NY Times: Year in Health Articles

Personal item: If any blog follower has experience using biologics (eg mepolizumab, benralizumab) in a young child (1 yo) with eosinophilic colitis and marked eosinophilia, please send me a personal email: jjhochman@gmail.com.


NY Times: The Year in Fitness: Shorter Workouts, Greater Clarity, Longer Lives
By Gretchen Reynolds

Key points:

  • “Another series of studies from the University of Texas found that four seconds — yes, seconds — of ferocious bicycle pedaling, repeated several times, was enough to raise adults’ strength and endurance, whatever their age or health when they started.”
  • “As I wrote in July, the familiar goal of 10,000 daily steps, deeply embedded in our activity trackers and collective consciousness, has little scientific validity. It is a myth that grew out of a marketing accident, and a study published this summer further debunked it, finding that people who took between 7,000 and 8,000 steps a day, or a little more than three miles, generally lived longer than those strolling less or accumulating more than 10,000 steps.”
  • “Exercise also has a disproportionate impact on our odds of enjoying a long, healthy life. According to one of the most inspiring studies this year, overweight people who started working out lowered their risk of premature death by about 30 percent even if they remained overweight, with exercise providing about twice as much benefit as weight loss might…Exercise enhances our brain power, too, according to other, memorable experiments from this year”
  • “In the study, which I wrote about in May, active people reported a stronger sense of purpose in their lives than inactive people….In effect, the more people felt their lives had meaning, the more they wound up moving, and the more they moved, the more meaningful they found their lives.

NY Times: The Secrets to Successful Aging in 2022

Key points:

  • For successful aging, recognize one’s issues and adapt accordingly. “Sooner or later, we all must recognize what is no longer possible and find alternatives,” says Jane Brody (Personal Health columnist) –“Inspired by Steven Petrow’s book, “Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old.”
  • Learning from ‘Super-Agers’ — “past research has revealed lifestyle factors that contribute to resilience such as obtaining a high level of quality education; holding occupations that deal with complex facts and data; consuming a Mediterranean-style diet; engaging in leisure activities; socializing with other people; and exercising regularly”
  • The sweet spot for longevity lies around 7,000 steps a day (or 30 minutes of exercise).

NY Times: How to Improve Your Mental Health in 2022 By Dani Blum and Farah Miller

NY Times: Favorite Pieces of Advice (7 tips) includes being kind to yourself and advice to learn/do new things

The Legacy Trail -Sarasota County, FL

What’s More Important for Health: Exercise or Weight loss?

GA Gaesser, SS Angadi. iScience 2021; https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2021.102995. Open access: Obesity treatment: Weight loss versus increasing fitness and physical activity for reducing health risks

Key points from this review of more than 200 relevant meta-analyses and individual studies:

  • “A weight-neutral approach to treating obesity-related health conditions may be as, or more, effective than a weight-loss-centered approach, and could avoid pitfalls associated with repeated weight loss failure… Epidemiological studies show that CRF (cardiorespiratory fitness) and PA (physical activity) significantly attenuate, and sometimes eliminate, the increased mortality risk associated with obesity. More importantly, increasing PA or CRF is consistently associated with greater reduction in risk of all-cause and CVD mortality than intentional weight loss.”
  • “The increased prevalence of weight loss attempts in the United States has coincided with the increased prevalence of obesity. Thus, a weight-centric approach to obesity treatment and prevention has been largely ineffective. It is unlikely that continued focus on weight loss as the primary metric for success will reverse the trends in obesity prevalence or result in sustainable weight loss. In fact, chronic weight cycling is the norm for millions of adults and is likely to remain so for as long as weight loss persists as the cornerstone of obesity treatment. Weight cycling is associated with health risks that are very similar to those associated with obesity, including higher all-cause mortality risk, and may contribute to weight gain.”

NY Times (9/29/21): Why Exercise Is More Important Than Weight Loss for a Longer Life “People typically lower their risks of heart disease and premature death far more by gaining fitness than by dropping weight.”

Related blog posts:

Figure 2 from article: “Joint associations between cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), body mass index (BMI), and all-cause (top) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) (bottom) mortality. Hazard ratios reflect the pooled data from the meta-analyses of Barry et al. for all-cause mortality (Barry et al., 2014) and cardiovascular disease mortality (Barry et al., 2018). For all-cause mortality, the meta-analysis included 6 cohorts of men only, 2 cohorts of women only, and 2 cohorts of both men (~80%) and women. For CVD mortality,
the meta-analysis included 8 cohorts of men only and 1 cohort of both men (89%) and women”

Is It Worse to Be Sitting at Work or Sitting at Home?

A recent report indicates that sitting at home is more problematic for health than sitting at work and may be bad news for the manufacturer’s of standing desks.

Time: This Type of Sitting is the Worst for Your Health

Background: For the study, [published in the Journal of the American Heart Association: JM Garcia et al. Full text link Types of Sedentary Behavior and Risk of Cardiovascular Events and Mortality in Blacks: The Jackson Heart Study. https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.118.010406] “almost 3,600 African American adults reported the amount of time they’d spent sitting at work, watching television and exercising over the previous year. They also provided demographic, lifestyle and health-history information. The researchers monitored the participants’ health over eight years, during which 129 had a cardiovascular issue and 205 died.”

