Niyati Parekh's additional information
Dr. 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.
Dr. 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. Dr. Parekh has served as the Executive Director of Doctoral Programs at GPH since 2017. In this role, she supports about 30 PhD students, and promotes all aspects of their rigorous research and professional development towards impactful careers.
PhD, Nutritional Sciences (minor Population Health Sciences), University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WIMS, Foods, Nutrition, and Clinical Dietetics, Mumbai University, IndiaBS, Life Sciences and Biotechnology, Mumbai University, India
Faculty Honors Awards
Longitudinal dimensions of alcohol consumption and dietary intake in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort (1971-2008)AbstractAbstractExisting studies addressing alcohol consumption have not captured the multidimensionality of drinking patterns, including drinking frequency, binge drinking, beverage preference and changes in these measures across the adult life course. We examined longitudinal trends in drinking patterns and their association with diet over four decades in ageing US adults from the Framingham Offspring Study (n 4956; baseline mean age 36·2 years). Alcohol intake (drinks/week, drinking frequency, beverage-specific consumption, drinks/occasion) was assessed quadrennially from examinations 1 to 8. Participants were classified as binge drinkers, moderate drinkers or heavy drinkers (4+ and 5+ drinks/occasion; ≤1 and ≤2 drinks/d and >7 and >14 drinks/week for women and men, respectively). Dietary data were collected by a FFQ from examinations 5 to 8 (1991-2008). We evaluated trends in drinking patterns using linear mixed effect models and compared dietary intake across drinking patterns using heterogeneous variance models. Alcohol consumption decreased from 1971 to 2008 (3·7 v. 2·2 oz/week; P < 0·05). The proportion of moderate (66 v. 59·3 %), heavy (18·4 v. 10·5 %) and binge drinkers (40·0 v. 12·3 %) declined (P < 0·05). While average wine consumption increased (1·4 v. 2·2 drinks/week), beer (3·4 v. 1·5 drinks/week) and cocktail intake (2·8 v. 1·2 drinks/week) decreased. Non-binge drinkers consumed less sugary drinks and more whole grains than binge drinkers, and the latter consumed more total fat across all examinations (P < 0·05). There was a significant difference in consumption trends of total grains by drinking level (P < 0·05). In conclusion, alcohol drinking patterns are unstable throughout adulthood. Higher intakes were generally associated with poorer diets. These analyses support the nuanced characterisation of alcohol consumption in epidemiological studies.
Trends in food consumption by degree of processing and diet quality over 17 years: Results from the Framingham Offspring StudyAbstractAbstractUltra-processed foods provide the majority of calories in the American diet, yet little is known regarding consumption trends over time. We determined trends in diet processing level and diet quality from 1991-2008 within the prospective Framingham Offspring Cohort. Dietary intakes were collected by food frequency questionnaires quadrennially 1991-2008 (total of four examinations). The analytical sample included 2,893 adults with valid dietary data for ≥3 examinations (baseline mean age=54y). Based on the NOVA framework, we classified foods as: unprocessed/minimally processed foods; processed culinary ingredients (salt/sugar/fats/oils); processed foods; and ultra-processed foods. We evaluated diet quality using the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Adherence Index (DGAI) 2010. Trends in consumption of foods within each processing level (servings/day) and diet quality over the four examinations were evaluated using mixed effects models with subject-specific random intercepts. Analyses were stratified by sex, BMI (<25kg/m2, 25-29.9kg/m2, ≥30kg/m2) and smoking status. Over 17 years of follow-up, ultra-processed food consumption decreased from 7.5 to 6.0 servings/day and minimally processed food consumption decreased from 11.9 to 11.3 servings/day (p-trend<0.001). Changes in intakes of processed foods, culinary ingredients, and culinary preparations were minimal. Trends were similar by sex, BMI, and smoking status. DGAI-2010 score increased from 60.1 to 61.5, p<0.001. The current study uniquely describes trends in diet processing level in an aging U.S. population, highlighting the longstanding presence of ultra-processed foods in the American diet. Given the poor nutritional quality of ultra-processed foods, public health efforts should be designed to limit their consumption.
Ultra-Processed Foods and Incident Cardiovascular Disease in the Framingham Offspring StudyAbstractAbstractBackground: Ultra-processed foods provide 58% of total energy in the U.S. diet, yet their association with cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains understudied. Objectives: The authors investigated the associations between ultra-processed foods and CVD incidence and mortality in the prospective Framingham Offspring Cohort. Methods: The analytical sample included 3,003 adults free from CVD with valid dietary data at baseline. Data on diet, measured by food frequency questionnaire, anthropometric measures, and sociodemographic and lifestyle factors were collected quadrennially from 1991 to 2008. Data regarding CVD incidence and mortality were available until 2014 and 2017, respectively. Ultra-processed foods were defined according to the NOVA framework. The authors used Cox proportional hazards models to determine the multivariable association between ultra-processed food intake (energy-adjusted servings per day) and incident hard CVD, hard coronary heart disease (CHD), overall CVD, and CVD mortality. Multivariable models were adjusted for age, sex, education, alcohol consumption, smoking, and physical activity. Results: During follow-up (1991 to 2014/2017), the authors identified 251, 163, and 648 cases of incident hard CVD, hard CHD, and overall CVD, respectively. On average, participants consumed 7.5 servings per day of ultra-processed foods at baseline. Each additional daily serving of ultra-processed foods was associated with a 7% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.03 to 1.12), 9% (95% CI: 1.04 to 1.15), 5% (95% CI: 1.02 to 1.08), and 9% (95% CI: 1.02 to 1.16) increase in the risk of hard CVD, hard CHD, overall CVD, and CVD mortality, respectively. Conclusions: The current findings support that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with increased risk of CVD incidence and mortality. Although additional research in ethnically diverse populations is warranted, these findings suggest cardiovascular benefits of limiting ultra-processed foods.
