Of the 257 students who completed the survey, 41% reported food insecurity. Food insecurity was associated with approximately 2-fold higher odds of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption (adjusted odds ratio, 1.97; 95% confidence interval, 1.14–3.41) and fair/poor health (adjusted odds ratio, 2.29; 95% confidence interval, 1.23–4.25). Conclusions and Implications: Increased awareness of food insecurity and associated health behaviors among students has implications for higher education's provision of on-campus food support programs.