|Funding for:||UK Students, EU Students|
|Funding amount:||The successful applicant will be supported to apply for the Midlands Graduate School ESRC-DTP programme (3.5 years of funding) in Jan 2024, for a start in September 2024.|
|Placed On:||4th September 2023|
|Closes:||30th October 2023|
Mental stress is increasingly prevalent in our societies, particularly in the UK, where 74% of the population reports feeling stressed at work. Young adults (18-25 years old) currently experience a more rapid increase in anxiety than the rest of the population. During stressful periods, individuals often increase their consumption of foods that are high and fat and sugar and low in nutrients, which can contribute to poor health. Indeed, chronic stress is associated with an increased risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Our lab has recently shown that consuming high-fat foods during a single episode of stress result in reductions in brain oxygenation and poorer vascular function in young healthy adults, in comparison to low-fat foods. On the other hand, foods rich in plant flavonoids (typically present in cocoa, apples, grapes, berries, tea) can prevent the harmful effects of stress on the vascular system. In summary, food choices around stressful episodes can exacerbate the effects of stress on vascular and cerebral physiology, which is likely to impact on mood, mental health, cognitive performance and increase the risk of future cardiovascular disease and obesity. This work highlights the importance of finding effective strategies to help individuals make better food choices during stressful periods.
Behaviour change towards healthier food choices is more likely to occur when linked to a specific situation in the present moment -Implementation Intentions/ ‘If-Then-Planning’- (e.g. if I am watching TV and I feel like eating a snack, then I will eat some fruit) compared to less specific longer term goals -Future discounting- (e.g. I will eat more fruit to decrease my future risk of a heart attack). However, whether linking healthy eating intentions to the immediate effects of consumption on mental stress (e.g. if I am feeling stressed then I will eat fruit to protect my brain) has yet to be investigated. The goal of this project is to establish whether provision of knowledge about the link between mental stress and eating choices motivates healthier consumption both in the short and longer term.
This is an interdisciplinary project brings together areas of Nutrition, Psychology, Behaviour Change and Cardiovascular and Brain Health. Randomized controlled human trials in healthy volunteers will use a combination of psychological and physiological techniques to assess food choice, appetite and mood. There will be opportunity to engage with other PI’s across the Schools of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences and Psychology, with different technical and research expertise.
Applicants should hold a First Class Degree and have a strong background in Psychology, Behavioural Science and/or Nutritional Sciences. Working experience in a research setting, particularly running human RCTs would be desirable. They should have a commitment and strong interest in interdisciplinary research, be motivated and be prepared to work independently.
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