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You Are What You Ate

Research news

by Sara Garduno Diaz, PhD student, School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds

Food scientist at the University of Leeds

A day in the life of a food scientist

You Are What You Ate is a unique collaboration between historians, archaeologists and food scientist. We bring modern research to a wider audience and find out new ways of investigating food and health both past and present. Yet what is a ‘Food Scientist’? Food scientists do not spend the entire day in a kitchen trying out new recipes and eating to their heart´s desire. From this photo collection, you´ll be able to appreciate the variety of research themes that are undergoing investigation at the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds.

So what does a Food Scientist do?

Potatoes heading to the A & E

Regaine Scharf, School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of LeedsFirst up: Regaine Scharf. Her research is on potatoes, their bruising process and its implications in the food industry. The best variety from three different kinds of potatoes will be identified according to changes in texture and bruising susceptibility, cell wall composition, pectines and polyphenol content. This information is valuable to a range of stakeholders working across the potato supply chain, and could be used to develop best-practice procedures in the industry, in order to minimise economic loss through bruising of potato tubers.


Carbohydrates and diabetes

Maryam Aldwairji , School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of LeedsMaryam Aldwairji is conducting research on fibre and how its consumption relates to type 2 diabetes. Part of her work looks at the impact of analytical methods on the estimation of dietary fibre intake in epidemiological studies. Maryam specializes on legumes as a source of fibre. Chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils are some popular legumes consumed in the UK. By eating these foods it is possible to increase the dietary fibre content of our diets and in this way obtain its benefits which include:

  • A reduction in cholesterol levels
  • Constant blood sugar levels
  • Maintenance of a healthy weight


Improving plantain products

Ebun Oladele, School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of LeedsOptimizing the potential of plantain as a functional food is what Ebun Oladele is working on. Plantain can be described as an unripe banana; it looks like banana, but bigger and longer, with thicker skin and often needs to be cooked before it can be eaten boiled, roasted, grilled, or fried. It is eaten all over Africa and Southern and Central America. Unlike a banana, plantain has more dietary fibre, less water and less sugar and is rich in complex starch. The work is focused on starch digestion in plantain, the effects of processing and the impact of sugar release in the management of diabetes.


Islamiyat Bolarinwa , School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of LeedsCatching the bad guys

Islamiyat Bolarinwa is developing new methods to determine toxic (cyanogenic glycosides) content in plant foods. Cyanogenic glycosides are generally present in foods like cassava, almonds, apple seeds, apricots, plumbs and cherries. The currently existing methods for the determination of cyanogenic glycosides are inefficient and expensive, representing a problem in food processing methods that could affect the health of consumers causing constipation, low blood pressure, vomiting and even death.



Chocolate for the heart

Swen Langer, School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of LeedsCan chocolate have beneficial effects on heart health? Swen Langer is working on finding out an answer. By carrying out intervention studies he is looking at the effect of flavonoids present in cocoa and tea on cardiovascular wellbeing. Flavonoids are potentially bioactive compounds found in plants. Flavonoids have awakened considerable interest because of their potential beneficial effects on human health as they have been reported to display antiviral, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour and antioxidant activities.


The world of food science and nutrition is a vast one and in constant innovation. From industry to public health and from enzymes to entire communities, a food scientist works with so much more that apples and oranges.