Posts by Ursula D'Souza

Promise vs perils of electronic cigarettes- a new article collection in BMC Medicine

breaking cigarette_crop

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, ECs) are the centre of much controversy due to public health concerns associated with some of its components including nicotine which is highly addictive. Additionally, the availability of such devices to young never-smokers and the re-normalization of smoking is a growing concern. This has been highlighted in the news lately where a study shows three times as many children have tried e-cigarettes than those who have smoked tobacco. However, on the other hand ECs are considered to be potentially less harmful than tobacco smoke and are used to aid smoking cessation.

The debate on ECs between clinicians and public health professionals has been discussed extensively at several meetings including the European Respiratory Society,

Read more

Diabetes: Risk factors and lifestyle interventions

Diabetes definition

Today is World Diabetes Day and this year it is centred on the theme of healthy living and diabetes. To mark this, we take a look at some of the recent research and discussions on risk factors and lifestyle interventions associated with type 2 diabetes*.

The rise in the global burden of diabetes is expected to challenge healthcare systems. Already, it is estimated that 29.1 million people in the US have the condition. Diabetes is one of the four main non-communicable diseases and the World Health Organization (WHO) action plan includes a global strategy for its prevention and control. This is an important aim, as diabetes is known to lead to many co-morbid conditions, which in …

Read more

Exposure to stress and environmental toxins: Effects across generations

Stressed Young Businessman at Office

Today is National Stress Awareness day and the theme this year is Stress: the balancing act. Here, we take a look at some recent research on stress in relation to its effect over generations and through epigenetic mechanisms.

The stress response normally results in the release of glucorticoid hormones that are secreted by the adrenal glands to enable several physiological functions. However, chronic stress leads to continual release of these hormones that are associated with serious mental and physical health problems.

Recent data show that environmental factors such as stress and toxins, for example pesticides and smoking, during prenatal and/or early life are known to result in adverse health effects not only in offspring but also in subsequent generations …

Read more

Schizophrenia: quality of life and drug treatment

Brain Activity

To recognize World Mental Health day and its focus on living with schizophrenia we‘ve taken a look at some recent research emphasizing quality of life and treatment for those affected by this chronic mental condition.

Seven adults out of every 1,000 have schizophrenia, with half of affected individuals not receiving appropriate care. Over 90% of untreated people are from low- and middle- income countries. The WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) aims to scale up services for mental disorders in these countries by ensuring proper care, psychosocial assistance and medication.

Quality of life

Living with schizophrenia affects daily life. A recent study from the UK, highlighted in the news, showed that delusion prone schizophrenic patients are less likely …

Read more

Cardiovascular disorders: novel therapies, prevention strategies and lifestyle interventions

Heart 3d square

Today is World Heart Day, and having recently got back from attending the European Congress of Cardiology as part of my role at BMC Medicine, it seemed an opportune moment to take you through some of the important findings discussed there.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that 17 million people die every year from cardiovascular diseases. However, the majority of these deaths could be avoided by managing risk factors such as tobacco smoking, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful alcohol use.

To achieve control of these risk factors the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are developing and implementing appropriate policies to tackle the challenges.

The issue of research in cardiovascular diseases in …

Read more

Mood disorders: Exploring the placebo effect, improving treatment and the promise of pharmacogenetics


Antidepressant drugs which alleviate symptoms of depression have received much attention in the news recently, showing that the UK is the 7th highest country in the West to prescribe the drugs. The astounding rise in NHS spending on these pharmacological agents is suggested to be due to “medicalization” of normal sadness. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of antidepressants are commonly used to treat moderate to severe depression with new evidence showing one of these drugs, citalopram could slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. However, on the other hand another recent study cautions the use of SSRIs during pregnancy as they are found to be linked to a higher incidence of autism spectrum …

Read more

Endocrine disorders: the impact of stress and epigenetics

- 1 Comment

Endocrine disorders span a range of conditions, from diabetes and thyroid disease to stress-related conditions. Stress has been linked to a number of health problems, with the most recent evidence suggesting its involvement in male infertility, allergies and headache.

During the normal stress response, glucocorticoid hormones secreted by the adrenal glands cause several physiological effects, but chronic stress can result in continual release of these hormones, leading to serious mental and physical health problems.

The impact of stress on chronic disease

In a video Q & A published in BMC Medicine, George Chrousos talks about the impact of stress on chronic non-communicable diseases including obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and …

Read more

Preventing mental disorders – from the workplace to pregnancy, how can new policies and interventions influence mental health?

workplace depression

As BMC Medicine and BMC Psychiatry launch a new article collection on the prevention of mental disorders,  Ursula D’Souza, Senior Editor of BMC Medicine and Alice Murray, Executive Editor of BMC Psychiatry, look at some of the new research shaping our thinking on mental health.

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness week in the UK, an initiative which helps to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues. The global burden of mental disorders presents a growing challenge for health systems, and shows the need to make prevention of these conditions a public health priority.

To achieve this the World Health Organization and National Institute of Mental Health have established strategic …

Read more

Dementia: innovative approaches in therapy, care and diagnostics


Late last year, ministers, researchers, pharmaceutical companies and charities from around the world gathered together at the G8 dementia summit  to make a declaration and commitment for global action against dementia. This led to a significant increase in the budget to spend on research into the prevalence, diagnosis, clinical care, and policy issues in dementia, and the latest advances in these topics were highlighted last week at the 16th national conference on dementias in London. Some of the main discussions from the meeting have been highlighted below.

Prevalence and improving quality of life

Martin Prince gave an excellent overview of groundbreaking global epidemiological studies including some from the 10/66 Dementia Research Group. One of …

Read more

Latest advances in respiratory medicine from the British Thoracic Society 2013 meeting

lung infection cropped

Respiratory diseases are one of the major chronic diseases and considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to cause 60% of mortality worldwide. Significant research is being carried out on the diagnosis, treatment, management and care of patients with lung conditions. Clinical and scientific research on these specific topics were discussed at the recent British Thoracic Meeting (BTS 2013), where BMC Medicine joined over 2,100 delegates to hear new developments in the field.

Several clinical trials sessions were highlighted including continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy for obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). A systematic review on randomized clinical trials was described by Daniel Bratton from the MRC Clinical Trials Unit in London, showing CPAP treatment reduces …

Read more