Key findings:

  • “After adjusting for health and lifestyle factors, the researchers found that “often or always” sitting at work was not associated with a heightened risk of death and heart disease”
  • “But those watching four or more hours of television per day had a 50% higher risk of heart issues and death, compared to those watching two hours or less per day.”
  • From Today: Sitting while watching TV, but not sitting at work, linked with higher health risk: “The health risk of watching lots of TV vanished when people spent 150 minutes or more per week doing moderate-to-vigorous exercise— like brisk walking, running, swimming and cycling.”

Commentary from Time report:

  • “People who spend a good chunk of their free time watching television likely do so at the expense of exercising.”
  • “Vegging in front of the TV may also inspire other unhealthy habits” –like snacking, consuming alcohol, and disrupting sleep patterns.

My take: This study suggests that sitting a lot at work is mainly a problem only for those who sit a lot when they leave work.

Retiro Park, Madrid


Fatty Liver Improved with Exercise

A recent study (LA Orci et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016; 14: 1398-1411) analyzed data from 28 randomized trials (>1600 patients) and performed a meta-analysis regarding the utility of exercise for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Key finding:

  • Physical activity, independently from diet change, was associated with improvement in intrahepatic lipid content (-0.69) and with reduction in alanine aminotransferase.

The authors note that the effects of lipid reduction due to exercise is considered moderate-to-large.  In several trials, another effect of exercise that was measured was a reduction in insulin resistance.


  • The duration of the effect of exercise is not known and there is not a clear “dose” of exercise.
  • Lack of histologic data (only 2 studies had histology data)

My take: This study suggests that exercise by improving metabolic status is important in improving NAFLD; thus, a fatty liver is not just about being fat.

Bar Harbor at Sunset

Bar Harbor at Sunset

Working on Transition Readiness

A recent study (Gray WN, et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2015; 21: 1125-31) examines preparedness of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) on the verge of transitioning to adult gastroenterologists from pediatric gastroenterologists.

Using a population of 195 patients (16-25 years), the authors used the Transition Readiness Assessment Questionnaire (TRAQ).  Scoring system:

  • 5= Yes, I always do this when I need to
  • 4= Yes, I have started doing this
  • 3= No, but I am learning to do this
  • 2= No, but I want to learn
  • 1= No, I do not know how

Specific Readiness Skills & Mean Scores (more complete data listed in Table 3):

  • Taking medicines correctly and on own 4.66
  • Arranging for ride to medical appointment 4.39
  • Managing money and budgeting 3.69
  • Calling doctor about unusual change in health 3.64
  • Reordering and getting refills on time 3.60
  • Calling doctor’s office to schedule an appointment 3.09
  • Getting financial help with school or work 2.92
  • Knowing what health insurance covers 2.60
  • Applying for health insurance if coverage lost 2.44

Key finding: “Only 5.6% older adolescents/young adults …met our institutional benchmark.”

To help with transition readiness the authors recommend the CDHNF/NASPGHAN Transition Checklist for parents and starting on transition issues between 12-15 years of age.  Transition checklist available here: Transitioning a Patient With IBD From Pediatric to Adult Care –this is a simple 2-page handout!

Conclusion: Most patients need more work on transition readiness.  If patients are not prepared, it is more likely that this will lead to medical setbacks.

Briefly noted:

“Exercise Decreases Risk of Future Active Disease in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Remission” Inflammatory Bowel Dis 2015; 21: 1063-71. This prospective study used the CCFA’s Partners’ internet-based cohort. 227 of 1308 (17.4%) Crohn’s disease (CD) patients and 135 of 549 (24.6%) Ulcerative colitis/indeterminate colitis (UC/IC) patients developed active disease after 6 months.  Key finding: Higher exercise level was associated with decreased risk of active disease for CD (adjusted relative risk 0.72) and UC/IC (adjusted relative risk 0.78).  Take-home point: While there are several limitations to this study, it does seem likely that regular physical exercise is a good idea (not just in patients with IBD).  In this population, subjective markers of disease activity (sCDAI and SCCAI) improved in those who exercised more.

Zoo Atlanta

Zoo Atlanta

How Does Exercise Improve Your Heart?

Probably like a lot of people, I presumed that the main way that exercise improved cardiovascular outcomes was due to beneficial effects on weight, serum lipid levels, and adiposity. However, recent research (Liu X et al. Cell Metab 2015; 21: 584-95) has shown a critical role for microRNA miR-222.  This research is summarized by Hill JA (“Braking Bad Hypertrophy” NEJM 2015; 372: 2160-62).

Key points:

  • “Liu et al provide compelling evidence that miR-222 is up-regulated by exercise and serves to brake pathologic cardiac remodeling and release the heart (“braking the brake”) to grow in a beneficial way”
  • Thus, “exercise triggers a robust and adaptive growth response in the myocardium.”
  • “Current evidence suggests that the heart, in response to stress (eg. exercise) can help it retrace its steps and move toward “good” heart growth.”

