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Medicine Stats Science

Sedentary Lifestyle Study Called 'A Raging Dumpster Fire' (arstechnica.com) 153

Ars Technica's health reporter argues that a new study suggesting sitting will kill you "is kind of a raging dumpster fire. It's funded by Big Soda and riddled with weaknesses -- including not measuring sitting." An anonymous reader quotes this report: Let's start with the money: It was funded in part by Coca-Cola... [I]t's hard to look past the fact that this is exactly the type of health and nutrition research Coke wants. In fact, Coca-Cola secretly spent $1.5 million to fund an entire network of academic researchers whose goal was to shift the national health conversation away from the harms of sugary beverages. Instead, their research focused on the benefits of exercise -- i.e., the health risks of sedentary and inactive lifestyles. The research network disbanded after The New York Times published an investigation on the network's funding in 2015...

It didn't actually measure sitting... In their words, "Our study has several limitations. First, the Actical accelerometer cannot distinguish between postures (such as sitting vs. standing); thus, we relied on an intensity-only definition of sedentary behavior." The "intensity-only" definition of sedentary behavior is based on metabolic equivalents, basically units defined by how much oxygen a person uses up doing various activities. But those definitions are also not cut and dried. There are no clear lines between lying down, sitting, standing in place, or light movement... Then there's the participant data: It's not representative -- like, at all... At the time of wearing the accelerometer, the most active group's mean age was 65. The mean age of the least active group: 75.

Groups were assigned based on just a week's worth of data -- or less. And the people placed in the least-active group were already more likely to be smokers, to have diabetes and hypertension, and to have a history of coronary heart disease and stroke.
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Sedentary Lifestyle Study Called 'A Raging Dumpster Fire'

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  • ...the participant data: It's not representative." Bullshit study founded by a bullshit company. Get the fuck out of here.
    • by Megol ( 3135005 )

      "Patterns of Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in U.S. Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A National Cohort Study".

      It doesn't claim measuring sitting, it states it doesn't measure sitting and it is honest in stating limitations. Or do you have any actual claim made by the researchers that say otherwise?

  • maybe everything Big is Bad now: Big Pharma, Big Government, and the Big 12
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OYAHHH ( 322809 ) on Saturday September 16, 2017 @07:19PM (#55211701) Homepage

    Apparently someone has a seriously big chip on their shoulder.

    Exactly how does funding a study that indicates you should do something that is healthy for you a complete and utter sham?

    It is not Coca Cola's job to criticise themselves. There are plenty of people out there that will do that regardless.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thebullshitpatrol ( 4673009 ) on Saturday September 16, 2017 @07:32PM (#55211757)

      It's sensible imo. It's the same argument as with politicians.

      What could anyone possibly expect out of a company putting lots of money towards a study or a politician? The default assumption should be that the study or politician is now tainted and has a vested interest in benefiting the backing company.

      • The problem with that argument though is that all pharmaceutical research is bullshit because the company paying for the study and testing their drug clearly wants to be able to sell it. It's the same tired argument as the one about climate scientists only getting the results they do so they can continue to get funding.

        It seems quite clear from studies that consuming large amounts of sugar is bad for you. It also happens that not getting exercise is bad for you too. So is smoking, heavy drinking, and a w
        • The problem with that argument though is that all pharmaceutical research is bullshit because the company paying for the study and testing their drug clearly wants to be able to sell it.

          Pharmaceutical research is very, very strictly watched. The study from TFS clearly is not.

          • Pharmaceutical research is watched very closely to make sure it toes certain lines. Said lines do not necessarily include "actually helping people". OTOH, when they really do come up with a blockbuster drug that should make them an absolute fortune, people gripe about the cost. I've got one in mind that, yes, is around $90 a dose, but also prevented two people who were scheduled for outpatient surgery from going to the ICU overnight on a ventilator. Pharmacy complained about the cost, we just started docume
            • The problem isn't the cost itself, necessarily, but the fact that big pharma usually overburden 1st world countries with huge prices for meds and sell cheap somewhere else. I find this ethically wrong.

              Valtrex 1000 mg costs a bit over $1 a pill in my country in a brick-and-mortar pharmacy. The average price in the USA is $8.02 according tho this: https://www.accessrx.com/blog/... [accessrx.com]

              That sucks.

              • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

                > The problem isn't the cost itself, necessarily, but the fact that big pharma usually overburden 1st world countries with huge prices for meds and sell cheap somewhere else. I find this ethically wrong.

                You mean means based pricing? Seems like a very palatable liberal idea really. The other alternative would be to just say "fuck em", force the 1st world price on them and watch them die.

                It would be nice if Valtrex were cheaper. However, I have zero confidence that price controls on generic drugs would occ

                • Price controls on generic drugs are already the cause of near-constant shortages in the US. Which drug is in shortage changes from week to week, but there's always at least one. I could do my job (anesthesiologist) with thirty drugs or so, but I do need to have them.
            • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

              People have all sorts of deranged ideas about the drug industry fed to them by the media or social media.

    • It didn't actually measure sitting... In their words, "Our study has several limitations. First, the Actical accelerometer cannot distinguish between postures (such as sitting vs. standing); thus, we relied on an intensity-only definition of sedentary behavior.

      Its not that much of a stretch to assume that, during the day, a person who is still for a long period is probably sitting. Yes, they might be standing, or lying down, but sitting is the most probable. At night it would be lying down.

      • by OYAHHH ( 322809 )

        A mountain out of a molehill?

        Whether "sedentary" is the correct word to use or not the implication is that a low activity lifestyle is harmful.

        You say tomato I say potato.

    • >Exactly how does funding a study that indicates you should do something that is healthy for you a complete and utter sham?

      Its a distraction tactic, just like hydrogen fuel cels for greener cars are. And it works, people think you can exercise to lose weight. What coca-cola et al. do not want you to think is that reducing calories is the best and most effective method for weight loss(so people don't stop drinking their products).

      Exercise has numerous health benefits, thats not in question. Its useless fo

      • Actually, the question that seems to matter here is if all the ills of a sedentary lifestyle can be attributed to obesity, which actually is important--and, well, Coca-cola et all will cheerfully sell you low- and no-calorie versions of their products. They're not going to be harmed by people reducing calories. The place where you should be concerned about their involvement in a study would be things like studies on artificial sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup are actually metabolized, places where t

    • by js290 ( 697670 )
      CI affects CO, and vice versa. Junk food companies will always blame only CO when they are culpable for CI.
    • Exactly how is funding a study that indicates you should do something healthy a complete and utter sham?

      There are so many things wrong with this, I started by fixing the grammar, just so I could see the sky.

      Exactly how is funding a study that indicates you should do something correlated with good health a complete and utter sham?

      Sky, this is Horizon. Horizon, this is Sky.

      Exactly how is funding a study that with a Dr Oz soundbite endorsing behaviours correlated with good health a complete and utter sham?

      Sun

    • by mellon ( 7048 )

      Right, and this article gives concrete and serious criticisms of the study, of which "it was funded by Coca-cola" is not one. That's just an attempt at an explanation for how such a crappy study got funded at all.

    • Apparently someone has a seriously big chip on their shoulder.

      That's what happens when you simply tip the bag into your mouth while couch-surfing. Potato chips end up everywhere.

  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Saturday September 16, 2017 @07:20PM (#55211707) Homepage Journal

    Doctor: Before I start the examination, tell me a bit about your lifestyle.
    Patient: Well, I have a sedimentary job.
    Doctor: Do you mean sedentary?
    Patient: No, I work in a sandstone quarry.

  • But that would've required I get up off the couch - so I calmed myself down.

  • hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thebullshitpatrol ( 4673009 ) on Saturday September 16, 2017 @07:30PM (#55211751)

    There should be a great big disclaimer on any medical research post that is funded by a processed foods company. What realistically does any company expect other than an outcome where it makes their product more marketable?

    • What realistically does any company expect other than an outcome where it makes their product more marketable?

      Indeed, but tell me again what Coca Cola has to do with sedentary life styles? I'd care more if they were studying anything at all to do with sugar intake.

