Many countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are currently witnessing a double burden of malnutrition with significant proportions of stunting and wasting co-existing with surging rates of obesity and related diseases, such as cardiometabolic diseases and cancer. Such a situation has been in part attributed to changes in dietary intakes, whereby, in many countries of the MENA, remarkable shifts in dietary patterns were documented. These shifts are characterized by the erosion of traditional dietary patterns (rich in fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrate) and the migration towards a more westernized type of diet which is lower in carbohydrate and higher in animal-based food with high sugar and caloric content and larger amount of processed food (chocolates, soft drinks..). The limited information on nutritional status and dietary intake needs assessments, the lack of effective evidence-based nutrition interventions and the gap between nutritional sciences and public health policy constitute major challenges that hamper efforts to improve the nutritional status and health of populations in the region.
The Nutrition, Obesity and Related Diseases (NORD) program will constitute a platform for multidisciplinary collaboration that aims to fill knowledge gaps and advance the nutritional sciences in order to inform health communication, provide strategies, and improve public policy to prevent and manage obesity and related diseases. The NORD program will foster national and international research networks to address the role of diet and nutrition in disease prevention and management, taking into account culture, environment, and sustainable development.