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Meal timings: do they matter?

Could something as simple as when we eat influence our body weight and health? That’s what Professors Alexandra Johnstone and Peter Morgan, of the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen, are investigating. In the aptly named MRC-funded Big Breakfast Study, they’re aiming to distinguish whether meal timings are important – and if so, why.

Professor Peter Morgan and Alexandra Johnstone. Image credit: The Rowett Institute

Do you eat breakfast or usually skip this meal to rush to work, or to sleep for longer? If you don’t eat breakfast is it because you don’t feel hungry and can’t face food first thing? Not feeling hungry in the morning might be because you consumed a lot of calories before sleeping.

If you prefer to hit the snooze button, or eat much later in the day, you’re not alone. The most common pattern of eating in the UK is to consume most of our daily calories in the evening – roughly 40% of our daily energy intake – and fewer calories in the morning.

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A parliamentary lab meeting

Each year scientists pair up with UK parliamentarians to gain an insight into each other’s worlds, as part of the Royal Society’s Parliamentary Pairing Scheme. Glenn Masson, a postdoc from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, shares his experience of welcoming an MP into his lab.

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, arrived on my doorstep at midday. My lab doorstep that is, at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB). He was here to shadow my day and see what we researchers spend our days doing with public funding.

Glenn Masson and Daniel Zeichner at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

Image credit: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

My week in Parliament – the first leg of our exchange – exposed me to the breadth of MP’s interests. As we briskly made our way around Westminster, national and European headlines ran alongside constituents’ concerns; Daniel’s attention was dragged from one issue to the next at an unrelenting pace.

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Going further to make all clinical trials public

By backing the AllTrials campaign we commit to making all clinical research – both positive and negative – publicly available. We’ve taken the lead in the UK by helping our researchers achieve this goal. But there’s still more funders can do, as Síle Lane, Head of international campaigns and policy at Sense about Science, explains.

Síle Lane

The MRC was one of the first organisations to sign up to the AllTrials campaign which is now supported by almost 800 organisations worldwide. AllTrials is the global campaign for all clinical trials to be registered and results reported.

With backing from organisations like the MRC we have been able to put clinical trial transparency on agendas at the highest levels including the World Health Organisation, the UN, national governments and the European Parliament. New laws mandating transparency have been written and serious discussions have started in research organisations and professional societies about new rules they should adopt to support more transparency.

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