Kevin Whelan

Kevin Whelan

Professor

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Personal profile

Research interests

The microbiome residing in the gut play important roles in the maintenance of human health, including protection from enteropathogenic infection, stimulation of immune function and fermentation of otherwise non-digestible nutrients. Numerous disorders of the gut tract are associated with alterations in the microbiota they harbour and whether these are a cause or consequence of disease is unclear, an issue we are currently investigating. The gut microbiome can be modified through dietary manipulation, including the use of probiotics (e.g. lactobacilli, bifidobacteria) and prebiotics (e.g. oligofructose, galacto-oligosaccharides). There is significant potential that such dietary substances may be therapeutic for gut disorders, an area we are keenly researching.

Our research translates findings from the basic sciences and tests them in the clinical environment, whilst our clinical trials always include endpoints for both efficacy and mechanistic evaluation. Our laboratory utilises molecular microbiology to investigate various aspects of the gut microbiome. In collaboration with both clinical researchers (e.g. gastroenterologists, dietitians) and basic scientists (e.g. immunologists, microbiologists) we have undertaken multi-centre investigations of diet and the gut microbiome in people with inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, cancer and patients receiving artificial nutrition.

Further to this, many patients with gut disorders have disturbances across the spectrum of nutrition, including alterations in nutrient intake, digestion, absorption and metabolism. We investigate both the causes and consequences of these disturbances in order that malnutrition can be minimised and quality of life maximised. This involves research on barriers to food intake and the effect of disease on energy expenditure (indirect calorimetry), as well as the development and validation of clinical tools to assist in their detection.

Research interests (short)

Gastrointestinal microbiome, fermentation, fibre, prebiotics and probiotics

Biographical details

Kevin Whelan is the Professor of Dietetics and Head of Department of Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London, United Kingdom. Following a BSc in Biochemistry, Kevin completed an MSc in Nutrition and Dietetics (awarded with Distinction) and worked as a clinical dietitian specialising in the management of patients with gastrointestinal disease requiring nutritional support. This was followed by completion of a PhD at King’s College London investigating prebiotics and the gut microbiome.

Professor Whelan has undertaken extensive research on probiotics, prebiotics, fibre and dietary interventions in gastrointestinal health and disease, funded through national agencies such as the Medical Research Council and National Institute of Health Research and charities such as Crohn’s and Colitis UK, Kenneth Rainin Foundation and Helmsley Charitable Trust. He has published over 200 full papers in peer-reviewed journals and is the Series Editor of the BDA Advanced Nutrition and Dietetics book series that now includes four published books. He is an Associate Editor of the journal Gut Microbiome. 

He has a particular interest in education and completed his MA in Academic Practice Teaching and Learning at King’s (awarded with distinction). He has twice received the College Teaching Excellence Award, and was awarded a College Teaching Fellowship in 2007 and the PhD Supervisory Excellence Award for the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine in 2021. He has previously served as academic advisor to the National Genetics Education and Development Centre and was a member of the Health Education England Advisory Group.

Professor Whelan is widely involved in national and international advisory groups, including previous membership of the ILSI Expert Panel on Prebiotics, the NIHR/HEE Integrated Clinical Academic Careers Awards Panel and the NICE Quality Standards Group for Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), who advises the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and other UK government organisations in relation to nutrition and health.

In 2012, Professor Whelan was awarded the Nutrition Society Sir David Cuthbertson Medal in recognition of research that has advanced clinical nutrition and impacted on patient care. In 2017 he was appointed a Fellow of the British Dietetic Association and in 2018 delivered the prestigious Dr Elsie Widdowson Memorial Lecture.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy

Education/Academic qualification

Academic Practice (Teaching and Learning), Master of Arts, (The perceptions of research involvement, and the factors that influence it, among dietitians working in higher education: a phenomenographic study), King's College London

Award Date: 1 Jan 2010

Nutritional Sciences, Doctor of Philosophy, Enteral feeding: the effect on faecal output, the faecal microflora and short-chain fatty acid concentrations, King's College London

Award Date: 1 Jan 2004

Nutrition and Dietetics, Master of Science, Randomised controlled trial of thickened fluids in dysphagic acute stroke, Leeds Beckett University

Award Date: 1 Jan 2000

Biochemistry, Bachelor of Science, Identification of the active site of sub-unit 9 of F0/F1 ATPase in Escherichia coli , University of Bristol

Award Date: 1 Jan 1994

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