Personalised nutrition is better than a “one size fits all” approach in improving diets

Mathers & Celis-MoralesJohn C Mathers and Carlos Celis-Morales

Good dietary patterns are associated with improved health and well-being but many people find it difficult to change their eating habits. In this study we tested the idea that a “personalised nutrition” approach would be better in helping people improve their diets.

Why diet matters
Poor dietary patterns lead to poor health and increased risk of obesity and a wide range of common diseases including cardiovascular disease, several cancers and type 2 diabetes. Despite knowing that we should improve our diets by eating more vegetables and fruit, cutting down on fatty foods and going easy on sugary drinks and confectionary, many people find it difficult to make sustained improvements in their dietary choices. Knowing what we should do is not enough. We need interventions which help us to make, and to keep on making, appropriate changes in what we eat.

Continue reading “Personalised nutrition is better than a “one size fits all” approach in improving diets”

Social relationships may delay the process of cognitive decline


Marij Zuidersma, Jisca S Kuiper, Sytse U Zuidema

all authorsGood social relationships are important for people’s happiness and well-being, but they also appear to be good for your health. In the current systematic review and meta-analysis we evaluated whether good social relationships are associated with maintaining cognitive performance in old age.

Cognitive performance
Cognitive performance comprises the brain-based skills we need to carry out any task from the simplest to the most complex. It involves amongst others learning, memory, planning, problem-solving, speed of thinking, paying attention and concentration. With increasing age cognitive performance  declines. For some people, this decline comes faster than for others. People with poor cognitive performance are at higher risk of developing dementia and problems with performing daily activities. Currently, there are no effective treatments to delay the onset of cognitive decline. Therefore, it is important to identify modifiable factors that might delay the onset of cognitive decline.
Continue reading “Social relationships may delay the process of cognitive decline”

Lexis Cubes 2 – Case-study: Log mortality for males in Finland, 1878 to 2012

Jon Minton16 - 138 Jon Minton

In my earlier blog post, I introduced the concept first of thinking about demographic data like spatial data, and like spatial data producing ‘maps’ of the data’s demographic topography; and secondly, of reifying and rendering these statistical surfaces as three dimensional objects, either using computer generated imagery or 3D printers. This blog post will describe just one of these surfaces, a ‘statistical sculpture’ showing how the logarithm of mortality risk has changed for males in Finland from 1878 to 2012. Continue reading “Lexis Cubes 2 – Case-study: Log mortality for males in Finland, 1878 to 2012”

Lexis cubes 1: From maps of space to maps of time

Jon Minton16 - 138 Jon Minton

Introduction
A Lexis surface is a Cartesian mapping of three attributes to three dimensions:

  • year (or another measure of absolute time) to the x axis,
  • age (or another measure of relative time) to the y axis,
  • a third variable, which co-varies with year and age, to the z axis.

Put another way: a Lexis surface is a way of visualising temporal change as if it were spatial change, of thinking about time as if it were space: of absolute time as if it were latitude, relative time as if it were longitude, and a third variable as if it were a height above sea level. Continue reading “Lexis cubes 1: From maps of space to maps of time”

Increased risk of heart attacks – An unmeasured cost of the war on drugs in Mexico

Eileen Lee and Tim Bruckner

Bruckner PicLee Pic 3_croppedSince the start of the Mexican Drug War in December 2006, over 100,000 people have been murdered and over 20,000 are still missing. The escalation of violence has led to questions regarding the legitimacy and ability of political institutions, including law enforcement, to protect the public. A yet unmeasured cost of the drug war, related to living in an insecure environment, is the increased risk of dying from a heart attack.

We recently found that heart attack deaths among the elderly rose in months when Mexico’s homicide rate also rose. Our study adds to the growing literature on the collateral consequences of violence among persons who do not directly know the perpetrators or the victims. We believe that a threat, or perceived threat, to security from Mexico’s rising homicides, and the attendant media coverage, may have induced a stress response that triggered an excess of heart attacks. Given the high homicide rate in Mexico, the country provided a reasonable setting for us to test how population health responds to threats to security. Continue reading “Increased risk of heart attacks – An unmeasured cost of the war on drugs in Mexico”

Did extending compulsory education in the 1950s improve cognitive and emotional outcomes?

