Vol. 58 January 1, 2012 Top 15 Medical Fun Facts of Hubslist 2011

January 1, 2012

“WHAT IS PAST IS PROLOGUE”
-William Shakespeare, The Tempest

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1. Measles vaccination does NOT cause autism and the author of that study, discredited as a physician in the U.K., now runs a profitable private clinic in Texas without a U.S. medical license. 1/15/11

2. Many hospitals, physicians and more than half of consumers currently favor a single-payer system. 5/1/11

3. Fishermen die at work 15 times more often than policeman and 45 times more than firemen. 5/15/11

4. Four men jogging can produce MORE carbon dioxide emissions than a hybrid car driving them the same distance. 5/15/11

5. 93% of 44 children who were avoiding 111 foods because of non-threatening allergic reactions (eczema, atopic dermatitis, and hives) were NOT allergic to those foods. Milk allergy was the most common over-diagnosis. 5/30/11

6. Your parenting style has less effect on your child’s “success” than your own educational level, income, and where you live. 9/1/11

7. Watching Sesame Street is entertaining for infants and toddlers , but it is NOT educational until they are 2 ½ years old. The educational benefits to the over 30-month old viewers persist to age 17 years. 11/1/11

8. Eating turkey is no more apt to make you sleepy than eating chicken, pork chops, lamb chops, or salmon. 12/1/11

9. The average DAILY number of text messages by a high school kid is 300-500. 11/1/11

10. 85% of teenagers take their cell phone to bed at night. 11/1/11

11. The five-year trial of “managed competition” between private health insurance companies in the Netherlands resulted in increased health care costs, increased percentage of people receiving government subsidy for health insurance, and increased number of uninsured, now called “defaulters”. 8/15/11

12. The many modes of obesity treatment other than surgical gastric bypass are only 4% effective. 8/1/11

13. Ninety million (90 MILLION) swine flu (H1N1) vaccinations were given in China and only 11 cases of Guillian-Barre syndrome (GBS) occurred. This rate was less than the rate expected in a general, unvaccinated population. 5/15/11

14. Baseball players CAN see better than umpires. 2/15/11

15. If your friends on Facebook are obese, you are more apt to be obese. 1/1/11


Vol. 49 August 1, 2011 How Did “Fat” Become “Obese”?

August 1, 2011

I was really tired of words like ‘plus size,’ ’round’ and ‘large.’ I thought, ‘Come on, we’re fat.’

Kirstie Alley

For the first time ever, overweight people outnumber average people in America. Doesn’t that make overweight the average then? Last month you were fat, now you’re average – hey, let’s get a pizza!
Jay Leno

We used to call overweight people “fat”.  Now they are “obese”.

This now politically-correct nomenclature has emerged from the medicalization of heaviness.

You use to be able to tell when someone was overweight by just looking at them. Now you must calculate their BMI, a measurement derived from height and weight, that superseded the more primitive measurement of skin fold thickness that nobody liked doing anyway. Scientific-looking graphs allow you to plot BMIs on a percentile scale. If your BMI is over the 90%tile you are REALLY FAT, excuse me, obese.

You can graduate from being merely obese to the Metabolic Syndrome with just a few blood tests; triglycerides, cholesterol, and insulin levels. People with Metabolic Syndrome have large belt circumferences; ie. they are fat. If your belt length is over 47 inches your mortality rate is doubled. (1) If you are a man with a belt circumference over 35 inches you are at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and , of course, diabetes. Overweight people tend to develop diabetes, so now all fat people are “pre-diabetic”. In fact half of the U.S. population could be called “pre-diabetic”. This recognized medical diagnosis has changing criteria. Just ask your own doctor what level of blood sugar he or she now considers “pre-diabetic”.

A pediatrician and a lawyer from Children’s Medical Center in Boston recently suggested that really fat children should be removed from their families by the state because extreme obesity in a child should be considered a form of child abuse; a striking example of the medicalization of  heaviness (2). One of the problems with this idea is that “you can’t pick your parents” and obesity does have a large genetic component. If parents are fat, their children will tend to be so also (even if they reside in a foster home).Once you start expanding the definition of child abuse where do you stop? What about parents with more than the  “normal number” of guns in the house. What  is that number? What about parents who watch more than 6 hours of TV a day? More than likely their kids do too, and we know that  prolonged TV watching leads to obesity.

