Not that LSD, not the dangerous hallucinogen in vogue not long ago. The LSD that I refer to are labor saving devices. A recent article in the Journal Diabetes Care by George Bray brought this issue to the fore again (1) His article was entitled “Diabetes and Obesity, Time Bombs to be Defused.” One of the most alarming contemporary public health issues is a worldwide epidemic of obesity and its subsequent cousin, diabetes. The world is getting fat . Globesity is the National Geographic’s term. Is this due to too much food or too little movement? that is the issue to be confronted.
This topic has been a focus of my attention for a long time. Just how active were we as a species in the past, how active are we now, and how active will we be? We have a very sparse data base in answering these important questions. My anthropological readings taught me that our ancient old, old ancestors Homo erectus and their like were very physically active. They were constantly running after or away from something. There was no obesity in our hunter gatherer era. Then maybe 10,000 years ago the world changed, and the Agricultural Revolution came in, and so we grew our food instead of chased it or were chased for it. This resulted in a marked diminution of physical activity. Also in this era we found the wheel and electricity which conspired to make us even less physically active.
There was almost no obesity when I was in medical school in the 1950s. Now it is one of the most common diseases in our clinics and hospitals. The reason behind the diabetes is obesity.
An important article in the British Medical Journal in 1995 asked “Obesity, gluttony or sloth?” this was in reference to the doubling of obesity in Great Britain in just a 10 year period. More recently a colleague of mine at Stanford Yuri Ladabaum wrote an article in the American Journal of Medicine echoing the British conclusion that inactivity was a greater contributor to our obesity. He found over just a twenty year time span that the prevalence of inactivity in America rose from maybe 10% to 50% of men and women. Small wonder then that diabetes skyrocketed.
Yet it was in this current issue of Diabetes Care that I found a more contemporary judgment in which a new measurement called “the modernization index.” was mentioned. This now becomes at least some metric of how inactive we have become. It uses the ownership of refrigerators, telephones, television, cars, dishwashers, cell phones, DVD players, mixers, furnaces, fans, electricity, internet, solar panels, and radio as the index of modernity. The investigators make an inventory of these elements, and put it up against the incidence of obesity and diabetes. They find a very direct correlation between how modernized we have become in terms of technical dependence and the incidence of diabetes. (1)
So although we cannot finally say that the reason for our epidemic is due to our sedentary life style, the evidence is nearly indisputable. We need to move more.
I am now 85 years old and still running, so I’m convinced . I’m trying to convince readers of this blog and friends to avoid the couch and move as much as possible.
Reference: Bray, G. Diabetes and Obesity–Time Bombs to be Defused 2015 Diabetes Care 38: 1997-1999.
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