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The Cultural Drivers and Context of Obesity

Posted October 21, 2014 by Arya M. Sharma, MD

In my continuing review of not too recent publications on obesity, I found this one by Hortense Powdermaker, Professor of Anthropology, Queens College, Flushing, New York, published in the Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine in 1960. The following quotes could all have been written last week: “We eat too much. We have too […]

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Community Races Shouldn’t Promote Unhealthy Eating Practices

Posted October 8, 2014 by Yoni Freedhoff

This past weekend my family and I continued our longstanding tradition of participating in CIBC’s Run for the Cure (not to be confused with Komen’s – a different beast altogether, though also in support of breast cancer research). We love it because it’s a very accessible race for kids with lots of excitement, huge crowds with fun costumes, and a 1km option for little legs. Participating and learning about the race helps my children to learn about charity, community spirit, fundraising, and active living.

But it also teaches them that doing a teeny tiny bit of exercise warrants being fed, as the food tent is just steps from the finish line and loudspeakers (and food) beckon their visitations.

The fact of the matter is that neither a 1km nor a 5km run require any refuelling whatsoever as our bodies have more than sufficient supplies of fuel to get us through such short durations and distances. The myth that exercise warrants or deserves a food reward is part of our broken societal approach to food as a whole and may well be a contributor to the fact that despite the laws of thermodynamics suggesting they should do otherwise, exercise only interventions meant to address weight tend to fail miserably in part because we’ve been taught (and do) to eat “because we exercised“.

And what of the food in the food tent? Well no doubt in large part due to our ridiculous national Food Guide that still lists juice as a fruit serving, there were post-breakfast (the race began at 9:30am) large cans of juice containing nearly 200 calories and 10 teaspoons of free sugar. There were also 260 calorie bagels with an additional 1.5 teaspoons of free sugar, bananas, and if you were lucky enough to get there first and were so inclined, they also had a few bottles of water (compare and contrast the bottled water availability to the boxes of juice cans in the photo up above that I took from the end of the table).

Of course this isn’t unique to the Run for the Cure, but true of most short duration/distance community races (both charitable and not) that I’ve run. Given the organizations involved are deeply invested in improving health, either through charity or through fitness, their food offerings are an unwelcome contradiction of their aims.

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LOVE This New Boston Program, But It’s Not Going to Prevent or Treat Obesity

Posted October 1, 2014 by Yoni Freedhoff

It’s called “Prescribe-a-Bike” and I love everything about it except one thing.

I love that it has MDs prescribing exercise to patients.

I love that it helps to provide affordable transportation to low income Bostonians (with an MD’s Rx the normally $85 bike share membership cost is dropped to $5 and a free helmet is provided).

I love that it will improve the health of its riders.

I don’t love the fact that Boston Medical Center President and CEO Kate Walsh promoted the program by suggesting the bike share will help to combat obesity as you’ll no sooner out-ride your fork than out-run it, and perpetuating the myth that you can forestalls both individual and societal efforts at targeting our godawful diets.

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Another Meta-Analysis Confirms that Kids Can’t Outrun Their Forks

Posted September 24, 2014 by Yoni Freedhoff

Wouldn’t it be great if childhood obesity could be tackled with PE classes and after-school sports?

Unfortunately believing or wanting something to be true doesn’t make it so and study after study looking at the impact of activity levels on children’s weights demonstrate that while incredibly good for their health, exercising doesn’t tip the needle on the kids’ scales.

Well add this meta-analysis to the mix. Published in Preventive Medicine the authors pulled randomized controlled trials of 6 months or longer in duration that looked at the impact physical activity interventions had on body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol and triglycerides. In total there were 11 such trials that together included 10,748 children.

The results were pretty clear. 6 month or longer physical activity interventions weren’t associated with reductions in BMI, but they may have a positive impact on the kids’ blood pressures and triglycerides.

Yes, I know I’m a broken record, but for the record, weight is lost in kitchens, health is gained in gyms.

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