Professor Helen Macdonald

Personal Chair

BSc (Hons) (Manchester, 1977) PhD (Reading, 1985) MSc (Distinction) (Aberdeen, 1995)

Professor Helen Macdonald

Contact Details

Telephone: +44 (0)1224 438020
Fax: +44 (0)1224 438070
Address: Musculoskeletal Research
Health Sciences Building
University of Aberdeen
AB25 2ZD


Helen Macdonald graduated in 1977 with a BSc in Biochemistry from the University of Manchester. She obtained her PhD (from Reading University) while working in the food industry, and had accumulated 15 years experience in food biochemistry before focusing on nutrition. She joined the Osteoporosis Research Unit in late 1997 and now leads research in nutrition and musculoskeletal health. She is a registered public health nutritionist, a member of the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research, on the nutrition and lifestyle forum (scientific advisory committee) of the National Osteoporosis Society (Chair from 2007-2012); and a member of the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) team for guidelines on management of osteoporosis (from 2011). She was also part of the Arthritis and Musculsokeletal Alliance Working Party to provide Standards of Care for Metabolic Bone Diseases.

Research Interests

Professor Macdonald has research interests in lifestyle factors that influence disease, and in gene-nutrient interactions affecting bone health. She is interested in the mechanisms behind how fruit and vegetable intake influences postmenopausal bone health. Her group completed a 2-year randomized controlled trial funded by the FSA to determine whether the acid balancing properties of fruit and vegetables affect bone turnover longer-term; and work is continuing to determine what constituents of fruit and vegetables are important for bone health. She leads research in vitamin D, with a 15 month longitudinal study of dietary and sunlight influences on vitamin D status in postmenopausal women at 57ºN (ANSAViD). The same design was followed by a team at Surrey University and the results highlighted the North-South divide in vitamin D status. She has overseen a 1-year intervention trial to determine whether vitamin D affects cardiovascular risk factors (VICtORy) and markers of bone health, and is widening her research to the role of light and vitamin D on immune function. Her work has also involved investigating how nutritional and genetic factors influence postmenopausal bone health and joint health (osteoarthritis) in a longitudinal study of 3,800 women in Aberdeen. She is particularly interested in exploring the role of dietary patterns in chronic disease conditions, and is examining the relationship between dietary patterns and chronic low grade systemic inflammation in this population.

Potential PhD Projects.

1. Furthering research into vitamin D. Aberdeen is uniquely placed to study vitamin D in the UK because of its northerly latitude. This project aims to link together a number of research questions to further our understanding of this unique 'sunshine' vitamin.

2. Dietary patterns and musculoskeletal health. This project will develop novel ways of examining dietary patterns and study the role of dietary patterns in influencing health and disease of bones, muscles and joints.


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