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Nutrition, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

We now understand what we eat and drink can change our gut flora signatures to produce an ‘inflammatory microbiota profile’. Our novel studies have shown for the first time that damaging gut derived bacterial fragments, known as endotoxin, can literally spill over into our circulation, which act as low level systemic ‘inflammatory insults’ on fat and other organs leading to inflammatory induced metabolic dysfunction and disease. However whilst these studies have shown pathways leading to metabolic risk we now need to understand how we can influence this disease progression and target prevention in at risk patients with the use of supplements and ‘superfoods’.

UoW & UHCW Capabilities: We have direct access through the human metabolic research unit (HMRU)to the whole body calorimetry chambers able to evaluate energy expenditure, with access to take blood, urine, faecal, and fat samples in a controlled environment to assess complete metabolic health pre and post dietary intervention. The HMRU facilities can also assess detailed anthropometric measurements (e.g. BODPOD body composition). Whilst our clinical team has direct access to primary and secondary care T2DM patients serving a population of 1.25 million people in the region.

Coupled to our human facilities is the Warwick Crop Centre containing unique Brassica genetic resources in the form of genetic diversity sets for the vegetable brassicas as well as other vegetables. These resources facilitate the dissection of complex traits and the production of pre-breeding germplasm suitable for integration into commercial breeding programmes. Therefore, studies on functional foods will be able to investigate the impact on metabolic dysfunction and provide unique detailed clinical samples and clinical data. It will also combine data from the in vitro model setting as well as the in vivo disease model, highlighting the translational approach the team will undertake with a direct impact on patient care. Taken together, UoW can provide a unique holistic approach to understanding the direct impact of ‘functional foods’ on the human Bio-system in a complexity previously not feasible in the human context.

This network is developing bids to show how functional foods affect inflammation induced metabolic disease by improving systemic metabolic dysfunction including Diabetes in human adults with obesity; providing network and modelling analysis to define new predictive risk biomarkers; understanding the molecular basis for inflammation; designing new methodologies and technologies to stratify those at risk.

We study biochemical processes that contribute towards the mechanisms involved in the development of cardiovascular disease. Part of our work is performed on the liver which orchestrates the fat metabolism of the whole body. We have discovered an enzyme (biological catalyst) that links the raised blood-glucose concentrations characteristic of diabetes with the accumulation of fat in the liver (steatosis) , and the excessive secretion of lipids by the liver. Because increased liver secretion is central to the progression of atherosclerosis, this enzyme is now an important target in pharmacological strategies aimed at breaking the link between diabetes and heart disease.

We are also studying the way in which tissues, including the liver, muscle and adipose tissue, control their rates of fat oxidation which can act to prevent the over-accumulation of fat inside cells. Our work has shown that the capacity of tissues to oxidise fats is directly linked to their ability to synthesise fats. Our discovery that there are two alternative routes of fat synthesis – one leading to harmful fat, and the other to beneficial fat – will enable us to control the oxidation processes while optimising the type of fat synthesised.

Our work has been supported by the Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK.

For more information

Human Metabolic Research Unit (HMRU)
Warwick Crop Centre


Specialist academics at Warwick working on this area include:

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