A selection of the coverage our research has recently achieved in the news is below.
For all our latest news, visit www.mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk/news
Media interested in covering any of our research should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Feeding in the first year of life: SACN report – July 2018
A new report from Public Health England’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition: Subgroup on Maternal and Child Nutrition, which is chaired by Professor Ken Ong of the Unit’s Growth and Development programme, has found that many – up to 75% – of infants in the UK are overfed.
The report makes several recommendations to improve infant nutrition, including on support for breastfeeding and the introduction of complementary feeding.
- Read ‘Feeding in the first year of life: SACN report’ .
- The report was covered by several national news outlets, including the BBC Online News, Daily Mail, Huffington Post, and the British Nutrition Foundation.
Elucidating the genetic basis of social interaction and isolation – July 2018
On Tuesday 03 July 2018, Felix Day, Ken Ong and John Perry from the Unit’s Growth and Development Programme published a paper in Nature Communications identifying 15 genomic loci for loneliness, and demonstrating a likely causal association between adiposity and increased susceptibility to loneliness and depressive symptoms.
- Read the Nature Communications paper ‘Elucidating the genetic basis of social interaction and isolation’.
- The paper was report in the Telegraph, Daily Mail, Discover Magazine, Newsweek, Irish Independent, El Pais, and about twenty other online news outlets and blogs.
FRESH study volunteers and team interviewed on BBC Look East – June 2018
BBC Look East reporter Richard Westcott met a family who are taking part in the FRESH study. He also interviewed Principal Investigator Dr Esther van Sluijs, and research team members Corinna Colella and Bethan Everson.
FRESH is an innovative programme designed to help families in Norfolk and Suffolk become more active by doing fun stuff together.
Professor Simon Giffin interviewed on BBC Look East about launch of new SAFER study of screening for atrial fibrillation – June 2018
Professor Simon Griffin discussed the launch of the SAFER study with BBC Look East. The SATER study, on which Professor Griffin is a co-investigator, is a new programme of research investigating screening to detect undiagnosed atrial fibrillation, a heart condition responsible for one in ten strokes.
Professor Nita Forouhi provides expert reaction on eggs and cardiovascular disease. – May 2018
Professor Nita Forouhi provided expert commentary to the Science Media Centre on a new paper in the journal Heart from the China Kadoorie Biobank Collaborative Group which found that a moderate level of egg consumption was significantly associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, largely independent of other risk factors.
In her comment Professor Forouhi said:
“…it is important to emphasize that eggs are not eaten in isolation, and overall healthy or unhealthy dietary patterns will always matter. This means what you eat with the eggs matters, based on the other research to-date. In a Western context, if you eat eggs with lots of refined white bread, processed meats like bacon and sausages and sugar-rich ketchup, that is materially different to eating an egg with whole-grain bread and vegetables for instance.”
- Read Professor Forouhi’s full comment to the Science Media Centre.
- Read the Heart paper.
- Professor Forouhi’s comments were quoted by the BBC, Telegraph, Independent, Sun, Sky News and more than thirty other online news outlets.
Finding alternatives to the car for travel could lower risk of illness and death – May 2018
A new paper in the journal Heart, published on Monday 021 May 2018 by Dr Jenna Panter and colleagues at the Unit and CEDAR, found that people who are more active when commuting to work by walking or cycling could be cutting their relative risk of developing ischaemic heart disease or stroke by 11%, and their relative risk of dying from these diseases by 30%. They used data on 358,799 participants in the UK Biobank.
- Read the Heart paper ‘Using alternatives to the car and risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality’.
- Read The Conversation article by Dr Jenna Panter and Dr Oliver Mytton.
- This paper was covered by The Times, Independent, Express, Sun and more than twenty other news outlets, and the Conversation article was republished by Metro and iNews.
Conversation article: We uncovered the genetic basis of risk taking – and found it’s linked to obesity and mental illness – May 2018
On Friday 04 May 2018, Emma Clifton, Felix Day and Ken Ong from the Unit’s Growth and Development Programme published an article in The Conversation discussing the implications of their new genetics research, which has revealed 26 variants in regions of the human genome that are associated with a self-reported inclination toward risk taking.
- Read The Conversation article.
- Read the Communications Biology paper ‘Genome–wide association study for risk taking propensity indicates shared pathways with body mass index’.
- The Conversation article was republished on the MRC Epidemiology Unit website, Yahoo News, and MedicalXpress.
Using Google Street View to estimate travel patterns in cities – May 2018
On Wednesday 02 May 2018, researchers led by Dr Rahul Goel and Dr James Woodcock at the MRC Epidemilogy Unit published a paper in PLOS ONE indicating that Google Street View has the potential to estimate how common cycling is in cities, and potentially other travel patterns too.
