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Health & population - May 22

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Strong opinions about obesity

Marion Nestle, Food Politics

Investigators at the Harvard School of Public Health estimated the toll of behavioral contributors to early mortality. Obesity, they say, is the #3 cause of death after cigarette smoking and high blood pressure.

Dutch researchers say smoking is what kills people. Obesity just leads to disability.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says schools could do something to help prevent obesity if they got their act together. It provides a guide to doing so.

Adam Drewnowski, my colleague and friend at the University of Washington, says: if you want to understand obesity, take a look at what poverty makes people eat.

And Jeffrey Friedman, an obesity researcher at Rockfeller University tells Nature that obesity is neither an epidemic nor a disease of lifestyle. It’s all in the genes and in evolution.

I say (see What to Eat): eat less, move more, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and don’t eat too much junk food!

(21 May 2009)
Nutritionist Marion Nestle is one of my favorite commentators on food, so I was delilghted to find she has a nice-looking blog: Food Politics. -BA

David Attenborough: Our planet is overcrowded

Alison George, New Scientist
Veteran TV naturalist David Attenborough loves humans as much as other wildlife. But not when global populations are out of control, he tells Alison George

... The latest venture for this veteran of wildlife documentaries is as controversial as anything he has done in his long career. He has become a patron of the Optimum Population Trust, a think tank on population growth and environment with a scary website showing the global population as it grows. "For the past 20 years I've never had any doubt that the source of the Earth's ills is overpopulation. I can't go on saying this sort of thing and then fail to put my head above the parapet."

There are nearly three times as many people on the planet as when Attenborough started making television programmes in the 1950s - a fact that has convinced him that if we don't find a solution to our population problems, nature will. "Other horrible factors will come along and fix it, like mass starvation."

Trying to pin him down about the specifics of what to do, however, proves tricky. He says it involves persuading people that their lives and the lives of their children would be better if they didn't exceed a certain number of births per family. And that dramatic drop in birth rate rests on providing universal suffrage, education - particularly for women - and decent standards of living for all. It's a daunting task, but the first step, he argues, is to acknowledge that population is a problem.
(15 May 2009)

Recession 'entertainment' may beget new baby boom

Melanie Brooks, WTSP-TV via USA Today

SPRING HILL, Fla. — It happens a lot during hurricanes and blizzards. People spend more time at home. They don't venture out, which means they end up entertaining themselves any way they can. Now, during a struggling economy, it's happening again. Bad times in the boardroom, it seems, can make for good times in the bedroom.

Obstetrician Natalie Leibensperger knows this firsthand, judging from the recent baby boom she's seeing.

People are having sex, and a lot of it.

"You've lost your job, or you've lost your house, and you're having to cut back on everything. You're not going to go to the movies or go out to dinner," she says.
(7 May 2009)

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