No less a moral authority than renowned biomedical ethicist Daniel Callahan, retired Director of The Hastings Center  (dare I call him a “heavyweight”), has joined the discussion. In “Harnessing Stigma or Stigmatizing Stigma? The Case for Obesity” he proposes that the obese be subject to the same social stigmatization as smokers. The similarities are numerous. Both cause expensive medical illness. Both seem to be the result of individual’s choices. Calorie counts on foods are now required like Surgeon General’s warnings on cigarette packs. Callahan never published the article after public health researchers battling against the stigmatization of fat people changed his mind; i.e he returned to  “political correctness”. (Ah hah! When battling for a cause it is OK to call them “fat”, not “obese”.) Ironically if everyone stopped smoking the improvement in life expectancy would be completely cancelled out by the decreased life expectancy of obesity. If everyone in the U.S. stopped smoking AND returned to normal weight, our average life span would increase by almost 4 years. (3)

The many modes of obesity treatment are only 4% effective. Gastric bypass surgery has great potential for weight loss, though its reasons for effectiveness are still a subject for speculation and research. (4) So unlike smoking which is an addiction and perhaps more amenable to behavioral therapy and temporary medication aids, being fat is “more about the person and less about the behavior” according to Rebecca Puhl, Director of Research at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

That title definitely plays better than “Yale’s Research Center on Fat People.”      Q.E.D.

References:
1. Arch Int Med 2010 Aug9/23 170:1293
2.State Intervention in Life-Threatening Childhood Obesity    JAMA. 2011;306(2):206-207.
3. NEJM 361;23 22252
4. Lee Kaplan, MD, 2007, MGH Weight Center, MGH)


Vol. 18 April 1, 2010 APRIL FOOL’S ISSUE

April 1, 2010

APRIL FOOLS DAY (according to one theory that ignores the 13th century literature references to “april fools”) was created around 1582 when the Gregorian calendar moved the first day of the New Year from April 1 to January 1. Those who persisted in calling April 1 “New Year’s Day” were often sent phony invitations to  New Year’s parties. Other pranks to fool people, usually performed in the morning, were soon added to the phony party invitations. Someone who pulled a prank after noontime on that day was also called a “fool”.

THE TRADITION CONTINUES.

NIH REPORTS THAT ONLY 20% OF AMERICANS ARE ACTUALLY OBESE.
The NH discovered an error in its formula for calculating Body Mass Index  (BMI), a widely used standard of obesity which is posted on their website. The calculation error results in a grossly overstated BMI which negates decades of provocative research on obesity. The White House spokesperson for Michelle Obama declined comment by saying, “We have other more important health care issues on the front burner right now”. The NIH regrets any inconvenience that this may have caused, reassures researchers that study grant funds will not be reclaimed,  and states, “Hey, we can’t be right about everything.”

LAST SUPPER PORTIONS HAVE INCREASED 69.2% OVER THE LAST MILLENNIUM.
In a related study, and a timely one at that, two researchers studied 52 paintings of the Last Supper and concluded that the size of the main course in the paintings had increased by nearly 70% over the centuries. Plate size increased by 66% and bread size by 23%. The authors of this study published in the International Journal of Obesity just in time for Easter speculate that the increasing sizes reflect the increasing abundance and affordability of food over the years. (Apparently there is nothing new about “Super Size Me”.) (1)

H1N1 (SWINE) FLU PROGRAM A BIGGER STIMULUS THAN THE BANK BAILOUTS
The Government Accounting Office (GAO), the federal government’s premier watchdog agency, reports that the H1N1 (swine flu) epidemic efforts created more of an economic stimulus than the bank bailouts. The amount of money pumped into media outlets by the educational efforts was exceeded only by the amount paid to pharmaceutical companies for manufacturing and distribution of the vaccines, now readily available in excess supply due to underuse. More importantly, much of the trickle down economic benefits occurred in the offices of pediatricians, internists, and family physicians; our lowest income bracket health care providers. When asked by the GAO for comments, the CDC replied, “Hey, we can’t be right about everything.”

VIDEO GAME EXPERIENCE MORE BENEFICIAL THAN HONOR GRADES.
Army recruits with a history of prolonged play on video games have better success records as tank commanders and drone pilots than the valedictorians from the same schools. The study speculates that the better hand-eye coordination and enhanced perception of spatial relationships of the video game players accounts for the large discrepancy in skills between the two groups of students. The study authors speculate that these findings could be generalized to include endoscopic, laparoscopic, angioplastic, and other “minimally invasive”  procedures. “Perhaps it is time we altered our application standards for medical school and post-graduate clinical training.”

VEGETABLES CAN LOWER IQs.
Organic vegetables are suspected of  lowering the IQ in young children by at least 10 points. This result of a study of children in Western Massachusetts, Southern California, Oregon, and other tree-hugging communities surprised the authors who had received funds for the study from the National Association of Vegetable Investors (NAVI). A parallel study in rabbits revealed that carotene (the color in yellow and green vegetables) has a strong affinity for nerve synapse proteins in the brain. The carotene  binds tightly with the nerve protein, slowing the response time, EXCEPT in the occipital lobe which is responsible for vision. (Your grandmother was right after all. Eating carrots can help your eyesight.)

WEARING GALOSHES (OR RUBBERS) IN THE MOVIES DOES NOT HARM YOUR VISION.
This small study revealed no change in vision between children who removed their galoshes while in the movie theater and those who did not. The study authors concluded that “Mothers and grandmothers can’t be right all the time, either”, but admitted that the study result was weakened by its small size since they had trouble finding enough kids who still went to a movie theater to watch movies.