Their analysis of 2,000 Google Street View images from 1,000 random locations in each of 34 cities in Great Britain found strong agreement with data on cycling, and public transport and motorbike use from the 2011 census and annual Active People Survey.
- Read the full story
- Read the PLOS ONE paper.
- This paper was reported in Futurism, Architecture and Design, The Indian Express, Business Standard, Gadgets Now and several other online news outlets.
BBC One: The Truth About…Obesity – April 2018
Dr Tom Burgoine from the Unit’s Social, Economic and Neighbourhood Determinants of Diet programme was interviewed on the BBC One programme ‘The Truth About…Obesity’ which aired on thursday 26 April, where he discussed the impact of our food environment, and in particular fast food outlets, on how we eat and the obesity crisis. .
- Watch ‘The Truth About…Obesity’ on BBC iPlayer (Dr Burgoine is on from 21 minutes in)
- Access the Food Environment Assessment Tool (FEAT) developed by Dr Burgoine and colleagues to allow users to map, measure and monitor access to food outlets at a neighbourhood level, including changes over time.
England’s NHS Health Check Programme Saving Lives – March 2018
On Tuesday 06 March 2018, researchers at the MRC Epidemiology Unit and MRC Biostatistics Unit led by Dr Oliver Mytton published a paper in PLOS Medicine indicating that the NHS Health Check programme prevents around 300 premature deaths and results in more people living free of cardiovascular disease in England each year.
The study also suggested that there is significant scope to increase the benefits of the programme, with feasible changes in the delivery of the programme yielding up to a three-fold increase in the benefits.
- Read the full story
- This paper was reported in Boots WebMD, Medicalxpress, ScienceDaily, and NewsHour (Bangladesh)
Professor Nita Forouhi on BBC2’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor – January 2018
On Wednesday 10 January 2018 Professor Nita Forouhi, programme leader with our Nutritional Epidemiology team, appeared with Professor Kay-Tee Khaw of the Department of Public health and Primary care on BBC2’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor to discuss a trial to evaluate the effect of consuming coconut oil on cholesterol levels.
Coconut oil is an increasingly popular food, with many claims made about its potential health benefits, but there are also concerns about negative health impacts due to its very high levels of saturated fat. The trial designed by Professor Forouhi and Professor Khaw measured LDL and HDL cholesterol levels in almost 100 participants before and after they consumed 50 grams of either coconut oli, olive oil, or butter a day for four weeks. A paper reporting the study has been published in BMJ Open.
Professor Forouhi was interviewed about the trial on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire (item starts at at 1:50:50) and it was also reported on the BBC Today Programme(Starts 54:10), BBC Breakfast News (Starts at 1:40:00), BBC Radio Wales, BBC News online, The Times, Independent, Daily Mail, BT, Independent (Niger), and Version Weekly.
Expert reaction to study looking at walking in a polluted street and a park, and cardiorespiratory health – December 2017
Dr Marko Tainio of the Public Health Modelling programme provided a comment to the Science Media Centre on new Lancet paper examining the impact of air pollution on the benefits of walking in older people, providing valuable balance to the reporting of the story. Marko was subsequently quoted at length in an article on CNN.
Children in poor areas exposed to five times as many fast food takeaways – December 2017
An analysis by the Guardian using data provided by the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) and Ordnance Survey has revealed that pupils attending school in the most deprived areas are exposed to five times as many fast food outlets as those in the wealthiest areas. Previous research by Dr Tom Burgoine and colleagues at CEDAR found that a higher exposure to fast food outlets was associated with a higher risk of obesity.
- Children in poor areas exposed to five times as many fast food takeaways – Guardian article
- Fast food nation: do more takeaways near schools affect younger pupils’ diets? -Guardian article
The Guardian covered the launch of the Food environment assessment tool (Feat) in July 2017 (see below), and has compiled their coverage of takeaway food at www.theguardian.com/inequality/series/fast-food-uk
Sales of sugar-sweetened drinks in Jamie’s Italian restaurants fall by 11% after 10p levy – October 2017
New research published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health shows that introducing a small levy of 10 pence per drink to the price of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) sold in Jamie’s Italian restaurants across the UK is likely to have contributed to a significant decline in SSB sales.
