History and Background
Since its establishment, the Institute of Nutrition has continually conducted research to support the government in solving the nation’s nutrition challenges. These challenges have changed over time do to changes in the economy, in society and in the environment. Results of the Institute’s research studies have been transferred to responsible local, national and international organizations to be used for addressing their malnutrition and food safety problems. Information is also publicized through the mass media to encourage a better understanding of food and nutrition and promote a better quality of life for people living in Thailand.
First Decade (1977-1986)
The Institute emphasized resolving severe malnutrition among low-income mothers and children in rural areas. The studies that impacted on people’s health and the development of the country and region are as follows.
Low protein along with consumption of high oxalate vegetables causes an excessively high accumulation of oxalate crystals until they form into stones in the urinary bladder. Research showed that this problem could be solved by drinking more water and consuming high protein foods, such as meat and legumes that are high iin phosphorus.
Nutrition Health and Human Resources in Village Level Project (Nong Hai Project)
Appropriate measures for solving the nutrition problems of mothers and children living in rural communities were developed through the collaboration of four main agencies: the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Interior. The project resulted in sustainable community development and has been used as a model for other villages throughout the country.
Development of Complementary Food for Communities
An appropriate complementary food was formulated from locally available raw materials, i.e., rice, legume and sesame seed. A community-level production process was also developed, and the social marketing technique was used for product distribution. The product was used as the model for complementary food production in rural areas during the next decade.
Eating Habits of the Thai People
Eating cultures and beliefs were studied in order to develop healthy consumption habits and improve the quality of life of the Thai people. By cooperating with academicians in the region, we gained a better understanding of the causes of prevailing beliefs and could then efficiently correct improper eating habits.
Anemia in Pregnant Women
Iron supplementation at 120 mg/day during the middle period of pregnancy could prevent anemia in pregnant women. The program was successfully undertaken by applying nutrition education with the assistance of village health volunteers.
Second Decade (1987-1996)
A change from an agriculturally-based economy into an export-driven industrially-based one led to the urbanization of Thai society. This change also led to an increase in over-nutrition among children and adults, on the one hand, along with micronutrient deficiencies, on the other. The coexistence of these two nutritional problems is known as a “double burden”. People also became more interested in foods that have physiological functions.
Food Fortification and Nutrient Bioavailability
Food products fortified with nutrients, such as vitamin A, iron, iodine and calcium, were developed to solve micronutrient deficiency in the Thai population. Furthermore, the fortified products were tested for nutrient bioavailability bothin vitro level and in vivo.
Food Product Development for Solving Overnutrition Problem and Its Effect to The Body
Food products and ingredients containing low sodium, low sugar, low energy, high fiber and modified fatty acid profile were developed and tested for their efficacy in humans. The technologies developed for some products have been transferred to industries for commercial distribution.
Food additives were developed related to cancer and preventive measures for Mutagenicity by using the Ames’ Test. Moreover, research studies were conducted on practical ways of solving food safety problems in products developed by small and medium producers.
Nutrition Labeling Preparation
The Institute was the first agency in Thailand that could provide a complete analytical service for US nutrition labeling, which later led to research for developing nutrition labeling in Thailand.
Database on Nutrition Values of Thai Foods
As the Center of ASEAN Network of Food Data System of ASEANFOODS, under the International Network of Food Data System: INFOODS, the Institute compiled a database on the nutritional values of foods in Thailand and other ASEAN countries and systematically developed print and electronic databases of ASEAN foods.
Communication for Nutrition Development and Promotion
The social marketing of vitamin A rich foods using locally available products and practical ways of effective communication was a hallmark in the Institute’s research history. Using an applied research perspective, the focus was on research for action, one that continues today in Thailand and other countries in the region.
Third Decade (1997-2006)
In line with the National Economic and Social Development Plan, the Institute emphasized “human” development, especially in very young children, to promote “health for all” for Thais and to improve nutrition literacy. Application of a multidisciplinary approach in solving Thailand’s “double burden” was used and demonstrated through many in-depth research studies.
Evaluation of Nutrition Status
The Institute conducted a National Food Consumption Survey as a tool for evaluating nutrition sufficiency and the risk of food safety. In addition, a software program was developed as a tool for evaluating nutritional status.
Thai Food Research
The Institute conducts complete research on “Thai Food” from nutritive values, phytochemicals, healthy recipe development and arrangement of healthy menu sets, and their effects in preventing non-communicable chronic diseases.
Communication and Nutrition Habit Improvement Among Children and Teenagers
This research study focused on improving overall nutrition among young people with an emphasis on communication and food habit improvement. The project received an award for benefiting community health, which was given by the National Health Foundation, The Thai Research Fund and the World Health Organization.
Proactive Food and Nutrition
The Institute, in cooperation with the Nutrition Division of the Ministry of Health, established a network on proactive food and nutrition to promote the nutritional status of infants and children so that they could fully develop their physical and mental capacities. In addition, the project aimed to prevent the risk of overnutrition in children, as well as to promote healthy eating habits to prevent chronic diseases in general population.
Current Research Studies
In the Fourth Decade (2007-2017), the Institute is still conducting many research studies that have carried over from previous decades in order to create new knowledge and to promote sustainability. In addition, the Institute is responding to Thailand’s ever-aging population. Research studies in this decade are focusing on offering appropriate guidance for the elderly in terms of improving their nutrition and quality of life so that they can continue to be valuable contributors to their own and the nation’s development.
In addition, the Institute cooperates with government and private sectors to undertake research studies on food and nutrition security within the food chain, and paying special attention to food quality, nutritive values, food safety and food/nutrition education. Our research studies respond to the national policy on solving prevailing national food and nutrition problems in order to improve the population’s quality of life, as well as to promote food exportation.
Current research studies are categorized into five main groups, namely:
Thai Food/Health Food,
Nutritious Food Product Development,
Food Safety, Toxicology and Safety Management System,
Nutrition and Dietetics for Combatting Malnutrition’s Double Burden, and
Lifestyle, Behavior and Communication Related to Nutrition.