Diet, Exercise and Health

Diet, Exercise and Health group in IBERS is uniquely placed in the UK to link plant/animal breeding and chemical phenotyping of food raw materials with international studies on the causal relationship between diet, exercise and health.

Working with both humans and domesticated animals this team has developed major external collaborations with clinical and veterinary centres of excellence to exploit metabolomics, genomics and bioinformatics technology to address key bottlenecks in nutrition research. 

For example we are heading up collaborations with major UK clinical centres in Cambridge, London and Newcastle expert in human nutrition to develop ‘biomarkers’ of key foods and validate a urine composition screening ‘pipe line’ suitable for large scale epidemiological studies of dietary exposure.

We also examine the interaction of diet and physical activity in the management of chronic conditions and how dietary and activity advice can be realised in free-living populations, with a specific focus on the rural environment.


With a focus on the use of metabolomics technology the group additionally has developed collaborations with clinical experts having an interest in the development of chemical fingerprint screening methods for human diseases

Core strategic research programmes centre on enhancing the quality of animal products to meet the rapidly changing requirements of consumers for food which is safe, healthy, traceable, of consistent eating quality, diverse and convenient.

Emphasis is placed on identifying and enhancing components present in foods that contribute to a healthy diet and improve health. In particular research is focused on lipids within meat and milk developing strategies to enhance beneficial mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids and reduce saturated fatty acids. 

Work is also underway aimed at reducing the incidence of food-borne illness associated with consuming contaminated meat and eggs. This work focuses on the development and validation of faecal contamination markers which will produce a fluorescent trace in the abattoir to aid detection of contamination and reduce the risk associated with pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli and Campylobacter.

From a more fundamental perspective IBERS researchers have the strategic goal of understanding the basis of individual human and animal nutritional ‘metabotypes’ to meet the challenges of linking dietary exposure to health outcomes. 

Associated with this is the use of high resolution metabolomics technology and high content plant phenotyping to facilitate the design of ‘smart’ crop varieties able to deliver desirable dietary chemistry which will impact on health and well being. 

As part of this role IBERS is a world leader in the development of ‘global’ screening technology that is used to screen new varieties (both traditionally bred and GM) and processed food raw materials for a desirable chemical composition.  There is accordingly a specific involvement in the development of software and database resources for identifying the chemical constituents of biological samples.


Group Members

John Draper (Lead)
Marcus Arkesteijn
Manfred Beckmann
Daniel Low
Simon Payne
Rhys Thatcher
Les Tumilty
Joanne Wallace

Federico Villagra

Diet & Health Research

  • Metabolomics to measure Dietary Exposure
  • Metabolomics in Clinical Studies
  • Food Composition Analysis
  • Breeding and Nutrition
  • Population interventions to improve health and wellbeing via diet and exercise

Facilities Available

  • High Resolution Metabolomics lab
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • NPPC
  • Wellness and physical function assessment suit