Integrative physiology and nutrition
Our research investigates the interrelationships between basic physiology and nutrition, and how the underpinning mechanisms can be translated to enhance human health.
We seek to understand how basic physiology and nutrition underpin human metabolism, health and disease. We also investigate the physiological and metabolic processes that occur with exercise and nutritional practices, and apply these to the general population and specific clinical groups to support a healthy lifestyle and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Academic staff in this research area collaborate closely with the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM) and the Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Theme of the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre.
Our academic staff are happy to discuss research collaboration, as well as research studentships and self-funded PhDs. To find out more about academics working in this research area, please click on the 'People' tab below.
Current research specialisms include:
- The role of physical activity for preventing and managing cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Using physical activity to modulate the influence of ethnicity on cardiometabolic disease risk (NIHR, Leicester Biomedical Research Centre)
- Informing rehabilitation strategies for knee osteoarthritis (Versus Arthritis)
- Low-intensity exercise with blood flow restriction as a rehabilitation intervention in patients with lung disease
- Effects of natural and urban environments on human stress and function (British Academy/Leverhulme Trust)
- Role of passive heating in inflammation and metabolic disease
- The feasibility of exercise as an anti-inflammatory therapy in axial spondyloarthropathy. (National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society)
Based on the scientific endeavours of our academic staff, here are a few examples of how our research helps shape lives:
- Exercise guidance for people with chronic kidney disease and those who have received a kidney transplant – Our research showing the benefits of increasing levels of physical activity across all stages of kidney disease has contributed to the 2021 UK Renal Association Clinical Practice Guideline for Exercise and Lifestyle in Chronic Kidney Disease.
- Healthcare professional lifestyle education series – Our academics provided a series of expert talks providing a continued professional development opportunity for individuals working within healthcare who have a special interest in physical activity, nutrition and lifestyle medicine. Each talk conveyed the key take-home messages from the latest research with the aim of extending the knowledge and understanding of those with a basic interest in the field.
- Passive heating and lowering cardiovascular disease risk – Our research on the health benefits of passive heating has been covered across both lay and specialist media outlet and has led to collaboration within the sauna industry sector.
- High intensity intermittent training appears effective at improving metabolic health, particularly in those at risk of or with type 2 diabetes – This meta-analysis, co-authored by one of our academics, features in several exercise guidance documents, including those published by the American Diabetes Association.
- Using the UK’s green spaces to benefit our health and wellbeing – This British Academy/Leverhulme Trust-funded project in collaboration with the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is testing the theory that natural environments improve health. The project aims to contribute a white paper helping to steer Government policies aiming to promote the use of the UK’s natural environments to enhance human health and wellbeing.
If you would like to collaborate with our researchers, engage in consultancy or discuss potential PhD projects, please contact them using the information on their staff profile.
Our academic staff
- Dr Stephen Bailey – Influence of exercise and nutritional interventions on cardiometabolic physiology.
- Dr Tom Balshaw – Nervous system, skeletal musculature, and tendinous tissue adaptations to novel resistance training-based interventions, to enhance function, prevent injury and inform exercise prescription/rehabilitation practices.
- Dr Laura Barrett – The influence of exercise on cardiovascular risk factors and on postprandial lipaemia in young people.
- Prof Nicolette (Lettie) Bishop – Impact of physical activity on immunity, chronic inflammation and chronic inflammatory disease risk.
- Dr Katherine Brooke-Wavell – Exercise and bone health, particularly as regards prevention of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and stress fractures.
- Dr Tom Clifford – The impact of nutrients on exercise physiology, sleep, immunity and redox metabolism.
- Dr Richard Ferguson – Improving human performance and health through exercise training and the use of novel interventions; with a particular interest in skeletal muscle and peripheral vascular adaptations.
- Prof Jonathan Folland – The determinants of, and interventions/adaptations that enhance, neuromuscular performance to inform improvements in injury risk and rehabilitation exercise.
- Dr Liam Heaney – The application of mass spectrometry-based techniques for measurement of blood and urine biomarkers.
- Dr Lewis James – Nutrition and exercise interactions to influence human performance and health.
- Dr James King – Impact of exercise on energy balance and obesity-related metabolic disease.
- Dr Christof Leicht – Passive heating and exercise as health promoting tools.
- Dr Danny Longman – Using nature to enhance understanding of how adaptation to our ancestral environments influences our health and function in the world today.
- Dr Oonagh Markey – Impact of nutrients and diet on cardiometabolic disease risk, including postprandial lipaemia, vascular function and inflammation.
- Dr Sarabjit Mastana – Genetic epidemiological analyses of human diseases among native and migrant populations.
- Dr Stephen Mears – Fluid balance during and following exercise, specifically hyponatremia and how that relates to endurance exercise.
- Dr Emma O'Donnell – Cardiovascular consequences of oestrogen deficiency in premenopausal women with amenorrhea (absence of menses), the independent and combined effects of hormone replacement therapy and exercise on cardiovascular health in postmenopausal women.
- Kirsty Reynolds – Assessing the effect of different drink formulations on water and electrolyte balance/homeostasis.
- Dr Matthew Roberts – Impact of physical activity on chronic inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk and the role of ethnicity on these relationships.
- Dr Jakob Škarabot – Neural signal determination of muscle actions, the influence of ageing individuals and adaptations to different stressors (e.g. training, fatigue).
- Prof David Stensel – Impact of physical activity on appetite, body composition and risk of chronic disease.
- Dr Lee Taylor – The therapeutic potential of environmental exposures (e.g. heat and/or hypoxia) within clinical populations and athlete rehabilitation scenarios.
- Dr Alice Thackray – Impact of physical activity and exercise on appetite control and cardiovascular disease risk.
- Dr Keith Tolfrey – The impact of manipulations in exercise, physical activity, sedentary behaviour and diet on metabolism, fitness and body composition in young people (children and adolescents).
- Dr Scott Willis – The role of exercise and nutrition in the prevention and management of obesity-related chronic disease.
Current PhD projects
Our doctoral researchers (PhDs)
- Jarred Acton – Influence of a dietary supplement on blood and muscle oxidative stress biomarkers, skeletal muscle respiration and exercise performance in healthy adults.
- Sahar Afeef – Continuous monitoring of blood glucose level in relation to free-living activities and dietary effects in young people.
- Abrar Alhebshi – Effect of milk supplementation on muscle regeneration and inflammation after exercise in both young and elderly people.
- Nehal Alsharif – Effects of nitrate supplementation on exercise training.
- Joshua Bain – Influence of the gut microbiome on the gut-kidney axis.
- Malvina Begalli – Dietary modification of the gut microbiota: implications for human metabolic disease.
- Benjamin Boxer – Effects of exercise on cartilage and bone properties and metabolism.
- Ogulcan Caliskan – Comparison of different exercise modalities on joint morphology as well as pain and physical function in postmenopausal women with knee osteoarthritis.
- Stuart Cocksedge – Influence of a dietary supplement on blood and muscle oxidative stress biomarkers, skeletal muscle respiration and exercise performance in healthy adults.
- Abdulrahman Dera – The effect of fasting (Ramdan) and low carbohydrate diet combined with high intensity interval training (HIIT) on different health markers and body weight in adults with obesity.
- Buket Engin – The relationship between fatty heart tissues and exercise.
- Zhuoxiu (Kim) Jin – The effect of exercise and carbohydrate balance on energy compensation.
- Drusus Johnson – Exploring the potential for cannabidiol (CBD) use in athletes and active individuals.
- Zachary Lockhead – What are the effects of altered energy balance on muscle and whole-body metabolism?
- Sundus Malaikah – Effect of diet and exercise on non-alcaholic fatty liver disease.
- Yasmin Nwofor – Investigating the impact of nutrition on the epigenome, studying maternal diet in relation to offspring health outcomes, specifically in BAME populations.
- Samantha Rowland – Factors that influence dietary nitrate metabolism and its effects on cardiovascular health and exercise performance.
- Tonghui Shen – Research on individual effect of time-restricted feeding and varied-time exercise on adult obesity and metabolic disease risk.
- Yvanna Todorova – Nutritional ecology and human health; an evolutionary perspective on diet composition, body mass changes and funcitonal trade-offs.
To find out more about PhD opportunities in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, visit our Postgraduate research webpages.