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Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Risk Factors 

As Graham learns to love statistics, let's take a look at some of the results, that can lead the way to better understanding of risks affecting health.

Funniest first. Israeli researchers have found that Orthodox Jews take more risks when walking around town; apparently, they believe G-d will protect them from oncoming traffic. Before we all roll our eyes, let us consider the fact that they don't seem to be getting run over in droves, or even, from what I can tell, at a marginally increased rate relative to their behavior. Maybe there's something to this faith thing after all!

Some people just can't lose weight: whether it's the annoying last 5 pounds or the crippling first 300, their bodies seem to just want to be there. Other people are skinny little bitches and stay that way, no matter how many double quarter-pounders with extra mayo they eat. Most of us are in between - we *could* lose (or gain) those few pounds if we really tried, but it's mostly not worth the effort. And then there are the freaks. It's long been suspected (and/or assumed) that the reasons for this variation are largely genetic, but pinning down the actual genes has been tricky. Recently, researchers found a parallel situation in rats: some that took quickly to exercise, and some who didn't. The study doesn't seem to have any real direct genetic examination involved, but looking at the 'jock' rat strain versus the 'wimp' strain could shed some interesting light on how our metabolisms work.

Finally, the strange. A new CDC study has found that Mexican-Americans born in the US have a higher risk of developing asthma than do Mexican-Americans born in Mexico. From the abstract, this doesn't really make sense to me: much of Mexico has much worse pollution than much of the US, not to mention poorer sanitation and healthcare (especially for the poor, whom I am guessing are the majority of migrants). I wonder if they controlled for people moving from rural (less smoggy) Mexico versus D.F. or Guadalajara, or people born in, say Houston or Dallas versus Tempe or La Jolla? Could this be the spectre of more annoying immunization debates?

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