I knew Mr. Adel was right when he told us back in the 10th grade that math was important. (One of the best teachers I ever had, along with Mr. Peterson, of course). I am 40 now, so it only took 24 years for Mr. Adel’s wisdom to sink in. Let me explain.
Last night as I read a press release regarding some research at UCLA I smiled, showed my partner, and we both smiled again. “Sugar makes you stupid ” was the title of the release. More specifically, high fructose corn syrup makes us stupid. Concrete evidence, I kid you not. The best part is this is a line from one of the researchers: ”Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think.” Really? And guess what, kids that watch alot of TV have poor eating habits. Not earth shattering by any means, but good stuff that as I went to bed I thought about. I’ll come back to these points later this week. Meanwhile….
This morning while riding the stationary bike at the fitness center I came across this article in the New York Times: A mathematical challenge to obesity. Read this article. Now. Leave it to the mathematicians to shed light on what exercise physiologists have been trying to figure out for years. (Mr. Adel, I know how to spell Pythagoras now, come back and teach me!). I finished the article and looked around the fitness center for a mathematician. Luckily, at 4:00 am, the place was crawling with them, or at least one, who happened to be a friend. I texted him (he was a few machines away, much too far to walk) and said, “look at this!” His calm reply, “Yeah, I met Dr. Chow years ago, he does really great work.” (My parentheticals and paraphrase in full effect here). My point is people that know the math know how the world works. And how obesity works, so it seems. And they are so damn calm about it! I told my friend I will be registering for his fall math courses today. He told me it doesn’t matter that I still can’t tell him what Pythagoras was trying to tell me. I think my friend was lying.
Dr. Carson Chow of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has developed a model of obesity, how we got here, and where we are going. His model incorporates all the important variables, i.e, height, weight, food intake, etc. I won’t go into specifics, namely because I can’t. (Math!). Some highlights:
“…the conventional wisdom of 3,500 calories less is what it takes to lose a pound of weight is wrong. The body changes as you lose. Interestingly, we also found that the fatter you get, the easier it is to gain weight. An extra 10 calories a day puts more weight onto an obese person than on a thinner one.”
“…there’s a time constant that’s an important factor in weight loss. That’s because if you reduce your caloric intake, after a while, your body reaches equilibrium. It actually takes about three years for a dieter to reach their new “steady state.” Our model predicts that if you eat 100 calories fewer a day, in three years you will, on average, lose 10 pounds — if you don’t cheat.”
“Huge variations in your daily food intake will not cause variations in weight, as long as your average food intake over a year is about the same. This is because a person’s body will respond slowly to the food intake.”
Wow. Big time stuff here. I hope all my exercise physiologists are listening to this conversation, and that they paid attention in math class. A “longitudinal” study on weight loss in my field is considered 12 months. Darn hard to get people to stick to diet and exercise programs. Because of math, Dr. Carson can predict three years out. Take a look again, 3,500 calories is not equal to a pound of weight loss, obese individuals respond to 10 calories differently than lean individuals, it takes three years to reach a new steady state, and the kicker, if you eat 100 calories less each day, in three years you’ve lost 10 pounds. That sucks. You can actually use Dr. Carson’s simulator to make your own weight loss predictions and estimate how much you’ll have to change your diet and exercise routine to reach a stated goal (You’ll need Java installed on your computer. Free download).
What jumps out at me is the three years and ten pounds comment. Can this be true? Explains many people’s experiences if it is. The other fact that jumps out is that we as researchers need to work together. Math is very powerful stuff (I know, call me Master of the Obvious), however, I am not a mathematician and I need help. If we put our collective brains together and start to figure out obesity, wow! And if that isn’t enough, read the NY Times article above and find out what Dr. Carson thinks is causing our obesity epidemic. The answer may surprise you. Or not.
I’ll be talking about this for a while. Yummy.