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Genetic mechanisms for postprandial metabolism across the lifespan SSEHS/KT

   School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

  Dr Keith Tolfrey, Dr S Mastana  Wednesday, May 31, 2023  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Metabolic health markers (e.g., blood fats) can increase to unhealthy levels after eating meals high in fat or sugar – this is called postprandial lipaemia. Large cohort studies have shown that the magnitude and frequency of postprandial lipaemia is strongly related to cardiovascular disease risk; in fact, measuring postprandial lipaemia is a more sensitive marker of cardiovascular risk than fasting blood fat concentrations that are used traditionally by general practitioners. There is also consistent evidence showing that the initial signs of the deterioration in blood vessel health begins during adolescence with overt symptoms generally evident in adulthood. In some individuals this will lead to cardiometabolic diseases (diabetes, coronary heart disease). Early preventative approaches to cardiovascular health are warranted to reduce future risk because the initial deterioration in blood vessel health tracks from childhood into adulthood.

Numerous experimental research studies across the lifespan in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences show consistently that, on average, postprandial lipaemia is reduced by exercise completed up to 16 hours before eating fatty and sugary meals, compared with a non-exercise (control) condition. As with most physiological responses to exercise, there is considerable inter-individual variation in the exercised-induced lipaemic response. Whilst most adolescent and adult participants experience an anticipated reduction in lipaemia following prior exercise, a small but consistent proportion of every sample either have no meaningful change or even an increase in lipaemia, which we have not been able to explain to date.

Recent research has suggested apolipoprotein E (a protein that allows fats to be transported in tissues and used for energy), may be central to the inter-individual variation in postprandial lipaemic responses. A replicated cross-over design is required to address this question effectively across lifespan. This study will include measurement of Apo E alleles to determine whether there is a genetic foundation for the changes. This research proposal blends important health outcomes with opportunities for the doctoral researcher (PhD student) to utilise a wide variety of techniques and a unique research design for quantifying true intervention responses.


Primary supervisor: Dr Keith Tolfrey

Secondary supervisor: Dr Sarabjit Mastana

Entry requirements for United Kingdom


  • An upper second class degree (or equivalent) and/or MSc in appropriate subject such as Sport and Exercise Science; Physiology; Nutrition/Dietetics; Biochemistry; Biosciences; Human Biology or Molecular Biology.


  • Experience or a working knowledge in the assessment of blood biomarkers
  • Experience in conducting nutrition and exercise trials with human participants
  • Experience or willingness to work with adolescents (would need to agree to DBS check)
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Ability to critically appraise scientific methodology and data analysis
  • Ability to work well individually and as a member of a research team

Find out more about research degree funding

How to apply

All applications should be made online. Under programme name, select Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences. Please quote the advertised reference number: SSEHS/KT in your application.

To avoid delays in processing your application, please ensure that you submit the minimum supporting documents.

Apply now

Funding Notes

UK fee
£4,596 full-time degree per annum
International fee
£25,100 full-time degree per annum
Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. University fees and charges can be paid in advance and there are several methods of payment, including online payments and payment by instalment. Fees are reviewed annually and are likely to increase to take into account inflationary pressures.
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