Nutrition, Diet and Gene Interactions
This page was last updated on 08/10/2015.
The prerequisites for this paper are BIOSCI 202 and 203. This paper can be quite challenging due to the content but despite its difficulty I still found it quite interesting as it illustrated the difference nutrition can make in disease and how it can even interact with genes, which is actually quite remarkable.
There were 12 different lecturers over the semester with a vast amount of topics, meaning that it is quite a difficult paper because there are so many different things to learn. However, this gives you a good overview of nutrition and its various roles in disease and health, and integrates a lot of concepts from other papers such as immunology and mechanisms of disease.
There were 34 lectures in total with 3 lectures per week. In 2015 the audio for these lectures were recorded and posted up on CECIL.
The course guide contained learning objectives and summaries of the lectures so did not prove very useful, and as there is no prescribed textbook very few had readings.
It would be recommended not to take this paper lightly just because it only has two labs as it, like most MEDSCI papers, has a lot of content.
In 2015 there were only two 3-hour labs which were both computer-based. During these labs, we were required to recall what we had eaten the previous day and enter this into FoodWorks (computer software). We were then required to plan a diet (either low fat or high fibre) and in the two weeks between the labs try to follow the diet and record everything we had eaten for 3 days. You will be provided with a question booklet but everything is explained during the labs. I would definitely recommend actually doing the diet because you'll be able to understand the reasons behind why research involving certain diets are quite hard in terms of compliance of test subjects.
Assignment 1 (10%) was a 1000 word critique of a scientific article, which had to be scaled because of how badly everyone did. Make sure that when you do this assignment you steer clear of summarising the article at the beginning as it takes up your word count and was considered unnecessary.
Assignment 2 (15%) was a 1500 word essay on 1 of 5 topics that we were provided with. The topics we got were quite open-ended.
MST and Exam
The mid-semester test was based on the first 20 lectures and consisted of 35 MCQs and 2 short answer questions. This is not too difficult if you've studied and we were given very strong hints about what the SAQs were going to be about.
In 2015 we were told which lecturers were NOT going to be examined so we were able to shorten down the list of topics that would come up in the exam. You will have to pick 4 topics out of 9 and write essays on them. The exam layout is quite predictable so this means you can pick and choose to study in depth the topics you would prefer to write on.
Overview on terminologies, techniques and technologies
Associate Professor Clare Wall did an introduction to the course and talked about nutritional epidemiology. She covered different types of study designs (e.g. longitudinal, cross-sectional) which came up in the MCQs for the test.
Following the introduction, Dr. Matthew Barnett did three lectures. The first two were on techniques in nutrition research and the third one on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Gut nutrition and disease
Dr. Karen Bishop talks about genes, diet and cancer in two lectures. She also lectures two other topics later on in the course and tends to hint quite strongly about what is important.
Dr. Mike Taylor took two lectures on the human gut microbiome. His section can be quite straight forward and he did hint about what specifically to include in our essay if we were to answer his question.
Associate Professor Clare Wall then took two lectures on Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome. These lectures were easy to follow and the slides had most of the information.
Supplements, vitamins, micronutrients and co-factors
Clare Wall lectured on iron and diet-gene interactions in this section. Again her slides and lectures are quite informative and easy to follow.
Dr. Ian Reid then did three lectures on Vitamin D and calcium in health. His lectures slides were a bit vague so you definitely need to go along to the lectures and take comprehensive notes. He likes to talk about scientific articles a lot so make sure you pay attention so that you know what is relevant and what the explanation behind figures in the slides are. This topic was a bit unclear at times which made it difficult to fully understand and I found myself having to listen to the lecture recordings very carefully to take proper notes.
Dr. Chris Guise lectured on metabolism and cancer. His lectures were quite content heavy and most of his slides were diagrams that he explained during the lecture so it would be wise to pay attention in lectures.
Karen Bishop then did two lectures on the interaction between nutrition and epigenetics in health and disease. She likes to talk about specific diseases and what kind of diets would suppress or help to deal with certain diseases and has asked questions about these in the past.
Dr. Luke Gemming then did two lectures on obesity and type II diabetes.
Immunity and inflammation
Associate Professor Lindsay Plank did 3 lectures on genes, diet and inflammation. He liked to talk about a lot of different scientific articles, some of which have opposing results, so it is important to pay attention so that you know which ones are relevant. This was quite a heavy topic so do not take it lightly. This is probably the most content heavy topic and has a lot of different things that you would have to learn about in order to answer his question effectively, so be warned.
Dr. Karen Bishop then took another lectures on genes, diet and cardiovascular disease. There are a lot of details in these lectures but as mentioned earlier she does hint about what is likely to be tested so stay alert for hints.
Associate Professor Nicola Dalbeth did two lectures on gout and on the role of nutrition in rheumatic disease (namely rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and osteoarthritis).
Professor Rod Newcomb did three lectures on the genetics of flavour perception and neuroregulation of satiety. He often has questions in the exams which are quite predictable.
Associate Professor Susan Morten did two lectures about adult consequences of early nutrition. This was about the relationship between compromised fetal growth and chronic diseases later in life. This was then linked specifically to research in New Zealand.
Rhodi Bulloch did two lectures on external factors and health specific to New Zealand. This mainly had to do with obesity and different behavioural and environmental factors that influence obesity risk as well as different ways to reduce the risk of obesity in the community. This required a lot of memorising.