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Heidi de Wet


I received my first degree in botany and biochemistry at the University of the North-West in South Africa and moved to the University of Cape Town for my doctoral studies in Chemical Pathology. Currently, I am a University Lecturer and a tenured Associate Professor of Physiology. Ironically, I have never officially studied physiology, but rather arrived at teaching metabolism and appetite regulation through my research into a type of diabetes that affects new-born babies, called neonatal diabetes.

In addition to doing research into how the food we eat affects our feelings of hunger, satiety and contentment, I also teach metabolism and endocrinology (how hormones affect us) to medical students. In my opinion, understanding how humans interact with the food they eat is one of the most pressing and important research questions out there today. Teaching the next generation of doctors also makes me aware of how important it is that doctors understand how complex obesity is as a disease. There is a large genetic component to this disease which predisposes individuals to be highly efficient at storing fat, and there are no easy fixes.

I enjoy doing research very much, simply nothing compares to making new discoveries or understanding something completely for the first time.  Being a research scientist is like being a kid all over again, standing in a sandpit with a bag full of spades. If you are in school and reading this, thinking that you like the idea of doing research, go for it. Oxford University is making a big effort to encourage kids from all walks of life to apply to study with us.  At my college, St Catherine’s College, we have a fantastic bunch of students from all over the UK and beyond, and I love the way this melting pot of ideas and different opinions is driving forward some of the most original thinking I have encountered anywhere in the world.

Last but not least, I hope that my podcast managed to explain that it is really hard to lose weight and that the only way we will realistically lose weight, and keep it off, is by choosing to follow a more healthy lifestyle.  If you are ready to change the way you eat permanently, the NHS has fantastic resources to help you on your way.  Personally I loved one of the quotes form a successful dieter who said: ‘The NHS weight loss plan isn’t about dieting, it’s about changing the way you live.’  This is, of course, no trivial task and I wish everyone who aims to embark on living a healthier life-style in 2020 all the best.

Read about some of the wonderful St Catz community here: Humans of St Catz Facebook page.