The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has announced Dr Luciana Torquati, from the Department of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter as the recipient of the 2019-2020 BNF Drummond Pump Priming Award, for her research project on the role that the gut microbiome plays in endurance and exercise capacity.
The annual award recognises early stage nutrition scientists and supports them to gain their first substantial research grant. The winner of the award receives a £5,000 grant, allowing them to undertake the pilot work needed to generate data that can be used as the basis of a more substantial grant application, enabling them to progress their research in the future.
Dr Torquati’s study aims to understand if it is possible to affect exercise performance by increasing fermentable fibre and acetate production. Fermentable fibre is digested and used as fuel by the friendly bacteria in the gut. Acetate, which is one of the compounds produced when gut bacteria ferment fibre, plays a significant role in energy metabolism and potentially blood flow. Analysing and understanding these two elements forms the foundation of Dr Torquati’s research. This kind of research builds our understanding of how the diet affects our gut bacteria and, in turn, the potential for this to impact on our health and how the body responds to physical activity.
Dr Torquati said: “Our understanding of the gut microbiome and its role in our physiology is growing every day. I am very excited and grateful to BNF Drummond Memorial Fund for the opportunity to further explore new functions of our gut microbiome. This research will allow me to collect preliminary data to support future funding to understand the role gut bacteria play in exercise capacity.”
To be eligible for the BNF Drummond Pump Priming Award, applicants must work in the field of human nutrition, be based in the UK, and be within the first three years of their academic appointment. Each applicant’s proposed work is judged on its relevance to public health; preference is given to studies involving humans and those focussing on whole foods or diets rather than just supplements.
The award is made possible through the BNF’s management of the Drummond Memorial Fund, established in 1954 to commemorate the work and efforts of Sir Jack Drummond, who made significant contributions to developments in the application of nutrition science for public health.
The BNF’s Science Director, Sara Stanner, commented: “We know that it can often be a struggle for early stage nutrition scientists to secure their first big research grant, and the BNF Drummond Pump Priming Award plays a very important part in helping those working in human nutrition in the UK gain future funding. We are extremely pleased to offer the award to Dr Torquati this year, her work in understanding the gut microbiome and how it affects our physical endurance is fascinating.”
In addition to the £5,000 grant, Dr Torquati has been given the opportunity to contribute an article to the BNF’s peer reviewed journal, Nutrition Bulletin, explaining how winning the award has helped support her research. Dr Torquati will be presented with her award and winning certificate at the BNF Annual Day held in November.