Dr Maria Bryant

Dr Maria Bryant



PhD Nutrition and Psychology, University of Leeds, 2004

BSc (Hons) 1st Class, Nutrition, Kings College London, 1999

Topic expertise: Diet, nutrition, obesity, pregnancy, infant and child growth and health, home environments

Design experience: childhood obesity treatment or prevention trials (pilot, feasibility or phase III definitive trials); outcome measure development and appraisal; systematic reviews; intervention development; cohort studies

Other associated research: development and evaluation of interventions in families of South Asian origins; use of routine data in research; measurement of obesity and appropriate cut-offs for populations of South Asian origin; epidemiological research

Current and previous roles

2012 – date, Senior Research Fellow, Leeds Institute of Clinical Trials Research, University of Leeds: Lead for Diet, Obesity and Lifestyle portfolio

2015 – date, National Institute for Health Research Career Development Fellow, Development and evaluation of a public engagement intervention (national definitive trial) and feasibility trial of clinical effectiveness of HENRY parenting intervention

2015 – date, University of Leeds University Academic Fellow, Leeds Institute of Clinical Trials Research, University of Leeds

2006 – 2012, Research Fellow and Trial Manager, Leeds Institute of Clinical Trials Research, University of Leeds

2004 – 2006, Post-doctoral Fellow (childhood obesity: intervention development, trials and implementation research), Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, School of Public Health, UNC, USA

2005 – 2006, Postgraduate Instructor (part time), Obesity Epidemiology, Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, School of Public Health, UNC, USA



2019 - 2024 Co-applicant: ActEarly (Evaluation Chair; lead for Food): A City Collaboratory approach to early promotion of good health and wellbeing. MRCPRP £7M

2018 - 2020 Chief Investigator (UK (Int lead: Deb Tate)): RCT of WWFlex: An international study to determine effectiveness. WWInt £220,000 (UK)

2019 - 2019 Chief Investigator: Creative community workshop to inform decision making for air quality interventions.  University of Leeds Public Engagement fund (Wellcome Trust Small Grant award). £500.00

2018 - 2020 Co-applicant: ActEarly UKPRP Network Development Grant £50,000

2017 - 2019 Co-applicant: Talking Together: Feasibility study to evaluate a home-based language support programme for families of children aged 2 years. Nuffield Foundation, £243,623

2020 – 2023 Chief Investigator: PhD contribution funds to support project: ‘Ethnography of a Better Start Bradford’. Bradford Trident £40,531.

2018 - 2019  Chief Investigator: Development of a video clip for public engagement in routine data. Connected Health Cities (CHC) funds. £750

2015 – 2020: 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. NIHR CDF (CDF-2014-07-052), £622,563

2015 – 2020: Chief Investigator: University of Leeds Academic Fellowship, £50,000 (project set-up funds)

2015 – 2016: Chief Investigator: Raising community awareness of a complex programme of work through artistic interpretation: The Child Cosmos Sculpture project. Wellcome Trust Small grant scheme, £1995

2014 – 2024: Co-investigator: (Theme lead for Implementation evaluation): Better Start Bradford: 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, £49M

2010 – 2012: Chief Investigator: Systematic review to identify and appraise outcome measures used to evaluate childhood obesity treatment interventions: evidence of purpose, application, validity, reliability and sensitivity. NIHR HTA (09-129-07), £169,000

2008 – 2013: Named collaborator: Measuring, investigating and preventing childhood obesity in a multi-ethnic community, NIHR PGfAR (RP-PG-0407-10044) £1,655,344

2009 – 2010: Chief Investigator: VIP award. Wellcome Trust, University of Leeds salary support

2009 – 2011: Co-investigator: HomeSTEAD childhood obesity home environment measure. NIH (PAR-03-009), £232,348



  • Portfolio lead: Diet, Obesity and Lifestyle
  • Honorary contract: Bradford Institute for Health Research (Diet Lead)

Research interests

I am a nutritionist and methodologist with a particular interest in research that supports the optimisation of obesity and lifestyle interventions and their robust evaluation. My work straddles the disciplines of nutrition, applied health research and clinical trials research, whilst providing leadership for the development of evidence-based intervention delivery and robust evaluation. I am driven to identify and test approaches to optimise the impact of existing interventions and to provide an evidence of their performance and feasibility from high quality randomised controlled trials.

My current research activities are divided between those associated with the Clinical Trials Research Unit at the University of Leeds and work within the Bradford Institute of Health Research. Within the Leeds CTRU, I am the strategic lead of a portfolio of research focused around obesity, dietary intake and lifestyle. Within Bradford, I am the diet lead for BiB and lead on the implementation evaluation for a Better Start Bradford. This work encompasses establishing key university, national and international strategic partnerships to support grant application activity and project delivery within the areas: (i) outcome measure identification and appraisal (ii) outcome measurement development and (iii) early phase clinical trial design and delivery (iv) definitive trials of effectiveness and (v) implementation research. This is achieved through a multi-disciplinary team, including members of the public.

External roles: Chair of the Association for the Study of Obesity, Lead for a national Early Career Researcher Network and the current Chair for the UK Congress of Obesity (UKCO2019), Invited member of the European Association for the Study of Obesity programme committee 2019




  • PhD Nutrition and Menstrual Health (2004)
  • BSc Nutrition (1st Class hons) (1999)

Professional memberships

  • Chair: Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO)
  • Associate editor for BMC Obesity
  • Invited expert partner: ESRC Strategic Network in Obesity
  • Local Organising Committee ECO 2019

Student education


I am module lead for Clinical Trials (MEDR5180M)

Supervised Students

Vishal Sharma (co-supervisors Prof J Nixon, Dr S Coleman, Prof L Sharples, Prof J Hamilton-Shield): Developing an obesity co-morbidities screening tool for children and adolescents (aged 5-18)

Wendy Burton (co-supervisors Prof J Brown, Dr M Twiddy, Prof P Sahota): The development and evaluation of an optimisation strategy to support children’s centres to implement a public health programme

Laura McLarty (co-supervisors Dr R McEachan, Dr S Coleman and G Thornton): Ethnography of a Better Start Bradford (anticipated start date: Jan 2019)

Louise Padgett: Impact of parent attendance at weight management programmes on child outcomes (Msc)

Studentship Opportunities

I am interested in hearing from potential PhD candidates with an interest in trials or related methodology in Obesity, Diet and Lifestyle or implementation research within these areas. Funding is currently not available and will need to be sought in advance.

Research groups and institutes

  • Leeds Institute of Clinical Trials Research

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>