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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why having an extra wife may lead to a longer life

Research suggests that men from polygamist cultures live 12 per cent longer than those who limit their affections to one woman at a time.

It is thought men benefit from having a fuss made over them by a gaggle of women.
They may also better care of themselves into old age when they have a large family to feed, this week's New Scientist reports.

Hugh Hefner

Sheffield University researchers uncovered the 'benefits' of polygamy by scrutinising World Health Organisation data on marriage practices and on life span.

The analysis shows that men who live in countries where it is common to have more than one wife tend to outlive their monogamous counterparts.

The finding took into account a country's economic situation to minimise the effect of better nutrition and healthcare in monogamous Western nations.

It is thought that the pressure of having to provide for a big families may lead to men taking better care of their bodies and their health. They may also benefit from the care and attention of several wives.

Lance Workman, an evolutionary psychologist at Bath Spa University, said: 'If you have got more wives to look after you, they might fuss over you and that might help you live longer.

'We know that in monogamous societies married men live longer than bachelors.'

Evolution may also have a role to play, with the fierce competition for women in polygamist societies ensuring only the fittest specimens get the girl - and have children.

Good genes would be passed on, endowing good health on future generations.

Dr Workman said: 'If you look at polygamist societies, men are quite competitive towards other men because the pressures are bigger.

'The most successful men can have four or five wives, whereas the least successful don't have any. The females go for bigger, stronger, wiser.'

In some war-like tribes, the men with the most murders on their hands command the most wives, he added.

Chris Wilson, an evolutionary anthropologist from Cornell University in the US, agreed there could be benefits to being surrounded by women in old age.

'It doesn't surprise me that men in those societies live longer than men in monogamous societies where they become widowed and have nobody to care for them,' he said.

Original here

Alabama Slaps a Tax on Fat People

Should you pay more if you weigh more? That’s what Alabama’s State Employees’ Insurance Board thinks. In 2011 the board will start charging overweight state workers—those with a body mass index greater than 35—$25 a month for health insurance, which is currently free for all state employees.

(The state is giving workers a two-year head start; if they sign up for free health screenings and make progress, they won’t face the insurance fine.)

Being the second fattest state in the country—behind Mississippi—costs Alabamians lots of money—up to $1.32 billion a year in estimated medical charges, according to a 2004 study.

But is a pay-as-you-grow tax fair to the obese? Well, Alabama, like some private employers, already charges an extra fee to state workers who smoke. Private health insurance companies, of course, base their rates—and coverage refusal—on complex data related to the buyer’s health. Some private employers, who often encourage workers to lose weight with onsite diet and exercise programs, are considering more aggressive measures: Next January, one company in Indiana will begin charging employees up to $30 a month for missing health targets based on smoking, weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

At the government level, however, most health levies have been consumer taxes—on cigarettes and booze, for example—and few people, beyond the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation, have argued that taxing fat people simply for being fat is a good idea.

At first glance, the Alabama initiative rang warning bells in my head: Government using a blunt instrument to attack a very complicated problem. (And I say that despite the fact that I pay Alabama taxes, which contribute to the health-care costs of state employees.) But now I’m not so sure it’s a bad idea. Being both Southern and fat, I could use an incentive to lose my extra weight. And if I could, so could they. Maybe this kind of program would begin to reverse the tide of obesity in the Deep South. Or maybe a whole bunch of initiatives need trying to find out what will work.

For many people, $300 isn’t a lot of money. But if the fear of diabetes, heart disease, and death isn’t enough to motivate people to lose weight, fees and taxes tend to get everyone’s attention.

The Claim: Manipulating Your Neck Could Lead to a Stroke

Manipulating your neck is supposed to relieve pain, not cause it. But years ago neurologists noticed a strange pattern of people suffering strokes shortly after seeing chiropractors, specifically for neck adjustments.

Their hypothesis was that a chiropractic technique called cervical spinal manipulation, involving a forceful twisting of the neck, could damage two major arteries that lead through the neck to the back of the brain. Strokes in people under age 45 are relatively rare, but these cervical arterial dissections are a leading cause of them.

Studies that followed suggested a link. One at Stanford that surveyed 177 neurologists found 55 patients who suffered strokes after seeing chiropractors. Another, published in the journal Neurologist, said young stroke patients were five times more likely to have had neck adjustments within a week of their strokes than a control group. It estimated an incidence of 1.3 cases for every 100,000 people under 45 receiving neck adjustments.

But other studies have cast doubt. One published this year examined 818 cases of stroke linked to arterial dissections at the back of the neck. Before their strokes, younger patients who saw chiropractors were more likely to have complained beforehand of head and neck pain — symptoms often preceding a stroke — suggesting they had undiagnosed dissections and had sought out chiropractors for relief, not realizing a stroke was imminent.

Olive oil consumption leading to 'serious environmental problem'

Parts of Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal are turning into deserts and suffering water shortages because of the intense olive farming that has developed in the area, according to The Ecologist magazine.

The magazine says trees are densely packed, planted in massive irrigated lowland plains and harvested by machines that shake the trunks, which uses more water and chemicals than traditional farms on upland terraces.

It says: "To meet this new appetite mass-market brands are produced intensively, so supermarkets can sell it in high volumes at lower prices.

"Demand for cheap, mass-produced oil is making it a struggle for the smaller, traditional farms to be economically viable."

Between 2000 and 2005, UK olive oil sales have risen by 39 per cent and more money is spent on it than all other cooking oils.

A World Wildlife Fund report from 2001 said the more intensive plantations are of "little or no conservation value, and create environmental problems - desertification, pollution from agrichemicals, depletion of water resources."

Guy Beaufoy, a consultant on agricultural and environmental policies in Europe said the situation was "an environmental catastrophe".

He claimed despite Spain suffering its fourth consecutive year of drought, more than 80 per cent of the country's water is devoted to irrigated crops.

He said: "Water shortage is a huge issue in Spain, yet the country is expanding irrigation where it can because irrigation transforms production.

"People are drilling water resources not touched for thousands of years - all for a few more olives."

An EU study on the industry added: "Soil erosion is probably the most serious environmental problem associated with olive farming.

"Inappropriate weed-control and soil control, combined with the inherently high risk of erosion in many olive-farming areas, is leading to desertification on a wide scale in some of the main producing regions."

The growth in the olive industry - about 2.5 million producers now make up roughly a third of all EU farmers - has been encouraged by the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, which until 2007 encouraged industrial farms to produce more olives, the Ecologist report said.