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The effect of different types of omega-3 fatty acids on exercise capacity in the elderly

Project Description

Background: Ageing is associated with adecline in central and physical performance, with increased arterial stiffness,chronic hypertension, loss of heart rate variability and declining walking speeds and physical function. Omega 3 supplementation in conjunction withexercise may be an effective way to ensure that we can enhance the health ofthe older population and prevent long term decline of ageing. Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids (FA) from fish oils (FO) improves several markers of cardiovascular (CV) risk, including blood pressure (BP) and triglyceridelevels. Interestingly, the two main FA found in FO, Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), exert different effects when administered individually, e.g. DHA is more potent in inducing changes in BP, HR and lipoprotein profiles, while their separate effect on inflammation is stilluncertain. Surprisingly, very little is known on the individual effect of EPA and DHA on haemodynamic and metabolic changes during and post exercise.

The project: We have an ageing population which brings increased risk of ill health, however pharmaceutical approaches are costly and reactive and can lead to a decline in physicalcapacity and social isolation. This project will look at the effects on cardiovascular function of prolonged supplementation with omega 3 in older adults. It is thought that different ratio of EPA and DHA may elicit different physiological responses. For example, DHA appears to have a greater impact on resting heart rate than EPA. We will look at the effect of different supplements using randomised control trials in participants aged 60-80 years. Once an effective omega 3 supplement has been demonstrated will then look at whether there is a synergistic effect when taking omega 3 whilst exercising. We have demonstrated that sprint interval training is an effective and time efficient training modality to improve cardiovascular function in older adults (Adamson S et al Sports Science for Health 2019). However, ageing is associated with sub-acute inflammation and omega 3 supplementation may reduce thi sallowing a greater training response. In this project there will be a variety of techniques utilised such as cardiovascular analysis, functional testing and blood analysis for fatty acid profiles and omega 3 signalling molecules.

The successful applicant will have at least an undergraduate degree (2:1 or higher) and a background in health science, nutrition or sports science with an interest in the ageing process. Working knowledge of biological analysis or human testing would also be an asset, but it is not a requirement for the position. You will be responsible for the organisation of the studies and interaction with older adults so candidates should have strong communication and interpersonal skills.

Funding Notes

The PhD student ship provides a package valued at around GBP 70,000. This includes a fully funded tax free stipend of approximately GBP 15000 per year, over 3 years and full tuition fees.

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