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Posts Tagged ‘Obesity’

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Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Ok, so this is how it goes down. Word starts circulating around the office or on the floor that so-and-so brought in some extra brownies or cupcakes that he/she made for a child’s birthday or bake sale, or that there is leftover Halloween candy or Christmas cookies in the breakroom. Or perhaps the approach is even more direct and a co-worker offers you a treat saying, “yeah, I just didn’t want to keep all of these at home because we would eat them up.” This is textbook dumping of unhealthy food at work.

In all fairnes, I am used to assuming that the dumper’s intentions are mostly good. It is likely the case that he/she figures that people at work will enjoy the treats and that he/she shouldn’t keep all of that at home because it will be rapidly consumed and (here is the important part) they know that the food in question is unhealthy. So that leads me to my next thought, which is, WTF?! You don’t want to eat all of this yourself so you give it to us?

Now, if you recognize yourself as a workplace dumper, it might be the case that you work with a bunch of folks who can eat anything they want and don’t care about consuming a ton of sugar. Or, you might dislike the people that you work with and either consciously or subconsciously want to fatten them up a bit. However, if these are not the case, and if you care about the health of your co-workers as you care about the health of yourself and your family, then you might consider rallying for a no dumping policy at your workplace. Your co-workers might even thank you for it.


Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Gary Taubes, author of, “Why we get fat” and “Good calories, bad calories” has a nice piece out in the NYT Magazine, which poses the question, “Is sugar toxic?” The question is an interesting one to ask and the article is worth reading in it’s entirety. However, as a faculty member in a Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, there were a couple of statements that caught my attention.

1. A former FDA administrator who now consults with the Corn Refiners Association is quoted as saying that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup might be toxic, but so might any substance that is consumed in ways or quantities that are unatural for humans and that the key question is at what point does a substance go from being harmless to harmful.

This is a great point. A basic principle in pharmacology and toxicology is that you must study the entire dose-response function to really know what you are dealing with. It is always risky to draw strong conclusions from simply comparing two points or two doses to each other. As such, studies that examine a range of acute and chronic “doses” of fructose relative to sucrose or complex carbohydrates could be quite telling. A related point pertains to relative toxicity. It is true that all sorts of substances such as water or salt can be acutely toxic (i.e., fatal) in large enough quantities. So, we must ask how wide a margin of safety we can expect for various substances. Lastly, it is also important to define what we mean by acute and chronic “harm” or “toxicity,” especially when discussing biochemical measures such as glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, or LDL levels.

2. Robert Lustig, of YouTube “Sugar: the bitter truth” video/lecture fame, is quoted as saying that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are certainly not acute toxins of the kind that FDA typically regulates, but are rather chronic toxins in which the detrimental effects occur over months to years.

This makes me think of cigarettes, which for a long time were regarded as different from the “intoxicating substances” such as alcohol and illicit drugs because of the relative lack of acute impairment from tobacco/nicotine. Typically, the predominant harms from cigarette smoking (cancer, emphysema, heart disease, COPD, etc. ) come with chronic exposure over months to years. And, guess what? FDA just got regulatory authority over tobacco products (about 45 years after the first major report on smoking and health from the Surgeon General). Could the regulation of fructose be in our future?  


Tuesday, February 8th, 2011 has an interesting piece titled, “Fitness for foriegners” that details how people from different cultures tend to work out or get their exercise. What was interesting to me is how unique the indoor gym seems to be to industrialized countries like the US, and how common group and outdoor activities are in other countries. In fact, individuals from some countries claim to not exercise at all, but rather play badminton, cricket, or soccer for fun or when bored. I very much like the idea of including movement or exercise in one’s life without it feeling like a chore or an item on the to-do list.

Another idea that I really like is the outdoor gym. You might not imagine that a country like Sweden, which hosts temperatures close to freezing for most of year would think to build outdoor gyms. However, the people of Sweden are accustomed to socialized public health benefits, and providing low-cost, low-maintenance exercise equipment to the general public is a smart way to afford all people access to a gym. In any case, take a look at some of the pictures of the equipment in the park in Sodermalm here, here, here, here, here, and here. It looks stylish and functional and like something I would love to have at the park near my house. Perhaps, I’ll bring this up with my city council…

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