Applied Research

We are gaining significant recognition as an applied nutrition research centre.

Research impact

Our centre includes academics with a range of research interests and expertise, and this diversity allows for a multi-disciplinary research approach with significant clinical and public health impact. The role of nutrition in maintaining health and quality of life is of increasing public health importance and our research actively engages in the most current and world leading research and a policy in nutrition science.

New collaborations with both international and UK stakeholders will contribute significantly to the applied research activities, helping to develop its global reputation as a nutrition research institute. Together with our numerous esteem indicators, our grant funding success, high quality publication and dissemination outputs, and research experience and integrity, will contribute to the increasing impact and sustainability of our research.

Themes

Nutrition in Healthy Ageing

The research at OxBCNH has a focus on the impact of nutrition on health and wellbeing. Within our main theme of healthy ageing, the following sub themes of research areas are included.

Theme 1: Diet and Metabolic Health

The effect of high-polyphenol sumac on food intake in younger and older adults, using sensory and appetite analysis

Ageing contributes to decline in appetite and food intake leading to nutrient deficiencies in older adults. The use of herbs and spices may enhance the palatability of foods thereby helping to improve food intake in older adults. Spices are usually high in bioactive compounds such as polyphenols and specific amino acids that can increase the flavour of foods. The aim of this project is to investigate the polyphenol content in the spice called sumac from different regions and use different doses of sumac in sensory and appetite studies in younger and older adults. The results of this research may demonstrate potential effect of sumac in improving appetite in older adults.

Principal investigators: Dr Sangeetha Thondre, Dr Helen Lightowler and Dr Shelly Coe

Dates: 2015- 2021

Dietary bioactive compounds and possible health benefits of dragon fruit and star fruit

The health benefits associated with fruit and vegetable consumption is well known. However, there is potential in exploring the bioactive potential of various exotic fruits with the aim of improving human metabolic health. Dragon fruit (Hylocereus spp) and star fruit (Averrhoa carambola) are two such fruits known to be rich in phytochemicals with potential to influence the risk factors of non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The aim of this project is to evaluate the polyphenol content and antioxidant activity of dragon fruit and star fruit in order to develop ready to use food products. The effect of these edible products will be tested on biomarkers associated with non-communicable diseases.

Principal investigators: Dr Sangeetha Thondre, Dr Alaaddine El-Chab and Dr Shelly Coe

Dates: 2018-2022

Effectiveness of different interventions to facilitate salt intake reduction in a sample of UAE population

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are major contributors of mortality globally. Most of the NCD deaths are due to cardiovascular diseases contributed by metabolic risk factors such as high blood pressure. Whilst unhealthy diet in general can increase the risk of high blood pressure, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), excess salt intake is the main dietary factor responsible for hypertension. The aim of this project is to investigate salt intake in a sample of UAE population and then explore the effectiveness of educational interventions to facilitate salt intake reduction. This research is in line with the WHO’s NCD action plan target to reduce salt intake by 30% in order to achieve a 25% relative reduction in high blood pressure by 2025.

Principal investigator: Dr Sangeetha Thondre

Dates: 2017-2022 


Theme 2: Sport and Exercise Nutrition

Standing up for Cerebral Palsy 2: an exercise and diet intervention in UK special schools

Young people with Cerebral Palsy (CP) are more likely to have poor health and academic outcomes due to low levels of physical activity and prolonged sitting, compared to children without a disability. Good cognitive ability is important for academic functioning and is affected by exercise and lifestyle factors including diet. While young people with CP gain both physical and psychosocial benefits from physical activity interventions, current barriers to participation in physical activity in these young people are significant. A holistic management program will be developed to support young people with CP and their families and teachers to integrate into education settings a physical activity program to improve attention and memory for better academic learning.

Principal investigator: Dr Shelly Coe, Dr Liana Nagy and Prof Helen Dawes

Dates: 2021-2024

Theme 3: Psychology of Eating Behaviour

The effect of high-polyphenol sumac on food intake in younger and older adults, using sensory and appetite analysis

Ageing contributes to decline in appetite and food intake leading to nutrient deficiencies in older adults. The use of herbs and spices may enhance the palatability of foods thereby helping to improve food intake in older adults. Spices are usually high in bioactive compounds such as polyphenols and specific amino acids that can increase the flavour of foods. The aim of this project is to investigate the polyphenol content in the spice called sumac from different regions and use different doses of sumac in sensory and appetite studies in younger and older adults. The results of this research may demonstrate potential effect of sumac in improving appetite in older adults.

