The latest list of publications from the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre with a brief summary. 

If you are publishing research which has had funding and / or support from the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, please complete this form

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Publication: Journal of Sports Sciences

Marika Korhonen, Juuso Väistö, ,Aapo Veijalainen, Marja Leppänen, Ulf Ekelund, Jari A. Laukkanen, Soren Brage, Niina Lintu, Eero A. Haapala, &Timo A. Lakka

08 April 2021


We investigated the longitudinal associations of physical activity, sedentary time, and cardiorespiratory fitness with arterial health among children.


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Publication: Nutrients

Danielle Jones, Emanuella De Lucia Rolfe, Kirsten L. Rennie, Linda M. Oude Griep, Laura C. Kusinski, Deborah J. Hughes, Soren Brage, Ken K. Ong, Kathryn Beardsall, Claire L. Meek

31 March 2021


Around 5-10% of pregnant women in the UK develop gestational diabetes, which arises during pregnancy and typically resolves after delivery. Mothers with gestational diabetes are at greater risk of diabetes in later life, and their babies are also more likely to develop short-term and long-term health complications.

Preventing childhood obesity is really important, and yet, we still have an incomplete understanding about why and how obesity develops in early life.  The aim of this study is to assess pregnancy and early postnatal factors which contribute to maternal and child obesity after gestational diabetes, and to identify if a reduced-calorie diet in pregnancy can reduced these risks.

This paper outlines our plans to follow-up mothers and babies after gestational diabetes, who participated in our DiGest trial. Researchers will collect information about changes in weight in mothers and babies for 3 years following birth and will also assess the importance of infant feeding, early life growth, maternal diet and physical activity upon weight and glucose tolerance.

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Publication: European Journal of Sport Science,

Eero A. Haapala ,Juuso Väistö ,Johanna K. Ihalainen ,Claudia Tomaselli González,Marja H. Leppänen ,Aapo Veijalainen ,Taisa Sallinen ,Aino-Maija Eloranta ,Ulf Ekelund ,Ursula Schwab ,Soren Brage ,Mustafa Atalay &Timo A. Lakka

14 March 2021


We investigated the associations of ST, screen time, PA at different intensities, and diet quality with biomarkers for inflammation, including hs-CRP, leptin, IL-6, adiponectin, TNF-α, and glycoprotein acetyls, in a population sample of children. We also investigated the modifying effect of BF% on these associations. Finally, we studied the modifying effect of diet quality on the associations of ST, screen time, and PA at different intensities with these biomarkers of inflammation.

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Publication: Nature Communications

William S. Harris, Nathan L. Tintle, Fumiaki Imamura, Frank Qian, Andres V. Ardisson Korat, Matti Marklund, Luc Djoussé, Julie K. Bassett, Pierre-Hugues Carmichael, Yun-Yu Chen, Yoichiro Hirakawa, Leanne K. Küpers, Federica Laguzzi, Maria Lankinen, Rachel A. Murphy, Cécilia Samieri, Mackenzie K. Senn, Peilin Shi, Jyrki K. Virtanen, Ingeborg A. Brouwer, Kuo-Liong Chien, Gudny Eiriksdottir, Nita G. Forouhi, Johanna M. Geleijnse, Graham G. Giles, Vilmundur Gudnason, Catherine Helmer, Allison Hodge, Rebecca Jackson, Kay-Tee Khaw, Markku Laakso, Heidi Lai, Danielle Laurin, Karin Leander, Joan Lindsay, Renata Micha, Jaako Mursu, Toshiharu Ninomiya, Wendy Post, Bruce M. Psaty, Ulf Risérus, Jennifer G. Robinson, Aladdin H. Shadyab, Linda Snetselaar, Aleix Sala-Vila, Yangbo Sun, Lyn M. Steffen, Michael Y. Tsai, Nicholas J. Wareham, Alexis C. Wood, Jason H. Y. Wu, Frank Hu, Qi Sun, David S. Siscovick, Rozenn N. Lemaitre, Dariush Mozaffarian

24 April 2021


The EPIC-Norfolk Study from the MRC Epidemiology Unit and sixteen other study groups from Europe, the United States, and Asia came together to do research in the framework of the FORCE – Fatty Acids & Outcomes Research – Consortium. In this global collaboration, we examined the relationship between markers of fish consumption in the blood and the risk of death from any cause, analysing data from a total of 42,466 study volunteers. Specifically, we measured blood levels of ‘omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids’, which are molecules circulating in our blood. Fish is typically rich in those markers or ‘omega-3s’. Our body cannot synthesise them, and thus the blood levels of those markers reflect habitual or usual fish consumption.   Our analysis showed  that those showing higher blood levels of omega-3s lived longer than those with lower levels. In other words, those people with relatively low omega-3 levels died prematurely, i.e., all else being equal, they might have lived longer had their blood omega-3 levels been higher.

