Fitness vs. Fatness: Which is more important?

December 13, 2011

In the battle of fitness versus fatness, which would come out on top? A new study finds that when it comes to longevity, how fit you are may be more important than your weight.

Published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, the study followed 14,358 middle-aged men over a period of 11.4 years. The participants that were the most fit (determined based on measurements of aerobic intensity on a treadmill) had a lower overall risk of death or dying from cardiovascular disease during the follow up period.

According to TIME, the men who maintained their fitness levels from the outset of the study lowered their risk of death by up to 30 percent compared to those who became less fit. The results were even better for those who improved their fitness, lowering their risk of death by up to 44 percent. For every unit of  improvement in fitness, there was a 15 percent decrease in death from any cause and a 19 percent decrease in death due to a heart related event.

The researchers found there was no association between changes in BMI and the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, reports The Washington Post.  Participants who lost fitness over the course of the study period were found to be at increased risk of death, despite any changes in their BMI.

For those wondering if how much we weigh is dependent upon how fit we are, lead study author, Duck-Chul Lee, tells TIME:

 “When you change your body weight, you have to consider whether you become more fit or not…If you gain weight, but become more fit, then that might be okay regarding your mortality risk. We have to start considering other factors when we talk about weight change and health outcomes.”

The researchers note that further research is necessary in order to determine if these findings would apply to women and those that are obese. 90 percent of the men in this study were either of normal weight or overweight at the start of the study.


Snacks that go bump in the night

September 10, 2009

A new study published in the journal Obesity has the first causal evidence that late-night snacking can lead to weight gain.

The researchers, led by Dr. Fred W. Turek at Northwestern University, found that mice who were fed during the day (the time they would normally sleep) gained twice as much weight than those fed the same diet at night.

The mice were permitted to eat as much as they wanted during their designated feeding time, but were not allowed to eat at any other point. The average starting weight for both groups of mice was around 22 grams.

After sticking to the new schedule for six weeks, the mice who ate during the day weighed approximately 32 grams, while the mice who ate at their normal hours weighed an average of 27 grams. The calorie intake between the two groups was almost equal.

What does this mean for humans? According to MedPage Today:

“How or why a person gains weight is very complicated, but it clearly is not just calories in and calories out,” said study leader Fred Turek… “We think some factors are under circadian control. Better timing of meals, which would require a change in behavior, could be a critical element in slowing the ever-increasing incidence of obesity.”

The researchers clarify that several other factors could play a role, such as body temperature and resting energy expenditure. They also reference the findings of previous studies which have indicated that humans are at an increased risk for weight gain when their circadian and behavior cycles are askew.

The researchers conclude:

“These findings, taken together with the present results indicate that the synchrony between circadian and metabolic processes plays an important role in the regulation of energy balance and body weight control.”


More pain to lose the gain

August 11, 2009

A recent study finds that moderate exercise may not be enough to shed pounds. Health authorities recommend a half-hour of moderate-intensity exercise for a majority of the week to help lose weight. However, a new study designed to see if moderate activity was really enough, shows it is not as effective as previously thought.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, was made up of 201 overweight women (21 to 45 years old) participating in a two-year long weight loss program. The participants were asked to restrict their diet to 1,200 – 1,500 calories per day. Additionally, each participant was provided with a treadmill, group meetings that teach healthy diet and exercise habits, and phone conversations for motivation. They were also randomly assigned to one of four weight loss intervention groups based on the amount and intensity of physical activity.

The researchers found that the participants who lost and managed to keep off at least ten percent of their body weight were working out twice as long as health authorities suggest. The current recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate activity for five days a week only comes to 150 minutes – the women who kept off the weight exercised for approximately 275 minutes a week. The researchers also found that exercise had the most significant impact on weight loss, even more than diet changes.

Over half of the woman lost at least 10 percent of their weight; however, most of them did not keep up with the new regimen and gained the weight back. John Jakicic, the lead study author and chair of the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh, said that maintaining the new weight is a major concern. It’s important to find a diet and exercise routine that works for you and stick to it.

For anyone who may be discouraged by these findings, Jakicic tells the New York Daily News:

“If you can’t do 275 minutes a week, do what you can do… Everyone needs to find ways to become more active.  And if you can’t do more exercise, then you may just have to be a little more diligent about what you are eating. Exercise is very important, but diet, or healthy eating behavior, still needs to be on your radar screen.”


Short changed

July 21, 2009

Some people have all the luck. A new study has found that in Australia tall people make more money, particularly taller men. The researchers, Andrew Leigh and Michael Kortt from Australian National University, set out to determine if there was a relationship between a worker’s size and their salary.

The results indicated that men who were 6 feet tall made an average of $950 more per year than men just two inches shorter. In an interesting twist, the researchers did not find that being overweight was associated with making less money like studies done in several other countries.

The researchers used data from the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey which has respondents provide details about their health. The researchers used responses from the 2006 and 2007 surveys and restricted the ages to 25-54. For more information about the data collection, the report can be found here.

In their report, the researchers ponder possible reasons for body size affecting salary:

“One possibility is that for particular jobs, body size has direct productive payoff.…It is also possible that body size has an indirect impact on productivity. For example, taller and slimmer workers might exude greater confidence in dealing with customers and co-workers, perhaps because others have treated them more favourable in the past. The final possibility is that shorter and more overweight workers might be subject to discrimination from customers, co-workers, or employers.”

The study also found the height and wage pattern to hold true for women; however, the relationship was not as significant as it was for men.

“Does Size Matter In Australia?” will be published in the July issue of The Economic Record.


Body Mortality Index

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.


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