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26.  Different Indices of Fetal Growth Predict Bone Size and Volumetric Density at 4 Years of Age 
We have demonstrated previously that higher birth weight is associated with greater peak and later-life bone mineral content and that maternal body build, diet, and lifestyle influence prenatal bone mineral accrual. To examine prenatal influences on bone health further, we related ultrasound measures of fetal growth to childhood bone size and density. We derived Z-scores for fetal femur length and abdominal circumference and conditional growth velocity from 19 to 34 weeks’ gestation from ultrasound measurements in participants in the Southampton Women’s Survey. A total of 380 of the offspring underwent dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) at age 4 years [whole body minus head bone area (BA), bone mineral content (BMC), areal bone mineral density (aBMD), and estimated volumetric BMD (vBMD)]. Volumetric bone mineral density was estimated using BMC adjusted for BA, height, and weight. A higher velocity of 19- to 34-week fetal femur growth was strongly associated with greater childhood skeletal size (BA: r = 0.30, p < .0001) but not with volumetric density (vBMD: r = 0.03, p = .51). Conversely, a higher velocity of 19- to 34-week fetal abdominal growth was associated with greater childhood volumetric density (vBMD: r = 0.15, p = .004) but not with skeletal size (BA: r = 0.06, p = .21). Both fetal measurements were positively associated with BMC and aBMD, indices influenced by both size and density. The velocity of fetal femur length growth from 19 to 34 weeks’ gestation predicted childhood skeletal size at age 4 years, whereas the velocity of abdominal growth (a measure of liver volume and adiposity) predicted volumetric density. These results suggest a discordance between influences on skeletal size and volumetric density.
PMCID: PMC3793299  PMID: 20437610
27.  Maternal awareness of young children’s physical activity: levels and cross-sectional correlates of overestimation 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:924.
Factors associated with parental awareness of children’s physical activity (PA) levels have not been explored in preschool-aged children. This paper investigates maternal awareness of preschool-aged children’s PA levels and determined correlates associated with maternal overestimation of PA.
Data from the Southampton Women’s Survey, a UK population-based study, were collected March 2006 through June 2009. Daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) were derived using accelerometry in 478 4-year-old children. Mothers who were realistic or overestimated their child’s PA were identified. Log-binomial regression was used to analyse correlates of maternal overestimation of PA levels in children whose mothers perceived them to be active (n = 438).
40.8% of children were classified as inactive: 89.7% of these were perceived to be active by their mothers (over-estimators). These mothers were more likely to think their child sometimes lacked skills required to be physically active (RR (95% CI) = 1.29(1.03-1.63)) and their child was more likely to attend nursery full-time (RR = 1.53(1.14-2.04)). They were less likely to have older children at home (RR = 0.71(0.56-0.90)).
Almost 90% of mothers of inactive preschool-aged children perceive their child to be active. Nursery-school attendance and having older siblings at home may be important to consider when designing behavioural interventions to increase PA in preschool children.
PMCID: PMC3852941  PMID: 24090173
Physical activity; Awareness; Preschool children
Thorax  2013;68(4):372-379.
Obesity and asthma have increased in westernised countries. Maternal obesity may increase childhood asthma risk. If this relation is causal it may be mediated through factors associated with maternal adiposity, such as fetal development, pregnancy complications or infant adiposity. We investigated the relationships of maternal BMI and fat mass with childhood wheeze and examined the influences of infant weight gain and childhood obesity.
Maternal pre-pregnancy BMI and estimated fat mass (from skinfold thicknesses) were related to asthma, wheeze and atopy in 940 children. Transient or persistent/late wheeze was classified using questionnaire data collected at ages 6, 12, 24 and 36 months and 6 years. At 6 years, skin prick testing was conducted and exhaled nitric oxide and spirometry measured. Infant adiposity gain was calculated from skinfold thickness at birth and 6 months.
