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Posts Tagged ‘Larry’

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Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

In the classic 1984 movie Gremlins, there are three basic rules that are are explained for keeping a Mogwai (pictured above) as a pet.

1. Don’t get him wet

2. Keep him away from bright lights

3. Don’t feed him after midnight

As you know from the movie, feeding after midnight can have disastrous consequences. In a new study out of Northwestern University, it looks like staying up late and eating after 8:00 PM can also go a long way to derail your effort to achieve and sustain your ideal weight.

Sleep duration, or the number of hours you sleep each night, has been linked to obesity. That is to say that people who get less sleep on average, are more likely to be overweight or obese. However, less is known about how the timing of your sleep might affect your weight. Different people keep different schedules due to work or other responsibilities and some people just feel that they are naturally a “morning person” or a “night person.” The goal of the study that we’re talking about today was to see how sleep schedules affect dietary patterns and BMI.


(Figure 1 from Baron et al., 2011)

The study looked at the sleep and eating habits of 52 people (25 females) over a week. They characterized half of the people as “normal sleepers” who tended to go to sleep around 12:30 AM and wake up around 8:00 AM (see the figure above for average sleep, wake, and meal times). The other half of the participants were characterized as late sleepers who tended to go to sleep around 3:45 AM and wake up around 10:45 AM (note the total hours of sleep time are pretty similar). Take a look at the figure and see which group would you most likely fall into.


(Table 3 from Baron et al., 2011)

The authors found that compared to “normal sleepers,” “late sleepers” consumed significantly more calories at dinner, ate more fast food, drank more pop (soda for you folks not from the Midwest), and ate fewer servings of fruits and vegetables (see table above). When subjected to fancy statistical models, the data showed that higher numbers of calories consumed after 8:00 PM were predictive of higher BMI’s, even after controlling for sleep timing and sleep duration. Thus, it appears as though there is an independent risk for weight gain associated with eating after 8:00 PM. But, why did this affect the types of things consumed? Perhaps fast food is more available and fruits and vegetables less available in the evenings? Or was there a potential interaction between sleep and decision making? In any case, there are interesting future questions to be asked, but in the interim, the authors suggest that regulating the timing of your eating and sleeping could improve the effectiveness of your efforts to achieve or sustain your ideal weight.


Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

There’s a new study out that shows that cardiorespiratory fitness (max effort on a treadmill – like a “stress test”) is associated with decreased risk of death due to cardiovascular disease. The findings are pretty cool and the effects are pretty large. Let’s break it down.

What did they do?

  • The researchers enrolled 1,000-4,000 people between the ages of 20 and 90 each year from 1970-2006 who came to their clinic in Texas for a complete clinical visit.
  • They excluded anyone who had a heart attack previously, which still resulted in a sample size of 66,371 people, which is pretty solid.
  • The researchers collected a bunch of information like blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking status, and fitness. Fitness was assessed with a maximal treadmill exercise test by setting the speed to about 3.3 miles/hour and then increasing the grade by 1% each minute until the person was exhausted (note: I don’t think anyone is arguing that this is the best measure of fitness, but just a straightforward and standardized one).
  • Then the researchers followed-up with these people either until they died or up to 36 years (1970-2006). The main outcome measure was death from cardiovascular disease.

What did they find?

Take a look at the figure above. It shows the relative risk of dying from cardiovascular disease associated with the variables on the left. A risk of 1 (dotted line) means no change or no effect of the variable. What you can see from this figure is that the usual suspects like smoking and diabetes increased the risk of death from cardiovascular disease – maybe no surprise here. However, what is most interesting about this study is how the results of the treadmill test (i.e., fitness) predicted decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Those who had the best fitness scores and were in the top 40% (quintiles 4 and 5) for both men and women were approximately three times less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

The results are impressive. Cardio fitness has a greater impact than smoking. So, what do you say folks? Let’s get (and stay) fit.



Monday, May 23rd, 2011

There is a recent report out from The George Washington School of Public Health and Health Services on the additional costs associated with being overweight or obese in the U.S. The researchers estimate that the annual cost of being overweight is $524 for women and $432 for men. The annual cost of being obese is $4,879 for women and $2,646 for men. Increased medical expenses are a primary driver of these costs with lost wages contributing to the disproportionately larger cost for obese women.

I think that this is a good study to keep in mind when one is considering whether the membership fee at the gym is “worth it” or whether it is worth paying more for good food, solid fitness equipment, or a quality mattress. One way to think about this study is that you have $500 to spend per year on things that will help prevent you from being overweight. Wouldn’t you rather spend that money on great food or a new bicycle than at the doctor’s office or pharmacy?

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