After adjusting for general trends in sales the researchers, who included Professor Martin White, Dr Jean Adams and Dr Oliver Mytton from the Centre for Diet and Activity Research, found that adding a 10 pence levy to SSBs sold in 37 Jamie’s Italian restaurants, combined with activities such as re-designing menus, offering new lower sugar drinks and related publicity, was associated with an 11% decline in sales of SSBs per customer 12 weeks after the levy was introduced. A decline in sales of 9.3% per customer was still observed six months after the levy was introduced, and reductions were greatest in restaurants with higher SSB sales per customer. The authors say further research with a longer follow-up is required to assess whether this is sustained.
Commenting on the results, Professor White says:
This is an important piece of research which explored how a fiscal intervention and associated publicity affected consumer choices in a national restaurant chain. Further research is needed to work out how such levies can best be used in different settings and circumstances. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes and tooth decay are serious conditions that have a huge impact on health. Population interventions of this sort could be vital in combating them.”
- Change in non-alcoholic beverage sales following a 10-pence levy on sugar-sweetened beverages within a national chain of restaurants in the UK: interrupted time series analysis of a natural experiment. Laura Cornelsen, Oliver T Mytton, Jean Adams, Antonio Gasparrini, Dalia Iskander, Cecile Knai, Mark Petticrew, Courtney Scott, Richard Smith, Claire Thompson, Martin White, Steven Cummins , Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 16 Oct 2017.
This paper received wide national and international news coverage, including the BBC, CNN, Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Sun, Daily Mail, Metro and Huffington Post, and over 100 articles were published in online news outlets.
Large studies find screening reduces mortality for those with detectable type 2 diabetes but not for general population – August 2017
Three large studies published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes) involving researchers from the MRC Epidemiology Unit show that screening for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors may not reduce mortality and cardiovascular disease in the general population. However, for individuals diagnosed with diabetes, screening is associated with a reduction in mortality and cardiovascular disease risk.
The first two studies, both led by Dr Rebecca Simmons of the Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Denmark, and the MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, UK, used data from ADDITION-Denmark, part of the Anglo-Danish-Dutch Study of Intensive Treatment in People with Screen-Detected Diabetes In Primary Care. The third study, led by Dr Adina Feldman and Professor Olov Rolandsson from the VIPCAM collaboration between the University of Cambridge, UK, and Umeå University, Sweden, used data collected as part of the Västerbotten Intervention Programme (VIP), a large community- and individual-based intervention in Västerbotten County, Sweden.
Taking these results together, Dr Simmons says:
Screening appears to offer beneficial effects for all those diagnosed with diabetes, regardless of whether they were screen detected or clinically diagnosed but this benefit is too small to have an impact on overall population risk of heart disease and stroke, for example, or on early death.”
- Effect of population screening for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors on mortality rate and cardiovascular events: a controlled trial among 1,912,392 Danish adults. Rebecca K. Simmons et al.
- Effect of screening for type 2 diabetes on risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality: a controlled trial among 139,075 individuals diagnosed with diabetes in Denmark between 2001 and 2009. Rebecca K. Simmons et al
- Screening for type 2 diabetes: do screen-detected cases fare better? Adina L. Feldman et al
- Should we screen for type 2 diabetes among asymptomatic individuals? Yes. David Simmons & Janice C. Zgibor
- Does the evidence support population-wide screening for type 2 diabetes? No. Jonathan E. Shaw
Food environment assessment tool (Feat) launched – July 2017
The Food environment assessment tool (Feat) is underpinned by the latest scientific evidence about how food access in our neighbourhoods affects our dietary choices, body weight and health. It allows for detailed exploration of the geography of food retail access across England. Feat has been developed by CEDAR and the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge and is powered by data from Ordnance Survey. It allows users to map, measure and monitor access to food outlets at a neighbourhood level, including changes over time, and is designed around the needs of professionals in public health, environmental health and planning roles, locally and nationally.
We worked with The Guardian newspaper as part of the Feat launch. The paper covered it from a number of angles:
- Large rise in takeaway shops highlights dominance of fast food in deprived areas (front page of the print edition)
- Fast food England: how many takeaways are near you? (Interactive visualisation using Feat)
- Does putting a cap on takeaways improve people’s health?
- Survey: are you worried about the food options available in your area?
The paper has compiled more of their coverage of takeaway food at www.theguardian.com/inequality/series/fast-food-uk
A number of other national and local outlets picked up the story. Feat was covered in the Mirror and International Business Times, and over the following week several local newspapers around England published articles on the growth of takeaway numbers in their area. Dr Tom Burgoine, who led development of Feat, was interviewed by several radio stations including Radio 5 Live.
First genes that influence muscle strength in humans identified – July 2017
A study led by MRC Epidemiology Unit researchers has identified 16 common genetic factors that influence muscle strength in humans, using data on hand grip strength from more than 140,000 participants in the UK Biobank study, combined with 50,000 additional individuals from the UK, Netherlands, Denmark and Australia.
Many of these variants were located within or near to genes known to play a role in biological processes highly relevant to muscle function, and several of these genes are known to be associated with severe monogenic syndromes characterised by compromised muscle function.
Hand grip strength has previously been reported to be associated with health outcomes such as risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease, and fracture, although it has been unclear whether variation in strength actually causes these outcomes, or simply reflects underlying disease processes.
Using the sixteen genetic variants identified for strength, the researchers investigated the hypothesised causal link, finding evidence that higher muscular strength reduces risk of fracture, a finding that supports the use of strength training interventions as a strategy to reduce risk of fractures.
Dr Robert Scott, a former member of the Aetiology of Diabetes and related Metabolic Disorders programme now working at GSK, said:
“While we have long suspected a role for genetics in the variation in muscle strength, these findings give the first insights into some of the specific genetic variants that underpin variation in strength.
These could be important steps towards identifying new treatments to prevent or treat muscle weakness.”
- Read the full story
- Read the full paper: “Large-scale GWAS identifies multiple loci for hand grip strength providing biological insights into muscular fitness”
- The paper was reported in the i Newspaper, and also in several specialist online news outlets including Medical News Today and Sci News.
Generation Genome – Chief Medical Officer’s annual report – July 2017
On Tuesday 4 July Professor Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England, published Generation Genome, the Chief Medical Officer’s annual report for 2016. In her report she takes a detailed look at genomics, exploring how we currently utilise genomics in our health and care system and presenting a series of recommendations for how its potential may be developed.
Scientists from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science (IMS) a made major contributions to the report, and led the writing of several individual chapters.
Welcoming the publication of the report, Dr Claudia Langenberg, Editor-in-Chief of Generation Genome and a Programme Leader in the Aetiology of Diabetes and related Metabolic Disorders programme, said:
“Generation Genome’ sets out the potential for genomic medicine to benefit patients in this country. I hope that CMO’s recommendations will help to realise this potential and accelerate the implementation of equitable genomics-based care. Obesity is an example that demonstrates the power of genomic science to both improve the care of patients with rare diseases and identify causes of complex yet common diseases in the population. ”
- Read the research news article
- Annual report of the Chief Medical Officer 2016: Generation Genome
- The report received very widespread media coverage, including the BBC, Guardian, Daily Mail, and ITV.
Extending weight loss programmes can help people who are overweight keep more weight off, and is cost-effective – May 2017
Extending NHS weight loss programmes from one session per week for 12-weeks to one session per week for a year helped people who are overweight to lose more weight and keep it off for longer, according to a study published in The Lancet, and led by Dr Amy Ahern of our Prevention of Diabetes and Related Metabolic Disorders programme.
The 12-week programme was predicted to prevent more illnesses than the self-help intervention due to greater weight loss. Over 25 years, the cost to the NHS of providing the programme would be more than offset by the later savings as a result of reductions in disease, resulting in an overall cost-saving of £268,000 per 100,000 individuals.
Offering a year-long programme was estimated to prevent an additional 1786 cases of disease (including 642 fewer cases of hypertension, 373 fewer cases of diabetes and 104 fewer cases of heart disease) for every 100,000 people, compared to the 12-week programme. While the costs of the year-long intervention were not outweighed by the cost-savings on NHS treatment of weight-related illnesses, the cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) – a metric that values both the length of time people live and the quality of that life – gained was only £2,394 compared to the brief intervention, and £3,804 compared to the 12-week programme. NICE usually consider treatments to be worth funding if the cost per QALY gained is less than about £20,000, so, although it was more expensive upfront, the study shows that the year-long programme is cost-effective over 25 years by preventing more cases of weight related illness.
- Read the research news article
- Paper: “Extended and standard duration weight-loss programme referrals for adults in primary care (WRAP): a randomised controlled trial” Amy L. Ahern, Graham M. Wheeler, Paul Aveyard et al., The Lancet, 03 May 2017. DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)30647-5
- Lancet comment by Dr Emily Brindal of CSIRO
- Lancet podcast by Dr Amy Ahern
- This paper received wide media coverage, including the Guardian, iNews, Sun, Daily Express, GP Online and Medical News Today, and lead author Dr Amy Ahern was interviewed by Iain Dale on LBC.
Study identifies hundreds of genes that influence timing of puberty and alter risk of several cancers – April 2017
The timing of puberty varies widely between individuals but tends to run closely within families. Earlier puberty timing may have advantages for some adolescents, for example for boys who engage actively in sports, but it appears to have largely negative effects on later health, such as higher risks of heart disease and some cancers.