Principal investigators: Dr Sangeetha Thondre, Dr Helen Lightowler and Dr Shelly Coe

Dates: 2015- 2021

A randomised controlled trial on the effect of food ‘addiction’ stigma on food preferences and dietary intake

The narrative around ‘food addiction’ is an active area of scientific debate as there have been comparisons made between overindulgent eating of highly palatable foods and drug addiction. While this idea is still debated, studies have shown that an increasing number of people report that they are addicted to food. It has been argued that the use of stigma may be effective in reducing the prevalence of the associated behaviours, while others have suggested that, in the context of obesity, stigmatisation of people may have the opposite effect. As there are mixed results in the literature, this project aims at providing further knowledge and improving understanding as to if and how food addiction stigmatisation affects motivational state, as well as different determinants of human ingestive decision making including voluntary dietary intake and food preferences (“wanting” and “liking”).

Principal Investigator: Dr Vasiliki Iatridi

Dates: 2021 

Differences in eating patterns (mindful/intuitive/hedonic eating, neophobia), weight status/body composition, and interoceptive abilities between different hedonic response patterns to sweetness

Food choice and intake has a critical role in maintaining a healthy body weight and preventing obesity. Optimally, food intake should be in response to need for energy as determined by the body’s energy reserves and acute metabolic requirements. However it is not uncommon for individuals to consume food driven by hedonics.

 In the modern affluent food environments with the increased availability of highly palatable foods and associated food cues, pleasure seeking which is characterised by enhanced appetitive responsiveness to highly palatable foods may have a greater role in the control of food intake ultimately resulting in intake beyond requirements. Sweetness in particular, is a powerful sensory stimulus that has a strong affective and rewarding appeal. It may be a primary reason why sweet-tasting foods and drinks are eaten in excess, independent of the body’s need state. 

On the other hand, hedonic responses to sweet taste stimuli vary considerably across people with distinct hedonic response groups, the so-called sweet liking phenotypes, being long identified. Interpersonal variation in sweet liking—in conjunction with genetic and epigenetic inputs, environmental forces, and other acquired individual characteristics—may, therefore, contribute to variations in the susceptibility to the maladaptive effects of the obesogenic environment on mechanisms involved in decision-making around food and ultimately obesity. Indeed, being overweight or obese has been associated with attenuated interoceptive abilities and reduced grey matter volume in cortical substrates involved in interoception. Exploring the differences by sweet liking phenotype in objective and subjective measures of interoception, interoceptive eating behaviours, such as mindful and intuitive eating, and ultimately weight status may inform personalised nutrition strategies to reverse obesity epidemic.

Principal Investigator: Dr Vasiliki Iatridi

Dates: 2017 

Validity and reliability of a home-based compared to a laboratory-based taste test in identifying distinct sweet-liking phenotypes

Human ingestive behavior involves a complex interaction between sensory and non-sensory factors. Of the sensory determinants of food choice, sweet taste is widely accepted as a powerful stimulus that generally signals pleasure. Challenging the view that the expression of sweet-liking is universal, researchers who use laboratory-based taste tests have repeatedly described different hedonic responses to the same sweet taste stimulus.

Despite some degree of conceptual agreement that distinct sweet taste liking phenotypes exist, the methods that have been used to identify these individual differences in affective responses to sweetness vary widely across studies contributing to the inconsistencies in the literature regarding the relationship between liking for sweetness and associated behaviors such as sugar intake and ultimately obesity. Following up with our recent development of a statistically robust but easy-to-use sweet liking phenotype classification method, testing the validity and reliability of the laboratory-based protocol at home setting will further facilitate its use by large-scale studies; the recent constraints in conducting laboratory-based research involving human participants imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, further underscored that such alternative arrangements are warranted.

Principal Investigator: Dr Vasiliki Iatridi

Dates: 2021 - 2023 

Theme 4: Nutrition and Genetics

Nutrition and Health in UK prisons

A reported £400 million was spent on providing healthcare in adult prisons in England, 2016-2017, a figure that, with improved diet quality and living conditions, could be reduced substantially. It has been highlighted that prisoners are often deficient in Vitamin D (VD) however there is paucity in research within UK prisons. VD can be obtained from the diet, of which prisoners’ diets have shown to be inadequate within the UK. 

With small budgets and implemented restrictions on lifestyle, more research is required to assess diet quality and determine any cost-effective improvements that can be made to prevent disease. Despite the known associations and causes between dietary intake and disease status, public health interventions, traditionally aimed at the population level, have had little lasting effect. An alternative approach which has gained attention in recent years is known as personalised healthcare, which promotes intervention/ advice dependent upon individual level of disease risk. This project endeavours to explore the potential use of personalised nutrition in prisons in the UK.

Principal investigators: Dr Jonathan Tammam, Dr Catherine Graham and Dr Shelly Coe

Dates: 2021-2024

Theme 5: Nutrition in Clinical or Restricted Populations

Malnutrition in people with cancer who are overweight or with obesity

Meta-analyses suggest that dietary advice given by dietitians is effective for improving quality of life and optimal nutrient intake in people with cancer. However, in routine oncology practice, overweight or obese cancer patients do not typically receive regular nutritional screening as they are generally considered well or over nourished. Furthermore, even when malnutrition risk is recognized, it may not be adequately addressed due to generally low awareness of the complexity of cancer related malnutrition in the overweight and obese. The aim of this award is to identify and/ or develop and validate a screening tool that will accurately screen malnutrition in this patient group.

