HAR6213: Nutritional Physiology

The Nutritional Physiology module is led by Liz Williams. It runs in the Spring semester and is worth 15 credits.


The Nutritional Physiology module is led by Liz Williams. It runs in the Spring semester and is worth 15 credits.

It is one of the modules on:

This module is available as a CPD option

This module is available Faculty-wide in any year as a DDP module

Maximum class size: 50


This module will introduce the students to the concept of homeostasis and the functions of the human body related to nutrition. The module introduces the major physiological processes occurring through life, as they relate to and are influenced by nutrition, beginning in-utero, and considering the physiological adaptations of pregnancy, lactation and ageing.

Included in the module are the principles and measurement of energy balance, energy expenditure, body mass and body composition and the physiological regulation of food intake.


This unit aims to:

  • provide students with core knowledge of physiological principles within a nutritional context
  • provide students with nutritional relevant practical skills and the ability to analyse, interpret and present novel data

Learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, a candidate will:

  1. Have a knowledge and understanding of basic physiological principles and the mechanisms fundamental to homeostasis
  2. Have an knowledge and understanding of energy balance & metabolic rate, and regulation of nutrient intake
  3. Physiological adaptation at various stages of life including in early life, older age and in response to exercise
  4. Be able to describe gut development, adaptation and the regulation of intestinal absorption and secretion
  5. Have developed practical skills to measure metabolic rate, VO2 max and body composition, and understand the use and limitations of these methods
  6. Have developed team working skills in a laboratory setting, improved statistical analysis techniques and improved scientific report writing skills.

Core competencies

The module covers core competencies required for accreditation of the MSc in Human Nutrition by the Association for Nutrition (AfN).

This module addresses in depth the following AfN core competencies:
CC1a  CC1h  CC1l  CC1n  CC1o  CC4a

The module supports the learning of knowledge and acquisition of skills relating to aspects of the following AfN core competencies:
CC1d  CC1e  CC1f  CC1i  CC1j  CC1k  CC1q  CC3c  CC4e CC4g

Teaching methods

Learning outcomes 1 to 4: will be delivered through a series of lectures and seminars.

This will be supplemented by access to resources on MOLE and direction to key texts that will aid their understanding of the basic principles and to the published literature to help consolidate their knowledge and to encourage critical analysis. All students will be expected to supplement their lectures with self-study.

The lectures and the self-study will provide students with a good understanding of physiology and the ability to interpret and predict physiological responses to altered circumstances.

Learning outcomes 5 and 6: Students will undertake 3 laboratory exercises

The laboratory exercises will teach the students how to measuring resting metabolic rate using indirect calorimetry, estimate VO2 max during exercise and the measurement and principles of body composition using bioelectrical impedance techniques and skin-fold callipers. The laboratory exercises will require students to work in teams of 4-5. Students will be introduced to the concepts of experimental error, accuracy and reproducibility.

Through the practical the students will generate a dataset that they will be required to analyse using appropriate statistical tests. The students will be required to produce an individual report based on the laboratory exercises and the data collected. This report will involve statistical analysis, graphical representation and interpretation of the data, and a critical review of the methodologies used.


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