Programme Leader – Prof Nita Forouhi
This programme serves the following Unit Objectives as a main focus:
- To investigate the causes of obesity, diabetes and related metabolic disorders
- To develop understanding of mechanisms identified by population-based studies
- To inform, develop and evaluate population-based approaches to improving health
- To develop new methods, resources and tools for epidemiological and public health research
- To investigate approaches to improving global health, particularly in low and middle income countries
It serves the following Unit Objectives as an element of the programme:
- To develop and evaluate individual level approaches to the prevention of diabetes, obesity and related metabolic disorders in children and adults
- To build capacity for conducting, understanding and using local, national, and international epidemiology and public health research
- To contribute to the translation of research evidence into policy and practice
The number of people with diabetes is high and is rising in every country, with the numbers expected to rise from an estimated 425 million in 2017 to 629 million with diabetes by 2045 according to the International Diabetes Federation. It is therefore an urgent public health priority to find effective strategies to reduce the burden of diabetes.
It has been shown in diabetes prevention trials that lifestyle factors including diet can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. However, the extent to which diets and dietary patterns or individual foods and nutrients determine future disease risk remains unclear. There are also inconsistencies in findings, raising uncertainty for providing the optimal dietary advice for populations and individuals for the prevention of type 2 diabetes and related conditions. Partly, such challenges arise from the difficulty in measuring diet accurately, and the reliance which has had to be placed on self-report of past dietary intake.
The goal of our research is to improve understanding of the role that diet and nutrition play in the development of diabetes, obesity and related disorders. We address this goal through interlinked objectives and programmes of work to:
- Study the relationship between diet and nutrition and the risk of developing diabetes and obesity. We have done this using large epidemiological studies such as the InterAct project, the EPIC Norfolk study and the Fenland study.
- Develop and use improved methods to assess diet, including the use of objectively measured nutritional biomarkers. We have applied a range of self-report dietary assessment methods as well as nutritional biomarkers in our research, including but not limited to plasma vitamin C, circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and plasma phospholipid fatty acids.
- Promote methodological knowledge exchange and transfer, including developing online toolkits that help researchers with choosing appropriate dietary assessment methods, and for enabling research end-users to apply chosen methods in their research.
In collaboration with the Unit’s Aetiology of Diabetes Programme we also use genetic approaches to understand if the associations between dietary factors and diabetes are causal in nature, and how interactions between genetic and dietary factors may influence the risk of diabetes and related disorders.
Our collaboration with the UKCRC Centre for Diet and Physical Activity Research (CEDAR) enables us to contribute to efforts to understand the determinants, facilitators and barriers of dietary behaviours.
Scientific resources for dietary assessment
- Nita Forouhi – Programme Leader
- Bridget Holmes – Senior Research Associate
- Fumiaki Imamura – Senior Investigator Scientist
- Jakub Sobiecki – Ph.D. Student
- Marinka Steur – Career Development Fellow
- Eirini Trichia – Research Associate
- Divya Bhagtani – Research Assistant
- Anouar Fanidi – Research Associate
- Saman Khalatbari-Soltani – Visiting Ph.D. Student
- Sherly Li – Ph.D. Student
- Laura O’Connor – Career Development Fellow
- Tammy Tong – Ph.D. Student
- Zheng Ye – Investigator Scientist
- Ju-Sheng Zheng – Career Development Fellow