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(BBSRC DTP) NMR methods to study nutrient bioaccessibility in food matrices

   Department of Chemistry

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  Dr L Castañar Acedo, Prof M Nilsson  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is in principle the most powerful method to supply detailed information about metabolites, but standard methods struggle with complex mixtures, such as food samples. The Manchester NMR methodology group is world leading in the development of NMR methods targeted at mixtures. In this project such methods will be explored in the study of important food matrices.  

One of the modifying factors identified in the development of many non-communicable diseases, including bowel cancer and cardiovascular disease and allergy, is the diet. In particular, the composition and physical form of dietary fibre and the ratio of ω-3 and ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), seems to play a pivotal role. The way in which these food components are consumed and subsequently transformed during the digestive process is critical, affecting the form in which the components are taken up by the gut epithelium or the form of fibre that reaches the large bowel and how they are further transformed by the gut microbiome to generate metabolites, such as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs play an important role in maintaining gut epithelial health and have many beneficial effects on health, including prevention of colon cancer and protective effects associated with reduced rates of allergic disease. Food processing may affect the form in which PUFAs and dietary fibre interact with the gut epithelium and with other components, such as food allergens. 

 Recent studies have shown differences in bioaccessibility and allergenic activity of peanuts in different matrices. NMR spectroscopy is a powerful and versatile tool for analysing intact complex mixtures, including lipids and polysaccharides. NMR has great potential for mapping the impact of digestion on key nutrients such as non-starch polysaccharides and understanding how they may interact with allergenic proteins to modulate their uptake by the gut epithelium. 

The general aim of this project is to understand how different food processing approaches and ingredients may affect nutrient bioaccessibility by the development of cutting-edge NMR tools for mapping the impact of digestion on bioaccessibility of nutrients from food. 

Integrative training will be provided in the skills required to operate the latest NMR spectrometers at an expert level, to design and implement new NMR methods for biological applications and to develop the associated software for data analysis (including chemometrics). Multidisciplinary training will also be provided spanning biochemical methods including HPLC, SDS-PAGE, biolayer interferometry, isothermal titration calorimetry, and immunoassay. 


Applicants must have obtained or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second class UK honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science, engineering or technology. 

Before you Apply

Applicants must make direct contact with preferred supervisors before applying. It is your responsibility to make arrangements to meet with potential supervisors, prior to submitting a formal online application.

How To Apply

To be considered for this project you MUST submit a formal online application form - full details on eligibility how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website

Your application form must be accompanied by a number of supporting documents by the advertised deadlines. Without all the required documents submitted at the time of application, your application will not be processed and we cannot accept responsibility for late or missed deadlines. Incomplete applications will not be considered. If you have any queries regarding making an application please contact our admissions team [Email Address Removed]

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website


Funding Notes

Studentship funding is for 4 years. This scheme is open to both the UK and international applicants. We are only able to offer a limited number of studentships to applicants outside the UK. Therefore, full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.


1. Kiraly, P.; Dal Poggetto, G.; Castañar, L.; Nilsson, M.; Deak, A.; Morris, G. A. Broadband measurement of true transverse relaxation rates in systems with coupled protons: application to the study of conformational exchange. Chem. Sci. 2021, 12, 11538.
2. Dal Poggetto, G.; Castañar, L.; Adams, R. W.; Morris, G. A.; Nilsson, M. Dissect and divide: Putting NMR spectra of mixtures under the knife. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 5766.
3. Castañar, L.; Dal Poggetto, G.; Colbourne, A. A.; Morris, G. A.; Nilsson, M. The GNAT: A new tool for processing NMR data. Magn. Reason. Chem. 2018, 56, 546.
4. Gouseti, O.; Lovegrove, A.; Kosik, O.; Fryer, P. J.; Mills, C.; Gates, F.; Tucker, G.; Latty, C.; Shewry, P.; Bakalis, S. Exploring the role of cereal dietary fiber in digestion. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2019, 67, 8419.
5. Smith, F.; Pan, X.; Bellido, V.; Toole, G. A.; Gates, F. K.; Wickham, M. S.; Shewry, P. R.; Bakalis, S.; Padfield, P.; Mills, C.; Digestibility of gluten proteins is reduced by baking and enhanced by starch digestion. Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 2015, 59, 2034.

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