Bottomline: “Exercise is a powerful medicine with few noorthopedic side effects.”

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Brain Response to Physical Activity different in Obesity

From NY Times (http://nyti.ms/1afnEyJ) review of the following article:

Int J Obes (Lond). 2013 Dec 24. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2013.245. [Epub ahead of print]

Differences in neural activation to depictions of physical exercise and sedentary activity: An fMRI study of overweight and lean chinese women. Jackson T, Gao X, Chen H.

An excerpt:

Overweight women’s brains respond differently to images of exercise than do the brains of leaner women…

The scientists asked their volunteers to complete two questionnaires, one of which probed the extent to which they considered exercise desirable; would they agree, for instance, that, “if I were to be healthy and active, it would help me make friends”? The other set of questions examined whether they expected exercise to be unpleasant; if they were to be physically active on most days, for example, would they expect to wind up feeling sore, or maybe even embarrassed by exercising in public?

The researchers next had each woman lie inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, which scans blood flow to specific areas of the brain, indicating areas of increased activity. Then they started a slide show.

For some time, scientists have known that many overweight people’s brains operate differently than the brains of thinner people when they look at images related to eating. In previous neurological studies, when heavier volunteers viewed pictures of food or food preparation, they typically developed increased activity in portions of the brain involved in reward processing, or an urge to like things, including in an area called the putamen. At the same time, their brains showed relatively blunted activity in areas that are thought to induce satiety, or the ability to know when you are full. These changes generally are reversed in the brains of thinner people shown the same images.

But no brain-scanning studies had examined whether being heavy might also affect people’s brain responses — and presumably their attitudes — toward physical activity.

So, to address that gap, the researchers now flashed a series of photographs before their volunteers. Ninety of the images showed people being joyously active by running, dancing, leaping, playing tennis and such. The women were asked to vividly imagine themselves performing the same actions, using hand gestures and limited bodily contortions, to the extent possible within the confines of the scanner.

Ninety additional images featured relaxed, sedentary behaviors, including stretching out on a sofa and sitting in a desk chair. Again, the women were directed to imagine themselves similarly lounging. The various images of activity and quiet were interspersed with photographs of landscapes.

While the women viewed the pictures, the functional M.R.I. machine monitored their brain activity.

The resulting readouts revealed that overweight women’s brains were put off by exercise. Shown images of people being active, these women developed little activation in the putamen region of the brain, suggesting that they did not enjoy what they were seeing. At the same time, a portion of the brain related to dealing with negative emotions lit up far more when they viewed images of moving than of sitting. Emotionally, the brain scans suggested, they anticipated disliking physical activity much more than they expected to disdain sitting.

Leaner women’s brain activity, by and large, was the opposite, with the putamen lighting up when they watched others work out and envisaged doing the same themselves.

Challenging the Obesity Myths

A recent provocative article highlights the myriad misconceptions regarding obesity (NEJM 2013; 368: 446-54).

According to the authors, many of the obesity recommendations are fallacies:

  • Myth: “Small sustained changes in energy intake will produce large long-term weight changes.” Fact: Because of changes in body mass, the energy requirements change which results in only modest improvement.
  • Myth: “Setting realistic goals for weight loss is important.” Fact: Setting realistic goals has not been shown to improve outcomes over more ambitious goals.
  • Myth: “Rapid weight loss is associated with poorer long-term weight-loss outcomes, as compared with slow, gradual weight loss.”  Fact: Ultimate success in terms of body weight is better with greater initial weight loss.
  • Myth: “It is important to assess…diet readiness.” Fact: Readiness does not predict the magnitude of weight loss or treatment adherence among those who sign up for behavioral programs or undergo weight loss surgery.
  • Myth: “Physical-education classes…play an important role in reducing or preventing childhood obesity.” Fact: Physical education, as typically provided, has not been shown to reduce or prevent obesity.
  • Myth: “Breast-feeding is protective against obesity.” Fact: “Studies with better control for confounding..involving more than 13,000 children who were followed for more than 6 years provided no compelling evidence of an effect of breast-feeding on obesity.”
  • Myth: “Sexual activity burns 100-300 kcal for each participant.” Fact: “Incremental benefit of one bout…is plausibly on the order of 14 kcal.”  (This is going to dampen the all-you-need-to-lose weight is to become a pornography star craze.)

Presumptions -also not proven:

  • Eating breakfast is protective against obesity
  • Early childhood learning regarding exercise and eating influence our weight throughout life
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables will result in weight loss
  • Snacking contributes to weight gain
  • Availability of parks and sidewalks influence the development of obesity


  • Reducing energy intake (dieting) can be effective.
  • Increased exercise improves health.
  • Programs that involve parents promote greater weight loss.
  • Some pharmaceutical agents can help.
  • Bariatric surgery can be lifesaving treatment in some cases.
  • Heritability is not destiny.  Moderate sustained environmental changes can be effective.


Some related links: