Sunday, April 06, 2008

living in manhattan keeps people trim, and other tales

There was a funny little article nestled in the nether regions of today's Metro section titled "Sveltest Borough Award Goes To..." It's the sort of thing that's fun to write, because study statistics are tough to contextualize, so the article is built on writing cheekily and hoping sources say amusing things.

The piece, by Sam Roberts, is copied (and annotated!) below:

Here’s welcome news for Manhattanites fed up with congestion and overdevelopment does giving something an irrelevant connection to a newsy topic make it relevant? : Living in Manhattan may be good for your health. At least compared with the rest of the city.

A new health department analysis ah! our flimsy factual basis! says that New Yorkers are getting fatter and that obesity and diabetes are growing faster in the city than in the rest of the country. But generally, Manhattanites have fared better than residents of other boroughs but don't they always, dahling, since the people left are the only ones who are rich enough afford living there? (don't even think about it - lucky grandfather apartments do not count, mon ami).

About one in four New Yorkers is overweight, but they all live above Central Park North, so whatever. And from 2002 to 2004, according to the analysis, New Yorkers collectively gained 10 million pounds.

Wondering how much more crowded that makes the city? aside from all the fatty midwestern tourists? Or, why you’re rubbing up against the next person on the subway or bus? I repeat...

Think of it this way: 10 million more pounds is the equivalent of adding 20 full-size replicas of the Statue of Liberty. Can someone clarify how this comparison is meaningful, awe factor aside? How do you mentally divide up all that copper into relevant bits of flab?

People gain weight for two reasons: They eat more. They exercise less. !!!!!!!!!!

MONEY QUOTE: “With electric toothbrushes,” said Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner, “we’ve engineered the last physical activity out of our life.”

Over all, more than 300,000 New Yorkers get to work on foot - 2nd fact in eight paragraphs. But Manhattanites tend to walk more than people who live and work in the rest of the city. They’re more likely to walk to the bus or subway. Walk up and down stairs to stations. Even walk all the way to work. They’re less obese than New Yorkers in other boroughs, regardless of race or income.

(The city is home to a disproportionate number of poor people, more of whom tend to be overweight. But also to more foreign-born (admit it, you mean "Asian"), who tend not to be, although the longer they live here, the more likely they are to become obese.)

BRILLIANT, HILARIOUS CLAUSE ALERT: While people in certain trendy Manhattan neighborhoods may seem disproportionately anorexic, there’s no evidence that Manhattanites eat less than other New Yorkers. And it’s the eating — and drinking — that the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is particularly concerned about. (Clumsy transition!) Drinking soda, especially.

Americans drink more bottled water than beer k, but we've been focusing on Manhattan, no?. But they consume more soda than bottled water and beer combined. And nearly 70 percent of that soda contains sugar in one form or another, said the next next Albert Einstein. Also, please note the fact that Diet Coke is necessary to maintain optimal health.

“Your brain doesn’t register when you drink,” said Gretchen Van Wye, a health department epidemiologist and an author of the department’s analyses of obesity and soda consumption So the health department talked about America's soda consumption in a study about NYC! That was, ahem... sweet... of them. “You’re better off eating 400 calories of jelly beans (butter popcorn jelly bellies!) than drinking 400 calories of soda.”

Overcrowding aside, the consequences of obesity aren’t merely personal. Unhealthy people drain the rest of society in medical costs and lost productivity (except that they die sooner, which helps even things out).

The Bloomberg administration has responded aggressively — too aggressively, some critics complain, and the writer proceeds to provide background to those who - gasp - do NOT regularly read the gray lady. But its (ambiguous?) impact suggests one reason that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg might feel less fulfilled as a full-time philanthropist than as a public official. Come again?

His contributions to worldwide research and education campaigns against cigarettes pale in comparison with the effect he has had on public health as mayor. He has banned smoking in public places, outlawed artificial trans fats in restaurants and required them to reveal calorie counts, and licensed fruit and vegetable carts in poorer neighborhoods. All this should be after the first sentence in the previous paragraph.

The city bans soda in the day care centers it regulates, because there were problems with toddlers pulling dollar coins out of their pockets and, when they failed to choke on them, they used them to buy Mountain Dew during nap time instead. But it’s still served in schools and from vending machines. Is the administration mulling a sales tax on snacks that are now exempt because they’re considered food? Dr. Frieden said, “I don’t see the political will being there.”

Dr. Frieden said that personally, he is no ascetic. He likes sandwiches from the Subway chain — he happens to like roast beef more than tuna salad — but, because the ingredients are now posted, he also knows that the tuna salad has more calories. And, truth be told, he felt vindicated by that knowledge. Until the prions started turning his brain all swiss cheese like. He and his family had ice cream and chocolate for dessert the other night, but ate fruits and vegetables, too. Riveting.

His prescription is a formula that’s usually not associated with New York (If you live in New York, like the rich, thin people who renovate the properties featured in the Real Estate section and put marriage announcements in Sunday Styles, then you get it.). “Everything,” Dr. Frieden said, “in moderation.”

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