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Professor Siân Robinson BSc, PhD

Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology

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Professor Siân Robinson is Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology within Medicine at the University of Southampton.

Siân completed a BSc in Nutrition and a PhD, at Queen Elizabeth College, University of London. Her first postdoctoral posts were in Southampton and Switzerland, in which she carried out clinical studies to determine influences on energy balance. She returned to Southampton in 1988 to join the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (then Environmental Epidemiology Unit), where she has been responsible for the nutritional components of their large UK cohort studies. Her research addresses how variations in nutrition across the lifecourse contribute to inequalities in adult health, with a particular focus on early life influences on growth and development, and effects on ageing. Siân is a registered Nutritionist.





Research interests

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 ( and the Hertfordshire Cohort Study ( 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 (, 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

Affiliate Department(s)

Human development and physiology Research group

Research project(s)

Partnership for Improvement & Innovation in Dietary Assessment Technology (DIET@NET)

Committee membership
  • Member of academic partnership for Health Development Agency (HDA) Evidence & Guidance Collaborating Centre for Maternal and Child Nutrition (2003-5)
  • Co-opted expert member of the NICE Public Health Programme Development Group: Improving the nutrition of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children in low-income households (2006-8)
  • Member of Expert Panel (Food Standards Agency) to assess the effectiveness of the FSA Nutrient Profiling Model (2007-9)
  • Member of NICE Public Health Programme Development Group: Prevention of cardiovascular disease at population level (2008-10); (2013-14)
  • Member of British Nutrition Foundation Task Force on Developmental Programming and Diet (2008-13)
  • Member of Project Management Board for the national Dietary Survey of Infants and Young Children (2009-12)
  • Member of Editorial Board of the British Journal of Nutrition (2009-13)
  • Member of Expert User Group for the FSA Nutrient Analysis Programme (UKFOODCOMP) (2009-13)
  • Member of Diet Project Management group, MRC National Survey for Health and Development (2010-)
  • Member of Editorial Board of Maternal and Child Nutrition (2010-)
  • Member of Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition Subgroup on Maternal and Child Nutrition (2010-)
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Book Chapters




Professor Siân Robinson
Tel: +44 (0)23 8077 7624

Room Number: SGH/MRC/MP95

Telephone:(023) 8077 7624
Facsimile:(023) 8070 4021

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