Support of Nutritional Physiology - RAH Research Fund
News 20 August 2015

Support of Nutritional Physiology

Established in 2007, the Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) in Translating Nutritional Science to Good Health seeks to encourage and promote clinical research in the area of nutritional physiology.

A number of projects at the Centre are supported by the RAH Research Fund and Project Manager, Dr Tim Murphy says this support is critical to the success of the Centre’s research and also provides a number of researchers with jobs.

“We’ve been recipients of RAH Research Fund grants for a number of years now, which has been incredibly valuable to us,” Dr Murphy said.

The Centre itself is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) until 2017 and Dr Murphy says there is about 70 people involved, falling under the Discipline of Medicine at the University of Adelaide, based at the Royal Adelaide Hospital campus.

According to Dr Murphy, there is a large amount of exciting projects occurring at the Centre in an area that’s in dire need of continuous research to help build a healthier community.

“An example of some of our work is looking at protein as a dietary intervention strategy for people with Type 2 Diabetes. We’ve found that giving 25 grams of protein, 30 minutes before a meal induces a number of responses including the release of insulin, glucagon and gut peptides, while slowing gastric emptying, leading to improved glycaemic control. This is very beneficial to people with Type 2 Diabetes”

“One of our researchers, Dr Stijn Soenen from The Netherlands is supported directly by a RAH Research Fund Grant and he is examining protein in the elderly, which is a really interesting area.”

“Many studies have looked at the benefits of using protein for glycaemic control and weight loss in younger people, but there are very few studies looking at protein in the elderly.  As we get older, we can lose a lot of muscle mass, a condition known as Sarcopenia, which leads to frailty.  Stijn and his team are looking at developing the most effective form of protein supplement for older people, which combines the greatest anabolic effect on muscle with the least suppression of appetite and energy intake.  These results are being translated to Aged-care facilities and programmes such as Meals-on-Wheels.”

“Another translational research study in the Royal Adelaide Hospital is a project called PROWL – the Prevention and Reduction and Weight Loss in acute care patients.  Part of this study is introducing a ‘Red Tray’ which alerts nursing staff to patients who are at risk of malnutrition, or who may have difficulty eating.  Dr Murphy says “the idea is nurses can see which patients are at risk, and offer assistance to finish their meal, or find out the reasons why they can’t finish the meal.”

Coming from an interesting background in agricultural science, Dr Murphy joined the Centre in 2007 and loves working with an area that involves the general public.

“It’s amazing how many people are willing to take part in clinical trials, but we could always do with a lot more!”

“Once we get people involved, we find they enjoy coming back for other studies – we have a great team of Research Officers and Nurses.  It is a rewarding experience when you see people coming in for a weight loss study, and finding out they have kept the weight off and their lives have changed for the better – that is really great.”

Dr Murphy also believes the support of the community, through bodies such as the RAH Research Fund, is crucial.

“The area of nutrition is crucial and people have to realise that if they become obese, then the likelihood of their children being obese is high, as research is finding the next generation is also effected,” he said.