Dr Cathrina Edwards

Research Leader

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Optimising nutrient release from plant-based foods

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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

Brodkorb A., Egger L., Alminger M., Alvito P., Assunção R., Balance S., Bohn T., Bourlieu-Lacanal C., Boutrou R., Carrière F., Clemente A., Corredic M., Dupont D., DuFour C., Edwards C. H., Golding M., Karakaya S., Kirkhus B., Lesmes U., Macierzanka A., Mackie A., Martins C., Marze A., McClements D., Menard O., Minekus M., Portmann R., Santos C., Souchon I., Singh P., Vegarud G., Wickham M., Weitschies W., Recio I.. (2019)

INFOGEST static in vitro simulation of gastrointestinal food digestion

Nature Protocols


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Patel H., Royall P. G., Gaisford S., Williams G. R., Edwards C. H., Warren F. J., Flanagan B. M., Ellis P. R., Butterworth P. J.. (2017)

Structural and enzyme kinetic studies of retrograded starch: Inhibition of α-amylase and consequences for intestinal digestion of starch

Carbohydrate Polymers, In press, In press


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Grassby T., Mandalari G., Grundy M. M. L., Edwards C. H., Bisignano C., Trombetta D., Smeriglio A., Chessa S., Ray S., Sanderson J., Berry S. E., Ellis P. R., Waldron K. W.. (2017)

In vitro and in vivo modeling of lipid bioaccessibility and digestion from almond muffins: The importance of the cell-wall barrier mechanism

Journal of Functional Foods, 37, 263-271


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Lovegrove A., Edwards C., De Noni I., Patel H., El S. N., Grassby T., Zielke C., Ulmius M., Nilsson L., Butterworth P. J., Ellis P. R., Shewry P. R.. (2017)

Role of polysaccharides in food, digestion, and health.

Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 57, 237-253


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Grundy M. M., Edwards C. H., Mackie A. R., Gidley M. J., Butterworth P. J., Ellis P. R.. (2016)

Re-evaluation of the mechanisms of dietary fibre and implications for macronutrient bioaccessibility, digestion and postprandial metabolism.

The British journal of nutrition, 116, 816-33


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Edwards C., Rossi M., Corpe C. P., Butterworth P. J., Ellis P. E.. (2016)

The role of sugars and sweeteners in food, diet and health: Alternatives for the future

Trends in Food Science & Technology, 56, 158-166


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Edwards C. H., Warren F. J., Campbell G. M., Gaisford S., Royall P. G., Butterworth P. J., Ellis P. R.. (2015)

A study of starch gelatinisation behaviour in hydrothermally-processed plant food tissues and implications for in vitro digestibility

Food & Function, 6, 3634-3641


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