Professor Elina Hypponen - Group leader
Dr Ang Zhou - research associate
Dr Vimaleswaran Karani S (University Reading)
Alana Cavadino (UCL)
Jane Maddock (PhD student, UCL)
The Nutritional and Genetic Epidemiology group is based at the South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), North Terrace, Adelaide, Australia.
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Diet and nutrition have a key influence on our health. We also know, that nutrition and other influences from our lifestyles or environment, affect health and disease risk in concert with our individual genetic make-up. Due to recent advances in gene discovery, it is now possible to examine the joint effects of genes and environment. Importantly, this will help to establish how by making changes where we can (e.g. diet, lifestyle), we can ameliorate adverse influences caused by susceptibility genes which we cannot alter.
The Nutritional and Genetic Epidemiology Group (NGEG) utilises tools from observational and genetic epidemiology to investigate the role of nutrition in public health. NGEG investigates gene-environment interactions, and uses genetic markers in causal modelling. Work under the theme includes projects examining intergenerational and genetic influences on growth and disease risk, as well as short and long term health effects of vitamin D, coffee consumption, obesity and other lifestyle factors. Much of the work is done using large scale population data collections, in part in the context of large scale international collaborations.
The group is led by Professor Elina Hyppönen, Director for the Centre for Population Health Research. NGEG is based at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).
While randomised clinical trials are the gold standard for testing causal effects, they are not always feasible or ethical to conduct and can be very expensive. An alternative approach used by the NGEG is “Mendelian Randomisation” (MR), where genetic markers are used as proxy indicators for lifestyle (or other) exposures. MR can provide evidence about causal effects by avoiding reverse causality and by reducing the unexplained confounding – both common concerns with traditional observational studies.
Combined with methods of observational nutritional epidemiology, research by NGEG utilises genetic factors
Professor Hyppönen conducts research on how genes and environment work in concert to affect our health and disease risk, working with various large cohort studies and international collaborations. Her areas of expertise range from life-course and intergenerational epidemiology to medical statistics, genetic association studies and public health nutrition. She has a strong ethos for training and mentoring the next generation of professionals and leaders in epidemiology. Opportunities within NGEG include various types of multidisciplinary projects, commonly providing opportunities to collaborate with leading investigators around the world.