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: Osteoporosis International 

A.M. Constable, D. Vlachopoulos, A.R. Barker, S.A. Moore, S. Soininen, E.A. Haapala, J. Väistö, K. Westgate, S. Brage, A. Mahonen &  T.A. Lakka

5 February 2021


It is unclear how physical activity intensity and vitamin D status are related to bone health in prepubertal children. We found positive associations between vitamin D status and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity with bone in boys and girls. This highlights the importance of lifestyle factors for skeletal health prepuberty.

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Publication: EBioMedicine

Olga L, van Diepen J, Bobeldijk-Pastorova I, Gross G, Prentice P, Snowden S et al.

7 January 2021

Altered lipid metabolism in early life has been associated with subsequent weight gain and predicting this could aid in obesity prevention and risk management. Here, a lipidomic approach was used to identify circulating markers for future obesity risk in translational murine models and validate in a human infant cohort.

From murine models to human setting, the ratios of circulating lipid species indicating key desaturase activities in lipid metabolism were associated with subsequent body size increase, providing a potential tool to predict early life weight gain.

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Publication: BMJ Open

Saman Khalatbari-Soltani, Pedro Marques-Vidal, Fumiaki Imamura, G. Forouhi

22 December 2020


In an international study, with researchers from Cambridge and Switzerland, researchers reviewed a Mediterranean-style diet to see if it may lower the risk of developing fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver, defined as fat accumulation of more than 5% of liver volume, is common especially among obese and diabetic individuals. Fatty liver is the first stage for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is a major cause of liver disease worldwide, and may also predispose to higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.

The Mediterranean diet is thought to be beneficial but research was limited to people with established fatty liver disease. Researchers

In 2288 study participants without NAFLD at baseline, when we assessed their dietary habits and scaled their levels of adherence to the well-established Mediterranean diet. After an average of 5.3-years of follow-up in the study, we tested for the presence of fatty liver disease based on two indices called “fatty liver index” and “NAFLD score”.

Results showed that those who adhered more to the Mediterranean diet had lower risk of developing new-onset fatty liver disease based on fatty liver index.

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Publication: AHA Stroke

Kathrine J. Vinknes, Helga Refsum, Cheryl Turner, Kay-Tee Khaw, Nicholas J. Wareham, Nita G. Forouhi, Fumiaki Imamura

22 December 2020

B-vitamin supplements lower circulating concentrations of homocysteine and may reduce stroke incidence. Homocysteine concentrations are associated with the incidence of stroke but other sulfur-containing compounds in the related metabolic pathway have not yet been investigated for an association with incident cerebrovascular diseases.

Nested within the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition)-Norfolk cohort, we established a case-control study with 480 incident cases of cerebrovascular diseases and 480 controls matched by age, sex, and year of baseline examination (1993–1997).

Using baseline plasma samples, we assayed sulfur-containing compounds including methionine, homocysteine, cystathionine, cysteine, glutathione, and taurine with liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry. We examined the association of concentrations of each of the compounds and the ratio of methionine to homocysteine (representing activity of one-carbon metabolism) with risk of incident cerebrovascular diseases, adjusted for potential confounders.

Plasma methionine and the methionine/homocysteine ratio were inversely associated with risk of cerebrovascular diseases, with odds ratios per 1 SD of 0.83 and 0.82, respectively. The association of methionine remained significant after adjustment for homocysteine. None of the other examined compounds was significantly associated with incident cerebrovascular diseases.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that greater availability of methionine, an essential amino acid, may play a role in the prevention of cerebrovascular diseases and explain the previously recognized link between elevated homocysteine and stroke. Further research is needed to determine causation and the potential of circulating methionine as a target in cerebrovascular disease prevention.

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Publication: International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity

Matthew Pearce, Tessa Strain, Youngwon Kim, Stephen J. Sharp, Kate Westgate, Katrien Wijndaele, Tomas Gonzales, Nicholas J. Wareham & Søren Brage

16 March 2020


Higher levels of physical activity have been shown to be associated with a lower risk of morbidity and mortality, but accurately assessing the dose of physical activity in large population studies remains challenging The baseline questionnaire includes items adapted from the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) [6] and the Recent Physical Activity Questionnaire (RPAQ).


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Publication: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences

Kerry S. Jones, Damon A. Parkington, Lorna J. Cox, Albert Koulman

22 December 2020


Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is an essential nutrient required for energy metabolism and the nervous system.  Thiamine deficiency can cause infantile beriberi (a potential life-threatening condition that affects multiple parts of the body.) Populations particularly at risk of thiamine deficiency are breastfed infants of thiamine-deficient mothers in low-income countries, especially those where rice, which contains little thiamine, is the staple food. However, deficiency is associated with a range of non-specific clinical symptoms and can be difficult to diagnose. Evidence also exists to suggest that mild thiamine deficiency may have long-term effects on brain development and gross motor skills.

Biomarkers are compounds we can measure in blood that tell us about a person’s physiology and health. Biomarkers of thiamine status are essential to identify deficiency and improve understanding of the global prevalence of thiamine deficiency and of the links between thiamine and later health outcomes.

An important biomarker of thiamine status is the “erythrocyte transketolase activity coefficient” (ETKAC). ETKAC is a measure of the availability of thiamine available for use in in red blood cells (erythrocytes).

Researchers provided a step-by-step protocol to perform the ETKAC assay. It will facilitate harmonisation of the ETKAC assay. It provides a foundation for the establishment of the assay in new laboratories and supports the investigation of outstanding questions in thiamine biology contributing to the ultimate aim of developing strategies to control thiamine deficiency.

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Publication: Clinical Nutrition

Ghadeer S. Aljuraiban,Kamalita Pertiwi, Jeremiah Stamler, Queenie Chan, Johanna M. Geleijnse, Linda Van Horn, Martha L. Daviglus, Paul Elliott, Linda M. Oude Griep

22 January 2020


Previous studies have reported associations between higher potato intake and higher blood pressure (BP) and/or risk of hypertension and obesity. These studies rarely considered preparation methods of potatoes, overall dietary pattern or the nutrient quality of the meals. These factors may affect the association of potato intake with BP and body mass index (BMI). This study investigated potato consumption by amount, type of processing, overall dietary pattern, and nutrient quality of the meals in relation to BP and BMI.

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Publication: Journal of Clinical Densitometry

Watson, L., Carr, K., Orford, E. and Venables, M.

15 December 2020

Body composition is associated with many noncommunicable diseases.

The accuracy of many simple techniques used for the assessment of body composition is influenced by the fact that they do not take into account tissue hydration and this can be particularly problematic in paediatric populations.

This study looked at DXA systems for determining total and regional (arms, legs, trunk) fat, lean, and bone mass and compared lean soft tissue (LST) hydration correction methods in 124 children aged between 6 and 16 years old.

The study showed that care needs to be exercised when combining data from iDXA and Prodigy, as total and regional estimates of body composition can differ significantly.

Furthermore, tissue hydration should be taken into account when assessing body composition as it can vary considerably within a healthy paediatric population even within specific age and/or sex groups.

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Publication: Clinical Biochemistry

Paquette M, Gauthier D, Chamberland A, Prat A, De Lucia Rolfe E, Rasmussen J et al.

March 2020


The objective of this study is to investigate the association between circulating PCSK9 levels and the presence of hepatic steatosis, as well as with liver biomarkers in a cohort of healthy individuals.

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Publication: Diabetes Care

Ju-Sheng Zheng, Jian’an Luan, Eleni Sofianopoulou, Fumiaki Imamura, Isobel D. Stewart, Felix R. Day, Maik Pietzner, Eleanor Wheeler, Luca A. Lotta, Thomas E. Gundersen, Pilar Amiano, Eva Ardanaz, María-Dolores Chirlaque, Guy Fagherazzi, Paul W. Franks, Rudolf Kaaks, Nasser Laouali, Francesca Romana Mancini, Peter M. Nilsson, N. Charlotte Onland-Moret, Anja Olsen, Kim Overvad, Salvatore Panico, Domenico Palli, Fulvio Ricceri, Olov Rolandsson, Annemieke M.W. Spijkerman, María-José Sánchez, Matthias B. Schulze, Núria Sala, Sabina Sieri, Anne Tjønneland, Rosario Tumino, Yvonne T. van der Schouw, Elisabete Weiderpass, Elio Riboli, John Danesh, Adam S. Butterworth, Stephen J. Sharp, Claudia Langenberg, Nita G. Forouhi, Nicholas J. Wareham

17 November 2020


Type 2 is a condition with serious health problems. Previous research has shown higher blood levels of vitamin C were linked with lower future risk of type 2 diabetes and if this was proven, it could mean that giving vitamin C as a supplement may help in preventing the condition. Testing this theory is quite challenging due to finding the correct dose.

Researchers identified 11 genetic markers that can predict blood levels of vitamin C using a large sample of more than 50,000 adults. They tested the association of type 2 diabetes with genetically predicted vitamin C levels with a large sample size of more than 80,000 people with diabetes and up-to 840,000 people without diabetes.

They found a mismatch when comparing the link of diabetes with the genetically predicted vitamin C levels versus when used directly measured blood vitamin C levels. The researchers results for directly measured or genetically predicted blood vitamin C levels indicated that blood vitamin C is not likely to be a causal factor for the development of type diabetes. Therefore conclude that it is not justified to use vitamin C supplementation for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers highlighted that the current research findings should be interpreted as showing no link of the micronutrient vitamin C with type 2 diabetes.

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Publication: PLoS Med

Zheng JS, Luan J, Sofianopoulou E, Sharp SJ, Day FR, Imamura F, Gundersen TE et al.

16 October 2020

Why was this study done?

There is ongoing uncertainty on whether the body’s vitamin D status indicated by blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) is relevant to the prevention of type 2 diabetes. There are conflicting findings from observational studies and a limited number of randomised controlled trials.

What did the researchers do and find?

The current research compared observational estimates of the association between 25(OH)D metabolites and incident type 2 diabetes with Mendelian randomisation estimates based on genetic instruments.

Using multiple data sources, we performed genome-wide association studies among 120,618 individuals for total 25(OH)D, and among 40,562 individuals for the other vitamin D metabolites. Among participants of European descent, 10 genetic loci were identified for total 25(OH)D, 7 loci for 25(OH)D3 and 3 loci for C3-epi-25(OH)D3.

In meta-analysis of observational studies, we found that each 1–standard deviation higher level of total 25(OH)D was associated with 20% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The result was similar for 25(OH)D3, but for C3-epi-25(OH)D3, a positive association with type 2 diabetes was found.

With up to 80,983 type 2 diabetes cases and 842,909 controls, we assessed the association of genetically predicted differences in total 25(OH)D and its metabolites with type 2 diabetes. Neither genetically predicted higher total 25(OH)D level nor genetically predicted higher levels of 25(OH)D metabolites were significantly associated with type 2 diabetes.

What do these findings mean?

There were conflicting findings for a link with type 2 diabetes for the observational analysis of biochemically measured 25(OH)D metabolites versus the genetically predicted levels of these metabolites.

The null findings based on Mendelian randomisation analysis indicate that blood levels of 25(OH)D or its metabolites are not likely to be causal factors for the development of type 2 diabetes.

The current findings together with other evidence from randomised controlled trials do not support the use of vitamin D supplementation for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

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Publication: Nutrients

Birdem Amoutzopoulos, Toni Steer, Caireen Roberts, David Collins, Polly Page

1 February 2020


Monitoring dietary intake of sugars in the population’s diet has great importance in evaluating the efficiency of national sugar reduction programmes. The study objective was to provide a comprehensive assessment of dietary sources of added and free sugars to assess adherence to public health recommendations in the UK population and to consider the impact of different sugar definitions on monitoring.

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