Dietetics, Human Nutrition and Health projects

More information on Dietetics, Human Nutrition and Health projects

Dietetic Practice and the Nutritional Management of Disease in Childhood and Adults

Dietetics is the branch of science concerned with the diet and its effects on health, especially with the practical application of a scientific understanding of nutrition. Our research into Dietetic Practice includes all aspects of dietetics relating to both adults and children.

We want to ensure that what dietitians do in practice is based on good sound evidence and that dietary manipulations designed to promote good health and treat disease do just that.

We are also very interested in exploring the skills and attitudes dietitians need to develop to work effectively and how dietitians' working practices can be most effectively organised to deliver an efficient service.

Certain diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure, obesity and various diseases of the gut (and many more) require people to adapt their diet in order to manage and control the disease.

image courtesy of Getty - Diabetes risk factors pointed out by a doctor

We are interested in understanding the best ways to implement such dietary changes and importantly how best to support people to make such changes. Additionally, we want to study what changes are needed for particular conditions.

Current projects include:
  • The impact of dietitians in the multi-disciplinary practice team within primary care.
  • Ensuring the continuity of nutritional care in patients recovering from Covid-19 infection.
  • A rapid review to collate information about covid-19 guidelines related to rehabilitation and nutrition.
  • Core Outcomes for Refractory childhood Epilepsy treated with Ketogenic Diet Therapy: The CORE-KDT study.
  • Survey of BDA members perceptions of communication skills for behaviour change.

Projects our undergraduate students are working on include:
  • How effective is first line dietary advice for IBS?
  • How do the public perceive dietitians?
  • Understanding gender disparity in dietetics.
  • Exploring impact of virtual training on anxiety and attitudes towards learning communication skills in dietetic students.

Projects our postgraduate (masters and PhD) students are working on include:
  • A survey assessing UK registered dietitians’ experiences and management of blended diets for tube fed children.
  • Nutritional adequacy of blended diets.
  • Dietetic management of children aged 2-10 years with fussy or restrictive eating.
  • Current practices in Paediatric refeeding syndrome in the UK.
  • Investigating a novel home-based intervention to optimise long-term healthy living with ataxia telangiectasia (AT).
  • Feasibility study for randomised controlled trial of remote access, group-based Functional Imagery Training (FIT) versus treatment as usual in weight management services.

Public Health Nutrition

Public health nutrition is concerned with the promotion and maintenance of nutrition related health and wellbeing of populations through the organised efforts and informed choices of society. 

The focus is on health improvement, maintenance of wellness and primary prevention, through influencing education, environmental and political policy, as well as food and nutrition systems.

We are particularly interested in design, implementation and evaluation of small and large scale public health nutrition interventions. Also of interest is how interventions can complement broader inequality strategies and wider food system issues.

A particular focus within the team is on how to motivate and engage individuals and communities in food activities that promote improved wellbeing and lifestyles.

Public health nutrition

Projects include:

  • Current - Food System Transformation (2021-2026 – UKRI Strategic Priorities fund) “Co-production of healthy, sustainable food systems for disadvantaged communities”.
  • Food Insecurity and food justice - lived experience in Plymouth.
  • Food insecurity and nutritional wellbeing (in light of covid) - exploring views in Plymouth.

Nutrition and ageing

As humans age their physical and mental health changes, and often these changes make older adults more at risk of nutritional problems, including under-nutrition. 

Getty image 482784863  Carer serving a meal to senior couple

We are interested in learning how nutrition influences ageing, how optimal nutrition can be maintained during older age and how nutritional deficiencies that occur can be best treated.

Projects include:

  • Helping people with dementia to eat well at home: An investigation to understand and enhance nutritional care.
  • Assessing the nutritional knowledge of Domiciliary Care Workers and Community Occupational Therapists who care for people with dementia.
  • Can naturally enriched foods increase the protein and energy intake of malnourished elder care patients within a hospital setting without an adverse effect on budgets?
  • An observational study to investigate the impact of nutrition risk status on patient-centred outcomes and utilisation of health and social care resources in older people living in the community.
  • How do healthcare professionals, caring for nutritionally vulnerable people, view podcasts as a training tool?

Nutrition and metabolism

Within the body, food is broken down into individual nutrients that are used in different metabolic pathways. In order to understand how to promote optimal nutritional health we need to understand how each nutrient is used by the body and for what purpose. It is also important to establish the interaction between nutrition and physical activity to promote optimal health.

We have a particular interest within our group in the metabolism of iron and nitrate-nitrite metabolism. We have several on-going studies examining the effects of these nutrients in human health, and different ways to measure and assess their metabolic pathways.

male scientist in lab studying results of a DNA-test

In the case of nitrate-nitrite metabolism, we are also interested in the role of diet and physical activity on the regulation of the oral microbiome in different physiological status (health and disease). We are also leading research with colleagues from the Peninsula Dental School (University of Plymouth) to develop new oral care products based on oral prebiotics to promote a healthy oral microbiome

Projects include:

  • Effect of diet and physical exercise on nitrate-nitrite metabolism: elucidating mechanisms that promote cardiovascular health.
  • Effect of nitrite on blood pressure regulation in healthy individuals: elucidating the gastric role.
  • Effect of dietary nitrate on blood pressure in individuals with hypertension.
  • Composition and activity of the oral microbiome in different cohorts: women with pre-eclampsia, hypertensive individuals, athletes.
  • Effect of a new oral mouthwash based on bee propolis on the oral microbiome.
  • Measuring ammonia in saliva samples before and after killing oral bacteria with chlorhexidine.
  • Hydration and Plasma Biochemistry: The effect of fluid intake on total plasma iron and plasma protein concentration.
  • Vitamin E Status, Supplementation, and Cardiovascular Outcomes – a systematic review and meta-analysis.
  • Essential Fatty acids in Food – a survey of public perception and understanding.