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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Scanning through blog after blog, a common theme floods the month of August. Several entries appear to cite this article or some other article that follows the same story. I read through the article and the wording throughout struck me to be quite odd.

In the study, about 51 percent of overweight adults, or roughly 36 million people nationwide, had mostly normal levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood fats called triglycerides and blood sugar.

Almost one-third of obese adults, or nearly 20 million people, also were in this healthy range, meaning that none or only one of those measures was abnormal.

Yet about a fourth of adults in the recommended-weight range had unhealthy levels of at least two of these measures. That means 16 million of them are at risk for heart problems.

The wording appears to compare healthy to unhealthy. Most comparisons make a clear point by showing the contrast between like things. In any case, I later found this to be how the original journal article was also worded. I decided to stop reading journalists’ take on the paper and decided to show the data from it directly.

 

The following chart shows the percentage of people that have risk factors associated with heart disease.
  Normal Weight Overweight Obese
20-34 years old 10.3% 52.3%
35-49 years old 16.9%  – 68.9%
50-64 years old 41.7%  – 79.6%
65-79 years old 54.7%  – 85.7%
80+ years old 56.2%  – 77.1%
20+ years old 23.5% 48.7% 68.3%

Unfortunately the journal article did not mention age specific percents for the overweight category.

Looking at the data in that form one does not see obesity as equaling unhealthiness, just significantly MORE unhealthy than being a normal weight. Also the risk factors affect the obese at a very young age. This should have been what most of the news sources were reporting. Instead we saw headlines like “Some Obese Individuals Appear ‘Metabolically Healthy,’ Without Increased Cardiovascular Risk,” “Half of overweight adults may be heart-healthy,” or “Overweight doesn’t always mean heart risks.”

The news spread like mad into blogs and with that came several entries like this. Browsing through the comments one quickly sees how the majority feels that they fall into the obese but HEALTHY category (statistics from the study shows otherwise). The sad fact remains that this study only focused on ONE aspect of health. Who knows what other diseases follow similar trends. 

In any case, the study shows that not everyone lives a healthy lifestyle (regardless of size). BMI remains an archaic method of determining health. Childhood obesity needs to be addressed, as potential risk factors are significantly higher for obese children.

Living a high quality life free from disease may be impossible, but cutting risk factors can aid you in the goal. This study shows that losing weight can help.

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The CDC ranks Alabama as the 2nd heaviest state with 30.3 % of the population having a BMI of over 30. The state has decided to give state employees a lose weight or pay ultimatum. The state employees (~40,000) have a year to lose weight or start paying $25 a month toward their usually free plan. The Alabama program will go by the body mass index chart — anyone with a BMI over 35 will be charged. 

Alabama, which already charges smokers, will be the first state to charge overweight state workers who don’t work on slimming down, while a handful of other states reward employees who adopt healthy behaviors. The State Employees’ Insurance Board this week approved the plan to charge state workers starting in January 2010 if they don’t have free health screenings.

If the screenings turn up serious problems with blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose or obesity, employees will have a year to see a doctor at no cost, enroll in a wellness program, or take steps on their own to improve their health. If they show progress in a follow-up screening, they won’t be charged. But if they don’t, they must pay starting in January 2011.

William Ashmore, executive director of the State Employees’ Insurance Board, said research shows someone with a body mass index of 35 to 39 generates $1,748 more in annual medical expenses than someone with a BMI less than 25, considered normal.

“It’s terrible,” said health department employee Chequla Motley. “Some people come into this world big.”

“The state will feel good about itself for offering something and the person of size will end up paying $300 a year for the bad luck of having a chronic disease his/her state-sponsored insurance program failed to cover in an appropriate and meaningful fashion,” said Walter Lindstrom, founder of the Obesity Law and Advocacy Center in California.

Computer technician Tim Colley already pays $24 a month for being a smoker and doesn’t like the idea of another charge.  “It’s too Big Brotherish,” he said.

E-K. Daufin of Montgomery, a college professor and founder of Love Your Body, Love Yourself, which holds body acceptance workshops, said the new policy will be stressful for people like her. “I’m big and beautiful and doing my best to keep my stress levels down so I can stay healthy. That’s big, not lazy, not a glutton and certainly not deserving of the pompous, poisonous disrespect served up daily to those of us with more bounce to the ounce.”

