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Research & career focus: Professor Anne-Marie Minihane – Biochemistry and diet

Prof Anne-Marie Minihane from the Norwich Medical School, UEA describes why there is a close link between biochemistry and nutrition.
I’m Anne-Marie Minehane and I’m Professor of Nutrigenetics and Director of Innovation for Norwich Medical School. Sure, it’s investigating a number of dietary components, particularly omega-3 fatty acids from marine sources and also a group of plant bioactives called flavonoids and their benefits with respect to cardiovascular health and also their effect on cognition and dementia risk. Yeah, I mean biochemistry is the core to nutrition really, so my degree was a combined degree - joint honours in Nutritional Biochemistry, and then I went on to do my PhD in Nutrition So when you think about really, and from food choice to satiety and appetite regulation then once you consume food, how you digest and absorb the thousands of dietary components you eat.
And then once they’re - once they’re absorbed, how they’re partitioned between different tissues; how they are taken up into cells and the impact they have on cell and physiological function. All of those things are controlled by thousands of biochemical reactions. So it’s core to nutrition. So at one point nutrition was a discipline of adequacy really, so how much of a particular dietary components you needed to prevent disease. Now we know it’s far more advanced than that. We’re thinking not just along the lines of prevention of disease but maximisation of health, both psychological well-being and also physical well-being. So, what’s that the best diet to promote physical and mental well-being.

Prof Anne-Marie Minihane from the Norwich Medical School, UEA describes why there is a close link between biochemistry and nutrition.

Further details about the current research focus of Prof Minihane and her colleagues can be found on UEA’s web site.

Technical terms in simplified form


Flavonoids are a class of plant and fungus secondary metabolites. Their general chemical structure includes a 15-carbon skeleton, which are formed into different rings. Flavonoids are widely distributed, fulfilling many functions, such as flower colouration, nitrogen fixation and floral pigmentation. They may also act as chemical messengers, physiological regulators, and cell cycle inhibitors.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids with a double bond at the third carbon atom from the end of the carbon chain, they are important for normal metabolism. Mammals are unable to synthesize them, but can obtain the shorter-chain omega-3 fatty acids through diet and use it to form the more important long-chain versions. Primary sources of omega-3 fatty acids are marine algae and phytoplankton, walnut, edible seeds and various oils from plants and fish.

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Biochemistry: the Molecules of Life

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