Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Counterproductive propaganda

Anti-smoking ads have opposite effect on teens

The more exposure middle school students have to anti-smoking ads, the more likely they are to smoke, according to a new University of Georgia study. Hye-Jin Paek, an assistant professor at UGA, found that many anti-smoking ad campaigns have the opposite effect on teenagers, backfiring because they actually encourage the rebellious nature of youth. "They don't want to hear what they should do or not do," Paek said. Instead, she said, ads should focus on convincing teens their friends are heeding the anti-smoking warning because peer pressure has the most direct effect.

Paek and co-author Albert Gunther from the University of Wisconsin-Madison examined surveys from 1,700 middle school students about their exposure to anti-smoking ads and their intention to smoke. The study will be published in the August issue of the journal "Communication Research." The study is the latest in a string of research showing that anti-smoking campaigns often have ad little to no impact on teens. In 2002, a study commissioned by an ant i-smoking foundation found tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris' youth anti-smoking campaign was making students more likely to smoke.

Paek said the data showed middle school students are more like to be influenced by the perception of what their friends are doing, and that anti-smoking campaigns should be more focused on peer relations. "Rather than saying, 'don't smoke,' it is better to say, "your friends are listening to this message and not smoking," she said. "It doesn't really matter what their peers are actually doing."


"Ideal" weight for mothers promoted

Damned if you do and damned if you don't

Mothers who gain or lose a great deal of weight between pregnancies could be putting themselves and their babies at risk, experts have said. Even quite small changes in body mass index (BMI), of one or two units, between pregnancies are enough to have effects, say Jennifer Walsh and Deirdre Murphy, two obstetricians from Dublin. An increase of this size has been linked with a doubling of the risks of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and having a large baby. Greater increases in weight between pregnancies add to the risk of stillbirth and other complications, they say in an editorial in the British Medical Journal.

On the other hand, they add, women losing a lot of weight run a greater risk of having premature babies, or babies of low birth-weight. The message is that women should try to maintain a healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy ? and to be the same weight at any subsequent pregnancies.

Dr Walsh, a specialist registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology at Coombe Women's Hospital in Dublin, and Professor Murphy, Professor of Obstetrics at Trinity College Dublin, say: "Women of reproductive age are bombarded with messages about diet, weight and body image. "There is growing concern on the one hand about an epidemic of obesity, and on the other about a culture that promotes `size zero' as desirable, irrespective of a woman's natural build. "Pregnancy is one of the most nutritionally demanding periods of a woman's life, with an adequate supply of nutrients essential to support foetal wellbeing and growth. "With at least half of all pregnancies unplanned, women need to be aware of the implications of their weight for pregnancy, birth and the health of their babies. "We should ensure that women of low body mass index attain a healthy weight before conception to reduce the risk of preterm birth and low infant birth-weight. "We should also counsel women with a history of previous preterm birth to maintain a healthy weight to prevent recurrence."

The authors cited studies on the effects of weight gain and weight loss. The first, a Swedish study, followed 207,534 women from 1992 to 2001 to examine the link between changes in body mass index and the impact on a baby and mother's health. The second, which was published last year in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found that women whose BMI fell by five or more units between pregnancies had a higher risk of premature birth than women whose weight remained stable or increased. The effect was heightened among women who had already experienced one premature birth.

Tam Fry, board member of the National Obesity Forum, said: "I think these doctors are absolutely right. "It's fundamental that we teach girls at school not only to lose weight for their own health but also because of the risks to their child of entering motherhood being overweight." Being overweight was associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, which could result in difficulty conceiving, he said. "There is a known association between overweight and obese parents and the likelihood of a child being overweight themselves. "Women should be aiming for a normal weight before they have their second child. "Women also go the other way and starve themselves to plummet to a goal weight. They try to get down to a certain weight, and that is also wrong."



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.


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