Greater maternal BMI and fat mass were associated with increased childhood wheeze (RR 1.08 per 5 kg m−2, p=0.006; RR 1.09 per 10 kg, p=0.003); these reflected associations with transient wheeze (RR 1.11, p=0.003; RR 1.13, p=0.002, respectively) but not with persistent wheeze or asthma. Infant adiposity gain was associated with persistent wheeze but not significantly. Adjusting for infant adiposity gain or BMI at 3 or 6 years did not reduce the association between maternal adiposity and transient wheeze. Maternal adiposity was not associated with offspring atopy, exhaled nitric oxide, or spirometry.
Greater maternal adiposity is associated with transient wheeze but not asthma or atopy, suggesting effects upon airway structure/function but not allergic predisposition.
PMCID: PMC3661999  PMID: 23291350
adiposity; body mass index; obesity; asthma; allergic sensitisation
29.  Physical activity intensity, sedentary time, and body composition in preschoolers123 
Detailed associations between physical activity (PA) subcomponents, sedentary time, and body composition in preschoolers remain unclear.
We examined the magnitude of associations between objectively measured PA subcomponents and sedentary time with body composition in 4-y-old children.
We conducted a cross-sectional study in 398 preschool children recruited from the Southampton Women’s Survey. PA was measured by using accelerometry, and body composition was measured by using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Associations between light physical activity, moderate physical activity (MPA), vigorous physical activity (VPA), and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) intensity; sedentary time; and body composition were analyzed by using repeated-measures linear regression with adjustment for age, sex, birth weight, maternal education, maternal BMI, smoking during pregnancy, and sleep duration. Sedentary time and PA were also mutually adjusted for one another to determine whether they were independently related to adiposity.
VPA was the only intensity of PA to exhibit strong inverse associations with both total adiposity [P < 0.001 for percentage of body fat and fat mass index (FMI)] and abdominal adiposity (P = 0.002 for trunk FMI). MVPA was inversely associated with total adiposity (P = 0.018 for percentage of body fat; P = 0.022 for FMI) but only because of the contribution of VPA, because MPA was unrelated to fatness (P ≥ 0.077). No associations were shown between the time spent sedentary and body composition (P ≥ 0.11).
In preschoolers, the time spent in VPA is strongly and independently associated with lower adiposity. In contrast, the time spent sedentary and in low-to-moderate–intensity PA was unrelated to adiposity. These results indicate that efforts to challenge pediatric obesity may benefit from prioritizing VPA.
PMCID: PMC3785144  PMID: 23553158
30.  The relationship between depression, anxiety and cardiovascular disease: findings from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study 
Journal of affective disorders  2013;150(1):84-90.
Previous studies suggest a link between depression, anxiety and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The aim of the study was to determine the relationship between depressive and anxiety symptoms and CVD in a population based cohort.
1,578 men and 1,417 women from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study were assessed for CVD at baseline and after 5.9±1.4 years. Depressive and anxiety symptoms were measured using the HADS Scale.
Baseline HAD-D score, but not HAD-A, was significantly associated with baseline plasma triglycerides, glucose and insulin resistance (men only) and HDL cholesterol (women only).
After adjustment for CVD risk factors, higher baseline HAD-D scores were associated with increased odds ratios for CVD (men: 1.162 [95% CI 1.096 - 1.231]; women: 1.107 [1.038 – 1.181]). Higher HAD-A scores associated with increased CVD in men only.
High HAD-D scores predicted incident CVD (adjusted OR 1.130 [1.034 - 1.235]), all-cause mortality (adjusted HR 1.081, [1.012 – 1.154]) and cardiovascular mortality (adjusted HR 1.109 [1.002 - 1.229]) in men but not in women.
The use of a self-report measure of depressive and anxiety symptoms, ‘healthy’ responder bias and the low number of cardiovascular events are all limitations.
Depressive and anxiety symptoms are commoner in people with CVD. These symptoms are independent predictors of CVD in men. Although HAD-D score was significantly associated with several cardiovascular risk factors, this did not fully explain the association between HAD-D and CVD.
PMCID: PMC3729346  PMID: 23507368
Depression; anxiety; cardiovascular disease; epidemiology; population studies
31.  Differences in risk factors for neurophysiologically confirmed carpal tunnel syndrome and illness with similar symptoms but normal median nerve function: a case–control study 
To explore whether risk factors for neurophysiologically confirmed carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) differ from those for sensory symptoms with normal median nerve conduction, and to test the validity and practical utility of a proposed definition for impaired median nerve conduction, we carried out a case–control study of patients referred for investigation of suspected CTS.
We compared 475 patients with neurophysiological abnormality (NP+ve) according to the definition, 409 patients investigated for CTS but classed as negative on neurophysiological testing (NP-ve), and 799 controls. Exposures to risk factors were ascertained by self-administered questionnaire. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were estimated by logistic regression.
NP+ve disease was associated with obesity, use of vibratory tools, repetitive movement of the wrist or fingers, poor mental health and workplace psychosocial stressors. NP-ve illness was also related to poor mental health and occupational psychosocial stressors, but differed from NP+ve disease in showing associations also with prolonged use of computer keyboards and tendency to somatise, and no relation to obesity. In direct comparison of NP+ve and NP-ve patients (the latter being taken as the reference category), the most notable differences were for obesity (OR 2.7, 95 % CI 1.9-3.9), somatising tendency (OR 0.6, 95% CI 0.4-0.9), diabetes (OR 1.6, 95% CI 0.9-3.1) and work with vibratory tools (OR 1.4, 95% CI 0.9-2.2).
When viewed in the context of earlier research, our findings suggest that obesity, diabetes, use of hand-held vibratory tools, and repeated forceful movements of the wrist and hand are causes of impaired median nerve function. In addition, sensory symptoms in the hand, whether from identifiable pathology or non-specific in origin, may be rendered more prominent and distressing by hand activity, low mood, tendency to somatise, and psychosocial stressors at work. These differences in associations with risk factors support the validity of our definition of impaired median nerve conduction.
PMCID: PMC3765327  PMID: 23947720
Carpal tunnel syndrome; Nerve conduction; Case–control; Obesity; Vibration; Occupation; Psychosocial; Somatising tendency; Upper limb disorders
32.  Impact of carpal tunnel surgery according to pre-operative abnormality of sensory conduction in median nerve: a longitudinal study 
We have previously proposed that sensory nerve conduction (SNC) in the median nerve should be classed as abnormal when the difference between conduction velocities in the little and index fingers is > 8 m/s. In a prospective longitudinal study, we investigated whether this case definition distinguished patients who were more likely to benefit from surgical treatment.
We followed up 394 patients (response rate 56%), who were investigated by a neurophysiology service for suspected carpal tunnel syndrome. Information about symptoms, treatment and other possible determinants of outcome was obtained through questionnaires at baseline and after follow-up for a mean of 19.2 months. Analysis focused on 656 hands with numbness, tingling or pain at baseline. Associations of surgical treatment with resolution of symptoms were assessed by Poisson regression, and summarised by prevalence rate ratios (PRRs) and associated 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs).
During follow-up, 154 hands (23%) were treated surgically, and sensory symptoms resolved in 241 hands (37%). In hands with abnormal median SNC, surgery was associated with resolution of numbness, tingling and pain (PRR 1.5, 95% CI 1.0-2.2), and of numbness and tingling specifically (PRR 1.8, 95% CI 1.3-2.6). In contrast, no association was apparent for either outcome when median SNC was classed as normal.
Our definition of abnormal median SNC distinguished a subset of patients who appeared to benefit from surgical treatment. This predictive capacity gives further support to its validity as a diagnostic criterion in epidemiological research.
PMCID: PMC3765505  PMID: 23947746
Carpal tunnel syndrome; Neurophysiology; Case definition; Validity; Surgery; Outcome
33.  Symptoms, signs and nerve conduction velocities in patients with suspected carpal tunnel syndrome 
To inform the clinical management of patients with suspected carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and case definition for CTS in epidemiological research, we explored the relation of symptoms and signs to sensory nerve conduction (SNC) measurements.
Patients aged 20–64 years who were referred to a neurophysiology service for investigation of suspected CTS, completed a symptom questionnaire (including hand diagrams) and physical examination (including Tinel’s and Phalen’s tests). Differences in SNC velocity between the little and index finger were compared according to the anatomical distribution of symptoms in the hand and findings on physical examination.
Analysis was based on 1806 hands in 908 patients (response rate 73%). In hands with numbness or tingling but negative on both Tinel’s and Phalen’s tests, the mean difference in SNC velocities was no higher than in hands with no numbness or tingling. The largest differences in SNC velocities occurred in hands with extensive numbness or tingling in the median nerve sensory distribution and both Tinel’s and Phalen’s tests positive (mean 13.8, 95% confidence interval (CI) 12.6-15.0 m/s). Hand pain and thumb weakness were unrelated to SNC velocity.
Our findings suggest that in the absence of other objective evidence of median nerve dysfunction, there is little value in referring patients of working age with suspected CTS for nerve conduction studies if they are negative on both Tinel’s and Phalen’s tests. Alternative case definitions for CTS in epidemiological research are proposed according to the extent of diagnostic information available and the relative importance of sensitivity and specificity.
PMCID: PMC3765787  PMID: 23947775
Epidemiology; Evidence-based medicine; Hand; Nerve compression syndromes; Wrist
34.  Symptoms of anxiety or depression and risk of fracture in older people: The Hertfordshire Cohort Study 
Archives of osteoporosis  2012;7(0):59-65.
Use of psychotropic drugs has been linked with an increased risk of fracture in older people, but there are indications that the conditions for which these drugs were prescribed may themselves influence fracture risk.
To investigate the relation between symptoms of anxiety and depression and risk of fracture in older people.
Prospective cohort study.
1087 men and 1050 women aged 59-73 years completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Data on incident fracture during an average follow-up period of 5.6 years was collected through interview and a postal questionnaire.
Compared to men with no or few symptoms of anxiety (score ≤7 on the HADS anxiety subscale), men with probable anxiety (score ≥11) had an increased risk of fracture: after adjustment for age and potential confounding factors, the odds ratio (OR) (95% confidence interval) was 4.03 (1.55, 10.5). Men with possible anxiety (score 8-10) did not have an increased risk of fracture: multivariate-adjusted OR was 1.04 (0.36, 3.03). There were no associations between levels of anxiety and fracture risk in women. Few men or women had probable depression at baseline (score ≥11 on the HADS depression subscale). Among men with possible depression (score 8-10) there was an increased risk of fracture that was of borderline significance: multivariate-adjusted OR 3.57 (0.99, 12.9). There was no association between possible depression and fracture risk in women.
High levels of anxiety in older men may increase their risk of fracture. Future research needs to replicate this finding in other populations and investigate the underlying mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3736098  PMID: 23225282
anxiety; depression; fracture
35.  Geographic differences in fractures among women 
Women's health (London, England)  2012;8(6):673-684.
Osteoporotic fracture is associated with considerable morbidity and mortality in women throughout the world. However, significant variation in hip fracture rates among women from different nations have been observed, and are likely to represent a combination of real and apparent differences due to ascertainment bias. Higher rates are observed in Caucasian women, with lowest rates observed in black women and intermediate rates among Asian women. These differences are likely to represent a combination of genetic and environmental differences; for example, among European women, the highest fracture rates are observed in Scandinavian women where vitamin D insufficiency is common. In all groups, an expansion in absolute fracture numbers is anticipated due to demographic changes.
PMCID: PMC3736314  PMID: 23181532
Osteoporosis; Fracture; Geographic; Variation; Women; Epidemiology
36.  How to get started with a systematic review in epidemiology: an introductory guide for early career researchers 
Archives of Public Health  2013;71(1):21.
Systematic review is a powerful research tool which aims to identify and synthesize all evidence relevant to a research question. The approach taken is much like that used in a scientific experiment, with high priority given to the transparency and reproducibility of the methods used and to handling all evidence in a consistent manner.
Early career researchers may find themselves in a position where they decide to undertake a systematic review, for example it may form part or all of a PhD thesis. Those with no prior experience of systematic review may need considerable support and direction getting started with such a project. Here we set out in simple terms how to get started with a systematic review.
Advice is given on matters such as developing a review protocol, searching using databases and other methods, data extraction, risk of bias assessment and data synthesis including meta-analysis. Signposts to further information and useful resources are also given.
A well-conducted systematic review benefits the scientific field by providing a summary of existing evidence and highlighting unanswered questions. For the individual, undertaking a systematic review is also a great opportunity to improve skills in critical appraisal and in synthesising evidence.
PMCID: PMC3844862  PMID: 23919540
Systematic review; Systematic review methods; Meta-analysis; Early career researchers; Evidence synthesis; Observational studies
37.  Fractures in users of antidepressants and anxiolytics and sedatives Effects of age and dose 
To study the effects of age and dose of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), trycyclic antidepressants (TCA) and anxiolytics/sedatives on fracture risk.
Subjects and methods
Case control study. From the Danish National Health Service, we identified 124,655 fracture cases and 373,962 age- and gender-matched controls. Crude odds ratios (OR) were estimated, and propensity score adjustment was used to minimize confounding by indication.
A higher risk of fractures was associated with an increasing dose of anxiolytics and sedatives; the highest excess risk was present in the age stratum below 40 years of age (p<0.01), and thereafter the excess risk of fractures declined with age. For SSRI, a growing excess risk of fractures was seen with both increasing dose and age. Regarding TCA, no particular trend with age was present. However, an increasing risk of fractures was associated with increasing TCA dose in the age group above 60 years. Finally, for other antidepressants no particular trend with age or dose was observed. In our data, a hospital diagnosis of depression or manic-depression was associated with fewer fractures.
Caution should be shown upon prescription of SSRI to older subjects. A hospital diagnosis of depression or manic-depression and thus potentially more severe disease was not a risk factor for fractures.
PMCID: PMC3658008  PMID: 22669469
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; tricyclic antidepressants; antidepressant; fracture
38.  Evaluation of common genetic variants identified by GWAS for early onset and morbid obesity in population-based samples 
Meta-analysis of case-control genome wide association studies (GWAS) for early onset and morbid obesity identified four variants in/near the PRL, PTER, MAF and NPC1 genes.
We aimed to validate association of these variants with obesity-related traits in population-based samples.
Genotypes and anthropometric traits were available in up to 31 083 adults from the Fenland, EPIC-Norfolk, Whitehall II, Ely and Hertfordshire studies and in 2 042 children and adolescents from the European Youth Heart Study. In each study, we tested associations of rs4712652 (near-PRL), rs10508503 (near-PTER), rs1424233 (near-MAF) and rs1805081 (NPC1), or proxy variants (r2>0.8), with the odds of being overweight and obese, as well as with BMI, percentage body fat (%BF) and waist circumference (WC). Associations were adjusted for sex, age and age2 in adults and for sex, age, age-group, country and maturity in children and adolescents. Summary statistics were combined using fixed effects meta-analysis methods.
We had 80% power to detect ORs of 1.046 to 1.092 for overweight and 1.067 to 1.136 for obesity. Variants near PRL, PTER and MAF were not associated with the odds of being overweight or obese, or with BMI, %BF or WC after meta-analysis (P > 0.15). The NPC1 variant rs1805081 showed some evidence of association with %BF (beta=0.013 SD/allele, P =0.040), but not with any of the remaining obesity-related traits (P >0.3).
Overall, these variants, which were identified in a GWAS for early onset and morbid obesity, do not seem to influence obesity-related traits in the general population.
PMCID: PMC3680864  PMID: 22430306
Obesity-susceptibility loci; genome-wide association; morbid; early-onset; anthropometric traits; children and adolescents; population-based
39.  Telomere Length and Physical Performance at Older Ages: An Individual Participant Meta-Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69526.
Telomeres are involved in cellular ageing and shorten with increasing age. If telomere length is a valuable biomarker of ageing, then telomere shortening should be associated with worse physical performance, an ageing trait, but evidence for such an association is lacking. The purpose of this study was to examine whether change in telomere length is associated with physical performance.
Using data from four UK adult cohorts (ages 53–80 years at baseline), we undertook cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. We analysed each study separately and then used meta-analytic methods to pool the results. Physical performance was measured using walking and chair rise speed, standing balance time and grip strength. Telomere length was measured by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in whole blood at baseline and follow-up (time 1, time 2).
Total sample sizes in meta-analyses ranged from 1,217 to 3,707. There was little evidence that telomere length was associated with walking speed, balance or grip strength, though weak associations were seen with chair rise speed and grip strength at baseline (p = 0.02 and 0.01 respectively). Faster chair rise speed at follow-up, was associated with a smaller decline in telomere length between time 1 and time 2 (standardised coefficient per SD increase 0.061, 95% CI 0.006, 0.115, p = 0.03) but this was consistent with chance (p = 0.08) after further adjustment.
Whereas shortening of leukocyte telomeres might be an important measure of cellular ageing, there is little evidence that it is a strong biomarker for physical performance.
PMCID: PMC3724915  PMID: 23922731
40.  Epidemiology and Burden of Osteoarthritis 
British medical bulletin  2013;105:185-199.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease involving the cartilage and many of its surrounding tissues. Disease progression is usually slow but can ultimately lead to joint failure with pain and disability. OA of the hips and knees tends to cause the greatest burden to the population as pain and stiffness in these large weight bearing joints often leads to significant disability requiring surgical intervention.
Sources of data
The article reviews the existing data on epidemiology of osteoarthritis and the burden of the disease.
Areas of agreement
Symptoms and radiographic changes are poorly correlated in OA. Established risk factors include obesity, local trauma and occupation. The burden of OA is physical, psychological and socioeconomic.
Areas of controversy
Available data does not allow definite conclusion regarding the roles of nutrition, smoking and sarcopenia as risk factors for developing OA
Growing points
Areas timely for developing research: Further research is required to fully understand how OA affects an individual physically and psychologically, and to determine their healthcare need.
PMCID: PMC3690438  PMID: 23337796
epidemiology; osteoarthritis; burden
41.  Physical capability and subsequent positive mental wellbeing in older people: findings from five HALCyon cohorts 
Age  2013;36(1):445-456.
Objective measures of physical capability are being used in a growing number of studies as biomarkers of healthy ageing. However, very little research has been done to assess the impact of physical capability on subsequent positive mental wellbeing, the maintenance of which is widely considered to be an essential component of healthy ageing. We aimed to test the associations of grip strength and walking, timed get up and go and chair rise speeds (assessed at ages 53 to 82 years) with positive mental wellbeing assessed using the Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) 5 to 10 years later. Data were drawn from five British cohorts participating in the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course research collaboration. Data from each study were analysed separately and then combined using random-effects meta-analyses. Higher levels of physical capability were consistently associated with higher subsequent levels of wellbeing; for example, a 1SD increase in grip strength was associated with an age and sex-adjusted mean difference in WEMWBS score of 0.81 (0.25, 1.37), equivalent to 10 % of a standard deviation (three studies, N = 3,096). When adjusted for body size, health status, living alone, socioeconomic position and neuroticism the associations remained albeit attenuated. The finding of these consistent modest associations across five studies, spanning early and later old age, highlights the importance of maintaining physical capability in later life and provides additional justification for using objective measures of physical capability as markers of healthy ageing.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11357-013-9553-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3818137  PMID: 23818103
Physical capability; Positive mental wellbeing; Grip strength; Walking speed; Chair rise time
42.  Specific psychological variables predict quality of diet in women of lower, but not higher, educational attainment 
Appetite  2010;56(1):46-52.
Our previous work found that perceived control over life was a significant predictor of the quality of diet of women of lower educational attainment. In this paper, we explore the influence on quality of diet of a range of psychological and social factors identified during focus group discussions, and specify the way this differs in women of lower and higher educational attainment. We assessed educational attainment, quality of diet, and psycho-social factors in 378 women attending Sure Start Children’s Centres and baby clinics in Southampton, UK. Multiple-group path analysis showed that in women of lower educational attainment, the effect of general self-efficacy on quality of diet was mediated through perceptions of control and through food involvement, but that there were also direct effects of social support for healthy eating and having positive outcome expectancies. There was no effect of self-efficacy, perceived control or outcome expectancies on the quality of diet of women of higher educational attainment, though having more social support and food involvement were associated with improved quality of diet in these women. Our analysis confirms our hypothesis that control-related factors are more important in determining dietary quality in women of lower educational attainment than in women of higher educational attainment.
PMCID: PMC3685814  PMID: 21078352
educational attainment; diet; disadvantage; self-efficacy; perceived control
43.  Associations between grip strength of parents and their 4 year old children: findings from the Southampton Women’s Survey 
Relationships between birthweight and grip strength throughout the lifecourse suggest that early influences on the growth and development of muscle are important for long-term muscle function. However, little is known about parental influences on children’s grip strength. We have explored this in the Southampton Women’s Survey, a prospective general population cohort study from before conception through childhood. Grip strength was measured using a Jamar handgrip dynamometer in the mother at 19 weeks’ gestation and her partner, and in the child at age four years. Pre-pregnancy heights and weights were measured in the mothers; reported weights and measured heights were available for the fathers. Complete data on parents and children were available for 444 trios. In univariate analyses, both parents’ grip strengths were significantly associated with that of the child (r=0.17, p<0.001 for mothers, r=0.15, p=0.002 for fathers). These correlations were similar to that between the grip strength of the mothers and the father (r=0.17, P<0.001). In the multivariate model, after adjustment for child’s height and physical activity, the correlations with the child’s grip strength were attenuated, being 0.10 (P=0.02) and 0.11 (P=0.01) for mothers’ and fathers’ grip strength respectively. The findings show that grip strength of both parents is associated with that of their child, indicating that heritable influences and the shared family environment influence the development of muscle strength. This contributes to our understanding of the role of heritable and environmental factors on early muscle growth and development, which are important for muscle function across the lifecourse.
PMCID: PMC3685131  PMID: 22150705
muscle; grip strength; growth and development; genetic and environmental influences; height
45.  The Southampton Initiative for Health: a complex intervention to improve the diets and increase the physical activity levels of women and children from disadvantaged communities 
Journal of health psychology  2010;16(1):178-191.
The ‘Southampton Initiative for Health’ (SIH) is a training intervention with Sure Start Children’s Centre staff designed to improve the diets and physical activity levels of women of child-bearing age. Training aims to help staff to support women in making changes to their lifestyles by improving three skills: reflection on current practice; asking ‘open discovery’ questions; and goal setting. The impact of the training on staff practice is being assessed. A before and after non-randomised controlled trial is being used to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the intervention in improving women’s diets and increasing their physical activity levels.
PMCID: PMC3685267  PMID: 20709878
diet; physical activity; reflexive practice; goal setting; self-efficacy; intervention, disadvantage
47.  Maternal late-pregnancy serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D in relation to childhood wheeze and atopic outcomes 
Thorax  2012;67(11):950-956.
Studies exploring the relationship between prenatal vitamin D exposure and childhood asthma have yielded conflicting results. Higher vitamin D intake during pregnancy has been shown to lower the risk of childhood wheeze, yet a study of maternal late-pregnancy serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D suggested higher serum concentrations may be associated with increased childhood asthma.
To assess the relationship between mothers’ serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status and asthma and wheeze phenotypes in their children at age 6 years. Secondly, to explore the relationship between maternal 25-hydroxyvitamin D status and objective measures of childhood atopy and lung function.
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D was measured at 34 weeks’ gestation in the mothers of 860 children born at term. Wheeze was classified as either transient or persistent/late using questionnaire data collated from 6, 12, 24 and 36 months and 6 years. At 6 years spirometry was performed and atopic status was determined by skin prick testing, exhaled nitric oxide was measured in 451 and bronchial hyperresponsiveness in 216 children.
There were no significant associations between maternal late-pregnancy 25-hydroxyvitamin D status and either asthma or wheeze at age 6 years. Maternal vitamin D status was not associated with transient or persistent/late wheeze; no significant association was found between persistent/late wheeze when subdivided according to atopic status. No associations were found with skin sensitisation or lung function.
This study provides no evidence that exposure to higher concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in maternal serum during late pregnancy increases the risk of childhood asthma, wheeze or atopy.
PMCID: PMC3679514  PMID: 22707522
asthma epidemiology; asthma; paediatric asthma
48.  Implementation of new skills to support lifestyle changes - what helps and what hinders? 
Effective communication is necessary for good relationships between healthcare practitioners and clients. This study examined barriers and facilitators to implementing new communication skills.
One hundred and one Sure Start Children’s Centre staff attended one of 13 follow-up workshops to reflect on the use of new skills following a training course in communication, reflection and problem-solving. Barriers and facilitators were assessed with an adapted Problematic Experiences of Therapy scale (PETS). Staff reported frequency of skill use, and described what made it more difficult or easier to use the skills.
The PETS indicated that staff had confidence in using the skills, but felt there were practical barriers to using them, such as lack of time. Skills were used less often when staff perceived parents not to be engaging with them (rs=−0.42, p<.001), when staff felt less confident to use the skills (rs =−0.37, p<.001), and when there were more practical barriers (rs =−0.37, p<.001). In support of findings from the PETS, content analysis of free text responses suggested that the main barrier was a perceived lack of time to implement new skills. Facilitators included seeing the benefits of using the skills, finding opportunities and having good relationships with parents.
Understanding the range of barriers and facilitators to implementation is essential when developing training to facilitate on-going support and sustain skill use. Special attention should be given to exploring trainees’ perceptions of time, in order to be able to address this significant barrier to skill implementation. Staff training requires a multifaceted approach to address the range of perceived barriers.
PMCID: PMC3679516  PMID: 22452549
barriers; communication; epidemiology; Sure Start; training
49.  Does maternal long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid status in pregnancy influence the bone health of children? The Southampton Women’s Survey 
Maternal diet in pregnancy has been linked to childhood bone mass, but the mechanisms and nutrients involved are uncertain. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) have been shown to affect bone metabolism, but the relationship between maternal fatty acid status and bone mass in the offspring remains unknown.
We evaluated the association between maternal LCPUFA status in late pregnancy (34 weeks gestation) and bone density in their children at age four years, within 727 mother-child pairs taking part in the Southampton Women’s Survey.
Concentrations of the n-3 LCPUFA component of maternal plasma phosphatidylcholine were positively associated with a number of bone mineral measures at the age of 4 years; these associations persisted after adjustment for maternal body build, walking speed and infant feeding. Relationships were most evident for eicosapentaenoic acid (r=0.09, p=0.02 for whole body areal bone mineral density [aBMD] and r=0.1, p=0.008 for lumbar spine aBMD) and for docosapentaenoic acid (r=0.09, p=0.02 for whole body aBMD and r=0.12, p=0.002 for lumbar spine aBMD).
These findings suggest that variation in early exposure to n-3 and n-6 LCPUFA may have potential consequences for bone development and that the effects appear to persist into early childhood.
PMCID: PMC3679517  PMID: 22159749
Epidemiology; osteoporosis; development; nutrition; bone mass
50.  Does living in a food insecure household impact on the diets and body composition of young children? Findings from the Southampton Women’s Survey 
Little is known about food insecurity in the UK. The aims of this study were to assess the prevalence and factors associated with food insecurity in a UK cohort, and to examine whether the diets, reported health and anthropometry of young food insecure children differed from those of other children.
The Southampton Women’s Survey is a prospective cohort study in which detailed information about the diet, lifestyle and body composition of 3000 women was collected before and during pregnancy. Between 2002-2006, 1618 families were followed up when the child was 3 years old. Food insecurity was determined using the Household Food Security scale. The child’s height and weight were measured; diet was assessed by food frequency questionnaire.
4.6% of the households were food insecure. Food insecurity was more common in families where the mothers were younger, smokers, of lower social class, in receipt of financial benefits, and who had a higher deprivation score (all p<0.05). In comparison with other 3-year-old children, those living in food insecure households were likely to have worse parent-reported health and to have a diet of poorer quality, characterised by greater consumption of white bread, processed meat and chips, and by a lower consumption of vegetables (all p<0.05). They did not differ in height or body mass index.
Our data suggest that there are significant numbers of food insecure families in the UK. The poorer reported health and diets of young food insecure children have important implications for their development and lifelong health.
PMCID: PMC3679518  PMID: 21652519
food insecurity; body composition; dietary quality; children

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