"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

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

Friday, March 09, 2007

Fatty McSmokesalot 

Smoking and obesity are the two biggest preventable risk factors for poor health, this we all know. The question is how do we get people to quit smoking and lose weight (or, more importantly, get some exercise)? Well, today's news offers some really bad suggestions: banning more stuff.

UNC researchers found that watching R-rated movies and lots of TV made white teens more likely to smoke, but not black teens. They aren't sure why they found this difference, but suspect it might be that more characters are white, and kids identify with people like themselves. The methods of this study are, it seems, a bit dubious - the reliability of their scales is not established, and also I wonder about external validity.

But, no doubt, certain factions will use this study to demand a ban on smoking in movies. Which will (a) never happen, and (b) have at best a marginal effect on real smoking rates. Oh well.

A review of research on diet and health has found that drinking non-diet soda on a regular basis seems to be associated with unhealthier eating habits in general, increased risk of obesity, and strikingly increased risk of The Beetis. It also seems that the strongest effects were seen in the 'best' studies reviewed, though no criteria for that judgment is given here.

The problem? Passing laws to "rein in soft drink consumption" is ridiculous prospect. Almost as bad as encouraging people to encourage kids to drink diet soda. Which, among other things, interferes with bone growth and probably causes neurological damage. The only legislative approach likely to be effective here is going after advertising...and even that's a longshot.

Finally, some good-ish news: Prevention magazine, comissioned by the American Podiatric Medical Association, has published a list of the top 100 "walkable" big cities in the US. Madison, WI comes in at the top of the list, which while I think is a nice idea, clearly has some SEVERE methodological flaws. Like, for instance, the fact that Atlanta is at number 53. Uhm, no. Oh well, I guess someone had to pay for the study!

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