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The role of whole grain and lignans in lifestyle diseases: Interview with Anne-Kirstine Eriksen and

In late Spring 2019, the third of May 3rd, Anne Kirstine Eriksen defended her doctoral thesis from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences on ‘The role of whole grains and lignans in lifestyle diseases – emphasis on prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes and their risk factors’. Below follows an interview with Anne Kirstine where she gives us an insight of her work.

What has your research/thesis been dealing with?

The overall aim of my PhD project was to investigate the effects of whole grain and dietary lignans on cardio-metabolic risk factors and the association between plasma enterolactone concentrations and prognosis of type 2 diabetes and prostate cancer. The research was based on both dietary intervention trials and prospective cohort studies.

What are your main results?

Among men with metabolic syndrome, neither whole grain nor lignans had an effect on blood glucose or insulin levels assessed by oral glucose tolerance tests. However, a lipid-lowering effect was observed following intake of whole grain rye compared to wheat. Interestingly, composition of the gut microbiota at baseline seemed to be associated with response to diet.

High enterolactone concentrations (measured before diagnosis) were associated with lower mortality among people with type 2 diabetes, whereas we found no association between enterolactone and mortality from prostate cancer.

Lastly, we showed that men with non-aggressive prostate cancer were able to adhere to comprehensive lifestyle changes including high intake of whole grain rye and physical activity over a period of six months. In order to evaluate such lifestyle changes on prostate cancer progression, a full-scale study is warranted.

What implications may your findings have for future research?

Our results that indicate an important role of the gut microbiota in response to type of whole grain intervention are novel and very interesting. Hopefully, we will become wiser during the coming years on the role of our gut bacterial community in health and disease.

What will you do ahead?

I am now in a Postdoc position in the same group where I performed my PhD project (Diet, Cancer and Health) at the Danish Cancer Research Center working on a new project (POLLY) to establish a cohort of participants, from the National Screening Program for colorectal cancer, which had a colonoscopy performed. We will collect questionnaire information on diet and lifestyle to investigate the association with risk of recurrent polyps and colorectal cancer.

What was the most challenging - and the most rewarding - about your PhD studies?

I found it challenging to work as independently as a PhD project demands. It can become lonely at times. At the same time, it was really a learning experience and of course, I had my great supervisors and colleagues, but in the end, it is your project and your own journey. The most rewarding was the collaboration with great colleagues in Denmark and abroad; especially my stay in Uppsala, where I conducted the dietary intervention, will always stand as a very special time for me.


Paper I (Submitted to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.)

Main supervisors

Rikard Landberg, Chalmers University of Technology, Dept. Biology and Biological Engineering (former SLU, Dept. Molecular Sciences)

Anja Olsen, Danish Cancer Research Center (DCRC)

Other supervisors

Cecilie Kyrø, DCRC

Anne Tjønneland, DCRC

Johan Dicksved, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Dept. Animal Nutrition and Management

Anne Kirstine has a Bachelor degree in Food Science and a Master in Human Nutrition, both from University of Copenhagen. She did her master thesis in Cambridge, UK at the Medical Research Center (MRC) Epidemiology Unit where she got into the field of epidemiological research. She is an active, outdoor-loving person who like to spend time with her family, especially her 1 year-old daughter, Beate.

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