If you eat a varied diet then it's likely that every meal you eat contains polyphenols. These compounds are produced in fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices and protect the plant during extreme conditions (e.g. too much UV light, saline soil or invading bacteria). They also confer health benefits to humans and that's why our lab investigates this fascinating group of plant chemicals.
Dr Emma Wightman, group research leader:
"Our research journey with polyphenols began in 2008 when my PhD investigated whether 1 polyphenol in particular, resveratrol, could increase blood flow to the very frontal part of the brain. If it could, we theorised that it could then improve the mental abilities that this part of the brain oversees. These studies consistently found the expected blood flow effects but no such improvements to mental function......."
Tim Eschle, PhD student:
".....That's where I picked up the mantle in 2014. I hypothesised that we'd been looking at the wrong group of people to see these improvements in (young and healthy). So, my PhD looks at compromising these individuals by inducing the effects of high altitude (hypoxia) and also by looking at healthy, older humans."
Ellen Smith, PhD student:
"I then picked up the baton in 2017. My PhD programme of studies takes all that we've learned so far and introduces a whole new, exciting chapter; the microbiome. Our gut bacteria is in a constant dialogue with what we eat and our nervous system; influencing our physical and mental state. We know that diet changes this conversation, as does certain health states; e.g. being overweight/obese, in part due to increased inflammation. So, I'm looking at this population to see if polyphenols (initially resveratrol) can reduce inflammation, change the microbiome and, in turn, influence our mental state."
Professor David Kennedy, project adviser:
"Our lab is world-leading* in human polyphenol trials and our ability now to include microbiome investigations, alongside physical, mood and cognition, is completely cutting edge."
*According to our publications entered into the 2014 REF
Drs John Lodge and Darren Smith provide expertise in the metabolomic and gene sequencing aspects of the polyphenol projects.