Dr Jo Cecil

Dr Jo Cecil

I graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA (Hons), MA degree in Biological Anthropology in 1993 and then undertook a post-graduate teaching qualification in Biological Sciences (PGCE) from the University of Cambridge in 1994. I gained my PhD from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sheffield, where I conducted human research into the role of gastrointestinal lipid on eating behaviour. Following this, I moved to Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, USA in 1999 to take up a post doc position. There, I investigated gastrointestinal mechanisms underlying the control of food intake using animal models in collaboration with researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2000, I took up a research position in the Department of Psychology at the University of Dundee to conduct research in pre-pubertal children, investigating synergy between genotype & behavioural phenotype in the maintenance of energy balance. In 2004 I was appointed as a Lecturer at the University of St Andrews.

My research focus is on the bio-psychological controls of appetite, eating behaviour and obesity. I have investigated the relationship between genotype and behavioural phenotype in the maintenance of child energy balance, where variants of candidate genes for common obesity including PPARG and FTO have been examined and shown to moderate appetite and energy intake. I have investigated the influence of reward related gene polymorphisms on the hedonic response to food and overconsumption in adults and characterised resistance and susceptibility to weight change in first year University Students with colleagues at the Universities of Leeds and Dundee. More recently I have been involved in a collaborative EU Marie Curie funded IAPP project examining liking and intake of vegetables in children with partners from the Universities of Leeds, Glasgow Caledonian and Aberdeen and industry partners from Danone Medical and Baby Nutrition. Currently, I am investigating dietary health through portion control by examining and exploiting environmental ‘prompts’ as part of a collaboration between scientists at the Universities of St Andrews, Leeds and Sheffield, funded by the BBSRC: 'Downsizing: using environmental cues to acquire healthy portion control in children, adolescents and their families'. I am also developing a research program into GP Patient communication around weight management with colleagues at the University of St Andrews.

I teach behavioural medicine and communication skills to medical undergraduates. I organise and teach on the postgraduate MD5003 MSc Health Psychology module ‘Biological systems and development’. I also teach on the postgraduate MRes Medicine course and on the postgraduate Global Health course.

My school roles:

  • MD5003 Module Controller
  • Postgrad Exam Coordinator for MSc Health Psychology
  • School Disability Coordinator
  • Personal Tutor


  • BBSRC Diet & Health Research Industry Club (DRINC): Downsizing: using environmental cues to acquire healthy portion control in children, adolescents & their families. Sept 2015 - Aug 2018. Co-PI with Prof Hetherington (University of Leeds), Dr Caton (University of Sheffield), Dr Evans (University of Leeds), Dr Tang (University of Leeds), Prof Rolls (Pennsylvania State University, US)
  • SMERC - Scottish Medical Education Research Consortium: Burnout and health behaviours in medical undergraduates. June 2015 - Oct 2016. PIs: Dr Laidlaw, Dr Cecil (School of Medicine, University of St Andrews), Dr Dennis (University of Dundee, School of Medicine), Prof Cleland (University of Aberdeen, Applied Health Sciences)
  • Investigating primary care communication towards patient weight and weight management. Co-PI with Dr Laidlaw, C. McHale (School of Medicine, University of St Andrews).
  • Investigating knowledge, attitude and practice of primary care health professionals towards patient weight and weight management: PI Cecil JE, with Laidlaw A, Collinson A, Neville F. (Northwood Charitable Trust, awarded April 2012)
  • VIVA -V is for Vegetable: Applying learning theory to increase liking and intake of vegetables. Co-PI with Hetherington, M.M., Jackson, D., partners from industry (Danone Baby Nutrition). EU Marie Curie Industry Academic Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP) FP7 230637. (June 2009- May 2013). V is for vegetable: applying learning theory to increase liking and intake of vegetables
  • EU Annex 1 funding - European Drug prevention Information Programme (DPIP): ‘ORION – Overdose Risk InfOrmatioN Project’. With Humphris, G. and Baldacchino,A. University of St Andrews and partners in UK, Italy, Denmark, Germany (2010-2012) http://orion-euproject.com/
  • TRIP – Testing in Recreational settings prevention-Interventions addressed to Polydrug users’. With Professor Gerry Humphris and Alex Baldacchino, University of St Andrews, with partners in UK, Italy, Denmark. EU Annex 1 funding - European Drug prevention Information Programme (DPIP): ‘ (2010-2012)

data source: symbiosis

Research Overview from research@st-andrews

My research interests include the short-term biopsychological controls of appetite, eating behaviour and obesity. My research has focussed on the contribution of and interaction between signals arising from different areas of the gastrointestinal tract in the control of ingestive behaviour.  More recently, my research interests have centred on the relationship between genotype and behavioural phenotype in the maintenance of child energy balance and obesity.

