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Can we protect ourselves from an unhealthy meal?

Background: Some meals, especially if high in fat and carbohydrates, cause an immediate postprandial stress on the body, which results in a short-term dysfunction of the blood vessel walls. Too many of these types of meals over time can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There are beneficial compounds in fruits and vegetables (called “phytochemicals”), which may be able to counteract this effect. This Honours project involves human intervention studies on healthy volunteers to test how effective this protection is. One of the important early markers of cardiovascular health is the ability of the blood vessels to dilate i.e. their flexibility. Blood vessel stiffness is associated with heart disease risk, and is also temporarily impaired after a high fat meal. This is measured using a non-invasive technique called “flow mediated dilation” (FMD). The risk of developing heart disease can be indicated by measuring someone’s baseline fasting FMD. FMD can also be used to measure the body’s reaction to an “unhealthy” meal. Proposed research: “Unhealthy” meals would be designed and provided to volunteers, and their FMD response measured. This will be correlated to other biomarkers measured in blood to build a picture of what happens after a meal, and how long this lasts for. The ability of dietary phytochemicals to provide protection from blood vessel stiffness after the meal will be tested. The project will involve study design, recruiting volunteers, becoming an expert in FMD measurements, meal formulation, measuring blood biomarkers in the lab and writing up results for publication.
Essential criteria: 
Minimum entry requirements can be found here:
Diet, Nutrition, Cardiovascular Disease, polyphenols, vascular health, clinical trial, Honours project, Flow Mediated Dilation
Available options 
Time commitment 
Physical location 
BASE facility, Notting Hill
Gary Williamson
Jay Fewkes

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