The overall research theme at CEN is Nutrition for Health and Development. Nutrition can be seen as the foundation for health and development. Better nutrition leads to a stronger immune system, fewer illnesses and better health.


Research at CEN is structured within five sub-programmes led mostly by NRF-rated scientists:

Non-Communicable Diseases

Within this sub-programme, we have several projects focussing on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer and the prevention thereof. These include dietary intakes (nutrient intakes, nutrient and dietary patterns, dietary diversity, diet quality, and food-based dietary guidelines) of South Africans and how these relate to NCDs. We also use genetic as well as nutrigenetic analyses, linking diet to the genetic profile of Africans in relation to NCDs.

Nutrition in Early Childhood Development

The Early Childhood Development sub-programme investigates strategies to achieve optimal health and development during early life. The window from conception to 2 years of life, also known as the “First 1000 Days” is of special interest. Another focus is the optimal nutrition of mothers, pregnant women, and women of reproductive age, in order to optimise early childhood development.

Body Composition and Physical Performance

In this area of study, we investigate the determinants of obesity and other patterns of body composition in relation to risk factors for chronic disease in adults and children in an attempt to understand the drivers and prevent the potential consequences of this pandemic.

Leading Change in Nutrition

The sub-programme strongly implements expertise and capacity building focus, and its activities are integrated with several other sub-programmes. The programme is involved in the Science of Teaching and Learning with a project aimed at integrating leadership development into the dietetics undergraduate programme to improve several graduate attributes.

Therapeutic Nutrition

Therapeutic nutrition or medical nutrition therapy aims to improve outcomes for various conditions or diseases. This sub-programme aims to do research that informs decisions regarding the medical nutrition therapy of patients with various disease conditions and to improve the therapeutic nutrition research capacity in Africa.


The MRC Extramural Unit for Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease consists of members from SUV and HART and conducts research on hypertension and cardiovascular disease development in African populations, which have the highest average blood pressure recorded worldwide. The Unit's aim is to raise awareness, as well as to help implement more effective treatment and prevention programs to reduce the risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, heart failure and kidney failure.

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