Principal investigators: Dr Shelly Coe, Dr Vasiliki Iatridi, Dr Jonathan Tammam and Dr Eila Watson

Dates: 2021- ongoing

Do dietary interventions improve non-motor symptoms including fatigue in people with Parkinson’s?

Evidence-based treatment for non-motor symptoms in Parkinson’s is limited and the development and testing of new treatments to help manage and potentially reduce progression of such symptoms remains a priority. Lifestyle-based improvements including dietary changes may be a potential strategy. The overall aim of this project is to co-develop and evaluate the feasibility of a diet-based lifestyle intervention to support the management of fatigue and associated non-motor symptoms amongst individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Principal investigators: Dr Shelly Coe, Dr Maedeh Mansoubi and Prof Helen Dawes

Dates: 2019-2023

The impact on lifestyle factors including diet, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic on neurological populations

People with neurological conditions are considered a moderately or sometimes extremely vulnerable group, and were advised to shield during the UK COVID-19 pandemic. Since these guidelines were released, lockdown restrictions have continued to change. The extent of impact this may have had on such individuals’ lifestyle, specifically dietary and physical activity habits, is unknown. The aim of this research is to explore changes in lifestyle and dietary habits during and in the aftermath of COVID-19 in people with neurological conditions (including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, post-Stroke and Spinal Cord Injury). The secondary aim of this research is to assess whether any changes to lifestyle and dietary habits have impacted physical and/ or mental health.

Principal investigators: Dr Shelly Coe and Dr Catherine Graham

Dates: 2021-ongoing

The effect of sodium and glycerol-induced hyperhydration on hydration levels during fasting

During the 9th month (Ramadan) of the Islamic calendar many millions of adult Muslims all over the world fast during the daylight hours. Fasting during Ramadan is partial because the abstention from food and fluid is from dawn to sunset. The time of dawn and sunset varies between 12 h at the equator and about 22 h at the 64° of latitude in the summertime. A number of studies have investigated the effect on mood and irritability of individuals during the Ramadan fast. These studies invariably show increased incidences of headaches, a decrease in subjective feelings of alertness, and an increase in irritability during the daytime fast. Part of this mood change is caused by energy and fluid intake. In those Muslims with psychosomatic complaints or headaches during Ramadan, intermittent dehydration may be a more important pathogenic factor than intermittent energy restriction. Therefore, an overhydration strategy such as those used by athletes competing in long-distance events and/or in hot environments might help reduce the level of dehydration during Ramadan fasting. Whether this strategy can help reduce dehydration levels and its symptoms during Ramadan fasting is yet to be tested. Therefore, the aim of this project is to examine the effect of different overhydration strategies on hydration level and dehydration symptoms during fasting.

Principal investigators: Alaaddine El Chab, Sangeetha Thondre, Catherine Graham

Dates: 2019-2023

Theme 6: Diet in Children and Young People

Standing up for Cerebral Palsy 2: an exercise and diet intervention in UK special schools

Young people with Cerebral Palsy (CP) are more likely to have poor health and academic outcomes due to low levels of physical activity and prolonged sitting, compared to children without a disability. Good cognitive ability is important for academic functioning and is affected by exercise and lifestyle factors including diet. While young people with CP gain both physical and psychosocial benefits from physical activity interventions, current barriers to participation in physical activity in these young people are significant. A holistic management program will be developed to support young people with CP and their families and teachers to integrate into education settings a physical activity program to improve attention and memory for better academic learning.

Principal investigators: Dr Shelly Coe, Dr Liana Nagy and Prof Helen Dawes

Dates: 2021-2024

Healthy fruit and veg

Academic staff members

Dr Jonathan Tammam

Director of OxBCNH and Programme Lead for Nutrition

Dr Jonathan Tammam

Dr Sangeetha Thondre

Research Lead for OxBCNH and Senior Lecturer in Nutrition

Dr Sangeetha Thondre

Dr Shelly Coe 

Senior Lecturer in Nutrition and Postgraduate Research Tutor

Dr Shelly Coe

Dr Aladdine El-Chab 

Senior Lecturer in Clinical and Sports Nutrition

Dr Aladdine El-Chab

Dr Catherine Graham

Lecturer in Nutrition

Dr Catherine Graham

Dr Rianne Costello

Lecturer in Nutrition

Dr Rianne Costello

Dr Vasiliki Iatridi 

Lecturer in Nutrition

Dr Vasiliki Iatridi

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Oxford Brookes Centre for Nutrition and Health

oxbcnh@brookes.ac.uk

+44 (0) 1865 483297