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Publication:  Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics,.

Lynsey N. Spillman, Arabella Melville-Claxton, Gillian A. Gatiss, Nicola Fernandez, Angela M. Madden

01 March 2021


Liver transplant recipients are given diet and physical activity advice to aid recovery and promote long-term health. The present study aimed to explore patients’ experiences of receiving and implementing diet and physical activity advice after liver transplant and identify barriers and facilitators to following recommendations.

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Publication: The Journal of Nutrition

Pearce, M., Fanidi, A., Bishop, T., Sharp, S., Imamura, F., Dietrich, S., Akbaraly, T., Bes-Rastrollo, M., Beulens, J., Byberg, L., Canhada, S., Molina, M., Chen, Z., Cortes-Valencia, A., Du, H., Duncan, B., Härkänen, T., Hashemian, M., Kim, J., Kim, M., Kim, Y., Knekt, P., Kromhout, D., Lassale, C., Ridaura, R., Magliano, D., Malekzadeh, R., Marques-Vidal, P., Martínez-González, M., O’Donoghue, G., O’Gorman, D., Shaw, J., Soedamah-Muthu, S., Stern, D., Wolk, A., Woo, H., Wareham, N. and Forouhi, N.

9 March 2021

The consumption of legumes is promoted as part of a healthy diet in many countries but associations of total and types of legume consumption with type 2 diabetes (T2D) are not well established. Analyses across diverse populations are lacking despite the availability of unpublished legume consumption data in prospective cohort studies.

In this study the researchers examined the prospective associations of total and types of legume intake with the risk of incident T2D.

Meta-analyses of associations between total legume, pulse, and soy consumption and T2D were conducted, using data from 807,785 adults without diabetes in 27 cohorts across the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, and Western Pacific.

The findings suggest no evidence of an association of legume intakes with T2D in several world regions. The positive association observed in some European studies warrants further investigation relating to overall dietary contexts in which legumes are consumed, including accompanying foods which may be positively associated with T2D.

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Publication: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Jelisa Gallant, Kathleen Chan, Tim J Green, Frank T Wieringa, Shalem Leemaqz, Rem Ngik, Jeffrey R Measelle, Dare A Baldwin, Mam Borath, Prak Sophonneary, Lisa N Yelland, Daniela Hampel, Setareh Shahab-Ferdows, Lindsay H Allen, Kerry S Jones, Albert Koulman, Damon A Parkington, Sarah R Meadows, Hou Kroeun, Kyly C Whitfield

07 April 2021


Thiamine (vitamin B1) is essential for normal growth, development and energy metabolism. Thiamine is found in a wide-range of foods and deficiency is not usually a problem with a varied diet. However, in some populations, with diets that consist mostly of thiamine-poor white, polished rice, there may be an increased risk of thiamine deficiency.

The NIHR Cambridge BRC Nutritional Biomarker Laboratory was responsible for the blood analysis of two thiamine biomarkers for a recently published study led by Dr Kyly Whitfield (Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada). The aim of the study was to investigate the amount of supplemental thiamine intake required to optimise breastmilk thiamine concentrations and mother and infant blood thiamine status.

In the study, 335 mothers in rural Cambodia were randomised to one of four daily thiamine supplementation doses (0, 1.2, 2.4, or 10 mg per day) from 2 weeks to 6 months postpartum. At the end of the intervention period, blood samples were collected from mothers and infants, and breastmilk from mothers to estimate the optimal thiamine dose to improve thiamine status.

The results showed that women taking any of the thiamine-containing supplements had significantly higher thiamine content in their milk compared to the placebo group. Both mothers and infants had improved blood thiamine status after supplementation. In the study, a dose of 1.2 mg thiamine/day improved the thiamine status of breastfeeding mothers and their infants, normalising thiamine status, and may reduce the risk of thiamine deficiency and infantile beriberi. We hope the results of this study will inform a future thiamine fortification program in Cambodia, and elsewhere in South and Southeast Asia where thiamine deficiency remains a public health concern.

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Publication: American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Hajna, S., Sharp, S., Cooper, A., Williams, K., van Sluijs, E., Brage, S., Griffin, S. and Sutton, S.

1 March 2021

Around 23% of adults worldwide are insufficiently active. Wearable devices paired with virtual coaching software could increase physical activity. The effectiveness of 3 minimal contact interventions (paper-based physical activity diaries, activity trackers, and activity trackers coupled with virtual coaching) in increasing physical activity energy expenditure and cardiorespiratory fitness were compared over 12 weeks among inactive adults.

This was an open label, parallel-group RCT. Inactive adults were randomized to no intervention (Control; n=121), paper-based diary (Diary; n=124), activity tracker (Activity Band; n=122), or activity tracker plus virtual coaching (Activity Band PLUS; n=121) groups. Coprimary outcomes included 12-week changes in physical activity energy expenditure and fitness (May 2012–January 2014). Analyses were conducted in 2019–2020.

