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Therese is a Senior Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics and also leads a program of research investigating the potential health benefits of dairy fat in the diet. She is also involved in research into helping new mums with breastfeeding.
Dietary guidelines recommend that children over the age of 2 years consume reduced fat dairy products rather than regular fat dairy. However, emerging research suggests regular fat dairy could have potential health benefits. The aim of this unique study is to investigate the effects of regular fat compared with reduced fat dairy intake on children’s adiposity, heart health and gut health.
To do this, we will conduct a three-month, double blind, randomised controlled trial of regular vs reduced fat dairy products in children aged 4-6 years who normally consume regular fat dairy products. We will assess diet, adiposity, heart health and gut health at baseline and at study end to determine whether any differences exist between those children who have changed to reduced fat dairy, and those who remain consumers of regular fat dairy. We also plan to assess changes between the two diet groups for blood markers of dairy fat intake and compare this to health outcomes. Dairy products will be delivered free to participating families.
Ideally, participating in dietary trials should be an enjoyable experience for children. However, some assessments, such as blood sampling, can be unpleasant and stressful. To help generate guidelines for child-centred research, we investigated principles from childcare specialist Magda Gerber's Resources for Infant Educators (1998), consulted with parents in focus groups and liaised with a parenting expert. We identified three relevant principles that can be used to guide research with children: use of authentic communication, acknowledging emotions, and inviting participation. We are working on incorporating these principles into research and evaluating outcomes for parents and children.
Although we know breastmilk is best for babies, some mums turn to formula because they feel their milk supply isn’t good enough. The old technique of hand expressing of colostrum in the weeks prior to giving birth may help. Anecdotally, mums report a good milk supply and increased confidence in breastfeeding. But the practice is not routinely recommended, as there are no large-scale studies to support its safety and efficacy in the general population. We have developed an online instructional video for antenatal expressing. This video will help support future large-scale studies, which will provide the evidence required to advocate or avoid this practice.
Additional research interests include: gut health, plant based diets, Mediterranean food patterns and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, food security, the Nutrition Care Process and innovation in dietetics.