To address how variations in nutrition across the lifecourse contribute to inequalities in adult health, Siân’s current research has three main themes.
Assessing the diets of populations
One of the greatest challenges in assessment of diet in large-scale cohort studies is to find appropriate and accessible methods to enable collection of accurate data across the population. Over the past decade, around 50,000 dietary assessments have been carried out by staff at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, within the main UK cohort studies, including the Southampton Women’s Survey (http://www.mrc.soton.ac.uk/index.asp?page=229) and the Hertfordshire Cohort Study (http://www.mrc.soton.ac.uk/index.asp?page=3). Both traditional approaches have been used as well as novel methods, developed for these studies. One of Siân’s continuing research interests is in methodological developments to enable characterization of diet in general population studies, with a particular focus on design of new methods that are widely accessible.
Early life influences on body composition
The dramatic increase in rates of childhood obesity has led to widespread research efforts to identify its causes, including understanding the role of ‘obesogenic’ environments, and the importance of unhealthy dietary behaviours and patterns of physical activity. However, despite the importance of these factors in contributing to gains in adiposity, not all children within a population become overweight. We need to know more about how individuals vary in the way that they interact with their environments, and the extent to which these interactions predispose some children to gain excess weight. Early life is recognised as a ‘critical period’ when the risk of development and persistence of overweight and obesity may be increased. Using children’s data from the Southampton Women’s Survey (http://www.mrc.soton.ac.uk/index.asp?page=229), we are describing the evolution of body composition in early life, and examining how variations in diet in infancy and early childhood, and maternal nutritional status in pregnancy, impact on child’s adiposity. Understanding the role of early nutrition will be key to developing future strategies to prevent obesity.
Nutrition and ageing
A significant challenge faced by ageing populations is how to enable older adults to remain independent and to maintain their quality of life. Central to independence is physical capability – ie the ability to perform the physical tasks of everyday living. Although declining physical capability in later life is expected, in parallel with age-related losses of muscle mass and strength, the rate of decline is not spread evenly across the population, and much of the variance remains unexplained. There is increasing interest in variations in diet and nutritional status among older adults, and their links to differences in muscle strength, walking disability and physical function. A number of nutritional intervention studies show beneficial effects on physical function, although findings are not always consistent, and the underpinning mechanisms remain poorly understood. Siân’s current research aims to address the contributions made by diet and lifestyle to declining physical capability, with a view to defining sustainable dietary interventions to slow losses of muscle mass and strength in older age.
Human Development and Health Academic Units
Affiliate academic unit(s)
Human development and physiology Research group
Professor Siân Robinson
Tel: +44 (0)23 8077 7624 firstname.lastname@example.org
Room Number: 9500 SGH/MRC/MP95
Telephone: (023) 8077 7624
Facsimile: (023) 8070 4021