Health Headlines of the Week: June 4-8

Featured Article, Healthy Living
on June 7, 2012
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Big Gulp Ban

We are a staff divided on this issue. On the one hand, we agree that it’s unfortunate that people choose to ignore that they can suck down more calories than they should be eating all day in the form of a supersize soda. But on the other hand, will capping sugary soda drink sizes at 16 oz. really educate people on how to choose reasonable portion sizes—one of the main battles in the obesity crisis? Some of us here chafe at the idea that we’re not able to make such decisions and exercise self-restraint, so someone has to do it for us. Plus, demonizing a specific type of food or beverage often backfires when you’re trying to stay at a healthy weight for the long haul. But hey, why not try it and see what happens?

A “Late-Blooming” Cyclist Heads to the Olympics

OK, so she’s not exactly ancient. But at age 29, only four years after entering her first cycling race, Evelyn Stevens is heading to the London Olympics to compete for the United States. Going head-to-head with athletes who’ve been training like machines since their single-digit years has got to be intimidating. Evelyn proves our theory that it’s never to late to try something new … and adds to our suspicion that there may be legions of latent Olympians among us, waiting to discover the sport that will get us to the Games (synchronized swimming? Team handball? Curling?).

Moderation as the Sweet Spot for Exercise

Good news for all you runners whose pace has slowed over the years—and for you beginners, who may feel like you’ll never fly through the miles like you want to: A recent study found that people who jogged 1 to 20 miles a week at a conservative 10- to 11-minute-per-mile pace had a lower risk of dying during the five-year study period than faster runners and those who ran more than 20 miles a week. The lifespan of the joggers was 6.2 years longer for men and 5.6 years longer for women compared to the other groups. The flip side of this is that there seems to be a point of diminishing returns for exercise. It has long been known that exercise produces DNA-damaging free radicals, but it has been assumed that the benefits outweigh any harm. Maybe not. But while the researchers don’t advocate doing less if you’re already racking up more miles (unless you’re fatigued or getting injured) they say, in this case, slow and steady seems to win the race.

Americans’ Heads are Getting Bigger

Forensic anthropologists at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have discovered that the average skull of Americans increased by about the size of a tennis ball in a comparison of skulls from the 1880s and the 1980s. Noggin growth outpaced other gains in overall height and thigh length, the researchers said. They chalked the increases up to better nutrition and lower infant and maternal mortality, among other things. No word on whether those larger heads are housing larger brains.