Be a research volunteer

Help us and be a part of pioneering British Science addressing some of society’s biggest food and health issues.

We need to work with people to understand the beneficial effects of a variety of natural foods, for example, broccoli, oranges and apples.

Register your interest by downloading, completing and returning the volunteer database form using our FREEPOST address. Please note, due to the nature of our studies you would need to live within a 40 mile radius of the IFR in Norwich and sometimes less depending on the study requirements

Volunteer Database Form

One of IFR's research scientists has produced a short video giving an overview of what could be involved when you participate in a human study.

Current studies requiring volunteers

At the moment, we don't have any studies recruiting participants


Outcomes from recent studies

Diet and Vascular Health Study (Broccoli)

The overall aim of this project was to study the effects of a diet rich in broccoli on cardiovascular health. To do this we used a variety of broccoli bred to contain higher levels of a naturally occurring nutrient, called glucoraphanin.

Subjects were randomly assigned to consume 400 g standard broccoli, 400 g high glucoraphanin broccoli, or 400 g peas each week for 12 weeks as part of their normal diet. We measured biomarkers of cardiovascular risk, and 347 different metabolites from volunteers, and compared the changes in these before and after the 12 week study.

We didn’t see any significant changes in the biomarkers of cardiovascular disease in this study. But by analysing the changes in the metabolites, we found that the people who ate the high glucoraphanin broccoli had improved metabolism, and most of them had reduced variation in their levels of fatty acids in the blood and other lipid compounds that are associated with inflammation. 

We concluded that this was because the high glucoraphanin diet helped to ‘retune’ or rebalance cellular metabolic processes. Inside our cells are mitochondria, which convert sugar and fats into energy. If we eat too much, or don’t exercise enough, the mitochondria don’t work as well, leading to a build-up of reactive oxygen species. Whilst we need a small amount of these, too much can be damaging. This can also happen as we age. Glucoraphanin is converted by the body to sulphoraphane, and sulphoraphane has been shown to activate our bodies own defences against reactive oxygen species. We believe that this effect is behind the ‘rebalancing’ effects that we observed from the metabolite analysis in this study.

This study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and you can read more about it on the IFR news page. A high glucosinolate variety of broccoli is now available in supermarkets, under the name Beneforté, and you can find out more about it on our website

Further research

We are continuing our research into the health benefits of broccoli with a number of studies, looking at both cardiovascular disease, and also prostate cancer. We are also investigating how well our bodies convert glucoraphanin in broccoli into sulphoraphane, and in another study we are investigating how glucoraphanin interacts with the bacteria in our digestive tract.

Saliva study

One recent study at the Institute of Food Research looked at factors controlling the formation of salivary films. Saliva has a number of functions, helping us chew up and break down food, as well as lubricating the mouth. It also forms a protective lubricating film on our teeth, called the salivary pellicle.

We wanted to find out more about exactly how the salivary pellicle forms. There isn’t a perfect artificial saliva available, which is why we needed to collect samples from volunteers.

We collected two different samples. We compared Whole Mouth Saliva collected using tasteless gum with Parotid Saliva, collected using a suction cup device that collects saliva from the parotid duct, where saliva enters the mouth from the major salivary gland.

We found that small proteins in parotid saliva were responsible for forming the base layer of the film. Then, larger proteins called mucins formed a less dense layer on top. The base layer was very difficult to remove and would help protect teeth from erosion, and the outer layer would help lubricate our food during chewing.

We also found that salivary proteins have an important effect on calcium. Calcium is very important for strong teeth, as it is one of the primary components of enamel. At acid pH, the calcium effectively dissolves away from the enamel. We found that calcium in saliva binds to proteins in the film, forming bridges that strengthen the film, making it more difficult to remove. Some proteins would bind strongly to the enamel surface too. This meant that there was a lot of calcium in the film, close to the surface of the tooth, so it could quickly replace any calcium which may have been lost. We published this research in the journal Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces

We also looked at what happens to the salivary pellicle when we brush our teeth. Toothpastes contain a range of ingredients, common ones being surfactants and polyphosphates. We found that surfactants could remove protein from all surfaces, but polyphosphates were very effective at removing protein from a model enamel surface. However, not all of the proteins could be removed. This could be important, because as the film gets thicker over time, harmful, decay-causing bacteria can start living there. Regularly removing excess protein from the film could help prevent bacteria from growing. You can read more about this on the IFR News page or read the published paper in the journal Biofouling: The Journal of Bioadhesion and Biofilm Research.

Future outlook

PhD student Anthony Ash undertook this study on a BBSRC CASE studentship with GlaxoSmithKline, under the supervision of Professor Peter Wilde. Anthony has now successfully completed his PhD research, which included presenting this work at the Houses of Parliament at the SET for Britain event.

Anthony is now undertaking post-doctoral research projects extending his PhD studies to understand how different ingredients in both food and healthcare products interact with saliva, to help industry to develop better quality, healthier products.

We are hoping that these results will help develop better products in the future. Also we would like to take the research forward to understand how saliva affects our ability to chew and swallow food.


We are running a survey to find out why people do and don’t volunteer to take part in human research studies.  We would be grateful for a minute of your time to complete the survey thus helping us to review our volunteer recruitment processes.

Fill in our Human Research Study Survey

Frequently asked questions about volunteering

How long are the studies?

The length of each study can vary from one day to one year or more. Some studies have several phases with breaks in between.

What happens in the studies?

Each study is different, but could involve avoiding certain foods or eating foods provided by the study. You may be asked to record details of the meals you normally eat.  Sometimes studies collect samples such as blood and urine.

Who volunteers?

Males and females ranging in age from birth to up to 90 years of age have participated in our research. Not everyone is suitable for all studies. Most studies have strict entry criteria based on a range of factors, which ensures we carry out the best research and protects those taking part.

What will happen if anything goes wrong?

In the unlikely event that something goes wrong while you are on a study any procedures will be stopped and appropriate action will be taken by the research team. Your involvement in the rest of the study may be stopped.

If you have any other problems, illnesses or concerns during the study you should discuss these with the research team.

Any complaints you have about a study will be fully investigated. IFR has liability insurance in respect of research work involving human volunteers.

Will my taking part in a study be kept confidential?

Any information that is collected about you during the course of the research will be kept strictly confidential. With your permission, your GP will be notified that you are participating in a study.

What will happen to the study results?

We are not able to give you your specific results, but we are able to provide you with details of the overall findings of the study. Often samples from the study will not be analysed until all volunteers have completed, therefore the results may not be available immediately and in some cases for over a year. 

The overall results may be presented at scientific meetings or published in a scientific journal. You will not be identified in any of these presentations or publications. We will be happy to discuss the results with you when the study is completed, and will let you know where you can obtain a copy of the published results.

With your permission, all your clinical test results, including any abnormal findings are sent to your GP. If necessary they will act on this information.

Will I be paid for taking part?

In recognition of your time commitment, you may receive a small payment. In some cases, food will also be provided. Reasonable travel expenses will also be paid.

Who is organising and funding the studies?

The studies are organised and run by research teams at IFR which may include scientists, students, medical doctors and nurses. The funding of our studies comes from a variety of sources.

Who has reviewed the studies?

All of our studies have been reviewed by the IFR’s Human Research Governance Committee and also an independent Research Ethics Committee.

How do I agree to take part in a study?

The IFR conducts studies legally and ethically and in accordance with international research standards such as ‘Good Clinical Practice’. All volunteers are provided with information sheets about the study and given the opportunity to discuss and ask questions about what the study involves. All volunteers have to sign a consent form before taking part in a study.

Can you give me advice on what I should eat?

We are unable to offer any advice about nutrition. If you require dietary information we suggest you should speak to your GP or a registered dietician.


Any questions?

If you have any questions regarding volunteering, please contact us by email at

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