Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Belly fat may be worse than obesity for survival


(Reuters Health) - People with a “normal” weight but extra pounds around the middle may have lower long-term survival odds than individuals who are obese, a U.S. study suggests.

What’s considered a normal weight for adults is often based on a measurement known as body mass index (BMI), which assesses weight relative to height. For the current study, researchers focused on people’s waist-to-hip ratio, which measures whether they’re storing excess fat around the middle.

They found that men with a normal BMI but central obesity, the clinical term for belly fat, had twice the mortality risk of men who were overweight or obese according to BMI.

Normal weight women with belly fat, meanwhile, had a 32 percent higher mortality risk than obese women without excess pounds around the middle.

“Waist size matters, particularly in people who are a normal weight,” said senior study author Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

“The lack of recognition of this leads people with abnormal distribution of fat to have a false sense of safety or reassurance that they don’t need to exercise or they can eat whatever they want because they are “skinny” when in reality, if a person has a normal BMI and an abnormal waist size the risk is worse than if they have a high BMI.”

To understand the connection between waist size and mortality, researchers analyzed data on more than 15,000 adults surveyed from 1988 to 1994 and then followed through 2006.

Based on BMI, about 40 percent of participants were normal weight, while 35 percent were overweight and 25 percent were obese.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) criteria, about 70 percent of participants were centrally obese, meaning their waist-to-hip ratio was at least 0.85 (for women) or at least 0.90 (for men).

Along with the waist-to-hip ratio, participants’ waist circumference was also more helpful than BMI in predicting risk of mortality, although only about 29 percent of people in the study were centrally obese using the WHO sex-specific criteria for waist circumference – more than 88 cm (34.6 inches) for women and more than 102 cm (40.2 inches) in men.

Over an average of about 14 years, there 3,222 deaths, including 1404 due to cardiovascular disease.

A man with normal-weight central obesity had a 78 percent higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than a man with a similar BMI but no fat around the middle, the study found.

For women in this same scenario, normal-weight central obesity more than doubled the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Limitations of the study include a measurement technique for waist circumference that’s different than the method recommended by WHO, the authors acknowledge. Researchers also relied on self-reported data for many health complications such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol or diabetes.

Even so, the findings provide ample evidence suggesting that doctors should look beyond just BMI to identify people who are at the greatest risk due to excess pounds, Dr. Paul Poirier, of Laval University and the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute, noted in an editorial.

Measuring BMI is a good start for identifying patients at greater cardiovascular risk, but it is not sufficient to identify every person at risk, Poirier wrote.

“We need to talk about waist loss and not weight loss,” Poirier said by email. “When you lose weight through exercise and proper nutrition then the first fat to go is the fat at the waist line.”

Some preliminary research has previously pointed to the potential for diets low in carbohydrates to help eliminate waist fat, though more research on this is still needed, Lopez-Jimenez noted.

Because people with normal weight and excess pounds around the middle may not have as much muscle mass as people without belly fat, these individuals may benefit from an exercise routine that includes strength and resistance training in addition to aerobic activity, Lopez-Jimenez added.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Here’s what happens to your body after you down an energy drink. It’s kind of scary.

From the Washington Post Tuesday, November 17, 2015 
Ariana Eunjung Cha

There's been a lot of controversy about caffeine-spiked energy drinks in recent years following a spate of deaths and overdoses related to the beverages. In one of the most heartbreaking cases, 14-year-old Anais Fournier of Maryland died after consuming two 24-ounce cans of an energy drink. Food and Drug Administration has been studying such cases to try to determine if there's a causal link and, if so, what to do about it. Makers of energy drinks, meanwhile, have insisted that the beverages are safe and that some of the cases of bad reactions may have been due to pre-existing conditions that the individuals in question had. In an effort to get more information about exactly happens in your body after you consume one of the drinks, Mayo Clinic researcher Anna Svatikova and her colleagues recruited 25 volunteers.
All were young adults age 18 or older, nonsmokers, free of known disease, and not taking medications. They were asked to drink a 16-ounce can of a Rockstar energy drink and a placebo -- with the same taste, texture, color and nutritional contents but without the caffeine and other stimulants -- within five minutes on two separate days. The energy drink had the following stimulants: 240 mg of caffeine, 2,000 mg of taurine and extracts of guarana seed, ginseng root and milk thistle. Researchers took numerous measurements first before they drank and 30 minutes after. With the placebo, there was very little change. With the energy drink, however, many of the changes were marked:

  • Systolic blood pressure (the top number) - 6.2 percent increase
  • Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) - 6.8 percent increase
  • Average blood pressure - 6.4 percent increase
  • Heart rate - none
  • Caffeine in blood - increase from undetectable to 3.4 micrograms/mL
  • Norepinephrine level (the stress hormone, which can give you the shakes when you have too much caffeine) in blood - increase from 150 pg/mL to 250 pg/ML

