Nutrition Metabolism Research

Nutrition Metabolism is a research theme from the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food

Our research into metabolism generates understanding of how foods and nutrients can influence molecular and physiological mechanisms to improve health and reduce disease.  Our research spans from understanding how to prevent gut injury during endurance exercise to improving cardiovascular health among shift workers.  Diseases and conditions are highly complex, and nutrition is integral to good health and disease prevention and recovery.

Our researchers studying metabolism are working to achieve:

  • Better weight management strategies for teenagers and adults
  • Better metabolic health across the lifespan
  • Novel dietary strategies to improve biomarkers of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • Better gut health for ultra-endurance athletes through optimal nutrition and hydration
  • Reduction in inflammation through better food choices
  • Improved fertility and pregnancy outcomes
  • Novel bioinformatic analysis techniques to understand complex nutrient-metabolism interactions
  • Maximisation of brain health and mitigation of age-associated cognitive decline

Research studies

  • Exploring the link between dietary components (especially polyphenols) and carbohydrate / energy metabolism.
  • SWIFT study (investigating a novel weight loss regime in overweight shift workers)
  • Modifying timing of meal intake improve cardiovascular risk factors
  • Investigating the association between selenium and chronic conditions such as dementia, depression and cardiovascular diseases
  • Exploring the effects of nuts intake in health and diseases

Research groups

Professor Gary Williamson and his team are discovering how dietary bioactive compounds such as polyphenols can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, including both cellular mechanistic studies and human interventions. He has made major advances in understanding polyphenol bioavailability, and more recently has shown that certain polyphenols influence cellular energy metabolism and the appearance of glucose in the blood after a meal—important risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

A/Prof Maxine Bonham’s research group focuses on meal timing and circadian rhythms and the consequences of eating at unusual times on metabolic health outcomes.  In particular, the group are working with shift workers to develop novel dietary strategies that will improve biomarkers for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Research also focuses on examining the barriers to healthy eating at night whilst on shift work.  A new collaboration between Nutrition, Dietetics and Food and Community Emergency Health and Paramedic Practice will begin in 2019 with an exploration of the impact of shift work on nutrition and fitness in newly recruited paramedics.

A/Prof Ricardo Costa’s research investigates the impact of exercise stress with and without other stressors on gut health, and role of nutrition in attenuating or exacerbating stress induced perturbations to gut health. Over the last few years he has established and led an international multi-centre research team investigating the impact of ultra-endurance competition on nutritional and hydration status, and on various physiological and immunological parameters, in which issue of gut health have been identified. Previously, as course director for Sports Dietetic training in the UK, he is an active consultant and supervisor in Sports Dietetics, providing and supervising sport and exercise nutritional support to a wide range of sports at recreational, amateur, and elite (Olympic athletes) level.

Dr Barbara Cardoso’s research investigates the association between the nutrient selenium and different health outcomes, particularly dementia. This project involves the assessment of national-wide datasets and small cohorts, as well as intervention studies. Over the last few years, Dr Cardoso has played a leading role globally in the body of research describing the impact of selenium deficiency and treatment in Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, the research focuses on the effects of the consumption of nuts in metabolic outcomes, aiming to find a simple dietary strategy for health promotion.