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Maria Bryant
Professor of Public Health Nutrition



Maria is a Professor of Public Health Nutrition based at the University of York and the Bradford Institute of Health Research. She is a nutritionist with over 20 years’ experience in the design and delivery of trials and related methodological research in the field of food, diet and obesity. Her methodological interests include development and evaluation of public health interventions, food systems, food insecurity, early years and school food settings and applied health research. She is passionate about partnership working and is dedicated to ensuring meaningful engagement in all aspects of her work. In addition to being the strategic lead of a portfolio of research focused around public health nutrition within the Department of Health Sciences and the Hull York Medical School, Professor Bryant is the Director of Nutrition Research for Born in Bradford, theme lead for UKPRP ActEarly (Evaluation theme and Food and Healthy weight theme), sub-system lead for Early Years and Schools within UKRI Fix our Food, Academic Director of the BaBi network, the academic lead for Diet and Obesity evaluation for a Better Start Bradford, and the out-going Chair of the Board of Trustees for the UK Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO).


  • BSc (Hons) Nutrition, 1st Class Honours, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Kings College London
  • PhD Nutrition and Psychology, School of Psychology, University of Leeds
  • Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy



Maria is committed to deliver research and teaching that makes a substantial contribution to society. Her work includes a broad portfolio of obesity, food and nutrition research which spans across multiple systems.  This systems based approach is inherent in public health and nutrition research, as behaviour is influenced not only by individual psychology, biology and behaviour factors, but also by wider systems including food production and distribution, environments and social influences. 

A focus of Maria's work is with the design and delivery of evaluations for public health interventions. With this, she utilises her background in clinical trials to consider innovative methods for complex systems evaluations which are ethical and feasible, whilst ensuring minimal bias.  Her specific topic expertise is within lifestyle and non-communicable disease, particularly related to childhood obesity and dietary health. 

Maria is passionate about partnership working and is dedicated to ensuring meaningful engagement in all aspects of her work.  Thus, she always work closely with key stakeholders and beneficiaries across the life of each project and has established strong relationships with local and national government, community leaders in early years and school settings, and members of the public. 


Role Project details Funding body Dates
Chief investigator (joint) What are the most beneficial models used by  community food assets to prevent the need for emergency food aid? A longitudinal qualitative study conducted in two multi-cultural populations in the North and South of England.  NIHR PHR 2023 to 2025
Co-applicant Free School Meals, Diet Quality and Food Insecurity in Secondary School Pupils: a Mixed Methods Study. Lead: J Woodside. NIHR PHR 2023 to 2025 
Co-applicant Acceptability and potential impact of the CONNECTS Food website resource designed to support schools adopt whole school approaches to food IDF (Internally Distributed Funding) 2022 to 2023
Co-investigator Transforming UK Food Systems - Catalysing effective public engagement to transform the UK food system through British Science Week   2022 to 2023
Chief investigator Evaluation of a sustainable obesity prevention programme delivered at scale ‘HENRY’ (Health, Exercise, Nutrition for the Really Young): Effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and its role in obesity prevention within the wider complex system. NIHR PHR 2022 to 2027
Co-investigator Regenerative healthy eating in children; Food system impact and change.  Internal funding via Research England 2022 to 2022
Chief investigator System wide influences on food choice within primary schools in the UK: Co-design of an implementation plan to maximise the impact of whole school approaches to food.  MRC PHIND  
Co-investigator Understanding the impact of covid-19 on pregnant women and new parents: The Born in Bradford 2020 Families Study.  UKRI  
Co-investigator (lead for implementation evaluation) Air pollution, outdoor air quality and health.  NIHR PHR 18/14  
Named collaborator

Peer2Peer: understanding ‘Raised in Yorkshire’: understanding its influence on health and life opportunities. 

Oral Health-White Rose Consortium (OH-WRC) (Sheffield and York)

Chief investigator

Influence of attendance at weight management interventions on offspring: WWChild feasibility study. WWInt.



Better Start Bradford phase II Innovation Hub: Improving life chances of babies and children; to improve social and emotional development, nutrition, language and communication development; and to enact a system change. 

Big Lottery

Named collaborator

NIHR Applied Research Collaboration: Yorkshire and Humber.Early Life and Prevention theme. 


Co-investigator (evaluation chair and lead for food theme)

ActEarly: a City Collaboratory approach to early promotion of good health and wellbeing. 


Chief investigator

Creative community workshop to inform decision making for air quality interventions. University of Leeds Public Engagement fund.

Wellcome Trust small grant award

UK Principal Investigator

Randomised Controlled Trial of Weight Watchers Flex: An international study to determine effectiveness on weight loss WWInt.


Chief Investigator

PhD contribution funds to support project: ‘Ethnography of a Better Start Bradford’. 

Trident Community Partnership


Talking Together: A feasibility study to evaluate a home-based language support programme for families of children aged 2 years. 

Nuffield Foundation

Chief Investigator

Development of a video clip for public engagement in routine data. 

Connected Health Cities (CHC) funds

Chief Investigator

Development and evaluation of a public engagement intervention (national definitive trial) and feasibility trial of clinical effectiveness of HENRY, a community based programme aimed at preventing obesity in preschool children. 


Co-investigator (work package lead)

'Fix Our Food'; Transformation to Regenerative Food systems: Co-creation of regenerative food systems towards one that optimises health and the environment. 


Co-investigator (evaluation lead)

Holidays Activities and Food (HAF) programme evaluation. Collaboration between the Food Foundation and Fix our Food


Chief Investigator

NIHR Development and Skills Enhancement Award, 2021



Research group(s)


Maria is interested in hearing from potential PhD candidates with an interest in Public health research in, particularly those considering obesity, food (and food systems), environmental or implementation research. Funding is currently not available and will need to be sought in advance.


Full publications list

External activities


  • Chair of Board of Trustees of the UK Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO)
  • Fellow of the International Obesity Society (2012-date)
  • Invited expert for Obesity Care Advocacy Network OPEN (2019-date)
  • Invited expert: UK NRP Hot Topic Workshop. Tackling health inequalities across the life course in BAME groups nutrition group  (2020)
  • Chair for Annual National Congress UKCO19 (Leeds, Sept 2019)
  • Invited committee member: European Congress of Obesity programme (2018-20)
  • Invited expert: UK Policy Research Programme, ActEarly. Evaluation Chair / Food lead (2019-24)
  • Invited expert partner: ESRC Strategic Network in Obesity (2015-date)
  • Chair of the Evaluation theme: ActEarly, a City Collaboratory approach to early promotion of good health and wellbeing. NIHR PRP (2019-date)
  • Invited collaborator: NIHR Applied Research Collaboration: Yorkshire and Humber. Early Life and Prevention theme (2019-date)

Honorary appointments:

  • Associate Professor: University of Leeds
  • Director of Nutrition Research: Bradford Institute of Health Research

Invited talks and conferences

  • Invited Keynote:  Progress to date on the Childhood Obesity Plan. Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum Keynote Seminar: Children’s food and nutrition in England - next steps for policy and industry practice on obesity prevention, innovation, and tackling inequalities, 11th May, 2020 
  • Invited talk: ActEarly, A city collaboratory approach.  Food Matters Live. Birmingham, UK, 2019

Maria Bryant

Contact details

Professor Maria Bryant
Professor of Public Health Nutrition