A new study from scientists in Southampton has suggested that diet during pregnancy may affect an offspring’s risk of brain changes linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The research, which was funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, studied adult mice whose mothers were fed either a normal or a high-fat diet during pregnancy and lactation. The study is due to be presented at Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference 2014 in Oxford this week.
Led by Dr Cheryl Hawkes at the University of Southampton, the team set out to investigate the links between obesity and Alzheimer’s. Obesity has been linked to a higher risk of the disease, and previous research has suggested that a mother’s diet during pregnancy may affect a child’s risk of obesity and conditions such as heart disease and diabetes in adulthood.
The researchers studied mice which were fed either a standard diet or a high-fat diet, and whose mothers were also fed either a high fat or standard diet during pregnancy and lactation. They then looked at markers of cholesterol and problems with blood vessels in the brain, both of which have been linked to Alzheimer’s.
They found that mice whose mothers ate a high-fat diet during pregnancy were more likely to have vascular changes in their brains later in life. Furthermore, when the offspring of mothers with a high-fat diet were also fed a high-fat diet, their brains’ blood vessels became less efficient at clearing the protein amyloid – a hallmark feature of the disease.
Dr Hawkes, an Alzheimer’s Research UK Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton, said: “Our preliminary findings suggest that mothers’ diets during pregnancy may have long-term effects on their children’s brains and vascular health. We still need to do more work to understand how our findings translate to humans, but we have known for some time that protecting mothers’ health during pregnancy can help lower the risk of health problems for their children. Our next step will be to investigate how our findings could relate to Alzheimer’s disease in people. We hope these results could provide a new lead for research to understand how to prevent the disease.”
Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading dementia research charity, funding more than £20m of pioneering research into the condition across the UK. The charity’s annual conference on 25 and 26 March is the largest of its kind in the UK, and will see leading dementia scientists share their progress in the drive to defeat dementia.
Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It’s important to remember that this research is in mice, but these results add to existing evidence suggesting that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in later life is affected by our health earlier in life. This study goes one step further by suggesting that what happens in the womb may also be important. We’re pleased to have funded this research, which has shed new light on the complex picture of Alzheimer’s risk.
“Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease and it’s likely that our risk is affected by a number of different genetic and environmental factors. Research to understand these factors can help equip us to take steps to prevent the disease, but in the meantime, evidence suggests we can lower our risk by eating a healthy, balanced diet, doing regular exercise, not smoking and keeping our blood pressure and weight in check.”
Annual census headcount figures shows increased numbers in the NHS workforce compared to last year
Females make up more than half of the GP workforce numbers
All figures are in headcount. Regional information and Full Time Equivalents (FTE) are available for this report
HSCIC must be quoted as the source of these figures
The number of people working for the NHS in England has increased slightly, Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) figures show.
Over 1.36 million people were working for the NHS in England at 30 September 2013 an increase of 0.4 per cent (5,870) on 2012. This constitutes an increase of 12.5 per cent (151,580) since 2003, according to today’s annual census report.
The census report provides a snapshot of staff working in hospital, community, general and personal medical services. It allows for year-on-year comparisons and also includes the annual summary of the GP workforce.
Today’s figures show that GPs number 40,240, a decrease of 0.1 per cent (29) since 2012 and an increase of 19.9 per cent (6,670) since 2003.
There are 20,440 females within the GP workforce, an increase of 2.9 per cent (570) since 2012. This is the first year the number of female GPs has been greater than their male counterparts. Male GP headcount is 19,800, a decrease of 2.9 per cent (599) since 2012.
There has been an increase of 50.9 per cent (6,890) female GPs since 2003, whereas male GP numbers have decreased by 1.1 per cent (218).
Today’s figures show that, at 30 September 2013:
The number of professionally qualified clinical staff stood at 692,160 its highest level across the decade, a rise of 16.1 per cent (95,920) on 2003.
Of this group:
- There were 54,580 hospital doctors in training, an increase of 2.4 per cent (1,260) on 2012 and an increase of 46.2 per cent (17,260) on 2003.
- Consultant numbers stood at 41,220, an increase of 2.0 per cent (826) on 2012 and an increase of 43.4 per cent (12,470) on 2003.
- Qualified nurses stood at 347,940, a 0.4 per cent (1,530) increase on 2012 and a 6.5 per cent (21,370) increase on 2003, of which there were 25,910 midwives, a 1 per cent (256) increase on 2012 a 16.4 per cent (3,650) increase on 2003.
There were 1.08 million NHS Hospital and Community Health Service (HCHS) non medical staff. This area covers staff working within the NHS (excluding doctors and staff working with GP practices). The census report shows an increase of 0.3 per cent (3,390) on 2012 and an increase of 8.7 per cent (85,900) on 2003.
- Clinical support staff stood at 349,000, a 1.5 per cent (5,070) increase on 2012, a 6.6 per cent (21,540) increase on 2003.
- NHS infrastructure support staff stood at 211,190, a 1.8 per cent (3,890) decrease on 2012, a 5.7 per cent (11,380) increase on 2003. Of this group, managers and senior managers stood at 36,360, a decrease of 2.6 per cent (954) on 2012, but an increase of 2.9 per cent (1,040) on 2003.
Health and Social Care Information Centre chair Kingsley Manning said: “The annual census gives us the opportunity to study the changes within the NHS workforce, one of the largest of its kind in the world.
“Today’s figures show an overall rise in staff numbers across the whole NHS, with increases for doctors, nurses and a slight decline in management figures.
“There has also been a rise in professionally qualified clinical staff numbers which now stands at 692,160, the highest they have been within the last ten years.”
The NHS annual workforce census report and provisional monthly figures are available at: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/pubs/nhsworkstatov.
More recent monthly data for HCHS staff numbers plus NHS staff earnings and sickness absence data are available at: