- Email Address
- Telephone Number
- +44 (0)1224 438630
- Office Address
Lifelong Health Division
Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health
University of Aberdeen
AB21 9SB, UK.
- School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition
I have over 30 years research experience in the field of human health. In the course of my career I have worked with research groups in the UK and internationally (India, Mexico, Malaysia, Norway), including as a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar in the USA at Cornell University. Most of my research has focused on human nutrition, epigenetics and genetics. My overall aim is to provide new knowledge leading to practical applications with a beneficial effect on health, quality of life, society and the economy. My work is published in journals such as Lancet, Nature, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and Annual Review of Nutrition. My research is acknowledged as internationally important, it is cited in national reports and policy statements, and it is used directly by policy makers. I have served on various scientific advisory committees including; the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition; Swedish Medical Research Council international Evaluation Panel on Ageing and Health; the Scientific Advisory Board of Breast Cancer Campaign; the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes; and I recently joined the BBSRC Bioscience for Health Strategy Advisory Panel.
Memberships and Affiliations
- Internal Memberships
Head of Lifelong Health Division: This division consists of 30 staff (17 principal investigators and a variable compliment of visiting workers and students) working in the area of Diet and Lifelong health. http://www.abdn.ac.uk/rowett/research/lifelong-health.php
Head of the Public Health Nutrition Group: This research group consists of 13 research staff and associated assistants, students and visiting workers. The group was constituted to apply knowledge of nutrition science and expertise in epidemiology and social sciences to address nutrition issues of wider public health importance. It has a number of international research students and overseas links and the work is designed to be of national and international relevance. https://www.abdn.ac.uk/rowett/research/public-health-nutrition-688.php
Member of Institute Executive Committee and Senior Management Group: These groups have responsibility for the development of institute strategy and its implementation, the organization and running of the institute, and its integration with the wider university, strategic appointments and recruitment, oversight of the institute budget, decisions on resource allocation, staffing, strategic planning, management of research, health and safety, knowledge exchange, and external links.
Manager of research programme on Diet and Health: I currently manage one of two work-packages led by Rowet Institute and commissioned by Scottish Government. This is worth around £12m over 5 years and involves input from 37 principle investigators across 4 independent research providers (Rowett Institute, James Hutton Institute, Moredun Institute, Biostatistics Service Scotland).
- External Memberships
- Member of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Bioscience for Health Strategy Advisory Panel (2016-2018).
- Chair of UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) working group on UK saturated fat recommendations (from 2015).
- Member of UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) (2006-present).
- Member of UK Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) (2008-2012).
- Member of EU Joint Programming Initiative Evaluation Panel: A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life; Transnational Research on Nutrition and Cognitive Function (2015).
- Chair of “Food and Obesity” topic at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh Symposium on Obesity; a 21st Century Epidemic (2015).
- Member of the UK Department of Health Commissioning Panel for Iodine and Health, Department of Health, London (2014).
- Member of the Advisory Group for the University of Aberdeen Centre for Genome-Enabled Biology and Medicine.
- Assesor on the Swedish Research Council Ageing and Health Panel (2013).
- Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Breast Cancer Campaign (2012- 2013).
- Member of SACN Working Group on Approaches to the Nutritional Assessment of Novel Foods (ANANF) (2008-present).
- Member of North of Scotland NHS Research Ethics Committee (2004-2011).
- Member of British Nutrition Foundation Task Force on Nutrition and development: long and short term consequences for health (2009-2011).
- Member of SACN working group on Folate and Disease Prevention (2006-2008).
- Member of SACN working group on Folate and Cancer (2008-2009).
- Member of Scottish Government short life working group on vitamin D (2008-2009).
Life expectancy is increasing across the globe and there is a need to ensure that physical and mental health is maintained as long as possible into old age. Some individuals are genetically predisposed to health and longevity but there is a growing awareness of the importance of early life events in programming lifelong health and the role of diet in particular. Health and life expectancy are also strongly related to socioeconomic status but the links with diet and behaviour are poorly understood.
My research is concerned with these issues and specifically the way in which diet at different life-stages interacts directly with the human genome to influence health and disease risk throughout life, and the mechanism by which it does this. It deals with early life factors and reproduction. It seeks to determine the nature of the links between early life and later health and to identify critical modifiable factors in the early environment. It also seeks to identify the evolutionary links between health, fertility, and reproduction that cannot be modified. This work involves the study of epigenetics in reproduction, cognition, and cancer, in a range of study designs; from in vitro studies in isolated cells and tissues through to large cohort and case-control studies involving thousands of individuals.
