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A PhD Investigating Nutritional Solutions for Sarcopenia, An International Cohort Approach

University of East Anglia

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: Competition Funded Project (Home and International)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 2nd November 2023
Closes: 15th January 2024
Reference: WELCHA_U24FMH

Background

Keeping skeletal muscle strong is crucial for preventing loss of function and mobility during ageing and onset of sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is a major risk factor for frailty and hospitalisation in later life. The underlying mechanisms for onset of sarcopenia are not fully understood and no pharmacological treatments exist but modifying diet could be important. Protein was the dietary focus in the past, but our research has found that micronutrient vitamins and minerals are similarly important. Magnesium (Mg) is crucial to muscle metabolism and physiology, but low dietary intake is common. We have found that dietary Mg intake and intramuscular Mg content could be key to maintaining muscle health and postponing sarcopenia. Vitamin C, found in fruits and vegetables, is also relevant to muscle metabolism and could delay age-related loss of muscle and progression into frailty.

We have designed this PhD to comprehensively address: the importance of Mg, vitamin C, and other micronutrients, to skeletal muscle physiology, mass, and function during ageing. The relationships between the micronutrients and mitochondrial function and biochemical and endocrine mechanisms of ageing will be researched to find the required intakes of micronutrients, including Mg and vitamin C, for protecting against age-related loss of muscle mass/function.

Research methodology

The PhD’s objectives will be explored using the well-characterised global population study cohorts the: U.S. BALTIMORE LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF AGING (BLSA), the EUROPEAN PROSPECTIVE INVESTIGATION INTO CANCER (EPIC) in Norfolk, the NATIONAL HEALTH AND NUTRITION EXAMINATION SURVEY (NHANES), THE HEALTH AND AGING STUDY IN AFRICA: A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF AN INDEPTH COMMUNITY IN SOUTH AFRICA (HAALSI) and the INVECCHIARE IN CHIANTI STUDY (InCHIANTI). These longitudinal studies with over 21,000 participants, each with a rich suite of biomarkers, muscle strength, imaging, dietary information, blood measures, and metabolomics data will allow comprehensive study of age-related muscle changes.

Training

This PhD provides opportunities to gain skills in nutrition, statistics, epidemiology, MRI and musculoskeletal measurement.

Person specification

We would like to work with a motivated candidate with strong quantitative, analytical and communication skills who has a passion for advancing knowledge and interests in multidisciplinary collaborations across diverse specialties, including epidemiology, radiology, and geoscience.

This PhD project is in a Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences competition for funded studentships.  These studentships are funded for 3 years and comprise UK (Home) fees, an annual stipend of £18,622 and £1,000 per annum for research training (RTSG). International applicants may apply but are required to secure additional funding to fund the difference between UK and overseas tuition fees (visit: https://www.uea.ac.uk/study/fees-and-funding/fees for details of Home and Overseas fee rates).

Primary Supervisor: Alisa Welch

Start Date: October 2024

For more information on this project, please visit https://www.uea.ac.uk/search/courses/

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