- Chair of Human Nutrition (Human Nutrition)
R2.19, Level 2
New Lister Building
10-16 Alexandra Parade
Mike Lean MA, MB, BChir, FRCP (Edinb), FRCPS (Glasgow) holds the chair of Human Nutrition, based at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where he is also a consultant physician with NHS responsibilities for an acute medical ward and emergency receiving duties. His primary training was in Medicine, completing a Cambridge MA degree in History and Philosophy of Science. Medical undergraduate training was at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, and postgraduate training mainly in Aberdeen and Cambridge. He received research training as an MRC Clinical Scientist for 4 years at the MRC and University of Cambridge Dunn Nutrition Laboratories, and on a Leverhume Scholarship to the University of Colorado in Denver Co, in 2003. He has held Visiting and Adjunct Professorships at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen and at the University of Otago, New Zealand (currently). He has been a non-executive director of the Health Education Board of Scotland for 8 years, and chaired the Food Standards Agency Advisory Committee on Research.
Professor Lean has published over 400 peer-reviewed papers. H-Index = 73 (51 since 2009). In 2014 he was one of only 19 Scottish researchers in the top 1% for international citations, on the Thonson-Reuters ‘Highly Cited’ Researcher listing. His research, and related PhD training programmes, encompass the wide range of molecular, clinical and public health aspects of Human Nutrition, a body of integrated sciences underpinning all biomedical and health research:
is what we are
and how we are
underpinning all biomedical and health research
Human Nutrition research always aims to inform, and change, practice and policy. It has impacts for ordinary people, and for commercial activities as well as health policies. It is funded from government agencies, Research Councils, charities and commercial companies, and is usually collaborative. The main major focuses are on obesity/diabetes/cardiovascular risk, and on certain micronutrients, such as iodine and plant-food products; particularly to establish metabolic pathways and functions of phenolics.
Current research activity includes: (1) Pre-clinical/Laboratory: studies to demonstrate the subtle long term effects of free-radicals on protein glycation and tissue damage, and the protective roles of dietary antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant-products in human diets. (2) Clinical: both pharmaceutical and dietary trials eg the Diabetes Remission Controlled Trial (DiRECT), the largest study ever funded by Diabetes UK, collaborating with Prof Roy Taylor, Newcastle. It builds on my role as founder of the UK Counterweight Programme, to develop and evaluate cost-effective weight management, for implementation in routine NHS primary care. (3) Public Health Nutrition: secondary analyses of large health survey databases, and development of innovative new health promotion interventions to prevent weight gain in young people, using calorie-labelling and on-line programmes to generate sustained behavioural changes.
Notable recent advances from my research have included:
- International adoption, by WHO, International Diabetes Federation and most national Diabetes and Heart Disease agencies world-wide, of the Waist Circumference cut-offs, which I originally developed as ‘Action-Levels’ for Health Promotion, and as diagnostic criteria for Metabolic Syndrome.
- Innovative analyses of large from Health Survey data-bases, demonstrating not only alarming increases in obesity, but new and worryingly rapid rises in waist circumferences, continuing into old age. These recent dramatic changes in human shapes with age indicate continuing increases in body fat but loss of muscle (sarcopenia), which predict major rises in diabetes, and physical frailty despite obesity. A new international collaborative project is under review.
- Development of new simple methods to estimate both body fat and whole-body muscle-mass, using measurements which can be made easily in clinical practice and in health surveys. These measurements will allow clinicians and future health survey analyses to distinguish between changes in body fat and muscle, which cannot be differentiated using BMI but which have very different health implications.
- In 2013, having demonstrated the nutritionally chaotic nature of supermarket ready-meals, we developed the world’s first fully nutritionally balanced ready-meal, exactly matching dietary guidelines, by adapting a traditional pizza recipe to contain 1/3 of the daily requirement of all essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals . This is now commercially available in a variety of outlets in several countries, as an example to the food industry of applied nutrition research, to achieve ‘Health by Stealth’, using a product which still looks and tastes exactly like a very nice pizza. www.eatbalanced.com.