Friday, November 23, 2012

Muscly boys aren't just a hit with the girls - they live longer, too

This may just show that people who are in indifferent health don't get much exercise

After a summer witnessing crowds of screaming girls jostling to catch a glimpse of Olympic diver Tod Daley's toned torso, there can't have been many young men who didn't feel a twinge of jealousy.

But now it seems there could be more to having the teenager's athletic physique than unfailing female attention - it could help you live longer too.  A team of researchers from Sweden have found muscular boys will live longer than their weaker friends.

And even if they are overweight by the time they get to adulthood, those with stronger muscles tend to live longer.

The team tracked more than one million Swedish male adolescents, all conscripts to the army and aged 16 to 19, over a period of 24 years.

The teenagers were asked to grip and to do leg curls and arm push ups  as a test of muscle strength.

The scientists found those with low strength, weak legs and arms and with a limp grip, were more likely to die earlier.

The report also suggests that physically weaker people might be more mentally vulnerable.

But the study, published in the BMJ, stressed that it does not mean building muscle through excessive weight training would make you live longer.

They have concluded that a basis of muscle strength instead reflects general fitness.

The leading single cause of death was accidental injury, followed by suicide, cancer, heart disease and stroke.

A third of the deaths were due to other causes and the researchers grouped these together for their calculations.

The teenagers who scored above average on muscular strength at the start of the study had a 20 to 35 per cent lower risk of early death from any cause and also from cardiovascular diseases.

They also had a 20 to 30 per cent lower risk of early death from suicide and were up to 65 per cent less likely to have any psychiatric diagnosis, such as schizophrenia or depression.

But the 16 to 19 year olds with the lowest level of muscular strength had the highest risk of dying before they reached their middle ages.

While the effect of poor muscular fitness in those observed was similar to other risk factors for early death, such as obesity and high blood pressure, researchers still found the link between early death and muscle power remained after the other factors were taken into account.

The study also found thin and fat men alike fared worse in terms of life expectancy if they had weaker than average muscles, while more muscular men had better survival odds even if they were overweight.

But experts stress the findings do not mean muscle building through excessive weight training makes you live longer.


Does eating chocolate make you clever?

There is quite a long lag in Nobel prizes.  People tend to get prizes in their 70s for work they did in their 30s  -- or thereabouts.  So high chocolate consumption at the present seems unlikely to have a causative relationship

Does eating chocolate make you clever?  It seems that might well be the case after scientists in New York found the higher a country's chocolate consumption, the more Nobel laureates it spawns.

The new research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is tongue-in-cheek, admits the lead author to Dr. Franz Messerli.

But nonetheless, the results did show a surprisingly powerful scientific correlation between the amount of chocolate consumed in each country and the number of Nobel laureates it produced, he wrote in the journal.

The Swiss, naturally, take the lead, with the Swedes and Danes following closely behind. The UK was above average in the table

Dr Messerli, a Swiss doctor now working at Columbia University in New York, told Reuters Health: ‘I started plotting this in a hotel room, because I had nothing else to do, and I could not believe my eyes.

'All the countries lined up neatly on a graph, with higher chocolate intake tied to more laureates.'

It’s thought that eating chocolate might improve our ability to think as it is high in antioxidants known as flavonoids, which are also found in cocoa, green tea, red wine and some fruits.

Studies have suggested that flavonoids may improve thinking and reduce the risk of dementia by increasing the blood flow to the brain.

Dr Messerli wrote in the journal: ‘Since chocolate consumption has been documented to improve cognitive function, it seems most likely that in a dose-dependent way, chocolate intake provides the abundant fertile ground needed for the sprouting of Nobel laureates.’

When it comes to chocolate, several other researchers have suggested dark varieties might benefit the brain, the heart and even help cut excess pounds.

But to produce just one more laureate, the nation would have to up its cocoa intake by a whopping 275 million pounds a year, Dr Messerli added.

He estimates that every citizen would have to eat 400 grams of chocolate a year to increase the number of Nobel laureates in a given country by one per million inhabitants, if the correlation holds true.

And in the 'conflict of interest section' of his article, Dr Messerli does admit to daily chocolate consumption. Despite the tongue-in-cheek tone of the research, he added that he does believe chocolate has real health effects, although he warns people to stay away from the sweeter varieties and opt for dark.


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