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Plant-based diets (containing few or no animal foods) have been proposed to have benefits for obesity-related ill health, including lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. These conditions pose a substantial burden on the health system. The National Health Service is already spending £6 billion each year treating obesity-related ill health; this figure is expected to rise to £10 billion by 2050. Therefore, adopting plant-based diets may be expected to lower healthcare costs associated with these conditions. However, vegetarians and vegans may also have higher risks of some other conditions such as hip fractures which require expensive surgical procedures. Therefore, the overall healthcare costs associated with plant-based diets are unclear, but are important to understand considering the rising healthcare costs nationally and the increasing popularity of plant-based diets.

The main aim of this DPhil project is to investigate the healthcare costs associated with following plant-based diets, using data from studies with a large number of people consuming plant-based diets. The EPIC-Oxford study is a prospective cohort with up to 30 years of follow-up on 65,000 people living in the UK, half of whom do not eat meat, with linked data on hospital admissions and treatments. The UK Biobank is a prospective study of 500,000 people in the UK, with linked data on hospital inpatient care and routinely collected primary care records.


The student will work within a team of nutritional epidemiologists and a health economist and will gain experience in literature reviews, planning and conducting secondary data analysis, as well as interpretation of results. The project will involve handling and analysis of large linked datasets. The student will be expected to present the results in internal meetings, as well as at national and international conferences, and to write papers for publication in peer-reviewed journals.  


The DPhil student will have access to the learning material of the MSc Global Health Science and Epidemiology and training for the Medical Sciences Division including statistical analysis, health economics, and thesis writing.


The ideal candidates should have training in epidemiology, statistics, applied economics, medical or nutritional sciences. Candidates should have an interest in quantitative data analysis and population health. Previous postgraduate training or experience in epidemiology or statistics would be preferred.