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More about this group

The Nutrition theme is led by Dr Charlotte Atkinson.

Current research projects

Bristol Biomedical Research Unit (BRU) in Nutrition, Diet and Lifestyle

The Bristol Nutrition Biomedical Research Unit is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and is a partnership between University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol. It was awarded to Professor Andy Ness and opened on the 1st April 2012.

The BRU will develop and deliver an integrated programme of world-leading clinical nutrition research, translating knowledge derived from our existing work in nutrition and lifestyle to develop practical and feasible interventions to improve the health of people with conditions related to, or compromised by, poor or sub-optimal nutrition. As part of the BRU we are conducting qualitative studies to look at patient and healthcare provider views of perioperative nutrition. 

Gum chewing and post-operative ileus

This study is funded by the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit scheme and led by Dr Charlotte Atkinson. It is a randomised trial of gum chewing to reduce post-operative ileus. The study has closed to recruitment, and a total of 411 people undergoing colorectal resection were randomised. Data entry and analysis are currently ongoing.  

We have completed a systematic review of gum chewing after elective intestinal surgery and found that chewing gum is associated with improved outcomes (Noble et al. 2009).  We are currently conducting a Cochrane Review on chewing gum for postoperative recovery of gastrointestinal function.

Early post-operative feeding

We have shown that early enteral feeding following gastro-intestinal surgery is associated with improved outcome (Lewis et al. 2009). We are currently updating the Cochrane Review in this area.

Milk, dairy products, and calcium intakes in children: prospective associations with body composition measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry

This study is funded by the American Diabetes Association and led by Dr. Kirstin Newby at Boston University and Professor Andy Ness is one of the collaborators. The primary goal of this project is to examine the associations between dietary intakes of dairy products, and changes in total fat mass.


Research findings

Soy, isoflavones and human health

With collaborators at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA, we have examined the role of isoflavone metabolism on markers of risk for breast cancer, and found no effect on mammographic density (Atkinson et al. 2009), circulating hormone concentrations (Atkinson et al. 2008) or bone density and body composition (Atkinson et al. 2012).

Omega-3 fats and depressed mood

We have completed a systematic review (Appleton et al. 2006), and recently updated this review (Appleton et al. 2010), and found that there was limited evidence of benefit for omega 3 supplementation. We are currently conducting a Cochrane Review in this area.

We have completed a trial in people with mild depressed mood. The results of the trial did not suggest an important clinical benefit of supplementation with omega 3 fats (Rogers et al. 2008). An analysis of observational data collected during recruitment to this trial suggested that the observational associations may be due to confounding (Appleton et al. 2008).

Diet and stroke

We prospectively examined associations between dietary intakes of total fat, saturated fat, unsaturated fat, white fish and oily fish and risk of stroke in middle-aged men, and did not find any strong associations (Atkinson et al. 2011).