Friday, March 16, 2007


As little as five minutes of exercise could help smokers quit, says a new study. Research published in the international medical journal Addiction showed that moderate exercise, such as walking, significantly reduced the intensity of smokers' nicotine withdrawal symptoms. "If we found the same effects in a drug, it would immediately be sold as an aid to help people quit smoking," said Dr. Adrian Taylor, the study's lead author and professor of exercise and health psychology at the University of Exeter.

Taylor and colleagues reviewed 12 papers looking at the connection between exercise and nicotine deprivation. They focused on exercises that could be done outside a gym, such as walking and isometrics, or the flexing and tensing of muscles. According to their research, just five-minutes of exercise was often enough to help smokers overcome their immediate need for a nicotine fix. After various types of moderate physical exertion, researchers asked people to rate their need for a cigarette. People who had exercised reported reduced a desire.

"What's surprising is the strength of the effect," said Dr. Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London. West was not involved in the review. "They found that the acute effects of exercise were as effective as a nicotine patch," he said. West cautioned that it was unknown how long the effects of exercise would last. "You could in theory use exercise to deal with short bouts of nicotine cravings, but we don't know if it would help in the longer term," he said. It is likely that exercise would have to be combined with a larger strategy of other anti-smoking techniques to be successful in helping people quit.

Nearly anything that distracts people from smoking is thought to help, but scientists have long suspected that exercise might have a more potent effect. Taylor theorized that exercise could produce the mood-enhancing hormone dopamine, which could, in turn, reduce smokers' nicotine dependence.

Still, experts were not convinced about the study's practical applications. "Doctors can tell patients to do things until they're blue in the face, but the limiting factor may be getting people to actually take up exercise," said Dr. Peter Hajek, professor of clinical psychology at Queen Mary University Hospital in London. Hajek was not involved in the study. Hajek said that if people were taught simple exercises, including isometric exercises they could do at their desk, they could potentially stave off their need for a cigarette break. "When you are dying for a cigarette, you can try to exercise instead," he said.


Journal abstract

The acute effects of exercise on cigarette cravings, withdrawal symptoms, affect and smoking behaviour: a systematic review

Aim: To review the effects of a single session of exercise on cigarette cravings, withdrawal symptoms and smoking behaviour.

Methods: A systematic search and critical appraisal of all 14 relevant studies.

Results: All 12 studies that compared a bout of exercise with a passive condition reported a positive effect on cigarette cravings, withdrawal symptoms and smoking behaviour. Two other studies that compared two intensities of exercise revealed no differences in outcomes. Single and multi-item measures of cigarette cravings, withdrawal symptoms and negative affect decreased rapidly during exercise and remained reduced for up to 50 minutes after exercise. Effect sizes for seven studies that assessed ‘strength of desire to smoke’ showed a mean reduction, 10 minutes after exercise, of 1.1 (SD 0.9). Four studies reported a two- to threefold longer time to the next cigarette following exercise. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms were reduced with an exercise intensity from as high as 60–85% heart rate reserve (HRR) (lasting 30–40 minutes) to as low as 24% HRR (lasting 15 minutes), and also with isometric exercise (for 5 minutes). All but one study involved participants temporarily abstaining for the purposes of the experiment. Distraction was probably not the primary reason for the effects. [What if I say that it probably was and that any distraction would do equally well?]

Conclusions: Relatively small doses of exercise should be recommended as an aid to managing cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Further research to understand the mechanisms involved, such as stress reduction or neurobiological mechanisms, could lead to development of more effective and practical methods to reduce withdrawal phenomena.

Now living together makes you fat!

It's all men's fault, of course

Men and women might belong to the same species but they can have very different eating habits. Women are generally fruit eaters who are able to eat their fruit whole. Men, on the other hand, tend to eat less fruit unless someone (usually a woman) cuts it into pieces for them. They're also likely to eat fewer vegetables, are more likely to be meat eaters, while women are more likely to eat chicken and fish or be vegetarian. So what happens when they move in together - whose eating habits rule and can it be a recipe for becoming overweight?

While some research suggests the first year of living together is a time of increased risk of weight gain for both sexes, a review of research into the eating habits of cohabiting and married couples in the UK, USA and Australia found that in general, women came off worse. Although men often picked up healthier food habits when they moved in with a woman, women ended up eating more foods high in fat and sugar, and put on weight, according to the report by the Human Nutrition Research Centre at the University of Newcastle in the UK.

"It's hard to eat as many vegetables as I'd like because my partner will only eat potatoes, corn, salad leaves, carrot and avocado - unless you count baked beans. He's into English stodge and I like a Mediterranean diet," complains a friend who moved in with her partner last year. "I tend to tailor my choices to what he eats because I don't want to cook two different meals at night - but I'm trying to find more ways to adapt our meals so I get more vegetables."

So far she's not gained any extra kilos, but ask would-be weight losers when they gained weight, and many will tell you it's when they got married. That's the observation of Marie Elliott, who leads four Weight Watchers' meetings a week in Camden in Sydney. "I lost weight for my wedding, but I started gaining it once I was married. Maybe it's because you get a bit more relaxed. If you're cooking for someone else and you want to impress them you might make dessert more often, and whereas you might not drink while you're alone, when you're living with a partner there's always someone to share a drink with. Women who start cooking for a man might also start serving larger portions," she says.

But once the weight is on, men and women need different approaches to getting it off, according to dietitian Karen Miller-Kovach, Chief Scientific Officer with Weight Watchers in the US. "Both men and women are emotional eaters, but women overeat when they're sad, while men tend to overeat when they're happy - when they're out with the boys or they're celebrating an anniversary," says Miller-Kovach, who is the author of She Loses, He Loses: The Truth About Men, Women and Weight Loss (to be published in the US in April).

And while it's common for women to believe they're fat when they're not, it's common for men to think they're not overweight when they are - some men have to be obese before they think they're overweight, she adds. "But the things that inspire men and women to lose weight or to eat healthier are different. While women are more likely to change their eating [habits] to prevent a health problem, men often wait until they get a problem."

If you're a woman who wants to encourage her partner to eat better or lose weight, Miller-Kovach's advice is to give him a problem that can be fixed by having a healthier diet or losing weight. "Men are problem solvers - if you can present him with a problem, like the fact that he now needs clothes in a larger size, or needs to lower his cholesterol or blood pressure, a guy will fix it," she says.



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 and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.