Thursday, July 31, 2014

Run For Your Life!

"...From this database, the researchers chose the records of 55,137 healthy men and women ages 18 to 100 who had visited the clinic at least 15 years before the start of the study. Of this group, 24 percent identified themselves as runners, although their typical mileage and pace varied widely. 
Running towards a longer life.
"The researchers then checked death records for these adults. In the intervening 15 or so years, almost 3,500 had died, many from heart disease.
"But the runners were much less susceptible than the nonrunners. The runners’ risk of dying from any cause was 30 percent lower than that for the nonrunners, and their risk of dying from heart disease was 45 percent lower than for nonrunners, even when the researchers adjusted for being overweight or for smoking (although not many of the runners smoked). And even overweight smokers who ran were less likely to die prematurely than people who did not run, whatever their weight or smoking habits. 
"As a group, runners gained about three extra years of life compared with those adults who never ran...." (Top link is to the NY Times account, here's the actual study.)

This is consistent with the Stanford Running Study, which I blogged about several years ago. They found that even people who ran for a period and then stopped enjoyed the same benefits, for the rest of their lives:

"Remarkably, these benefits were about the same no matter how much or little people ran. Those who hit the paths for 150 minutes or more a week, or who were particularly speedy, clipping off six-minute miles or better, lived longer than those who didn’t run. But they didn’t live significantly longer those who ran the least, including people running as little as five or 10 minutes a day at a leisurely pace of 10 minutes a mile or slower."
The study did not directly examine how and why running affected the risk of premature death, he said, or whether running was the only exercise that provided such benefits. The researchers did find that in general, runners had less risk of dying than people who engaged in more moderate activities such as walking.
"But “there’s not necessarily something magical about running, per se,” Dr. Church said. Instead, it’s likely that exercise intensity is the key to improving longevity, he said, adding, “Running just happens to be the most convenient way for most people to exercise intensely.” 
"Anyone who has never run in the past or has health issues should, of course, consult a doctor before starting a running program, Dr. Church said. And if, after trying for a solid five minutes, you’re just not enjoying running, switch activities, he added. Jump rope. Vigorously pedal a stationary bike. Or choose any other strenuous activity. Five minutes of taxing effort might add years to your life."
The SRC, however, suggest that there is something unique about running, that other vigorous activities do not provide the same benefit as running does.
"Differences between runners and controls for all outcomes continued to diverge after 21 years of follow-up. Interestingly, in our analysis of 21 years of data, aerobic exercise was no longer a statistically significant independent predictor of mortality. Sixty percent of deaths occurred during the 8-year period between our last report and the present analysis, and it is possible that with this additional mortality data, vigorous exercise has become more collinear with running and no longer is identified as an independent predictor of death. Further observation of this cohort, as the remaining 440 participants reach the biological limits of life expectancy, may be required to further clarify the independent role of nonrunning, vigorous exercise."
I'll keep running. And I'll keep doing other stuff, for the fun of it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Follow-up to "Driving While on Your Cell Phone Saves Lives!", Part 2

"Common sense says that talking on a cellphone while driving is not a particularly safe thing to do. But recent studies have found banning cellphone use while behind the wheel is not leading to a decrease in accidents."

Common sense tells you that if A doesn't cause B, then banning A won't affect B. As we know, cell phones don't, speaking broadly, cause car accidents (link to previous post on this topic).

"The most recent study, published this summer in the journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, analyzed California's cellphone ban for drivers in 2008. Researchers found the number of accidents only dropped from 66.7 per day to 65.2 per day statewide, a statistically minor decline. The results were mirrored in many of the state's major cities, including San Francisco, though Los Angeles did experience a slight decrease in accidents. Researchers looked at the six-month periods before and after the ban went into place on July 1, 2008.

"We went in there expecting to see something," Daniel Kaffine, one of the study's authors, told Autoblog. "[But] it was pretty clear to us that there was no compelling evidence of a decrease in accidents."

Hardly surprising.

"Though offsetting for safety advocates, Kaffine's research is in line with other findings. The Highway Loss Data Institute, the research arm of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, studied insurance claims rates in 2009 and 2010 studies, and found no link that bans helped decrease crashes.

They're not "safety advocates"...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Daniel Lieberman: Humans Evolved Big, Costly Brains

How and why the human brain evolved is the key question in human evolution, and a fascinating topic for folks interested in the topics this blog covers.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Is Science Broken? Part 10: Observational Studies About Nutrition

I should just farm this series out to Derek Lowe, who is after all a practicing scientist.
But here we go, from his blog:

"If you go back and look at the instances where observational effects in nutritional studies have been tested by randomized, controlled trials, the track record is not good. In fact, it's so horrendous that the authors state baldly that 'There is now enough evidence to say what many have long thought: that any claim coming from an observational study is most likely to be wrong.'"
Science has spoken: we can now stop paying attention to these nonsensical studies.
But do read the whole thing, as there is also a recommendation on how to fix it. I think it's unlikely to ever be fixed, however, as the real "product" of this process is employment for academics, not actionable science.
If they employed real process control and measurement, someone might figure out that the whole thing is a waste of time and money. And then those academics would be out of work.