University of Newcastle PhD candidate wins emerging researcher award

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) has presented its 2016 Emerging Researcher Award to Li Keng Chai, who is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle.

Ms Chai received the award for her research examining the differences between the dietary intakes of young children aged 2 – 3 years and the Australian nutrition recommendations, for that age group, of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE).

UON PhD candidate wins emerging researcher award
Study health sciences at UON

The award, for the best research article from a first time author in DAA’s journal Nutrition & Dietetics, was announced at the Association’s National Conference in Melbourne.

Ms Chai’s research found that no child achieved all targets set by the AGHE, with the majority of children consuming only half of recommended servings for breads/cereals and for vegetables.

She also found young children were taking in around 50 per cent more dairy servings and 30 per cent more fruit servings than the AGHE recommends.

Despite dietary intakes not meeting AGHE targets, Ms Chai’s analysis found a variety of dietary intakes still allowed children to meet recommendations for individual vitamins and minerals. Her research showed children also met requirements for carbohydrate, protein and fat, although nearly all exceeded recommendations for saturated fat intake.

“Healthy eating in childhood is essential to provide energy and nutrients for growth and development and to reduce the risk of chronic disease later in life. The AGHE outlines a dietary intake pattern that meets vitamin, mineral and macronutrient recommendations. But my research shows there are alternative dietary patterns that are also able to meet the requirements of this age group,” said Ms Chai.

“Nutrition recommendations are based on the best evidence currently available, providing a framework for healthy eating. Ms Chai’s research will help to build knowledge and potentially shape future nutrition guidelines,” said DAA President Liz Kellett.

According to Ms Kellett, Ms Chai was the standout applicant when assessed against the award criteria of research quality, clarity of communication, and potential contribution to health/advancing the evidence base in nutrition and dietetics.

“I am very delighted to receive this award from the DAA. This recognition would not have happened without the continuous support from my dedicated colleagues and supervisors. It’s a great pleasure for our research to be honoured by the peak organisation of dietetic and nutrition professionals. This award has given me a great deal of confidence to produce more high-quality research,” said Ms Chai.

DAA’s Emerging Researcher Award is proudly supported by the Nestlé Nutrition Institute. Ms Chai will receive a cheque for $1,000 and a complimentary pass to the DAA National Conference.

School of Health Sciences at the University of Newcastle

The School of Health Sciences at the University of Newcastle excels in the teaching and learning of allied health professionals, and offers study with a strong clinical focus in the eleven health professions represented within the school.

The school has specialized teaching laboratories for programs at both the Newcastle and Central Coast campuses. Students learn and refine their practical skills required for professional practice in these laboratories prior to undertaking clinical or other professional placements.

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