Thursday, December 07, 2006


It's good PR for them to a deluded public -- even though all the longevity studies show that diet and lifestyle changes do NOT prolong life

Many companies are starting to sound like moms: They're pushing employees to eat their vegetables and go outside and play.... At retailer Replacements Ltd., 250 employees take part in a walking program organized by the company nurse. T-shirt manufacturer American Apparal has 80 loaner bikes, locks and helmets for employees and hosted an employee screening of "Fast Food Nation," a film where the villain is the meat industry.

Insurance company The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. is among those using price manipulation in its cafeteria to encourage employees to eat right. It's increasing the prices on fatty foods and using the extra money to fund a subsidy for healthy sandwiches, cut fruit and salads.

Such "Twinkie taxes" are now in place at 7 to 10 percent of corporate cafeterias run by food service company Sodexho, up from almost none three years ago, according to the company.

Mounting healthcare costs are driving the changes. Employee assistance company ComPsych Corp. runs what it calls "trainwreck exercises," in which companies compute how long they can absorb healthcare cost increases before they become unprofitable. The first client that did the exercise realized it only had 18 months. Health insurance premiums for 2006 rose 7.7 percent - twice the rate of inflation.

While some companies are responding to the higher healthcare cost by cutting employees' coverage and shifting more costs to the employees, others are doing everything they can to convince employees to adopt healthier habits in the hopes they will avoid diseases caused or complicated by eating poorly and being overweight or inactive.

After L.L. Bean increased the price for burgers and lowered the price for salads in its cafeteria fruit and salad bar purchases doubled while French fry and burger sales fell by half.

When railroad company Union Pacific Corp. opened a new headquarters in Omaha two years ago it ordered its cafeteria operator to hire a full-time dietitian for the site and cut the fat and calories on every item by 10 percent. The company runs a "Know Your Numbers" program that drills into employees' heads figures such as the 30 minutes of exercise they should be getting a day and the 3,500 calories in a pound. "The biggest thing the guys come back and say they learned the most about is portion size," said Marcy Zauha, the company's director of health and safety. "They didn't understand how much they were eating."

Besides cost cutting, another factor behind the programs is the amount of time employees spend at work. If workers don't have access to fruits and vegetables on the job, they will need to consume between one and two servings every waking hour after work to meet the goal of eating 5 to 9 servings a day, according to the California Department of Human Services. To reach the recommended 10,000 steps a day, sedentary workers would have to spend most of their evenings in motion, the department said.

Even a little daily exercise can boost health, said Dr. Antronette (Toni) Yancey, associate professor at the UCLA School of Public Health. Yancey collaborated with the Ministry of Health in Mexico, where everyone gathers at 11 a.m. each morning for 10 minutes of exercise to music. The result, after a year, was an average .45 pound weight loss - an improvement from the one pound a year, on average, people gain as they age. "Especially as it relates to physical activity, people have demonstrated that they're not going to make a lot of changes on their own," Dr. Yancey said. "If we're going to make a big dent - lower healthcare costs, improve productivity and morale - you have to make it easier to do than not do."

Yancey and others say that work gyms are used primarily by people who would exercise anyway. For everyone else, a little manipulation goes a long way. Her suggestions include incorporating exercise breaks in to the work day, restricting parking close to the building, limiting elevator access to people with disabilities, widening and brightening stairwells and hosting walking meetings. (People seldom refer to the notes they take during seated meetings, she says.)

Price manipulation worked for senior business analyst Kathy Blaszczyk at The Hartford, who started buying a flank steak salad with grilled corn when the price dropped from $6 to $4.70. "I love it, but I never used to get it," she said. "I have in my head a $5 threshold."

Having the company's top leaders embrace the program also helps. Dan T. Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A, Inc. restaurants and a runner, has cajoled 265 company employees to run the January Walt Disney World marathon or half-marathon with him. Most of the runners joining him "have never done anything like that distance-wise," Cathy said of his group. "There's a lot of first timers." Cathy said he's motivated by his religious belief [No argument there] that the body is a temple and a more practical thought. "We live in a time when there really is a healthcare crisis," said Cathy. "Every segment of society needs to make a contribution."



Thousands of young women desperate for a "size zero" figure are putting their lives at risk by taking laxatives in the mistaken belief that it speeds up weight loss. Mintel, the consumer goods analyst, has found that the British market for laxatives is now worth œ52 million, up 33 per cent from 2001. The company is is no doubt that desperate slimmers are behind the surge. "On the flipside of over-eating in Britain, we have seen a pre-occupation with undereating and perpetual dieting," said David Bird, senior market analyst at Mintel.

