Address from Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall at World Osteoporosis Day

Professor Cyrus Cooper, Director of the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit and President of the International Osteoporosis Foundation, welcomes all our team and external visitors on World Osteoporosis Day: ” This is an occasion to celebrate the world-leading research on osteoporosis undertaken over several decades, here at the unit. It is an absolute pleasure for both our linked organisations (the International Osteoporosis Foundation and the Royal Osteoporosis Society) to hear the words of encouragement in this address from Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall.”

Research findings from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study presented at Virtual World Congress

Research from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study has featured prominently at this year’s International Osteoporosis Foundation Conference – which, as a result of the Covid19 pandemic, was held online in August instead of in Barcelona in spring.

Dr Michael Clynes presented work on the relationship between work stress and bone density, finding higher bone density in women who had higher levels of work stress prior to retirement, a relationship apparently explained by higher adiposity in that group. In other work, Dr Jean Zhang reported rates of loss of grip strength in later life and the lifestyle factors associated with this; Dr Gregorio Bevilacqua presented a poster that described relationships between levels of vitamin D and musculoskeletal health; and Dr Nick Fuggle presented work on how alteration in our genetic makeup, which occurs naturally over our lifetimes, is associated with our bone health. Dr Sarah Carter gave an oral presentation on how lifestyle factors that impact bone health track across three generations of Hertfordshire families, and finally Professor Elaine Dennison shared some of the work that Hertfordshire Cohort Study participants have contributed to in a talk on osteoarthritis.

Thank you to all our study participants for making such a wealth of research presentations possible!

Message from MRCLEU Director regarding Covid-19

At these extraordinary times we at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit are only too aware of the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic is having worldwide. Many of our Cohort participants will be self-isolating, or shielding, with all the attendant challenges that go with this, and we hope that everyone has the support they need to get through these extremely challenging times. Many local support networks have been set up to supplement the government one – one example being Age UK services: you may like to check here what support is available in your local area.

Because Covid-19 is such a new infection, there is a considerable amount of research ongoing to try to establish how to diagnose and treat the condition, and to protect people going forward. One such piece of research involves an app, which can be installed on a mobile phone, and tracks symptoms. We would encourage you to look at the website, and consider whether you, or relatives, might be interested in participating in this.

Stay safe everyone

Professor Cyrus Cooper

Director MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, Southampton

Intergenerational participants contribute to new study of health across generations

The participation of the children and grandchildren of the original HCS cohort members has opened up new opportunities for early-life research across generations. Professor Elaine Dennison says, ‘It is wonderful that we have been able to extend an invitation for HCS members’ children and grandchildren to get involved. This allows us to consider the effects of events early in life on the health of future generations. The enthusiasm we have received for this study has been fantastic, and we remain very grateful to our study participants.’

Using data from across three generations of the HCS, the MRC LEU study team were able to explore associations between the early-life weight gain of grandparents and the adult heights of their children and grandchildren. This study found that the early-life growth of grandparents could influence the adult heights of their children and grandchildren. Greater grandparental birth weight, weight at one year, and conditional weight gain during the first year of life were associated with taller offspring and grandchildren.

This research is the first of its kind to investigate the association between early-life weight gain in grandparents and the adult height of subsequent generations. It also demonstrates the importance of early-life determinants of health both for individuals and their families. Thank you so much to our intergenerational participants!

Research projects from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study presented at the UK Research in Musculoskeletal Epidemiology Annual Showcase

This September, a number of our junior researchers attended the sixth UK Research in Musculoskeletal Epidemiology (UK-RiME) Annual Showcase at the Julian Study Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich. This was a great opportunity for our early career researchers to present their ongoing investigations with the HCS with fast paced ‘elevator pitches’ i.e. short and succinct presentations of only 3 minutes. Our team provided highlights of their current work on nutrition, physical activity, healthy ageing, and the impact of early life growth on health across the generations.

Research findings from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study presented at World Congress

In April, a number of our researchers attended the WCO – IOF – ESCEO World Congress on Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Disease in Paris to present findings from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study. The conference–which is the largest of its kind–was attended by over 4000 people, making it a fantastic opportunity for us to reinforce the position of HCS as one of the leading cohort studies which focusses on musculoskeletal health in later life.

The Hertfordshire Intergenerational Study of Bone Health

We know from previous studies in Hertfordshire that the way we grow in our mother’s womb and the first few years of life affects our risk of developing many diseases in later life, such as thinning of the bones (osteoporosis). In the Hertfordshire Inter-generational Study of Bone Health we are interested in whether early life exposures have an impact on the bone health of future generations. Over 120 participants including grandparents, children and grandchildren have been to Cambridge to have their musculoskeletal system phenotyed using state-of-the-art methods at the Elsie Widdowson Laboratory including dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scanning and high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HRpQCT). These measurements will enable us to look in detail at the structure and makeup of the participants bones and see if there are any similarities across generations. If our results suggest that effects early in life have an effect on musculoskeletal health in later generations, this has the potential to profoundly impact upon public health strategies that could improve musculoskeletal health for generations to come.

The Hertfordshire Cohort Study: An Overview

We have recently published an article telling the story of the Hertfordshire Cohort Study since its inception in the 1980s and including methods, findings, and plans for the future. You can read the full story here or simply download a PDF copy of the article.

We wish to thank the men and women who have participated in the
Hertfordshire studies, the Hertfordshire General Practitioners, and
all the nurses and doctors who have conducted fieldwork
over many years.

Our changing diets – diet activity at the HCS Open Day

On Saturday June 23rd 2018 we hosted our Hertfordshire Cohort Study Open Day at Harpenden Public Halls as part of the MRC Festival of Medical Research.  It was lovely to talk to our guests and to hear their thoughts and memories of diet over the years. We have created ‘word clouds’ from their comments and display them here by decade. This shows some of the huge changes that have taken place in the food landscape and in our diets over the past 75 years.

A big thank you to everyone who took part!

A fantastic Hertfordshire Cohort Study Open Day

On Saturday June 23rd 2018 we were delighted to host our Hertfordshire Cohort Study Open Day at Harpenden Public Halls as part of the MRC Festival of Medical Research. We were thrilled to see so many of our cohort participants again and to meet their spouses, friends, children and grandchildren. We are currently recruiting participants for our inter-generational study (HCS3G) so it was particularly exciting to meet the descendants of our original 1930’s “Hertfordshire babies”.

Our guests were welcomed on arrival and invited to chat to members of the HCS scientific team in our exhibition room. Some very competitive measuring of grip strength got underway and some great conversations were had about lifetime memories of diet and what it has meant to people to take part in HCS. An original 1930’s health visitor ledger was on display and proved particularly fascinating for our guests; after all, the ledgers are where HCS began and the early life records of every one of our 1930’s “Hertfordshire babies” appear in a similar ledger.

After visiting the exhibition room our guests were invited to take refreshments in the main theatre and Prof Cooper (HCS principal investigator and Director of the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit) gave a talk about the important scientific knowledge that has come from HCS, particularly in the areas of a lifecourse approach to osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass, strength and function with age). A lively question and answer session rounded off proceedings and all that remained was to thank our guests for joining us … and of course to make sure that George the Skeleton didn’t miss his bus back to Southampton!

Some photos from the event are shown below. Thank you once again to everyone who joined us!