New study launched in Tajikistan to examine nutritional quality of foods in urban settings

Jorgen Skogmo/Foundation

A new multicountry study, which aims to characterize the urban food environments of cities in the central Asia and Caucasus regions, was launched in Tajikistan from 4 to 8 April. The study aims to describe the extent and nature of vending sites (including food markets, kiosks and street vendors) selling ready-to-eat food in urban areas and to document the types of food commonly available.

Moreover, the study will assess the trans-fatty acids and sodium content of the most popular foods, based on laboratory analyses of locally-obtained food samples. The study will also take place in at least 6 other countries in the WHO European Region during 2016.

Tajikistan is the first country to launch the data collection phase, with a team of field workers receiving training from WHO/Europe and project partners from the University of Porto, Portugal. Data collection in Tajikistan is expected to last 1 month, after which the samples will be analysed and the results of the study published as the basis for policy dialogue with the Government of Tajikistan.

Food from markets and other vending sites is a unique and important part of the traditional culture in Tajikistan, as with other countries in central Asia and the Caucasus. A diverse range of nourishing fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains can be found across the capital city Dushanbe. However, unhealthy diets are becoming an increasingly urgent risk factor for noncommunicable diseases in the country.

Strong evidence links trans-fatty acids intake to coronary heart disease, whereas excessive sodium intake can significantly increase blood pressure, which is a major driver of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Little information is currently available on the nutritional composition of ready-to-eat foods from markets and other  vending sites. As such, this study aims to fill a gap by reporting the types of food widely available and examining their nutritional composition.

The study is coordinated by WHO/Europe and the University of Porto, and is financed through a voluntary contribution of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation.