Alex Johnstone (Lead Educator)

Alex Johnstone (Lead Educator)

I lead a Research Team as a Nutrition Scientist based at the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen. I am interested in appetite across the life course. I am also a UK Registered Nutritionist.

Location Aberdeen, Scotland


  • Hello Barbara, great to see you join again ! Alex

  • It is really nice to read your posts, and look forward to joining in your discussion.

  • Really great words - cant wait to see the wordle you create !

  • Hope you enjoy it Rachel, Alex

  • It is great to see so many people interested in this topic - I am looking forward to read your comments. Alex

  • Hello Learners, I can see some discussion around the use of products in this video. Just to flag that these are used here to give learners a visual experience/cue and our content is not around product placement. We are keen to share the science with you, not to endorse specific products as adverts or commercials. It is great to read that most of you found the...

  • Hello Richard and Theroigne - I think you will enjoy this You Tube recording from The Royal Institution. Obesity researcher Giles Yeo shows why calories are not created equal, based on his book, "Why Calories Don't Count":
    This explains a lot about biological variation and the food environment contribution to...

  • Lots of great discussion on this point !

  • Sorry Richard, the date was a typo- you are getting the full service ! hope you enjoy the course, alex

  • Hello Kristina, we cover the topic of food addiction in a couple of weeks.

  • Lots of interesting discussion here !

  • Hello, Welcome to the course, look forward to read your discussion. Alex

  • Sorry it was late notice John- thanks for joining !

  • Lots of really great discussion on this topic !

  • Ive not watched this TV programme, i need to !

  • @EmmaAllsop I also agree that the packaging of produce is important for sustainability.

  • Since i wrote and filmed this section the EAT-Lancet report has been published and has received much attention as a blueprint for feeding 10 billion people by 2050 whilst retaining planetary health.

    The authors considered climate change, land system change, freshwater use, nitrogen cycling, phosphorus cycling and biodiversity loss as key international...

  • WOW, lots of great discussion !

  • @RameshaKhanthere is a short test at the end of week 4, and you can pay Future Learn to upgrade to obtain a certificate of achievement

  • What do you think now Caroline, have you completed this week ?

  • It looks great, thanks for your contribution !

  • You are correct Abigail, but this video was filmed before the change of term. This is a useful link to the difference between the two:
    Thanks for your discussion !

  • Lots of discussion about sugar being addictive ! Do you still think that after watching the video ? These are useful articles on the topic:
    Thanks for your posts - enjoying reading them !

  • Hello Christine, i am also interested in the food-gut-brain axis. Unfortunately, not covered in this course, but something i would like to cover in the future !

  • We will focus on comments and questions in week 1 this week (week of 4th May) and then week 2 next week, starting on Monday 11th May, thanks !

  • Can I help with anything Tiphaine ?

    The glycaemic index (GI) is an arbitrary number that tells us whether a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose levels quickly, moderately or slowly. This is most often uses to help manage diabetes. Different carbohydrates are digested and absorbed at different rates, and GI is a ranking of how quickly each...

  • I do agree with you Kate, obesity is not simplistic at all. There are many reasons why people gain weight and that is why one diet does not fit all people as a solution.

  • This was one of my favourite videos to film !

  • Wow, lots of great comments already - looking forward to read your posts over the next four weeks.

  • Alex Johnstone (Lead Educator) replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    Julian Mercer suggests that food addiction does not exist. This might be a useful short article :

  • This is an interesting open access article on sugar and addiction :

  • @NiccolaO'Loughlin this is an interesting article that discusses this - there is no concrete evidence that links sugar with an addiction/withdrawal system in humans currently :

  • That is a good question @rohanwanduragala - caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that has the ability to enhance concentration, increase metabolism, and boost mood. We often drink this in coffee, tea, energy drinks to give us a 'boost' or improve alertness. In most cases, drinking caffeinated beverages is a relatively safe, non-harmful habit;...

  • Lots of interesting points, sorry we didn't cover them all for you @AnnGrant - obesity is strongly linked to many diseases, being thin is also linked to different diseases. this might be a useful link from the WHO :

  • @BarbaraK-S thanks for your useful sharing links !

  • Hello @ZoniaYaqoobVirk we don't cover nutrition to treat diseases as this generally requires medical input at an individual level, please speak to a qualified clinician.

  • @UmairZiad I think you need to do the final assessment for a certificate of achievement ?

  • This course is encouraging evidence based opinion. I can see a lot of the learners have supported this ethos and this in turns strengthens the learning experience.

  • @CorinneHG I will try to get another course ready ! thanks for the positive comments.

  • I agree @kathymeiklejohn - lots of supportive discussion amongst learners !

  • Wow - lots of great comments ! Trying to read as many as I can !

  • Yes, the links are checked before every run - apologies if one was missed !

  • @annchapman Table salt and most sea salts all contain about 40 percent sodium by weight - but it does depend on the specific brand of bread.

  • @MarkWells in the UK a lot of the bread producers have slowly been decreasing the salt content - you need to check the labels for salt or sodium content (if it is shown)

  • @RachelAmes I agree that there is a lot of interest in this topic !

  • @SueChapman Food rationing during the second world war was based on nutrition requirements and it did improve nutrition compared to that experienced in the Great Depression period. It is interesting that Lord Boyd Orr who was the Rowett Director helped establish the link between poverty and food, and therefore based the rationing system on needs.

  • Interesting point - Hello @GlynisKossew, in my experience many people at high risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes do not watch what they eat, even when they know they are at risk. I think the future of preventative health management is to highlight genetic tendencies and how to manage them. This is the future of personalised nutrition - we are nowhere near...

  • @GlynisKossew Hello Glynis, its a good question - there is a lot of work on mindful eating - I've copied a link for you in case you are interested in reading more :

  • @JulieC I agree Julie - food is more than calories !

  • thanks @PavlaBorg - the blue zones research is really interesting in what promotes lifelong health ! for those interested this is the link:

  • @RonAtkinson There has been lots of great discussion from this video form people with people with a good dietary habits and not so good. Its great to see how people can share their thoughts to encourage others.

  • @AniaZmilowska I dont know this one - will check it out thanks !

  • I agree Edith that lifestyle medicine for good health is really interesting - you might be interested in the blue zones research. Ive copied a link below:

  • - Mood and Food might be a good topic for a new course @HazelPratt !

  • This is an interesting point @MartinH, I think that the role of diet on the gut and brain is very interesting - a good topic for a new course ! I do research on diet and dementia symptoms.

  • @RachelAmes Hello Rachel, sorry you were not able to keep a food diary, it is not critical to do this task for the course - its all optional !

  • It looks great - thanks for your input ! Energy is clearly the most common word related to health and wellbeing.

  • It is interesting that John Boyd Orr (who was the Rowett director at the time of the second world war in the UK) assisted with the food rationing scheme. Nutrition is a relatively new science and he identified the link between poverty, ill health and food. Thus, he based food rations on requirements. This is a interesting...

  • @PeterBetts My view of the Atkins diet is that it is a very low-carbohydrate diet; it is one approach for weight loss, to limit calorie intake.
    Ive not seen any data about the use of salt for appetite control - i would be interested in your evidence for this approach ? thanks, Alex

  • Hello Peter, This section is about influence of dietary protein on appetite during weight loss - when you are in energy deficit (lower calorie intake), eating more protein is one dietary strategy to contribute to feeling less hungry.
    Also, there is no evidence that protein 'will destroy your kidneys' if you have no pre-existing kidney disease.
    I hope this...

  • I am looking forward to see this too !

  • Breakfast is thought to be beneficial for cognitive and academic performance in school children. However, breakfast is the most frequently skipped meal, especially among adolescents. This paper also highlights imitations of the existing research. These include a lack of research on adolescents, few naturalistic breakfast manipulations or testing environments,...

  • Hi Alan, can you get access to scientific papers ?
    If not, this is a link to a free download too.

    You asked about the evidence, hope this is of interest to you -there is increased risks of obesity and negative health implications have been associated with breakfast skipping and late night feeding...

  • Lots of great discussion on being 'flexitarian' - this term was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014, flexitarian is a portmanteau of “flexible” and “vegetarian,” referring to an individual who follows a primarily but not strictly vegetarian diet, occasionally eating meat or fish, allowing flexibility to choose when to eat meat or not; for example,...

  • Hello Peter, this section is not telling people what to look like; it discusses how to assess adiposity. Alex

  • Hello Peter, I've read a lot of positive comments from the learners on the course so far, so i fully expect it to be positive and evidence-based discussion. No name-calling allowed on here ! Did you do a measurement on yourself ? Alex

  • These are a couple of links that might be of interest that discuss the future of the food system that might be of interest :
    -UN Panel on Climate Change:
    -Planetary Health Diet:

  • @SarahAuzina High-protein diets are not suitable for everyone, in particular those with existing kidney disease - i discuss this here:
    Proc Nutr Soc. 2012 May;71(2):339-49. doi: 10.1017/S0029665112000122. Epub 2012 Mar 8.
    Safety and efficacy of high-protein diets for weight loss.

  • @IanCampbell Ive not seen or heard this programme/study Ian - my understanding is that resting metabolic rate in humans is measurable and predictable relative to body size and tissue composition

  • All weight loss diets aim to restrict calories relative to requirements to achieve weight loss - and they only work if you can stick to them !

  • I think that is a great idea for a new course Karen - something on food-gut-brain axis !

  • thanks for sharing Sue

  • High-protein diets are not suitable for everyone, which i discuss here:
    Proc Nutr Soc. 2012 May;71(2):339-49. doi: 10.1017/S0029665112000122. Epub 2012 Mar 8.
    Safety and efficacy of high-protein diets for weight loss.

  • High-protein diets are not suitable for everyone, but one of the aim of a weight loss diet would be to improve health, which i discuss here :
    Proc Nutr Soc. 2012 May;71(2):339-49. doi: 10.1017/S0029665112000122. Epub 2012 Mar 8.
    Safety and efficacy of high-protein diets for weight loss.

  • I will share your comments with colleagues - thank you Nneka !

  • hello Joyce - sorry we didn't cover this topic; i agree that the food-gut-brain axis is a fascinating area and i would love to run a new course on this !

  • @KatherineLayton Did you do the test on stage 4.15 - my understanding is that this task will generate the certificate ?

  • @JohnSmith The brain prefers glucose but can use ketone bodies in the absence of carbohydrate or glycogen (ketogenic diet, mobilisation of fat).

  • A couple of learners have shared more recent links to the recent EAT Lancet Commission report on planetary health diet referred to in the BBC news link above.

    Some others :
    - UN Panel on Climate Change:
    - Planetary Health Diet:...

  • @SandraF thanks - noted !

  • Thanks Sue !

  • Yes, i did say cows produce methane - and this is a concern since it is one of the greenhouse gasses linked to global warming. Cows, goats, sheep and several other animals belong to a class of animals called ruminants. Ruminants have four stomachs and digest their food in their stomachs instead of in their intestines, as humans do. Ruminants eat food,...

  • This is great - thanks for your input - i have shared it on twitter on #FLNutrition ! It is interesting that the largest (most cited) word is HAPPY.

  • Dear learners- Some of you have been discussing the role of artificial sweeteners, their pros/cons and have raise disuse about their safety data. For those who wish to know more about artificial sweeteners you can perhaps have a look at the following scientific reviews and the very detailed 2013 WHO report: The safety and regulatory process for low calorie...

  • You can download the World Obesity Organisation statement why they believe obesity to be a disease:
    Download our Obesity is a disease statement:

  • There are arguments for and agains obesity as a disease in this article; feel free to share other links ?

  • The NHS guidance covers moderate activity and strength exercise and flexibility in their advice for adults age 19 - 64:
    Ive copied some of the text and we cover this in more detail in week 4:

    To stay healthy, adults aged 19 to 64 should try to be active daily and should do:

    at least 150 minutes of moderate...

  • Did you contribute to the discussion on 'obesity as a disease' ? There are some interesting points to consider there.

  • Not sure how juice/smoothies purify us - we have a liver to do that !

  • I agree that being overweight is not about eating processed junk food - there are many factors why we consume more calories than we need...our modern diet is only one factor !

  • Hello Carolyn, we cover sodium intake in more detail in week 3 - hope you enjoy it !

  • I like the idea of a 'health age" Angelo !

  • Great to see so much activity in the course already - thanks for your input !

  • Its great to have you join in Shelley !

  • I also think her presentation is very interesting, thanks for your comment.

  • There has been a lot of discussion this week about diet this week in the UK press about meat intake if you are interested this is the link:

  • Great to see so many great discussion comments already !