Department of Sport, Health Sciences and Social Work


  • Good nutrition is important to maintain function and health as we age, and this becomes increasingly important in those with neurological conditions, children and the elderly. The aim of the Clinical Applied Nutrition (CAN) group within MOReS is to develop research into the area of nutrition for symptom management and health maintenance in a variety of vulnerable and disease populations, and to implement this research alongside other key areas including exercise interventions and gait analysis.

  • Dietary changes may be a simple, cost effective and safe therapy for improving symptoms experienced in people with MS (pwMS), and thus for increasing quality of life. Many pwMS have expressed their interest in dietary therapies to manage their symptoms; however scientific evidence for these therapies is lacking.

    There is currently no cure for fatigue and one of the MS Society's top ten priorities is to understand which treatments are effective for fatigue in pwMS. Flavonoids, plant compounds found in certain foods, may have the ability to improve fatigue. However, to date, no well-designed intervention studies assessing the role of flavonoid consumption for fatigue management in pwMS have been performed.

    The aim of this project is to undertake a feasibility study to determine whether flavonoid-rich cocoa has the potential to improve fatigue in pwMS in order to inform a follow on trial.

    Principal Investigator: Prof Helen Dawes

    Funder: MS Society

    Collaborations: OUH Hospitals

    A healthy life-style, e.g. diet patterns and physical activity, has been associated with an overall health state, including improved cognitive ability and more recently an association has been found to motor performance and function. Currently little is known on how life-style factors throughout life affect quality of movement in later life.

    The Movement Science Group is collaborating with several national (Medical Research Council, Whitehall II Cohort, Southall and Brent Revisited cohort) and international (McGill University, Shanghai Jiao Tong Universityl) longitudinal cohorts whereby in-depth gait assessments are being performed alongside a battery of extensive tests performed according to the cohort protocols. We expect to have extensive data on lifestyle factors as well as in-depthmovement measurements in 1,000s of people over the next two years.

    Principal Investigators: Dr Patrick Esser and Dr Shelly Coe

    Funder: Oxford Brookes University

    Preliminary work in our lab assessed the diet of 10 healthy participants and 10 pwMS, and found overall energy intake (kcal), carbohydrate intake (g) and total sugars (g) were greater in pwMS, with non-significant differences in other nutrients (p-0.05; Coe et al., 2014, In press). Despite the small sample size these results support the view of clinicians and indicate that differences exist between intakes of certain nutrients in pwMS compared to healthy subjects.

    We are proposing to utilise the recently developed MS Register with a potential cohort of n=10,000+, to explore dietary patterns in pwMS. This information will provide insight into dietary intakes and will highlight the need for future studies on the role of nutrition in MS aetiology.

    The aim of this study is to determine the self-reported dietary intake of a representative sample of pwMS. This will promote our understanding of the current dietary behaviours in this group in order to determine:

    • If differences exist between the diet in pwMS compared to the general UK population {based on the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data} and to the UK dietary guidelines {Science Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN)}
    • Specifically for what foods and/ or nutrients these differences occur
    • The influence of covariates (type and stage of disease) on diet

    A widely used and validated food frequency questionnaire (FFQ; Bingham et al., 2001) will be hosted for a period of three months and registered individuals will be informed through email once the questionnaire has been uploaded. Specific food and nutrient intakes will be assessed, with questions relating to habitual food consumption over the previous year. Other core information will also be obtained from the register, for example: type and stage of disease, medication, age, symptoms such as fatigue and independence in daily living.

    Principal Investigator: Dr Shelly Coe

    Funder: Oxford Brookes University

    Collaborations: MS Register

    Moderate to Vigorous Physical activity (MVPA) interventions benefit executive function and improve academic performance in young people with effects persisting for several hours. Recent data suggests that breaking sitting time with brief regular breaks of moderate intensity physical activity (PA), improves post-prandial insulin and glucose responses, which may be the possible mechanism driving cognitive improvements.

    Possible benefits of PA breaks in young people with cerebral palsy (YPwCP) are extremely promising as YPwCP are less fit, less active than their typically developing (TD) and show deficits on cognitive tasks.

    The Chief Medical Officer highlighted that YPwCP should be a focus of interventions to improve health and wellbeing, and that school is best placed for such activities.On discussion with parents, YPwCP, teachers and physical therapists they suggest that short frequent exercise whilst possibly more effective may be impractical at school. We propose to determine the optimal interrupting sitting approach for use in schools and thus in line with UK national and international policy support YPwCP in schools.

    Principal Investigator: Prof Helen Dawes

    Funder: Action Medical Research for Children

    Collaborations: Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal, University of Oxford

    People with Parkinson's (PwP) report being diagnosed as devastating and could be better handled with a subsequent reduction in stress and anxiety for those affected and their families. Stress and anxiety have been highlighted as one of the top 10 research priorities for PwP (James Lind Alliance) with the need for improvement in the information those newly diagnosed receive. This research is to evaluate the ‘first step program’, for taking control after diagnosis, which has been developed by PwP for PwP. The program has been piloted, supported by Parkinson’s UK, and now is being implemented in Oxfordshire and Hampshire.

    Adults with diagnoses of Parkinson's within the previous 12months, will be invited to attend the program and be offered the opportunity to take part in the research.

    The first step program consists of 2 workshops over a 6 week period. The workshops are delivered by pwp who provide information on how to face the future positively, address fears and misconceptions and how they can help manage the condition themselves. Those taking part in the research will be asked to take part in assessments delivered over the phone. At assessment we will asks questions about health, wellbeing, nutrition and activity.

    Principal Investigator: Prof Helen Dawes

    Funder: Parkinson’s UK


    Prof Michele Hu, Nuffield Department of clinical Neurosciences, John Radcliffe Hospital

    Prof Helen Roberts, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

    Ms Val Buxton, Parkinson's UK