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background

The long-term health of vegetarians is not well understood. Previous studies have shown that vegetarians have a lower risk of ischaemic heart disease than non-vegetarians, but few data are available on other disorders such as stroke, specific types of cancer, bone fractures and diseases of the digestive tract. 

This epidemiological project will analyse data from EPIC-Oxford, a study of 65,500 people recruited in the United Kingdom between 1993 and 2000. The cohort comprises 34,000 meat eaters, 10,000 fish-eaters (eat fish but not meat), 19,000 vegetarians, and 2,500 vegans. 35% of participants gave a blood sample at recruitment, from which serum, plasma, red cells and white cells were isolated and stored. The majority of participants have completed follow-up questionnaires 5, 10 and 15 years after recruitment, and all have been followed through the National Health Service to obtain information on diagnoses of cancer, other serious diseases, and death. Prospectively collected data on medical and lifestyle factors such as smoking, body size and blood pressure will be used to statistically adjust for potential confounding. 

Previous research on this cohort has shown that, compared with meat-eaters, vegetarians have a lower intake of saturated fat, a higher intake of dietary fibre, are thinner, have lower blood cholesterol, and have a lower risk for ischaemic heart disease, some types of cancer, diverticular disease, cataracts and kidney stones. The aims of this project are to extend this research. The DPhil student will review the literature and the data available in EPIC-Oxford, then define a set of hypotheses and examine risk for disease in relation to vegetarian diets and other related dietary factors.

RESEARCH EXPERIENCE, RESEARCH METHODS AND TRAINING

The Cancer Epidemiology Unit has established some of the world’s largest prospective studies and international collaborations, and the main emphasis of research is on providing large-scale reliable evidence on the relationships of common exposures, such as diet and exogenous hormone use, with subsequent cancer risk. This project is broad in scope and will provide training in modern epidemiological and statistical techniques for assessing lifestyle, environmental and biochemical causes of common chronic diseases. The successful applicant will also receive training in conducting literature reviews and writing academic papers for peer-reviewed journals and will work closely with a strong interdisciplinary team of researchers with expertise in epidemiology, nutrition, statistics, clinical medicine, biochemistry and genetics.

PROSPECTIVE CANDIDATE

Interest in nutritional epidemiology, with relevant first degree and preferably further training and/or experience in nutritional epidemiology.

Supervisors