Monday, December 05, 2005

A Drink A Day...

...keeps the inches away?

So says a new study published in BMC Public Health.

Now, I am routinely merciless in my evaluation of public health "studies" in my professional life, so it would be hypocritical of me to be any less rigorous in my reading of this just because I happen to like the results. Among other things, their endpoint is BMI, which is used not because it is remotely relevant, but because it is easy*.

Still, I think the results of this are instructive. Though I don't for a minute think that there is a causal relationship between having a drink or so every day and avoiding obesity (and neither, to their credit, do the authors of the study suggest this), this may reflect a couple of general principles.

First is good, old-fashioned moderation in all things. People who drink moderately probably eat moderately, too. (The study also showed a correlation between heavy drinking and increased risk of obesity.)

Another, I think, is that a generally relaxed attitude about life is good for you. That may sound facile, but there is pretty good evidence that stress and the increased cortisol levels that go with it are positively associated with abdominal fat deposition (possibly an evolutionary artifact of a time when we had to survive periods of food scarcity, something that was no doubt rather stressful!)

Anyway, the all-or-nothing approach to anything strikes me as a pretty tough way to get through the day. Balance. Balance. Balance.

There are many ways to unwind...and for some of us, few things beat a tasty brew at the end of a long day. And I do have one pretty much every night...though in my case, it usually follows an hour or two at the gym...

...but I guess that kind of proves my point...

*Because BMI is calculated from only height and weight, you can simply mine charts for the data. A trained monkey medical student can do this. A vastly superior metric would be body composition, measured by skin impedance or even just the old-fashioned caliper method. But this requires actual work...


  • At 2:12 PM, Blogger chris said…

    My friend at work has been on a strict diet and exercise program for almost two years now and she has lost about 200 pounds (the right way) in the process. Her goal is to get her BMI to a certain number, but I keep trying to convince her that it's a retarded index. Regardless, it has been a very positive lifestyle change.

  • At 10:21 AM, Blogger Ben, aka BadBen said…

    Some of us have a genetically-tuned body that will retain every calorie that we take into our mouths. Because I am of that type, I have to excercise (at least) 1 hour per day to counteract that, especially since I'm rapidly approaching 50.
    Fortunately, I enjoy and even thrive with my active lifestyle, and tend to maybe overdo that side more than I would tend to overdo the drink-enjoyment side.
    Everything in moderation is key. I don't think that 10 to 20 hours a week is excessive, though. By the way, I like this quote that I saw last month:
    You've always been a "glass half full" kind of person.
    You were, anyway, until you started drinking.

  • At 10:23 AM, Blogger Ben, aka BadBen said…

    By the way, BMI is wrong 35% of the time. It doesn't account for muscle mass or "frame size" is it's main failing.

  • At 10:58 AM, Blogger Brian said…

    Ben, I feel your pain, and I'm only approaching 30. I work my ass off (not ultra-running or anything, but I do work out about 5 days a week) to maintain my body in the shape it's in.

    Yes, BMI doesn't account for different body types. If I kept my muscle mass constant, to get my BMI down to merely where I'm no longer "overweight" (and just barely at that), my body fat % would have to be into the single digits. Something I'm pretty sure is nigh-impossible for an endomorph, short of perhaps being a contestant on Survivor.

    BTW, I'm 5'11", 195 lbs, and run a 46-minute 10K. I wear size 34 pants. And--most importantly--I almost never get sick (in spite of working in a hospital), and have plenty of energy.

    I don't know if the beer helps or not, but it certainly doesn't seem to be hurting.

  • At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In other "everything bad is good for you" type news, there's evidence that caffein has various health benefits from improving athletic performance to forestalling parkinsons. Who'da thunk it.


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