Posts Tagged ‘Smoking’

Body shape is as important as weight

May 31, 2008

Are you an Apple, or a Pear?

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Several recent studies and articles have highlighted how important WHERE we store fat is to our health. Excess weight is generally stored either in the abdominal area or in the hips, thighs, and buttocks, giving rise to the descriptive terms “Apple” and “Pear.” If you are an Apple (and these shapes appear to be partly determined by genes), you tend to have more visceral fat (fat around the abdominal organs) and this can lead to various diseases (type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, heart problems, urinary problems, dementia, hypertension, and stroke). The only benefit to the Apple shape is lower risk of osteoporosis. Overweight men and post-menopausal women tend to be Apples. Also, smoking is associated with abdominal fat accumulation.

Pears are not as much at risk for the serious diseases listed above, but are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, varicose veins, and cellulite. While a Pear can become an Apple, Apples do not morph into Pears.

The good news? Here is a quote from an excellent article on this topic in the U. C. Berkeley Wellness Letter (June, 2008):

While abdominal fat tends to accumulate faster than other fat, it also tends to come off faster. [More good news:] losing just 2 inches from the waist reduces coronary risk by 11% in men and 15% in women, according to one recent study.

Further information from Weight Management for Your Life:

Some research indicates that elevated waist circumference (Men: equal to or greater than 40 inches; Women: equal to or greater than 35 inches) is a more specific risk factor for some diseases, such as prediabetes, than weight or BMI. An increasing waist-to-hip ratio may be a better indicator of coronary artery calcification than either waist circumference or BMI.  Therefore, weight distribution, as opposed to weight alone or BMI, must be taken into consideration; belly weight (abdominal obesity, “visceral fat,” or “central adiposity”) is of most concern. [see also here]

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The power of social networks to improve health

May 22, 2008

Quitting smoking and losing weight (if you are overweight) are perhaps the two most important behavior changes you can make to improve your health. A new article in today’s New England Journal of Medicine confirms what a previous article has shown: people we interact with in our social network (friends, spouse, co-workers, etc.) strongly affect our behavior when it comes to smoking and weight gain or loss. We also affect the other people in our network. Today’s article is titled “The Collective Dynamics of Smoking in a Large Social Network” by Christakis NA, Fowler JH (NEJM, Volume 358:2249-2258). The earlier article, and similar research, is described in Weight Management for Your Life (p. 79):

In 2007, an article appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine with the title “The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years” [N Engl J Med. 2007 Jul 26;357(4):370-9] The same day the article was published it made front page news. No previous research had focused so intensively on “the obesity epidemic” as a social network phenomenon. The main finding of this elaborate study was that friends have a highly significant influence on our weight, specifically whether we become obese. The effect of friendship was surprisingly large and exceeded the influence of siblings and spouse (whose influence was also significant). … The editorial in the NEJM accompanying the article put it this way: “As the article by Christakis and Fowler [the researchers] shows, … networks, in this case those that pertain to social influence, may have just as strong an impact on the development of obesity as the otherwise strong genetic effects.”

These studies provide exciting and compelling evidence in favor of the bio-psycho-social model for disease and wellness, meaning that biological (e.g., genetic), psychological (e.g., coping) and social (e.g., interpersonal and cultural) factors interact to produce health problems and all must be addressed in reversing or treating these problems.