Is Food Making You Sick? Exploring the Relationship Between Nutrition and Health by Yoana Kosturska
For the past two and half years, the world has been overtaken by an unprecedented global pandemic that changed our behaviors, economies, and uprooted our lives. From the start, scientists and healthcare workers were trying to answer the question: how dangerous is this new virus? Soon, theories were developed as we were seeing that patient's outcomes were vastly different – some people ended up in hospitals on ventilators, while others were completely asymptomatic.
What made these outcomes different was attributed first to age, then to obesity and to preexisting conditions, such as diabetes and asthma, and even behaviors such as smoking. While this information helped medical workers better judge and predict the likelihood of someone developing a serious case of COVID-19 and consequently distributed vaccines according to individual risk factors, for people there was nothing much we could do. We were either in the risk categories or not. But what if there is something we could do to make us healthier and be better able to minimize individual risk, be that for COVID-19 or another disease?
Is Food Making You Sick? is built by analyzing almost 6 Gigabytes of raw data from two extensive data sources - the Global Dietary Database and the Global Burden of Diseases. The main goal is to empower users to explore any patterns, trends, and relationships by juxtaposing data on nutrition consumption and health outcomes. To support this analysis, the data can be contextualized geographically and with metadata such as population size, obesity, overweight, or underweight rates, using data from the World Bank and the World Health Organization.
Is Food Making You Sick? will answer questions such as do countries that have a high fat diet also struggle with heart disease? Are countries in which people are consuming high amounts of sugar also overburdened with diabetes? and many others. By exploring the patterns between food consumption and health outcomes, users could better inform their dietary choices and be empowered by high quality, research data, in correlating diseases to risk factors. Exposing the data visually could also spark discussion amongst researchers about less researched correlations, setting the stage for testing hypotheses and performing additional research.