Tag Archives: research and knowledge

Bottoms up…cause old age is a gamble

It comes down to this:

All those hours at the gym, healthy food choices, cutting back on the alcohol, quitting cigarettes… might not help you live longer.

…but, don’t stop trying, just in case it does.

That’s the message from researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.  Their findings indicate many centenarians have plenty of bad habits, and yet they keep going, making a case for genetics over lifestyle choices.

Keep in mind, currently only 1 in every 4,400 Americans makes it to 100. And although there is a strong case for genetics keeping these people going strong, the life expectancy in the US has jumped almost 10 years to 78.7 since the 1960s. This overall prolonged life is, in part, due to modern medicine and current health knowledge and prevention.

So, while the lucky genetic mutants may have bet the house and won, until researchers can figure out exactly why and apply it to the masses, they recommend you keep on that healthy eating and exercise regime. Damn.

Calorie-restricted diets and Biosphere

Ingestion: Planet in a Bottle

By Christopher Turner

Cabinet Magazine, Issue 41, Spring 2011

Remember Biosphere? The experiment out in the desert testing our planetary colonization skills. It was an intricate maze of self-contained domes, housing plants, animals, and a few brave individuals. Though the two year test was publicly deemed a failure, many fields benefited from the experience; from psychology, to green energy engineering, all the way to food and nutrition. This is where we pick it up. This is the story of Dr. Roy Walford, and his calorie restricted diet studies in Biosphere. Walford’s claim was calorie-restricted diets slow the aging process.

His theory has been around a long time and is still going strong, with ongoing research at Washington University in St. Louis (Go home team!), among others.  It seems interesting enough that the NY Times publishes an in-depth article on the topic every few years –  One for the Ages: A Prescription That May Extend Life, 2006 and  The Calorie Restriction Experiment, 2009.

While I don’t want to give away the ending, let me just say, it holds a certain poignancy over the whole diet thing. Thanks again to Cabinet Magazine, and writer Christopher Turner. Love you guys.

Another link to the article on Dr. Wolford and Biosphere is here.

(I’m excited I wrote this without mentioning Bio-Dome or Pauly Shore…until just now.)

The Invention of Exercise Equipment

The Origins of Cybex Space is a fascinating article written by Carolyn de la Peña, and published by magazine extraordinaire Cabinet. Each publication of Cabinet collects art, articles and essay under loose themes. This particular issue (Issue 29, Spring 2008) was SLOTH.  In the article, de la Pena delves into the beginnings of exercise equipment, in particular, Cybex machines. Enlightening and informative , it really gives pause to marvel at how awesome and bizarre humanity is. Seriously, where do we come up with this stuff? Truly, if we take a closer look close at the evolution of society, as de la Pena does – down to large metal and wood machines on which we built to exercise – the answers become surprisingly obvious.

You can read the entire article here.

Fast food is cheap. Fat is expensive.

The Brookings Institute released a study this week on the direct and indirect costs of American obesity. The number being thrown around is somewhere around 215 billion dollars…an incomprehensible number that doesn’t mean much at a glance.

Let’s break it down in a few ways that make more, if not odd, sense.

The biggest portion of this directly relates to health care costs. An extra 147 billion is spent on obese adults every year compared to those who are of healthier weight. Another incomprehensible number, it basically means overweight people are more likely to have everything from diabetes to bad knees, and even depression.

The less direct costs are more fascinating. Disability and premature death costs seem more obvious compared to the bizarre 66 billion dollar cost in lost worker productivity associated with obesity.  Overweight people struggle with absenteeism due to health related issues, and  “presenteism” – decreased productivity while at work. Other work related expenses includes higher health insurance and benefit costs.

Fuel and transportation costs are other indirect, yet expensive, costs of obesity. Heavier loads require more fuel, and bigger vehicles. More fuel also means more greenhouse gas emissions, equaling big bad things for the environment.

The most removed and greyest area of the study looks at socio-economic status or “human capital”, with obese people being less likely to attain higher levels of education, marriage, and higher income potential. Again, this research is more difficult to verify and track.

So what do we do? Suggestions run the gamut and include moving to a walking neighborhood, where people tend to be, on average, 7 pounds less.

It is important to remember at the end of the day this study impacts all of us directly, with research indicating two-thirds of adults in the US now overweight
including one-third who are obese. At this time, there is no end in sight to the economic expenses which are anticipated to expand with our waists in upcoming years. Little changes will help, but a major paradigm shift in the way we think of food, health, work and life is needed to make a true difference.

