Tag Archives: Health

New findings on body weight and mortality

7 Apr

In recent years, people have drawn comfort from the notion of the possibility of being both healthy and overweight. Several well publicized studies suggested that moderate excess body weight may have been exaggerated as a health threat.

A recent study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, now raises doubts about the earlier claims.  NPR published a good overview of the findings:

New research published Monday adds fuel to an ongoing debate in the public health community over whether a few extra pounds are good, or bad, for you.

Earlier research found that being somewhat overweight, but not obese, may result in a longer life.

But today’s study in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that being slightly overweight may actually decrease a person’s life span, which is more in line with conventional wisdom about weight.

One of the problem with earlier studies is that people tend to lose weight after they become ill.  Thus, to gauge the actual effects of weight on mortality one needs to look at the history of an individual’s weight over a longer period of time. The new study looked at a 16 year weight history.

Improvement at any age

15 Mar

This interesting piece in The New York Times argues:

When athletes train consistently, recover smartly and get a little lucky, there’s no physiological reason their bodies should fall off a cliff in their 30s.

(…)

From following physiology literature and spending time around late-career elite athletes, I was already well aware that old dogs can both learn new tricks and slow the rate at which they lose old ones.

Does vagal nerve stimulation explain mind-body interventions?

13 Mar

In yoga, pranayama means breath regulation, and refers to a set of breathing techniques. The always interesting Dr. Greger has posted a video suggesting that the effects of breathing on the vagus nerve may explain the effectiveness of yogic pranayama and other mind body interventions.

105 amateur cyclist is more aerobically fit than most 50-year-olds

17 Feb

Another amazing story from The New York Times about the capacities of an aging athlete:

At the age of 105, the French amateur cyclist and world-record holder Robert Marchand is more aerobically fit than most 50-year-olds — and appears to be getting even fitter as he ages, according to a revelatory new study of his physiology.

You can read the research paper here.

How our ancestors exercised (evidence against too much sitting)

30 Nov

From this weekend’s New York Times:

Are we fighting thousands of years of evolutionary history and the best interests of our bodies when we sit all day?That question is at the core of a fascinating new study of the daily lives and cardiovascular health of a modern tribe of hunter-gatherers. The findings strongly suggest that we are born to be in motion, with health consequences when we are not

You can read the abstract of the original research here.

I do yoga and the 10,000 steps a day program.

Psychological explanations of physical illness: Time for some skepticism?

17 Oct

A startling paper in Perspectives on Psychological Science:

In some patients with chronic physical complaints, detailed examination fails to reveal a well-recognized underlying disease process. In this situation, the physician may suspect a psychological cause. In this review, we critically evaluated the evidence for this causal claim, focusing on complaints presenting as neurological disorders. There were four main conclusions. First, patients with these complaints frequently exhibit psychopathology but not consistently more often than patients with a comparable “organic” diagnosis, so a causal role cannot be inferred. Second, these patients report a high incidence of adverse life experiences, but again, there is insufficient evidence to indicate a causal role for any particular type of experience. Third, although psychogenic illnesses are believed to be more responsive to psychological interventions than comparable “organic” illnesses, there is currently no evidence to support this claim. Finally, recent evidence suggests that biological and physical factors play a much greater causal role in these illnesses than previously believed. We conclude that there is currently little evidential support for psychogenic theories of illness in the neurological domain. In future research, researchers need to take a wider view concerning the etiology of these illnesses.

From the paper’s conclusion:

Given our current limited understanding of medical disease and its markers, it is perhaps not surprising that not all physical complaints can be associated with a specific, well-recognized disease process. In these circumstances, it is tempting to offer a psychological explanation. However, in this review, we have argued that such explanations are not currently supported by the evidence, at least not in the domains considered here. Further, these explanations may be harmful for the patient. To find better treatments for these illnesses, researchers and practitioners may need to retire those overworked psychological explanations that are commonly invoked in the face of uncertainty and instead adopt a completely fresh perspective. Such an approach may lead to a much deeper understanding of this perplexing collection of illnesses.

Passive exercise may have benefits

12 Oct

When I was a kid, there were a number of popular books touting the benefits of isometric exercise. It seemed like a great idea, exercise without equipment, sweat, or repetition. As I remember them, the books would feature highly muscled individuals performing the exercises. Now, I realize that these people must have gained their muscular physiques from workouts with weights, but at the time I was quite convinced.

Naturally, I have become suspicious of claims that you can exercise without exertion. But this article by Dr. Mirkin suggests that passive exercise may have benefits for otherwise inactive people:

The exciting new concept is that passive exercise — sitting on a motor-driven stationary bicycle and letting the pedals move the person’s legs for 30 minutes — burns extra calories and lowers blood sugar and insulin levels in inactive people (Med Sci Sprts Ex, Sept, 2016;48(9):1821-1828). Having their legs moved by motor-driven pedals increases insulin sensitivity by lowering blood sugar rises after eating.

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