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Impact of diet on cardiovascular responses to acute mental stress

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Catarina Rendeiro
    Dr Jet Veldhuijzen van Zanten
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Cardiovascular diseases remain the second cause of premature death in the UK. In particular, mental stress is a known important contributing factor to mechanisms underlying cardiovascular events, with mounting evidence suggesting that mental stress can negatively affect human endothelial function (Poitras et al., 2013).

Diet and physical exercise are major determinant of cardiovascular health. For example there is evidence to suggest that naturally occurring small molecules within fruits and vegetables may be capable of contributing to maintenance of vascular health throughout the lifespan (McCullough et al., 2012). In particular, flavonoids, a sub-group of dietary polyphenols typically found foods in berries, apple, cocoa, have gained increasing attention in the recent years, as clinical interventions have shown that a higher intake of flavonoid-containing foods can improve vascular function in young and aged healthy populations (Heiss et al., 2015, Rodriguez-Mateos, 2013).
This project aims to understand how lifestyle strategies, such as diet, might influence and mediate the impact of mental stress on cardiovascular health in humans. The long-term goal of this research is to find dietary strategies that can help prevent the negative effects of mental stress on vascular function. This very interdisciplinary project brings together areas of Nutrition, Cardiovascular Sciences and Mental Health. Randomized controlled human trials in healthy volunteers will use a combination of techniques to assess vascular health, such as, blood pressure, Flow-mediated dilatation of the brachial artery and Forearm blood flow.

Informal enquiries are advised and should be directed to Dr Catarina Rendeiro ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

Applicants should have a strong background in Cardiovascular sciences and/or Nutritional Sciences. Working experience in a research setting, particularly running human studies would be desirable, as well as a commitment and strong interest in interdisciplinary research, be motivated and be prepared to work independently. Applicants should hold or expect to obtain at least an Upper Second Class Honors Degree in a relevant subject. An Msc would be preferable.
Funding: UK, European or overseas self-funded. If the applicant identifies a suitable PhD scholarship, the PI will be happy to work with the student in proposal (please email the PI).


Poitras, V.J. and K.E. Pyke, The impact of acute mental stress on vascular endothelial function: evidence, mechanisms and importance. Int J Psychophysiol, 2013. 88(2): p. 124-35.

McCullough, M.L., et al., Flavonoid intake and cardiovascular disease mortality in a prospective cohort of US adults. Am J Clin Nutr, 2012. 95(2): p. 454-64.

Sansone, R., et al., Cocoa flavanol intake improves endothelial function and Framingham Risk Score in healthy men and women: a randomised, controlled, double-masked trial: the Flaviola Health Study. Br J Nutr, 2015. 114(8): p. 1246-55.

Heiss, C., et al., Impact of cocoa flavanol intake on age-dependent vascular stiffness in healthy men: a randomized, controlled, double-masked trial. Age (Dordr), 2015. 37(3): p. 9794.

Rodriguez-Mateos A, Rendeiro C, Bergillos-Meca T, Tabatabaee S, George TW, Heiss C, Spencer JPE. Intake and time dependence of blueberry flavonoid-induced improvements in vascular function: a randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover intervention study with mechanistic insights into biological activity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 98: 1179-91.

Schroeter, H., et al., (-)-Epicatechin mediates beneficial effects of flavanol-rich cocoa on vascular function in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2006. 103(4): p. 1024-9.

EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, N.a.A., Cocoa flavanols and endothelium-dependent vasodilation, in EFSA Journal. 2014.

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