Integrating mind and body into medicine

It is exciting to see the medical community steadily moving towards a well-rounded, holistic approach to health care.

Dr. Herbert Benson is a great example. He heads the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Benson and his institute are working to integrate mind/body medicine into all areas of health care.

Benson sees health care as a “three-legged stool”:  one leg is drugs, another being surgical procedures, and the third as self-care or mind/body medicine which he classifies as the following:

The relaxation response (ways to de-stress, such as meditation)

Positive coping (cognitive behavioral therapy)

Physical activity

Nutrition

Social support

What’s great about the Benson Institute is not only are they promoting stress management for patients, but are educating doctors and health care professionals on how to integrate mind/body medicine into their practices, rather than just offering the text-book drugs and surgical procedures.

A quote from their own site states:

Primary care physicians often are taxed by patient complaints that do not seem to have a clear etiology, nor do the patients improve despite good medications and expensive procedures. Current studies show that stress or distress may have a significant effect on the onset, the course, and the management of many, if not all, diseases. Understanding a patient’s underlying stress physiology and coping mechanisms may enable physicians to better understand various clinical disorders and treat their manifested symptoms. -Benson-Henry Institute

Dr. Benson’s most recent book: Relaxation Revolution: Enhancing Your Personal Health Through the Science and Genetics of Mind Body Healing is now available.

You can hear an interview with Dr. Benson on the Diane Rhames Show, broadcast earlier today.

Tobacco, Bowling, and Vintage Home Gyms

While browsing local vintage boutique Retro 101, I stumbled upon packaging that would catch anyone’s eye – manly muscles in a contradictory happy, yet formidable pose. Whatever was in the box, it had to be mine. So goes the power of marketing. Mad Men, eat your heart out.

The Whitely Super Jiffy Gym looked promising. Best guess was with the invention of plastics, came the Super Jiffy Gym – a simplified version of the springed “chest pull” popularized by cartoons…you know the one that Tom and Jerry get tangled up in. Or was it Daffy Duck…

Now I too, could create an array of perfect Grecian poses with my new, vintage Jiffy Gym. Were the trunks required too?



But once taken out of the box, I could barely move it. It wasn’t quite the elastic band you might get from the physical therapist. No. The tension was somewhere between a strap to hold elephants at bay and a rock.

Verdict? The Jiffy Gym was a dud. Could use it to hang plants. The packaging was mesmerizing, however and a little research was in order. It appears Whitely Gyms offered a large array of classic home gym equipment throughout the 1960’s and early 70’s, bizarre precursors to the fitness props and home gym toys of today.

Turns out, Whitely Gyms of Hackensack, NJ, was owned by AMF Incorporated. AMF Incorporated was founded in 1900 New York, as the American Machine & Foundry Company Inc. The company manufactured automated machines for the tobacco industry.

AMF, Inc. expanded the automated machinery into all kinds of  industries, including the one they would ultimately be known for, the automatic pin-spotter. Yes, as in bowling. The war delayed the introduction of  the pinspotter until the late 1950’s when it revolutionized tenpin bowling and touched off a boom in the sport. Kingpin was born.

Involvement with bowling led AMF into a broad range of sports and fitness equipment during the 60’s and 70’s including; tennis racquets and skis, golf clubs, inflatable balls, scuba gear, (my Jiffy Gym) and other recreational products such as snowmobiles, bicycles, yachts and even Harley Davidson motor cycles.

From jump ropes, gym bars, bands, balls and pulley trainers, AMF’s Whitley Company offered it all.  The funny thing is, these same gym gadgets are constantly being reinvented every decade, purporting to be new, safer, more convenient, modern, and perhaps greener.

The Whitely line of home gym equipment quietly went away in the 70’s, only to be rediscovered now and again in vintage shops and yard sales by cultural fitness anthropologist such as myself. The Jiffy Gym is a shining reminder of how little has changed in American fitness, not to mention the influential power of good advertising. Afterall, I did buy it.


Working Overtime May Be Killing You

Nobody enjoys working overtime, and here is the new best excuse not to: Working overtime linked to higher risk of heart disease.

The European Heart Journal studied 6000 British civil servants and followed them for 11 years.  They found that working an extra 3-4 hours a day is associated with increased coronary heart disease.  The researchers controlled and adjusted for lifestyle, cardiac risk factors and other factors that would skew the results and still found that people who worked 3-4 extra hours a day had a 60% increase in risk for heart disease.

These results were for both women and men (ages 39-61). Other risk factors like smoking, elevated lipids, diabetes made no difference in the results.

(Found at http://everythinghealth.net/, posted by Dr. Toni Brayer)