Dr Cathrina Edwards

Group Leader

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Optimising nutrient release from plant-based foods


My research is focused on understanding the factors governing the structural and biochemical breakdown of starch-rich plant tissues during digestion. Recent human studies indicate that many edible plant tissues remain structurally intact during gastro-intestinal transit and thereby limit the bioaccessibility (‘release’) of nutrients from food.

The location, rate, and extent of nutrient release during digestive transit is a major determinant of the nutritional value of food, influencing metabolic responses (glycaemia and lipaemia), gut-hormone signaling (e.g., involved in appetite regulation) and caloric uptake.

Most of my research involves systematic studies of the breakdown of complex food materials (particularly pulses, cereals and resistant starch) in different regions of the gastro-intestinal tract. These studies are mainly performed in vitro, using various digestion models which simulate the physiological conditions in different regions of the human gastro-intestinal tract.

Further mechanistic insight is gained by closer examination of partially digested samples, using a combination of techniques, particularly enzyme-kinetic and microstructural approaches. For validation or proof-of-concept purposes, in vivo dietary intervention studies (particularly in healthy humans with a long-standing ileostomy) are of particular interest.

Overall, this research is highly relevant to tackling diet-related disease, particularly malnutrition, obesity and type 2 diabetes. I am actively pursuing opportunities for translation of research findings, for instance working with the food industry to develop new/altered food structures that deliver improved nutritional profiles.

Key Publications

Grundy, M, Edwards CH, Mackie A, Gidley M, Butterworth PJ, Ellis PR, (2016). Re-evaluation of the mechanisms of dietary fibre and implications for macronutrient bioaccessibility, digestion and postprandial metabolism, British Journal of Nutrition, 1: 1-18.

Edwards CH, Warren FJ, Campbell GM, Gaisford S, Royall PG, Butterworth PJ, Ellis PR. (2015). A study of starch gelatinisation behaviour in hydrothermally-processed plant food tissues and implications for in vitro digestibility, Food & Function, 6 (12): 3634-3641.

Edwards CH, Grundy M, Grassby T, Vasilopoulou D, Frost G, Butterworth PJ, Berry SE, Sanderson J, Ellis PR. (2015). Manipulation of starch bioaccessibility in wheat endosperm to regulate starch digestion, postprandial glycemia, insulinemia and gut hormone responses: A randomized controlled trial in healthy ileostomy participants. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102 (4): 791-800.

Edwards CH, Warren FJ, Milligan PJ, Butterworth PJ, Ellis PR. (2015). A novel method for classifying starch digestion by modelling the amylolysis of plant foods using first-order enzyme kinetic principles. Food & Function, 5(11):2751-2758.

Lovegrove A, Edwards CH, De Noni I, Patel H, El SN, Grassby T, Zielke C, Ulmius M, Nilsson L, Butterworth PJ, et al. (2017). Role of polysaccharides in food, digestion and health. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 57(2):237-253

Corrado M, Zafeiriou P, Ahn-Jarvis J, Savva G, Edwards CH, Hazard B. (2023)

Impact of storage on starch digestibility and texture of a high-amylose wheat bread

Food Hydrocolloids, 135

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Bajka BH, Pinto AM, Perez-Moral N, Saha S, Ryden P, Ahn-Jarvi J, van der, Bland C, Berry SE, Ellis PR, Edwards C. (2022)

Enhanced secretion of satiety-promoting gut hormones in healthy humans following consumption of white bread enriched with cellular chickpea flour: A randomized cross-over study

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Butterworth PJ, Bajka B, Edwards C, Warren FJ, Ellis PR. (2022)

Enzyme kinetic approach for mechanistic insight and predictions of in vivo starch digestibility and the glycaemic index of foods

Trends in Food Science and Technology, 120, 254-264

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Colosimo R,Mulet Cabero A,Gotts K,Haider K,Edwards CH,Warren FJ,Finnigan TJA,Wilde PJ. (2021)

ß-glucan release from fungal and plant cell walls after simulated gastrointestinal digestion

Journal of Functional Foods

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Colosimo RC,Warren FJW,Edwards CHE,Ryden PR,Dyer PSD,Finnigan TJAF,Wilde PJW. (2021)

Comparison of the behavior of fungal and plant cell wall during gastrointestinal digestion and resulting health effects: A review

Trends in Food Science & Technology, 110, 132-141

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