National Diabetes Week | Life Sciences

Facts about Diabetes

  • Diabetes is one of the most well-known and rapidly expanding chronic metabolic conditions, affecting 4.5 million people in the UK today.
  • According to Diabetes UK, about 90 percent of people with diabetes have Type 2.
  • The main issue with the condition is that sugar levels in the blood become too high. People living with Type 2 diabetes either won’t produce enough insulin or the insulin that they do produce won’t work properly (this is known as insulin resistance). This leads to high blood sugar levels.

To mark this year’s National Diabetes Week, these are some of the ways we, at the University of Roehampton, dedicate ourselves to improving the lives of people who are living with Type 2 diabetes.

Roehampton Diabetes Research Team at Diabetes UK Professional Conference in Liverpool, Nirun, Kittiwadee and Astrid (middle)

Can we improve how our body makes insulin?

Dr Astrid Hauge Evans, Senior Lecturer says:

I am particularly interested in how different factors affect cells making insulin. These factors might be hormones produced by the body or signals from our nervous system or they might be parts of our diet. It has recently become clear that bacteria in our gut also produce factors when breaking down our food. Some of these breakdown products may have both positive and negative effects on blood sugar levels and insulin production in the body. I work with my colleagues at Roehampton and other universities and the charity Diabetes UK to understand this better.

Could wholegrain help prevent diabetes?

Dr Adele Costabile, Lecturer, says:

My research interest is in gut health and I am working with Dr Astrid Hauge-Evans and Dr Giulia Corona to conduct a study to see if a diet high in wholegrains could alter bacteria in people living with Type 2 diabetes and protect insulin-producing cells. I am also conducting research on understanding the effect that seaweed could have on human’s gut health in collaboration with BioAtlantis, a plant strengthening product company.

Can a cup of coffee prevent diabetes?

PhD student Kittiwadee Sarnsamak (supervisors: Dr Astrid Hauge-Evans and Dr Adele Costabile), says:

Research suggests that drinking coffee can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. I am trying to find out what the underlying reasons for these findings may be. I am particularly interested in how natural non-caffeine ingredients in coffee may protect insulin-producing cells and therefore help preventing Type 2 diabetes.

How do hormones affect diabetes?

Nirun Hewawasam-PhD student

PhD student Nirun Hewawasam (supervisors: Dr Astrid Hauge-Evans, Dr Sue Reeves and Dr Michael Patterson), says:

I am a final year PhD student and I am interested in finding new therapeutic approaches to treat Type 2 diabetes. My work focuses on exploring how the hormones somatostatin (a hormone regulating growth) and ghrelin (a hormone responsible affecting appetite) can help the cells that produce insulin to survive in Type 2 diabetes. This is important because the dysfunction and loss of insulin producing cells are factors that cause Type 2 diabetes. I’ll be presenting my findings at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in September 2019 in Barcelona.

How can we understand the causes of type 2 diabetes?

Dr Richard Mackenzie, Reader, says:

My research focuses on the underlining causes that contribute to Type 2 diabetes. I use a range of techniques to improve our understanding of why the body stops responding to insulin. This work extends from isolated cells to whole body research in human volunteers. I also study how nutrition and exercise metabolism influence diabetic risk and prevention. I work in partnership with NHS England’s Diabetes Prevention Programme.

Does our lifestyle affect type 2 diabetes?

PhD student Oana Ancu (supervisors: Dr Richard Mackenzie and Dr Astrid Hauge-Evans), says:

I am interested in how lifestyle affects Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Diet is very important for people with Type 2 diabetes, and I want to find out whether the amount of protein people eat influences how well their blood sugar levels are controlled. I am also investigating how exercise affects the way insulin-producing cells work.


The University of Roehampton changes lives by helping our students to develop the confidence, knowledge and values they need for a successful and fulfilling life. We produce world-class research that helps us understand the world and change it for the better.

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