Lisa, it’s lovely to meet you. Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a first-year PhD student at University College London, having taken up my position in January of 2020. Originally I am from Scotland’s east coast and I have lived in both Edinburgh and Glasgow since 2012. I am fortunate enough to be working in the Obesity Research Group, supervised by Dr Clare Llewellyn, within the Gemini study – a large, population-based birth cohort that has followed 4808 twins born in England and Wales for 13 years.

Please share some information about your professional and research interests:

My background lies within sport science and physiology, topics which inspired me to pursue a career in nutritional research. Whilst studying for my Master’s degree, ‘Human Nutrition with specialisation in Obesity and Weight Management’ at the University of Glasgow, I focussed on adult behavioural weight management interventions delivered in the United Kingdom. These interventions combine advice on three topics – diet, physical activity and behavioural change – to assist participants with weight loss. My work aimed to ultimately improve clinical practice by supporting investigations into which intervention components work best, and for who. Within a small team, I contributed to the creation of a toolkit for the standardised reporting of adult behavioural weight management interventions, aiming to aid evaluations of effectiveness (collectively named ‘STAR-LITE’). For my PhD project, I have steered toward a more nutrition-focused area of research. Currently, I am attempting to understand the impacts of free sugar and sweetener intake on adiposity, appetite and preference for sweet taste during childhood.

What will your role be in the SWEET Project?

I am a member of Work Package 4, contributing to the examination of population-based studies on sugar, sweeteners and health. The Gemini study has gathered ‘diet diaries’ from the twins at different ages, making it the richest contemporary dietary dataset of children available in the UK. Using this information, my research attempts to understand the genetic and environmental influences of sweetener and sweetness enhancer intake during the key developmental stages of childhood, and the subsequent impacts on growth and taste preference. I will also be looking into the association between sweetener intake and obesity in children. I am very excited to be involved with SWEET and feel extremely proud to be part of a project with so many interesting stakeholders and such an important overall aim.

Can you share some of your favourite hobbies and interests?

I have always loved sport – I was a competitive figure skater for ten years and a member of my university’s cheerleading squad as an undergraduate student. During my time on the team, we held the National Champion University title for three years running and were lucky enough to lead one of the famous parades at Disneyland Paris. Aside from keeping fit, I love travelling. After volunteering with a health and wellness foundation in Fiji in 2017, I spent almost a year living and working in Australia. Some of the many highlights of my trip included skydiving in Queensland, snorkelling with whales in the Whitsunday Islands and seeing The Remarkables in New Zealand. I would love to connect with anyone interested in the same research areas – pleased connect with me on Twitter account @LisaaHeggie.