June 26, 2009
It looks like a little extra weight might go a long way. A new Canadian study has found that people who are slightly overweight live longer than those who are of a normal weight. Once again, I’ll emphasize the slightly in case the bold and italics weren’t enough. The study examined approximately 11,000 Canadian adults for a period of 12 years. HealthDay explains:
“Compared to normal-weight people, those who were underweight were 70 percent more likely to die and those who were extremely obese were 36 percent more likely to die, the researchers found.
On the other hand, overweight people were 17 percent less likely to die than those of normal weight. The risk for obese people was the same as for people of normal weight, the study authors noted.”
If you are already reaching for that extra snack, you may want to put it down. The researchers clarify that the results of this study do not mean that people of a normal weight should try and put on extra pounds.
Mark Kaplan, coauthor and a professor of community health, clarified that their study only examined life span and did not focus on quality of life. It is well known that there are many negative health conditions that result from being overweight.
The results of this study were published online in the Obesity journal. It was conducted by researchers at Statistics Canada, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Portland State University, Oregon Health & Science University, and McGill University.
June 23, 2009
The revelation that people who are active are healthier than those who aren’t sounds straight from the Onion News Network, but that’s the conclusion from two new studies today. First, as MedPage Today reports, those who are unfit in their late teens and early twenties are two to three times more likely to develop diabetes than those who exercise.
Study author Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, of Northwestern University, said the findings suggested that the “mechanism by which fitness decreases risk for diabetes is through the regulation of body mass.” Or, in other words, exercise helps keep your weight down.
At the other end of the age scale, socially-active seniors are less likely to suffer age-related disability and death than their inactive counterparts. The observational study found significant deceleration in motor function as activity dropped and, as MedPage Today notes,
“The differences between social butterflies and wallflowers were not subtle — for example, people who were more socially active walked faster than those who were not active.”
One might say the study confirms the old saw, “use it or lose it” – but given that the authors of the study stress “inferences regarding causality must be drawn with great caution,” we’ll go with “use it or possibly lose it.”
June 22, 2009
There are many advantages to having goals in life – besides escaping the incessant nagging of parents and significant others. And now HealthDay reports on a new study that claims having a strong sense of purpose could translate into living longer.
The study, conducted by Dr. Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, examined 1,238 older adults, averaging around 78 years old. None of the participants had dementia when the study started. They were asked to rate their sense of purpose in life and their ability to derive or find meaning. As HealthDay notes,
“When comparing scores, Boyle found that those with a higher sense of purpose had about half the risk of dying during the follow-up period as did those with a lower sense of purpose. And that was true, she said, even after controlling for such factors as depressive symptoms, chronic medical conditions and disability.”
Of course, it’s impossible to derive a causal relationship between a sense of purpose and living longer, but in the meantime, it can’t hurt to set some small goals.
For example: Personal Goal #1: Finish blog. Check. See how easy it is? The study is published in Psychosomatic Medicine and is available here.
June 16, 2009
In our article The Internet – a sober corrective to unruly journalists, Andrew Lih, author of the “Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World’s Greatest Encyclopedia,” noted how a survey finding showing that scientists had much more faith in the accuracy of Wikipedia than the mainstream media reminded him of a Nature study in 2005 which “found that on average, Britannica had 3 errors per article, and Wikipedia had 4 errors.”
Not so fast, responds the Encyclopedia Britannica”s Tom Panelas, who points us towards a brace of articles refuting this study (which was not peer-reviewed), including Britannica’s point-by-point refutation, and Nicholas Carr’s criticism –
“If you were to state the conclusion of the Nature survey accurately, then, the most you could say is something like this: ‘If you only look at scientific topics, if you ignore the structure and clarity of the writing, and if you treat all inaccuracies as equivalent, then you would still find that Wikipedia has about 32% more errors and omissions than Encyclopedia Britannica.’ That’s hardly a ringing endorsement.”
