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There is some evidence that body fat percentage for a given body-mass index (BMI) differs between Asian and European populations. These findings raise questions regarding universally applied BMI-based guidelines for obesity and have implications for patient education regarding individual risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic complications. This project will explore differences in adiposity, body fat distribution and health risks in European and Asian populations using the UK Biobank prospective cohort study. This study recruited 0.5M adults from the general population in the UK during 2008-2010, and included extensive data collection on lifestyle (e.g. smoking, physical activity) and physical measurements (e.g. blood pressure, BMI and grip strength). An imaging sub-study of 100,000 participants is on-going and includes dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry [DEXA] imaging scans to directly quantify body fat and its distribution. In addition, the supervisors collaborate with the Principal Investigator of a large prospective study of 0.5 million adults in south India and are discussing plans for an imaging sub-study with blood and full-body DEXA imaging in 2019. The specific DPhil project will be subject to further discussion and personal interest, but may include: using imaging data to examine adiposity and body fat distribution in both studies; analyses of the relation between these measures and commonly-used adiposity measures (such as BMI); and prospective analyses of the relation between adiposity, body fat distribution and risk of chronic diseases in the two cohorts.


The student will work within a multi-disciplinary team and will gain research experience in literature review, planning and conducting a research study, epidemiological and statistical methodology, programming and data analysis. Regular research meetings and workshops will be held which the candidate will be expected to attend and to present research findings.


The project will provide a range of training opportunities in statistical analysis and interpretation and statistical programming. By the end of the DPhil, it is expected that you will be competent to plan, undertake and interpret statistical analysis of large-scale epidemiological data, and to report your findings. The project will be based in CTSU, Nuffield Department of Population Health, which has excellent facilities and a world-class community of statistical and clinical scientists. 


Candidates should have a strong background in a mathematical or biomedical discipline and postgraduate training in epidemiology, statistics or public health (or be willing to do the MSc in Global Health Science and Epidemiology at Oxford in preparation for such a project). The project will involve large-scale data and statistical analyses. Candidates should therefore have an interest and aptitude in extending these skills as well as a strong interest in non-communicable disease epidemiology.