Healthy Bits – September 2015

By AFM Staff – September 1, 2015

Media's Major Impact on Health

In the early 2000s, more media outlets began highlighting America’s growing obesity rate. This coverage convinced people that obesity was no longer a personal problem, but rather, a serious health crisis. Once the term “obesity epidemic” was introduced in 2002 and then regularly appearing in The New York Times, the public responded with recognition of a much needed lifestyle change. Between 1998 and 2003, the share of The New York Times articles mentioning the word tripled. The topic of obesity also opened up a widespread discussion of related health problems, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Between the 1970s and the turn of the century, coverage on the subject of diabetes has increased tenfold. Although the American Medical Association’s classification of obesity as a disease was controversial two years ago, the president of the Obesity Society, Nikhil Dhurandhar, said the change in attitude was due to increased awareness that obesity is a complex condition with health consequences, not just an aesthetic problem or a sign of a weak will.

The Grass is Greener on the Other Side

Feeling blue? Go for a walk in the Greenbelt! A study conducted at Stanford University found that people who walked briefly through a lush, green portion of the campus reported to be more attentive and happier afterward than participants who strolled for the same amount of time near heavy traffic areas. The researchers did a follow up study more recently in which they examined the neurological activity that occurred during time spent in these differing environments. They gathered 38 healthy, adult city-dwellers and had each participant complete a questionnaire to determine normal levels of morbid rumination and undergo a brain scan to assess activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (the area responsible for mood and emotions). Researchers then sent half of the participants on a 90-minute walk through a quiet, park-like portion of Stanford University’s campus, while the other half walked along a busy, loud highway. The people who spent their time in nature had less blood flow in their prefrontal cortex, indicating calmer brain activity and a more relaxed mood. In a post-study questionnaire, participants also reported that they did not dwell on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had prior to walking through the park.

Women Want It Warmer

Despite the daily triple-digit temperatures of summer, many women are still feeling chilly—in the office, that is. While cranking up the air conditioning during the hot summer months seems completely rational, women around the country are experiencing chronic goosebumps as a result of their office temperatures being too cold. Scientists investigated this strange phenomenon and recently published their findings in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study revealed that most office buildings set temperatures based on a formula developed in the 1960s that uses the metabolic rates of men. To conduct this study, researchers tested 16 women, students in their 20s, doing seated work wearing light clothes in rooms called respiration chambers, while tracking skin and internal body temperatures. Researchers found the women’s average metabolic rate was 20 to 32 percent lower than rates in the standard chart used to set building temperature. The proposed solution is adjusting the thermostat, because women should be more comfortable (and as a result, more productive).




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