LISTEN: Balancing health and culture – Prof Visith Chavasit on a career pioneering fortification strategies

By Tingmin Koe contact

- Last updated on GMT

LISTEN: Balancing health and culture – Prof Visith Chavasit on a career pioneering fortification strategies

Related tags: Thailand, Food fortification

Food fortification and developing healthier food options are crucial in tackling the double burden of undernutrition and obesity, but the unique cultural aspects of dietary patterns should not be neglected, says the guest who stars in our latest podcast.

Professor Visith Chavasit from Thailand's Mahidol University’s Institute of Nutrition is the guest of our 11th​ NutraChampion podcast.

An expert in food fortification and functional food development, various innovations from Prof Visith have been commercialised and sold in the Thai market. 

Prof Visith Chavasit
Prof Visith Chavasit

One of his key projects was developing iron and iodine-fortified fish sauces which caught the interest of international supermarket chains Tesco Lotus and Carrefour.

This was despite initial rejections from the local industry to his idea of chelating iron with citric acid – a novel practice at that time.

Many of his projects took into consideration both the nutrition and cultural aspects of Thai dietary patterns.

An example is the milk-tea flavoured nutri-jelly which he had developed for hospital patients suffering from dysphagia.

The product even won support from the late Thai King Rama IX (King Bhumipol). Under the royal support of the late King, Prof Visith received funding support through the Dentist Innovation Foundation, consisting of a research fund of THB$5 million and THB$20m was granted for production and distribution of 840,000 boxes of the product. The products was later donated to hospitals for free.

“(Making) healthy products is not easy for the industry. Every food has its own uniqueness, if you want it to be healthy, you will destroy our culture…Many strategies have to come together,”​ he said.

These days, he continues to keep himself busy with the promotion of healthier food and beverage formulations in Thailand, despite battling with pancreatic cancer since he was diagnosed six months ago. 

“I still work from home, I am still teaching from home…In fact, I paint as well…The medicine sometimes makes me feel nausea, but I will keep on painting, it is just like meditation,”​ he said.

Listen to find out more about his life and career.

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