Centre for Diet and Activity Research renewed for five years

CROPPED MP900438641Building evidence and research capacity for effective public health action

The Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) has been renewed for five years – as part of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration initiative that supports five Public Health Research Centres of Excellence.

CEDAR is driven by the overall goal of changing diet and physical activity at a population level. It is studying the factors that influence these behaviours, developing and evaluating interventions, and helping to shape health practice and policy in this area.

Poor diet and lack of physical activity play an important role in increasing the chance of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and mental health problems. NCDs account for approximately 60% of deaths globally: physical inactivity alone is estimated to account for around 1 in 10 deaths worldwide, comparable to the impact of smoking; and 70,000 premature deaths in the UK alone could be avoided each year if diets matched nutritional guidelines.

These behaviours do not exist in isolation: they are driven as much by the social, cultural, economic and physical environment in which we live as they are by our personal attitudes and beliefs. CEDAR aims to improve our knowledge of these wider factors so that populations can be supported in adopting sustainable healthy behaviours. This goes beyond traditional health-promotion to looking at the wider aspects of how we live our lives, for instance how we travel to work or school, or how the physical and economic environment affect the food we buy.

To address these complex issues, CEDAR draws on the expertise of a wide range of scientific disciplines, including behavioural science, biostatistics, epidemiology, health economics, health geography, and nutrition research. This collaboration is achieved by a partnership between the Universities of Cambridge and East Anglia, and MRC Units of Epidemiology, Human Nutrition Research, and Biostatistics. CEDAR is hosted by the Cambridge Institute of Public Health.

Professor Nick Wareham, CEDAR Director said: “This renewal is a vote of confidence in the quality of the work being done by CEDAR researchers and their collaborators, and its value to public health. This funding is particularly important in allowing us to continue to build capacity for the future of research. Over two thirds of the researchers who make up the core of CEDAR are PhD students and Career Development Fellows, and this money means that we can support the best young researchers as they seek innovative approaches to tackling the complex research questions inherent in population-level behaviour change.”

As well as encouraging excellence in research, CEDAR is committed to supporting the development of evidence-based policy and practice. CEDAR evidence is already helping policymakers and health professionals make decisions about how to improve health for the whole population, and the Centre will continue to develop resources and relationships that foster this contribution.

CEDAR studies involve collaborations across the UK, and internationally. Studies that Centre researchers lead or are involved in include:

  • The Baby Milk Trial, a randomised control trial of a formula feeding programme aimed at informing feeding guidelines in the UK and helping us understand the links between infant feeding, behaviour, appetite and growth. (Funded by the National Prevention Research Initiative and MRC Epidemiology Unit)
  • Commuting and Health in Cambridge, looking at how people travel and how this is related to their overall physical activity, health and well-being. (Funded by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research programme.) www.cedar.iph.cam.ac.uk/research/directory/cahic/
  • FAST, a feasibility study to explore whether the built environment is associated with physical activity. (Funded by the Wellcome Trust) www.cedar.iph.cam.ac.uk/research/directory/fast/
  • iConnect, measuring and evaluating changes in travel, physical activity and carbon emissions related to the Sustrans Connect2 project to transform local travel in 79 communities. (Funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) www.iconnect.ac.uk
  • SPEEDY, a population based cohort study focused on children, with the aim of improving our understanding of patterns of and influences on diet and physical activity among children. (Funded by the National Prevention Research Initiative and MRC Epidemiology Unit)


The UK Clinical Research Collaboration brings together the NHS, research funders, industry, regulatory bodies, Royal Colleges, patient groups and academia in a UK-wide environment that facilitates and promotes high quality clinical research for the benefit of patients. The funding Partners contributing to this joint initiative are:

  • British Heart Foundation
  • Cancer Research UK
  • Department of Health
  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • Medical Research Council
  • Health and Social Care Research and Development, Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland
  • Wales Office of Research and Development for Health and Social Care, Welsh Assembly Government
  • Wellcome Trust

Administrative management of the Centres for the second five year period of funding will be provided by the Medical Research Council.

The five UKCRC Public Health Research Centres of Excellence are:

  • CEDAR, the Centre for Diet and Activity Research
  • Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health www.fuse.ac.uk
  • The Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland www.qub.ac.uk/coe
  • The UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS) www.ukctcs.org
  • DECIPHer: Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health improvement www.decipher.uk.net