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Nutrition and Health at Reading:
The Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition

Food, Nutrition and Health at Reading

The Unit was established in 1995 following an endowment of over £4 million from the International Nutrition Foundation under the will of Professor Hugh Sinclair, a famous nutritionist responsible for many of our current ideas on dietary fats and health.  Christine Williams was appointed as the first Sinclair Professor of Human Nutrition in 1995. The group now comprises 7 academic staff, 8 postdoctoral researchers, three technicians and 16 PhD students.

Facilities include a newly appointed Human Investigation Unit for volunteer studies and four laboratories where analytical, cellular, antioxidant and lipid nutrition studies are conducted. A new Biocentre located adjacent to the Food Biosciences building was built in 2004.  It provides researchers with the very latest genomic and proteomic technologies for undertaking cutting edge research in food and health.
The presence of an active nutrition research and teaching group within a Food Science-based department is unique within the UK and together with other established expertise on campus, provides an essential link in food chain research between the basic biosciences agri-sciences and human health. Major research interests are in the fields of:

  • dietary lipids, lipoproteins and genotype
  • antioxidants and actions of other plant phytochemicals on human health
  • the cellular and molecular basis of nutrient effects on immune function, inflammation and oxidative stress.
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Diet and our genes

This is a major aspect of the human nutrition work at Reading. Individuals vary in their susceptibility to the adverse effects of dietary fats, with some showing marked rises in blood cholesterol and others none at all, when they are given saturated fats in large amounts. We now know that this variability is determined by small differences in the genes that code for key proteins that are involved in regulating the body's fat metabolism. It should be possible in the future to distinguish those people who respond badly to different types of fat and advise them on the foods to avoid. Recent work in the group has concentrated on studying the positive benefits of dietary fats and has resulted in novel findings regarding the mechanisms by which the fats found in oily fish can be protective against heart disease.

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Using molecular biology to understand how an optimal diet can maintain health

Using high throughput novel techniques we are now able to measure changes in large numbers of genes when cells are damaged by oxidation and how components of plants (soy isoflavones, flavonoids, vitamin E) help prevent or reduce the damage in endothelial and neuronal cells. The work will help to identify which dietary components of fruits and vegetables are most likely to be beneficial against heart disease and neuropathophysiologies such as Alzheimers disease.

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