Nutrition and Health

The Nutrition & Health group conducts basic and translational research exploring the interaction between the body, brain and health. The group take a multidisciplinary approach in their work and have a particularly close working relationship with researchers from disciplines such as biochemistry, pharmacy, nutrition and education both here at the University of Reading and elsewhere. In relation to nutrition, the group studies the interplay between dietary intake and measures of psychological well-being such as cognitive performance, food preference, mood and quality of life using a wide range of techniques (e.g. neuroimaging, survey methods and randomised controlled trials) and population groups (e.g. breast-feeding mothers, infants, older adults and patients with mild cognitive impairment). The group has also demonstrated the potential health benefits of behavioural interventions for example, showing that children's eating habits can be modified by exposure to pictures of foods in books they take home to read (Houston-Price et al. (2009), JECP). Improvements in spatial working memory induced by a high flavanoid diet were documented by the group and linked to de novo protein synthesis in the hippocampus (Rendeiro et al. (2012), Psychopharm) with implications for the development of nutraceutical foods. Rapidly developing work on the anti-epileptic properties of particular cannabinoids has shown strong evidence that seizures can be minimised in both acute and chronic conditions (Hill et al. (2012), BJPharm) based on in vitro, slice and animal models. This work is an example of flourishing cross-disciplinary collaborations across the University and of the increasingly close ties that the School has with the food and pharmaceutical industries (e.g. recent GW Pharmaceuticals grant (Claire Williams) with Pharmacy).


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Our research team - Our recent publications

Academic staff

Laurie Butler
Head of School, Professor. Office: 1S02; Tel: 7543; Email: l.t.butler@reading.ac.uk
Laurie Butler is conducting multidisciplinary research into the role of nutrition on cognitive performance in children, adults and memory impaired populations. His research has received funding from both research councils and from industry, and employs neuroimaging techniques as well as traditional behavioural measures of cognitive performance. As well as wider interests in cognition and the ageing process, he also conducts research exploring methods for encouraging behaviour change (e.g, healthy eating, prejudice reduction).
Judi Ellis
Professor. Office: 2S10; Tel: 6415; Email: j.a.ellis@reading.ac.uk
Judi Ellis is engaged in multidisciplinary research into the role of nutrition in cognitive performance in young and older adults. This research is currently funded by the EU and focused on Personalised Nutrition.
Carol Fairfield
Lecturer. Office: G75; Tel: 7462; Email: c.a.fairfield@reading.ac.uk
David Field
Lecturer. Office: 1S20; Tel: 5004; Email: d.t.field@reading.ac.uk
David Field studies the influence of dietary flavonoids on visual pathway function, from the retina to the visual cortex of the brain. Together with Claire Williams and Laurie Butler, he has shown that performance on a test of visual contrast sensitivity was improved by a single dose of cocoa flavanol. This effect has now been replicated in older adults. Sarah Mount, his PhD student is investigating the effects of flavonoids on night vision and eye muscle function (for focusing).
Jayne Freeman
Lecturer. Office: 156; Tel: 6716; Email: j.e.freeman@reading.ac.uk
Jayne Freeman is interested in examining the influence of dietary flavonoids and exercise on cognitive function and neuronal intergrity in healthy older adults.
Kate Harvey
Lecturer. Office: 297; Tel: 7524; Email: k.n.harvey@reading.ac.uk
Kate Harvey collaborates with NHS colleagues to conduct multidisciplinary research exploring children's eating and infant feeding choices. This research has received funding from the ESRC. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, she has demonstrated that experience of breastfeeding, beliefs about health benefits, independence and self-identity influence breastfeeding. She also has a second strand of research, focused on improving primary care services for people with mild to moderate mental health problems and long-term health conditions.
Aileen Ho
Associate Professor, Clinical Psychologist. Office: 1S12; Tel: 5550; Email: a.k.ho@reading.ac.uk
Aileen Ho is a registered clinical psychologist and experimental psychologist who leads the Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology Group. Her work encompasses ageing and clinical research, particularly in neurological conditions like Parkinson’s, dementia, and Huntington‘s disease. Key interests are understanding cognitive, behavioural and speech impairment; loss of everyday function, and impact on quality of life; as well as developing useful behavioural interventions. Aileen is funded by ESRC, Parkinson's UK, HiQ Foundation, and the European Huntington's Disease Network.
Carmel Houston-Price
Associate Professor. Office: 2S06; Tel: 5378; Email: c.houston-price@reading.ac.uk
Carmel Houston-Price has been funded by the ESRC, the Wellcome Trust, the Nuffield Foundation and the Technology Strategy Board and Ella's Kitchen (Brands) Ltd, to investigate strategies for increasing toddlers' interest in eating healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Her research in this area focuses on the impact of exposure to the non-taste properties of foods, such as their visual appearance, through picture books and sensory interaction.
Julia Vogt
Lecturer. Office: 2S28; Tel: 5545; Email: j.vogt@reading.ac.uk
Claire Williams
Associate Professor. Office: 1S17; Tel: 7540; Email: claire.williams@reading.ac.uk
Claire Williams research interests broadly explore the role of natural phyto- (plant derived) chemicals for biomedical use. Her research focuses on three main areas: the role of phytocannabinoids (derived from Cannabis) in the regulation of feeding and body weight, the prevention and treatment of epilepsy and seizures by phytocannabinoids, and, flavonoids (found in numerous fruits and vegetables) and other nutrients derived from food and their role in cognition. Her research has received funding from both research councils and from industry, and employs a range of behavioural techniques using both animal and human models.

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  • Email:
    pcls@reading.ac.uk
  • Tel:
    +44 (0)118 378 8523
  • Fax:
    +44 (0)118 378 6715
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