Digestion and delivery

According to estimates from Public Health England, two thirds of adults and a quarter of children between two and 10 years old are overweight or obese. Obese children are more likely to become overweight adults and to suffer premature ill health and mortality, and by 2034, 70 per cent of adults are expected to be overweight or obese.

Obesity increases the risk of developing a number of health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, cancers, depression and anxiety. Severely obese individuals are three times more likely to require social care than those with a normal weight, resulting in increased risk of hospitalisation and associated health and social care costs.

All this has led us to ask whether there are ways that food can be structured to lower glycemic response or boost protein metabolism?

The answer to this questions is “yes” but the resulting food needs to be just as acceptable to the consumer. We are using cutting edge approaches to understand how the different structures of the food we eat can alter nutrient release during digestion and how the timing and amount of specific compounds can influence health.

Our perception of texture and taste and the effect of oral processing on the release of nutrients, flavours and aromas are key to our enjoyment of food. We are using a range of methods to explain the effect of lubrication (tribology) on oral processing and perception. Part of our research focusses on understanding the mechanisms of oral release and breakdown in relation to food physics and multi-scale structural reorganisation. With in-depth quantitative understanding of oral processing, we believe we can provide the foundation for designing tailored food, for example, for people with special oral processing needs.

We have developed a number of simulations including the Infogest system of various aspects of digestion from the mouth to the small intestine. These simulations are combined with modern analytical methods such as to GC-MS, LC-MS, microscopy, etc. We also use cell culture and intestinal explants to study the mucosal interactions and absorption of specific molecules. Interactions with the cell membranes can also be simulated through the use of small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) to investigate the structure, shape and flexibility of lipid membranes with the aim to understand their nanostructural response under different physico-chemical environments.

Research team

If you are interested in collaborating with us or joining our research team, please get in touch. View all members of the digestion and delivery theme.

PhD projects

We have opportunities for prospective PhD students. Potential projects can be found in our postgraduate research opportunities directory.