Personal profile

Research interests

Carbohydrates are fascinating and understudied. The main source of dietary fibre in our diets is the plant cell wall, the structure of which is not fully understood. My main research interest is understanding how the three dimensional structure of a plant cell and plant cell wall is affected by and affects digestion and how this in turn affects our physiology and biochemistry. The three dimentsional structure (the matrix) is important and has an additional effect to the chemistry of the plant cell wall. 

A secondary interest in sustainable food production and diets has come about because of my interest in carbohydrates. Many sources of carbohydrates are highly refined in our diets. This has a major adverse impact on health with many of the important nutrients being removed, which also causes food waste.

Scholarly biography

Both my BSc and MSc were in Human Nutrition and I graduated with a PhD in 1994 from Otago University, New Zealand. My supervisors were Prof JI Mann, now chair of the WHO carbohydrate committee and Prof L Melton. Using apples and kiwifruit, I tried to link the chemistry and structure of the plant cell wall with the glycaemic index . Subsequently I spent time trying to understand the structure of the plant cell wall. While at Glasgow University I defined the crystalline structure of primary cellulose. More recently I have begun work with Prof Ellis from Kings College London.

I am a member of the International Carbohydrate Quality Consortium (ICQC). The ICQC is a group which influences international standards on carbohydrate nutrition and their position statements are widely regarded.  I am also a member of the Diabetes Nutrition Study Group of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

Previously I was seconded to the Secretariat for the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition where I helped  to write the Carbohydrates and Health report. Working with the Eastern Region Public Health Observatory, I instigated and helped to write public health policy documents on obesity and healthy eating that have been used at local level.

Approach to teaching

My teaching style is interactive. I wish to help each student reach their full potential, learning how to learn and enjoy the process of knowledge acquisition.

Supervisory Interests

My research is around the definition of carbohydrates and how we need to change this to reflect the health impacts of carbohydrate consumption. I have a particular interest in dietary fibre, in particular how the three dimensional matrix created by plant cell walls impacts on digestion dynamics. This also impacts on starch and starch digestion. Students are welcome to enquire about any aspect of this work, from the public health implications through to the analytical side.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Apple cell walls and their metabolic effects, University of Otago

Award Date: 25 Apr 1994

External positions

Senior Scientist, UK Health Security Agency

1 Sept 201230 Dec 2014

Senior Lecturer, Anglia Ruskin University

9 Jan 201130 Nov 2018


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