Metabolic Health

Earlier diagnosis and better management of pre-diabetes

Our research focus

The reason some people are more susceptible to metabolic conditions such as diabetes may lie in the storage of body fat. Gaining even small amounts of weight can lead to the fat ‘spilling over’ from adipose tissue into critical organs such as the liver and pancreas, which in turn may significantly increase the risk of disease. This profile is called TOFI – ‘Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside’ – where slim individuals may have high levels of abdominal and organ fat which may lead to increases susceptibility to diabetes. People of Asian ethnicity may be particularly at risk of  the TOFI phenotype. The multi-disciplinary team is studying a cohort of people of Chinese heritage  to determine risk factors and early markers of disease and what enables resilience to pre-diabetes. The goal is to apply this research to the development of premium foods from New Zealand that can people prevent pre-diabetes.


Professor Sally Poppitt

Sally is the founding director of the Human Nutrition Unit at the University of Auckland and the Fonterra Chair in Human Nutrition and the principal investigator of the Metabolic Health programme. Sally’s research has long been focused on the prevention and treatment of conditions arising from poor nutrition including overweight and obesity, metabolic dysregulation and diabetic and cardiovascular risk. She has extensive experience in conducting nutrition intervention trials in developed and developing countries.