Thursday, February 28, 2013

Searcher: Energetics and Mammals

Week 7 
                                                                                                                                                                  In this week topic discussion, we have learned about far-reaching, detailed material about movement and energy expenditure/TEE.  In the readings, lectures, and class discussion we have studied physical activity vs. being sedentary, intake and output of energy, effects of a sedentary lifestyle on a biological level, weight gain and weight loss due to energy imbalances. We’ve studied energetics and psychology, and we also discussed positive and negative effects of high and low energy/activity levels (just to name a few). We have not discusses too much about congenital effects of a high-energy intake diet of a pregnant mammals. So what congenital effects occur when a pregnant animal eat a diet high in calories? What happens to the baby post birth?

I was not shocked about the findings to the question stated above. In the article I found,  there were chemical changes in the newborn monkeys brains due to the mothers high calorie fatty diet. These babies had higher anxiety levels, and metabolic problems.

The article is entitled “Today’s Lab Rats of Obesity: Furry Couch Potatoes”, and it relates to the class significantly. In this article from the New York Times, researchers are studying monkeys intake of energy as well as output. In this study, researchers are comparing human diseases, surgery outcome, weight loss outcome to monkeys, and shocking conclusions are drawn.
The outcome of the high-energy diet and the high-energy intake of humans is the same.
I was shocked to discover that high fructose corn syrup speeds up the rate of diabetes.
Some monkeys died from health related issues of an increased calorie diet, and some monkeys have developed chronic diseases like CKD, and DM. There was one monkey that ate health daily, but was naturally larger then the other monkeys.

In totality, size overall does not always determine if an individual is “healthy”. As we read in the article about the Hadza tribe, their lifestyle does not make them any healthier than those of westerns individual. But overall it is important to balance TEE, and out put of energy.

Random: I’m not sure if I’ve seen this video in this class, or another health class…but it’s really funny. Check it out…

“If All Animals Were Fat”

Searcher: Sitting Ourselves to Death?!

     In class this week we have been discussing the bodies allocation of energy and the adverse effects that energy expenditures can have. I have found THIS article exploring how humanities gradual shift away from regular physical activity can be creating a predisposition for deadly diseases. What we call white collar jobs center entirely around being seated at a computer for a good portion of a day. Normally, this would not necessarily be detrimental because physical activity could still be easily integrated into the remaining free time, but coupled with shifting trends in activity budget allocation combined with technological advances, this shift in lifestyle could become a very real problem.
     The problem begins in the work place, as the demand for more affordable goods and services is on the rise companies must increase productivity. This increased workloads final resting place is often squarely on the shoulders of the grunt employee, which leads to a more stressful day at the workplace. Upon arriving home, already physically and mentally drained from work, the average employee will be less than motivated to allocate for the needed physical activity. This combines with media sources, mainly the internet providing media such as netflix, facebook, and reddit, that are far more appealing to a fatigued individual than a bout of calisthenics. I find this to be an interesting situation we have placed ourselves in, it is interest how evolutionarily we came from daily physical activity yet have dedicated much of our resources to removing this from our society. However, I am confident science will prevail as people realize that sitting around is no good for you.
     I especially like this article because it lays out a chronology of how our lifestyle has shifted over the last several hundred years. I find it interesting how quick many were to eliminate physical activity from their daily life, I understand the motivation behind choosing to view lolcats as opposed to getting sweaty and tired, but anyone with observational skills can see that ones physical prowess decrease. However, I feel that until it is socially unacceptable to be lazy many people will continue to choose a sedentary lifestyle.

Searchers Post: Sedentarism in Adolescence

After lecture this week, I was sitting and thinking about how much I sit, ironically. I spend the majority of my day in a chair. Class, studying, work, driving to work, studying, are all activities that I find to be exhausting during the day ironically.
I was thinking that this is becoming increasingly more true as we became adults. The time that I spend sitting, as an adult is much more than I spent sitting when I was in elementary school. It seemed like we were always moving to do a different activity, like going to recess or gym or just moving around the classroom. This didn’t even include the after school activities like soccer practice and cops and playing tag in the backyard. I think that this has changed significantly even from the few years that I was in elementary school. I tutor at an elementary school and I asked one of the boys I was tutoring what he had done the day before and he told me he had played video games and watched TV. Our society is becoming more and more sedentary as those are the habits that we are also instill in our children.
I was researching sedentarism in adolescents and came across this blog from the Scientific American. It said that a recent study was conducted that showed that children today spend more than 6 hours a day in front of a TV screen. Additionally, they spend 70% of the school day being inactive. I think this demonstrates what ideas of health we are teaching the next generation and we need to adjust. Activeness in school is something that we have control over and need to make a change in the amount of activities and active breaks that children get so they can be consistently more active throughout the day and hopefully throughout their lives.