The major problem I have with this idea stems from a recent study that showed that ~70% of “obese” people and about ~24% of “normal” weight people have health conditions that were commonly associated with obesity. Weight serves as an indicator of health but it does not appear to be the best indicator of health. Since they screen everyone, simply charging those with health abnormalities might be the fair way to approach this issue. 

It should be interesting to see how this ends up.

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Advances in medical science paired with behavioral and social changes has led to an increase in life expectancy and lowered death rates. With these advances unlikely to stop, quality of life becomes the focal point.

A 21-year study examined the effects of running on disability and mortality rates of adults over 50. At the start of the study in 1984, many scientists thought vigorous exercise would do older people more harm than good. Some feared the long-term effects of the then “new” jogging craze would be floods of orthopedic injuries, with older runners permanently hobbled by their exercise habit. Emeritus Prof. of Medicine James Fries came up with a hypothesis called Compression of Morbidity, which holds that healthy lifestyles will not only prolong survival, but will also decrease the number of years with disability.

The researchers at Stanford began tracking 538 runners from a running club over age 50, comparing them to a similar group of non-runners. The subjects answered yearly questionnaires about their ability to perform everyday activities such as walking, dressing and grooming, getting out of a chair and gripping objects (this served to assess disability). The researchers used national death records to learn which participants died along with the cause of death. Nineteen years into the study, 34 percent of the non-runners had died, compared to only 15 percent of the runners. Death rates were higher in every category {Cancers, Cardiovascular (strokes and coronary artery disease), Neurological, and Infections (Pneumonia)} for non-runners when compared to the runners. 

On average both groups in the study became more disabled after 21 years of aging, but for runners the onset of disability started later. “Runners’ initial disability was 16 years later than non-runners,’” Fries said. “By and large, the runners have stayed healthy.” Not only did running delay disability, but the gap between runners’ and non-runners’ abilities got bigger with time.  

A companion paper also debunked the long standing myth that runners have a higher prevalence of knee and joint problems. The paper also showed that running was not associated with greater rates of osteoarthritis in their elderly runners. Runners  in the study did not require more total knee replacements than non-runners.  

The basic message of the study states that exercise at any age helps reduce disabilities while increasing longevity. That said, the overall feeling of well being and the reduction of tensions as a result running would have been more than enough reason to continue my running habit. Being a relative newcomer (1 year) myself, I will post some tips on how to start running and keep at it. 

 

8/14/08 – 2.32 miles in 18:15 (7:51 per mile pace)

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A new rule requiring chain restaurants in New York to post calorie information on their menus took effect this past Friday. The regulation defines a chain restaurant as one that has 15 or more outlets across the country.  In New York, the rule affected 2,000 restaurants or 10 percent of the total in the city. Among them are such restaurants as McDonald’s, Burger King, Applebee’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks and Subway.

The rule also states that caloric information must be presented in the same font and format as the price and name of the food item. Health inspectors may issue fines from $200 to $2,000 for establishments not in compliance. 

I hope the rule makes it nationwide. This will prevent people claiming ignorance about the unhealthy nature of meals they consume. It will also serve as reality checks for people consistently consuming fast food. Several customers have claimed to be unaffected by the advent of the rule, if it changes a few decisions a week, I think it’s well worth it. 

The enforcement of this rule would definitely affect the way I sometimes attack the dollar menu at fast food restaurants. 

7/22/08 – 4.6 miles in 41:42 (8:56 per mile pace)

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A report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that the overweight populations of 45 U.S. states increased last year. The percentage between 2005 and 2007 grew about 1.7 percent to a record 25.6 percent, or about 54 million people. That pretty much means 1 in every 4 American is obese!

Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee are the states with the biggest percentage in obesity. 30 percent of the adults are considered obese, that’s nearing 1 out of 3 people! Colorado sported the lowest rate at 18.7 percent.

By U.S. regions obesity was most prevalent in the South, with 27 percent of residents classified as obese. In the Midwest, the number was 25.3 percent; in the Northeast, 23.3 percent; and in the West, 22.1 percent, according to the report.

Breaking the numbers down by race/ethnicity and sex, obesity prevalence was highest for non-Hispanic black women (39.0 percent), followed by non-Hispanic black men (32.1 percent).