      • The point is they've proven that there's at least circumstantial evidence to support the idea that extra activity can offset the risk of high sugar intake diets. Every one in health and nutrition sciences has known this for decades. All the Coca Cola study adds new to this is an attempt to scapegoat lack of exercise entirely to make soda look innocent. Make no mistake though; sugar is poison. So are most of the rest of the ingredients, probably. Whether "sweating it out" is sufficient to offset all the

        • Everything's a poison. By stating it like that you're not going to win over any arguments. Sure the rise in sugar (specifically HFCS) and the rise in obesity and diseases are wonderfully correlated, but by completely vilifying it and advocating it's completely removal you will instantly lose all your potential audience, many of which who had grandmas and grandpas live for 100 years with a spoonful of sugar in their tea every day.

          The only way you'll get people to change is to target what they eat, not what i

    • There are disclaimers, but they're not immediately obvious. Papers will tell you where the funding comes from.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This story exemplifies the way that the internet has become a waste of my time. Decades ago, I would read science articles in Scientific American or Discover Magazine. Since the magazines were only published once a month, the editors had time to fact-check their stories and to ask experts for their opinions. So, when I read an article, it was much more likely to be correct than today.

    But what bothers me is not just the fact that Monday's Slashdot story about sitting [slashdot.org] was incorrect. What really bothers me

    • But what bothers me is not just the fact that Monday's Slashdot story about sitting was incorrect. What really bothers me is the time that I wasted reading it, and archiving a copy on my hard drive.

      Why on earth would you save a copy? Google'll find it again for you, even if the URL changes.

    • I saw this happening in respected conventions in computer vision as well. "Time to market" extends further beyond the internet.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      > This story exemplifies the way that the internet has become a waste of my time. Decades ago,

      Decades ago access to peer reviewed journal articles was very expensive and pretty much limited to Universities. Now you can just Google the stuff.

      The Internet is much like TV. The degree to which it is a vast wasteland boils down to how you choose to use it. Your view of it is more a reflection of yourself rather than anything else.

  • It's not like it's a giant tire fire or Chernobyl melting down.

    er, right?

  • If these allegations are true, then forever shame on the Annals of Internal Medicine. The entire editorial board and reviewers should be sacked and anyone directly involved with any reviewing of the paper should be black-listed from every participating in any other academic journal. The only value that an academic journal provides is acting as a filter to prevent shoddy research from seeing the light of day.

  • There's an assumption in Science that when we publish papers, we're able to assume that the people reading our (specialized, idiosyncratic, jargon-laden) work understand the context and limitations of the field we're publishing in.

    This is really a horrible assumption.

    We could caveat the hell out of every sentence we write, but marketers, reporters, and political activists already ignore us when we do that. TFA here is essentially going back to the original work and pointing out all the caveats the press le

    • What's there to fix? Money was paid, a study was done, the science was reviewed and determined to be garbage. The conclusion hasn't changed (other better studies come to the same conclusion about sedentary life styles).

      There's nothing in science to fix as evident by this self-regulating result.

    • That's not an assumption in science--the rule is you write the paper so an undergrad in the field should be able to understand it with some work, and you, the reader are expected to educate your own sorry ass. Expecting readers to be capable of obtaining the background information for themselves is not and should not be a 'horrible assumption,' especially now when the internet makes it eminently easy for somebody to learn a good amount of the background they might need on their own if they care to do so.

      Ma

  • It can't.
    They measured METS (activity) but there is no correlation between METS and position. Sitting, standing, lying down all are low activity (low METS) so they had no idea if a person was standing at a desk or lying down on the sofa.
    Activity is good for you.
    Soda is bad for you.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      > Activity is good for you.
      > Soda is bad for you.

      Soda used as a replacement for water is bad for you.

      This is the "modern" problem.

      Soda ceased to be a luxury or a treat. The classic small bottle gave way to the 2 Litre bottle. People started drinking it instead of water.

      THAT is bad.

      Soda suffers from market saturation. Companies need to make ever more money in order to support unsustainable stock growth. The push for over consumption is one of the downsides of capitalism.

  • Yes but.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday September 16, 2017 @07:58PM (#55211857)

    I get it. Coca Cola is shifting the blame away from sugary drinks. This study also is loaded with junk science. But ... isn't this basically a forgone conclusion anyway?

