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, WIMS, Foods, Nutrition, and Clinical Dietetics, Mumbai University, IndiaBS, Life Sciences and Biotechnology, Mumbai University, India
Faculty Honors Awards
Development of an Integrated Approach to Virtual Mind-Mapping: Methodology and Applied Experiences to Enhance Qualitative Health ResearchAbstractAbstractThere 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 and Health Behaviors Among a Sample of Undergraduate Students at an Urban UniversityAbstractAbstractStudents 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).
Food Insecurity, Associated Health Behaviors, and Academic Performance Among Urban University Undergraduate StudentsAbstractAbstractObjective: 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.
Mapping drivers of second-generation South Asian American eating behaviors using a novel integration of qualitative and social network analysis methodsAbstractAli, S. H., Gupta, S., Tariq, M., Penikalapati, R., Vasquez-Lopez, X., Auer, S., Hanif, C., Parekh, N., Merdjanoff, A. A., & DiClemente, R. J. (2022). Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 61(4), 503-521. 10.1080/03670244.2022.2056166AbstractThis study explores a novel, mixed qualitative method to deconstruct the diet of second-generation South Asian Americans (SAAs). Online interviews of 32 second-generation SAAs were conducted usingintegrated free-listing and mind-mapping. Ranked free-lists were aggregated to identify salient drivers, while connections made within mind-maps were analyzed using social network analysis (SNA) methods. Overall, 34 distinct drivers and 247 unique connections were identified. Taste, family, and health had the highest adjusted rankings, while health displayed the strongest network centrality. Interventions aimed at second-generation SAA dietary behaviors may benefit from family-based or multi-level interventions, which consider the complex, unique dietary norms identified.
A need for diet assessment technology for South Asians living in the USAAbstractAbstractSouth Asians are among the fastest growing ethnic group in the USA yet remain understudied in epidemiologic studies. Due to their unique disease profile, identifying risk moderators and mitigators, such as dietary patterns and food intake, will help to determine the diet-disease relationship that is specific to this largely immigrant population group in the USA. The aim of this commentary is to highlight the dietary traditions and acculturated practices experienced by South Asians in the USA with a call for a diet assessment instrument that adequately captures their dietary diversity. Specifically, we call for (i) the inclusion of traditional food items, such as herbs and spices, that individualize diet assessment for participants; and (ii) leveraging technology that will enhance the experience of diet assessment for both researchers and participants, tailoring the collection of habitual dietary intake in this diverse population group.
Perspective: Novel Approaches to Evaluate Dietary Quality: Combining Methods to Enhance Measurement for Dietary Surveillance and InterventionsAbstractAbstractRefining existing dietary assessment methods to reduce measurement error and facilitate the routine evaluation of dietary quality is essential to inform health policy. Notable advancements in technology in the past decade have enhanced the precision and transformation of dietary assessment methods with applications toward both population health and precision nutrition. Within population health, innovative applications of big data including use of automatically collected food purchasing data, quantitative measurement of food environments, and novel, yet simplified dietary quality metrics provide important complementary data to traditional self-report methods. Precision nutrition is similarly advancing with greater use of validated biomarkers for assessing dietary patterns and understanding individual variability in metabolism. Concurrently enhancing our understanding of diet-disease relations at the population health and precision nutrition levels provides tremendous potential to generate evidence needed to advance public health nutrition policy. This commentary highlights the importance of these advances toward progressing the field of dietary assessment and discusses the application of food purchasing data, data analytics, alternative dietary quality metrics, and -omics technology in population and clinical medicine.
A systematic review of randomized controlled trials examining workplace wellness interventionsAbstractAbstractBackground: One of the influencing factors associated with weight gain is overeating as a maladaptive coping strategy to process or avoid the emotional impact of psychological stress. Psychological stress is chronically and pervasively associated with stress stemming from the workplace environment. Workplace wellness interventions have a unique opportunity to change environmental factors impacting psychological stress, which can improve individual food choice and weight management efforts. Aim: To synthesize evidence from randomized controlled trials on workplace wellness interventions that impact employee psychological stress and food choice or weight management. Methods: A systematic review was completed according to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Selected studies were limited to English-language articles exploring randomized interventions at workplaces among adult employees and included measurements of psychometric stress and food choice (qualitative or quantitative) or biometric weight management. From the search, 10 studies were included in the final review. Results: Results were inconsistent across studies. There was no observable association between psychological stress reduction and food choice or weight management. Mid-length interventions (ranging from 6 to 9 months) had more consistent associations between intervention program implementation, reduced psychological stress, and improved food choice or weight management. Conclusions: The studies examining employee food choices and weight management efforts remained very heterogeneous, indicating that more research is needed in this specific area of employee wellness program planning and measurement. Consistent research methodology and assessment tools are needed to measure dietary intake.
