Human and Animal Energetics

Human and Animal Energetics

Project: Fast-food

  • PhD Students: Ahmad Albalawi, Fatmah Albalwi,  Rania Bajunaid and Haneen Wazzan

Eating out of the home at food establishments is thought to be a risk factor for obesity because there is an assumption that it increases exposure to unhealthy foods, such as in Fast-Food Restaurants (FFRs), Full-Service Restaurants (FSRs), delivery services and takeaways. However, there is a very limited examination of the link between food establishment access and obesity. We currently have 4 projects that examine the impact that fast food or sugar intake has on our BMI. One focusses on secondary school children while the other two focus on adults 

Project: SLOSH

  • PhD Student: Fatmah Albalwi

Globally obesity and overweight has become a significant problem, in both developed and developing countries. Although once considered only a significant disease of adults, childhood obesity is now a growing problem.  The health burden that this poses is substantial, as the disease sequelae of obesity will be reached by those affected at a younger age, meaning a reduced quality of life for these patients and a longer time spent under specialist medical care.  

SLOSH stands for Scottish Lifestyle Organised Sports and Health. It is a cohort study that was started in 2006. The study was set up in Stonehaven (grid reference NO 87065 85850), which is served by three primary schools. The children who attend these primary schools were recruited into the study when they entered primary 1 and followed until they left primary school. A total of 436 children were recruited for the project.  

The overall aims of the SLOSH Project are to look at childhood obesity by examining different influential factors such as diet and exercise. 

Project: Measuring what we eat using novel technologies

  • PhD Student: Marina Stamatiou

Due to under reporting of energy intake using self reported dietary questionnaires, nutrition science appears to be in crisis and the justified increasing distrust of the public reflects the need for a radical reform of the field. The overall aim of this research project is to investigate the use of novel approaches, that follow good scientific principles, for the improvement of the accuracy of nutrition studies. A protocol is being developed for measuring dietary intake by quantifying the “outputs” instead of the “inputs” by using metabolomics and DNA metabarcording. To test this, we are using urine and faecal samples for metabolomic and DNA metabarcoding analysis respectively, from a set of subjects where we know with absolute accuracy exactly what they have eaten. 

Project: Limits to sustained energy expenditure 

The maximum rate at which animals can expend energy is an important conceptual constraint on the level at which animals can perform – in the sense of their ability to process energy that can be used for either survival (eg thermogenesis in extreme cold) or for reproduction. 

In many circumstances animals may be extrinsically limited in the supplies of energy which will place ceilings on the levels of performance. Obvious examples are animals when animals are forced to hibernate to conserve energy over periods when there is scant food availability in the environment. However it seems that the supply of energy in the environment is probably not limited. In these circumstances animals probably routinely run up against limitations in their own physiology that constraint their capacity to process energy – intrinsic limits

Because understanding these limits has important implications for our understanding of how animals function in the wild there has been intense interest in understanding what the physiological factors imposing such limits might be. We are using lactating mice a s a model system to try to unravel what imposes these physiological limitations on animals and what the implications of these limits are in an ecological context. 

Project: Reconstructing human diets using stable isotopes

  • Archaeology team: Kate Britton and Elea Guiterrez

Stable isotope analyses have long been used in archaeology, ecology and palaeobiology to reconstruct the diets of humans and animals. This collaboration with Kate Britton from Archaeology will determine the effects of different degrees of long-term dietary restriction on stable isotope ratios of nitrogen, carbon and sulphur in bone collagen. Stable isotope analysis of preserved tissues are now commonplace as a means of reconstructing dietary variation and we are particularly interested in using mouse models to explore the impact of nutritional stress on isotope levels in the tissues. 

Project: Dairy Cows

  • PhD Student: Joyce Marumo

The rapid increase in global population growth, urbanization, income and diet changes lead to an increase in demand for milk and its products. UK dairy farming was the largest agricultural sector worth around £4.5 billion and accounting for nearly 16.9% of total agricultural output in the UK. Scotland makes up approximately 10% (~ 1.5 million litres of milk) of the overall milk production in the UK. By 2067, the global population is projected to reach 10.4 billion. Under this situation, it is, therefore important to increase milk production per cow in the countries where dairy systems are advanced. We are exploring some of the short-term stressors affecting milk production in a Scottish dairy herd which may pinpoint important future considerations when aiming to maximise production to meet the countries growing dairy requirements.  

Project: Reindeer

  • Leif Egil Loe, Norway

The heat dissipation limit (HDL) theory posits that the maximum rates of sustained energy intake and metabolism, particularly during lactation, are constrained by the animals’ ability to dissipate body heat, a by-product of metabolism  (Speakman and Król 2010). The risk of hyperthermia associated with the excess of body heat may thus limit energy intake and lead to the reduced reproductive output via lower milk production and reduced offspring growth. Lactation is considered the most energetically demanding part of reproductive cycle in female mammals ( Speakman 2008). During this period, females need to allocate energy resources to both weaning the young and to their own maintenance and survival (Speakman 2008). Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) are large ungulates with circumpolar distribution in the Northern Hemisphere. In collaboration with the team from Norway (Leif Egil Loe | NMBU) we quantified energetics, thermoregulatory physiology, and behaviour of female reindeer from a semi-domestic herd in Northern Finland, during peak lactation and during a subsequent heatwave.