What effects if any do our diets have on health? How can we find health patterns in the population? What’s the truth about fat? What keeps people fit and healthy as they get older? These questions and more will be explored at this year’s Cambridge Science Festival.

For 20 years we have been asking people about their lifestyle and diet, making measurements and recording disease and over 25,000 people have come to see us and filled in questionnaires. Our participants have contributed to over 400 research publications.

Stephanie Moore

On Sunday 23 March, the event, From EPIC Patterns to better health, will reveal how looking at patterns in the population allows us to understand the links between diet, lifestyle and health. Visitors to this event will be able to see patterns in the Science Festival 2014 population, explore balanced diets, and experience for themselves the eye conditions being studied in the EPIC project in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care.

The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) was designed to investigate the relationships between diet, nutritional status, lifestyle and environmental factors and the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases. EPIC is a large study of diet and health having recruited over half a million (520,000) people in 10 European countries: Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Stephanie Moore, Senior Research Assistant on the EPIC Study, said: “You might not believe you have ever thought about epidemiology before, but there are often health stories in the newspapers and you have probably asked yourself questions like: What effects if any do our diets have on health? How can we find health patterns in the population? What do they mean? What keeps people fit and healthy as they get older? How much difference does eating my five a day make? Is my body shape linked to staying well? The EPIC study looks at all these things and many more.

“For 20 years we have been asking people about their lifestyle and diet, making measurements and recording disease if people get ill and over 25,000 people have come to see us and filled in questionnaires, most of them more than once. Our participants have contributed to over 400 research publications.”

Professor Kay-Tee Khaw, one of EPIC’s Principal Investigators will also be presenting an interactive talk on a publication that hit the news, Healthy for longer: guess how and guess who? on Wednesday 19th March. Visitors will be able to join colleagues from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care for a life-size game of guess who? to understand epidemiological concepts and how, by discovering patterns in populations, we can advise the people on how to stay healthy for longer.

An event on Thursday 20 March – Why we know very little about the effect of diet on health, And why so much is written about it – will see David Colquhoun, Professor of Pharmacology and author of the award-winning Improbable Science Blog (http://www.dcscience.net/) debunk some of the many myths involving diet and ill health, with which we are endlessly bombarded.

Speaking about the topic of his talk, Professor Colquhoun said: “We are perpetually bombarded with advice about what to eat, and quite often each new report contradicts earlier ones.  It follows that some of the advice is wrong.  The main reason for this sad state of affairs is that it’s hard to allocate people at random to eat one diet or another.  We have to rely on observing what people eat and how they die.  Since healthy and wealthy people tend to eat differently from poor unhealthy people, it’s impossible to tell what’s a consequence of wealth and what’s a consequence of diet.  That’s why ‘Almost every single nutrient imaginable has peer reviewed publications associating it with almost any outcome’.  In fact, no single food has a dramatic effect, good or bad, on health.  About all one can say is don’t eat too much and don’t eat all the same thing. But there isn’t much money in such simple advice.”

Other talks and exhibitions related to fitness, health and metabolism include:

  • Sunday 23 March, Fascinating fat. Have you ever wondered what fat does? We all know that if we eat too much we get fat, but having too little fat is just as unhealthy as having too much. Join the University of Cambridge Metabolic Research Laboratories and MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit in hands-on activities and games that show you some fascinating facts about fat and why it is so important for everyday life.

For more information about the Cambridge Science Festival or to book tickets for any of these events, please visit: www.cam.ac.uk/science-festival

Further news stories about the Cambridge Science Festival can be viewed here:  www.cam.ac.uk/science-festival/news

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To download the Festival app, please visit: www.cam.ac.uk/csf/app


About Cambridge Science Festival

Now in its 20th year, the Cambridge Science Festival gives the public the opportunity to explore Cambridge science. Thanks to the support of the University, our sponsors and partners, most of the events are free.

The Science Festival aims to provide the public with opportunities to explore and discuss issues of scientific interest and concern and to raise aspirations and career awareness in the areas of science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

Patrons of the Science Festival are: Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor John Barrow, Dr Claire Cockcroft, Dr Henry Gee, Lord Rees of Ludlow, Professor Malcolm Longair, Mr Tim Radford, Professor Barbara Sahakian, Professor Jeremy Sanders, Dr Andrew Sugden, Ms Carol Vorderman, Professor Jim Secord, Mr Ian Harvey, Professor Andrea Brand, Professor Ron Laskey, Professor Bill Sutherland, Professor John Naughton, Professor Alan Barrell.

The Cambridge Science Festival is sponsored by Cambridge University Press, the Medical Research Council, Anglia Ruskin University, AstraZeneca, MedImmune, Royal Society of Chemistry, AAAS Science International Inc., TTP Group plc., BlueBridgeEducation, Linguamatics, Abcam plc., RAND Europe, Society of Biology, The Babraham Institute, British Association for Psychopharmacology , the Pye Foundation, Walters Kundert Charitable Trust, and Cambridge City Council. Other Festival partners are Cambridge University Hospitals, the Cambridge Science Centre, Hills Road Sixth Form College and National Science and Engineering Week. The Festival's media partner is BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.


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