EASO Early Career Award in Childhood Obesity 2022

EASO Early Career Award in Childhood Obesity 2022

Mohammed HuddaMohammed Hudda completed an undergraduate degree in Mathematics from the University of Birmingham in 2013 and then an MSc in Medical Statistics at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Mohammed joined the Population Health Research Institute at St George’s University of London as a Research Fellow in 2015, went on to complete his PhD within the same department in 2021 and now holds a Senior Research Fellow position. Mohammed has research interests in childhood obesity, health inequalities and statistical methods for clinical risk prediction. His primary research has focused on the accurate assessment of childhood adiposity and the long-term consequences of childhood obesity, with a particular focus on ethnic minority groups.

“The huge impact of excess adiposity and obesity in childhood on type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk in adulthood makes it even more essential to have accurate and practical methods for effective monitoring, prevention and management of adiposity, overweight and obesity in childhood.”

Great to meet you Mohammad, and congratulations on winning the EASO Early Career Award in Childhood Obesity! Please share your back story with us.

My family are originally from India but I was born and grew up in London, England, after my parents migrated to the UK in the 70s. Throughout my childhood, mathematics was my forte and I was continuously told by teachers to pursue maths further in life. As I matured and attended university to study an undergraduate degree in math, I took a keen interest in statistics. Much of the careers advice I had received involved pursuing a career in the financial sector. After several failed applications to secure a placement within this field, I was left disheartened not knowing how to proceed. I came to the realisation that I wanted to do something more meaningful with my career and my lack of interest in finance was likely the reason for my lack of job offers. Prof. Richard Riley, a statistics professor of mine, suggested that I pursue a career in medical statistics which would provide an opportunity to use my skills in statistics to give back to society. That is exactly what I did and now, 9 years on as a postdoctoral researcher at St George’s University of London, I can proudly say that I have no regrets!

Fascinating and glad we didn’t lose you to banking. Medical statistics is a broad field, how did you develop an interest in obesity?

Since joining St George’s University I’ve worked closely with Professor Peter Whincup, who has spent decades working within the areas of childhood adiposity and cardio-metabolic health. It is largely down to his mentorship and guidance that I have excelled within this area of obesity research, as it was Prof. Whincup who exposed me to the issues surrounding the assessment of childhood adiposity.

Thus, my main research area has focused on improving the assessment of adiposity, overweight and obesity in childhood populations. The huge impact of excess adiposity and obesity in childhood on type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk in adulthood makes it even more essential to have accurate and practical methods for effective monitoring, prevention and management of adiposity, overweight and obesity in childhood.

I am also interested in a number of other research areas including statistical methods for risk prediction, the impact on peer-review on adherence to best practice reporting guidelines, and the decline in antibody response following COVID-19 infection.

Help us learn more about your award winning research:

My research has focused on exploring a range of approaches to improve childhood body fatness assessment. Specific objectives of this recent work conducted as part of my PhD were to: (i) provide adjusted BMI-based obesity thresholds for South Asian and Black children based on equivalent insulin resistance levels in Whites; (ii) derive novel weight-for-height indices providing improved body fatness assessment; (iii) develop and validate a fat mass prediction model, based upon weight and height and compare its accuracy with established assessment techniques of bioelectric impedance and dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA); and (iv) compare associations between childhood fat mass and adult type 2 diabetes risk with those of weight-based measures. The findings of this body of work showed that adjusted obesity thresholds at equivalent insulin resistance levels were markedly lower for ethnic minority groups, compared with Whites. Moreover, several height-independent weight-for-height indices were derived with appreciably stronger correlations with fat mass index than BMI. Crucially, I developed and validated prediction model using weight, height, age, sex and ethnicity produced fat mass estimates as accurate as bioelectric impedance and dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Finally, childhood fat mass was shown to be more strongly associated with adult type 2 diabetes risk than weight, independent of height. These results have important implications for; the assessment of childhood body fatness in clinical practice and population level surveillance, the quantification of body composition in individuals and also for quantifying the impact of excess adiposity in childhood on the risk of type 2 diabetes in adulthood. In particular, the developed and validated prediction model, provides a cost-effective and very accurate method for improved childhood body fatness assessment for clinical and public health practice. This approach provides a method for shifting the focus from weight-based surrogate measures towards fat mass assessment.

Thanks Mohamed, your work will have excellent practical application within the field! What are your future career plans?

My future research plans involve exploring further the relationship between childhood body fatness and the long-term risk of a range of diseases in adulthood. I wish to focus on evaluating current thresholds for defining childhood obesity based on fat mass assessment and the discriminative ability of such thresholds at identifying individuals at higher risk of developing disease.

Your risk prediction work sounds very interesting and could be very helpful in public health improvement, particularly in identifying key potential targets for prevention interventions.

Aside from your professional interests, what are your hobbies and other interests?

I spend much of my spare time with my family and friends but also volunteering with a charity focused on improving the lives of very poor orphans and widows. I also enjoy travelling and exploring new countries around the globe.