Researcher: Obesity in African American Women

African American women have the highest rate of obesity than any group of Americans, in which, 4 out of 5 African American women have a body mass index above 25%. According to a study in Atlanta, obesity is a cultural challenge as it is an individual one. A few of the cultural challenges consist of "soul food" eating. Soul food comes from a tradition of southern cooking in the south. Most of these southern dishes consist of a lot of sugar, salt, and grease.        In addition, the individual challenge of African American women comes from not wanting to exercise due to the fact it will mess up their expensive hair styles. African American women are also unmoved by the growing obesity epidemic and serious health dangers, due to the fact that being "thick" or build like a "brick house" are embraced positively.

 This article titled: "Obesity Rates Highest Among African American Women," can be found at

    Another study at Boston University stated that out of 33,298 African American women, 58% had been maltreated. Researchers have correlated obesity with severe sexual or physical childhood abuse. The results were associated with depression, smoking, and being overweight in adulthood. Consequently, African American women are obese due to poverty, lack of education, psychological, and social factors. As a result, African American women are emotionally eating as a way to cope with life stresses. 

This article titled: "Obesity in Black Women Linked to Childhood Abuse," can be found at

This is very disturbing and devastating. I do not know what the future will hold for African American women or the race as a whole?

Searcher: Is Going to the Gym Really Necessary?

I found an article that absolutely supports what we have discussed in class this week: This article discusses the harm of sitting around all day, and emphasizes the fact that sitting down is independent of fitness level. It makes the point that exercising a lot and not exercising at all are not actually polar opposites as we might think. Two people, one who exercises very hard seven days a week and is "in great shape" and one who does not ever exercise, may be at risk for the same health problems if both live relatively sedentary lifestyles. If both of these people made an effort to be less sedentary all day long, they would be equally successful in reversing these health problems.

This is not necessarily to say that working out at the gym is not good for us and is therefore pointless--working out has been shown to be beneficial, and some exercise is better than none. However, in terms of overall health, simply working out for an hour each day is not the proper way to think about exercise. An interesting point the article makes is that this phenomenon of decreased sedentism leading to reduction of health problems is completely independent of other factors. The same results that are found in "active" and "non-active" people are found in smokers and non-smokers. The most important activities we can do to reduce disease risk are the "non-exercise" ones, as this article puts it. These include walking to places, standing while on the phone, taking the stairs, and just fidgeting instead of sitting still.

I think this article definitely makes sense (and it makes me happy to know that I don't need to go to the gym every day in order to be healthy--I despise running), and it's good to know that living a less sedentary lifestyle can be so easy and have so many benefits. However, there are many factors for good health. Activity is important, as are nutrition, fresh air, sleep, and sunshine. I think it makes the most sense to slowly make small changes to improve all aspects of health, because usually when we make one healthy lifestyle change, we are easily encouraged to continue making more.

Searcher: Eating healthy obsession?

Throughout the week we have been learning more about health in terms of energy intake and energy expenditure in relation to health and debunking common perceptions that physical activity is more important to look at to being healthy versus what is being consumed.
Something that I felt was interesting that was discussed in class were the effects of physical activity on mental health and overall well being. In addition to physical activity, most people believe that when you eat well, you also feel better about yourself.

We tend to celebrate people who choose not to partake in even a little bit of the typical western diet and commend them for having such self-restriction and being what we consider healthy. The article that I found suggests that perhaps commending such “healthy” choices and dieting may not be so beneficial and instead contributing to possible eating disorders.  One example of these eating disorders has been unofficially diagnosed as “orthorexia” which means an unhealthy obsession with healthy food. Now, usually people wouldn't consider this a bad thing, however the difference between having a strict diet and orthorexia is that rather than making you feel better about your choices and having a healthier lifestyle, it makes you feel worse. The writer agrees with my earlier statement by saying that the problem isn't benefited by the fact that “people get positive feedback for behavior that appears healthy” and that it is “socially acceptable and often heralded as a great statement of self-control and doing the right thing for your health”, especially in our culture where fast food dominates an increasing percentage of the food we consume.
The writer highlights that people can be so fixated on the foods they eat in fear of consuming something “unhealthy” that they may in fact be cutting out necessary nutrients and fats still needed in a healthy diet. This form of obtaining healthy perfection can be considered a gateway to other eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia and has to be addressed.
Something interesting to note is that the author does not address whether or not these people partake in physical activity, or at least in the case of Alena Moodey who was diagnosed in the article. If she did partake in such dieting habits but also had an obsession with working out, this would potentially lead to an even bigger problem, or perhaps the opposite would happen and she would consume more of an array of nutritious foods to maintain the energy to continue her physical activity.
This article just further reinforces the idea that in order to be healthy, one needs to find a balance between energy expenditure as well as energy intake and be conscious of the foods being consumed, but not to the point where it will have a negative effect on our lives.  

Responder: Is Exercise Everything?

I agree with Sarah Kempel’s findings on the first reading (7 Myths) but I happen to disagree with her opinion on the second reading (Hunter-Gather).  The 7 Myths article discloses an argument that coincides with a slight increase in activity and a decrease in sedentary activity would help steer an individual towards the right direction of being healthier.  As well, the article about hunter gathers more supports that ancestral activity is less likely to be full of strenuous activity and more adaptive to intermediate or less than intermediate activity.  The second article is placing the focus on the presumptions of ancestral activity and denouncing the held belief that earlier hominids had a metabolism that was different from ours that helped to offset the low calorie intake and the high-level of physical exertion.  The article is not placing emphasis on the fact that modern humans have sufficient activity to maintain their health levels.  I do agree though that both conversations were interpreted in this article. 

After class this Wednesday I was thinking about the correlation in non-sedentary lifestyle and health.  I reviewed some people in my life that I have interacted with that I would consider visually unhealthy but have been deemed healthy as well as the opposing.  This does hold so truth with these experiences and I would consider that sedentary lifestyle is inversely proportional to overall health.  My mother, whom is 61, probably has a BMI a few points above 25 but she has no cardiovascular problems.  This is probably because she’s lived with my father on a farm for 40 years.  She maintains the yard and tends our garden which is considered good forms of exercise.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Respondent: To Exercise or not to Exercise

This is a response to Alicia Lee's post about the miscorrelation between the two articles required for reading this week. I read the articles as well and had the same confusion: why would one article say that it is important for us to implement more physical activity, while the article says that hunter-gatherers have the same TEE as western populations. Most of the things that were said in her blog post I agreed with. 

This is in reference to "Hunter-Gatherer Energetics and Human Obesity." Maybe the reason why we have the same TEE (total daily energy expenditure) as the Hazda hunter-gatherers is that Westerners have higher energy intake and Hazda's have higher physical activity per day. The Hazda's physical activity keeps them fit and lean, but their physical activity is not enough to keep them fit. Physical activity, along with a good diet, are required in order to be fit. If you exercise everyday but continually eat junk food, then it offsets the effects of working out everyday because you're regaining all of the calories you lost working out. I suppose this also ties in with the "7 Myths about Physical Activity," since it is a myth that physical activity is enough to keep a person healthy and fit. 

Respondent: Low Income High Obesity

Alejandro's post makes an interesting point in regards to the 7 Myths About Physical Activity Article. While it certainly makes interesting and what I believe are accurate statements regarding the correlation between physical activity and academic success there are other statements (as Alejandro points out) that could be controversial.

            When reading this article and Alejandro’s response I compared it to the school that I work at in Champaign which has nearly a quarter of its students eligible for free and reduced lunch and 47% of its students being low income. This indicates that the school would fall in to the at risk category defined by the state of Illinois and would probably be similar to a school that Alejandro attended. While I am not assuming that all students from low income families are the same I do know that with my students it is often difficult to encourage them to do any activity that requires them to be physically active. Many of my students are also mildly to very overweight and their grades are low.  However, I believe Alejandro is on to something with his comments about genetics. Children are prone to repeating the behavior they see at home. If mom and dad are overweight and inactive because of lifestyle choices regarding nutrition and activity the child will have a higher chance of being the same way. So, while the statement that “since children from low-income families are more likely to be physically inactive and obese, and to have lower levels of academic achievement” might be controversial it also stands a fair chance of being accurate for the majority. That isn’t to say that  Alejandro and his friends may have been an exception to this trend as there is always an exception but the correlation between weight, activity, grades, and socio-economic status are positively correlated.

Searcher: Energetics and Obesity

This week, through lectures and readings, we have learned about energetics and obesity – specifically, that obesity is linked more to overeating than physical exercise because compared to hunter-gatherers, our energy expenditures have remained fairly constant…but our energy intake has increased.

Influenced by discoveries from the World Health Organization, multiple sources agree that, “Exercise is great, but to get the weight down, Americans have to adopt the ELF diet. Where ELF stands for eat less food.” Culture plays a huge role in our diet; American food portions are notorious for being unnecessarily large. Last week, James Elrichman at The Guardian released an article asking whether or not Western culture can do something to hinder the obesity epidemic. A few months ago, Mayor Bloomberg of New York City put a ban on super-sized soft drinks, which seems like only one of a few steps that has been taken to reduce food portions in America (Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me is the other that comes straight to mind).

The article suggests that our intake of large food portions is due to businesses attempting to gain more customer loyalty by employing marketing tactics such as “this bag contains 50% more!” and nutritional facts framed in a way that makes us believe certain foods are better for us than they really are. This idea is no surprise, and of course this sort of system didn’t exist for past hunter-gatherers, but it is another explanation for our high levels of consumption and it goes back to fast food as a money-saving technique for lower income families. Perhaps this capitalist-driven explanation is why, compared to many developed countries, America is one of the more obese ones. Another cause of overeating is education – we are taught as children, and expected as adults, to not waste the food given to us for moral and economic reasons. For some, this means forcing full restaurant servings into our digestive systems. In the past, maybe we were not as aware of the world’s resource scarcity.

Furthermore, the kind of food we consume now is full of sugar and therefore more addictive, making us eat more (also going back to the recently developed “fatty taste bud”). They've even developed a new chewing gum that can curb appetite for weight loss.

Responder - Exercise and TEI

Vlad raised an interesting point in his post “A Glimpse at Something Big” that made me go back and look through the Pontzer et al article. He posited that the finding “We hypothesize that human daily energy expenditure may be an evolved physiological trait largely independent of cultural differences” helps to problematize the existing understanding of obesity among Western societies and as well as the fact that for some reason our energy expenditures have remained stable for a substantial period of human history (From the article - “We hypothesize that TEE may be a relatively stable, constrained physiological trait for the human species, more a product of our common genetic inheritance than our diverse lifestyles.”).

What I found quite interesting in while originally reading this article was the same finding but from the other perspective. If the Hadza were to switch to a diet that was as energy rich as that of contemporary industrial/post-industrial society their lifestyles would not protect them from the threat of obesity.

What I wonder from this, is in contemporary societies that consume large quantities energy rich food consumption – I feel there is often a push to encourage people to exercise (or positive social stigma associated with it – think Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign). If we have maintained the same TEE that this paper posits humans may have in a Paleolithic past, is exercise in the Western conception of it, wholly unnatural? Are we actually not at record levels of lethargy but rather are just consuming way more Calories than we are meant to and are really evolutionarily not selected for these activities?

Vlad’s original post:

First reader: 7 Myths About Physical Activity

After reading the article 7 Myths About Physical Activity 
-->I was surprised to learn that increasing activity would positively correlate to a person's academic performance. While many parents stress their children focus on school they forget to encourage them to do physical activities—which ironically helps them. Coming from a lower income family I did not find the comment that stated, “since children from low-income families are more likely to be physically inactive and obese, and to have lower levels of academic achievement” because most of my friends and myself were not obese nor physically inactive. For instance, even though low-income children may be obese it does not mean they are not healthy and do not engage in physical activity but may just be genetics.
            Furthermore, I do recall being a bit overweight but I was always healthy. I went to the doctor occasionally and never really got ill. I was always active because my friends and I would usually play sports outdoors and had moderate physical activity in P.e. I also noticed that I wasn’t really sedentary but active and seen the same within my cousins. I do agree with the fact that it may increase academic performance because being active makes you more aware and awake during class. By being more active it would leave a child to engage more in class and feel less distracted. Overall it was a great article that scientifically proved common ideas not to be true and emphasize a change to increase activity for reasons such as health, education and encouraging to those that feel because you are overweigh you are not healthy.

Monday, February 25, 2013

[First reader] A glimpse of something big.

This week, I was shaken by a truly daring claim made by group led by Herman Pontzer. You see, after finding out that Hadza people, while spending much more active lives then Westerners somehow spent very similar amounts of energy on a daily basis, the group has concluded that, quote, "that human daily energy expenditure may be an evolved physiological trait largely independent of cultural differences".

The paper actually acknowledges that it is defying existing conceptions about Western culture energy consumption. If we go by this hypothesis, then our ideas of evolution and western culture may be revamped. How was this ability to keep energy expenditure stable important in the past? How long was it around? Why do we have it? All these and other questions require further research to be answered.