Targeted and Population-Wide Interventions Are Needed to Address the Persistent Burden of Anemia among Women of Reproductive Age in TanzaniaAbstractSunguya, B. F., Ge, Y., Mlunde, L. B., Mpembeni, R., Leyna, G. H., Poudel, K. C., Parekh, N., & Huang, J. (2022). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(14). 10.3390/ijerph19148401AbstractRecent evidence suggests that 44.8% of women of reproductive age (WRA) in Tanzania suffer from anemia. Addressing this public health challenge calls for local evidence of its burden and determinants thereof for policy and tailored interventions. This secondary data analysis used Tanzania Demographic and Health Surveys (TDHS) 2004–2005 and 2015–2016 with a total of 23,203 WRA. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics to characterize the burden of anemia, regression analyses to examine the adjusted change in the prevalence of anemia and remaining determinants thereof, and the Global Information System (GIS) to map the differences in the burden of anemia in Tanzania over the period of one decade. Considering the risk factors of anemia observed in our study, WRA in Tanzania should have been 15% less likely to suffer from anemia in 2015 compared to 2005. However, a small decline (3.6%) was not evenly distributed across the regions in Tanzania. Factors that remained significantly associated with anemia among WRA in the latest survey include age above 35 years (AOR = 1.564, p = 0.007), education level (AOR = 0.720, p = 0.001), pregnancy status (AOR = 1.973, p < 0.001), and use of contraception (AOR of 0.489, p < 0.001). Our findings suggest that WRA in Tanzania aged above 35 should be the target population to accept the more tailored interventions.
Ultra-processed food consumption among US adults from 2001 to 2018AbstractAbstractBackground: Accumulating evidence links ultra-processed foods to poor diet quality and chronic diseases. Understanding dietary trends is essential to inform priorities and policies to improve diet quality and prevent diet-related chronic diseases. Data are lacking, however, for trends in ultra-processed food intake. Objectives: We examined US secular trends in food consumption according to processing level from 2001 to 2018. Methods: We analyzed dietary data collected by 24-h recalls from adult participants (aged >19 y; N = 40,937) in 9 cross-sectional waves of the NHANES (2001-2002 to 2017-2018). We calculated participants' intake of minimally processed foods, processed culinary ingredients, processed foods, and ultra-processed foods as the relative contribution to daily energy intake (%kcal) using the NOVA framework. Trends analyses were performed using linear regression, testing for linear trends by modeling the 9 surveys as an ordinal independent variable. Models were adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education level, and income. Consumption trends were reported for the full sample and stratified by sex, age groups, race/ethnicity, education level, and income level. Results: Adjusting for changes in population characteristics, the consumption of ultra-processed foods increased among all US adults from 2001-2002 to 2017-2018 (from 53.5 to 57.0 %kcal; P-trend < 0.001). The trend was consistent among all sociodemographic subgroups, except Hispanics, in stratified analyses. In contrast, the consumption of minimally processed foods decreased significantly over the study period (from 32.7 to 27.4 %kcal; P-trend < 0.001) and across all sociodemographic strata. The consumption of processed culinary ingredients increased from 3.9 to 5.4 %kcal (P-trend < 0.001), whereas the intake of processed foods remained stable at ∼10 %kcal throughout the study period (P-trend = 0.052). Conclusions: The current findings highlight the high consumption of ultra-processed foods in all parts of the US population and demonstrate that intake has continuously increased in the majority of the population in the past 2 decades.
Ultra-processed Foods and Cardiometabolic Health Outcomes: from Evidence to PracticeAbstractAbstractPurpose of Review: Poor diet quality is the leading risk factor related to the overall cardiometabolic disease burden in the USA and globally. We review the current evidence linking ultra-processed foods and cardiometabolic health risk and provide recommendations for action at the clinical and public health levels. Recent Findings: A growing body of evidence conducted in a variety of study populations supports an association between ultra-processed food intake and increased risk of metabolic syndrome, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity trajectories, and cardiovascular disease. The strongest evidence is observed in relation to weight gain and obesity among adults, as this association is supported by high-quality epidemiological and experimental evidence. Summary: Accumulating epidemiologic evidence and putative biological mechanisms link ultra-processed foods to cardiometabolic health outcomes. The high intake of ultra-processed foods in all population groups and its associated risks make ultra-processed foods an ideal target for intensive health promotion messaging and interventions.