"You Are What You Eat" Joint Malaysian-French Research Project Looks to Understand Food, Culture and the Impact of Health

Taylor's University is embarking on a major international research initiative linking food habits and cultural practice to human health.

Project Team : Mr. Neethiahnanthan (Dean of TCHT, Taylor’s), Prof. Ismail (TCHT, Taylor’s), Prof. Jean Pierre Poulain (Taylor’s/University Jean Jaures, France)

The Joint International Laboratory Project (LIA) is a joint research initiative between Taylor's University and France. In France the longstanding partners are the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurés along with Paul Sabatier University. This project has received financial support for 4-years from the prestigious French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). CNRS has been listed as one of the world's 'Top 10' scientific research institutions by Nature.

The LIA research project encompasses two main research programmes. First, is a European-Asian study that will look at the impact of socio-technological advances on food practices. Using an experimental research design, the experimental restaurants are equipped with data collection devices to enable researchers to study the impact of social contexts and interactions on eating behaviours. Second, is the Food Barometer Study which looks at the consequences of changing food practices on public health in particular obesity and non-communicable diseases. The first Malaysian Food Barometer (MFB) survey, collected data on social and cultural determinants of food practices in Malaysia and was carried out in 2013. The next survey should be completed in 2016, and aims to study the evolution of food patterns in Malaysia.

Given the success of the initial MFB, similar surveys are now being mooted in other Asian countries. For example, the Hong Kong Food Barometer study have just received an injection of funds to the tune of Euro 40,000 per annum for the next 3-years and discussions are ongoing with the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Mr. Neethiahnanthan Ari Ragavan, (the Dean of HCTA/ TCHT) noted that "this LIA project has a number of partners in both in France and Malaysia. In France, the project partners include the Toulouse Integrated Centre of Obesity (CIO), the UNESCO chair on “World Food Systems” from the international Centre of Higher Education in Agricultural Sciences by Montpellier SupAgro. In Malaysia, the partners are the University Science Malaysia (Penang), Nutritional Sciences Program, School of Healthcare Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia;,the United Nations University (Kuala Lumpur), Malaysian Association for the Study of Obesity along with other industry partners," Prof. Jean-Pierre Paulain added that, "The LIA research project is yet another landmark of the existing 28-years’ cooperation between Toulouse School of Tourism, Hospitality Management and Food Studies (ISTHIA) and TU’s School of Hospitality Management, Tourism and Culinary Arts".

For more information on the School ofHospitality Management, Tourism and Culinary Arts".