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The science of nutrition and its impact on the prevention and treatment of chronic disease forms the backbone of research carried out by Dublin-born Aoife Carey, who receives her doctorate from the University of Ulster at today’s ceremony at the Coleraine campus.

The adverse clinical and nutritional consequences of malnutrition in childhood are well recognised and have been shown to predispose a child to an increased risk of chronic diseases in adulthood.

Despite this, according to Dr Carey, malnutrition in hospitalised children remains a largely unrecognised problem. She said: The aim of my research was to examine malnutrition in hospitalised children across the UK and Ireland. While much is made of the medical dangers inherent in obesity, I found that the consequences of malnutrition and under-nutrition were often overlooked.

“As part of my research, I led the largest, multi-centre data collection regarding the nutrition status of hospitalised children across the UK and Ireland, collating and examining data for over 900 hospitalised children. It demonstrated that both over and under-nutrition are prevalent among the general paediatric inpatient population.

“The results of the study provide a benchmark for the health service, offering evidence of the importance of identifying nutrition risk in hospitalised children and the value of routine nutrition screening of paediatric patients on admission.”

Aoife began her studies in dietetics at the University in 2005 and straight after graduation began her PhD alongside colleagues in Ulster’s Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE).

She commented:“Ulster is a progressive research institution and I am delighted to have been part of a project which has already advanced knowledge for the benefit of society.My PhD programme was very well structured and I am grateful to my supervisors, Dr Helen McCarthy and Professor Helene McNulty for their support.”

Aoife has taken up a post at the National Centre for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Dublin. She is currently coordinating the 'DOCHAS' – Determinants and Outcomes in Children and Adolescents with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – study, which explores IBD in Irish children.