CENA – Centre for Excellence in Nutrition and Ageing

What is CENA?

The emphasis on diet and chronic diseases of ageing led to the establishment of the Centre of Excellence in Nutrition and Ageing (CENA) within NICHE, with funding initially from the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) Northern Ireland. This project further enhanced existing important cross-border research activities in nutrition and ageing through the Trinity, Ulster and Department of Agriculture (TUDA) Ageing Cohort in turn part of a larger initiative, The Joint Irish Nutrigenomics Organisation (www.ucd.ie/jingo/).

CENA within NICHE is focused on the role of nutrition in the promotion of better health and well-being in ageing. CENA aims to:

  • Provide a better understanding of how nutrition impacts on chronic diseases of ageing with a particular emphasis on cardiovascular disease, cognitive dysfunction and osteoporosis.
  • Generate evidence which will influence public health policy and help to develop strategies aimed at promoting healthier ageing.

Ageing research at NICHE

Trinity, Ulster and Department of Agriculture (TUDA) Ageing Cohort Study

The TUDA study, part of JINGO (www.ucd.ie/jingo/) is a large all-Ireland investigation of nutritional, genetic and health and lifestyle factors in the development of common diseases of ageing, including cardiovascular disease, dementia and osteoporosis. The cohort consists of 5,186 non-institutionalised older Irish people aged over 60 years, exhibiting early phenotypic evidence of disease. As part of the TUDA study, detailed information on cardiovascular, cognitive and bone health, together with nutritional lifestyle and clinical data along with biochemical and genetic data were collected.

Currently, TUDA is one of the largest and most comprehensively characterised cohorts of its kind in the area of ageing research internationally. The TUDA resource provides a platform to enable research worldwide that could provide a better understanding of the nutritional needs for a better quality of life while ageing.

This £2 million project is co-funded by:

  • Irish Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine and Health Research Board: Food Institutional Research Measure (FIRM) initiative
  • Northern Ireland Department for Employment & Learning (DEL): Cross Border R&D Funding Programme: "Strengthening All-Island Research"

Vitamin D and older people research

Within NICHE, a major focus of the research has been on establishing vitamin D requirements of population sub-groups for policymakers in the UK and elsewhere. NICHE, along with researchers at University College Cork, provided scientific evidence, through conducting human intervention trials, that was used by the US Institute of Medicine to set vitamin D and calcium requirements for the US and Canada. The findings from these studies are also currently being used by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to revise UK policy on vitamin D requirements.

This work was funded by the Food Standards Agency.

Bone health in postmenopausal women

In 2008, a research project was commissioned by industry to investigate their supplement on bone health in postmenopausal women. This 2 year randomised, double-blind, controlled trial aimed to examine whether supplementation with a natural marine-derived multi-mineral supplement rich in calcium taken alone, and in conjunction with short-chain fructo-oligosaccharide, has a beneficial effect on bone mineral density and bone turnover markers in 300 postmenopausal women. Although the study did not identify any change in bone mineral density with the treatments, it did identify a greater decline in bone turnover with both treatments compared to the control. Furthermore, supplementation with the combined supplement slowed the rate of total body and spinal bone loss in postmenopausal women with osteopenia.

Further research is currently been conducted to investigate the effects of this supplement on measures of heart disease, including its effect on blood lipids, inflammatory markers and glucose metabolism. Results from this large comprehensive study will have an impact on public health of postmenopausal women who are routinely prescribed supplements in the prevention and management of osteoporosis.

This study was funded by:

  • Marigot Ltd., Cork, Ireland
  • Corn Products International, Westchester, Illinois