Experts on eating disorders say laxative abuse is now rife, with young people in particular totally unaware of the huge danger it poses to their health. Typically women take "lifestyle laxatives" after bingeing on high-energy, sugar-rich food, hoping that this strategy will prevent the calories from being absorbed. A smaller group of people suffering from bulimia nervosa use laxatives, as well as making themselves sick, to "purge" their systems after a binge.

Steve Bloomfield, a spokesman for the Eating Disorders Association, said that because laxatives are widely available at chemists and supermarkets, young women in particular think they are totally harmless. "Most people binge on sugary foods which are absorbed very quickly, so taking laxatives doesn't actually work if the intention is to lose weight. But they rob the body of vital vitamins and minerals, and, most significantly, potassium, which can result in heart failure."

Research commissioned by the Eating Disorders Association found that one in five women took laxatives to lose weight, with the figures far higher (11 per cent) among female students. The association said that cases it had studied showed a clear pattern of young women who started out just taking one or two laxatives a day but ended up taking dozens as their digestive system adjusted. In extreme cases it ceased to function without the aid of large doses of pills. Mr Bloomfield said that with laxatives cheap and now advertised on prime-time television, girls are learning about them from an earlier age. "A few years ago young people didn't really know about laxatives or where to get them. Now they are in no doubt."

Celia Badley, 42, now an anorexia counsellor, took 20 to 30 laxatives a day in her teens. "When I took them, they made me feel I was losing weight because my tummy was flat, but I didn't lose any weight longer-term. "The side effects were shocking - terrible stomach pain and the inevitable rushing to the loo at inappropriate moments. They were easy to get, even years ago. I would just go from chemist to chemist until I had enough. I now have a very sluggish digestive system and need to eat huge amounts of fibre to avoid constipation. "The key thing to stop people using laxatives is not really to campaign on the dangers, even though they are dangerous. The only thing that would have stopped me taking them at the time was if I had known they did not make me lose weight."

However, the risks of taking large numbers of laxatives are serious. Melissa Booth died of heart failure, aged just 17, as a result of her use of laxatives and diuretics. Speaking to The Times yesterday, Melissa's father Gary recalled how she promised not to take any more laxatives after having undergone hospital treatment for her bulimia. "The Saturday after she came home she begged us not to send her back and promised she wouldn't take them any more," he said. However, she had a heart attack during the night and was found dead the next morning. "She didn't die of bulimia. She died because of a lack of potassium in her system, which triggered a heart attack. "Nothing has changed since then," said Mr Booth. "In fact I think these tablets are even easier to get now."


Again: Cell phones 'don't raise cancer risk'

The attention-seekers will never be satisfied with mere evidence, of course

Using a cell phone does not increase a person's risk of cancer, according to a broad study released today involving more than 400,000 Danish cell phone users. A team of researchers used data on the entire population of Denmark to determine that neither short- nor long-term use of mobile phones was linked to a greater risk of tumours of the brain and nervous system, salivary gland or eyes, leukemia or cancer overall. It is estimated that more than two billion people worldwide use cell phones.

"I think the results of this study are quite reassuring," Joachim Schuz of the Danish Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen, the lead researcher, said from Denmark. The study, one of the most comprehensive to date, represented the latest evidence endorsing the safety of mobile phones. The data available to the researchers allowed them to look at a large number of mobile users and assess potential risks many years after they first used them. "The big advantage is a whole nation is included in the study," Mr Schuz said.

The phones emit electromagnetic fields that can penetrate into the brain, and some scientists have sought to determine if this could cause cancer or other health problems. Mr Schuz's team studied data on 420,095 Danish mobile phone users (357,553 men and 62,542 women) who first subscribed for mobile service between 1982 and 1995 and were followed through 2002 - meaning some were tracked for two decades. The researchers then compared their cancer incidence to the rest of Denmark's population. A total of 14,249 cancer cases were seen among the mobile telephone users, a number that was lower than would be expected for that population, according to the study appearing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

"We were not able to identify any increased risks of any cancers that could be related to the use of the cellular phones," John Boice, a cancer epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University who worked on the research, said. Mr Boice said the type of radiation involved in cell phones was not known to damage cells or DNA. "So there's no biological mechanism that would suggest that even this type of exposure could cause cancer or DNA damage," he said.

The study reinforces the consensus among leading health organisations that mobile phones did not cause harmful health effects, a wireless industry group said. "The overwhelming majority of studies that have been published in scientific journals around the globe show that wireless phones do not pose a health risk," said Joseph Farren, spokesman for CTIA, the Washington-based wireless industry group.



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter? It is just about pure fat. Surely it should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

9). For a summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and no lasting harm from them has ever been shown.


No comments: