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Targeting the gut microbiota through diet to improve athlete health and exercise performance S&T40

  • 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&T40

Dietary interventions to target the gut microbiota (prebiotics and probiotics) provide novel and exciting opportunities to improve athlete health and exercise performance. Athletes are subject to detrimental physical and psychological stresses which impact upon health and performance. Many of these (for example, intestinal permeability and immune function) are influenced by the intestinal microbiota. Probiotics and prebiotics are common dietary supplements that can modify the intestinal microbiota, promoting gastrointestinal function and host health. Emerging research, including findings from our research group, have shown athlete health benefits associated with prebiotic and probiotic feeding. However, human studies in this field are limited and the academic community is still not able to make practical recommendations to elite athletes and their support teams.

There are limited human studies that have investigated the role of targeting the gut microbiota to enhance athlete health with contrasting findings. Developing evidence suggests that the consumption of probiotics and prebiotics can aid athlete health and exercise performance through the production of bioactive metabolites, improved intestinal and immune function, and enhanced energy harvesting. However, to date, a large body of evidence comes from animal exercise models, and human in-vivo intervention trials in athletes are lacking. At Nottingham Trent University we have an established track record of human dietary intervention trials to improve athlete health and performance, providing a strong foundation for further research in this area.

With athletes being particularly susceptible to GI distress and immune perturbations, and growing evidence that the gut microbiota has a role in modulating these issues, this PhD will aim to investigate the role of the gut microbiota and pre-/probiotic interventions in the gastrointestinal health, immune function, and exercise performance of athletes.

We are looking for a committed sport scientist, nutritionist or dietitian with a 1st class honours degree and appropriate postgraduate qualification at Master’s level. For informal enquiries please email Dr Neil Williams.

School strategic research priority

This project aligns with the SHAPE research centre and it also aligns with the universities Health and Wellbeing 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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