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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): the role of soluble fibre

Project Description

This interdisciplinary PhD project will investigate the role of soluble dietary fibre in inflammatory bowel disease. The student will join a collaborative team of academics from the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Applied Health Sciences ( and Rowett Research Institute ( and The James Hutton Institute, Dundee (

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a chronic relapsing remitting disease, and upon clinical presentation, symptoms result in a patient driven change in diet. When determining the aetiology of IBD the genetic basis is well understood, however this does not explain the pathogenesis of the disease with epidemiological evidence suggesting a key dietary role. The mechanisms by which diet may influence the development of IBD are not clear, though dietary changes are known to modify the intestinal microbiota. Dietary modification of gut microbiota, in turn, is implicated in the pathogenesis of IBD. Interestingly, intake of certain types of dietary fibre may benefit patients with IBD. In particular soluble fibre supplementation can modulate short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) production; this is linked to improved epithelial cell function, energy balance and anti-inflammatory actions. However, the impact of habitual dietary soluble fibre intake by ‘healthy’ (in remission) IBD patients is poorly understood with poor quality food composition data and inadequate assessment of diet commonly cited for the lack of evidence and consensus of the actual role of habitual dietary patterns on IBD onset and management.

The aim of this research project is to gain insight to, and model, the interaction of dietary soluble fibre with gut microbiota and aid the effective management IBD. The stage will be to analyse the soluble fibre content of commonly consumed food items, to facilitate the estimation of dietary soluble fibre intake. This will led to phase two of the project; investigating the impact of dietary fibre intake on the faecal microbiota (SCFA production and bacterial DNA) of IBD patients. Where a detailed analysis of potential changes in faecal SCFA production and the gut microbiome is envisaged to test associations with dietary soluble fibre intake. This work will be linked and contribute to an ongoing IBD longitudinal cohort study looking to increase our understanding of how environmental factors, diet and gut microorganisms influence inflammatory bowel disease flare and recovery (PREdiCCT,

This PhD opportunity will give the postgraduate student the opportunity to undertake much needed innovative research across the areas food chemistry and composition, dietary assessment and gut health. Gaining excellent skills in a range of dietary, laboratory and data analysis techniques required in food chemistry, dietary assessment, gut microbiome and data modelling; including analytical food chemistry, dietary assessment techniques and quantification of faecal short chain fatty acid production. All necessary training will be provided for each area as well as ensuring good clinical practice and research governance.

The successful applicant will have an undergraduate degree (at least 2:1 or academic equivalent) in a related discipline of (e.g. human nutrition or a biomedical sciences).

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of APPLIED HEALTH SCIENCE. Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Health Science, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing.


Candidates should contact the lead supervisor to discuss the project in advance of submitting an application, as supervisors will be expected to provide a letter of support for suitable applicants. Candidates will be informed after the application deadline if they have been shortlisted for interview.

Funding Notes

This project is part of a competition funded by the Institute of Applied Health Sciences. Full funding is available to UK/EU candidates only. Overseas candidates can apply for this studentship but will have to find additional funding to cover the difference between overseas and home fees (approximately £15,680 per annum).

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a First Class Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Distinction at Masters level.

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