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1.  Design and baseline characteristics of the Food4Me study: a web-based randomised controlled trial of personalised nutrition in seven European countries 
Genes & Nutrition  2014;10(1):450.
Improving lifestyle behaviours has considerable potential for reducing the global burden of non-communicable diseases, promoting better health across the life-course and increasing well-being. However, realising this potential will require the development, testing and implementation of much more effective behaviour change interventions than are used conventionally. Therefore, the aim of this study was to conduct a multi-centre, web-based, proof-of-principle study of personalised nutrition (PN) to determine whether providing more personalised dietary advice leads to greater improvements in eating patterns and health outcomes compared to conventional population-based advice. A total of 5,562 volunteers were screened across seven European countries; the first 1,607 participants who fulfilled the inclusion criteria were recruited into the trial. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the following intervention groups for a 6-month period: Level 0—control group—receiving conventional, non-PN advice; Level 1—receiving PN advice based on dietary intake data alone; Level 2—receiving PN advice based on dietary intake and phenotypic data; and Level 3—receiving PN advice based on dietary intake, phenotypic and genotypic data. A total of 1,607 participants had a mean age of 39.8 years (ranging from 18 to 79 years). Of these participants, 60.9 % were women and 96.7 % were from white-European background. The mean BMI for all randomised participants was 25.5 kg m−2, and 44.8 % of the participants had a BMI ≥ 25.0 kg m−2. Food4Me is the first large multi-centre RCT of web-based PN. The main outcomes from the Food4Me study will be submitted for publication during 2015.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12263-014-0450-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4261071  PMID: 25491748
Personalised nutrition; Web-based; Phenotype; Genotype; Randomised controlled trial
2.  Online Dietary Intake Estimation: Reproducibility and Validity of the Food4Me Food Frequency Questionnaire Against a 4-Day Weighed Food Record 
Advances in nutritional assessment are continuing to embrace developments in computer technology. The online Food4Me food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) was created as an electronic system for the collection of nutrient intake data. To ensure its accuracy in assessing both nutrient and food group intake, further validation against data obtained using a reliable, but independent, instrument and assessment of its reproducibility are required.
The aim was to assess the reproducibility and validity of the Food4Me FFQ against a 4-day weighed food record (WFR).
Reproducibility of the Food4Me FFQ was assessed using test-retest methodology by asking participants to complete the FFQ on 2 occasions 4 weeks apart. To assess the validity of the Food4Me FFQ against the 4-day WFR, half the participants were also asked to complete a 4-day WFR 1 week after the first administration of the Food4Me FFQ. Level of agreement between nutrient and food group intakes estimated by the repeated Food4Me FFQ and the Food4Me FFQ and 4-day WFR were evaluated using Bland-Altman methodology and classification into quartiles of daily intake. Crude unadjusted correlation coefficients were also calculated for nutrient and food group intakes.
In total, 100 people participated in the assessment of reproducibility (mean age 32, SD 12 years), and 49 of these (mean age 27, SD 8 years) also took part in the assessment of validity. Crude unadjusted correlations for repeated Food4Me FFQ ranged from .65 (vitamin D) to .90 (alcohol). The mean cross-classification into “exact agreement plus adjacent” was 92% for both nutrient and food group intakes, and Bland-Altman plots showed good agreement for energy-adjusted macronutrient intakes. Agreement between the Food4Me FFQ and 4-day WFR varied, with crude unadjusted correlations ranging from .23 (vitamin D) to .65 (protein, % total energy) for nutrient intakes and .11 (soups, sauces and miscellaneous foods) to .73 (yogurts) for food group intake. The mean cross-classification into “exact agreement plus adjacent” was 80% and 78% for nutrient and food group intake, respectively. There were no significant differences between energy intakes estimated using the Food4Me FFQ and 4-day WFR, and Bland-Altman plots showed good agreement for both energy and energy-controlled nutrient intakes.
The results demonstrate that the online Food4Me FFQ is reproducible for assessing nutrient and food group intake and has moderate agreement with the 4-day WFR for assessing energy and energy-adjusted nutrient intakes. The Food4Me FFQ is a suitable online tool for assessing dietary intake in healthy adults.
PMCID: PMC4147714  PMID: 25113936
food frequency questionnaire; weighed food record; validity; reproducibility; dietary assessment; Food4Me; Web-based
3.  Effects of Exercise Modalities on Arterial Stiffness and Wave Reflection: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110034.
Background and Objectives
Physical activity is associated with lower cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. However, the effects of different exercise modalities on arterial stiffness are currently unclear. Our objectives were to investigate the effects of exercise modalities (aerobic, resistance or combined) on pulse wave velocity (PWV) and augmentation index (AIx), and to determine whether the effects on these indices differed according to the participants' or exercise characteristics.
We searched the Medline, Embase and Cochrane Library databases from inception until April 2014 for randomized controlled trials lasting ≥4 weeks investigating the effects of exercise modalities on PWV and AIx in adults aged ≥18 years.
Forty-two studies (1627 participants) were included in this analysis. Aerobic exercise improved both PWV (WMD: −0.63 m/s, 95% CI: −0.90, −0.35) and AIx (WMD:−2.63%, 95% CI: −5.25 to −0.02) significantly. Aerobic exercise training showed significantly greater reduction in brachial-ankle (WMD: −1.01 m/s, 95% CI: −1.57, −0.44) than in carotid-femoral (WMD: -0.39 m/s, 95% CI: −0.52, −0.27) PWV. Higher aerobic exercise intensity was associated with larger reductions in AIx (β: −1.55%, CI −3.09, 0.0001). In addition, aerobic exercise had a significantly larger effect in reducing PWV (WMD:−1.0 m/s, 95% CI: −1.43, −0.57) in participants with stiffer arteries (PWV ≥8 m/s). Resistance exercise had no effect on PWV and AIx. There was no significant effect of combined exercise on PWV and AIx.
