Hormone-nutrient interactions in energy balance

Obesity is associated with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and dementia. An important feature in the development of these diseases is inflammation related to obesity. We are working on what causes obesity related inflammation and how this can be avoided by eating the right foods.

We are working with the food industry to make their products healthier to prevent obesity and related inflammation by using products such as whey protein.

Research Focus

Obesity causes the metabolic syndrome, a collection of symptoms which includes excess abdominal fat, increases in circulating glucose and lipids, insulin insensitivity and inflammation. Obesity is causally linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and dementia.

I am interested in how a high-fat/sugar diet can cause obesity. In my lab we have shown changes in genes and proteins in the hypothalamus, the area of the brain which controls energy balance. These changes may lead to excess calorie consumption and obesity. Also measuring gene changes in the hypothalamus in response to a high-fat/sugar diet we have identified receptors which can potentially be targeted to help weight loss in obesity.

We have also identified protein changes in response to a high-fat/sugar diet in the hypothalamus and the hippocampus using proteomics. The hippocampus is the area of the brain that controls memory formation, linking diet to rapid changes in cognition and memory.

I am also interested in how dietary protein acts in the gut to release hormones which act to increase the release of insulin and limit elevations in the level of glucose in the blood.

Research team

Gail Hempseed – research assistant
Christine Grant – research assistant
Amanda Morris – research assistant



  • SULSA studentship grant; Novel hypothalamic receptors in obesity and metabolic health (2012 -2016)
  • SULSA studentship grant; Target validation and drug discovery for the free fatty acid family of G-protein-coupled (2012 -2016)
  • BBSRC DTP Eastbio studentship; A targeted brain proteomic study linking diet, ageing and cognition (2012 -2016)
  • TSB Project Grant; Adding Value to Whey Protein (2013 -2015) £645,499
  • British Neuroendocrine Society Project Support Grant; Inflammation in the hippocampus in response to a high-fat diet (2013) £2,450
  • Tups, A., Benzler, J., Sergi, D., Ladyman, SR. & Williams, LM. (2017). 'Central Regulation of Glucose Homeostasis'. Comprehensive Physiology, vol 7, no. 2, pp. 741-764.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1002/cphy.c160015
  • Drew, JE., Farquharson, AJ., Horgan, GW. & Williams, LM. (2016). 'Tissue-specific regulation of sirtuin and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide biosynthetic pathways identified in C57Bl/6 mice in response to high-fat feeding'. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, vol 37, pp. 20-29.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2016.07.013
  • Benzler, J., Ganjam, GK., Pretz, D., Oelkrug, R., Koch, CE., Legler, K., Stöhr, S., Culmsee, C., Williams, LM. & Tups, A. (2015). 'Central inhibition of IKKβ/NF-κB signalling attenuates high fat diet-induced obesity and glucose intolerance'. Diabetes, vol 64, no. 6, pp. 2015-2027.
    [Online] DOI: 10.2337/db14-0093
  • Williams, LM., Campbell, FM., Drew, JE., Koch, C., Hoggard, N., Rees, WD., Kamolrat, T., Thi Ngo, H., Steffensen, I-L, Gray, SR. & Tups, A. (2014). 'The development of diet-induced obesity and glucose intolerance in C57BL/6 mice on a high-fat diet consists of distinct phases'. PloS one, vol 9, no. 8, e106159.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106159
    [Online] AURA: 2014Williamsetal_PLOSone_.pdf
  • Koch, CE., Lowe, C., Pretz, D., Steger, J., Williams, LM. & Tups, A. (2014). 'High-Fat Diet Induces Leptin Resistance in Leptin-Deficient Mice'. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, vol 26, no. 2, pp. 58-67.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1111/jne.12131
  • Koch, CE., Lowe, C., Legler, K., Benzler, J., Boucsein, A., Böttiger, G., Grattan, DR., Williams, LM. & Tups, A. (2014). 'Central adiponectin acutely improves glucose tolerance in male mice'. Endocrinology, vol 155, no. 5, pp. 1806-1816.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1210/en.2013-1734
Additional Activities

Research briefs for the Knowledge Scotland web site

Other activities

  • Member of the Scottish Section of the Nutrition Society Committee
  • Editor for Nutrients
  • Senior Editor for Journal of Neuroendocrinology 
  • Internal Examiner for the Molecular Nutrition Course (University of Aberdeen)