Dr. Heffernan is Senior Lecturer in Molecular Physiology and Nutrition at Swansea University and has been consuming a plant-based diet since 2015. He has a wide variety of research interests sparked during his studies including PhD work on Exercise and Sports Genetics at Manchester Metropolitan University and his postdoctoral fellowship in nutrition and musculoskeletal disease at University College Dublin. His work includes in vivo and in vitro experimental studies working with the sustainable nutrition industry and perusing his own experimental hypothesis concerning the impact of habitual dietary patterns on musculoskeletal and vascular health, and athletic performance.
The latter led Dr. Heffernan, PhD student Joe Page (a member of the Vegan Society Researcher Network), and a wider research team with diverse expertise to create The OMnivorous and Non-meat eater Integrative Physiology and NutriTion (OMNIPLaNT) Study. The goal of the study is to recruit a large sample of participants and asses, in detail, a range of physiological phenotypes across age, sex, race, and athlete status in individuals following habitually specific dietary patterns. The study will utilise ultrasound technology to assess skeletal muscle and vascular health, dual-energy X-ray imaging to compare body composition and bone mineral density, and associated blood-derived biomarkers between diet groups. Dr. Heffernan hopes that conducting this study will improve our understanding of the physiological (and molecular) impact of adopting a specific dietary pattern. In doing so, the OMNIPLaNT study aims to elucidate some of the key questions lacking answers in the scientific literature; What is the impact of a non-meat eater dietary pattern (vegan for example) on muscle size, strength, and quality? How do these diets impact bone health and by extension fracture risk? Can specific dietary patterns impact vascular health? And finally, what effects can these dietary patterns have on athletic performance.
The first OMNIPLaNT Study (and Joe’s first PhD study) is now live, consisting of an online questionnaire investigating eating behaviours and appetite for comparison between diet groups, which you can find at https://survey.swan.ac.uk/index.php/788865?lang=en. If you would like to find out more about the OMNIPLaNT Study, current and planned research projects, you can contact Joe and Dr Heffernan at omniplantresearch[at]swansea.ac[dot]uk or follow the study (@omniplantres) and/or Heffernan on Twitter (@Dr_Heff56).
OMNIPLaNT webpage: https://www.swansea.ac.uk/sports-science/astem/omniplant/