Editor’s Choice Annals of Human Biology

Annals of Human Biology

World Obesity Day on 11th October 2017 brought to the fore the trend of increasing overweight and obesity in the global population.  Of particular note is the rapid increase in obesity in children and adolescents in Asia. The World Health Organization reports that in 2015 it was estimated 42 million children under the age of 5 were overweight and almost half of all the overweight children in the global population lived in Asia.  Diet and lifestyle changes, largely due to rapid economic development in this area of the world, are viewed as the primary factors responsible for increasing obesity amongst Chinese and Indian children.

A Human Biological Survey recently published in the Annals of Human Biology by Zhou et al. provides an update on the prevalence of overweight and obesity in nearly 30,000 students aged 7-17 years in China in 2015.  BMI values were used to compare the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children (7-12 years) and adolescents (13-17 years) at 20.3% and 9.6% respectively. The greater values in children may well be indicative of an increasing overweight and obesity problem prior to adolescence which requires intervention if it is not going to lead to overweight and obesity problems for future adolescents and young adults in China.

This paper forms part of a series of articles published by AHB since 2014 which have investigated overweight and obesity in large samples of children from the Far East.  The results clearly show an increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children from this region of the world and call for public health policy interventions to tackle this increasing problem.

Prevalence of overweight and obesity in Chinese children and adolescents from 2015

Changes in BMI and waist circumference among primary and secondary school students from 2005 to 2010 in Anhui, China

The prevalence of overweight, obesity and stunting in school children aged 6–19 years in Beijing, China

Waist circumference centiles by age and sex for Japanese children based on the 1978–1981 cross-sectional national survey data

High prevalence of overweight and obesity among inner city Chinese children in Shanghai, 2011

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Here you will find more details about selected papers and commentaries from Annals of Human Biology. You can also enjoy free online access to these papers for a limited time!

This special issue of the Annals of Human Biology Human Biology of Migration includes a selection of papers from plenary speakers at the 2016 SSHB Symposium of the same title.

Human migration is a global phenomenon which occurs both between and within countries and is driven by a range of factors including conflict, poverty, inequality and poor employment opportunities.  In 2015 the UN International Migration Report stated there were 244 million international migrants worldwide.

This collection of papers addresses the impact of migration on human populations with an interdisciplinary approach and consequently covers a broad range of aspects of human migration: 

  • Genetics of migration
  • Migrant lifestyle changes
  • Refugee health screening
  • Migration of pathogens/infectious diseases
  • Effects on indigenous populations

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Changes in nutritional status among displaced North Korean children living in South Korea

Soo-Kyung Lee, So-Yung Nam and Daniel Hoffman

Globally attention is currently focussed on North Korea and its activities prompting curiosity about what occurs in this secretive country.  Directly relevant to human biology, a BBC news piece on the differences between North and South Korea was published this week.  This piece included a section stating that ‘North Koreans are shorter than South Koreans’. Although this is a general statement that should be interpreted with care, there is evidence to suggest that there are marked differences in child growth between the two countries as a consequence of the very different nutritional environments the children experience.  A study published in the Annals of Human Biology directly addresses this issue and the results are unambiguous…

Read the full commentary here >

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Chinese Xibe population genetic composition according to linkage groups of X-chromosomal STRs: population genetic variability and interpopulation comparisons

This research paper published in the most recent issue of AHB provides a significant contribution the Chinese genetic landscape.  The study looks at X-chromosomal short tandem repeats (X-STRs) in the Xibe population, which, with their particular inheritance pattern, are important in both understanding genetic backgrounds and forensic analyses.

The Xibe population has been dispersed across North China since the mid-18th century and debate continues with regard to the origin of the Xibe. In this paper, the authors investigated the allelic frequencies and forensic parameters of several X-STR loci using blood samples from healthy Xibe individuals.  Population differentiation was estimated through comparison of allelic frequency distributions of the same loci between populations from various parts of the world including Asia, Europe and Africa.

