Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Fit

Biggest Loser Provides Food for Thought

By Tim Olds

Contestants on The Biggest Loser have provided some startling evidence explaining why it’s difficult to keep weight off after dieting.

About two-thirds of all the energy a human body uses does nothing but stoke the internal furnace – keeping a consistent body temperature, the blood going, the lungs blowing, and the juices flowing.

Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the rate at which we use energy when we’re sitting or lying down doing nothing (fasted, naked, in a thermoneutral room, as you do). We humans are not exactly powerhouses: we only generate about 80 W, and about half of that is used to keep the brain and liver working.

The “Obesity Paradox” Paradox

By Tim Olds

Three recent studies have cast new darkness on the paradox that overweight adults are more likely to get diseases such as diabetes yet seem to live longer.

I have written before about the Obesity Paradox – the finding that overweight adults are more likely to get diseases such as diabetes yet are less likely to die from them. In fact, overweight people appear to live longer. Now three recent studies have cast new darkness on the Obesity Paradox.

The Language of Disease

By Tim Olds

What if doctors could diagnose disease by what you wrote on Facebook and Twitter?

There are so many ways doctors can diagnose disease. They can take pictures of you inside and out; they can take samples of your blood, muscles, hair, fingernails, faeces, urine or saliva; they can measure your strength, flexibility, lung function and reflexes; they can swab your skin and your intimate cavities; they can even analyse your breath and your farts.

Why Are Sporting Records Always Being Broken?

By Tim Olds

Better technology, training methods and financial rewards only partly explain why athletes continue to get faster and stronger.

I published my first scientific paper, a mathematical model of cycling performance, in 1994. Using some mighty complex equations, I predicted with confidence that no cyclist would ever cover more than 55 km in an hour. Two days after the paper was published, the Swiss rider Tony Rominger broke the hour record. He covered 55.3 km.

Pure, White, But Maybe Not So Deadly

By Tim Olds

Is there something uniquely unhealthy about sugar above and beyond the excess calories?

There are some personal matters one is reticent about putting into print in a national magazine, but here is one: I take three sugars in my tea. I will also confess that breakfast cereal for me is pretty much just a vehicle for cream and sugar. So I’ve been a little alarmed by the recent controversies around sugar and sugar taxes.

Choose Your Friends Wisely

By Tim Olds

Friends, family and co-workers influence our health and happiness to varying extents.

When asked about what one could do to improve one’s fitness, the renowned exercise physiologist Per-Olof Åstrand replied: “Choose your parents wisely”. Now it seems that to improve our health we have to do more than choose our parents: we need to choose our friends because disease (and health) can spread through our real and virtual social networks.

Now Even Sitting Researchers Are Sitting on the Fence

By Tim Olds

To sit or stand has become an uncomfortable question for health researchers.

On 4 October this year, A/Prof Emmanuel Stamatakis of Sydney University released a study claiming that swapping just 1 hour of daily sitting with standing is linked to a 5% reduction in the risk of premature death.

This is not so surprising. Stamatakis is an excellent and well-respected epidemiologist, and we’ve heard the sitting message before. Fore example, a large American study found that people who sit more, and who sit for prolonged periods, are more likely to have wider waists, higher blood fats, higher levels of inflammation and greater overall risk of death.

The Rich Get Healthier

By Tim Olds

We’re getting healthier and living longer, but the rich more than the poor.

What would prefer: to get a rise of $50 per week when everyone else (for the same amount of work) gets $100, or that everyone gets $30 per week? Or would you prefer a world where you live an extra 5 years and everyone else lives an extra 10 years, or where everyone lives an extra 3 years?

It doesn’t really matter what you want, here’s what you’re getting, at least in Australia: everyone is getting healthier and living longer, but some are getting healthier faster, and the gap is increasing.

Retirement Time

By Tim Olds

Retirement is fun, but is it because you do what you like or because you like what you do?

The great life transitions – going to school, starting work, cohabiting, having children, empty nest – all involve forced changes in how we use our time. The mother of a small child is no longer free to go to the gym, let alone sleep in. When children leave home (these days I should say if), parents are freed from the requirement to tidy up after them, chauffeur them from place to place, and cook their dinners. They just keep paying for them.

Trust Me, I Have a White Hat

By Tim Olds

Can you trust obesity research funded by the interests of Big Food?