source: research@st-andrews
Recent publications listed in research@st-andrews
Sprake, E, Russell, J, Cecil, JE, Cooper, R, Grabowski, P, Pourshahidi, L & Barker, ME 2018, 'Dietary patterns of university students in the UK: a multi-centre, cross-sectional study' Nutrition Journal , vol. 17, 90. DOI: 10.1186/s12937-018-0398-y
Hetherington, M, Blundell-Birtill, P, Caton, S, Cecil, JE, Evans, C, Rolls, B & Tang, T 2018, 'Understanding the science of portion control and the art of downsizing' Proceedings of the Nutrition Society , vol. First View. DOI: 10.1017/S0029665118000435
Cecil, JE, Carstairs, S, Caton, S, Blundell-Birtill, P, Rolls, B & Hetherington, MM 2018, 'Downsizing meal items in pre-schoolers using variety' Appetite, vol. 123, pp. 460. DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.11.051
Hetherington, M, Cecil, JE, Jackson, D & Schwartz, C 2011, 'Feeding infants and young children: From guidelines to practice' Appetite, vol. 57, no. 3, pp. 791-795. DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.07.005
Sovio, U, Mook-Kanamori, DO, Warrington, NM, Lawrence, R, Briollais, L, Palmer, CNA, Cecil, JE, Sandling, J, Syvänen, A-C, Kaakinen, M, Beilin, L, Millwood, I, Bennett, A, Laitinen, J, Pouta, A, Molitor, J, Davey Smith, G, Ben-Shlomo, Y, Jaddoe, V, Palmer, L, Pennell, C, Cole, T, McCarthy, M, Järvelin, M-R & Timpson, N 2011, 'Association between common variation at the FTO locus and changes in Body Mass Index from infancy to late childhood: the complex nature of genetic association through growth and development' PLoS Genetics, vol. 7, no. 2, e1001307. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1001307
Hetherington, MM & Cecil, JE 2010, Gene-Environment Interactions in Obesity. in W Langhans & N Geary (eds), Frontiers in eating and weight regulation. Forum of nutrition, vol. 63, Karger, pp. 195-203. DOI: 10.1159/000264407
Cecil, JE, Tavendale, R, Watt, P, Hetherington, MM & Palmer, CN 2008, 'An Obesity-Associated FTO Gene Variant and Increased Energy Intake in Children' New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 359, no. 24, pp. 2558 - 2566. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa0803839
Palmer, CNA, Irvine, AD, Terron-Kwiatkowski, A, Zhao, YW, Liao, HH, Lee, SP, Goudie, DR, Sandilands, A, Campbell, LE, Smith, FJD, O'Regan, GM, Watson, RM, Cecil, JE, Bale, SJ, Compton, JG, DiGiovanna, JJ, Fleckman, P, Lewis-Jones, S, Arseculeratne, G, Sergeant, A, Munro, CS, El Houate, B, McElreavey, K, Halkjaer, LB, Bisgaard, H, Mukhopadhyay, S & McLean, WHI 2006, 'Common loss-of-function variants of the epidermal barrier protein filaggrin are a major predisposing factor for atopic dermatitis' Nature Genetics, vol. 38, no. 4, pp. 441-446. DOI: 10.1038/ng1767
Cecil, JE, Watt, P, Murrie, IS, Wrieden, W, Wallis, DJ, Hetherington, MM, Bolton-Smith, C & Palmer, CN 2005, 'Childhood obesity and socioeconomic status: a novel role for height growth limitation' International Journal of Obesity, vol. 29, no. 10, pp. 1199-1203. DOI: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803055
Cecil, JE, Fischer, B, Doney, AS, Hetherington, M, Watt, P, Wrieden, WW, Bolton-Smith, B-SC & Palmer, PCN 2005, 'The Pro12Ala and C-681G variants of the PPARG locus are associated with opposing growth phenotypes in young schoolchildren' Diabetologia, vol. 48, no. 8, pp. 1496-502. DOI: 10.1007/s00125-005-1817-0