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Exploring the interactions between polyphenol consumption, exercise and metabolism in at risk human populations

Principal Supervisor: Dr Sarah Aldred, School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences

Co-supervisor: Dr Warwick Dunn, School of Biosciences

PhD project title: Exploring the interactions between polyphenol consumption, exercise and metabolism in at risk human populations

University of Registration: University of Birmingham

Project outline:

Cardiovascular health is of primary importance in maintaining health and mobility into older age [1]. Cardiovascular health is significantly affected by lifestyle, and whilst this represents a challenge in that poor diet and physical inactivity can result in poor cardiovascular health, it also represents an opportunity for succesful intervention through diet or exercise. The study of biochemistry during the last 100 years and the recent introduction of metabolomics [2] into biological research has highlighted the importance of metabolites in many biological processes including metabolism and regulation. Changes in metabolism can be observed over short [2] and long time periods [3], and in response to exercise [4] and dietary interventions [5]. Metabolomics has the capability and sensitivity to assess changes in lipoproteins, lipid and water-soluble metabolites that can occur as a result of dietary interventions including fruit juice consumption [6]. Research in rodents has provided some evidence that fruit-derived polyphenolic compounds (e.g. present in fruit juices) have the potential to increase protective antioxidant capacity, and to improve metabolic profiles [7]. Exercise causes a shift in metabolites, which are involved in many processes from delivery of energy to the working muscles, through to signalling and regulation of biological processes. Metabolic change during exercise causes the production of radicals and other reactive oxygen species (ROS) that signal to stimulate adaptations that are important in health. The redox status of the cell is kept in balance by antioxidants such as polyphenols found in fruit juice, and thus both diet and exercise interventions have the potential to impact on health via changes in metabolic process.

Aims: We will study the interaction between polyphenol consumption, exercise and metabolism in at risk populations.

Impact: Developing tools and new mechanistic understanding of polyphenol consumption effects would present numerous opportunitites to be able to evaluate relatively simple lifestyle changes for big impact on health at a population level.

Areas of investigation:

(1) Polyphenol-rich fruit juice and exercise intervention in human participants. Blood and urine will be collected in human studies of exercise in individuals deemed at risk for cardiovascular disease (by Q-risk score) vs healthy age-matched individuals in the presence and absence of polyphenol-rich fruit juice interventions (Aldred).

(2) Study of global and tissue-specific markers of metabolic health and oxidative stress in relation to (1). The impact of Q-rick score, age, exercise, and polyphenol-rich fruit juices on markers of metabolic health and oxidative stress will be determined. These will include Single Cell Gel Electrophoresis assay ('comet assay') to assess DNA damage, glucose, insulin, cholesterol ratio, markers of protein and lipid oxidation, total antioxidant status, inflammatory markers, cell redox status and lipoproteins (Aldred).

(3) Study of metabolism in relation to (1). Targeted and non-targeted metabolomic studies (applying liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry) will be performed to identify metabolic changes related to polyphenol consumption, exercise and Q-risk score (Dunn).


  • O'Doherty MG, et al., Effect of major lifestyle risk factors, independent and jointly, on life expectancy with and without cardiovascular disease: results from the Consortium on Health and Ageing Network of Cohorts in Europe and the United States (CHANCES). Eur J Epidemiol. 2016 May;31(5):455-68.
  •  Dunn, W.B. et al. Systems level studies of mammalian metabolomes: the roles of mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Chem. Soc. Rev., 2011, 40(1):387-426.

  •  Gooley, J.J. and Chua, E.C. Diurnal regulation of lipid metabolism and applications of circadian lipidomics. J. Genet. Genomics. 2014, 41(5):231-50.

  • Mukherjee, K., et al. Whole blood transcriptomics and urinary metabolomics to define adaptive biochemical pathways of high-intensity exercise in 50-60 year old masters athletes. PLoS One. 2014, 9(3):e92031.

  •  Cheung, W., Keski-Rahkonen, P., Assi, N., Ferrari, P., Freisling, H., Rinaldi, S., Slimani, N., Zamora-Ros, R., Rundle, M., Frost, G. and Gibbons, H., 2017. A metabolomic study of biomarkers of meat and fish intake. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 105(3), pp.600-608.

  •  Pujos-Guillot, E., Hubert, J., Martin, J.F., Lyan, B., Quintana, M., Claude, S., Chabanas, B., Rothwell, J.A., Bennetau-Pelissero, C., Scalbert, A. and Comte, B., 2013. Mass spectrometry-based metabolomics for the discovery of biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake: citrus fruit as a case study. Journal of proteome research, 12(4), pp.1645-1659.

  •  Jove, M., et al. Lipidomic and metabolomic analyses reveal potential plasma biomarkers of early atheromatous plaque formation in hamsters. Cardiovascular Research 2013, 97, 642–652.

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Molecules, Cells and Systems

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project: 

  • Designing, delivering and monitoring exercise and dietary studies

  • Physiological assessment (e.g. physical fitness, sit-to-stand time etc.)

  • Body composition

  • Targeted biochemical assays such as ELISA to assess markers of metabolic heath

  • Non-targeted and targeted metabolomics

  • Univariate and multivariate statistical analysis

Contact: Dr Sarah Aldred, School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences