Thesis Title: New pathways to obesity prevention and metabolic health: the relationship between diet and the gut microbiome.

Obesity is a global health issue of epidemic proportion. Although the causes of obesity are complex, key drivers include over-consumption of highly palatable energy-dense and nutrient-poor foods. These diets have a profound impact on the gut microbiome, which comprises the bacterial community of the bowel (microbiota) and its associated genetic endowment. New evidence suggests that microbial diversity and functionality in the gut may play a critical role in obesity by modifying energy extraction from food and influencing host energy metabolism and fat storage.

My PhD project is part of a larger study which is funded via a grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC 15/273 Breier), the PROMISE Study: Predictors linking obesity and gut Microbiome.

In the PROMISE study we will characterise the gut microbiome in two populations with markedly different metabolic disease risk (Pacific and European women) and different body fat profiles (normal and obese).

My project will focus on identifying the interactions between dietary intake and eating behaviour in modifying the gut microbiome, and its impact on metabolic regulation and body fat profiles. This information will greatly advance our understanding of the aetiology of obesity and open new avenues for therapeutic targets.

Nikki presented her research at the Annual Riddet Institute Student Colloquium 2017 Three Minute Thesis competition. See her presentation here.


Massey University (Albany) and Dietitians Board (New Zealand Registered Dietitian)