Nutritional Physiology Research Centre

Nutritional Physiology Research Centre (NPRC)

The Nutritional Physiology Research Centre investigates the benefits of diet and exercise for cardio-metabolic health, cognitive performance and physical function in populations ranging from children to elite athletes and patients with chronic disease.

The Nutritional Physiology Research Centre is a leader in human diet and lifestyle research, as evidenced by the Australian Federal Government's ERA evaluation of the research performance of Australian Universities in 2012. The Centre contributed substantially to the University of South Australia being ranked as performing above world standard in Nutrition and Dietetics research and Human Movement and Sports Science research.

The Nutritional Physiology Research Centre conducts clinical trials in accordance with ICH-GCP guidelines, ensuring strict compliance with requirements of regulatory authorities for the quality of evidence to support health claims or registration of nutraceuticals.

The Nutritional Physiology Research Centre  merged with the Exercise, Health and Human Performance Group (EHHP) and the Health and Use of Time Research Group (HUT) in September 2014 to form the Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity (ARENA).

The Nutritional Physiology Research Centre is very grateful to people who have made donations to support their work. If you are interested in making a donation please download and complete a donation form.

Volunteers needed for Diabetes and Weight Loss Trial

Obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment and dementia impacting on an individual’s wellbeing and ability to self-manage their disease. 

We are currently looking for volunteers to join our 6 month weight loss trial comparing a higher-protein lower-carbohydrate (~30%P, 35% CHO) diet and a higher-carbohydrate lower-protein (~20%P: 52%CHO) diet together with regular moderately intense exercise.  The primary outcome is HbA1c (measure of blood glucose control) with secondary outcomes of weight, blood pressure, % body fat, lipids, food cravings, cognition and wellbeing.  

To be eligible volunteers must be: diagnosed with T2DM, aged between 18 and 65 years, overweight and a non-smoker.   

They will have fortnightly visits with a Dietitian and health assessments at the start of the trial and again at 3 months and 6 months.

Some study foods will be provided and all volunteers will receive an honorarium.

If you would like more information please review the attached brochure, telephone 8302 2809 or email  

Research capabilities
Annual Food Industry Forum for Nutrition Research


Professor Jonathan (Jon) Buckley PhD - Director
Dr Alison Coates PhD - Deputy Director
Peter Howe PhD - Research Professor
Associate Professor Marie Williams (Physiotherapy)
Dr Janet Bryan (Nutritional Psychology)
Dr Barbara Parker (Nursing and Midwifery)
Dr Kade Davison - Lecturer Human Movement

Research fellows

Dr Karen Murphy (Senior NHMRC Industry Fellow)
Dr Talitha Best (Adjunct Research Fellow)
Dr Rebecca Thomson (Exercise Science)
Dr Alison Hill (Cardiometabolic Health)
Dr Narelle Berry (Adjunct Research Fellow)

Medical support and associates

Associate Professor Garry Scroop (Medical)
Dr Simon Spedding (Medical)
Dr Grant Brinkworth (CSIRO Human Nutrition)
Dr Kelton Tremellen (Reproductive Medicine)
Dr Karma Pearce (Food Science)
Dr Margarita Tsiros (Associate Member)

PhD students

Georgina Crichton
Michael Dale
Jayne Barbour
Ashley Fulton
Rebekah Das
Clint Bellenger
Joel Fuller
Nerylee Watson
Courtney Davis
Alissa Knight
Millie Watson

Honours students

Shaoxin Cai
Daniella Dougherty
Mercedes Mifsud
Kendall Morrison
Josh Rosenthal
Michelle Samaras



The Nutritional Physiology Research Centre has extensive domestic and international networks of collaborators and engages in multi-centre and multi-national nutrition and exercise research programs. 

The Nutritional Physiology Research Centre also collaborates with:

It has active research partnerships with the food industry supported by Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grants and consultancies, as well as research programs supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), National Heart Foundation and Diabetes Australia.