Education levels play a role, too. For men, obesity prevalence was lowest among college graduates (22.1 percent) and highest among those with some college (29.5 percent) and a high school diploma (29.1 percent). For women, obesity prevalence was lowest among college graduates (17.9 percent) and highest among those with less than a high school diploma (32.6 percent).

The CDC defines obesity as a body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height) of 30 or above. An adult who is 5-feet, 10-inches tall is considered obese if he or she weighs 209 pounds. I know many people remain opposed to using BMI for anything but when one looks at just how much leeway has been given, it’s very scary.

The report contained data about adults but children do not show any immunity to the obesity epidemic. Obesity remains an issue that must be addressed. People have to start being held accountable instead of making silly references to genetics, physiological problems, or fast food companies. Take initiative and make some small changes, it’s not too late or the wrong time. Let’s help each other get healthy!

7/20/08 – 4.1 miles in 36:47

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Low-fat food pyramid

Low-fat food pyramid

The Atkins diet may have just proved itself.

A study, out this week, found that among moderately obese people in Israel (mostly men), the Mediterranean diet and the low-carb Atkins like diet actually outperformed a low-fat diet at promoting weight loss over a two-year period.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fish, sources of “good” fat like olive oil and nuts, veggies, and whole grains. The low-carb diet set limits for carbohydrates but none for calories or fat, dieters in the study were urged to choose vegetarian sources of fat and protein. The low-fat diet allowed no more than 30 percent of daily calories from fat.

Mediterranean food pyramid

Mediterranean food pyramid

The participants were employees of a nuclear research center in Israel. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Israel, and the participants all ate lunch at the center’s cafeteria daily. That allowed the researchers to offer them lunch options that made it easier to stick to their diets. For breakfast and dinner, the dieters were counseled on how to stick to their eating plans and were asked to fill out questionnaires on what they ate. During this two-year period around 85% of the 322 people in the study stuck with their diets.

The less-than-great news is that none of the diets produced huge weight loss: Among the people in the study, those assigned to the low-fat group lost the least, about 6.4 pounds, while the Mediterranean diet group lost an average of 9.7 pounds and the low-carbers lost 10.4 pounds.

Atkins (low-carb) food pyramid

Atkins (low-carb) food pyramid

Surprisingly the low-carb diet also excelled at improving the cholesterol profile, reducing the total cholesterol to HDL ratio by 20 percent, compared to 16 percent in the Mediterranean diet and 12 percent in the low-fat diet. The Mediterranean diet proved most effective against diabetes.

 

Some other interesting facts to note from the study:

  • Most of the weight loss occurs in the first 6 months, weight then increases and plateaus off.
  • 24 people (out of 109) abandoned the low-carb diet, 16 people (out of 109) abandoned the Mediterranean diet, and 10 people (out of 104) abandoned the low-fat diet.
  • The study was partially supported by the Veronica Atkins Research Foundation.

The study showed that the three diets produced similar improvements in things like liver function, cholesterol profiles and overall health. I think any one of these diets can help one’s health but without pairing it with exercise it really does not impact ones life significantly. No quick fixes exist, in the end activity will always remain the leading weight loss solution.

The journal article in its entirety.

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Touted as the best point guard in the class of 2008, Brandon Jennings signed with Pallacanestro Virtus Roma of the Italian pro league. Jennings who played at Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) last season, decided to bypass college and sign a ‘multimillion-dollar’ deal with the Rome-based team.

At 18, Jennings could not enter the NBA draft due to the league’s age restrictions for prospects under 19 years old. Bypassing the opportunity to be a “one year” player after committing to Arizona (he was academically ineligible), Jennings opted to explore immediate payment for his services in Europe.

His advisor, longtime former shoe company representative Sonny Vaccaro, negotiated in Las Vegas during the weekend with Virtus Roma GM Dejan Bodiroga. Without disclosing the exact numbers, Viccaro described the deal as a three-year multimillion dollar deal with buyout considerations that will allow Jennings to leave the team and enter the NBA draft when eligible next year. The GM commented further explaining a comprehensive plan for Brandon that included specific training, education, tutoring programs, and media training.

I honestly have no problems with him going after money. The 19 age limit rule doesn’t make much sense to me, I don’t see a point in a player taking up a scholarship spot in order to leave the very next year. I predict a whole lot of future players exercising this option. Time will tell.

7/16/08 – 4.1 miles in 39:32 (slow run right after biking home)

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