The Norwich Research Park: an outstanding training environment for doctoral training in Plants, Food and Health
With over 3,000 scientists and clinicians, the Norwich Research Park (NRP) forms one of the largest European centres with a predominant research focus on Plants, Food and Health. EDESIA NRP partner institutions include:
A rotation-based programme offers an ideal opportunity to explore NRP research and to develop truly innovative PhD projects transcending disciplinary boundaries. The single geographical location of our partnership provides doctoral researchers with access to an exceptionally wide range of expertise and facilities for research into plant-based food and health, including:
- Metabolic engineering of plants which enhance or optimize concentrations of specific nutrients
- State of the art approaches to breeding and genome editing of crops
- The function of the gut microbiome in the absorption of plant-based foods and their further metabolism by human tissues
- Use of the latest ‘omics’ technologies to measure changes in metabolism and gene expression
- Biochemical, genetic, cell biological and functional analysis of plant metabolites
- in vitro analysis of the biological activity of key metabolites in model tissues and cell cultures
- Investigation of mechanisms of action in animal models of disease
- Innovative approaches to bioinformatics, mathematical biology and metagenomics
- Complex statistical analyses of large prospective cohort datasets
- Human intervention studies
Plants, Food and Health: Addressing a Global Challenge
It is estimated that more than 50% of contemporary public health problems could be prevented through dietary change (Ezzati et al. 2013; GBD, 2017). Key to improved health are plant-based foods which supply most essential vitamins and micronutrients as well as fibre, resistant starch, polyphenols, flavonoids and carotenoids in human diets. Domestically, poor diets and food-related ill health places the largest economic burden on the NHS, costing £5.8 billion per year (Scarborough et al. 2011). EDESIA PhD projects will address key issues highlighted by the MRC Review of Nutrition and Human Health Research (2017). This includes unravelling the complex inter-relationship between plant-based foods, metabolism, the gut microbiota and health outcomes.
Research carried out via the EDESIA programme aims to allow the translation of science into refined guidelines for healthy eating and the production of nutritionally improved crop-based foods, leading to innovative food products particularly for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases where age is a major risk, e.g. cardiometabolic health, the prevention of obesity and associated complications, osteoarthritis, dementia.
EDESIA-based research has potential for significant benefits, worldwide. This programme aims to support research that addresses several UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN, 2019):
- 1 - no poverty;
- 2 - no hunger, including hidden hunger;
- 3 - good health and well-being;
- 10 - reduced inequality;
- 12 - responsible production and consumption patterns;
- 13 - climate action; and
- 15 - life on land.
Overall, EDESIA will provide research training to address the shifting food security challenge of the 21st century: increasing access to a nutrient-rich diet, rather than a focus on caloric intake.