Receive £200 for helping with nutrition research at the Ulster University


Sunday 10 July 2022 14:00

Article written by Dr Holly Neill (Research Associate), BrianÓg Murphy (PhD researcher) and Dr Chris Gill (Chief Investigator)

RESEARCHERS at the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health (NICHE) at Ulster University are recruiting for an exciting study exploring the effect of polyphenols on heart (cardiovascular) health.

Unfortunately, cardiovascular disease remains one of the main causes of disease and disability in Northern Ireland.

Heart and circulatory diseases (e.g. heart attacks, heart failure, angina and strokes) cause around a quarter (23%) of all deaths in Northern Ireland, approximately 4,100 deaths each year.

Many factors impact our risk of cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, inactivity, being overweight, family history, ethnic background, age, gender, alcohol and diet.

As nutrition researchers, we are primarily interested in how diet can play a positive role to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease and, ultimately, reduce incidences of related deaths and disabilities in Northern Ireland.

Finding safe and effective food supplement products that may be able to improve how arteries work is a way to improve health in the Northern Irish population.

Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds that can be found in a variety of plant-based foods such as grapes, berries, vegetables, coffee and cocoa. It is thought that eating diets rich in polyphenols can have various protective effects in the body including benefits for cardiovascular health.

One way to measure cardiovascular health is by flow-mediated dilation (FMD) which is a straightforward, non-invasive method to measure the health of our blood vessels, specifically endothelial dysfunction.

This is a really fascinating measurement as we are able to take an ultrasound of an artery in the arm to identify how much it dilates (widens) under pressure. The maximum dilation of an artery is important as it can provide a robust indicator of an individual’s cardiovascular health.


We will use this ultrasound FMD technique to measure the effectiveness of a polyphenol food supplement (grape extract) which has been produced by external industrial collaborators, Activ’Inside, who are based in France.

Activ’Inside is a health food-tech company specialising in the development, production and marketing of natural active ingredients for the health nutrition industry.

We are also collaborating with the University of Parma in Italy, specifically Professor Daniele Del Rio who is a Professor of Human Nutrition, and Professor Sumantra Ray from NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health in Cambridge. Due to the nature of our study, we also work closely with local registered doctors including Dr David Armstrong.

At NICHE, all of our human research relies on members of the public who generously give of their time.

We are always so grateful to each and every participant who takes part in our studies to advance nutritional science.

We very often see the same participants returning to take part in future studies as they enjoy the experience so much and many see it as an opportunity to give back and help future generations. Joining human studies at the university can also be a great chance to receive a mini health check.


We are currently recruiting males to take part in a polyphenol and heart health study. To be eligible, you must be aged 20-45 years, not taking supplements, have a BMI between 25-30 kg/m2, consume less than 10 units of alcohol per week and undertake less than 5 hours of endurance exercise per week.

Anyone who is interested or would like more information can contact BrianÓg Murphy (07384304654; or simply scan the QR code to complete the screening questionnaire to check eligibility. Completing the online form will only take a few minutes.

If eligible, you will be invited to the Human Intervention Studies Unit at Ulster University (Coleraine campus) on four separate occasions separated by 7 days (e.g. 4 sequential Fridays).

At each visit, you will have your blood pressure and FMD measured (ultrasound of the artery in your arm).

Two blood samples will be collected at each visit before and after you consume the polyphenol rich grape extract capsule.

We will also ask you to complete food diaries. Each visit should last approximately 3.5 hours and all participants will receive £200 upon successful completion of the study.

We encourage members of the community to kindly share details of this study with family and friends.

At NICHE, we are constantly running multiple studies. If you are interested in taking part in other studies ongoing at NICHE, please follow us on social media to find out about the latest opportunities.

l Social media details:


Facebook: NICHE – Nutrition at Ulster University

Instagram: @niche_ulster

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