The Association between Dairy Intake and Body Composition among South Asian Adults from the Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) StudyAbstractAbstractSouth Asians, who are at a disproportionately greater risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), represent a rapidly growing population in the United States (U.S.). The relationship between dairy, a major component of South Asian diets, and body composition- A n established risk factor for ASCVD, is unclear. The aim of the present study was to examine the associations between dairy intake and multiple measures of body composition (body mass index, waist and hip circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, abdominal lean mass, subcutaneous, visceral, and intermuscular fat areas) among South Asian adults in the U.S. A baseline analysis was conducted using existing data from the Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America cohort. In women, the highest (>1.9 servings/day) vs. lowest (<1 serving/day) tertile of dairy intake was associated with a 53% lower odds of a waist circumference >80 cm (95%CI:0.25,0.89,ptrend<0.05). No associations were observed between dairy intake and measures of body composition. However, greater than 3 servings of low-fat yogurt per week was associated with a 9.9 cm2 lower visceral fat area (95%CI:-19.07,-0.72,p<0.05) and 2.3 cm2 lower intermuscular fat area (95%CI:-3.76,-0.79,p<0.05) as compared to those with ≤3 servings per week. Milk and cheese (whole/low-fat) were not associated with body composition measures. These analyses suggest that higher consumption of low-fat yogurt is associated with lower visceral and intermuscular fat in the whole sample, and women with higher dairy intake have lower waist circumference. Our study supports dietary incorporation of dairy, and also recognizes the utility of multi-dimensional measures of central adiposity.
Food assistance programs and income are associated with the diet quality of grocery purchases for households consisting of women of reproductive age or young childrenAbstractAbstractWomen's diet quality during reproductive years and children's diet quality during early life influence long term health. Few studies have evaluated the impact of food assistance programs and income on the diet quality of grocery purchases made by households consisting of women of reproductive age and young children. We used data from the Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey 2012–2013 (FoodAPS) to evaluate how household income, Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) participation, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation are related to the diet quality of grocery purchases made by households that include women of reproductive age or young children (n = 2436). The diet quality of household grocery purchases was assessed with the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) 2015. HEI-2015 total score (0−100) and component scores were evaluated according to household income (eligible for WIC: income-to-poverty ratio ≤ 185%; ineligible for WIC: income-to-poverty ratio > 185%) and WIC, SNAP, and WIC + SNAP participation. Median HEI-2015 total score was lowest among SNAP households and highest among income ineligible for WIC and WIC households (47.2 and 54.1, respectively). Compared to income ineligible for WIC households, WIC + SNAP and SNAP households had lower HEI-2015 whole fruit (β = −0.30, 95% CI: −0.59, −0.01 and β = −0.41, 95% CI: −0.63, −0.20, respectively) and total vegetable scores (β = −0.58, 95% CI: −0.83, −0.32 and β = −0.27, 95% CI: −0.45, −0.08, respectively). The diet quality of grocery purchases in this population varies according to household income and food assistance participation.
Greater adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet is associated with later breast development and menarche in peripubertal girlsAbstractAbstractObjective: To examine adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet at age 9-10 years in relation to onset of breast development (thelarche) and first menstruation (menarche).Design: We evaluated the associations of adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet (measured by an adapted Mediterranean-like Diet Score, range 0-9) with thelarche at baseline, age at thelarche and time to menarche. Data were collected at baseline during a clinic visit, complemented with a mailed questionnaire and three 24 hour telephone dietary recalls, followed by annual follow-up questionnaires. Multivariable Poisson regression, linear regression and Cox proportional hazards regression were used to evaluate timing of pubertal development in relation to diet adherence.Setting: New Jersey, USA.Participants: Girls aged 9 or 10 years at baseline (2006-2014, n 202).Results: High Mediterranean-like diet adherence (score 6-9) was associated with a lower prevalence of thelarche at baseline compared with low adherence (score 0-3; prevalence ratio = 0·65, 95 % CI 0·48, 0·90). This may have been driven by consumption of fish and non-fat/low-fat dairy. Our models also suggested a later age at thelarche with higher Mediterranean-like diet adherence. Girls with higher Mediterranean-like diet adherence had significantly longer time to menarche (hazard ratio = 0·45, 95 % CI 0·28, 0·71 for high v. low adherence). Further analysis suggested this may have been driven by vegetable and non-fat/low-fat dairy consumption.Conclusions: Consuming a Mediterranean-like diet may be associated with older age at thelarche and menarche. Further research is necessary to confirm our findings in other US paediatric populations and elucidate the mechanism through which Mediterranean-like diet may influence puberty timing.
