Monday, May 19, 2008

'Save the Girth'

My new "Save the Girth" diet plan is based on "carbo trading." You buy credits from someone who eats less than you to offset your own consumption, which can then continue at a comfortable pace.

The Earth pictured here is made out of ice cream -- the concept of which made me think about the Washington Post's current multimedia series on childhood obesity. One study cited by the Post found that even a modest increase in future adolescent obesity could lead to more than 100,000 additional cases of coronary heart disease in the United States by 2035.

An accompanying four-decade time line links increasing obesity in part to "devices that encourage people to sit inactive for long periods" -- from the arrival of the Apple II computer and the first VCR in 1977 to release of the Nintendo Game Boy in 1999.

As usual, technological problems produce technological solutions: an electronic "TV Allowance" device. And science even validates its efficacy. The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog looked at a recent study of 4- to 7-year olds who spent at least 14 hours a week watching TV or playing computer games. The study found that the TV Allowance gizmo was an effective tool for reducing the body mass index of budding couch spuds. No surprise there. What was a bit surprising was that the findings seemed to have less to do with the kids getting off their cans and running around than it did with changes in what the study group consumed. As the researcher put it, "Reducing television viewing and computer use may have an important role in preventing obesity and in lowering BMI in young children, and these changes may be related more to changes in energy intake than to changes in physical activity."

As I type all this, I can hear my wife plotting to limit my laptop access with a TV Allowance device. But my preference would be to hook the computer up to a generator driven by an exercise bike instead. Fortunately for me, MIT is already on the case.

(Ice cream Earth image above from Purdue Professor Larry Braile's Earth science activities)

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