The Nutritional Physiology Research Centre acknowledges the support of the following organisations:

In addition to its competitive grant achievements, the Centre has an outstanding track record of engagement with industry through collaborative research projects, CRC programs and its Annual Food Industry Forum for Nutrition Research.





Research programs

  • Evaluation of cardiometabolic, cognitive and mood effects of bioactive nutrients and functional foods
  • Optimising diet and exercise to improve health
  • Improving performance and recovery in athletes
  • Maintenance of physical and cognitive functions in older adults with and without chronic disease
  • Reducing the impact of obesity in children
  • Effects of sleep on appetite and metabolism
  • Enrichment of foods with bioactive nutrients
  • Satiety and appetite regulation
  • Health in rural communities
  • Nutrition and exercise strategies to promote rehabilitation from injury
  • Nutrition and exercise strategies to promote reproductive health

Current projects

Impact of pulse-enriched foods on cognitive function and cardiometabolic health in obese adults

Dr Alison Hill
Prof Jon Buckley
Dr Alison Coates
Prof Peter Howe
Dr Janet Bryan
In collaboration with investigators from the University of Manitoba, Canada

Consuming pulses and legumes has been shown to improve risk factors for cardiovascular disease and blood vessel function. The populations of Australia and Canada are ageing and becoming increasingly obese, both of which contribute to cognitive decline (i.e. impaired ability to process information in the brain).

To date, most studies of the benefits of consuming pulses and legumes for blood vessel health have focussed on peripheral blood vessels and have ignored potential effects on blood vessels in the brain. Improving the functioning of blood vessels in the brain might improve cognitive function. The aim of the study is to determine whether increasing the consumption of pulse-enriched foods can improve cardiometabolic health, including the functioning of blood vessels in the brain in older, overweight/obese adults, and to ascertain whether any improvements in brain blood vessel function result in improvements in cognitive performance.

Tracking changes in exercise performance resulting from improvements in fitness or changes in fatigue state in competitive cyclists

Dr Rebecca Thomson
Prof Jon Buckley
Prof Peter Howe
Mr Clint Bellenger

Prolonged intense exercise training is necessary to promote improvements in performance in athletes, but results in fatigue. If athletes are given adequate time to recover between workouts then they adapt to heavy training loads with improvements in performance. If however, they don’t have adequate recovery performance will be impaired and if training is continued without adequate recovery over an extended period of time this can lead to the development of overtraining syndrome which can impact adversely on performance for months. At present there is no accepted method for determining how an athlete is responding to an increased training load, and whether sufficient recovery is being achieved.

We are aiming to determine if changes in the heart rate response to exercise can provide information on how an athlete is adapting to a change in training load in order to identify parameters that might be used to identify when training loads can be increased or when more recovery may be required.

Health benefits of Peanuts; Do peanuts Improve Blood Vessel Function and Cognitive Performance?

Prof Peter Howe
Prof Jon Buckley
Dr Janet Bryan                                                
Dr Alison Coates
Ms Jayne Barbour (PhD candidate)                


Nuts have been shown to be beneficial for cholesterol lowering and reduction of the risk of cardiovascular disease. Nuts may also improve the health of the blood vessels, and thereby potentially improve heart and brain health. The aim of this project is to investigate the effect of peanuts on blood vessel function in the brain see if the regular consumption of peanuts leads to improvements in blood vessel function and cognitive performance.

Participants are 50-79 years of age, overweight (BMI >25 kg/m2) and do not regularly consume peanuts and consume a nut free diet for 12 weeks and consume peanuts for 12 weeks. Assessments of cardiovascular and cognitive function are performed every 6 weeks.

Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation as an adjunct therapy for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Dr Alison Hill
Dr Alison Coates
A/Prof Marie Williams
Prof Peter Howe
Prof Jon Buckley
Ashley Fulton
Dr. Lisa Wood and Professor Manohar Garg, (University of Newcastle)
Professor Peter Frith (Repatriation General Hospital)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease characterised by irreversible airway obstruction and systemic inflammation affecting approximately 2.1 million Australians. Supplementing the diet with fish oil has been beneficial for the treatment of other inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Supplementation may improve efficacy of current treatments for COPD by reducing inflammation. The aim of this research is to investigate whether regular dietary supplementation with fish oil, can reduce systemic inflammation and thereby improve functional exercise capacity.

Management of breathlessness. Cognitive behavioural therapy for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (BREVE RCT) NHMRC Project Grant 1010309

A/Prof Marie Williams
Prof Peter Frith (Flinders University/ Repatriation General Hospital)
Mr John Petkov
Mr Paul Cafarella (Repatriation General Hospital)

For people with chronic lung disease, breathlessness is common, distressing and difficult to relieve. In 2008, an estimated 1 in 5 Australians aged over 40 had some form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) resulting in direct and indirect costs of $8.8 billion. Cochrane reviews support the benefits of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for changing the way people perceive and respond to adverse sensations. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs have been demonstrated to improve exercise capacity and quality of life. This study will determine whether changing the way people think about the sensation of breathlessness while completing pulmonary rehabilitation, further reduces distress/anxiety and health service use and improve exercise capacity, disability related to breathlessness and quality of life.

Fish Oil as Adjunct therapy for periodontitis

Dr Alison Coates (UniSA)
Prof Peter Howe (UniSA)
Prof Mark Bartold (University of Adelaide) 
Dr Toby Hughes (University of Adelaide)
Prof Saso Ivanovski (Griffith University)


The Universities of South Australia, Adelaide, and Griffith University are jointly conducting research on the benefits of fish oil therapy for periodontitis. Recent evidence suggests that long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3) from fish oil can help reduce inflammation in several chronic diseases.

We are interested in whether regular dietary supplementation with fish oil compared with vegetable oil can improve the outcome when combined with standard periodontal treatment. We are conducting a 13 month randomised, placebo controlled multi-site intervention and plan to recruit participants throughout 2012 and 2013. To be eligible for the study participants will need to have newly diagnosed chronic periodontitis and not already be undergoing treatment.




Research capabilities

The Nutritional Physiology Research Centre has world class research facilities and experience in assessing:

  • Cardiovascular health
  • Metabolism and body composition
  • Cognitive function and mood
  • Muscle strength and physical function
  • Biological assays/techniques

Clinical research

The NPRC is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for assessing anthropometry (3-dimensional body scanning), body composition (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry), physical activity (accelerometry), physical fitness (treadmill and cycle ergometry), muscle strength (isokinetic dynamometry) and metabolism (metabolic rate by indirect calorimetry) and biomarkers in blood.

The NPRC has established a suite of non-invasive techniques to assess cardiovascular function, including endothelial dilatation in both systemic and cerebral circulations (brachial artery and transcranial doppler ultrasound), arterial compliance (cardiovascular profiler) and heart rate variability. Blood pressure is recorded at rest (automated oscillometry, by 24hr ambulatory monitoring and by continuous Finapres monitoring, e.g. to assess pressor responsiveness to stress.

Additionally, a wide variety of validated questionnaires are used to evaluate physical activity, diet composition and energy balance, together with batteries of mood and cognitive function tests to assess mental health status.

Diagnostic Laboratory

The Kathleen Bodnar Laboratory was established using a bequest from the late Kathleen Bodnar, and complements the Centre's metabolic, cardiovascular and exercise testing facilities, providing the University with a fully integrated research unit in a field of complementary medicine.



Below is a list of selected research publications involving members of the Nutritional Physiology Research Centre:

NPRC Publications (PDF 263KB)


Nutritional Physiology Research Centre
University of South Australia
Bonython Jubilee Building,
City East Campus, Frome Road
Adelaide SA 5000

GPO Box 2471
South Australia 5001

Telephone: (+61) (08) 8302 2097
Facsimile: (+61) (08) 8302 2178



Areas of study and research

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