A study by the Tata Memorial Hospital will make a unique attempt to relate food habits of 2 lakh people in arid Barshi to commonly occuring medical conditions like cancer, brain stroke and cardiac attacks by analysing 120 recipes of food regularly consumed by the local population. A robobtic bio-laboratory is under construction to store blood samples of these locals.
The long-term study called India Study of Achievable Health will analyse recipes of commonly cooked food in Barshi to understand the intake of nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins and calories by each individual. Doctors have found 120 commonly cooked food items like dal, brinjal, boiled potatoes and vegetables that are consumed in 364 villages in and around Barshi in Solapur district.
Blood samples, blood pressure, data on tobacco consumption and physical exercise and alcohol intake of the 2 lakh people will be noted to measure risk factors. After five years, they will be tested again to check which individual has what disease and parallels will be drawn to co-relate food intake with stroke, obesity, heart ailments and cancer.
“The nutrient analysis through recipes will show a general salt, oil and red chilli intake by the locals. This will help in establishing traditional risk factors in cancer. The information will be helpful in co-relating several disease in future,” Dr Rajesh Dikshit, in-charge of the Center for Cancer Epidemiology (CCE) at Tata Hospital said.
The study will require a bio-laboratory to store the two lakh blood samples for at least five years. Specially designed by a UK-based firm, Liconic, a robotic system will be used to store and extract the blood samples from a cavernous, two-storey lab underway at the Tata Memorial Centre’s ACTREC (Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer) Hospital in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai.
“The training to instruct the robotic system was conducted in the UK. It will start functioning by July,” said Dikshit. Liconic will start setting up the system from June and its technicians will work with the CCE for two years to handle the bio-lab.
Set up at a cost of Rs 15 crore received from the Department of Atomic Energy, the laboratory will have the capacity to store 15 lakh blood samples under -80 degrees Celsius of liquid nitrogen. The CCE, which started in 2015, will work on collection and storage of blood samples for long term to create a data pool.
The research project is expected to continue in Dervan and Goa but doctors may also include the Northeastern states of India for diverse blood samples.
According to researchers, Barshi will help tap the rural population’s diet while Dervan in Ratnagiri will provide coastal food choices of the locals. Similarly, the Northeast will provide an entirely different food preference data of its residents.
Oncologist said the research will also show how good food habits can curb lifestyle diseases. “Barshi’s example could help us know how urban residents can change diet to prevent risk factors. But that is a far-away plan for now,” Dikshit said.