Department for Health

Chronic disease, obesity and ageing

Why do we research this area?


Patient having blood taken

— Venous blood being drawn via a cannula to assess the physiological responses to consuming a meal.


Chronic diseases are generally of long duration and slow progression. These include diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Chronic diseases are by far the leading cause of mortality in the world (World Health Organisation 2011) and are closely related to obesity and ageing.

Most people in the UK are overweight or obese and this poses a significant threat in terms of the likely future burden from chronic disease. Furthermore, the substantial increase in life expectancy presents a challenge to successfully prolong health in an ageing population.

The economic and social costs of chronic disease are enormous and will continue to rise. For example, the healthcare costs of cardiovascular disease alone were £14 billion in 2006 (British Heart Foundation).

Many chronic diseases are preventable and physical activity or exercise can play a major role.

What do we do?

Our staff and research students undertake research projects ranging from studies seeking to understand the mechanisms by which physical activity protects against chronic disease through to intervention studies in people at risk of chronic disease.

If we know ‘how’ (understand the mechanisms), then we might be able to develop new therapies and treatments for chronic disease. If we know both ‘how’, and by ‘how much’ (such as dose response), then we will be able to make better recommendations for people who are at risk. If we know how to intervene in people who are at risk, then we are better placed to minimise the potential burden for a given individual and for society as a whole.

Examples of our research

Project title Aim/findings People and Partners Funder
Extended Daily Fasting (Omission of Breakfast) and the Regulation of Energy Balance
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A combined cross-over experiment and randomised group comparison to investigate the causal mechanisms through which daily breakfast consumption may be related to appetite, physical activity, glycaemic control, tissue-specific insulin signalling and chronic low-grade systemic inflammation. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Development and piloting of a model of neighbourhood support for promotion of active ageing: Project ACE (Active, Connected and Engaged) To develop and pilot a pragmatic, sustainable and low cost model of volunteering action to promote active ageing in the community.
  • Dr Afroditi Stathi (Principal Investigator)
  • Ken Fox (Bristol)
  • Janice Thompson (Bristol)
  • Mark Davis (Bristol)
  • Liz Lloyd (Bristol)
  • Selena Gray (UWE)
  • Graham Parkhust (UWE)
  • Robin Gargrave (YMCA)
  • Rosi Prescott (YMCA)
  • Janet Dabbs (Age UK)
  • Jonathan Amphlett (Bristol City Council)
  • Robert Laventure (BHF National Centre for physical activity and health)
  • Derek Rees (Service User Representative)
  • Ann Smith (Service User Representative)
Medical Research Council (Lifelong Health and Well-Being Initiative - Phase 3)
The Avon Network for Physical Activity Promotion of Older People in the community To develop a strong multidisciplinary partnership with academics, national agencies, policy-makers, primary care trusts, public health departments, service providers, local councils, volunteer organisations and charitable trusts. Medical Research Council (Lifelong Health and WellBeing Initiative - Phase 2)