Monday, March 22, 2010

Marriage makes you fat

I won't argue with this one

Married people are twice as likely to become obese than their single counterparts, scientists claim. Greek researchers found that married couples were more likely to become fat due to their significantly changed lifestyle as they “let themselves go”. Married men are three times as likely to suffer obesity while married women are twice as likely to have weight problems, it found.

The research, based on the study of more than 17,000 couples aged between 20 and 70, found that married couples exercised less frequently, had less sex, had poor nutrition and were “comfortable” in their lives. Married couples spend more time eating together, sit in front of the TV more and often order takeaway ready meals while exercising less.

Scientists from Salonica and Ioannina Universities, who presented their research on Friday to the Panhellenic Medical Conference, in Athens, concluded that “abdominal obesity, or belly fat” was the worst problem among married people. Prof Dimitris Kiortsis, one of the study's co-authors, said that obesity was found to be directly related to a change in lifestyle. Prof Kiortsis, from Ioannina University who is also president of the Hellenic Medical Association for Obesity, said most married couples also have less sex, which is considered intense exercise that burns calories.

He said that unmarried individuals originally spend a lot of time keeping fit and making themselves attractive in order to find a partner "but once they get married they let themselves go”. "The need to hunt for a partner is reduced," he said. "Stress and anxiety is reduced in a good marriage, there is less smoking, and therefore one's appetite increases."

The study advised married couples to take up more exercise, to have only one home-cooked meal a day, to avoid snacks, and to follow a Mediterranean diet which includes a lot of fruit, vegetables and olive oil. Prof Dimitris Papazoglou, the other co-author from Salonica University, added: "If one of the partners decides to go on a diet, then the other partner also often follows." "Obesity is the biggest threat to public health in the entire world", he said.


The British boy whose blue-tinted glasses have allowed him to read properly for the first time

Tom Heaffey is a bright 18-year-old with a string of good GCSEs [High School exam results] who wants to be an architect. Yet just three years ago, he was virtually illiterate and predicted to fail his exams. Remarkably, his life has been transformed by a pair of blue-tinted glasses, which have enabled him to read properly for the first time.

Tom, who lives near Norwich and is a BTech art and design student, suffers from a neurological condition called Meares-Irlen syndrome, also known as visual stress. Without glasses, when he looks at a printed page, the text appears to jump about, blur and distort. Other symptoms include headaches and migraines.

Some degree of visual stress may affect up to 20 per cent of the population. When Tom was a child, his mother Sarah, 50, knew he was underperforming at school. 'He used to say the words were "fizzing". Eye tests showed his sight was normal, so his teachers concluded he was a slow learner.' 'Trying to read was exhausting and gave me headaches, so I couldn't concentrate for long,' recalls Tom.

It was not until three years ago, just months before his GCSEs, that he was diagnosed with Meares-Irlen. According to Arnold Wilkins, professor of visual perception at Essex University, the condition is a result of the neurons in the visual part of the brain firing too strongly. 'Different neurons in the brain react to different colours,' explains ProfWilkins. 'We discovered that using tinted lenses and overlays reduces the overactivity of these neurons.'

As a patient will respond differently to each hue, Prof Wilkins developed the Intuitive Colorimeter, a testing device that diagnoses the exact colour an individual needs. Patients are asked to read text on a machine that can generate 110,000 different hues. The correct shade will allow the patient to read clearly. This information is used to make the right tint of coloured lens. Tom's lenses are a dark, turquoise blue. When he first put on his glasses, he felt emotional. 'Suddenly, when I looked at a book, I could see how I should always have been able to see.'

By doing three hours of extra work after school every night, Tom passed ten GCSEs, with one A and three Bs. 'Mum cried when I got my results,' he says.

Precision tints not only help sufferers to read but also reduce eye strain and headaches. They have been shown to help dyslexics, migraine and photosensitive epilepsy sufferers and some children with autism.

There are now about 500 Colorimeters in community optometrist practices and a few NHS hospital vision clinics in the UK. The machine is also used in every college of optometry. However, lenses are not available on the NHS. 'I was horrified that parents have to pay around £200 for them,' says Sarah, who has joined the campaign to ensure that any child who suffers specific reading problems and otherwise considered a normal learner, receives a full vision test. 'The cost of NHS provision would be large,' says Prof Wilkins, 'but in the greater context of the expenditure on learning support, the glasses would pay for themselves.'


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