Reproduction: I have a long standing research interest in nutrition in pregnancy and the importance of this to lifelong health, with a particular emphasis on the maternal and fetal requirement for polyunsaturated fatty acids, and the roles of the B vitamins and vitamin D. This includes work on maternal diet and status, maternal adaptations in fat metabolism, the role of the placenta and early embryo. and vitamin D status an season in mothers and babies. I have also investigated the complex interaction between diet and social circumstances in determining birth outcomes and the modulating role of factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption. I have worked on placental function and fetal growth and have worked with colleagues to develop innovative ways of using MRI to investigate oxygen supply to the fetus in utero.
In the course of my career I have worked with many research groups in the UK and internationally (India, Mexico, Malaysia, Norway), including as a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar in the USA at Cornell University.
Current external collaborations include:
- University of Oxford (Professor Leanne Hodgson); Epigenetic response to diet.
- University of Cambridge (Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith); Imprinting methylation; early life influences and later cognition and mood
- University College London (Professor Marcus Richards); Imprinting methylation; early life influences and later cognition and mood
Funding and Grants
- Imprinting methylation; early life influences and later cognition and mood (Haggarty, Murray, Phillips, Staff, Hocking, Ferguson-Smith, Richards). BBSRC & ESRC. (£447,000; Nov 2015 to Oct 2018).
- Genetic determinants of breast cancer susceptibility (Haggarty, Heys). The Gates Trust (£52,000; Oct 2008 to Oct 2016).
- A pilot study of epigenetic imprinting and breast cancer using Next Generation Sequencing (Haggarty, Heys, Husain). Friends of Anchor (£9,000; July 2015 to July 2016).
- Nutrition, Epigenetics and Health. Scottish Government (approximately £500,000 over 5 years; April 2011 to April 2016).
I have over 20 years experience teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the life sciences and nutrition and currently teach on the following courses within University of Aberdeen:
- Public Health Nutrition MSc (PU5504)
- Human Nutrition MSc (MT5401)
- Genes and evolution BSc (BI2002)
- Reproductive Biology BSc (DB3502)
- Advanced Molecular and Functional Genomics MSc (MB5016)
- Molecular Nutrition MSc (MT5511)
- Genetics - Complex Disease MSc (MB5515)
- University of Aberdeen Annual International Summer School Advanced Course in Dietary Assessment Methods (http://www.abdn.ac.uk/acdam/).
- Nutrition and Wellbeing Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/nutrition-wellbeing)
I have supervised over 35 MSc, PhD, BSc Med Sci, BSc and MD students.
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UK introduces folic acid fortification of flour to prevent neural tube defectsLancet, vol. 398, no. 10307, pp. 1199-1201Contributions to Journals: Comments and Debates
Imprinting methylation predicts hippocampal volumes and hyperintensities and the change with age in later lifeScientific Reports, vol. 11, 943Contributions to Journals: Articles
Imprinting methylation in SNRPN and MEST1 in adult blood predicts cognitive abilityPloS ONE, vol. 14, no. 2, e0211799Contributions to Journals: Articles
Ce que votre père a fait avant votre naissance pourrait influer sur votre futurThe ConversationContributions to Specialist Publications: Articles
What your father did before you were born could influence your futureThe ConversationContributions to Specialist Publications: Articles
Breast cancer risk and imprinting methylation in bloodClinical Epigenetics, vol. 7, 92Contributions to Journals: Articles
Reply: To pool or not to pool DNA methylation data from different tissues?Human Reproduction Update, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 553-554Contributions to Journals: Letters
Genetic and Metabolic Determinants of Human Epigenetic VariationCurrent Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 334-338Contributions to Journals: Articles
Global agricultural, food and energy price spikes: Impacts on low income households in the United Kingdom and policy optionsInternational Journal of Agricultural Policy and Research, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 246-264Contributions to Journals: Articles
A systematic review and meta-analysis of DNA methylation levels and imprinting disorders in children conceived by IVF/ICSI compared with children conceived spontaneouslyHuman Reproduction Update, vol. 20, no. 6, pp. 840-852Contributions to Journals: Articles