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Who you callin' fat!?

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  By Phil Colpas, Managing Editor, April 22, 2013

Phil Colpas

Let’s face it: Our collective health as a species has been mostly on the decline since we hit our personal, post-Industrial Revolution zenith; quite recently, in fact, when Homo sapiens boasted the longest lifespan in our short history.

It’s been downhill ever since.

According to a 2010 study by the National Center for Health Statistics, the United States ranked 49th in the world for male and female life expectancy, a precipitous drop from the fifth place it held in 1950.

And for all of you who noticed my headline was grammatically incorrect, kudos; way to pay attention! However, I suggest perhaps lightening up (I know, I know … pot, kettle). Sweating the small stuff creates stress, which is known to exacerbate existing medical conditions – and even create new ones.

Another worldwide health epidemic: There are too many of us. And there are way too many of us who are … well … fat. According to the latest information from the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO), there are 1 billion overweight adults in the world and a further 475 million who are obese. To put this into perspective: The number of people living in China, the world’s most populous nation, is 1.349 billion. (And yes, the doctor did mention I could stand to lose a few pounds.)

A third problem: We don’t really DO anything. Since we’re no longer required to hunt or gather, we spend the bulk of our time in front of computers or televisions. (Guilty.)

Professor Martin Wiseman, medical and scientific adviser for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), and Chris Trimmer, executive director of the IASO, recently spoke out to highlight the risk of obesity and an inactive lifestyle on the eve of an international scientific conference in London about – you guessed it – cancer, physical activity and obesity.

Wiseman said, “Excessive body weight has long been linked to ill health and early death and is the second biggest risk factor for cancer after smoking. It is also associated with diseases such as heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

“The rising levels of obesity around the globe are a huge concern. A recent study of 380,000 people in nine countries by Imperial College London found that following WCRF’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention reduced the risk of dying from several diseases by a third.

“The researchers found that having excessive body fat was the factor most strongly associated with an increased risk of death from diseases, such as cancer, circulatory disease and respiratory disease.

“We urgently need to address this situation by encouraging healthy diets and more physically active lifestyles.”

Ms. Trimmer said, “Cancer, high body mass and a lack of physical activity all rank in the top 10 causes of global premature death, but the interrelationship between them is a complex one.

“There is a real need to understand this relationship so as to save lives and reduce the economic and health burden associated with these factors. This will require collaborative effort and engagement across the board. The conference will provide a platform for this collaboration and support the required work going forward.”

WCRF and IASO held the international scientific conference on April 16 and 17. The sessions examined the links between obesity, physical activity and cancer incidence and survival. They examined important biomarkers and early life events in relation to cancer risk, as well as the molecular and cellular mechanisms that could explain such links.

The conference brought some of the world’s leading researchers in to discuss the latest advances in the fields of obesity, physical activity and cancer, as well as debate the direction for future research. Organizers hope it will also raise recognition of the value cancer research can offer to policymakers.

Obviously, healthcare IT plays – and will continue to play – a huge part in getting these worldwide health epidemics under control.

In the meantime, I’m seriously considering dragging my Tony Little (remember him?) Gazelle out of mothballs!


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