Health behaviours during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic: Implications for obesityAbstractAbstractObjective: Obesity is a risk factor for severe complications and death from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Public health efforts to control the pandemic may alter health behaviors related to weight gain, inflammation, and poor cardiometabolic health, exacerbating the prevalence of obesity, poor immune health, and chronic diseases. Design: We reviewed how the pandemic adversely influences many of these behaviors, specifically physical activity, sedentary behaviors, sleep, and dietary intakes, and provided individual level strategies that may be used to mitigate them. Results: At the community level and higher, public health and health care professionals need to advocate for intervention strategies and policy changes that address these behaviors, such as increasing nutrition assistance programs and creating designated areas for recreation and active transportation, to reduce disparities among vulnerable populations. Conclusions: The long-lasting impact of the pandemic on health behaviors, and the possibility of a second COVID-19 wave, emphasize the need for creative and evolving, multi-level approaches to assist individuals in adapting their health behaviors to prevent both chronic and infectious diseases.
The Healthy Eating and Living Against Noncommunicable Diseases Study: An Innovative Family-Based InterventionAbstractAbstractObjective: Inadequate nutrition literacy within families is a barrier for healthy dietary choices and influences chronic disease risk. This pilot study examined the feasibility of providing an in-person nutrition intervention for families at high risk of developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risk-factors. Methods: Eligible families had at least one member with a non-communicable disease (NCD) or metabolic risk factor, fluency in English, willingness to attend all three educational sessions and complete questionnaires as a family unit. Sessions included didactic and experiential activities on food label reading, portion sizing, physical activity and modifiable lifestyle factors to reduce NCD risk. Demographics and fruit and vegetable screeners were collected from all participants at baseline and after completion of sessions. Families participated in focus groups to evaluate the program. Results: Twelve families (n=35;17 adults;18 children) were recruited from New York City. Participants self-identified as Asian, Hispanic or Black. Adults had a mean age of 40y, BMI of 32.29kg/m2, household income of $35,000-$49,000y, and 13 of 17 adult participants had college degrees. Children ranged from 1-17y. Based on focus group feedback, three sessions were acceptable, families reported enjoying interactive activities and group learning and requested child-friendly activities. They reported improved knowledge of food labels, strategies for grocery shopping, portion-sizing, and increased awareness of the links between diet quality and NCDs. Conclusions and Implications: The study met recruitment goals within 4 months. The educational intervention was acceptable and may be scaled-up for future studies on NCD prevention, particularly prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
The influence of the sugar-sweetened beverage industry on public policies in MexicoAbstractAbstractObjective: The objective of this study was to map and describe the different corporate political activity (CPA) strategies used by the sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) industry to influence public health policymaking geared toward decreasing the consumption of SSB in Mexico. Methods: We applied an existing approach to identify and monitor the CPA of the SSB industry. A documentary analysis was conducted for two main actors in the SSB industry, for the period 2017–2019, and was triangulated with eleven semi-structured interviews with key informants in public health nutrition and from the SSB industry. The information was analyzed using an existing framework for categorizing the CPA. Results: Although data were found for six CPA strategies, the SSB industry mainly highlighted its economic importance and spoke openly against the 2014 SSB tax. We documented the industry’s relationships with governmental bodies and civil society actors to promote corporate social responsibility and gain public support. Conclusions: The SSB industry in Mexico uses a variety of strategies, directly or through third parties, to influence public policies related to the prevention and control of obesity and non-communicable diseases.
Prenatal dietary exposures and offspring body size from 6 months to 18 years: A systematic reviewAbstractAbstractBackground: In utero dietary exposures may influence childhood obesity. Objectives: To evaluate the relationship between prenatal dietary exposures and offspring body size from 6 months to 18 years. Data sources: Articles were identified in PubMed and Web of Science (January 2010-March 2018) using the PRISMA guidelines. Additional studies were identified through a reference review of articles that met the inclusion criteria and related reviews. Study selection: Prospective cohort studies that assessed dietary patterns, foods, macronutrients, or beverages during healthy pregnancy and offspring body size. The extraction of articles was done using predefined data fields. Synthesis: One author extracted all information and evaluated bias with the NHLBI's Quality Assessment Tool. Results: A total of 851 research articles were evaluated. Twenty-one studies assessing dietary patterns, macronutrients, foods, and beverages met inclusion criteria. Consumption of a Mediterranean dietary pattern during pregnancy was associated with reduced body size, while refined carbohydrates were associated with offspring obesity. No association was observed between data-driven dietary patterns and offspring body size, as well as a pro-inflammatory diet pattern and offspring body size. Mixed and null findings were observed for the relationship between total carbohydrates, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, protein, sugar-sweetened beverages, and artificially sweetened beverages and offspring body size. Conclusions: Adhering to a Mediterranean diet and limiting refined carbohydrates during pregnancy may influence offspring body size between 6 months and 18 years. The diverging results that exist between studies highlight the complexity of this topic.