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Protein and Exercise: As good for bone as they are for muscle during ageing? S&T41

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Project ID: S&T41

In its simplest form, bone health is determined by the rate of bone accrual in early life, followed by the rate of age associated bone loss. Dietary protein intake might have a role to play in bone health across both phases of life via several possible mechanisms, but this might be especially imperative in older individuals who often fall short of optimal protein requirements due to a reduced intake of dietary protein, a reduced ability to use available protein and/or an increase in protein requirements during ageing. The role of protein in bone health has, however, been questioned, with some suggesting that high dietary protein intakes could be detrimental to bone, due to the acidic load that this might impose on the body. A high dietary intake of animal proteins, particularly when combined with a lower dietary intake of fruits and vegetables, has been proposed to induce a state of low-grade metabolic acidosis that has short-term consequences for bone metabolism and potentially longer-term consequences for bone health.  By contrast, there are direct and indirect mechanisms via which protein should be protective of bone, given its role in physiological processes and functions that could be important for the maintenance of bone structure and functionality. As such, it could be suggested that adequate protein intake is essential for the development and maintenance of a healthy bone, particularly in an ageing population. Of course, the effect of protein nutrition on bone and bone health is highly nuanced and protein intakes do not impact bone health in isolation, with its interaction with other nutrients and metabolic factors being most relevant. In line with this, it is unlikely to be only the quantity of protein intake that is important to its net effect on bone tissue, but also its source, quality, and timing. Any protein consumed will also act simultaneously on muscle tissue, which itself impacts bone health, both through biomechanical mechanisms, but also via the action of signalling molecules. Little is known, however, about how these factors combine to influence and moderate the bones response to protein intake and so this PhD will aim to add to the body of knowledge determining the effect of protein and the myriad of associated factors on bone health in older adults, with the eventual goal of determining whether it can provide an effective, non-pharmacological strategy to protect bone health alongside other lifestyle related interventions, such as exercise.

The supervisory team consists of Professor Craig Sale (NTU), Professor Kirsty Elliot-Sale (NTU) and Consultant Rheumatologist David Armstrong (Western Health and Social Care Trust).

School strategic research priority

This project aligns directly with the Sport, Health and Performance Enhancement Research Centre (more specifically with the Musculoskeletal Physiology Research Group) and with the Health and Wellbeing Strategic Research Theme.

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

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