As Nutritional Therapists we practice evidence based nutrition, that means that we use research to support nutrition recommendations for our clients. We rely on the researchers in universities and industry to do that work and provide us with the data that we need.
I'd like you to meet Dr.Denise Robertson who's work has helped to define the amount of fibre we should eat, as well as working with patients with diabetes
What’s your job title and what are you responsible for?
I'm a senior lecturer in Nutritional Physiology which means I teach both nutrition and physiology to undergraduates and postgraduates on a variety of degree programmes including dietetics, but I also teach biomedical scientists and now even student vets ! I am also responsible for leading a research group and supervising students who are completing a PhD themselves.
Can you tell me what your main areas of research are and what you have discovered?
My main area of research is the role of diet in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes. Over the years this has encompassed everything from the role of dietary fibre, gut bacteria, dietary fat, exercise and even the role of sleep. We are actively involved at the moment looking specifically at weight loss. My main interest though has always been carbohydrates and this is quite topical at the moment, we have contributed quite a lot to the understanding of what fibre does within the body and its not what people think !
What interests you in this field?
I have always been interested in the workings of the bowel, I initially started looking at patients who had undergone bowel surgery for inflammatory bowel disease and discovered that they were now at an increased risk of metabolic disease such as diabetes......taking this forward to the general population, we now know that the part of the bowel that these patients were having removed (the colon) is critically important for health.
How did you get into this field and how can other people get into similar roles?
Like most people I never planned on being an academic, I got here by accident. Most people that work in nutrition, don't have an undergraduate nutrition degree, nutrition is a hybrid subject and encompasses elements of biochemistry, physiology and now even microbiology.
How does the research that you do get used in practical ways?
Our work has helped define the new guidelines on carbohydrate intake where the fibre recommendations have increased to 30g/day, our work with patients though, both with diabetes and following bowel surgery will probably have the biggest impact in terms of changing dietary guidelines for these populations.
How can we follow your research?
I have a twitter account @fueledbybananas which combines my main interests of research (bananas are a good source of resistant starch), running (bananas are a good source of carbohydrates for runners) and eating (I eat a lot of bananas !)
What are your predictions for nutrition/nutrition research in the next 5 years?
The role of the bacteria in our gut is a hot topic at the moment, with links being found to almost every disease. Whether we will be able to use this knowledge for prevention or treatment isn't known though and is likely to form the basis of a lot of research.
And health… what do you think?
Health...this will continue to be obesity/diabetes...no end to this anytime soon, and of course dementia with the increasing age of the population.
Have you met anyone famous?(I know you have!)
I don't tend to mix in those circles, but I have met the "Trust Me I'm a Doctor" team from the BBC, Jimmy Doherty and most recently Jamie Oliver. Jamie Oliver is very keen to check his information and make sure that what he is saying and pushing is correct, all credit to him.
Do you have a favourite recipe or food tip that you’d like to share with us?
Food tip would of course be "Eat more plants" !! In terms of a favourite recipe, I am an ethical vegan myself and so I firmly believe that a good bowl of homemade lentil dahl is pretty much unbeatable (and its high in fibre too !)