The authors were able to conclude that the polymorphic X-STR in the studied Xibe population would be useful in forensic application and their study confirms the Xibe population are genetically more closely related to Asian populations than populations from other continents

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Cardiorespiratory fitness, but not physical activity, is associated with academic achievement in children and adolescents

Globally there is a major drive towards improving physical activity levels in children to reduce childhood obesity and its long-term chronic health implications, however emerging evidence is showing that better physical activity levels can also positively influence academic performance in children and adolescents.

A study by Oliveira et al. in the Annals of Human Biology examines the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness, physical activity and academic achievement in a large sample of children and adolescents 10-18 years of age from the Porto area of Portugal.  The study reports a positive association between cardiorespiratory fitness and academic achievement but finds no relationship between physical activity and academic achievement.  The authors suggest that in order to improve academic performance amongst children and adolescents the curriculum should integrate  methods of improving cardiorespiratory fitness.

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Deep genealogical analysis of a large cohort of participants in the CARTaGENE project (Quebec,Canada)

The CARTaGENE project is a large scale public health database in Quebec Canada of over 40 000 participants. This paper by Tremblay & Rouleau recently published in the Annals reports the analysis of genealogical data provided by >5000 participants in this project.The basic genealogical data provided allowed reconstruction of ascending genealogies. This deep analysis provides detailed information about the population structure of Quebec; inbreeding and kinship coefficients were measured across a number of generations and significant differences were found between four regions in Quebec.

The detailed findings of this study are useful for the CARTaGENE project itself but also for future studies on genetic variations in complex diseases as such detailed genealogical information enhances genomic studies in populations.

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BREXIT and British Universities in Europe

Last week the UK entered into official discussions with the EU about leaving the European Union. This commentary article published in AHB, ‘BREXIT and British Universities in Europe’ authored by Professor Noël Cameron, discusses the impact BREXIT may have on research collaborations within Europe, securing research funding throughout Europe and the future status of the numerous European researchers currently based in UK universities.

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Human growth and the microbiome

The way the type of microorganism present in the human gut influences human health is a relatively new science with the first evidence of the type of microorganism present in the gut influencing health and physiology being published just 30 years ago.  Since then the human microbiome (the genetic makeup of the microbiota present in the human gut) has been linked with numerous aspects of physiology and metabolic, immunological and neurological diseases, for example obesity, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, cancers, mental health and cardiovascular disease, to name a few.

This commentary article published in AHB is written by Daniel Hoffman who is a Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University, USA.  The article comments on a recent review ‘Microbiome, growth retardation and metabolism: are they related?’ by the author – also published in AHB, which explores the way the microbiome influences human growth and nutrient absorption.  The commentary encourages the reader to consider that changes in the microbiome in children can have both short and long-term consequences on their growth and health and that the influence of the microbiome should be at the centre of public health considerations of growth and development.

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The Orientalisation of North Africa: New hints from the study of autosomal STRs in an Arab population

The geographical location of North Africa has historically facilitated migration into the region from the Near or Middle East, Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, thus shaping the genetic landscape and complex demography of North African populations.  The Arabian conquest of North Africa which began in the 7th century, when Bedouins from the Arabian Peninsula began to integrate with the autochthonous pre-Arab Berbers, is considered to have significantly influenced the gene pool of the area.

This study in the Annals of Human Biology by Elkamel et al uses autosomal STRs from two Tunisian populations of recent Arab ancestry to further investigate the extent of the influence of migration into North Africa from the East.  The results show genetic resemblance between the two populations studied. The 15 STR loci examined were found to be highly polymorphic and thus potentially useful in forensic casework in Tunisian Arab populations. Comparative analyses on data from 13 autosomal STRs from previous studies in 32 populations from North Africa, Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Asia reveals that Tunisian Berbers are more differentiated than Tunisian Arabs.

The results of this study provide clues which will help to develop further the understanding of the genetic landscape of North Africa.

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