Mr Epidemiology

No, I'm not a skin doctor


July 2011

Interesting reads: July 23rd-29th, 2011

I like to tweet random things during the week (follow me @MrEpid), but for those who don’t use Twitter, here are some interesting posts I’ve come across this past week:

  • EpiRen discusses observed and expected cases when considering disease outbreaks
  • Marion Nestle’s blog Food Politics discusses the new McDonald’s Happy Meal
  • Dr Yoni Freedhoff has a guest post from Lillian, a Nova Scotian who is currently on the 10 year wait list for bariatric surgery, who may not survive the waiting period.

Have a great weekend everybody!


Breakfast Skipping and Change in Body Mass Index in Young Children

Breakfast: The most important meal of the day!

As mothers everywhere know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, as scientists, we want empirical evidence. Breakfast has been associated with several health outcomes, ranging from increased academic performance, to improved quality of life, as well as enhanced dietary profiles.

While many cross-sectional studies have found that those who skip breakfast are more likely to be obese, you cannot infer temporality from this relationship. In order to do that, you need a prospective cohort study, where you follow people forward through time to determine their weight gain.

While there are very few prospective cohort studies investigating breakfast eating habits among youth, even fewer have looked at this in Asian populations. And so Tin et al set out to look at the effect of skipping breakfast on BMI among youth in Hong Kong.

More after the jump.

Continue reading “Breakfast Skipping and Change in Body Mass Index in Young Children”

Useful Utilities: Dropbox

Useful Utilities is a series where Mr Epidemiology outlines software he finds helpful and feels that students would benefit from knowing. Today, he’ll be talking about Dropbox, a free cloud based file storage system. For those who already have a Dropbox account, read on as there are tips at the end for gaining free Dropbox space after the jump.

Allow me to paint a picture for you.

Mr Epidemiology wasn’t yet an Epidemiologist. He was a little undergrad, excited to be doing an honors thesis, where he studied caterpillars. He worked hard, and towards the end of his undergraduate thesis, he backed everything onto a USB key. To ensure that he wouldn’t misplace or lose it, he put the USB key onto his key chain with his car keys. Since he drove everywhere, he would never lose it.

But, Fate had a terrible … fate … in store for him (Note: get a thesaurus).

Pictured: Every grad student with THEIR PRECIOUSSSSSS

He went to see The Trews perform at an outdoor concert. It poured down for almost 3 hours, yet the band played on. He had a great time. He was soaked through, but thoroughly enjoyed the show.

But when he got home, he realized that the rain had fried his USB key. And along with it, all the work he had done. Luckily, he had a backup on his computer, but if not for that, he would have been in a lot of trouble.

That was a long time ago. Now, we have Dropbox, which is an online, cloud based storage system

Continue reading “Useful Utilities: Dropbox”

Interesting reads: July 15th – 22nd, 2011

Hope you're all enjoying summer!


I like to tweet random things during the week (follow me @MrEpid), but for those who don’t use Twitter, here are some interesting posts I’ve come across this past week:

  • Ars Technica reports on someone who felt that Universities/Colleges were not doing enough to pass on information and research. So he made a 32 GB file with over 18,000 research articles and uploaded it to The Pirate Bay.
  • Marion Nestle at Food Politics highlights some of the “winners” from CSPI’s “Xtreme Eating Awards.” For instance, the Cold Stone Creamery PB&C Shake has 2,010 calories.
  • Fooducate tells us how tuna goes from being in fish form to canned form.
  • Andre Picard over at The Globe and Mail reports on whether we should intervene when a child’s obesity becomes life threatening (with comments from Dr Yoni Freedhoff).

The redesign took a while to do, but it’s getting there. I’ll be back to updating next week.

Have a great weekend everybody!


Technical Update

Hi all,

I’ll be trying to incorporate some new features into the blog over the next few days. Please bear with me.

Any suggestions or feedback about the new design would be greatly appreciated.



Better Know An Epidemiologist: Alexander Langmuir

Better Know An Epidemiologist/History of Epidemiology is an ongoing feature where Mr Epidemiology pays tribute to people and studies who have set the stage for his generation of epidemiologists. All of the articles are listed here.

Epidemiology is a relatively new field. While John Snow made his breakthrough in the 1850s, even as recently as World War 2, there was no central epidemiology agency. However, with the start of the Korean War, the threat of biological warfare loomed. As a result, the government recognized the need for an organization who would track and monitor disease outbreaks.

Enter Alexander Langmuir.

Alexander Langmuir, founder of the Epidemic Intelligence Service

Continue reading “Better Know An Epidemiologist: Alexander Langmuir”

Interesting reads: July 8th – 15th, 2011

I like to tweet random things during the week (follow me @MrEpid), but for those who don’t use Twitter, here are some interesting posts I’ve come across this past week:

  • Travis Saunders over at Science of Blogging talks about whether a successful academic career and fulfilling personal life are mutually exclusive or not.
  • Dr Yoni Freedhoff discusses whether severely obese children should be removed from their homes
  • Dr Arya Sharma writes about gene-environment interactions
  • Martin Fenner asks: Did you receive spam because you published a paper?
  • To completely shift gears, I’ve had smooth jazz Nyan Cat stuck in my head all week (for original Nyan Cat, click here)

And that’s all for now. Come back on Monday for a new entry!

Have a great weekend!


Parental Perception of Child Weight Status

There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.

– Chinese proverb

Childhood obesity is a growing problem for our society. However, we are still trying to find effective methods of dealing with this public health concern. Some researchers have suggested that family based interventions could be the most effective way to tackle this issue, as parents can help instil healthy behaviours in their children.

However, what if parents don’t realize that their children are overweight or obese? What if they don’t realize that their child is gaining weight at an unhealthy rate?  If they don’t realize that there is a problem, why would they seek help?

A recent systematic review found that less than half of the parents surveyed correctly identified their children as being overweight in 19 of the 23 studies they examined.

So the question then becomes: Do parents only fail to recognize if their own children are overweight or obese, or do they do this for all children? And that is what a recent study by Jones et al, published in the International Journal of Obesity investigated.

More after the jump.

Continue reading “Parental Perception of Child Weight Status”

How effective are interventions aimed at reducing “screen time” among youth?

Increased screen time is a problem among youth

Edit (14/07/11): Thanks to Gopinath for the article!

A common reason people give for the increased prevalence of childhood obesity is how youth spend more time in front of the TV/computer/video games now than they used to (a measure referred to as “screen time”). The average Canadian youth spends 6 hours in front of the TV/computer every weekday, and over 7 hours a day on the weekend (AHKC Report Card, 2011). So that begs the question – how can we reduce screen time?

Several interventions have been performed, and they have shown mixed results. But this could be due to a number of factors: the population they used, the methods they used or even chance. We can identify all the studies that have been done in this area using a systematic review, and then decide if they’re effective using a meta analysis. And that’s exactly what Wahi and colleagues did, in a study published in Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med this July.

More after the jump.

Continue reading “How effective are interventions aimed at reducing “screen time” among youth?”

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