Anton LagerLager_Anton_DSC_0051_SIR.jpg

Extending compulsory education from 8 to 9 years had a postive effect on intelligence in our large study of boys exposed to a school reform in Sweden in the 1950s. Extending education benefited sons of farmers and workers most, reducing socioeconomic differences in intelligence. In contrast, the reform seems to have led to reduced emotional control, suggesting that for this outcome alternative activities (e.g. working or attending the old lower secondary school) was better. Continue reading “Did extending compulsory education in the 1950s improve cognitive and emotional outcomes?”

Are We There Yet? Assessing the Burden of Travel on Maternal Health Care Utilization and Child Mortality in Developing Countries

Mahesh Karra, Günther Fink, David Canning

David Canning Guenther FinkMahesh Karra

 

The problem
Over the past two decades, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have made considerable progress towards reducing child mortality. In spite of these achievements, almost six million children under the age of five are estimated to have died in 2015. Many of these deaths could likely be avoided if high quality antenatal care and delivery at health facilities were available to mothers and their children. Yet access to high quality health services remains low in many settings.

Distance to health care facilities has been identified as one of the main potential barriers to health service access. However, while there is strong evidence that long distances to facilities lead to lower utilization of health services, the evidence is less clear about whether long distances to facilities are linked to poor health outcomes. Continue reading “Are We There Yet? Assessing the Burden of Travel on Maternal Health Care Utilization and Child Mortality in Developing Countries”

Waterpipe smoking might be just as harmful as smoking cigarettes

Reem Waziry and Elie Akl

Elie_Akl[1] Reem Waziry headshotWaterpipe, also known as shisha, goza, narghile, arghile and hookah, is a traditional method for smoking tobacco. While it originated in Turkey, India and Iran, its use has spread on a global level over the past decade to the point of being labelled a global epidemic.

There are a number of explanations for the global spread of waterpipe tobacco smoking. First, people use it as a way to socialize, as it is smoked in groups. Second, the production of sweetened and flavoured tobacco (Maassel), resulting in aromatic and smooth smoke, can make it more appealing than cigarette smoking. Another major reason is a common misconception that waterpipe tobacco smoking is not harmful, or is less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Continue reading “Waterpipe smoking might be just as harmful as smoking cigarettes”

Parkinson’s disease and cancer risk: is there a relationship?

Freedman_Michal_2015_ORIG_160x140WEBD. Michal Freedman

Some previous epidemiologic studies have suggested that having Parkinson’s disease decreases your risk of developing cancer, and vice versa. If true, this finding could provide insight into underlying biologic mechanisms for the two diseases.

How we set out to answer the question
In a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology we used data from Medicare, a U.S. federal health insurance programme for those aged ≥65 years, linked to U.S. cancer registry data to examine the relationship between Parkinson’s disease and cancer. Because we used Medicare data, we were limited to people aged 65 years and older. However, as the Medicare database is very large, we were able to examine relationships in whites and non-whites, in men and women, and in different age groups (all above 65 years).

We hypothesized that previous studies may have found a lower risk of cancer after Parkinson’s disease because cancer screening or medical work-ups were less frequent in people with a debilitating condition such as Parkinson’s than in people without such a condition. Continue reading “Parkinson’s disease and cancer risk: is there a relationship?”

Genome-wide association study gives rise to a new breed of disease network

 

Daniel HimmelsteinDaniel Himmelstein

A puzzling similarity
Researchers have long noted puzzling similarities between Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple sclerosis. Although the first is a cancer and the second is an autoimmune disease, risk for both diseases appears to increase due to the Epstein–Barr virus and a lack of sunlight. In fact having a family member with multiple sclerosis may place you at increased risk for Hodgkin lymphoma and vice versa. Now, a recent study, on which I am a co-author, has identified genetic similarities. Continue reading “Genome-wide association study gives rise to a new breed of disease network”