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Solutions to sarcopenia and frailty: mechanisms and importance of the plant-based nutrients vitamin C and magnesium for skeletal muscle health (WelchMEDOct2020)

Project Description

Sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength with age, is a huge concern for our ageing population, and is associated with frailty, disability fractures and type 2 diabetes. We have recently demonstrated the importance of plant-based micronutrients on loss of skeletal mass and function in middle and older aged people, particularly vitamin C and magnesium. Higher intakes of these nutrients are protective. With further understanding of their mechanisms and interrelationships, we may be able to utilise these nutrients in strategies to prevent sarcopenia and frailty in older individuals.

This PhD is designed to provide further understanding of the mechanisms whereby vitamin C and magnesium influence skeletal muscle mass and function, the links between malnutrition and these nutrients and interventions and methods of improving inadequate intakes of vitamin C and magnesium in both general and clinical populations.

The main aims of this PhD are to study the mechanisms of action of the plant-based nutrients vitamin C and magnesium on skeletal muscle health, and whether they can provide solutions to increasing prevalence of sarcopenia and frailty, and to address the issue of deficiencies in the general and clinical populations.

The objectives of this PhD include:
• Increasing understanding of the relationship of dietary intakes and biomarkers of vitamin C and magnesium, with skeletal muscle and frailty, and the mechanisms of action of these nutrients, using metabolomics techniques.
• Investigating the food sources of magnesium & vitamin C.
• Further investigating the effects of oral vitamin C on skeletal muscle in older adults.
• Developing recommendations for diets high in vitamin C, magnesium and carotenoids suitable for general and clinical populations.
UEA, which is based on the Norwich Research Park, houses many of the UK most highly cited researchers. The design of this project will allow maximum learning and collaboration opportunities for the student in this setting.

More information on the supervisor for this project:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time
Studentship length: 3 years

Entry requirements;
2:1 in a nutrition, biomedical, health, or medical sciences degree.
Excellent written and spoken English language skills.
Experience using statistical analysis software.
Strong interest in nutrition and public health.

Experience in scientific report writing, or peer-review publication.
Masters in nutrition, epidemiology, public health, or related area.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is in a Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences competition for funded studentships. These studentships are funded for 3 years and comprise of Home/EU fees, a stipend of £15,009 and £1000 per annum to support research training. Overseas applicants may apply but are required to fund the difference between home/EU and overseas tuition fees (in 2020-21 the international fee is £19,100 for lab based projects and £15,700 for non-lab based projects but fees are subject to an annual increase).


i. Welch AA, Jennings A, Kelaiditi E, Skinner J and Steves C. Cross-sectional associations between dietary antioxidant vitamins C, E and carotenoid intakes and sarcopenic indices in women aged 18-79 years accepted Calcified Tissue International (doi: 10.1007/s00223-019-00641-x)
ii. Cameron D, Welch A, Brennan N, Fishbein K, Spencer R, Ferrucci L. Age and muscle function are more closely associated with intracellular magnesium, as assessed by 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy, than with serum magnesium. Frontiers in Physiology, section Striated Muscle Physiology (doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.01454)
iii. Landi F, Camprubi-Robles M, Bear D, Cederholm T, Malafarina V, Welch A, and Cruz-Jentoft A. Muscle Loss: The New Malnutrition Challenge in Clinical Practice accepted 30 Nov 2018 In: Clinical Nutrition 38 (5), 2113-2120
iv. Hayhoe RPG, Lentjes MAH, Mulligan AA, Luben RL, Khaw KT, Welch AA. Cross-sectional associations of dietary and circulating magnesium with skeletal muscle mass in the EPIC-Norfolk cohort. Clinical Nutrition 38 (1), 317-323
v. Welch AA, Skinner J & Hickson M. Dietary Magnesium May Be Protective for Aging of Bone and Skeletal Muscle in Middle and Younger Older Age Men and Women: Cross-Sectional Findings from the UK Biobank Cohort. Nutrients. 2017 Oct 30;9(11). pii: E1189. (doi: 10.3390/nu9111189)

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