Friday, November 20, 2009

Study claims that walking slowly increases heart disease risk

Cheeesh! More colossal stupidity. They've discovered that people in poor health walk more slowly so say that slow walking causes poor health! Unbelievable

Slow walking may not only mean getting to your destination later but it could also be taking its toll on your health, according to a French study. Researchers from the Paris-based medical research institute Inserm found that older people who walk slowly are almost three times more likely to die of heart disease and related causes than older people who walk faster. "The main message for the general population is that maintaining fitness at older age may have important consequences and help preserve life and (muscle) function," researcher Alexis Elbaz, director of research at Inserm, said.

He said the study, which appeared in the journal BMJ, also suggests that a test of walking speed might be used to test the health of elderly patients. Previous studies had linked slow walking speed with increased risk of death over a given period, as well as with falls and other bad health outcomes, but hadn't shown whether it was heart disease or another cause that accounted for that higher risk.

The five-year study, part of Inserm's ongoing Three City Study, involved more than 3200 relatively fit men and women, aged 65 to 85, living in three French cities. At the start of the study in 1999, the scientists assessed the health of each participant and clocked the participants' speeds as they walked down a corridor as fast as possible.

Over the next five years, 209 of the participants died - 99 from cancer, 59 from heart disease and 53 from infectious diseases and other causes - for an overall death rate of almost seven per cent. The death rate among the slowest-walking one-third of participants - those men who walked at the equivalent of about 5.4km/h or slower and women who walked at about 4.8km/h or slower - was 44 per cent higher than that among the two-thirds of participants who had walked faster. Death from heart attack, stroke, and related causes was 2.9 times more common among the slowest one-third of participants than among the participants who had walked faster.

The increase in death from heart disease was seen in both men and women and was unrelated to the ages of participants or how physically active they were. The researchers found no connection between walking speed and other causes of death, including cancer.

Mr Elbaz said one possibility for the result was that the same risk factors that raises heart disease risk - high blood pressure and diabetes - also causes "silent strokes" that make it hard to walk fast. This idea "deserves additional studies to be confirmed," he said.


A food cop failure

New York began requiring calorie counts on restaurant chains' menu boards in July 2008. The first study to examine the regulation's impact, reported in the American Economic Review last May, found that average calorie intake (measured by receipts showing what a sample of customers had bought) remained basically the same at a Manhattan coffee shop and at a Manhattan location of a hamburger chain, while falling by 77 calories at a Brooklyn location of the same chain.

Another study of New York's menu mandate, reported in Health Affairs last month, was even less encouraging. The researchers found that the average calorie count for meals at four fast food restaurants in poor neighborhoods (McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and KFC) rose by 2.5 percent after the rule took effect.

Comparing interview responses to diners' receipts, the researchers found that what people said did not correspond very well to what they ate. The share of diners who said they noticed calorie counts rose dramatically after the menu mandate kicked in, from less than 20 percent to 54 percent. But less than a quarter of those who reported seeing calorie information said it led them to consume fewer calories, and "even those who indicated that the calorie information influenced their food choices," the researchers noted, "did not actually purchase fewer calories."

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene prefers to cite its own, unpublished data, but even these numbers do not live up to the hype that preceded the menu mandate. Surveying 275 locations, the department found statistically significant drops in calorie consumption at just four out of 13 chains (McDonald's, KFC, Au Bon Pain and Starbucks).

It appears that all of these decreases were modest. The one highlighted by the health department was a 23-calorie drop at Starbucks, 9 percent of the pre-regulation average.

"We were not expecting to see miracles," a health department official told The New York Times. But it's hard to see how such weak results -- which may not even represent net reductions, since people could easily make up for fewer calories at Starbucks by eating more elsewhere -- can possibly stop 150,000 people from becoming obese and prevent 30,000 cases of diabetes over five years, as the health department predicted last year. Nor are they likely to translate into an average weight loss of 3 pounds a year, as the California Center for Public Health Advocacy claimed in pushing that state's menu mandate.

Press coverage of the health department's study emphasized a seemingly more impressive finding: Diners who said they saw calorie information and used it in deciding what to eat -- 15 percent of all customers -- consumed 106 fewer calories than the other diners. But that difference cannot be attributed to the menu mandate, since diners who use nutritional information are apt to be the ones who were most calorie-conscious to begin with.

Such customers had this information even before New York decreed that it appear on menu boards, since fast food chains were already providing calorie counts on their Websites and on posters, tray mats and flyers in their restaurants. The impact of making the numbers more conspicuous was therefore limited to the customers who were least inclined to use them, and the same will be true if a similar menu mandate is imposed nationwide.



Anonymous said...


Have you heard of the recent study of the actual sodium consumption of a group of people? It turns out that people naturally regulate their sodium consumption by eating higher or lower sodium foods depending on their recent consumption.

Of course they naturally regulate their intake to consume about 1000 milligrams more than the "recommended" amount. What amazes me is that the obvious conclusion isn't stated namely that the recommendations are most likely wrong because the natural instinct is obviously in control.

jonjayray said...

I posted that on Oct 27