NuBrain: UK Consortium for Optimal Nutrition for Healthy Brain Ageing

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Population Health Sciences Institute

Abstract

Cognitive function declines naturally with age and in some individuals, this will progress to differing degrees of cognitive impairment or to dementia Globally the human population is living longer; it is predicted that by 2050, the number of people aged 60 years and over will reach two billion. As a result, it is predicted that dementia prevalence will almost triple during this timeframe.

The health, economic and social burden of dementia and other cognitive disorders is profound and mental health is considered to be one of the greatest global challenges. There is currently a distinct lack of effective medications to prevent or treat dementias. Therefore, there is an urgent need to identify i) which individuals are at greatest risk and ii) which lifestyle factors can modify cognition and therefore target to support better brain health in our ageing population. There is strong and growing evidence from animal and population observational studies that nutrition throughout the life-course has a profound impact on age-associated cognitive decline. However, as yet, there is limited understanding of which dietary patterns, foods and food components influence brain function during ageing and at what intakes and which population subgroups (age, sex, stage of disease progression etc.) are most responsive. As highlighted in a recent UK Department of Health Report (SACN 2018, Statement on Diet, Cognitive Impairment and Dementias) there is a great need to conduct fit-for-purpose intervention studies in humans to meaningfully advance our current understanding of the potential of nutrition strategies in brain health.

Our collaboration will aim to address these knowledge gaps with the long-term aim of improving brain ageing through better understanding of the impact of nutrition on brain health. This requires a new collaboration between scientists from multiple disciplines, many of whom have not collaborated before or who have not previously engaged in nutrition research. The NuBrain consortium will bring together expertise and techniques in human nutrition, translational epidemiology, informatics, brain imaging, neuroscience, behavioural science and public health and policy along with clinical psychiatry expertise to produce a step change in research on nutrition and brain ageing. We will engage with industry and retailers, government, policy makers, charities and the public to ensure that research findings are relevant and to maximise opportunities for translation via e.g. food product innovation and public health policy in an effective and timely manner to improve public health. Initial studies carried out by the consortium will focus on utilising information from several key cohort studies to better understand the potential benefits of dietary interventions for healthy brain ageing in different target populations. We will also carry out feasibility studies to further understand how to support long term dietary behaviour change and the efficacy of different intervention tools and methodologies to help achieve this. Further feasibility studies will be funded as the consortium develops.

We will support early career researchers (ECRs) in relevant fields to develop new skills and expertise and foster innovation in nutrition and brain ageing research. The consortium will expose ECRs to new collaborators, potential industry partners and other important bodies such as Alzheimer's Research UK and Public Health England. This is important to build capacity and develop the next generation of multidisciplinary researchers in this area.

This funding will also act as a catalyst for the consortium to develop future funding bids to continue to develop the research in this area. We will actively seek ways to (i) attract new members and further develop the expertise within the consortium and (ii) seek further funding from funding bodies to strengthen and expand the work of the collaboration.

Technical Summary

Whilst some cognitive functions remain stable with age, most people experience age-related decline in cognition which can progress to differing degrees of cognitive impairment or to dementia. Dementia currently affects 47 million people worldwide, and is projected to increase to over 131 million people by 2050, with increased prevalence mainly attributed to ageing population demographics. With the lack of effective curative or preventative pharmacological interventions, there is an urgent need to identify i) at risk individuals and ii) modifiable factors for targeted interventions to support better brain health in our ageing population. Nutrition is emerging as a tractable lifestyle factor to promote healthy brain ageing and reduce dementia risk. Research (mainly observational and often cross-sectional in approach) has identified numerous dietary factors (e.g. DHA, B-vitamins, Vitamin D) that can promote cognitive performance with cell and rodent models providing insights into underlying physiological and molecular mechanisms. However, comprehensive longitudinal or RCT data, using sensitive measures of cognitive function and brain structure, and state-of-the-art detailed nutrition profiling is lacking. Such information is needed in order to gain insight and granularity into which diet derived components are likely to be most effective at a population and population subgroup level.
Our vision is to provide a step change in research in the area by developing novel approaches and techniques to further understand the complex interactions between diet and brain health and how we can support appropriate behaviour change in the population. This will be achieved by bringing together a consortium with multi-disciplinary but complimentary areas of expertise to address this specific challenge. The aim is to build a sustainable internationally field-leading consortium in nutrition and brain ageing who can collectively address the fundamental research challenges in this area.

Planned Impact

Worldwide, 47 million people are currently affected by dementia with approximately 8 million newly diagnosed cases annually. Even though the overall care of individuals with dementia has improved, effective interventions to prevent or delay onset are still lacking. In England alone, it is estimated that the economic cost of dementia is £23 billion a year and this is set to triple by 2040. The prevention or delay of significant cognitive decline would have profound health and socio-economic benefits. It is paramount that we act now to develop effective solutions to this serious health issue. The impact of diet and nutrition on age-related cognitive decline is a growing research field but well-designed studies in target populations with sensitive outcome measures have yet to be carried out. The overall aim of the proposed work is to build a multidisciplinary consortium who can collectively begin to address the fundamental research challenges in nutrition and brain ageing, working towards supporting appropriate behaviour change in target populations. This research will have far-reaching impact for multiple beneficiaries:

THE AGEING POPULATION: Preventing or slowing cognitive decline through effective dietary strategies would have major benefits for public health including improved functional years of life and independence and reduced care burden for families and health care professionals. We anticipate that the proposed research will ultimately help to develop useable public health nutritional recommendations for policy makers and clinicians to support healthy brain ageing. We will also better understand the opportunities to support behaviour change in food choice and consumption and how we can work with key stakeholders such as the food industry, retailers, technology companies and health care professionals to achieve this. This will aid the public to adhere to recommendations and make sustainable dietary changes which will help to support better brain health in later life.The health impacts will help to reduce NHS burden of cognitive decline in our ageing population.

PARTNERSHIP WITH INDUSTRY: Partnership with industry is vital to ensure research advances can be translated into better services, products or improved support to facilitate long-term behaviour change. Industry partners have already committed to the NuBrain consortium. The pre-competitive nature of this research means that further collaborations can and will be developed as the consortium grows and develops. Through partnership with Campden BRI we will disseminate our aims and objectives and subsequently main findings to key industry partners maximising our impact. We will also engage with the National Innovation Centre for Ageing to attract other industry partners to the consortium e.g. technology companies to aid the delivery of large scale interventions.

TRAINING OF EARLY CAREER RESEARCHERS: This work takes a novel multidisciplinary approach towards addressing a major nutritional challenge. This project will hence offer experience and training across a range of techniques and discipline areas building the skills and capacity of the next generation of nutritional science researchers. The opportunities to engage with multiple stakeholders will also support future collaborations, knowledge transfer, and raise awareness of potential career opportunities. This will strengthen future expertise at the interface between public health, nutrition and technology and ultimately help to build future capacity in nutrition science, an important issue highlighted by the MRC /NIHR Review of Nutrition and Human Health Research (July 2017). The ECR Sandpit Event (WP1) will be an excellent opportunity for ECRs to engage with stakeholders and co-develop pilot and feasibility studies. ECRs will also be involved in the planning and management of this event led by the ECR representative on the Collaboration Steering Group.
 
Description Dementia Prevention Strategy Consultation
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description UK Wpmens Health Strategy
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/womens-health-strategy-call-for-evidence/womens-health-s...
 
Description Collaboration with Brain Health Scotland to develop a MOOK and other educational initiatives 
Organisation Alzheimer Scotland
Department Brain Health Scotland
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution developed online learning material for a MOOK edin.ac/3kitHet
Collaborator Contribution Brain Health Scotland developed the overall MOOK that i contributed to
Impact MOOK produced by Future Learn on Brain Health
Start Year 2020
 
Description MedWalk_Australian RCT 
Organisation Swinburne University of Technology
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I am overseas Chief Investigators for an Australian Government (National Health and Medical Research Council) funded grant invesitgating the combined impact of nutrition and exercise on cognition in older adults We use best practice from MedEx to inform the design and application of MedWalk and vica versa
Collaborator Contribution Strong team of collabroators for 6 Australaian Centres with indepth knowledge of the impact of a Mediterranean Diet on Cognition and dementia risk
Impact Sharing of best practrice and joint Symposium on Meditteraean Diet and health at the World Congress of Oil and fats in Sydney, Feb 2020 https://wcofsydney2020.com/pre-congress-workshops.php
Start Year 2019
 
Description PREDIMED_Miguel Ruiz-Canela & Cristina Razquin-Burillo 
Organisation University of Navarra
Country Spain 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Contribution to the design and deliver of Mediterranean-diet related research
Collaborator Contribution Opportunities for collaboration on future-grant bids and publication
Impact NA
Start Year 2022
 
Description Queens University Belfast Brain Health partnership 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Department Centre for Public Health (CPH)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Development of a UK wide large scale survey on Lifestyle and Brain Health in collaboration with Queens University Belfast
Collaborator Contribution Development of survey, data analysis, roll out of the survey in England.
Impact development of educational material
Start Year 2021
 
Description Ageing Fit: Innovation Event, Nice, France 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Event foccused on the translation of research into industrial innovation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.ageingfit-event.com/conferences-2/speakers/
 
Description Alzheimer Europe Conference Presentation - Physical Activity, Sport and Nutrition for Brain Health 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference symposium at Alzheimer Europe Conference called - Physical Activity, Sport and Nutrition for Brain Health. Symposium led by E Stevenson and C Ritchie
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.alzheimer-europe.org/Conferences/2021-Online
 
Description EDP Article: How the Mediterranean diet protects against dementia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Media article launching Norwich institute of Health Ageing of which I am director
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/health/norwich-scientist-researching-mediterranean-diet-6403822
 
Description EDP Article_How to eat well for your body and mind in lockdown 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article to support an online event the following Friday also run by the EDp
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.edp24.co.uk/things-to-do/food-reviews/norfolk-open-up-conference-gut-health-7304654
 
Description EIRA Healthy Ageing: Research to Application 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact To consider the translation of research into policy and practice
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.uea.ac.uk/medicine/engagement/blog/-/blogs/eira-healthy-ageing-research-to-application-e...
 