We conclude that aerobic exercise improved arterial stiffness significantly and that the effect was enhanced with higher aerobic exercise intensity and in participants with greater arterial stiffness at baseline.
Trial Registration PROSPERO
Database registration: CRD42014009744,.
PMCID: PMC4198209  PMID: 25333969
4.  Association of behaviour change techniques with effectiveness of dietary interventions among adults of retirement age: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials 
BMC Medicine  2014;12(1):177.
There is a need for development of more effective interventions to achieve healthy eating, enhance healthy ageing, and to reduce the risk of age-related diseases. The aim of this study was to identify the behaviour change techniques (BCTs) used in complex dietary behaviour change interventions and to explore the association between BCTs utilised and intervention effectiveness.
We undertook a secondary analysis of data from a previous systematic review with meta-analysis of the effectiveness of dietary interventions among people of retirement age. BCTs were identified using the reliable CALO-RE taxonomy in studies reporting fruit and vegetable (F and V) consumption as outcomes. The mean difference in F and V intake between active and control arms was compared between studies in which the BCTs were identified versus those not using the BCTs. Random-effects meta-regression models were used to assess the association of interventions BCTs with F and V intakes.
Twenty-eight of the 40 BCTs listed in the CALO-RE taxonomy were identified in the 22 papers reviewed. Studies using the techniques ‘barrier identification/problem solving’ (93 g, 95% confidence interval (CI) 48 to 137 greater F and V intake), ‘plan social support/social change’ (78 g, 95%CI 24 to 132 greater F and V intake), ‘goal setting (outcome)’ (55 g 95%CI 7 to 103 greater F and V intake), ‘use of follow-up prompts’ (66 g, 95%CI 10 to 123 greater F and V intake) and ‘provide feedback on performance’ (39 g, 95%CI −2 to 81 greater F and V intake) were associated with greater effects of interventions on F and V consumption compared with studies not using these BCTs. The number of BCTs per study ranged from 2 to 16 (median = 6). Meta-regression showed that one additional BCT led to 8.3 g (95%CI 0.006 to 16.6 g) increase in F and V intake.
Overall, this study has identified BCTs associated with effectiveness suggesting that these might be active ingredients of dietary interventions which will be effective in increasing F and V intake in older adults. For interventions targeting those in the peri-retirement age group, ‘barrier identification/problem solving’ and ‘plan for social support/social change’ may be particularly useful in increasing the effectiveness of dietary interventions.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12916-014-0177-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4198739  PMID: 25288375
Behaviour change techniques; Fruit and vegetables; Retirement; Aging; Randomised controlled trial; Systematic review; Meta-analysis
5.  Effects of Sirt1 on DNA methylation and expression of genes affected by dietary restriction 
Age  2012;35(5):1835-1849.
Changes in DNA methylation across the life course may contribute to the ageing process. We hypothesised that some effects of dietary restriction to extend lifespan and/or mitigate against features of ageing result from changes in DNA methylation, so we determined if genes that respond to dietary restriction also show age-related changes in DNA methylation. In support of our hypothesis, the intersection of lists of genes compiled from published sources that (1) were differentially expressed in response to dietary restriction and (2) showed altered methylation with increased age was greater than expected. We also hypothesised that some effects of Sirt1, which may play a pivotal role in beneficial effects of dietary restriction, are mediated through DNA methylation. We thus measured effects of Sirt1 overexpression and knockdown in a human cell line on DNA methylation and expression of a panel of eight genes that respond to dietary restriction and show altered methylation with age. Six genes were affected at the level of DNA methylation, and for six expressions were affected. In further support of our hypothesis, we observed by DNA microarray analysis that genes showing differential expression in response to Sirt1 knockdown were over-represented in the complied list of genes that respond to dietary restriction. The findings reveal that Sirt1 has effects on DNA methylation across the genome and affects, in particular, the expression of genes that respond to dietary restriction. Sirt1-mediated effects on DNA methylation and, consequently, gene expression may thus be one of the mechanisms underlying the response to dietary restriction.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11357-012-9485-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3776097  PMID: 23229445
Dietary restriction; Sirt1; DNA methylation; Histone deacetylase
6.  Online Dietary Intake Estimation: The Food4Me Food Frequency Questionnaire 
Dietary assessment methods are important tools for nutrition research. Online dietary assessment tools have the potential to become invaluable methods of assessing dietary intake because, compared with traditional methods, they have many advantages including the automatic storage of input data and the immediate generation of nutritional outputs.
The aim of this study was to develop an online food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) for dietary data collection in the “Food4Me” study and to compare this with the validated European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) Norfolk printed FFQ.
The Food4Me FFQ used in this analysis was developed to consist of 157 food items. Standardized color photographs were incorporated in the development of the Food4Me FFQ to facilitate accurate quantification of the portion size of each food item. Participants were recruited in two centers (Dublin, Ireland and Reading, United Kingdom) and each received the online Food4Me FFQ and the printed EPIC-Norfolk FFQ in random order. Participants completed the Food4Me FFQ online and, for most food items, participants were requested to choose their usual serving size among seven possibilities from a range of portion size pictures. The level of agreement between the two methods was evaluated for both nutrient and food group intakes using the Bland and Altman method and classification into quartiles of daily intake. Correlations were calculated for nutrient and food group intakes.
