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Cognitive benefits of fruit intake mediated by short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) and gut barrier integrity.

   Norwich Medical School

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  Dr P Curtis  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship funded by the Faculty of Medicine and Health working under the supervision of Dr Peter Curtis and Dr David Vauzour; based in the Nutrition and Preventive Medicine Group, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia. 

Despite consistency in the protective association between fruit intake and the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD), cognitive impairment and dementia, the underpinning mechanism(s) of effect remain unclear. This project will extend our internationally recognised research into polyphenol rich fruits; exploring how the products of fruit metabolism and fermentation (including short chain fatty acids (SCFAs)), influence intestinal barrier integrity and gut immunology, and consequently cognitive function. This project will involve assessing biomarkers in banked samples (blood, faeces) from 2 deeply phenotyped human studies which chronically fed fruit (Blueberry; Cranberry). Secondary analysis will also establish whether cardiometabolic health moderate’s cognitive function. In a follow-up feasibility study, performed in years 2 and 3, it will be established whether the structural properties of high molecular weight polyphenol rich fruit affect SCFA levels and mediate health effects. This may take the form of a human or animal study; depending on student interest. Analytical techniques, such as 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) metabolomics measurements and targeted liquid chromatography mass-spectrometry will be employed within this research (full training provided).  

The project should appeal to candidates interested in human randomised controlled trials, animal studies, gut physiology, nutrition biochemistry, cardiometabolic and cognitive health. The student will join the Norwich Medical School which provides a supportive research environment and access to experienced researchers. The student will receive training in laboratory techniques, project design and management. In addition to their research the student will be provided with training in scientific writing, presentation, data management, statistical analysis and will be encouraged to attend and present at national and international conferences. 

Funding Notes

This PhD project is a Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences competition for funded studentships. The studentships are funded for 3 years and comprise UK tuition fees, an annual stipend of £15,609 (2021/22 rate) and £1,000 per annum to support research training. International applicants (including EU) may apply but are required to fund the difference between UK and International tuition fees (details of tuition fees can be found on our website


i) Curtis PJ, van der Velpen V, Berends L, Jennings A, Feelisch M, Umpleby AM, Evans M, Fernandez BO, Meiss MS, Minnion M, Potter J, Minihane AM, Kay CD, Rimm EB, Cassidy A. (2019) Blueberries improve biomarkers of cardiometabolic function in participants with metabolic syndrome-results from a 6-month, double-blind, randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 109(6) pp. 1535-1545.

ii) Curtis PJ, Berends L, van der Velpen V, Jennings A, Haag L, Chandra P, Kay CD, Rimm ER, Cassidy A (2021). Blueberry anthocyanin intake attenuates the postprandial cardiometabolic effect of an energy-dense food challenge: results from a double blind, randomized controlled trial in metabolic syndrome participants. [Clinical Nutrition; 2021 Nov 27;41(1):165-176. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2021.11.030. Online ahead of print]

iii) David Vauzour, Noemi Tejera , Colette O'Neill, Valeria Booz, Baptiste Jude, Insa M.A. Wolf, Neil Rigby, Jose Manuel Silvan, Peter J. Curtis, Aedin Cassidy, Sonia De Pascual-Teresa, Gerald Rimbach, Anne-Marie Minihane. (2015) Anthocyanins do not influence long-chain n-3 fatty acid status: Studies in cells, rodents and humans. J Nutr Biochem, 26 (3) 211-218.
iv) Philip, P., Sagaspe, P., Taillard, J., Mandon, C., Constans, J., Pourtau, L., Pouchieu, C., Angelino, D., Mena, P., Martini, D., Del Rio, D., & Vauzour, D. (2019). Acute Intake of a Grape and Blueberry Polyphenol-Rich Extract Ameliorates Cognitive Performance in Healthy Young Adults During a Sustained Cognitive Effort. Antioxidants, 8(12), [650].
v) Ostertag, L. M., Philo, M., Colquhoun, I. J., Tapp, H. S., Saha, S., Duthie, G. G., Kemsley, E. K., Roos, B. D., Kroon, P. A. & Le Gall, G., (2017) Acute Consumption of Flavan-3-ol-Enriched Dark Chocolate Affects Human Endogenous Metabolism, In: Journal of Proteome Research. 16, 7, p. 2516-2526 11 p.
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