About the Project
An ambitious and enthusiastic candidate is invited for one full-time PhD (self-funded or through an external fellow-ship application), starting any time between September 2021 and September 2022 (several intake times possible in this period).
Lipoedema is a chronic adipose tissue disorder involving an excessive abnormal deposition of subcutaneous fat in arms, legs and buttocks mainly. The disease carries adipose, lymphatic, and inflammation issues with a potential link to endocrine signalling. The extra fat deposition results in enlarged legs and other affected areas that become heavy, tender, painful and bruise easily. Patients with lipoedema are often found obese with reduced mobility and have concurrent lymphoedema conditions, which adds to the complexity of disease treatment and management.
Despite anecdotal evidence on benefits of certain diets in improving lipoedema, scientific studies are lacking to help inform patients of the right diet to follow. Currently there is no dietary guideline in the UK for lipoedema management. Patients have been largely relying on internet sources to seek advice and information on self-management. However, those are largely ungrounded in evidence and could be detrimental to their health.
The research group at DMU together with Lipoedema UK have recently completed the very first study in the UK that looked at the self-reported dietary effects on lipoedema management. Anti-inflammatory diet was reported to be one of the very few effective diets that improved lipoedema symptoms. This finding supports the hypothesis that the inflammatory properties of diet may influence lipoedema conditions, given the disease involves chronic inflammation in adipose tissues. In addition, weight loss diets were found to improve lipoedema symptoms in a small percentage of the study population (data to be published).
Informed by the initial findings, this PhD study aims to develop a dietary intervention and test its efficacy in improving lipoedema symptoms among patients in the UK. The project will be delivered through two phases. The first phase will involve a cross-sectional, quantitative and qualitative study investigating the general dietary profile and lipoedema management status of patients in the UK. The inflammatory potential and the overall quality of diet will be assessed and their relations to lipoedema management outcome will be examined as well. The results will inform the development of a feasibility intervention study that will be implemented at phase two to test its efficacy in improving lipoedema among a representative sample patient group. Following this, a large-scaled intervention will be designed and tested across the country to inform the future development of UK dietary guideline on lipoedema management, with a view to improving patients’ health and wellbeing in a long term.
The supervisory team comprises Dr Jessica Jin (Senior Lecturer in Nutrition at DMU, Registered Nutritionist specialising in Nutrition Science), Dr Abd Tahrani (Senior Lecturer in Metabolic Endocrinology and Obesity Medicine, University of Birmingham) and Professor Vaughan Keeley (Honorary Professor, University of Nottingham Medical School; and Consultant in Lymphoedema at the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Trust).
The PhD student will be based in the UK and will be required to travel to certain parts in the country for study recruitment and data collection. Funds are available for covering travel expenses.
This PhD training can be suited to those pursuing a career in weight management, research in clinical nutrition, obesity, endocrinology, immunity, metabolic diseases, and eating disorder / behaviour, as well as public health nutrition.
The ideal candidate will have a Masters of Science degree in Nutrition (or related, e.g. medicine, clinical medicine, pharmacy, medical science) awarded at minimum a Merit level. The student needs to have a very good level of knowledge in areas of anatomy and physiology, fat metabolism and metabolic disease, human nutritional science and research methodologies in health-related research. The student also needs to have good communication skills and be comfortable with statistical analysis of quantitative data and qualitative data processing. Knowledge / experience in cross-sectional and human intervention research methodologies, familiarity / experience with statistical software (such as SPSS), a peer-reviewed academic publication, and experience in working with patients, are desirable.
How to apply
Applications should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. To apply, please send:
• A Detailed CV, including your nationality and country of birth;
• A covering letter highlighting your research experience/capabilities/career prospects;
• Copies of your degree transcripts;
• Evidence of your proficiency in the English language, if applicable.
Applicants will be required to attend an interview. This can be conducted by Microsoft Teams or Skype.
Self Funded (or to support a strong candidate for fellowship application to external funding bodies). PhD fieldwork funds are provided through the project.