Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Food, nutrition and health priority

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) aims to support world-class research to advance understanding of how nutritious, healthy and safe foods can be sustainably generated, and how nutrients, foods and whole diets interact with biological systems to promote health.

BBSRC’s standard research grant provides up to £2 million for projects in this priority area.
The standard research grant is an ongoing scheme. Projects can last up to five years.
Partners involved:
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

Under this priority, we will support research to generate a mechanistic understanding of how nutrients influence human cellular processes, how these influences affect overall health outcomes, and how these responses vary between population groups and across the life-course. We will also support mechanistic work on the growth, survival and control of foodborne pathogens.

Researchers are encouraged to take advantage of data-driven biology and systems-based approaches and the computational innovations which are rendering complex problems more tractable.

Research under this priority should seek to increase mechanistic biological understanding of:

  • how food and nutrition can optimise health and reduce disease risk
  • how diet interacts with external and internal factors to modulate phenotypic responses that influence health
  • the contribution of dietary patterns, individual nutrients, whole and processed foods and food structures to promoting and maintaining health
  • individual behavioural responses and attitudes toward food, nutrition and health
  • how to reduce risks to human health from the contamination of food by pathogens, toxins or other harmful substances at any stage of the food chain
  • how to positively manipulate the food system, from primary production to processing, to enhance the bioavailability of micronutrients and other components beneficial to health.

What we do not fund

Although it is recognised that diet and nutrition are risk factors for the development of disease, research directed at human pathology and disease, including harmful interactions between food pathogens and their human hosts, is outside of our remit.

Outputs and impacts

Under this priority, we will support research which underpins a stronger and more coherent evidence base on which to base nutritional and food safety policies, and develop new or reformulated foods which will enhance health. By doing so, knowledge will be gained which is crucial to addressing the growing social and economic challenges posed by modern lifestyles and dietary habits, and driving innovation in a sector of crucial importance to the UK economy.

Translational opportunities through impact on policy (including government agencies) and potential for research to be taken up by the food industry or more clinically-focused analysis should be explored. Impacts on training and the UK skills base should also be considered. The priority promotes basic research, but we recognise and support the importance of end-user engagement for translation to practical applications.

Why we're doing it

Two of our key strategic priorities are:

  • bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food
  • bioscience for an integrated understanding of health.

Integration of research across agriculture, food, nutrition and health – all along the food chain, from soil to food to its effect on human health – is important to both these themes.

Nutritional challenges

Elucidating the interactions between food, its nutritional content and human physiological systems represents a multidisciplinary challenge with key public health and economic impacts. The health consequences of changing diets and dietary habits represent an unsustainable social and economic burden, yet many of the mechanisms underpinning the effects of food and nutrition on long-term and acute health remain under-investigated.

Foods must be produced which take account of human nutritional requirements and could include changing the availability of certain foods, enhancing the nutritional content of foods, reformulation or a combination of these. Innovation in the food industry depends upon underpinning research to inform product development and processing strategies to enhance safety and health benefits.

Food safety

In delivering healthier and more nutritious foods, it is crucial that we are cognisant of food safety. Issues around microbial and chemical contamination in the production chain, authenticity and provenance must be considered when modifying diets and production processes, and when developing strategies to make existing diets safer.

Multidisciplinary approaches

Addressing the nutritional and safety challenges facing the UK and the world will require solutions which encompass the whole food chain. Multidisciplinary approaches which harness expertise across the BBSRC research space from soil, horticulture, crop, livestock and aquaculture science to food science, food safety, and human physiology are, therefore, strongly encouraged, as are proposals at the interface with other research councils (provided the majority of the work falls within our remit).

BBSRC aims to support world-class research which will advance understanding of the way in which safe and healthy foods can be sustainably generated, and how nutrients, foods and whole diets interact with biological systems to promote health.

Opportunities, support and resources available

Who to contact

Food, nutrition and health

Louisa Jenkin


Telephone: 01793 413352

Food safety

Andrew Hellewell


Telephone: 01793 414686

Nutritional enhancement

Andrew Hellewell


Telephone: 01793 414686

Last updated: 12 September 2023

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