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.

United States vs. Canada: Which has the lower obesity rate?

March 4, 2011

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compares obesity rates in the United States and Canada. The Associated Press reports that this is the first time the CDC has compared American obesity rates with another country.

The data, which was gathered between 2007 and 2009, reveals that approximately 24.1 percent of Canadians are obese compared to 34.4 percent of Americans.

The numbers were also broken down by ethnicity and gender, showing that 27 percent of Canadian men are considered obese compared to 33 percent of American men. The difference is even greater among women, 24 percent of Canadian women versus 36 percent of American women, NPR reports.

According to the AP, there was interestingly not a statistically significant difference in childhood obesity rates in Canada (12%) and the United States (15.5%).

Some other key findings of the report include:

  • Among the non-Hispanic white population, the prevalence of obesity is lower in Canada than in the United States, but the difference is not as large as it is when comparing the entire populations.
  • Between the late 1980s and 2007–2009, the prevalence of obesity increased in both Canada and the United States.
  • In 2007–2009, the prevalence of obesity among young and middle-aged Canadian women was similar to that observed in U.S. women 20 years earlier.

The full report can be found here.

Why Stress Makes You Fat

October 23, 2009

Originally posted on our collaborative site,

By Erika Schwartz, MD

A recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology looked at data on 1,355 men and women who had their weight and stress levels measured in 1995 and again in 2004.

The findings showed that those who were overweight and obese packed on the pounds even more as time went by and stressors continued and increased.

Those who were thin stayed thin and according to the lead author Jason Block on faculty at Harvard, “The stress effect didn’t appear to impact normal-weight people, just those who were overweight and obese from the beginning of the study.”

The results of this study may be true but as Americans are getting fatter and sicker, we are faced with more problems than ever before.

We are suffering ever-growing rates of obesity and worsening health caused by weight problems.

Stress is a leading cause of this modern-day epidemic – brought about by our frenetic lifestyles or by financial worries from the economic recession.

Stress comes in two varieties:

Read the rest of this entry »

Weight gain = brain drain?

August 26, 2009

A new study published in Human Brain Mapping finds the more pounds you gain, the more your brain shrinks. The research found that elderly people who are obese have 8 percent less brain tissue than those of a normal weight. Individuals who are considered overweight, but not obese, have 4 percent less brain tissue.

The researchers examined brain scans of 94 people in their 70s – all were healthy and did not have any cognitive issues. They discovered that the overweight and obese individuals lost the majority of brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain; the areas responsible for planning and memory.

Dr. Paul Thompson, senior author of the study says:

“That’s a big loss of tissue and it depletes your cognitive reserves, putting you at much greater risk of Alzheimer’s and other diseases that attack the brain.”

Thompson also explained the brain images of the obese participants looked approximately 16 years older than the brains of those who are a normal weight, while the brains of overweight individuals looked about eight years older.

The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 300 million people worldwide are considered obese. WHO projects this number could increase to 700 million by 2015.

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.


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