This may be a peak into something great, possibly leading us into understanding evolution further. I'm certainly curious what will come out of this discovery.

The paper.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

[First Respondent] Obesity: Exercise or Calories?

When I read the Hunter-Gatherer Energetic and Human Obesity article that suggest that our expended energy today is not all the different from that of our ancestors, I was pleasantly surprised. No more going out of my way to be "healthy" (aka taking the stairs to the 5th floor of the building where I live as opposed to just taking the elevator). The article made it clear that regular exercise is important, but living on a college campus without a car I think I get more than enough exercise walking to all my classes, walking back and forth from the grocery store, and going on a short run fairly regularly.
As happy as I was, I was still a little amazed that our energy expenditures were similar to that of hunters and gatherers. I imagined that they would be walking around everywhere on foot and doing much more physical labor than we do today. I assumed this would lead to a huge gap in energy expended between them and us, which would explain obesity. What I didn't take into account, however, was the differences in caloric intake. Even if our energy expended levels are the same, the differences in caloric intake are huge. The food we eat today is much more processed and has so many calories compared to the food of our ancestors. I think this is the main reason for obesity, not just that we don't exercise enough. We need to address this issue first and foremost before we try to start changing the exercise plans of the nation. Changing the food diet can be as simple as increasing the cost of more processed foods like fast foods which would discourage citizens to eat them. Steps like this would help move the nation towards the right direction. 

First Respondent: To Exercise or not to Exercise, that is the question...

       While reading the section readings for this week, I was very confused. The readings included two articles: “7 Myths About Physical Activity”and “Hunter- Gatherer Energetics and Human Obesity”. “7 Myths About Physical Activity” talked about how beneficial exercise is no matter one’s age and how people these days are not getting enough of it. However, “Hunter-Gatherer Energetics and Human Obesity” talked about how a recent study showed that the total daily energy expenditure (TEE) among Hazda hunter-gatherers was not that much different than that of Western populations. One would think that because Hazda hunter-gatherers have to walk, gather food, hunt, etc. they would get more physical activity, but the study showed that this was not the case. I nodded my head while reading the first article, thinking “yeah this is so true, I should start working out more often”, but while reading the second article, my face was always in a “huh?” expression. It just didn’t make sense to me. The study showed that the “Hazda were highly active and lean, with body fat percentages on the low end of the normal healthy range for Western populations” (Pontzer), but they had the same TEE as Westerners, who are known to be overweight and obese. I tried to think of reasons why this might be or maybe even something that the scientists had missed. The only reason I could think of was this. The reason why Westerners are obsess and the Hazda are not, even though they have the same TEE, is because of the amount of energy intake. Westerners are probably eating so many more calories than the Hazda that even though they have the same amount of physical activity, they are not burning it off. While the Hazda’s physical activity is enough to keep them fit and lean, because of the amount of calorie intake of Westerners, their physical activity is not enough to keep them fit. Not only is the calorie intake the problem causing obesity, but it is also true that the Western diet is probably more consisted of fattier, unhealthy foods. I came to the conclusion that while physical activity and exercise is very important and beneficial to our bodies, our diet is equally as important. If one vigorously exercises but eats a lot of junk food, there is no point. 

Obesity and being Active: First Responder

                I really found the articles I found this week really interesting. In the Lee article it proves that inactivity really does cause diseases or leads to health problems. In the Pontzer article it described how the Hadza are a hunter-gatherer population yet they exert the same energy that Americans do, and it challenges that inactivity leads to such problems as obesity. I do believe the Pontzer article was a good counter argument but I feel it is leaving out some major differences. The Hadza are a hunter-gatherer tribe, yes, but the foods that are eaten between Americans and the Hadza are completely different. Americans tend to eat more processed foods and sweets and foods that are just not good for you, whole the hunter-gatherers are eating more natural forms of food and not foods that are full of sugar. As well as the difference in technology is also a big factor. Americans have machines, cars, gadgets, and other items that make their lives easier. Hunter-gatherers have to do much more manual labor with their food, with cutting the meat, and picking and planting. All the effort the Hadza put in to their form of living has a lot of physical activity, possibly more than Americans. Many there is a connection that Pontzer notices but I feel leaving these things out leads to the downfall in the argument.

                To me I agree more with Lee. I feel people don’t really try to put exercise or physical activity into their schedule. But I also feel this is due to the complexity if stress and all the daily things a person has to do, which leads me to think id it is even possible to have a really busy schedule, family, and have time to be active.