Ellen Joyce


Ellen Joyce has been researching the impact of a high fat diet of the body, in particular on obesity and the nervous system.

Ellen Joyce

Now she will be joining others at Worcester Cathedral to celebrate graduating with a PhD in Biochemistry.

“Having come back to post-secondary education as a mature student, this marks a major milestone and personal achievement for me,” she said. “This achievement of course would not have been possible without the constant support and encouragement of my loved ones and mentors. I am also very grateful to the University for the funding that enabled me to complete this PhD. Worcester has really felt like a home-away-from-home for the past 10 years or so, and I carry with me fond memories from all the opportunities the university offered and the friendships it cultivated.”

Ellen returned to university education in 2012 as a mature student on Worcester’s Human Biology and Human Nutrition course. She did a Masters at University College Cork, and then returned to the University of Worcester to join the Department of Biosciences in the School of Science and the Environment as an Associate Lecturer in 2016. When the opportunity for a studentship-funded PhD became available, she jumped at the chance.

Ellen’s PhD research focused on understanding the complex relationship of a high-saturated-fat diet on obesity and the effects of treatment with standardised Ginkgo biloba leaf extract.

“A high-saturated-fat diet is associated with not just obesity, but also an increased risk of inflammation, diabetes, heart disease, cognitive impairment, anxiety, stress, and depression. Ginkgo biloba is one of the most globally consumed plant-based dietary supplements known for its strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacities and beneficial effects on cardiovascular and neurological health.

“My research has shown that Ginkgo biloba treatment can help regulate some of the negative changes that occur in the body from consuming a high fat diet. For instance, we found that Ginkgo biloba supplementation helped to reduce food intake which is a very beneficial outcome if attempting to follow a calorie-controlled diet. Ginkgo biloba also helps improve the distribution of unsaturated fats in the body, namely monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. A high fat diet often contains high levels of saturated fat which are linked to a variety of health problems including heart disease. Unsaturated fats which we found to be increased following Ginkgo biloba treatment are often associated with improving blood cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation and is therefore another very promising outcome”.

Ellen collaborated with colleagues at Worcester, but also Brazil’s Federal University of São Paulo, who are doing similar work. “My doctoral findings have helped build upon my 

colleagues’ previous and ongoing work while contributing a greater understanding of the dynamic effects Ginkgo biloba has on the body. My findings will help shape the direction of further clinical trial research,” said Ellen.

She is currently working on a series of articles for publication based on her doctoral studies and on further collaborative work with researchers in Brazil. She is already a contributing author on two previously published articles related to her research and has presented eight international conference posters from her doctoral studies to date with more planned.

The University’s annual autumn Graduation Ceremonies will take place as planned from September 12-14 in the beautiful and historic Worcester Cathedral followed by celebration receptions at the City Campus. No Worcester graduates have been affected by the marking and assessment boycott.

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