In Profile: Nav Persaud

Dr. Nav Persaud
Professor Nav Persaud

“Family doctors are asked many questions about healthy nutrition during early childhood but evidence-based answers are often lacking,” says Professor Nav Persaud.

Persaud’s goal is to help generate new child nutrition knowledge, so that doctors like himself can give families evidence-based advice that improves health and development.

Persaud is a professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on helping people make better health-related decisions, such as modifying their eating behaviours. He is also a member of the Applied Research Group for Kids (TARGet Kids!).

In a recent study, Persaud and his TARGet Kids! colleagues found a connection between behaviours like watching TV while eating and poor indicators of health including bad cholesterol levels. “This research translates into a very practical piece of advice that family doctors and paediatricians can give to families,” says Persaud, who is also a physician at St. Michael's Hospital and an associate scientist in the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute.

Persaud emphasizes the need to interact with families, the public and decision makers very early in any research project. “I am glad that the TARGet Kids' practice-based research network has engaged patients right from the beginning. We have met with panels of patients and health-care providers to discern the most important questions in the care of children. Questions about nutrition topped that list.”

Persaud says there are many knowledge gaps in child nutrition that demand researchers’ attention. Families are bombarded with often conflicting messages on nutrition when they watch television or shop at grocery stores. He hopes to continue exploring how parents can better determine which messages to trust when buying food for their families.

“We have to continue thinking about feasible and affordable ways to provide nutritional information to families: is it counselling with family doctors, a brochure, an email reminder, a website, or perhaps an app?”

As a clinical researcher, Persaud has access to considerable data about children’s eating behaviours and health outcomes. He is excited about the opportunity to partner with other researchers at the Lawson Centre and find novel ways to translate research into application for the benefit of children and families.