OLIVES IN A MARTINI ARE AS GOOD AS OLIVE OIL IN REDUCING CHOLESTEROL.
“You just have to drink enough of them” say the study’s authors.

PASSAGE OF HEALTH CARE REFORM BILL CAUSES MASSIVE SHIFT OF LOBBYISTS.
Lobbyists for bankers, business groups, hedge funds, insurance firms, Wall Street brokers, and others in the  financial sector are poised to reclaim their historical position as the number one group in expenditures to influence Washington policy now that the health care bill has been passed. The Committee for Truth in Politics, its membership and financing still a secret, has already spent $5 million in advertising opposing proposed financial reforms. The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks spending by lobbyists, speculates that the financial sector lobbyists want to get back to its spending level of the past decade of $3.9 Billion. (2)

CELL PHONE USAGE MAY INCREASE FERTILITY.
In the midst of the scientific controversy about whether or not the low-level radio frequency (RF) coming from cell phones can cause brain tumors, one study has unexpectedly shown an increase in the birth rate in those women using the cell phone more than an hour a day. The mechanism of enhanced fertility is not known. “We compared the actual time spent on voice calls, texting, twittering, and Facebook and found no fertility differences among them, so we don’t think it is associated with just an increase in social intercourse. Likewise, we found no differences between heavy daytime users and heavy nighttime users.” Dr. Siegal Sadetski, a researcher at Israel’s Gertner Institute, stated, “Scientifically speaking, we don’t have proof yet, but as a public health concern, I’m saying we definitely should adopt precautions.” (3)

References:

1. Believe or not, this fun fact is actually true. Wansink and Wansink from Cornell and VWI are the authors. Look it up!
2. Actually some of these names and amounts are true. Check out Center for Responsive Politics website.
3. This quote is true too, but is wildly out of context. 


Volume 4 September 1, 2009 Obesity

September 1, 2009
OBESITY:  EPIDEMIC, EFFERVESCENCE, or EVOLUTION?

Per cent of Americans considered overweight in 1960: 24
Per cent of Americans considered overweight in 1980: 33
Average pounds heavier American men and women are now compared    to 1980 respectively: 17, 19
Increase proportion of overweight American children and adolescents since 1980: x2 , x3
Estimated annual cost of fuel to fly extra weight of overweight Americans: $250 million
Estimated cost to U.S. healthcare for overweight and obesity alone: $79 billion
Per cent of that cost borne by Medicare or Medicaid: 50
Normal Body Mass Index (BMI) and that of obese person respectively: < 25, > 30
How do you calculate your BMI: www.nhibisupport.com/bmi


World-wide increase in obesity (BMI >30) in last 10 years: 10-40%
Year World Health Organization first used the term “global epidemic of obesity”: 2005
Rank of U.S.
of 28 countries and per cent obese in 2005 respectively: 1 , 31%
Average per cent obese among the 28 countries: 14%
Number of countries with above average per cent obese: 11 of 28
Number of calories in an Oreo Chocolate Sundae Shake at Burger King: 1,010
Number of calories in a tablespoon of ketchup, sugar, or mayo respectively: 15, 45, 90
Number of teaspoons of sugar equivalent to a 20 oz. soft drink: 17
Per cent of all liquids consumed that were soft drinks (both regular and diet) in 1998: 30
Increase in per cent of daily calories from sugary drinks between 1975-2000: +30
Per cent of all consumed calories in the U.S. represented by soft drinks: 7%
Rank of soft drinks in the list of all foods consumed in the U.S: 1
Amount of annual revenue projected for a penny an ounce tax on soft drinks In New York
State: $ 1.2 billion
Estimated reduction in soft drink consumption by same tax: 13%
Estimated annual weight loss in average person by that reduction in consumption: 2 lbs
Chances that switching to artificially sweetened drinks will avoid weight gain:
maybe / maybe not (study results are mixed)
Number of teaspoons of sugar equivalent to a 12 oz. class of orange juice: 10
Chances that a person will eat more when presented with a larger portion: 53-73%
Calorie content of a normal bagel in 1990 and 2009 respectively: 140 , 350
Number of inches average person in the world is taller than in 1900: 1.9
Number of inches world champion swimmer is taller than average in 1900: 4.5
Number of inches that fastest world champion runner is taller than average in 1900: 6.4

References listed in New Yorker article (July 20, 2009) cited above:
The Fattening of America, Finkelstein and Zuckerman (Wiley)
The End of Overeating, David Kessler (Rodale)
Fat Land, Critser, 2003
Mindless Eating, Wansink, 2006
Globesity, Delpeuch et al. (Earthscan)
The Evolution of Obesity, Powers and Schulkin (Johns Hopkins Press)

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