Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hostility linked to heart disease risk

This is very old news but it probably bears repeating. One previous reference -- from 25 years ago: Diamond, E. L. (1982) The role of anger and hostility in essential hypertension and coronary heart disease. Psychological Bulletin 92, 410-433.

PEOPLE who seem to always be looking for a fight may find themselves at greater risk of heart disease, a new US study suggests. Researchers found that adults whose spouses rated them high on the "antagonism" scale were more likely to have calcium build-up in their heart arteries, an indicator of artery-clogging plaque. The relationship was mainly apparent in older, rather than middle-aged, adults. A number of studies have found a link between hostile temperament and heart disease.

These latest findings, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, suggest that a specific component of hostility - antagonism - is particularly hard on the heart. For the purposes of psychosocial assessment, antagonism refers to a person's tendency to be suspicious of others, argumentative, competitive or emotionally cold. The study subjects included 300 middle-aged and older married couples in which neither spouse had been diagnosed with coronary heart disease.

Dr Timothy Smith and colleagues at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City had participants answer questions about their own temperament and that of their spouses. The researchers also used CT scans to gauge the amount of calcium in study participants' arteries. Calcium is a component of the plaques that harden and narrow the coronary arteries in people with heart disease. A high calcium "score" indicates elevated risks of heart attack and stroke. As mentioned, people with higher antagonism scores, based on their spouses' answers to a standard questionnaire, were more likely to have significant calcium build-up in their arteries.

However, when Dr Smith's team considered study participants' own ratings of their temperament, there was no link between hostility and coronary calcium. In contrast, no plaque build-up was observed in people whose hostility was mainly characterised by outbursts of anger. More research, they said, is needed to understand why argumentative people might have a higher heart disease risk.

Other researchers have theorised that chronic hostility may contribute to heart problems both directly and indirectly. Negative emotions have physiological effects, like raising blood pressure and stirring up stress hormones, which can take a toll on the cardiovascular system over time. In addition, people with hostile personalities may be resistant to adopting healthy habits or following medical advice.


The official "obesity" obsession is hurting a lot of young people

PANIC over childhood obesity has contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of teenage girls starving themselves, vomiting, abusing laxatives and smoking in an effort to shed weight, the author of a national study released today said. The study of 8950 children and adolescents showed an almost doubling of girls aged 12 to 18 engaging in "eating-disordered behaviour" because they believed they were overweight, said Jenny O'Dea, associate professor of nutrition and health education at the University of Sydney. Youth Cultures of Eating showed 18 per cent of girls surveyed in 2006 had starved themselves for at least two days, up from from 9.9 per cent in 2000.

The study, funded by the Australian Research Council, also showed 11 per cent used vomiting for weight loss, up from 3.4 per cent. Eight per cent smoked to suppress appetite, up from 2.4 per cent. The report noted that obesity declined among wealthy teenage girls, from 4.6 per cent in 2000 to 3.9 per cent in 2006.

The number of obese children, boys and girls, was "levelling off", Dr O'Dea said, with a rise from 5.1 per cent in 2000 to 6.4 per cent in 2006. She said the heavy focus on childhood obesity and media attention on "skinny celebrities" such as Paris Hilton were to blame for the increase in eating-disordered behaviour. "I think there has been undoubtedly a media panic and a moral panic about childhood obesity in the last six years and I would certainly suggest that some of that comment has got into the minds of teenage girls who think that losing weight will make them a better and a happier person - that's a big myth," she said. "What schools need to do is tread very, very carefully with obesity prevention and only give positive messages and never do anything that is critical and negative."

The executive officer of the Australasian Society for the Study of Obesity, Tim Gill, agreed there had been "some degree" of panic but said campaigns had been very sensitive. Dr Gill said there had not been any emphasis on weight loss, but on such things as increased physical activity. "There is a difference between clinical eating disorders and self-reported [eating-disordered] behaviour," he said. The level of clinical eating disorders among girls was "very, very low and has been for some time". "The problem of obesity is of equal if not of greater concern . so it would be wrong to stop focusing on obesity for fear that it might increase eating disorders," Dr Gill said. "[But] there has been some moralising . even the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health have both moralised this issue, saying it's a lack of self-control and a lack of will."

The executive officer of the Eating Disorders Foundation, Greta Kretchmer, said the obesity epidemic had "almost been a scare campaign" and there had been an increase in teenage girls calling the foundation's helpline over the past five years. "We're certainly aware that there is an increase in eating-disordered behaviour," she said.



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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