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The Importance of Dietary Protein Quality for Skeletal Muscle Anabolism in Older Adults

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  • Full or part time
    Dr L Breen
    Dr G Wallis
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

BACKGROUND: Age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia) is associated with multiple comorbidities and mortality. Global population ageing will drive an unprecedented rise in sarcopenia prevalence and healthcare costs. Dietary protein is essential for maintenance of muscle mass across the life-course. Given the well-described muscle ‘anabolic resistance’ to protein provision in older age, and associations between dietary protein and muscle mass retention, guidelines typically recommend higher dietary protein intake in older age. Beyond protein quantity, it is thought that dietary protein quality (determined by amino acid profile and digestibility) is important for muscle anabolism and maintenance in older individuals. Currently, the front-line defense against sarcopenia is resistance exercise training, which allows for greater use of protein-derived amino acids for muscle anabolism. Resistance exercise-induced muscle anabolism in older adults may be enhanced by higher quality protein ingestion. Thus, improving dietary protein quality could be a a feasible strategy to slow age-related muscle loss, particularly when combined with resistance exercise, but a sound mechanistic evidence-base to support this position is lacking.

PROJECT OVERVIEW/TECHNIQUES: The proposed project will investigate whether manipulating dietary protein quality, through supplementation of different protein sources, modulates muscle metabolism in older individuals. To achieve this, we will use an array of human physiology testing techniques, including, but not limited to, assessments of dietary analysis/standardization, strength training programming, body composition and muscle architecture assessment, blood analysis of appetite regulating hormones/analytes and urinary metabolite analysis. Projects will also incorporate muscle biopsy sampling and stable isotope tracers for in vivo measurement of muscle metabolism and molecular signaling. Collectively, the experimental approaches provided in this project should appeal to students interested in skeletal muscle physiology, nutritional biochemistry and exercise training, with a focus on ageing. This project will be conducted in close collaboration with Professor Luc van Loon, Maastricht University, NL.

PERSON SPECIFICATION: Applicants should have a strong background in Exercise Metabolism and, ideally, experience in Nutrition and Muscle Physiology. Experience of working in a research setting on dietary and strength training programming is desirable, but not a requirement, as is experience of working with older individuals. They should hold (or realistically expect to obtain) at least an Upper Second Class Honors Degree in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is a collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Volac International. The project is fully-funded and will cover tuition fees, a maintenance stipend (approx. £15k per annum [standard RCUK rates]), extensive support for research training, as well as research activity support grants. Support is available only to successful applicants who fulfill eligibility criteria. The expected start date for the successful candidate is October 1st 2020.

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FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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