Professor Alexandra Johnstone

Professor Alexandra Johnstone
Professor Alexandra Johnstone
Professor Alexandra Johnstone

BSc, MSc, PhD, PGCE, RNutr

Personal Chair

Accepting PhDs

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 438614
Office Address

Room 4.054, The Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill Health Campus, Ashgrove Road West, Aberdeen, AB25 2ZD

School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition


Professor Alexandra (Alex) Johnstone

Alex is a member of the Rowett Institute Executive Committee, as Theme Lead for Nutrition, Obesity and Disease. Alex obtained her PhD in 2001 and she is a UK registered Nutritionist with Association for Nutrition.

‘Working on safer, fairer, healthy and sustainable food for all’

She currently leads the £1.6M ‘FIO Food’ research grant, funded from UKRI Transforming Food Systems, which is research on Food Insecurity and Obesity, with emphasis on the retail food sector. Also the £0.5M ‘DIO Food’ grant on diet and health inequalities.

These grants aim to:-

-Improve environmentally sustainable and healthier food choices in the UK food system, with focus on policy for the retail food sector

-Provide actionable evidence for retail strategy policy addressing dietary inequalities in two vulnerable groups - people living with obesity and food insecurity.

She manages a research team to successfully lead high calibre research activities, in collaboration with internal and external colleagues. She is actively engaged in organising and delivering teaching/learning excellence and the translation the team’s innovative science to a range of stakeholders, to achieving high impact, through sustained knowledge exchange activities, and having real commercial and community benefit.


My research team includes (March 2024):

Dr Marta Lonnie, Research Fellow

Dr Dan Crabtree, Research Impact Officer 

Claire Fyfe, Research Technician

Annika Bucky, PhD student 

Nouf Alkhattabi, PhD student 

Merel Van Der Haak, PhD student 

Leonida Mosomi, PhD student

David Morecroft, MRes Student

Adam Symon, BSc placement student

Yousif Firas, Bsc placement student 

Vanessa Marescialli, MSc research project student 

Mia Fuery, Summer Placement student 

Raquel Kainga, Summer Placement student 

I welcome visitors and students for placements and studies.





Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

Chair, Rowett Ethics Panel

External Memberships

Chair, Scottish Network for Association for the Study of Obesity

Registered UK Nutritionist (RNutr)

Committee member, Scottish Section for The Nutrition Society

Prizes and Awards

2023     Principals Award for Scientific Excellence  (Senior Category)

2021     UK BioBeat award ‘Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness 2021’.  This report highlights 30 UK trendsetters from across the UK who are tackling the biggest health challenges of our time. These exceptional leaders are creating new opportunities for growth by combining a human understanding of technology and data with the drive to make healthcare improvements more accessible.

2019     Finalist, Food and Drink Federation, Scientist of the Year.

2018     Principals Award for Knowledge Exchange (Senior Category)


Research Overview

Major achievements I have over 100 peer-reviewed publications supported by UKRI, EU funding and Scottish Government. My h-index, based on papers indexed in Scopus, is 38. 50% of my papers have more than 10 citations, with 9 papers with over 100 citations (Scopus, 26/01/23). I have raised over £8M in grants, to support my research. My research strategy has been to investigate the effect of diet on appetite control and energy balance. This has been driven by developing understanding of protein induced satiety and a strategy to systematically examine the effect of amount, type and timing of nutrient intake on energy balance. My main role has been as a UK research scientist to advance understanding of human nutrition, based at the Rowett Institute; but the extensive translation of my research for impact, is of key importance to me.



Research Areas

Accepting PhDs

I am currently accepting PhDs in Nutrition and Health.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.

Email Me

Nutrition and Health

Accepting PhDs

Research Specialisms

  • Nutrition

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Current Research

I successfully lead and manage high calibre research activities within the Rowett Institute. I am actively engaged in organising and delivering teaching excellence and learning and I translate my team’s innovative science to a range of stakeholders achieving high impact, through sustained knowledge exchange activities, and having real commercial and community benefit. 


Current grants

UKRI, BBSRC 2022-2025 FIO-FOOD: Food insecurity in people living with obesity – supporting sustainable and healthier food choices in the retail food environment (PI Johnstone, Rowett) £1.8M

UKRI, BBSRC 2022-2025 DIO-FOOD: Dietary inequalities in people living with obesity in the UK (PI Johnstone, Rowett) £0.5M

Healthy diets for a healthy weight: exploring physiological mechanisms related to dietary fibre and non-nutritive sweeteners (PI Johnstone, Rowett) £1.0M Scottish Government 

A Human Volunteer Study Of The Effects Of Psyllium And Inulin On The Gut Microbiome And Metabolites: Can We Identify Responders And Non-responders To Optimise Outcomes For Pelvic Radiotherapy Patients? (Co-applicant with Kiltie, Rowett) PhD student work ongoing.


Past Research

MRC - MECNUT: Impact of dietary exposure to emulsifiers on the intestinal mucosa - implications for inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome MR/P023606/1 (PI Campbell, Liverpool)

MRC- Chrono-nutrition investigation of timing of eating influence on energy balance MR/P012205/1 (PI Johnstone, Rowett)

BBSRC -Protein4Life: Towards a Focused Dietary Framework for Healthy Ageing, Priming Food Partnerships BH164010 (PI Stevenson, Newcastle)

EU - Full4Health: WorkPackage Leader. A dual-centre project which examined high protein meals on satiety signalling across the age groups, from children to the elderly, with physiological and psychological measures related to food choice. (PI Mercer, Rowett)

Knowledge Exchange

Public engagement is one of my key strengths. I regularly contribute regularly to radio, television and printed press and has often contributed to The Conversation, the online blog. Many of my public outreach activities, have been funded by small grants. Examples include, online resources for schools to celebrate the centenary of the discovery of insulin; > 3000 pupils participated in this event (2021/22). In March 2023, I delivered activities around healthy sustainable diets, as part of British Science week, involving a CPD event for teachers, workshops for families, together with whole school and community events.

In recognition of my public engagement (Café Scientifique, Café Med, Pint of Science, TechFEST, Soapbox Science, Explorathon and International Women’s Day), I received the Principal’s Award for Knowledge Exchange (2018). She was also Finalist in the Food and Drink Federation Scientist of the Years (2019) and in 2021 was cited as one of 30 UK trendsetter from across the UK, tackling the biggest health challenges of our time in the UK BioBeat award ‘Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness.

Funding and Grants

  • 2010–2015 NeuroFAST –explored the stress and eating behavior, to provide new data from human studies that is needed to inform health policy initiatives (local post-doc and two research assistants) (Scott & 410165664, Stress and eating behaviour: implications for obesity. Obes Facts. 2012;5(2):277-87).
  • 2011-2016 Full4Health – explored the FOOD-GUT-BRAIN axis across age groups (8 to 80 years), (local PhD student and post-doc) (Mercer, 410165664, Halford. Approaches to influencing food choice across the age groups: from children to the elderly. Proc Nutr Soc. 2015 May;74(2):149-57).



Teaching Responsibilities

I am Lead Educator for the Massive Online Open-Learning Course (MOOC) for University of Aberdeen Nutrition and Wellbeing Course, which has had over 60K participants since starting in 201


I am course co-ordinator for the MSc Human Nutrition and Metabolism, Assessment of Nutritional Status


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Books and Reports

Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings

Contributions to Conferences

Contributions to Journals

Contributions to Specialist Publications

Working Papers