Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fitness `is more important than beating obesity in middle age'

This sounds more like the truth but it is probably still exaggerated. Genes are the big factor. The "findings" below are based on self-reports, with all the doubts inherent in that. It is a study of what people say, not of what they do. Psychologists are well aware of the gap between those two things -- which is why we try to validate our tests against actual behaviour

Fitness is more important than thinness in retaining mobility, strength and balance in old age. Middle-aged people who do half an hour's vigorous activity three times a week are half as likely as the sedentary to suffer physical decline and impaired mobility as they get older. "Use it or lose it" was the message, said Dr Iain Lang, of the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, who, with collaborators in the United States, studied data on more than 10,000 people aged between 50 and 69 for up to six years.

Importantly, he said, the benefit of exercise was enjoyed regardless of body mass index. All groups roughly halved their risks of physical decline by doing exercise - so that a fit obese person did as well, or better, than a thin, unfit one. "Some people take up exercise and then give up when they don't lose weight," Dr Lang said. "This research shows that you get important benefits from exercise even if it doesn't help you lose weight."

The research was carried out using data from two ongoing studies, the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and the US Health and Retirement Study. Both are long-term studies of the changes that take place as middle-aged people move into old age. Both groups - 8,692 in the US, and 1,507 in England - were asked at the start if they did any vigorous exercise. This could include sports, heavy housework, mowing the lawn, sweeping up leaves, or any job that involves physical labour and would make a participant feel out of breath or sweaty. The team worked out from the answers how many of the participants did at least 30 minutes of this type of exercise at least three times a week. They then compared this with the experience of physical decline in the participants.

They conclude in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that those who maintained a reasonable level of physical activity were more likely to be able to walk distances, climb stairs, maintain their sense of balance, stand from a seated position with their arms folded, or sustain their hand grip as they got older. Across all weight ranges, the rate of decreased physical ability later in life was twice as high among those who were less physically active. Being overweight or obese was linked with an increase in disability, but much of that increased risk could have been eliminated by keeping fit.

As examples, 21.1 per cent of English people of normal body mass index (20-24.9) became physically impaired over the course of the study if they did no exercise; only 12.4 per cent of them did if they were active. Among the obese (BMI 30 or over), 31.6 per cent of the English participants became physically impaired if they did no exercise, while only 15.4 per cent of the active ones did. Indeed, being physically active almost eliminated the difference in deterioration otherwise noticed between the obese and those of normal weight. The American data showed similar, if less striking, results.

"There are three truly interesting results from this research," Dr Lang said. "The first is that our findings were similar from the US and the UK, which suggests that they are universal. The second is that exercise in middle age does not just benefit people in terms of weight loss - it also helps them to remain physically healthy and active later in life. And the third is that, in terms of results from activity, weight does not seem to be an issue."


Alternative medicines a `health risk'

The unregulated sale of alternative medicines was putting the public at risk, a fatal accident inquiry was told. Elaine Ferrie said an over-the-counter medical supplement was to blame for the death of her brother. She told Perth Sheriff Court that Norman Ferrie, 64, was a "strong, healthy man who never needed to go to the doctor".

Mr Ferrie, of Invergowrie, died from liver failure in 2004, two months after he began taking glucosamine tablets to counter joint pain in his knee. His doctor said that he appeared to have developed an allergic reaction to the medicine.

Ms Ferrie, 59, said: "There should be testing similar to that for prescription medicines to ensure they are manufactured safely." Glucosamine is a chemical that occurs naturally within the joints and is one of the most popular treatments for joint pain.



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].

9). And how odd it is that we never hear of the huge American study which showed that women who eat lots of veggies have an INCREASED risk of stomach cancer? So the official recommendation to eat five lots of veggies every day might just be creating lots of cancer for the future! It's as plausible (i.e. not very) as all the other dietary "wisdom" we read about fat etc.

10). And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This is another anti-fat scare that emanates from a much-cited editorial in a prominent medical journal that said so. Yet this editorial offered no statistical basis for its opinion -- an opinion that flies directly in the face of the available evidence.

Even statistical correlations far stronger than anything found in medical research may disappear if more data is used. A remarkable example from Sociology:
"The modern literature on hate crimes began with a remarkable 1933 book by Arthur Raper titled The Tragedy of Lynching. Raper assembled data on the number of lynchings each year in the South and on the price of an acre's yield of cotton. He calculated the correla-tion coefficient between the two series at -0.532. In other words, when the economy was doing well, the number of lynchings was lower.... In 2001, Donald Green, Laurence McFalls, and Jennifer Smith published a paper that demolished the alleged connection between economic condi-tions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his anal-ysis in 1929. After the Great Depression hit, the price of cotton plummeted and economic conditions deteriorated, yet lynchings continued to fall. The correlation disappeared altogether when more years of data were added."
So we must be sure to base our conclusions on ALL the data. But in medical research, data selectivity and the "overlooking" of discordant research findings is epidemic.


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