In the largest genomic analysis of puberty timing in men and women conducted to date, and published in Nature Genetics, researchers led by Dr Felix Day and Dr John Perry of our Growth and Development programme identified 389 genetic signals associated with puberty timing in 329,345 women, four times the number that were previously known. Many of these genetic associations were also found to influence age at voice breaking, a comparable measure of puberty timing in men. The study also found new genetic evidence linking earlier timing of puberty to higher risk of several cancers known to be sensitive to sex-hormones in later life, including breast, ovary and endometrial cancers in women, and prostate cancer in men. These influences remained after controlling for body weight, which is important as body weight itself influences both the timing of puberty and the risk of some cancers.
- Read the research news article
- Paper: “Genomic analyses identify hundreds of variants associated with age at menarche and support a role for puberty timing in cancer risk” Felix R. Day, Deborah J. Thompson, Hannes Helgason et al., Nature Genetics, 24 April 2017. DOI:10.1038/ng.3841
- This paper received wide media coverage, including the Daily Mail, Evening Standard, Telegraph, Wiener Zeitung, Science Daily, HealthDay and La Scienze, and lead author Dr Felix Day was interviewed by BBC 5 Live (Starts 02:07:10).
Unravelling the mystery of the disappearing chromosomes – March 2017
A study of over 85,000 men and 96,000 women, led by PhD Student Dan Wright and colleagues from our Aetiology of Diabetes and Related Metabolic Disorders and Growth and Development programmes, along with researchers from deCODE genetics in Iceland, and published in Nature Genetics, uncovered key genetic factors that influence the rate at which men and women lose chromosomes from their cells as they age.
The study focused on cells missing the Y chromosome, the most common genetic defect in circulating white blood cells. The Y chromosome has the smallest number of genes of any human chromosome, and its genes have a relatively restricted pattern of activity, so in most tissues its’ loss is better tolerated than that of other chromosomes. By measuring this in over 85,000 men, including 67,000 men participating in UK Biobank, in addition to 18,000 men from the EPIC-Norfolk and deCODE studies, the researchers identified 19 gene regions which appear to regulate this defect.
- Read the research news article
- Paper: “Genetic variants associated with mosaic Y chromosome loss highlight cell cycle genes and overlap with cancer susceptibility” Daniel J. Wright, Felix R. Day, Nicola D. Kerrison, Florian Zink, Alexia Cardona, Patrick Sulem, Deborah J. Thompson, Svanhvit Sigurjonsdottir, Daniel F Gudbjartsson, Agnar Helgason, J. Ross Chapman, Steve P. Jackson, Claudia Langenberg, Nicholas J. Wareham, Robert A. Scott, Unnur Thorsteindottir, Ken K. Ong, Kari Stefansson and John R.B. Perry, Nature Genetics, 27 March 2017. DOI:10.1038/ng.3821
- This paper was covered by Medical News Today and BioPortfolio.
Preventing weight gain in adults important to reduce incidence of type 2 diabetes – February 2017
A study of over 33,000 people, published in BMC Public Health, and led by Dr Adina Feldman of our Prevention of Diabetes and Related Metabolic Disorders programme, indicates that health strategies that aim to prevent adult weight gain in the whole population have the potential to prevent twice as many cases of type 2 diabetes as strategies that target individuals at high risk of diabetes due to being obese.
Current clinical practice and public health programmes generally target those at high risk of type 2 diabetes, such as people who are obese and have higher than normal blood glucose. While these programmes may be effective for the individuals targeted, their potential to impact the prevalence of diabetes in the whole population is limited.
The researchers from the VIPCAM collaboration between the MRC Epidemiology Unit and the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Umeå University analysed data from 33,184 people aged 30-60 years. They researchers able to determine the association between change in body weight between baseline and 10 year follow-up and occurrence of newly diagnosed diabetes. They estimated that if everyone who gained weight had maintained their weight, regardless of their starting weight, one in five of all type 2 diabetes cases in the population could have been prevented.
- Read the research news article
- Paper: ‘Impact of weight maintenance and loss on diabetes risk and burden: A population based study in 33,184 participants’ Adina L. Feldman, Simon J. Griffin, Amy L. Ahern, Grainne H. Long, Lars Weinehall, Eva Fhärm, Margareta Norberg, Patrik Wennberg, BMC Public Health, o6 February 2017. DOI:10.1186/s12889-017-4081-6.
- This paper was covered by the Daily Mail, Zee News, The BMJ, Nursing Times, Dagens Medcin, Lakartidningen, and many others.
Inability to safely store fat increases risk of diabetes and heart disease – November 2016
In a paper published in Nature Genetics researchers at the MRC Epidemiology Unit and MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit, led by Clinical Career Development Fellow Dr Luca Lotta, reported strong evidence that the development of insulin resistance results from the failure to safely store excess fat in the body.
In a study of over two million genetic variants in almost 200,000 people the researchers identified 53 gene variants that were associated associated with insulin resistance and a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. A follow-up study with over 12,000 participants in the Fenland and EPIC-Norfolk studies, each of whom underwent a body scan that shows fat deposits in different regions of the body, found that having a greater number of these variants was associated with having lower amounts of fat under the skin, particularly in the lower half of the body.
- Read the research news article
- Paper: Luca A. Lotta et al. Integrative genomic analysis implicates limited peripheral adipose storage capacity in the pathogenesis of human insulin resistance Nature Genetics, 1 November 2016
- This paper was covered by BBC Radio 4 Six O’Clock News (starts at 21:58), BBC News Online and Cambridge News , and lead author Dr Luca Lotta was interviewed for Cambridge TV Evening News (starts at 4:50). The paper was also covered by several specialist medical and science news outlets, including Medical News Today, MDIndia and Arezteblatt.de, and by the Wolfson College, Cambridge news blog.
“Some is good, more is better”: Regular exercise can cut your diabetes risk – October 2016
In a systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis of 28 prospective cohort studies that included 1,261,991 individuals by researchers at the MRC Epidemiology Unit and UCL found that any amount of physical activity can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but the more physical activity the greater the reduction.
The research, published in the journal Diabetologia, is the most comprehensive study to look at the impact of exercise, independent of other behavioural factors such as diet, on a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The analysis showed that doing the 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity UK Department of Health can reduce a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 26%, and that increasing to an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise every day can reduce their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 40%.
- Read the research news article
- Paper: Andrea D. Smith, Alessio Crippa, James Woodcock and Søren Brage. Physical activity and incident type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies Diabetologia, 17 October 2016
- This paper was covered by several national newspapers, as well as some international and science and medical news outlets, including The Sun, Telegraph, Daily Mail, ABC News, Business Standard, Xinhua and Medical News Today.
New genetic analysis provides insight into side effects of cholesterol lowering drugs – October 2016
In a meta-analysis of data from 50,775 people with type 2 diabetes and 270,269 people without diabetes, and 60,801 individuals with coronary artery disease and 123,504 without, Unit researchers investigated the association between type 2 diabetes and genetic variants that reduce cholesterol levels by influencing different cholesterol-related biological pathways. These included pathways that are targeted by current cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins, ezetimibe and PCSK9-inhibitors.
The Meta-analysis, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), was led by Dr Luca Lotta, a Clinical Career Development Fellow at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, and Professor Nick Wareham, Director of the MRC Epidemiology Unit.
Their analysis found that people with genetic variants associated with lower blood cholesterol had a lower risk of heart attack, but a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. They also found that the reduction in the risk of a heart attack was proportional to the reduction in blood cholesterol for all the different pathways investigated. However, the association with type 2 diabetes was different for different pathways, and not proportional to the reduction in blood cholesterol.
- Read the research news article
- Paper: Luca Lotta, et al. Association Between Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol–Lowering Genetic Variants and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Meta-analysis JAMA, 04 October 2016
- This paper was covered by several specialist science and medical news outlets, including Doctors Lounge, Medical News Today, GenomeWeb and Science Daily, and was also discussed in a blog post on Cardio Brief.
Mediterranean diet could lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in the UK – September 2016
In an analysis of data from the EPIC-Norfolk Study, published in BMC Medicine, Unit researchers showed that healthy individuals with greater adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet had about an 11% lower risk of future cardiovascular disease compared to individuals who had poor adherence. The work was led by PhD student Tammy Tong, together with colleagues Dr Fumiaki Imamura, Professor Nicholas Wareham, Professor Kay-Tee Khaw, and Dr Nita Forouhi.
The Mediterranean diet is typically high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and olive oil, while low in red meats and moderate in dairy, fish, poultry and wine. The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends a Mediterranean based diet for people already diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. However, until now the association of the Mediterranean diet with both preventing the disease occurring in the first instance and preventing further cardiovascular episodes had not been examined in the UK.
- Read the press release
- Paper: Tammy Tong, et al. Prospective association of the Mediterranean diet with cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality and its population impact in a non-Mediterranean population: the EPIC-Norfolk Study BMC Medicine, 29 September 2016
- Read an interview with lead author Dr Nita Forouhi on MedicalResearch.com
- This paper was covered in the BMJ Research News, and attracted national media attention, with over 30 articles and items in national, international and local news outlets, including Guardian, Daily Mail, ITV News online, Telegraph, Independent, Express, Evening Standard, Norfolk Eastern Daily Press, and Irish Examiner.
How baby’s genes influence birth weight and health in later life – September 2016
An international genetic study of more than 150,000 people, published in Nature, identified genetic differences that help to explain why some babies are born bigger or smaller than others. The study was co-led by Unit scientists Dr. Felix day, Dr John Perry, and Dr. Ken Ong, and used data from the UK Biobank study in combination with data from more than 30 other genetic studies.
The large-scale study revealed how these genetic differences provide an important link between an individual’s early growth and their chances of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease in later life, and could help to identify new ways of preventing and treating these diseases.
- Read the press release
- Paper: Momoko Horikoshi, et al. Genome-wide associations for birth weight and correlations with adult disease Nature, 28 September 2016
- Read an opinion article by Co-lead author Dr Ken Ong
- Co-lead author Dr Ken Ong was interviewed by ITV Anglia for their news broadcast at 6pm on 28 September 2016, and subsequently on the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Breakfast Show. The paper was also covered by the Cambridge News, Guardian and Science Daily.
- Dr Rachel Freathy of the University of Exeter and Dr Mark McCarthy of the University of Oxford, both co-lead authors on the paper, also wrote a blog article on how they unraveled the effects of the mothers’ and babies’ genes on birth weight.
An hour of moderate exercise a day enough to counter health risks from prolonged sitting – July 2016
In an analysis published in The Lancet that draws together a number of existing studies, an international team of researchers led by Ulf Ekelund asked the question: if an individual is active enough, can this reduce, or even eliminate, the increased risk of early death associated with sitting down? The researchers found that 60 to 75 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day were sufficient to eliminate the increased risk of early death associated with sitting for over eight hours per day. However, as many as three out of four people in the study failed to reach this level of daily activity.
- Read the press release
- Paper:Ulf Ekelund, et al. Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonised meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women The Lancet, 28 July 2016
- This paper attracted worldwide media attention, with over 500 articles and items in national, international and local news, including BBC Radio 4, Sky News, Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail, CNN, Washington Post, Times of India, Toronto Star, South China Morning Post, and New Scientist.
MRC Epidemiology Unit heads up PLOS diabetes special issue – July 2016
Professor Nick Wareham, along with Professor William Herman, Director of the Michigan Center for Diabetes Translational Research, were guest editors on a PLOS Medicine special issue focusing on diabetes prevention, which was published in July 2016.
The special issue featured research articles and perspectives that show the strength, depth and breadth of research being undertaken into the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes, several of which were co-authored by researchers from the MRC Epidemiology Unit.
- Read the Unit news post
- Read the PLOS Medicine editorial by Professor Nick Wareham and Professor William Herman
- Read the ‘PLOS Science Wednesday’ Ask Me Anything (AMA) live online Q&A on Reddit Science, 27 July 2016
- The Conversation article “A varied diet can prevent diabetes – but can you afford it?” byAnnalijn Conklin, Nita Forouhi, and Pablo Monsivais was republished by Daily Mail and several online outlets
- The paper Effects of Saturated Fat, Polyunsaturated Fat, Monounsaturated Fat, and Carbohydrate on Glucose-Insulin Homeostasis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Feeding Trials by Fumiaki Imamura and colleagues indicated that consumption of unsaturated fats in place of either saturated fats or carbohydrates has a beneficial impact on measures of metabolic health, and could aid in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes, and was reported by over 100 national and international news outlets, including CTV, The Times, and Belfast Telegraph
- The paper Association of plasma phospholipid omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids with type 2 diabetes: The EPIC-InterAct case-cohort study by Nita Forouhi and colleagues was covered by several specialist health and science news outlets, including MedicalXpress and Medical News Today, and coauthor Fumiaki Imamura was interviewed about it by MedicalResearch.com
MRC Festival of Medical Research – Are you in a healthy place? – June 2016
The inaugural MRC Festival of Medical Research took place on 18-26 July, with more than 50 individual events taking place in cities across the UK and in the Gambia.
The Unit’s event was an interactive evening on 22 June: Are you in a Healthy Place? Travel, food and our neighbourhoods. Thomas Burgoine and David Ogilvie explored the latest research from the MRC Epidemiology Unit about how our neighbourhoods influence how we get around and what we eat, and what this is doing to our bodies.
- Read an article on the MRC Insight blog by Paul Browne and Oliver Francis
- Read the Cambridge News coverage of MRC Festival events
Genetic approach to identifying side-effects at early stages of drug development – June 2016
A genetic analysis approach that could reduce the chances of drugs failing during the later stages of clinical trials has been demonstrated in a Unit co-led collaboration between the University of Cambridge and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The technique involves identifying genetic variants that mimic the action of a drug on its intended target and then checking in large patient cohorts whether these variants are associated with risk of other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.
- Read the press release
- Paper: Robert A. Scott, et al. A genomic approach to therapeutic target validation identifies a glucose-lowering GLP1R variant protective for coronary heart disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 02 June 2016
- Dr Francis Collins focused on the paper in a NIH Director’s Blog article on precision medicine, and the paper was also covered by specialist news outlets such as Science Daily, Medical News Today and Drug Discovery & Development.
Neighbourhoods with more takeaways amplify social inequalities in diet and obesity – May 2016
People who live or work near to a greater number of takeaway outlets are more likely to eat more takeaway food and to be overweight. And new findings from CEDAR indicate that neighbourhoods saturated with fast food outlets may be particularly unhealthy for people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.
- Read the press release
- Read the Conversation article ‘Local takeaways create a double burden for obesity’ by Dr Tom Burgoine and Dr Pablo Monsivais
- Paper: Thomas Burgoine, et al. Does neighborhood fast-food outlet exposure amplify inequalities in diet and obesity? A cross-sectional study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 11 May 2016
- The findings were reported in the Daily Express, and in specialist news outlets including Medical News Today and Science Daily. Tom Burgoine also discussed the results and their implications on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Breakfast Show
Walking and cycling are good for health even in cities with higher levels of air pollution – May 2016
A modeling study from the Unit and CEDAR showing that the health benefits of walking and cycling outweigh the negative effects on health of air pollution, even in cities with high levels of air pollution. This new evidence strengthens the case for supporting cycling even in polluted cities – an effort that in turn can help reduce vehicle emissions.
- Read the press release
- Paper: Marko Tainio, et al. Can air pollution negate the health benefits of cycling and walking? Preventive Medicine, 5 May 2016
- Their findings attracted worldwide media attention, and were covered by outlets as diverse as Sky News, Buzzfeed News, The Times, NHS choices, Times of India and Washington Post. With over 100 news articles and broadcasts in all, between them lead authors Marko Tainio, Audrey de Nazelle and James Woodcock did over 20 interviews with journalists
UK Biobank study identifies gene changes that influence timing of sexual behaviour – April 2016
A Unit-led study of over 380,000 people, published in the journal Nature Genetics, identified gene variations that influence the age of puberty, first sexual intercourse and first birth.
- Read the press release
- Read the Conversation article ‘How we discovered that genes could influence the age when you first have sex’ by Dr John Perry and Dr Ken Ong
- Paper: Felix R. Day, et al. Physical and neurobehavioral determinants of reproductive onset and success. Nature Genetics, 18 April 2016
- The paper received coverage across national and international news media, including reports in The Guardian, PBS Newshour, Newsweek and The Washington Post. There was also widespread interest from the scientific press and commentators, with the paper becoming one of the highest scoring Nature Genetics publications on Altmetric
Children aren’t active enough in winter, especially at weekends – February 2016
Researchers at the MRC Epidemiology Unit have called for children to be given more support to enable them to be more active during the winter, particularly at weekends, in response to new findings that children are less active and spend more time sitting in autumn and winter compared to other times of the year.
- Read the press release
- Paper: Andrew J. Atkin, et al. Seasonal variation in children’s physical activity and sedentary time. Medicine and Science in Exercise and Sport, 23 February 2016
- The paper was covered by ITV News online and by several specialist health news outlets such as MedicalXpress and News Medical, and lead author Dr Andrew Atkin was interviewed on the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Breakfast show (starts 1.54.00).
Tackling obesity and diabetes on Star2.com – December – February 2016
Star2.com, a popular online Malaysian news and lifestyle magazine, has published a fascinating series on obesity and diabetes. The articles were written by Tan Shiow Chin, a 2015 Khazanah-Wolfson Press Fellow at Wolfson College, following interviews with experts from the University of Cambridge earlier in 2015, including several Unit and CEDAR researchers.
The articles included.
- Losing weight: Diet versus exercise – Nick Wareham and Simon Griffin
- Losing weight: Personal willpower or environmental influence? – Simon Griffin
- How supermarkets seduce shoppers – Jean Adams and Martin White
- Advertisements tend to reinforce our unhealthy tendencies – Jean Adams
- Thinking of takeaway? It’s a no-no for health – Tom Burgoine
- Healthy food is everywhere, so why don’t we eat healthy – Pablo Monsivais
- Managing obesity takes more than individual willpower – Martin White and Nick Wareham