Prof Marlena Kruger staff profile picture

Contact details +6469517571

Prof Marlena Kruger MSc, PhD

Professor in Nutritional Physiology

Doctoral Mentor Supervisor
School of Health Sciences

Associate Dean Higher Degree Research

College of Health

Marlena is an established academic with over 160 peer reviewed publications. She is a world reknowned expert on lipids and bone health.  Marlena obtained her PhD from the Medical University of South Africa, followed by post-doctoral training firstly at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg, Germany, followed by period at University of Texas at Austin, USA specialising in protein purification and identification. She thereafter was appointed as senior lecturer and later associate professor in Physiology at University of Pretoria, South Africa. She migrated to New Zealand in 2000 and established bone and nutrition research at Massey. She became Division leader for Human Nutrition in 2005, and was awarded a personal Chair in the same year. Her main focus in research include dairy foods, bioactives and lipids in bone health.

Marlena's current research focusses on food for maintaining bone and joint health and mobility. She has several international collaborators around the area of food for health and mobility.

Roles and Responsibilities

Associate Dean: High Degree Research, College of Health.

Member of the Doctoral Research Committee, College of Health Executive, and College of Health Board.

Marlena Kruger is an established researcher with a strong background in bone health research. She is widely published in this area. Marlena has a strong track record in research on food for health and well-being with a focus on maintenance of mobility with ageing. Her research includes both in vitro and in vivo assessments. So she can progress investigations from cell based screening, to testing in preclinical models followed by human intervention studies.

More about me...View less...


Contact details

  • Ph: +64 6 9517571
    Location: SST8.19, Social Science Tower
    Campus: Manawatu


  • Master of Science - Potchefstroom University for CHE (1980)
  • Doctor of Philosophy - Medical University of Southern Africa (1987)

Certifications and Registrations

  • Licence, Mentor Supervisor, Massey University

Prizes and Awards

  • Massey University Individual Research Medal awardee. This is the top award for research excellence awarded at University level. - Massey University (2016)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

Research expertise in Human nutrition and health with a major emphasis on bone health.  Assessment include bone mineral density, bone biomechanics and bone markers. Specialist expertise in in vitro assessment of bioactives, preclinical assessment of nutrients in animal models and conducting nutritional intervention trials in humans. Experience in conducting acute feeding trials and community based trials in humans with bone and joint health and other health outcomes. Nutritional focus on dairy products, essential fatty acids and antioxidants. 

Experience in conducting human clinical intervention studies is South-East Asia and China in collaboration with local scientists at universities and hospitals.


Health and Well-being, Future Food Systems

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Biological Sciences (060000):
Medical And Health Sciences (110000): Nutrition and Dietetics (111100): Nutritional Physiology (111103):
Physiology (060600)


Food for Health focussing on nutrition to support bone and joint health including essential fatty acids, bioactives, phytochemicals, dairy products. Assessing the effects of food on mobiity by using biomarkers for bone and joint health.

Osteoporosis and calcium homeostasis in children and postmenopausal women, Essential fatty acids and dairy products for bone health. Bone densitometry and bone biomechanics. Biomarkers for bone health.

Micronutrient bioavailability and function.

Joint health with the focus on osteoarthritis; use of biomarkers for joint health.

In vitro models for bone health; preclinical models for bone health; human clinical intervention studies with bone, joint or body composition as primary outcome.

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 6 70
Team Member 1 8

Current Projects

Project Title: NSC - Musseling Up (High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge)

Date Range: 2016 - 2020

Funding Body: The Cawthron Institute Trust Board

Project Team:

Completed Projects

Project Title: NSC - Verify the bioactivity of marine extracts in developed lab models to test for response to inflammation assessed in in-vitro models of inflammation, joint and bone health

Date Range: 2018 - 2019

Funding Body: The Cawthron Institute Trust Board

Project Team:

Project Title: Biomarker Development and Validation for use in Human Clinical Studies of Food in Asian Populations

Date Range: 2014 - 2018

Funding Body: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Project Team:

Project Title: Phytoestrogens and bone health: the case for equol

Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) has been used effectively in stabilizing skeletal bone mineral density and preventing vertebral fractures. However, data from the Women¿s Health Initiative study (WHI) indicated that long-term administration of estrogen may cause breast cancer and other undesired side effects in postmenopausal women. Thus, compliance to ERT is low and the search for alternatives is ongoing. Phytoestrogens, including isoflavones, are plant-derived estrogen-like molecules and have been considered as an alternative therapeutic agent to ERT. But the studies on bone in women have been inconsistent. This apparent lack of effect by the phytoestrogens, especially in Caucasian women, is now ascribed to the lack of metabolism of one of the isoflavones, Daidzein, to its active metabolite equol, in the intestines. Recent research in animals indicated that gut bacteria can be manipulated in order to modify the metabolism of the isoflavones in the large intestine. The purpose of this study therefore is to evaluate the effects of soybean isoflavones in combination with functional food components, including agricultural, marine and dairy products in New Zealand, on equol production and bone health in menopausal women. The final goal of this study is to establish the method for preventing osteoporosis by cooperative effects of functional foods from Japan with foods from New Zealand.
Read Project Description Hide Project Description

Date Range: 2012 - 2014

Funding Body: Use MINBIE -- Ministry of Science and Innovation

Project Team:

Project Title: Increased intake of vegetables and fruit: effects on bone in postmenopausal women

This project set out to determine whether an increased intake of vegetables/herbs/fruit in the diet of healthy post menopausal women would have any noticeable effect on their bone turnover markers. Bone markers are raised in women at increased risk of bone loss particularly during and after menopause. The study asked one group of 50 women to select from a range of specific vegetables/herbs/ fruit which have been determined to affect bone markers in animals but not previously trialled in humans. The group emphasising this specific range (Scarborough Fair group) was then compared with another group of 50 women also increasing their intake of vegetables/herbs/ fruit but emphasising different vegetable/herbs/fruit and a control group (43) instructed to eat their usual diet. After 3 months of regular consumption of this specific range of vegetables/herbs/fruit the Scarborough Fair group showed significantly lower bone turnover markers than the other two groups. The difference in resorption marker CTX was noticeably lower in those at increased risk of bone loss (osteopenic women). This means regular consumption of this range of fruit/vegetables and herbs lowers bone markers and therefore may result in less bone loss at midlife. This wholefood dietary strategy may prove an attractive option as it does not involve drugs, supplementation or large quantities of a single food.
Read Project Description Hide Project Description

Date Range: 2010 - 2012

Funding Body: Massey University

Project Team:

Consultancy and Languages


  • 2002 to 2016 - Fonterra Brands Singapore Ltd
    Literature reviews and bone and joint health clinical and pre-clinical trial expertise.

Teaching and Supervision

Teaching Statement

Nutrition and bone / joint health; micronutrients and bone; Calcium homeostasis, bone cells and function.

Graduate Supervision Statement

My areea of expertise is the role of nutrition in the prevention of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Further studies may include body composition analyses and the gut microbiome. My students can also include in vitro assessment of bioactives or food components using a variety of cell models and we also have facilities to do preclinical research. My students all do their theses with publications and we plan these in the first year of study. I have successfully supervised four Master students remotely at University of Pretoria and also had three successful PhD completions at University of Pretoria. My current PhD student load is five at Massey and two in South Africa.

Prof Marlena Kruger is available for Masters and Doctorial supervision.

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Main Supervisor 3 11
Co-supervisor 5 5

Current Doctoral Supervision

Main Supervisor of:

  • Maryam Abshirini - Doctor of Philosophy
    Effect of New Zealand Greenshell Mussel on Osteoarthritis Biomarkers and Inflammation in Healthy Postmenopausal Women
  • Katie Schraders - Doctor of Philosophy
    The Gut-Bone axis in Coeliac Disease
  • Emily Wu - Doctor of Philosophy
    Mass Spectrometry-based Metabolomics as a tool for biomarker discovery and diagnosing metabolic health

Co-supervisor of:

  • Cassie Slade - Doctor of Philosophy
    Investigating the effect of nutrition on osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Christine Halliday - Doctor of Philosophy
    Influence of foods that affect the gut microbiome and brain function
  • Umani Walallawita Kankanamge - Doctor of Philosophy
    Comparative health benefits of all-cis lycopene from orange heritage tomato varieties
  • Parkpoom Siriarchavatana - Doctor of Philosophy
    The preventive effect of greenshell mussel meat against osteoarthritis in vivo.
  • Saima Rizwan - Doctor of Philosophy
    Anti-inflammatory effects of purified lipids on immune cells in vitro.

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Main Supervisor of:

  • 2020 - Idah Chatindiara - Doctor of Philosophy
    Frailty, Nutrition & Healthy Ageing: Evaluating Nutrition Risk in Support of Healthy Ageing
  • 2019 - Bolaji Ilesanmi-Oyelere - Doctor of Philosophy
    The role of dietary patterns, inflammatory status and gut microbiome in bone health maintenance of postmenopausal women - A cross-sectional study
  • 2019 - Diana Leticia Cabrera Amaro - Doctor of Philosophy
    Biomaker development to assess bone health
  • 2017 - Sara Coleman - Doctor of Philosophy
    Dimeric Procyanidins as Modulators of Airway Inflammation in the context of Allergic Asthma
  • 2017 - Noor Nordin - Doctor of Philosophy
    The impact of selenium-rich green and black tea water extracts on bone health in vitro, and in an animal model of osteoporosis
  • 2014 - Araya Pranprawit - Doctor of Philosophy
    Effect of Highbush blueberry consumption on markers of metabolic syndrome
  • 2014 - Caroline Gunn - Doctor of Philosophy
    Increased intake of vegetables, herbs and fruit: effects on bone inpostmenopausal women
  • 2012 - Hilary McKinnon - Doctor of Philosophy
    Effects of selected goats milk products on bone turnover and gut function in osteoporosis prevention research
  • 2008 - Raewyn Poulsen - Doctor of Philosophy
    Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and their possible interaction with phytoestrogens: Impact on bone and bone cell function in vivo and in vitro
  • 2008 - Christine Crooks - Doctor of Philosophy
    The effect of a bovine colostrums supplementation on levels of s-lgA in elite athletes, non-exercising controls and non-exercising older adults.
  • 2007 - Michaela Walton - Doctor of Philosophy
    Berry Fruit Anthocyanins in Human Nutrition - Bioavailability and Antioxidant Effects

Co-supervisor of:

  • 2020 - Maryam Delshad Siyahkaly - Doctor of Philosophy
    Bone Health and Fracture Risk Factors in Children Living in New Zealand
  • 2019 - Hajar Mazahery - Doctor of Philosophy
    The Role of Vitamin D and Omega-3 Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • 2016 - Anne Gnauck - Doctor of Philosophy
    Testing the relationship between gut permeability, elevations of systemic lipopolysaccharides and chronic disease
  • 2015 - Ivana Sequeira - Doctor of Philosophy
    The aspirin augmented standardized lactulose mannitol test as a measure of the 'health' of the gastrointestinal tract
  • 2009 - Pamela Von Hurst - Doctor of Philosophy
    Vitamin D status and Metabolic Syndrome

Media and Links

Contact us Mon - Fri 8:30am to 4:30pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey