Dr Nigel Belshaw

Research Leader



Research Areas

Gut Health

My research interests are in understanding the role of epigenetics in the relationship between lifestyle (diet, physical activity, etc) and health. Epigenetics refers to molecular changes to genes that don’t affect the genetic code but can affect whether a gene is turned on or off.

Evidence is growing for a role for altered epigenetic marks in the development of a number of chronic diseases. I am particularly interested in one epigenetic mark known as DNA methylation as my recent research has shown that the presence of this mark on some cancer-related genes is associated with the development of bowel cancer. Interestingly, I have shown that methylation of these genes increases during aging in healthy people and that the rate of age-related methylation is affected by gender (men methylate these genes faster than women), obesity and some nutritional factors such as folic acid, vitamin D and selenium. These relationships are consistent with the known effects of these factors on the risk of developing bowel cancer.

My current research is now focussed on understanding how these and other lifestyle factors influence this age-related process in order to provide evidence for lifestyle changes that promote healthy aging and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

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