Dietary Metabolites and Human Health

Nutritional-related disorders such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers are emerging as a public health crisis. Understanding the balance between diet and human health is vital, if we are to establish evidence for the provision of healthy and sustainable food for all. It is essential that we optimise the nutritional and disease preventative properties of the food we eat, but also that this is achieved by a method that is agriculturally, economically and environmentally viable. Our research is focused on understanding the complexity of the human diet. This includes understanding the availability of compounds from the food matrix, how these are absorbed and transformed in the body and the overall impact on human health. To implement these strategies, we have to work across the food supply chain with food growers and producers, agriculture and environmental scientists, the food industry, health professionals and policy makers.

Research focus

Harvesting for Health – from the fields

The Food and Drink industry faces many challenges, but one of the main concerns relates to food security. Climate change, increased fuel costs, and changing demographics all add to this uncertainty. However, the industry still needs to be able to provide affordable, acceptable and nutritious food. We are researching the impact of plant breeding on the nutritional content of the crops we eat and exploring the potential of wild and underutilised species as healthy foods.

  • with Charles Bestwick, Lorraine Scobbie, Lesley Milne, Michael Graham and Ajay Iyer

Wild and heritage crops video

Harvesting for Health – for the future

As protein supply for the future becomes a critical concern, our research is examining how sustainable plant proteins can contribute to the human diet in terms of nutritional value. We have shown that high protein - low carbohydrate diets are likely to be detrimental to gut health in the longer term and that plant protein has potential ameliorate this risk. The focus of our current work is on identifying sustainable and healthy sources of plant protein to replace or augment traditional sources in the diet. This will provide new opportunities for our growers and producers and reformulation strategies to enhance nutritional resilience.

  • with Madalina Neacsu, Phil Morrice and Shirley De lima Sampaio

Harvesting for Health – from the gut

Emerging evidence suggests that the gut microbiota plays an important role in the development of many diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. It is becoming widely accepted that the metabolic products formed by gut bacteria directly impact on human health and disease, particularly regarding immune response and inflammation. Through identifying these microbial metabolites, our research hopes to establish the link between microbial diversity and metabolic functionality. This will help elucidate the complex interplay between diet, the gut microbiota and human health.

  • with Sylvia Duncan and Harry Flint

Recent Primary Publications

Duthie SJ, Duthie GG, Russell WR, Kyle JAM, Macdiarmid JI, Rungapamestry V, Stephen S, Megias-Baeza C, Kaniewska JJ, Shaw L, Milne L, Bremner D, Ross K, Morrice P, Pirie LP, Horgan G, and Bestwick CS (2017) Effect of increasing fruit and vegetable intake by dietary intervention on nutritional biomarkers and attitudes to dietary change: a randomised trial Eur J Nutr doi: 10.1007/s00394-017-1469-0

Neacsu M., McMonagle, J., Fletcher, R., Hulshof, T. Duncan, S.H., Scobbie L.,Duncan G.J., Cantlay, L., Horgan, G. , de Roos, B., Duthie G.G. and Russell WR (2017) Absorption and excretion of phytophenols from a wheat bran-rich cereal product in healthy human volunteers. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201600202

Kasote D., Thapa, D. and Russell WR (2017) Herbal Remedies for Urinary Stones Used in India and China: A Review Journal of Ethnopharmacology 203:55-68

Multari S., Neacsu, M., Scobbie, L., Cantlay, L., Duncan, G., Vaughan, N., Stewart, D., Russell, WR.  (2016) Nutritional and Phytochemical Content of High-Protein Crops" J Agric. Food Chem. 64(41):7800–7811

Duncan SH., Russell WR., Quartieri A., Rossi M., Parkhill J., Walker AW. & Flint HJ. (2016) Wheat bran promotes enrichment within the human colonic microbiota of butyrate-producing bacteria that release ferulic acid. Environ. Micro. 18(7):2214-25

Calder PC, Vinoy S, Russell WR, Baka A, Roche HM, Tuohy K, Teeling J, Blaak EE, Fenech M, Vauzour D, McCardle H, Kremer B, Sterkman L, Vafeiadou K, Massi Benedetti M, Williams CM and Minihane AM (2015) Low-grade inflammation, diet composition and health: current research evidence and its translation. Br. J Nutr. 114(7):999-1012

Additional activities

Additional Responsibilities

  • Chair of the ILSI Expert Group on efficacy of intervention in metabolic syndrome
    Objectives of this project are to better understand the role of diet on the defining criteria of metabolic syndrome (i.e. low HDL-cholesterol, high blood pressure, hyperglycemia/insulin resistance, hypertriglyceridaemia and adiposity) and their impact on the risk of cardio-metabolic diseases. Leading on from this, the expert group aims to establish an efficacy model for food interventions so that the overall benefits of dietary change can be assessed.
  • Organising Committee for Low-grade Inflammation: A High-grade Challenge
    This workshop provided a platform to discuss with key stakeholders the challenges of low-grade inflammation and its importance as a pathological feature of numerous common chronic diseases. *
  • Chair of the ILSI Expert Group on nutritional management of postprandial glycaemia
    This project has reviewed the state-of-the-art regarding dietary components and blood glucose.
  • Convenor for the AAB Food Systems Group
  • Committee Member for the RSC Food Group
  • Visiting Professor Robert Gordon University

PhD Student Projects

Joanna Kaniewska (2011-2014; awarded) Diet, DNA stability and colon cancer

Salvatore Multari (2013-2016; awarded) Plant protein for the future

Gema Nadal-Catala (2012-2016; awarded) Natural methylated folates

Natasha Falconer (2014-2017) Rice: balancing sustainable agricultural production methods

Michael Graham (2013-2017) Bioactivity traits of edible flora from Northern Scotland

Franzi Pohl (2014-2017) Potential use of rapeseed pomace extracts

Shirley Sampaio (2015-2018) Reformulation with sustainable food ingredients

Sisir Kumar Barik (2015-2018) Reduction of postprandial glucose by soft fruit extracts

Aliu Moomin (2016-2019) Anti-diabetic and antihypertensive effects of T. ivorensis

Teresa Grohmann (2016-2020) Anthocyanins rich extracts and metabolic health outcomes

Ajay Iyer (2017-2021) Underutilised plant protein sources for the future

Olivia Watt (2017-2021) Genetic determinants of plant bioactive production