(Carr later joined Britannica’s editorial board). The article’s focus was on the significance of scientists choosing new media entities that reflected consensus within expert communities rather than old media entities driven by “news.” In that respect, both WebMD and Wikipedia represent a return to a more 19th century model of knowledge, but by different paths: WebMD relies on expert guidance before publication, Wikipedia (at least in theory) on expert guidance or intervention after publication. The Encyclopedia Britannica is in this respect, the ultimate old media and new media resource.
June 12, 2009
A new study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) shows massive increases in the amount of acute computer-related injuries, particularly at home and for children under age 5.
The study, which will be published in the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that injuries from computers increased by 732 percent from 1994 to 2006. About 9,300 people each year suffer a computer-related injury, ranging from minor bruises to head injuries.
The authors found that 93 percent of the injuries occurred at home and that the computer monitor was most often to blame. The leading cause of injury for adults was hitting or getting caught on part of a computer, which accounted for 37 percent of cases. Approximately 21 percent of injuries were due to falling computer equipment. Children’s injuries were typically the result of climbing on or playing near a computer. Children under five years old had the highest injury rates – making up 13.4 percent of all computer-related injuries. The most frequent type of injury for all age groups was laceration (39 percent).
One reason for this soaring rate of computer-related injuries is clearly the increasing number of households with computers; however, Time explains that
“…more households not only have computers but also have multiple computers and, therefore, multiple opportunities for injury. Another theory suggested by the researchers is that the democratization of computer access — as equipment has gotten cheaper — has resulted in increased ownership by new computer users or by people with less education in using the technology, who may be more prone to accidents and misuse.”
June 8, 2009
The comments sections of news articles and blogs have a deserved reputation for flame outs and nuttiness; but sometimes, the comment posted can be even more interesting than the article itself. Take Inside Higher Ed’s article on a cluster of cancer cases in the Literature Building at at the University of California at San Diego, which appeared earlier this year.
“Since 2000, eight professors and staff members have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the literature building at the University of California at San Diego, and two of the women have died… Last year’s medical report did not identify any certain feature of the building that could be definitively tied to the cancer cases. But the report suggests changes in the way the elevators are set up — as key hydraulic elevator equipment is currently on the first floor and not in the basement, as would be common. The report noted that close exposure to surges associated with such equipment might add very modestly to the risk associated with breast cancer, and suggested changes in office locations — and future building set-ups with elevators — to minimize those risks.”
The article noted staff fury about the risks they were being subjected to, and that the University had commissioned a new study to investigate the possibility that electro magnetic fields from the elevators might have caused the cancers.
Now scroll to the end of the comments section, and there is a very long post by Geoffrey Kabat Ph.D, a cancer epidemiologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who has researched the allegations that EMFs cause cancer and writes about the controversy in his recent book, Hyping Health Risks: Environmental Hazards in Daily Life
and the Science of Epidemiology. He writes:
The conclusion of the [medical] report that EMF from the elevator in the Literature Building may have contributed to the cluster of 8 breast cancer cases is based on a selective and biased interpretation of the extensive epidemiological and experimental literature on EMF exposure and the risk of breast cancer. Rather than collecting all of the information relevant to describing the cluster, due to Professor Garland’s preconceived ideas about EMF, his investigation focused attention on EMF, thereby causing unnecessary alarm, distrust, and confusion in members of the UCSD community.
Kabat identifies eight significant flaws in the medical report – including the failure to account for the fact that only one person developed breast cancer in building in the preceding nine years, when the elevator was, presumably, elevating.
June 1, 2009
It has become an article of faith among the ‘plastics are poisoning us’ posse that exposure to one or several members of the phthalate family can lead to abnormal genital development in babies. But now a major new study of children in New York state by researchers at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center has looked to see whether hypospadias rates have actually increased. The result?
Hypospadias rates have not changed in New York State from 1992 to 2005. Additionally advanced maternal age continues to be a risk factor for hypospadias. Combined with previous studies that demonstrate sperm counts are not declining, these data suggest that the testicular dysgenesis syndrome described in animal models may not be evident in humans.
Remember all those news stories warning that genital deformities may be caused by phthalates in cosmetics and plastic toys? So far, not a single mainstream media publication has reported on the new study.