Metabolic phenotyping, nowadays most often termed metabolomics, is becoming increasingly applied in molecular epidemiology. Recent technological developments resulting in increased numbers of quantitative molecular applications of metabolomics triggered the idea for a themed issue of the IJE on Metabolic Phenotyping in Epidemiology edited by George Davey Smith and myself. Continue reading “Metabolic Phenotyping in Epidemiology”
Cecilie Svanes, Jennifer Koplin, Francisco Gomez Real, and Svein Magne Skulstad
A new study shows that asthma is three times more common in those who had a father who smoked in adolescence, and twice as common in those whose father worked with welding before conception. Can these numbers be reduced by including adolescent boys in public health prevention programmes?
It is well known that a mother’s environment plays a key role in child health. The hypothesis that health and disease originate early in life has dramatically increased our understanding of this issue. However, recent research suggests that this may also be true for fathers; i.e. father’s lifestyle and age appear to be reflected in molecules that control gene function. There is growing evidence from animal studies for “epigenetic” inheritance, a mechanism whereby the father’s environment before conception could impact on the health of future generations. Continue reading “Does fathers’ smoking give their future offspring asthma?”
Mary Beth Terry
My husband’s dad died of cancer. So did most of his uncles. On both sides. Should he be concerned? Of course. Family history is one of the strongest predictors of most cancers. Few risk factors increase cancer risk more than family history, with the exception of certain viruses and smoking. The increase in risk from family history is even greater if there are multiple individuals within a family with the same cancer and/or if the family members are diagnosed at an early age. The clustering of cancers within families has led to the identification of many causal cancer genes. Genetic testing for these known cancer genes has become the standard of cancer risk assessment for many individuals with a family history. Continue reading “Families (and their histories) will always be vital for cancer risk assessment”
John 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”
Marij Zuidersma, Jisca S Kuiper, Sytse U Zuidema
Good 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 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”
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”
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”
Eileen Lee and Tim Bruckner
Since 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”
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?”
Mahesh Karra, Günther Fink, David Canning
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”