Writing in JAMA, the researchers said that these changes may predispose those who drink a single drink to increased cardiovascular risk. This may explain why a number of those who died after consuming energy drinks appeared to have had heart attacks. As part of their research, Svatikova and her co-authors exposed the volunteers to two-minute physical, mental, and cold stressors after consuming the energy drinks to see how that might affect blood pressure and other body functions. The physical stressor involved asking participants to squeeze on a handgrip; the mental one to complete a serial mathematical tasks as fast as possible; and the cold one immersing their one hand into ice water. Interestingly, there was no further change. The American Beverage Association said in a statement that "there is nothing unique about the caffeine in mainstream energy drinks, which is about half that of a similar sized cup of coffeehouse coffee" and that drinking coffee would have produced similar effects. “The safety of energy drinks has been established by scientific research as well as regulatory agencies around the globe. Just this year the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed the safety of energy drinks and their ingredients after an extensive review," the organization said. In the United States, many energy drink manufacturers voluntarily label their drinks with total caffeine content and advisory statements stating the products are not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women and persons sensitive to caffeine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Here’s a Firefighter Combat Challenge Lion’s Den First!

The first father-son competitor pair happened in the last decade when Randy Hogan and his son showed up. Randy was a captain with the Byron (IL) Fire Department.

Classic NZ Fern design and Lion’s Den coins from the Maw family
But History was made this year when the Maw family from New Zealand came on the scene.
Steven Maw, 24 obtained his Lion's Den time, at the US Nationals in Tyler, Texas in 2014 and was inducted into the Lion’s Den in Phoenix last year. (Our rule is that times that qualify during a season- before World Challenge- are inducted that same year. Times during the current WC are awarded the following year.)

Hamish, (center) just finishing his Lion’s Den Run
Wayne Maw, 51, obtained Lion's Den time at World Challenge XXIII, Tuesday, the 4th of November, Phoenix 2014 and inducted this year at Montgomery
- becoming the first Father/Son to achieve Lion's Den from New Zealand Hamish Maw, 22, obtained Lion's Den time World Finals, Friday 23rd October 2015. Wayne, Steven, and Hamish did a 3-Man All-Maw Relay on Wednesday the 21st October; we’re pretty sure that’s never happened before. Perhaps a new category for an all-in-the-family relay team?

The Maw Family at WCXXIV Montgomery, AL 2015
 Steven became first New Zealander to do a Sub 90 and in doing so became the fastest ever Kiwi, as well as the 2014 NZ National Champion, Runner up 2015. Steven and Hamish were 2014 NZ National Tandem Champions, runners-up for 2015. Wayne, Steven and Hamish were part of the 2014 NZ National Relay winning Team.

The family are members of the Southbridge Fire Brigade; Wayne has 34 years service, Steven 7 ½ years, and Hamish 5 years.
Kudos, Gents! Or, as they like to say in NZ, “Brilliant!”

The Maw family at the 2015 Lion’s Den Induction Ceremony in Mongtomery, AL; Steven, Wayne, Mother Maw and Hamish

Monday, November 9, 2015

Is it what we eat? Or that we overeat? A look at the effort to figure out why we’re fat.

Scanning through the archives of the Washington Post, I came across this abstract written by Nancy Szokan, a frequent contributor to the Tuesday Health Science section. The link to the original Wired magazine article is embedded. Obesity is at epidemic proportions and affects the fire service in numbers similar to that of the general population. I think you'll find the purpose of this new study to be very interesting and relevant to your department's fitness initiatives.


Do we get fat because we overeat, or because of the types of food we eat? That’s the question posed by the Energy Balance Consortium Study, described by Sam Apple for Wired magazine . Apple gives a fascinating picture of how the study was conducted: Two days a week, participants were locked into “tiny airtight rooms known as metabolic chambers,” where scientists calculated how many calories they burned by measuring changes in oxygen and carbon dioxide in the rooms’ air. 
Their meals, delivered through vacuum-sealed portholes so researchers’ breath wouldn’t interfere with the measurements, were chemically analyzed to determine exact levels of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. (One site for the research was the metabolic ward at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.)
Twice a month, the subjects had their body fat analyzed through “dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scans.” Their blood was analyzed for lipids and hormone levels. Stool samples revealed which bacteria were in their guts.
The study is one of the first to be funded by the nonprofit Nutrition Science Initiative, founded in 2012 by science journalist Gary Taubes and physician/researcher Peter Attia. NuSI’s mission, Apple writes, is to challenge “existing knowledge gathered in the past five decades of research . . . from studies marred by inadequate controls, faulty cause-and-effect reasoning and animal studies that are not applicable to humans.”
The initiative’s work is broadly aimed at cutting the U.S. obesity rate in half and the prevalence of diabetes by 75 percent in 15 years. It’s an ambitious goal, and Apple’s expansive, wide-ranging story about NuSI, its founders and its study is an eye-opening read.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

You Heard It Here First...It's A Lock

The culmination of hundreds of thousands of training hours comes down to the World Challenge Championship. And, with 24 such events under our belt, what do you do to top WCXXIV in Montgomery?

Well, we did a survey and 131 respondents said, hands down the best place ever. How can you not like the Southern Hospitality on steroids? This, coupled with over 400 signatures on a petition to return was the icing on the cake. (Take a quick look at the responses posted to my last Blog)

So, put this on your calendar: October 24-29, 2016, World Challenge XXV, Montgomery, Alabama! They're already addressing some of your requests from this year, getting ready to hit this ball out of the park.