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Dr Alison Wallace

Alison Wallace
Position
Scientist
Field
Nutrition research
Place of Work
Plant & Food Research

Alison is a nutritionist at Plant & Food Research, she is involved in several research programmes and manages clinical trials.

Region

Canterbury

Job

As part of her work she measures peoples’ blood glucose response to different foods.

Alison's job involves pricking subjects fingers regularly to measure the amount of glucose in their blood. Find out more about this from Alison, get video clip: Measuring blood glucose.

I love my work - it is never predictable...

Identifying foods with a low blood glucose response, or low glycaemic load, is important because these foods can help to improve blood glucose control in people with diabetes, and may even stop people developing diabetes.

Alison’s research has shown that low glycaemic load foods can also promote weight loss. She is currently testing whether these foods can be successfully incorporated into a web-based weight loss programme.

Get focus story: Future Foods

Other projects that Alison is involved in include developing functional foods for treatment of Helicobacter Pylori, a bacteria associated with stomach ulcers and stomach cancers, and studying the effects of margarine and oil on cholesterol levels.

A lot of different skills are required for this type of work. Alison designs and manages the clinical trials; obtains ethics approval; recruits participants, and is part of a team taking the required measurements during trials. Another essential part of her work is to analyse the trial results and write papers for journals.

Career Pathway

Alison wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she first went to university. She liked the idea of doing physiotherapy or pharmacy, but says “It was just the thought that I’d know what I was going to do at the end that attracted me to them.”

Alison decided to do a chemistry degree. In the second year of this degree she took a paper in human nutrition and really enjoyed it. She found that nutrition studies were relevant to her life and really useful to people – which meant she could help others.

She was uncertain about becoming a research scientist, but once she had started her masters she knew it was the right job for her “I really enjoyed it. Working with humans is very rewarding - you get to meet a great range of people from all facets of life.”

Alison converted her masters to a PhD and has been working in nutrition ever since. Her first job was working with Food Standards Australia New Zealand to develop the compulsory nutrition labelling standards and health claims.

After this, Alison worked for the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance where she looked at the fat intakes of Irish adults and predictors of this. Since 2003 she has been a nutritionist at Plant & Food Research.

Interests

Alison is a keen mountain biker and tramper. She loves getting away from it all and enjoying nature, especially out in the fresh mountain air. She also likes reading and listening to music.

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