There were no differences between groups overall (physical activity energy expenditure: p=0.114, fitness: p=0.417). However, there was a greater increase in physical activity energy expenditure (4.21 kJ/kg/day, 95% CI=0.42, 8.00) in the Activity Band PLUS group than in the Diary group. There were also greater decreases in BMI and body fat percentage in the Activity Band PLUS group than in the Control group and in theActivity Band PLUS group than in the Diary group.

Coupling activity trackers with virtual coaching may facilitate increases in physical activity energy expenditure compared with a traditional paper‒based physical activity diary intervention and improve some secondary outcomes compared with a traditional paper‒based physical activity diary intervention or no intervention.

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Publication: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Braithwaite, V., Mwangi, M., Jones, K., Demir, A., Prentice, A., Prentice, A., Andang’o, P. and Verhoef, H.

1 March 2021

Fibroblast growth factor-23 (FGF23) regulates body phosphate homeostasis primarily by increasing phosphaturia. It also acts as a vitamin D-regulating hormone. Maternal iron deficiency is associated with perturbed expression and/or regulation of FGF23 and hence might be implicated in the pathogenesis of hypophosphatemia-driven rickets in their offspring.

The researchers aimed to determine the effect of antenatal oral iron supplementation on FGF23 concentration and maternal and infant markers of bone-mineral regulation.

Rural Kenyan women with singleton pregnancies and hemoglobin concentrations ≥ 90 g/L were randomly allocated to daily, supervised supplementation with 60 mg elemental iron as ferrous fumarate or placebo from 13–23 weeks of gestation until 1 month postpartum.

The researchers reanalyzed all available plasma samples collected in 433 mothers and 414 neonates at birth and confirmed that iron supplementation can reverse elevated FGF23 production caused by iron deficiency in iron-deficient mothers and their neonates.

Further investigations are warranted to assess to what extent iron supplementation can prevent FGF23-mediated hypophosphatemic rickets or osteomalacia.

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Publication: Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging

Kanen JW, Arntz FE, Yellowlees R, Price A, Christmas DM, Apergis-Schoute AM, Sahakian BJ, Cardinal RN, Robbins TW

12 January 2021


Responding emotionally to danger is critical for survival. Normal functioning also requires flexible alteration of emotional responses when a threat becomes safe. Aberrant threat and safety learning occur in many psychiatric disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia, in which emotional responses can persist pathologically. While there is evidence that threat and safety learning can be modulated by the serotonin systems, there have been few studies in humans. Researchers addressed a critical clinically relevant question: How does lowering serotonin affect memory retention of conditioned threat and safety memory?

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Publication: Journal of Physical Activity and Health

Bielemann R, Silveira M, Lutz B, Miranda V, Gonzalez M, Brage S et al.

29 May 2020


Previous observations regarding association between physical activity (PA) and use of medicines among older adults are derived from self-reported PA. This study aimed to evaluate the association between objectively measured PA and polypharmacy among older adults with multimorbidity in Southern Brazil.

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Publication: BMC Medicine

Burgoine, T., Monsivais, P., Sharp, S., Forouhi, N. and Wareham, N.

15 February 2021

Characteristics of the built environment, such as neighbourhood fast-food outlet exposure, are increasingly recognised as risk factors for unhealthy diet and obesity. Obesity also has a genetic component, with common genetic variants explaining a substantial proportion of population-level obesity susceptibility. However, it is not known whether and to what extent associations between fast-food outlet exposure and body weight are modified by genetic predisposition to obesity.

We used data from the Fenland Study, a population-based sample of 12,435 UK adults (mean age 48.6 years). We derived a genetic risk score associated with BMI (BMI-GRS) from 96 BMI-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms. Neighbourhood fast-food exposure was defined as quartiles of counts of outlets around the home address. We used multivariable regression models to estimate the associations of each exposure, independently and in combination, with measured BMI, overweight and obesity, and investigated interactions.

We found independent associations between BMI-GRS and risk of overweight (RR = 1.34, 95% CI 1.23–1.47) and obesity (RR = 1.73, 95% CI 1.55–1.93), and between fast-food outlet exposure and risk of obesity (highest vs lowest quartile RR = 1.58, 95% CI 1.21–2.05). There was no evidence of an interaction of fast-food outlet exposure and genetic risk on BMI (P = 0.09), risk of overweight (P = 0.51), or risk of obesity (P = 0.27). The combination of higher BMI-GRS and highest fast-food outlet exposure was associated with 2.70 (95% CI 1.99–3.66) times greater risk of obesity.

Our study demonstrated independent associations of both genetic obesity risk and neighbourhood fast-food outlet exposure with adiposity. These important drivers of the obesity epidemic have to date been studied in isolation. Neighbourhood fast-food outlet exposure remains a potential target of policy intervention to prevent obesity and promote the public’s health.

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