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Personal profile

Key Research Interests

I am an Associate Professor in Nutrition and Biomedicine at Norwich Medical School, and a member of The Norwich Institute of Healthy Ageing (NIHA). I teach on the MBBS medical degree, am a PBL tutor on the Medicine with a gateway year degree course and a PhD primary supervisor.

My research focusses on understanding the role that dietary flavonoids and polyphenol’s play in the maintenance of health and wellbeing throughout the life course. These naturally occurring chemical compounds are ubiquitous in our diets, being found extensively in plant-based foods (and products of their origin). I have a particular interest in determining the cardiometabolic consequences of increasing the intake of plant-based foods and have a track-record and significant expertise in the conduct of human intervention studies – especially in populations with obesity, and those at elevated risk of heart disease and diabetes. These studies have tended to focus on non-invasive assessment of vascular function, and determining the underlying clinical biochemistry following acute, single dose intakes of polyphenols, to longer-term studies lasting months /years. I am particularly interested in exploring the products of polyphenol metabolism, interactions with the gastrointestinal tract (especially gut integrity and immune function), and the gut microbiota as mediators of the health benefits of polyphenols.   

To date, I have researched the benefits of dietary anthocyanins (e.g. berries, and some other fruits and vegetables), isoflavones (e.g. soy), flavanones (e.g. citrus fruits) and flavan-3-ols (e.g. cocoa, tea) which have shown clinically relevant effects. For instance, our most recently completed 6-month dose response blueberry study, in participants with confirmed metabolic syndrome, identified improvements in chronic vascular function and lipid/lipoprotein concentrations (Curtis et al., 2019) and acute improvements in glucose homeostasis and lipid/lipoprotein concentrations when consumed with an energy-dense meal challenge (Curtis et al., 2022). Further publications are planned, which describe the effect of chronic tannin-rich blueberry intake on the gut microbiota, cognitive function, and liver health.

Whilst I recognise the benefits of establishing health benefits in ‘single food model experiments’ I have a passion to understand whole-diet level effects, and a fascination to explore the role of fermentable and inaccessible dietary tannins in health – which I am doing through ongoing collaborations to explore fermentable polyphenols for their health regulating properties. Previous research experience has included assessing the impact of community based dietary interventions in a broad range of settings and I retain an interest in the role of exercise and activity in disease prevention and recuperation.

Alongside my research role, I sit on the Quadram Clinical Research Facility Joint Management Group and am a frequent reviewer of many peer-review medical and nutritional journals.

Research Group or Lab Membership

Nutrition and Preventive Medicine Group

Academic Background

  • PhD Human Nutrition: Newcastle University (2006)
  • M. Med. Sci. Human Nutrition: Sheffield University
  • BA Human Movement Studies (sport and exercise science): 2:1 Leeds Metropolitan University

Career

  • Associate Professor in Nutrition and Biomedicine: Department of Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia: November 2020 to present.
  • Senior Research Fellow: Department of Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia: August 2006 to November 2020.
  • Research Associate: Human Nutrition Research Centre, Newcastle University: September 1997 to August 2006.
  • Researcher: The Institute of Food Research, Colney: October 1996 to September 1997.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Network

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