Archives for health



Is It Time to End the “War on Salt”?

The assault on dietary salt has been growing, and salt sales have been trending slightly downward. Is this a good fight?

According to Scientific American, perhaps not:

This week a meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure. In May European researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the less sodium that study subjects excreted in their urine—an excellent measure of prior consumption—the greater their risk was of dying from heart disease. These findings call into question the common wisdom that excess salt is bad for you, but the evidence linking salt to heart disease has always been tenuous.

(HT: Eric Jones)



If You Have to Walk Outside to Smoke, Does the Exercise Benefit Counteract the Smoking?

A reader named Aras Gaure, who identifies himself as a trainee with the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, writes to us:

At my workplace, smoking is prohibited –- as in a substantial number of other indoor workplaces. In order for me to have a smoke, I have to walk about 10 meters, get down 2 flights of stairs (a total of nineteen steps), and then walk 15 meters to the nearest terrace. In one workday, I have about 4-5 cigarettes, which means I cover a distance of about 200-250 meters and between 144 and 180 steps every day with regard to my smoking. Many people obviously smoke more and have to cover an even greater distance in order to have a cigarette. As a result of continuous bans on smoking around the world, people (who don’t quit) in many cases have to go through physical exertion numerous times a day to have a smoke. My question is whether or not this (in any sense or form) can be considered beneficial (especially for people who otherwise wouldn’t get this exercise)?

An interesting question but my sense is that the amount of exercise Aras describes — or even 5x that amount — is so minimal that it wouldn’t come close to offsetting the downsides of smoking. There are certain reported “health benefits of smoking,” including weight loss, but even for someone who likes finding counterintuitive trends, I have a hard time buying Aras’s wishful thinking. Am I wrong?



Do Synthetic Fat Substitutes Make You Fat? Ask the Rats Who Ate Pringles

In a whopper of counterintuitive research, and another reason to look askance at that supposed wonder of modern food science olestra (Olean), a study published by the American Psychological Association shows that synthetic fat substitutes used in low-calorie potato chips can backfire and contribute to weight gain more so than their fatty counterparts. How do we know? Researchers at Purdue fed Pringles to lab rats. Yes, the mathematically perfect, Einstein-inspired Pringles. Here’s how it worked: Read More »



Today in Sports-Induced Violence

So, yesterday I wrote about the handful of studies that have been done showing that large sporting events do not lead to higher rates of hospital visits, or for that matter, deaths or public violence. The latest study comes from Canada, and showed that during the 2010 Olympic gold medal ice hockey match between the U.S. and Canada, that emergency room visits declined by 17 percent in Canada. I thought it was a pretty good indication of how much Canadians love ice hockey, and also of the tranquility with which they seem to consume it. I imagined an entire country transfixed by the game on their TV sets, peacefully watching their countrymen beat the world in their most-beloved sport.

But then I saw this: “Vancouver Fans Riot After Stanley Cup Loss” And read this:

Rioting hockey fans clashed with police officers, set vehicles ablaze, smashed windows and looted stores and set several fires in downtown areas here on Wednesday night moments after the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals to the Boston Bruins.
Local hospitals reported eight people treated for stab wounds, according to Alyssa Polinsky, a spokeswoman for Vancouver Coastal Health, the regional hospital authority.

Read More »



Need to Go to the ER? Not Until the Game’s Over!

Sports fans are nuts, right? Prone to erratic, irrational behavior when their team is playing. You’d think that during the Big Game, violent behavior would spike, and maybe lead to higher rates of emergency room visits and even deaths? Not true. A number of studies show that big sporting events do not increase the number of patients admitted to emergency rooms, and in some cases, hospital visits and even heart attack rates have been shown to decrease during a major sporting event. Unless, of course, your team is losing.

The latest study in this vein, published this week in the Journal of Open Medicine, comes from Canada, where researchers examined emergency room visits during the 2010 Olympic gold medal ice hockey game between the U.S. and Canada. The game ended in a 3-2 overtime win by Canada and was seen by roughly half the country, some 16.6 million people, making it the most popular TV broadcast in Canadian history. The study found that the rate of total emergency room visits during the game decreased by 17 percent, compared with corresponding hours for 6 control days.

This effect extended throughout Canada’s largest province, amounted to a decrease of about 136 fewer patients per hour, appeared accentuated for adult men living in rural locations, and was most evident for those with milder triage severity scores presenting with abdominal pain, musculoskeletal disorders, or traumatic injuries.

Read More »



The Economics of Gym-Going, Part 1

A new study finds that unemployment “increases the risk of premature mortality by 63 percent.”  Eran Shor, one of the study’s authors, believes there’s a causal relationship: “In past research on the topic, Shor said it was hard to distinguish whether pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or heart problems, or behaviors such as smoking, drinking or drug use, lead to both unemployment and a greater risk of death. In the new study, controls were included to account for those factors.” Read More »



Guess Why Some Overweight Adolescents Don’t Think They’re Overweight

New research by an FDA economist shows that overweight adolescents who are surrounded by overweight family and friends, don’t consider themselves to be overweight. Read More »



Should the Unemployed Also Get Vegetable Aid?

What happens to eating habits in the face of unemployment? Nothing good, according to a new working paper by Dhaval M. Dave and Inas Rashad Kelly. Read More »