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Early Determinants and Lifecourse

Our researchers focus on uncovering the early-life determinants that influence health outcomes and weight trajectories over the lifespan. We explore how factors from the earliest stages of life can shape health outcomes, and aim to identify actionable opportunities to intervene and improve health and well-being throughout the life course. Further information about specific areas of expertise and projects within the theme of 'Early Determinants and Lifecourse' are detailed below.

Aetiology of appetitive traits

Appetitive traits, also known as eating behaviours, manifest early in life, show genetic influence, and interact with environmental factors to predict body weight. Our research utilises data from prospective birth cohorts (e.g. Gemini, Generation XXI, the Twins Early Development Study) and experimental research to investigate the aetiology of eating behaviour. Ongoing research projects include investigating bidirectional relationships between eating behaviours and body weight from infancy to adolescence, exploring socioeconomic (e.g. food insecurity) and family influences (e.g. home food environment) on eating behaviours, and investigating the role of appetite and feeding practices in the development of eating disorders.

Food Choice and Hedonics

We eat to live but food is also an important source of pleasure contributing to human psychological wellbeing. Not all individuals have the same attraction to food or are responsive to drivers to consume them. For some people their enjoyment of eating food and their motivation to consume foods frequently and in large quantities may put them at risk of developing overweight or obesity. Our research investigates the drivers to eat and the factors influencing food choice and how these factors may influence a individuals risk of developing overweight or obesity.

Environmental Determinants

The environment is filled with many opportunities and few barriers to consume food. There is also disproportionate access and availability of ‘energy-dense’ foods, that tend to be high in fat, salt and sugar and these food are often aggressively marketed to the public. Furthermore, socioeconomic differences at the neighbourhood- and individual-level are associated with the types of food available to children and the quality of their dietary intake. Our research explores environmental and socioeconomic factors on the family food environment, children's eating behaviours, food choices and weight, and potential mechanisms underpinning the relationship between food insecurity and obesity.

Consumer behaviour and policy

In collaboration with researcher from the Nutrition and Lifestyle Analytics Team, led by Professor Michelle Morris, our researchers contribute to projects utilising customer data from shopping transactions and loyalty cards to test interventions aimed at promoting healthy and sustainable diets. Interventions involve in-store and online behaviour change trials to modify supermarket shopping environments, including experimenting with signposting, product placement and incentivisation. These projects aim to deliver evidence-based research on how best to encourage both healthy and sustainable consumer behaviours.

Current projects

Explore our diverse portfolio of current research projects. Employing both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, these projects tackle pressing research questions across various domains. Dive deeper into each project through the links provided, and discover the innovative approaches and insights driving advancements in our field

My First 1000 Days

The My First 1000 days project are developing, implementing and evaluation a disability-inclusive centering-based group care programme, which incorporates physical activity, food and nutrition, and cognition and language development components, for primary caregivers and children during the first 1000 days in Leeds, West Yorkshire. The project brings together a range of experts across several disciplines from the University of Leeds, and a range of regional partners, with expertise in children’s health and development, to improve the lives of families in a region of profound inequality.

Gemini study

Gemini is a large population-based study of 2402 families with twins born in England and Wales in 2007. Gemini aims to advance understanding of the genetic and environmental influences on obesity risk and to identify potentially modifiable determinants of excessive weight gain.

APPETiTE Project

In this 3-year project, we are working with researchers at Aston University, Loughbourough, UCL and Kings College London to examine feeding and eating behaviours of preschoolers with avid appetites and to understand children’s differential susceptibility to obesogenic environments and to inform future intervention efficacy. This large, collaborative project aims to help support parents whose children are very focused on and motivated by food. It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

FFES-L (Family Food Experience Study: London)

This large collaborative project aims to understand why, despite a range of food-related policies and interventions in place across London there continues to be increasing inequality in child health between different neighbourhoods. This project is funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).


This four year project brings together collaborators across four universities: York, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester. Demand for food is ever-increasing. The IKnowFood project aims to develop practical tools to enable farmers, processors, manufacturers, retailers and consumers to withstand shocks to the UK food system. At the University of Leeds we are investigating consumer beliefs, values and inequalities, particularly why population groups make different food choices.

Healthy and Sustainable Diets

Working with supermarkets to understand the impact of product placement on purchases of healthy and sustainable diets. This work is part of a wider partnership with the Institute for Grocery Distribution (IGD).

Diet and Health Inequalities (DIO Food)

The DIO Food project aims to identify how we can provide timely evidence-based research and commentary from those facing diet and health inequalities. The main focus of the project is working with vulnerable groups (early years and people with low income) to tackle the cost of living crisis to give timely policy directives. This project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).