14th November 2011Earlybird cited in Hansard

Earlybird cited in Hansard (House of Lords Debate on Non-communicable Diseases, Oct 6, 2011) and in the government's white paper on obesity 'Healthy Lives, Healthy People', October 13, 2011

7th July 2010Inactivity 'No Contributor' to Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Fatness leads to inactivity, but inactivity does not lead to fatness

A new report from the EarlyBird Diabetes Study suggests that physical activity has little if any role to play in the obesity epidemic among children. Obesity is the key factor behind diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

EarlyBird is based at the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, and has been observing in detail a cohort of city school children for the past 11 years.

A review published in 2009 of all trials using physical activity to reduce childhood obesity showed weight loss amounting to just 90g (3oz) over three years, and the EarlyBird study wanted to know why the trials were so ineffective. So they challenged some popular paradigms.

It is well known that less active children are fatter, but that does not mean – as most people assume it does – that inactivity leads to fatness. It could equally well be the other way round: that obesity leads to inactivity.

And this is the question EarlyBird was uniquely placed to answer. With data collected annually over several years from a large cohort of children, it could ask the question – which comes first? Does the physical activity of the child precede changes in fatness over time, or does the fatness of the child precede changes in physical activity over time?

And the answer, published recently in Archives of Disease in Childhood, was clear. Physical activity had no impact on weight change, but weight clearly led to less activity.

The implications are profound for public health policy, because the physical activity of children (crucial to their fitness and well-being) may never improve unless the burgeoning levels of childhood obesity are first checked. If this cannot be achieved through physical activity, the focus has to be on what – and how much – children consume.

EarlyBird has already shown how the trajectory leading to obesity is established very early in life, long before children go to school, and how most childhood obesity is associated with obesity in the same-sex parent.

While portion size, calorie-dense snacks and sugary drinks are all important contributors, early feeding errors seem crucial - and physical activity is not the answer.

20th May 2010National Symposium to Tackle a Growing Problem

The 10th Annual Plymouth symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and the Metabolic Syndrome will be held on Thursday 20th May 2010 at the Plymouth Medical Centre. It is 10th in a widely acclaimed and stimulating series of symposia organised by the Peninsula Medical School's Dept of Endocrinology & Metabolism and the EarlyBird Research Centre, based at Derriford Hospital. Indeed, these symposia have become a fixture in the calendar of educational events for doctors, nurses and the professions allied to medicine in the SW.

Tackling obesity is one of the major health challenges of the 21st century - levels have tripled over the last 20 years and the British are now among the fattest in Europe. Every year being overweight causes the premature deaths of thousands of people from heart disease, stroke and diabetes and consumes a huge proportion the NHS budget. There is good evidence that the obesity-related diseases that are filling adult clinics and GP surgeries begin early in childhood. This all-day event involving top experts in the field is designed to draw together the links between current understanding and practical application. There is a lot of prejudice, misunderstanding and misconception that diverts the public's attention from the issues that really matter, and these symposia are intended to focus on what can - and what cannot - be done. It is aimed at all those working in or with an interest in the impact of lifestyle on health, diabetes/metabolic disorders, physical activity, primary care, child health, school and public health, education and health policy.

Speakers for this year's symposium are:

Prof Caroline Fall, University of Southampton

Understanding the early-life origins of diabetes – where are we in 2010?

Prof Julian Shield, University of Bristol

Frustrations and success when managing childhood obesity

Dr Ashley Cooper, University of Bristol

Measuring environmental influences on children’s physical activity

Prof Terry Wilkin, Peninsula Medical School

Diabetes:  1 and 2, or one and the same?

Prof David Kerr, Royal Bournemouth Hospital

Obesity and breast cancer treatment: the elephant in the room

Prof Jack Winkler, London Metropolitan University

Policy instruments to improve children’s diets

Dr Ian W Campbell MBE, General Practitioner

Lessons from failure

If you would like further details of the symposium please contact:

Kerry Godley-McAvoy
PA to Professor Terence J Wilkin MD, FRCP
University Medicine, Level 7, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth PL6 8DH
T: +44(0) 1752 763498
F: +44(0) 1752 792471

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