A total of 113 participants were recruited with a mean age of 30 (SD 10) years (40.7% male, 46/113; 59.3%, 67/113 female). Cross-classification into exact plus adjacent quartiles ranged from 77% to 97% at the nutrient level and 77% to 99% at the food group level. Agreement at the nutrient level was highest for alcohol (97%) and lowest for percent energy from polyunsaturated fatty acids (77%). Crude unadjusted correlations for nutrients ranged between .43 and .86. Agreement at the food group level was highest for “other fruits” (eg, apples, pears, oranges) and lowest for “cakes, pastries, and buns”. For food groups, correlations ranged between .41 and .90.
The results demonstrate that the online Food4Me FFQ has good agreement with the validated printed EPIC-Norfolk FFQ for assessing both nutrient and food group intakes, rendering it a useful tool for ranking individuals based on nutrient and food group intakes.
PMCID: PMC4071230  PMID: 24911957
food frequency questionnaire; online dietary assessment tool; Food4Me; dietary assessment; Web-based
7.  Clonal Expansion of Early to Mid-Life Mitochondrial DNA Point Mutations Drives Mitochondrial Dysfunction during Human Ageing 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(9):e1004620.
Age-related decline in the integrity of mitochondria is an important contributor to the human ageing process. In a number of ageing stem cell populations, this decline in mitochondrial function is due to clonal expansion of individual mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) point mutations within single cells. However the dynamics of this process and when these mtDNA mutations occur initially are poorly understood. Using human colorectal epithelium as an exemplar tissue with a well-defined stem cell population, we analysed samples from 207 healthy participants aged 17–78 years using a combination of techniques (Random Mutation Capture, Next Generation Sequencing and mitochondrial enzyme histochemistry), and show that: 1) non-pathogenic mtDNA mutations are present from early embryogenesis or may be transmitted through the germline, whereas pathogenic mtDNA mutations are detected in the somatic cells, providing evidence for purifying selection in humans, 2) pathogenic mtDNA mutations are present from early adulthood (<20 years of age), at both low levels and as clonal expansions, 3) low level mtDNA mutation frequency does not change significantly with age, suggesting that mtDNA mutation rate does not increase significantly with age, and 4) clonally expanded mtDNA mutations increase dramatically with age. These data confirm that clonal expansion of mtDNA mutations, some of which are generated very early in life, is the major driving force behind the mitochondrial dysfunction associated with ageing of the human colorectal epithelium.
Author Summary
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations have been shown to accumulate with age in a number of human stem cell populations and cause mitochondrial dysfunction within individual cells resulting in a cellular energy deficit. The dynamics by which mtDNA mutations occur and accumulate within individual cells (known as clonal expansion) is poorly understood. In particular we do not know when in the life-course these mtDNA mutations occur. Here we have measured mtDNA mutation frequency using three different techniques; Random Mutation Capture, which measures low level mutation frequency as an indirect measure of mutation rate, Next Generation Sequencing, which measures clonally expanded mtDNA mutation frequency, and mitochondrial enzyme histochemistry as a marker of clonally expanded mtDNA mutations, on colorectal mucosal biopsies obtained from 207 healthy participants aged 17–78 years. We show that, by 17 years of age, there is a substantial mtDNA point mutation burden and that clonal expansion of early to mid-life mtDNA mutations is likely to be the cause of mitochondrial dysfunction associated with ageing in the human colon.
PMCID: PMC4169240  PMID: 25232829
9.  Effectiveness of dietary interventions among adults of retirement age: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials 
BMC Medicine  2014;12:60.
Retirement from work involves significant lifestyle changes and may represent an opportunity to promote healthier eating patterns in later life. However, the effectiveness of dietary interventions during this period has not been evaluated.
We undertook a systematic review of dietary interventions among adults of retirement transition age (54 to 70 years). Twelve electronic databases were searched for randomized controlled trials evaluating the promotion of a healthy dietary pattern, or its constituent food groups, with three or more months of follow-up and reporting intake of specific food groups. Random-effects models were used to determine the pooled effect sizes. Subgroup analysis and meta-regression were used to assess sources of heterogeneity.
Out of 9,048 publications identified, 68 publications reporting 24 studies fulfilled inclusion criteria. Twenty-two studies, characterized by predominantly overweight and obese participants, were included in the meta-analysis. Overall, interventions increased fruit and vegetable (F&V) intake by 87.5 g/day (P <0.00001), with similar results in the short-to-medium (that is, 4 to 12 months; 85.6 g/day) and long-term (that is, 13 to 58 months; 87.0 g/day) and for body mass index (BMI) stratification. Interventions produced slightly higher intakes of fruit (mean 54.0 g/day) than of vegetables (mean 44.6 g/day), and significant increases in fish (7 g/day, P = 0.03) and decreases in meat intake (9 g/day, P <0.00001).
Increases in F&V intakes were positively associated with the number of participant intervention contacts. Dietary interventions delivered during the retirement transition are therefore effective, sustainable in the longer term and likely to be of public health significance.
PMCID: PMC4021978  PMID: 24712557
Mediterranean diet; Fruit and vegetables; Retirement; Aging; Randomized controlled trial; Systematic review; Meta-analysis
10.  Efficacy and Feasibility of the Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule (EpCAM) Immunomagnetic Cell Sorter for Studies of DNA Methylation in Colorectal Cancer 
The aim of this work was to assess the impact on measurements of methylation of a panel of four cancer gene promoters of purifying tumor cells from colorectal tissue samples using the epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM)-immunomagnetic cell enrichment approach. We observed that, on average, methylation levels were higher in enriched cell fractions than in the whole tissue, but the difference was significant only for one out of four studied genes. In addition, there were strong correlations between methylation values for individual samples of whole tissue and the corresponding enriched cell fractions. Therefore, assays on whole tissue are likely to provide reliable estimates of tumor-specific methylation of cancer genes. However, tumor cell tissue separation using immunomagnetic beads could, in some cases, give a more accurate value of gene promoter methylation than the analysis of the whole cancer tissue, although relatively expensive and time-consuming. The efficacy and feasibility of the immunomagnetic cell sorting for methylation studies are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3907797  PMID: 24362576
DNA methylation; epigenetics; epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM); immunomagnetic enrichment; colon cancer; pyrosequencing
11.  Comparison of Methods for Quantification of Global DNA Methylation in Human Cells and Tissues 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79044.
DNA methylation is a key epigenetic modification which, in mammals, occurs mainly at CpG dinucleotides. Most of the CpG methylation in the genome is found in repetitive regions, rich in dormant transposons and endogenous retroviruses. Global DNA hypomethylation, which is a common feature of several conditions such as ageing and cancer, can cause the undesirable activation of dormant repeat elements and lead to altered expression of associated genes. DNA hypomethylation can cause genomic instability and may contribute to mutations and chromosomal recombinations. Various approaches for quantification of global DNA methylation are widely used. Several of these approaches measure a surrogate for total genomic methyl cytosine and there is uncertainty about the comparability of these methods. Here we have applied 3 different approaches (luminometric methylation assay, pyrosequencing of the methylation status of the Alu repeat element and of the LINE1 repeat element) for estimating global DNA methylation in the same human cell and tissue samples and have compared these estimates with the “gold standard” of methyl cytosine quantification by HPLC. Next to HPLC, the LINE1 approach shows the smallest variation between samples, followed by Alu. Pearson correlations and Bland-Altman analyses confirmed that global DNA methylation estimates obtained via the LINE1 approach corresponded best with HPLC-based measurements. Although, we did not find compelling evidence that the gold standard measurement by HPLC could be substituted with confidence by any of the surrogate assays for detecting global DNA methylation investigated here, the LINE1 assay seems likely to be an acceptable surrogate in many cases.
PMCID: PMC3832524  PMID: 24260150
12.  Influence of DNMT Genotype on Global and Site Specific DNA Methylation Patterns in Neonates and Pregnant Women 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76506.
This study examines the relationship between common genetic variation within DNA methyltransferase genes and inter-individual variation in DNA methylation. Eleven polymorphisms spanning DNMT1 and DNMT3B were genotyped. Global and gene specific (IGF2, IGFBP3, ZNT5) DNA methylation was quantified by LUMA and bisulfite Pyrosequencing assays, respectively, in neonatal cord blood and in maternal peripheral blood. Associations between maternal genotype and maternal methylation (n ≈ 333), neonatal genotype and neonatal methylation (n ≈ 454), and maternal genotype and neonatal methylation (n ≈ 137) were assessed. The findings of this study provide some support to the hypothesis that genetic variation in DNA methylating enzymes influence DNA methylation at global and gene-specific levels; however observations were not robust to correction for multiple testing. More comprehensive analysis of the influence of genetic variation on global and site specific DNA methylation is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3788139  PMID: 24098518
13.  Do we know enough? A scientific and ethical analysis of the basis for genetic-based personalized nutrition 
Genes & Nutrition  2013;8(4):373-381.
This article discusses the prospects and limitations of the scientific basis for offering personalized nutrition advice based upon individual genetic information. Two divergent scientific positions are presented, with an ethical comment. The crucial question is whether the current knowledge base is sufficiently strong for taking an ethically responsible decision to offer personalized nutrition advice based upon gene–diet–health interaction. According to the first position, the evidence base for translating the outcomes of nutrigenomics research into personalized nutritional advice is as yet immature. There is also limited evidence that genotype-based dietary advice will motivate appropriate behavior changes. Filling the gaps in our knowledge will require larger and better randomized controlled trials. According to the second position, personalized nutrition must be evaluated in relation to generally accepted standard dietary advice—partly derived from epidemiological observations and usually not proven by clinical trials. With personalized nutrition, we cannot demand stronger evidence. In several specific cases of gene–diet interaction, it may be more beneficial for individuals with specific genotypes to follow personalized advice rather than general dietary recommendations. The ethical comment, finally, considers the ethical aspects of deciding how to proceed in the face of such uncertainty. Two approaches for an ethically responsible way forward are proposed. Arguing from a precautionary approach, it is suggested that personalized dietary advice should be offered only when there is strong scientific evidence for health effects, followed by stepwise evaluation of unforeseen behavioral and psychological effects. Arguing from theoretical and applied ethics as well as psychology, it is also suggested that personalized advice should avoid paternalism and instead focus on supporting the autonomous choice of each person.
PMCID: PMC3689893  PMID: 23471854
Ethics; Personalized nutrition; Nutrigenetics; Evidence; Paternalism; Autonomy
14.  A Randomized Placebo-controlled Prevention Trial of Aspirin and/or Resistant Starch in Young People with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis 
Evidence supporting aspirin and resistant starch (RS) for colorectal cancer prevention comes from epidemiological and laboratory studies (aspirin and RS) and randomized controlled clinical trials (aspirin). Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) strikes young people and, untreated, confers virtually a 100% risk of colorectal cancer and early death. We conducted an international, multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of aspirin (600 mg/day) and/or RS (30 g/day) for from 1 to 12 years to prevent disease progression in FAP patients from 10 to 21 years of age. In a 2 × 2 factorial design, patients were randomly assigned to the following four study arms: aspirin plus RS placebo; RS plus aspirin placebo; aspirin plus RS; RS placebo plus aspirin placebo; they were followed with standard annual clinical examinations including endoscopy. The primary endpoint was polyp number in the rectum and sigmoid colon (at the end of intervention), and the major secondary endpoint was size of the largest polyp. A total of 206 randomized FAP patients commenced intervention, of whom 133 had at least 1 follow-up endoscopy and so were included in the primary analysis. Neither intervention significantly reduced polyp count in the rectum and sigmoid colon: aspirin relative risk (RR) = 0.77 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.54–1.10; versus non-aspirin arms); RS RR = 1.05 (95% CI, 0.73–1.49; versus non-RS arms). There was a trend toward a smaller size of largest polyp in patients treated with aspirin versus non-aspirin—mean 3.8 mm versus 5.5 mm for patients treated one or more years (adjusted P = 0.09) and mean 3.0 mm versus 6.0 mm for patients treated more than one year (P = 0.02); there were weaker such trends with RS versus non-RS. Exploratory translational endpoints included crypt length (which was significantly shorter in normal-appearing mucosa in the RS group over time) and laboratory measures of proliferation (including Ki67). This clinical trial is the largest one ever conducted in the setting of FAP and found a trend of reduced polyp load (number and size) with 600 mg of aspirin daily. RS had no clinical effect on adenomas.
PMCID: PMC3092423  PMID: 21543343
15.  Are behavioral interventions effective in increasing physical activity at 12 to 36 months in adults aged 55 to 70 years? a systematic review and meta-analysis 
BMC Medicine  2013;11:75.
Retirement represents a major transitional life stage in middle to older age. Changes in physical activity typically accompany this transition, which has significant consequences for health and well-being. The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the evidence for the effect of interventions to promote physical activity in adults aged 55 to 70 years, focusing on studies that reported long-term effectiveness. This systematic review adheres to a registered protocol (PROSPERO CRD42011001459).
Randomized controlled trials of interventions to promote physical activity behavior with a mean/median sample age of 55 to 70 years, published between 2000 and 2010, were identified. Only trials reporting the long-term effect (≥ 12 months) on objective or self-reported physical activity behavior were included. Trials reporting physiological proxy measures of physical activity were excluded. Meta-analyses were conducted when trials provided sufficient data and sensitivity analyses were conducted to identify potential confounding effects of trials of poor methodological quality or with attrition rates ≥ 30%.
Of 17,859 publications identified, 32 were included which reported on 21 individual trials. The majority of interventions were multimodal and provided physical activity and lifestyle counselling. Interventions to promote physical activity were effective at 12 months (standardized mean difference (SMD) = 1.08, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.16 to 1.99, pedometer step-count, approximating to an increase of 2,197 steps per day; SMD = 0.19, 95% CI = 0.10 to 0.28, self-reported physical activity duration outcome), but not at 24 months based on a small subset of trials. There was no evidence for a relationship between intervention effectiveness and mode of delivery or number of intervention contacts; however, interventions which involved individually tailoring with personalized activity goals or provision of information about local opportunities in the environment may be more effective.
Interventions in adults aged 55 to 70 years led to long term improvements in physical activity at 12 months; however, maintenance beyond this is unclear. Identified physical activity improvements are likely to have substantial health benefits in reducing the risk of age-related illnesses. These findings have important implications for community-based public health interventions in and around the retirement transition.
PMCID: PMC3681560  PMID: 23506544
Physical activity; intervention; aging; systematic review; meta-analysis
16.  Multigenerational Epigenetic Adaptation of the Hepatic Wound-Healing Response 
Nature medicine  2012;18(9):1369-1377.
We asked if ancestral liver damage leads to heritable reprogramming of hepatic wound-healing. We discovered that male rats with a history of liver damage transmit epigenetic suppressive adaptation of the fibrogenic component of wound-healing through male F1 and F2 generations. Underlying this adaptation was reduced generation of liver myofibroblasts, increased hepatic expression of antifibrogenic PPAR-γ and decreased expression of profibrogenic TGF-β1. Remodelling of DNA methylation and histone acetylation underpinned these alterations in gene expression. Sperm from rats with liver fibrosis were enriched for H2A.Z and H3K27me3 at PPAR-γ chromatin. These sperm chromatin modifications were transmittable by adaptive serum transfer from fibrotic rats and were induced in stem cells exposed to myofibroblast-conditioned media. A myofibroblast secreted soluble factor therefore stimulates heritable epigenetic signatures to sperm so as to adapt fibrogenesis in offspring. Humans with mild liver fibrosis display PPAR-γ promoter hypomethylation compared with severe fibrotics, thus lending support for epigenetic regulation of fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3489975  PMID: 22941276
17.  Importance of Weight Loss Maintenance and Risk Prediction in the Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes: Analysis of European Diabetes Prevention Study RCT 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57143.
Prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) is increasing worldwide. T2D prevention by lifestyle intervention is effective. Pragmatic scalable interventions are needed, with evidence to efficiently target and monitor such interventions. We report pooled analyses of data from three European trial cohorts: to analyse T2D incidence, sustained weight loss and utility of risk predictors.
We analysed data on 749 adults with impaired glucose tolerance (278 men and 471 women, mean age 56 years, mean BMI 31 kgm−2) recruited between 1993 and 2003, and randomised to intensive lifestyle intervention (I) or lifestyle advice control (C). The intervention aimed to increase physical activity, modify diet, and promote weight loss≥5%. Using Cox-regression survival analysis, we assessed T2D incidence and the impact on T2D incidence of sustained weight loss, and of baseline cut-point values of FINDRISC score, fasting plasma glucose (FPG), and HbA1c.
Mean follow-up duration was 3.1 years. T2D was diagnosed in 139 participants (I = 45/379, C = 94/370). Cumulative T2D incidence was 57% lower in the intervention compared with the control group (HR 0.42 (95% CI 0.29 to 0.60) P<0.001). Participants with ≥5% weight loss at one year had 65% lower T2D incidence (HR 0.35 (95% CI 0.22 to 0.56) P<0.001); maintaining ≥5% weight loss for two and three years further reduced T2D incidence. Recommended cut-points to identify those at high risk for T2D would have identified different proportions of European Diabetes Prevention Study (EDIPS) participants with similar hazard-ratios for intervention effect.
Pooled analysis of EDIPS trial data reinforces evidence for T2D prevention by lifestyle intervention. Analysis showed the preventive effect of ≥5% weight loss, especially if maintained long term, which has utility for intervention monitoring. Analysis of proposed cut-points demonstrates difficulties in balancing risk and benefit, to efficiently target interventions and suggests evidence is needed to define clinical policy.
Trial registrations
The Finnish Diabetes Prevention study, Helsinki, Finland:; NCT00518167 The SLIM diabetes prevention study, Maastricht, The Netherlands: Clinical; NCT00381186 The EDIPS-Newcastle diabetes prevention study, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number; ISRCTN15670600.
PMCID: PMC3581561  PMID: 23451166
18.  Postnatal Growth and DNA Methylation Are Associated With Differential Gene Expression of the TACSTD2 Gene and Childhood Fat Mass 
Diabetes  2012;61(2):391-400.
Rapid postnatal growth is associated with increased risk of childhood adiposity. The aim of this study was to establish whether this pathway is mediated by altered DNA methylation and gene expression. Two distinct cohorts, one preterm (n = 121) and one term born (n = 6,990), were studied. Exploratory analyses were performed using microarrays to identify differentially expressed genes in whole blood from children defined as “slow” (n = 10) compared with “rapid” (n = 10) postnatal (term to 12 weeks corrected age) growers. Methylation within the identified TACSTD2 gene was measured in both cohorts, and rs61779296 genotype was determined by Pyrosequencing or imputation and analyzed in relation to body composition at 9–15 years of age. In cohort 1, TACSTD2 expression was inversely correlated with methylation (P = 0.016), and both measures were associated with fat mass (expression, P = 0.049; methylation, P = 0.037). Although associated with gene expression (cohort 1, P = 0.008) and methylation (cohort 1, P = 2.98 × 10−11; cohort 2, P = 3.43 × 10−15), rs61779296 was not associated with postnatal growth or fat mass in either cohort following multiple regression analysis. Hence, the lack of association between fat mass and a methylation proxy SNP suggests that reverse causation or confounding may explain the initial association between fat mass and gene regulation. Noncausal methylation patterns may still be useful predictors of later adiposity.
PMCID: PMC3266428  PMID: 22190649
19.  Comparison Study of MS-HRM and Pyrosequencing Techniques for Quantification of APC and CDKN2A Gene Methylation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e52501.
There is increasing interest in the development of cost-effective techniques for the quantification of DNA methylation biomarkers. We analyzed 90 samples of surgically resected colorectal cancer tissues for APC and CDKN2A promoter methylation using methylation sensitive-high resolution melting (MS-HRM) and pyrosequencing. MS-HRM is a less expensive technique compared with pyrosequencing but is usually more limited because it gives a range of methylation estimates rather than a single value. Here, we developed a method for deriving single estimates, rather than a range, of methylation using MS-HRM and compared the values obtained in this way with those obtained using the gold standard quantitative method of pyrosequencing. We derived an interpolation curve using standards of known methylated/unmethylated ratio (0%, 12.5%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of methylation) to obtain the best estimate of the extent of methylation for each of our samples. We observed similar profiles of methylation and a high correlation coefficient between the two techniques. Overall, our new approach allows MS-HRM to be used as a quantitative assay which provides results which are comparable with those obtained by pyrosequencing.
PMCID: PMC3543439  PMID: 23326336
20.  Comparison of Mitochondrial Mutation Spectra in Ageing Human Colonic Epithelium and Disease: Absence of Evidence for Purifying Selection in Somatic Mitochondrial DNA Point Mutations 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(11):e1003082.
Human ageing has been predicted to be caused by the accumulation of molecular damage in cells and tissues. Somatic mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations have been documented in a number of ageing tissues and have been shown to be associated with cellular mitochondrial dysfunction. It is unknown whether there are selective constraints, which have been shown to occur in the germline, on the occurrence and expansion of these mtDNA mutations within individual somatic cells. Here we compared the pattern and spectrum of mutations observed in ageing human colon to those observed in the general population (germline variants) and those associated with primary mtDNA disease. The pathogenicity of the protein encoding mutations was predicted using a computational programme, MutPred, and the scores obtained for the three groups compared. We show that the mutations associated with ageing are randomly distributed throughout the genome, are more frequently non-synonymous or frameshift mutations than the general population, and are significantly more pathogenic than population variants. Mutations associated with primary mtDNA disease were significantly more pathogenic than ageing or population mutations. These data provide little evidence for any selective constraints on the occurrence and expansion of mtDNA mutations in somatic cells of the human colon during human ageing in contrast to germline mutations seen in the general population.
Author Summary
Mitochondrial DNA encodes essential components of the mitochondrial respiratory chain and is strictly maternally inherited, making it vulnerable to the accumulation of deleterious mutations. To avoid this, mtDNA is subjected to a bottleneck phenomenon whereby only a small number of mtDNA molecules are passed on to the oocyte precursor. These are then amplified to the required number of mtDNA molecules in the mature oocyte, meaning that any mutations may be either lost or rapidly fixed. Purifying selection is thought to be an important protective mechanism against pathogenic mtDNA mutations in the germline, as this is essential for mtDNA stability. It is unknown whether there are any such protective mechanisms in the somatic tissues. To investigate this we have compared the spectrum of mutations present in ageing human colonocytes with those population variants passed through the maternal germline and mtDNA mutations responsible for primary mtDNA disease. We show that pathogenic mtDNA mutations are present at a significantly higher frequency in the somatic cells of the human colon in contrast to variants that have passed though the germline, showing little evidence for purifying selection in the somatic tissues studied here, but strong evidence of this selective mechanism in the germline.
PMCID: PMC3499406  PMID: 23166522
21.  MYOD-1 in normal colonic mucosa – role as a putative biomarker? 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:240.
DNA methylation of promoter-associated CpG islands of certain genes may play a role in the development of colorectal cancer. The MYOD-1 gene which is a muscle differentiation gene has been showed to be significantly methylated in colorectal cancer which, is an age related event. However the role of this gene in the colonic mucosa is not understood and whether methylation occurs in subjects without colon cancer. In this study, we have determined the frequency of methylation of the MYOD-1 gene in normal colonic mucosa and investigated to see if this is associated with established colorectal cancer risk factors primarily ageing.
We analysed colonic mucosal biopsies in 218 normal individuals and demonstrated that in most individuals promoter hypermethylation was not quantified for MYOD-1. However, promoter hypermethylation increased significantly with age (p < 0.001 using regression analysis) and this was gender independent. We also showed that gene promoter methylation increased positively with an increase in waist to hip (WHR) ratio – the latter is also a known risk factor for colon cancer development.
Our study suggests that promoter gene hypermethylation of the MYOD-1 gene increases significantly with age in normal individuals and thus may offer potential as a putative biomarker for colorectal cancer.
PMCID: PMC3394207  PMID: 22591756
MYOD-1; Colorectal cancer; Age; Promoter methylation
22.  Genetic and Non-Genetic Influences during Pregnancy on Infant Global and Site Specific DNA Methylation: Role for Folate Gene Variants and Vitamin B12 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33290.
Inter-individual variation in patterns of DNA methylation at birth can be explained by the influence of environmental, genetic and stochastic factors. This study investigates the genetic and non-genetic determinants of variation in DNA methylation in human infants. Given its central role in provision of methyl groups for DNA methylation, this study focuses on aspects of folate metabolism. Global (LUMA) and gene specific (IGF2, ZNT5, IGFBP3) DNA methylation were quantified in 430 infants by Pyrosequencing®. Seven polymorphisms in 6 genes (MTHFR, MTRR, FOLH1, CβS, RFC1, SHMT) involved in folate absorption and metabolism were analysed in DNA from both infants and mothers. Red blood cell folate and serum vitamin B12 concentrations were measured as indices of vitamin status. Relationships between DNA methylation patterns and several covariates viz. sex, gestation length, maternal and infant red cell folate, maternal and infant serum vitamin B12, maternal age, smoking and genotype were tested. Length of gestation correlated positively with IGF2 methylation (rho = 0.11, p = 0.032) and inversely with ZNT5 methylation (rho = −0.13, p = 0.017). Methylation of the IGFBP3 locus correlated inversely with infant vitamin B12 concentration (rho = −0.16, p = 0.007), whilst global DNA methylation correlated inversely with maternal vitamin B12 concentrations (rho = 0.18, p = 0.044). Analysis of common genetic variants in folate pathway genes highlighted several associations including infant MTRR 66G>A genotype with DNA methylation (χ2 = 8.82, p = 0.003) and maternal MTHFR 677C>T genotype with IGF2 methylation (χ2 = 2.77, p = 0.006). These data support the hypothesis that both environmental and genetic factors involved in one-carbon metabolism influence DNA methylation in infants. Specifically, the findings highlight the importance of vitamin B12 status, infant MTRR genotype and maternal MTHFR genotype, all of which may influence the supply of methyl groups for DNA methylation. In addition, gestational length appears to be an important determinant of infant DNA methylation patterns.
PMCID: PMC3316565  PMID: 22479380
23.  Global LINE-1 DNA methylation is associated with blood glycaemic and lipid profiles 
Background Patterns of DNA methylation change with age and these changes are believed to be associated with the development of common complex diseases. The hypothesis that Long Interspersed Nucleotide Element 1 (LINE-1) DNA methylation (an index of global DNA methylation) is associated with biomarkers of metabolic health was investigated in this study.
Methods Global LINE-1 DNA methylation was quantified by pyrosequencing in blood-derived DNA samples from 228 individuals, aged 49–51 years, from the Newcastle Thousand Families Study (NTFS). Associations between log-transformed LINE-1 DNA methylation levels and anthropometric and blood biochemical measurements, including triglycerides, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, fasting glucose and insulin secretion and resistance were examined.
Results Linear regression, after adjustment for sex, demonstrated positive associations between log-transformed LINE-1 DNA methylation and fasting glucose {coefficient 2.80 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.39–5.22]}, total cholesterol [4.76 (95% CI 1.43–8.10)], triglycerides [3.83 (95% CI 1.30–6.37)] and LDL-cholesterol [5.38 (95% CI 2.12–8.64)] concentrations. A negative association was observed between log-transformed LINE-1 methylation and both HDL cholesterol concentration [−1.43 (95% CI −2.38 to −0.48)] and HDL:LDL ratio [−1.06 (95% CI −1.76 to −0.36)]. These coefficients reflect the millimoles per litre change in biochemical measurements per unit increase in log-transformed LINE-1 methylation.
Conclusions These novel associations between global LINE-1 DNA methylation and blood glycaemic and lipid profiles highlight a potential role for epigenetic biomarkers as predictors of metabolic disease and may be relevant to future diagnosis, prevention and treatment of this group of disorders. Further work is required to establish the role of confounding and reverse causation in the observed associations.
PMCID: PMC3304536  PMID: 22422454
Global DNA methylation; LINE-1; cohort study; glucose; HDL/LDL cholesterol; insulin; triglyceride
24.  Long-term effect of aspirin on cancer risk in carriers of hereditary colorectal cancer: an analysis from the CAPP2 randomised controlled trial 
Lancet  2011;378(9809):2081-2087.
Observational studies report reduced colorectal cancer in regular aspirin consumers. Randomised controlled trials have shown reduced risk of adenomas but none have employed prevention of colorectal cancer as a primary endpoint. The CAPP2 trial aimed to investigate the antineoplastic effects of aspirin and a resistant starch in carriers of Lynch syndrome, the major form of hereditary colorectal cancer; we now report long-term follow-up of participants randomly assigned to aspirin or placebo.
In the CAPP2 randomised trial, carriers of Lynch syndrome were randomly assigned in a two-by-two factorial design to 600 mg aspirin or aspirin placebo or 30 g resistant starch or starch placebo, for up to 4 years. Randomisation was in blocks of 16 with provision for optional single-agent randomisation and extended postintervention double-blind follow-up; participants and investigators were masked to treatment allocation. The primary endpoint was development of colorectal cancer. Analysis was by intention to treat and per protocol. This trial is registered, ISRCTN59521990.
861 participants were randomly assigned to aspirin or aspirin placebo. At a mean follow-up of 55·7 months, 48 participants had developed 53 primary colorectal cancers (18 of 427 randomly assigned to aspirin, 30 of 434 to aspirin placebo). Intention-to-treat analysis of time to first colorectal cancer showed a hazard ratio (HR) of 0·63 (95% CI 0·35–1·13, p=0·12). Poisson regression taking account of multiple primary events gave an incidence rate ratio (IRR) of 0·56 (95% CI 0·32–0·99, p=0·05). For participants completing 2 years of intervention (258 aspirin, 250 aspirin placebo), per-protocol analysis yielded an HR of 0·41 (0·19–0·86, p=0·02) and an IRR of 0·37 (0·18–0·78, p=0·008). No data for adverse events were available postintervention; during the intervention, adverse events did not differ between aspirin and placebo groups.
600 mg aspirin per day for a mean of 25 months substantially reduced cancer incidence after 55·7 months in carriers of hereditary colorectal cancer. Further studies are needed to establish the optimum dose and duration of aspirin treatment.
European Union; Cancer Research UK; Bayer Corporation; National Starch and Chemical Co; UK Medical Research Council; Newcastle Hospitals trustees; Cancer Council of Victoria Australia; THRIPP South Africa; The Finnish Cancer Foundation; SIAK Switzerland; Bayer Pharma.
PMCID: PMC3243929  PMID: 22036019
25.  Effect of Maternal and Post-Weaning Folate Supply on Gene-Specific DNA Methylation in the Small Intestine of Weaning and Adult Apc+/Min and Wild Type Mice 
Increasing evidence supports the developmental origins of adult health and disease hypothesis which argues for a causal relationship between adverse early life nutrition and increased disease risk in adulthood. Modulation of epigenetic marks, e.g., DNA methylation and consequential altered gene expression, has been proposed as a mechanism mediating these effects. Via its role as a methyl donor, dietary folate supply may influence DNA methylation. As aberrant methylation is an early event in colorectal cancer (CRC) pathogenesis, we hypothesized low maternal and/or post-weaning folate intake may influence methylation of genes involved in CRC development. We investigated the effects of maternal folate depletion during pregnancy and lactation on selected gene methylation in the small intestine of wild type (WT) and Apc+/Min mice at weaning and as adults. We also investigated the effects of folate depletion post-weaning on gene methylation in adult mice. Female C57Bl6/J mice were fed low or normal folate diets from mating with Apc+/Min males to the end of lactation. A sub-set of offspring were killed at weaning. Remaining offspring were weaned on to low or normal folate diets, resulting in four treatment groups of Apc+/Min and WT mice. p53 was more methylated in weaning and adult WT compared with Apc+/Min mice (p > 0.001). Igf2 and Apc were hypermethylated in adult Apc+/Min compared with WT mice (p = 0.004 and 0.012 respectively). Low maternal folate reduced p53 methylation in adults (p = 0.04). Low post-weaning folate increased Apc methylation in Apc+/Min mice only (p = 0.008 for interaction). These observations demonstrate that folate depletion in early life can alter epigenetic marks in a gene-specific manner. Also, the differential effects of altered folate supply on DNA methylation in WT and Apc+/Min mice suggest that genotype may modulate epigenetic responses to environmental cues and may have implications for the development of personalized nutrition.
PMCID: PMC3268578  PMID: 22303319
folate; gene-specific DNA methylation; in utero; Apc+/Min mouse; CRC

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