Nutritional and environmental impacts of discretionary food intake in Scotland and the UK

   College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr Sarah Frank, Dr Alexa Bellows, Prof Jonathan Hillier  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Discretionary foods – foods high in free sugars, saturated fats, and sodium (HFSS) – are a concern for human and planetary health. The objective of this PhD studentship is to examine the nutritional and environmental impacts of discretionary food intake in Scotland and the UK.

High intake of discretionary foods is associated with negative health impacts such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In 2021, HFSS and discretionary foods accounted for 28% of energy and 49% of free sugars consumed by Scottish adults.1 Beyond these population-level estimates, there is a need to better understand the patterns of discretionary food intake in Scotland and the UK.

Moreover, because discretionary foods make up a substantial portion of diets, significant resources and environmental impacts are for producing foods that are not nutritionally necessary. Yet these impacts have not been well-quantified. There is a need for comprehensive analysis of the environmental impacts associated with discretionary food intake in Scotland and the UK.

To fill these gaps, this project will examine patterns and determinants of discretionary food intake in Scotland and the UK and its contribution to nutrients of public health concern and to greenhouse gas emissions, biodoversity loss, land degradation, and water use. It will further examine policy strategies to reduce intake of these foods.

This project will complement current GAAFS initiatives that link nutritional and environmental impacts of foods consumed in Scotland and the UK. The student will collaborate with an interdisciplinary team of experts in fields such as nutritional epidemiology, food systems science, and consumer behaviour. There is potential to work with stakeholders from the public and private sectors. This project will inform efforts to improve the healthfulness and sustainability of diets in Scotland and the UK and prepare the student for a research-centred career at the nexus of diet, sustainability, and health.

Agriculture (1)

Funding Notes

This 3.5 year studentship opportunity is open to UK and international students and provides funding to cover enhanced stipend, tuition fees and enhanced consumable and travel costs.
Application form can be downloaded via Applications should be emailed to [Email Address Removed].
If you are applying for more than one studentship please submit a separate application with a closing date of noon on 8th January 2024 at


1. Food Standards Scotland (2023). Consumption of discretionary foods and drinks and other categories of dietary concern in adults (16+ years). Available from
2. Hadjikakou, M (2017). Trimming the excess: environmental impacts of discretionary food consumption in Australia. Ecological Economics;131: 119-128.

Where will I study?

Search Suggestions
Search suggestions

Based on your current searches we recommend the following search filters.