Prof Keith Godfrey, nutrition theme lead

Keith GodfreyWith a personal commitment to better health and healthcare through evidence-based nutritional intervention, Keith directs our research into nutrition to advance health and wellbeing.

Email: kmg@mrc.soton.ac.uk

Better maternal and early-life nutrition

Keith’s work is characterising the optimal diet and body composition for women before and during pregnancy, and how best to improve the growth of fetuses, infants and children.

His research is leading to greater understanding of the epigenetic mechanisms (factors affecting how and when genes are expressed) and pathways underlying relationships between early environment and later health profile.

Life-long impacts on our unborn children

Keith's research has established that children's development and body composition, including their proportion of fat to lean tissue, is affected by the mother's diet and lifestyle before and during pregnancy. This has long-term implications for their later health and risk of cardiovascular disease in later life.

A key role in this effect for epigenetic mechanisms had previously been shown in animals, but until recently there has been little direct evidence of similar influences in people.

New insights through work with Southampton mothers

Through follow up studies with participants in the long-running Southampton Women's Survey (SWS), Keith's team have identified specific epigenetic changes to genes associated with excessive weight gain in early childhood.

This work provides new insight into epigenetic influences in early growth and later body composition. The findings complement Keith’s work linking maternal overweight and obesity, excess pregnancy weight gain, poor quality diets, low vitamin D status in pregnancy and short duration of breastfeeding with an increased risk of childhood obesity.

Based on work with 12,583 women assessed at recruitment into the SWS and 3,160 of these women who subsequently became pregnant, the findings have been replicated since and are now enabling the development of predictive tools and new intervention trials.

National and international roles

2017: Diabetes UK Clinical Studies Group: Causes of diabetes

2016: Appointed NIHR senior investigator

2013: US National Institute of Aging/ESRC/BBSRC Reversibility Expert Panel

2012: European Union: Diabesity Expert Panel 

2012: Gravida: New Zealand National Centre for Growth and Development, International College 

2012: EarlyNutrition FP7 Collaborative Project, Steering Committee

2011: Honorary Chair, National University of Singapore  

2011: Executive Committee, UK, Ireland, Singapore and New Zealand cohort studies 

2010: University of Chicago Health Inequality Network member

2005: Treasurer & Trustee, International Society for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease

Education

1983: BM in Medicine (honours and clinical distinction), University of Southampton

1986: MRCP (London), Medicine

1997: CCST (dermatology)

1999: FRCP (London), Medicine

1999: PhD in medical sciences, University of Southampton

Career

1986 to 1990: Rotating Clinical Registrar, Southampton then Oxford/Reading/London

1990 to 1992: Clinical Research Fellow, MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit

1992 to 1995: MRC Training Fellow, MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit

1995 to 1996: Clinical Senior Lecturer, University of Southampton

1996 to 2001: Clinical Scientist, MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit

2001 to 2005: Tenured MRC Clinical Scientist, MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit

2005 to present: Professor of Epidemiology and Human Development, University of Southampton

2011 to present: Director, Centre for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease

2015 to 2017: Director, NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre

2017 to present: Lifecourse Nutrition, Lifestyle and Health Theme Lead, NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre