In Profile: Daniel Roth

Dr. Daniel Roth
Professor Daniel Roth

Professor Daniel Roth’s research explores the consequences of vitamin D deficiency and supplementation during pregnancy in Bangladesh. 

“I am particularly interested in the effects of vitamin D supplementation in pregnant women on the growth of their babies in the first years of life,” says Roth, an assistant professor in the Departments of Paediatrics and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto.

Bangladesh and many other low- and middle-income countries have high rates of stunting — impaired growth of infants and children. “Because of various factors, including lifestyle and diet, vitamin D deficiency is common among women in Bangladesh. In these settings, there may be multiple benefits of improving vitamin D nutrition during pregnancy for both the mother and her child,” says Roth.

While Roth’s research targets resource-limited settings, he hopes the resulting knowledge will be applicable around the world. “We are trying to understand, fundamentally, just how important vitamin D is during pregnancy. We are focused on Bangladesh because the effects of deficiency there may be particularly pronounced.”

But average vitamin D levels in pregnant women in Canada during winters are not that different from women in Bangladesh. “Although we don’t have the same burden of nutritional problems or growth failure in infants here, there may be other benefits of improving vitamin D status in pregnant Canadian women,” says Roth.

Roth’s research contributes to the professional development of many people involved with the clinical trial in Bangladesh. “Through our partner organization in Dhaka, we can create opportunities and build capacity among individuals, including research physicians and community health workers,” says Roth. “Also, the mothers and children who volunteer to participate in the research benefit a lot from the close attention to their health care needs by the study team.”

Roth hopes the Lawson Centre will help tackle the underlying issues that lead to childhood malnutrition and obesity. “As biomedical researchers, we tend to focus on relatively small components of larger issues,” he says. “Yet, most childhood nutritional problems are ultimately determined by socioeconomic inequalities and structural factors in society — whether in our own city, country or internationally — that lead to inequitable access to health resources and care.”