- Lecturer in Nutrition (Human Nutrition)
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My research is multi-disciplinary and focuses on how food (including whole foods, specific nutrients, and the way we eat) impacts on health throughout life, from the time peri-conception to old age. I have a particular interest on the “farm to fork to society” nexus, and its implications for all stakeholders, from a community, industry and clinical settings. It is a fascinating topic, since its implications are at the heart of the challenges faced by today’s modern society: ageing and chronic diseases.
Human nutrition is a body of integrated science, underpinning much of biomedical and health research, with broad implications for public health and related policies and commercial activities. Our research in Human Nutrition at Glasgow always aims to inform, and change, practice and policy. Impactful research is at the core of our activity.
Some projects are industry-led, others funded by charities and governmental bodies. Most are applied, with wide public health implications.
Current activities / research themes
- Iodine and thyroid health – Iodine is key for infant brain development during pregnancy and the neonatal period. In the UK, there is no prophylaxis at the moment. Our projects investigate levels of iodine intake in the female population, in babies, to understand barriers, long-term implication of exposure to insufficient iodine, as well as possible solutions to this public health issue. We have developed and validated a short food frequency questionnaire for iodine. It is available here and validated there .
- Polyphenol intake and metabolism (inflammation, ageing, immune senescence) – Polyphenols are bioactive present in all plant foods. While their bioavailability is low, there is increasing evidence that their metabolism in the colon is implicated in their bioactivity. Polyphenol metabolites are likely to impact on the gut microbiota, and to impact the antigenic load of an individual. We study polyphenol metabolism, and its impact on lifelong health via the measurement of key biomarkers (including phenolic acids) in plasma and urine. Studies involve healthy volunteers, frail / healthy older adults, individuals at risk of colorectal cancer and colorectal cancer patients.
- Oxidative/nitrosative stress, nutrition, glycation and ageing – Dietary compounds with antioxidant activity have been studied in the context of the free radical theory of ageing. Dietary bioactives, including polyphenol and their metabolites impact on oxidative/nitrosative stress as well as glycation. However, their mode of action is complex and involves more than free radical scavenging. We are using physiologically –relevant benchtop models to model these reactions. Focussing on dietary assessment and measurement of biomarkers in cohort studies, we study the contribution of glycated molecules, ROS/RNS to inflammation, pathogenesis in the context of obesity and the ageing process.
- Food nutritional quality, reformulation – Several projects focus on food quality, from specific nutrients, bioactives (using our analytical platform) to food reformulation (and its potential / implications), improving the nutritional balance of food products. Previous and current projects have focused on coffee, seaweed, honey bee products, olive oil, fruit juices, and the nutritionally balanced pizza.
- Analytical biochemistry (state-of-the-art liquid / gas chromotography and mass spectrometry) with emphasis on bioactive profiling in foods (polyphenolics), biomarkers of colonic metabolism (phenolic acids) and oxidation/glycation/inflammation (Advanced Glycation End-products)
- Intervention studies, including short-term acute feeding studies to study bioavailability and medium term feeding studies
- Cross-sectional surveys in the clinic and community, focussing on exposure to key dietary compounds (polyphenolics, iodine) in relation to metabolic health or awareness, knowledge and practice related to nutrition.
I am a Scottish Crucible alumnus (2011) and have active collaborations with colleagues in Europe and beyond, on the following key themes “Healthy Mothers Matters –nutrition, maternal & infant health” and “Nutrition, inflammation and ageing”.
I am a member of the Glasgow Ageing Research Network (GARNeR), and the UK Iodine Group.
Public engagement and social media
I am a STEM ambassador, and have also contributed to the “I’m a scientist, get me out of here” initiative, in the Hungry Zone.
My tweeter account is @emiliecombet
Grants and Awards listed are those received whilst working with the University of Glasgow.
- Manipulating the activity of the gut microbiota with fermentable carbohydrates to maximise the bioavailability of bioactive phenolic acids for health
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
2015 - 2018
- Support for MABY Study
NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde
2015 - 2016
- Iodine status and thyroid function in Scottish neonates; relationship with maternal iodine intake.
Yorkhill Children's Foundation
2014 - 2016
- Iodine fortification of Potatoes using seaweed feasibility and impact on human health (SFC15)
Scottish Funding Council
2014 - 2014
- Bioavailability of Olive Oil phenolics and impact of high olive oil consumption on proteomic markers
University of Lisbon
2012 - 2014
- Seaweed as a dietary supplement to address iodine deficiency in UK females: a feasibility study
Technology Strategy Board (TSB)
2012 - 2012
- 'Nutritional Care of People Affected by Cancer' Education Programme Evaluation
MacMillan Cancer Support
2010 - 2011
- A novel benchtop model to simultaneously study the impact of dietary polyphenols on colonic microbiota and enterocytes
2010 - 2011
- Inter-individual variations in the colonic metabolism of flavonols
2010 - 2012
- Prevalence of low and marginal iodine status in women of child-bearing age and influence of goitrogen-rich food intake
Yorkhill Children's Foundation
2010 - 2011
My research informs my teaching, on the MSc in Human Nutrition, mainly on the “Food and Nutrition through the lifecycle” and “Digestion, absorption and metabolism” courses.
I am specialisation leader for a Research Methodology course on the MSc Translational Medical Sciences, focussing on biochemical and metabolic research.