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The MASALA study is expanding to second gen South Asians; focus on food and cardiac risk

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The MASALA Study is the first longitudinal study in U.S. South Asians to understand factors leading to heart disease — and ways to prevent it in this population. By 2024, the cohort (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi ancestry — the largest South Asian groups in the U.S.) will include around 2300 participants in California, Illinois, and New York, whose health will be tracked over the next several decades. Findings to date include the impact of plant-based food; and religion and spirituality on heart health, and relation of ectopic fat to cardiac health.

South Asians have the highest death rate from heart disease in the U.S. compared to other ethnic groups. Globally, 60% of patients with heart disease are South Asians.

Cardiovascular risk in South Asian Americans – Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi immigrant populations – leads to the early onset of plaque in arteries, compared to other groups. That’s what the 12-year long Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America – or MASALA study – has found. And now, the study is expanding to include the children of South Asian immigrants who participated in the first round.

This hour on Where We Live, we’ll discuss the scope of the study: By 2024, the MASALA cohort will include around 2300 participants in California, Illinois, and New York, whose health will be tracked over the next several decades. The goal? To understand the factors — food, socio-economic determinants, genetics — leading to heart disease in South Asian Americans, how to prevent it, and how to treat it.

Findings to date include the link between ectopic fat and cardiac health; a plant diet on heart health; and Coronary artery calcium incidence and changes using direct plaque measurements: The MASALA study

And, researchers offer Health Tips to South Asians, including a carb counting tool for traditional South Asian foods and healthy vegetarian keto recipes.


This show was produced by Sujata Srinivasan, with help from talk show intern Mira Raju. 

Where We Live is available as a podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe and never miss an episode!

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Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.
Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.