Description Eaton Festival: Nutrition, brain vitality and dementia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A talk as part of a local Eaton Summer Programme
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description How to be a scientist & Growth 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Science week event
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description International Life Sciences Scientific Advisor 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact I am a member of a scientific advisor group for ILSI Europe which is a tripartite organisation, between academics, industry and policy makers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://ilsi.eu/about-us/
 
Description Lab Notes: Gender, diet and brain health 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact public event on nutrition, menopause and brain health
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sb0ksu-ae4
 
Description Maintaining health and wellbeing during lockdown_PODCAST 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A PODCAST delivered by Professor Anne Marie Minihane (UEA), Dr Valerie Gladwell (Essex) and Dr Glen Davison (Kent) discuss what we mean by wellbeing, how lockdown has impacted on it, and what we can do to keep healthy and well in the current situation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://easternarc.ac.uk/podcasts/episode-5-maintaining-health-and-wellbeing-during-lockdown/
 
Description Norwich Science Festival_Nutrition and dementia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An open debate on many elemtns of dementia as part of the annual Norwich Science Festival
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://norwichsciencefestival.co.uk/
 
Description Nutrition and Brain Vitality 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk to a local group
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Nutrition and brain vitality 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Podcast provided by Rhitrition. The purpose is increase public awareness and engagement with the nutrition-environment-health trilemma
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://rhitrition.com/
 
Description Nutrition and healthy brain ageing: A focus on plant-based diets and the NuBrain consortium. Bridge2Food Plant Based Foods and Proteins Summit. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Nutrition and healthy brain ageing: A focus on plant-based diets and the NuBrain consortium -Presentation by Dr Oliver Shannon at the Bridge2Food Plant Based Foods and Proteins Summit (international business facing meeting)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Nutrition, brain vitality and dementia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Informal presentation at Eaton Summer Programme
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://christchurch-eaton.org.uk/content/pages/documents/1558287037.pdf
 
Description Nutrition, cognition and dementia risk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk to Department of Health and Social care Group
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Online all day MENTAL HEALTH Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 12th Feb 2021:
All day event on all aspects of mental health. i contributed to the Nutrition, eating and mental well-being session
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/health/open-up-mental-health-event-daily-press-7307012
 
Description Presentation at Alzheimer's Scotland Conference on NuBrain consortium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation at national conference outlining the consortium and opportunities for collaboration
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation at Human Nutrition Research Centre Research Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation on the NuBrain consortium and information about how to engage
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation at Industry meeting on Nutrition for Brain Health 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited presentation on nuBrain and nutrition and Brain health at an industry nutrition meeting in Gstaad in Jan 2022
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Presentation at PREVENT Dementia Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation on NuBrain from Dr Oliver Shannon to PREVENT dementia group - joining up research between cohorts and collaborative groups
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Presentation for a Scottish Dementia Research Consortium webinar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Webinar presentation on nutrition and healthy brain ageing - summarised the latest research in the area and introduced the NuBrain consortium - aims, objectives, members
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.sdrc.scot/ecr-resources/webinar
 
Description Presentation on NuBrain as part of a lunchtime education series for professionals 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation on brain health and the NuBrain consortium to as part of an online seminar series entitled 'the science of' ... aimed at general public
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-science-of-wellbeing-and-brain-health-tickets-241140356297
 
Description Public engagement online event on Nutrition and Healthy Brain Ageing 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public engagement online event in collaboration with VOICE ( https://www.voice-global.org/) to discuss nutrition and healthy brain ageing and NuBrain consortium with members of the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Stress ans over- (under) eating during lockdown_BBC interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An interview for the BBC to give advice on how stress can impact on our appetite and food intake, and easy to implement tips as to how to mitigate this
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-52329529
 
Description You are what you eat: Nutrition, cognition and dementia prevention 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact It was a general talk at the Launch of our new Sleep Research Facility in Norwich/UEA
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.uea.ac.uk/about/-/dedicated-sleep-and-dementia-research-unit-launches-at-uea
 
Description article on nutrition and healthy brain ageing in New Nutrition Business 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Quotes about NuBrain in an article on nutrition for healthy brain ageing in New Nutrition Business (Volume 26, 5 February 2021 iSSn 1464-3308)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description workshop with TULIPS consortium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Developing collaboration with the TULIPS consortium - The TULIP consortium has been organized as an international collaborative initiative between Netherland, UK, New Zealand, and Japan, which aims to address factors that conductive to healthy and happy ageing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019