    I mean do we really need a study regardless of source of funding or quality of science to tell us that sitting on our asses isn't healthy? You don't need to study that directly when you look at all the other health science out there, and the fact that it was funded by Coca Cola doesn't change the fact either.

    I frankly don't care that the funding came from a sugar drink company, it wasn't assessing the effect of sugar. I'm sad that the study was junk, but frankly I don't care much that the attention was shifted from drinks providing science is done.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Indeed, almost every over-consumption of calories can be offset by enough exercise. Athletes in Tour de France, Michael Phelps etc. can consume 12k calories a day where a normal adult male's consumption is 2.5k. Here is a guy eating a full pizza a day for a year [thesun.co.uk] and still being very fit. However for these people it's a job or a life style, like Micheal Phelps spent like six hours a day, six days a week exercising in the pool and not at the leisurely rate you and I might swim. For most of us you can "waste"

    • This might surprise you, but yes, the people who happily listened to Coca Cola tell them to [drink this brown liquid with every meal] do also need Coca Cola to tell them to get off their asses and stop dying sitting down with a Big Gulp in one hand and their dick in the other.

    • I don't care much that the attention was shifted from drinks providing science is done.

      But you should: it took decades to re-focus on the main dietary culprit for diabetes and obesity, which are refined sugars, instead of saturated fats. In fact, finally we have a critical mass of studies showing that saturated fats don't pose any cardiovascular health risk at all. And yet, the damage has been done: the constant focus on saturated fats, created by the generous funding of the soda industry, has foisted trans-fats (a confirmed cardio-vascular threat), fat-free milk and other unnecessarily skimm

      • But you should:

        No I shouldn't. There is no single thing that makes everyone "unhealthy". And just because sugar is bad (again a foregone conclusion that really doesn't warrant much further study) doesn't mean there shouldn't also be studies done on other things.

        And yet, the damage has been done: the constant focus on saturated fats, created by the generous funding of the soda industry

        Did nothing of the sort. There's never been a properly scientifically accepted study that focused entirely on saturated fats and advocated simply the complete removal of saturated fats to our health woes. You're directing your anger at the wrong field. There were h

    • by Trogre ( 513942 )

      I mean do we really need a study regardless of source of funding or quality of science to tell us that sitting on our asses isn't healthy?

      Yes.

  • "Sit down for this - study about sitting doesn't sit well."
  • I know that this is a sham study and that Soda wants to tell us that our (lack of) movement is what's killing us and not their intensely, artificially sweetened beverages forced upon us by pervasive advertising ...

    BUT

    I thought we all agreed that being sedentary was generally not good for our bodies?

    And yes, I am just as guilty as everyone else. I'm a programmer who is loathe to move anything more than my pinky to the ESC to enter control mode in VI(M).

    Will

    • Being sedentary greatly reduces your risk of athletic injuries. Nobody ever blew out a knee on the couch.

  • Americans have been sitting motionless in front of TVs for hours each night for the past 50 years. Why would sitting in front of a computer be any more sedentary / unhealthy? And how could anyone measure the marginal difference between the two, since many of us do both at the same time?

  • I sit, therefore I am.
  • I'm pretty sure a simple accelerometer can distinguish between standing and sitting in practice, because in a standing job, you will be moving around much more. Unless you're something like a soldier on guard duty standing in attention for hours.

    I'm tired of posting the same thing again and again, but I guess it's not obvious until you try it: a standing desk makes you want to move, and IMHO it can help with some attention disorders to some extent. So it's much more than simply about different postures -

  • is not bad for you then?

    That is good to know. Thanks Ars!

    Ima quit cycling and watch more TV.

  • It's irrelevant at the "true or not" stage who funded it. It should not be heavily implied that just because someone funds a study that accrues to their interests it is ipso facto a worthless one. Truth pivots on reality, not who is saying it.

    Guilt by association is not a good way to reason through things. Even if it later turns out to be of concern after actually taking the time to put emotions aside and apply logic to its findings.

  • Mean age was 75, very short sample size measured in a week, possibly two?

    Scientifically that's useless for something like this. Might work for the life of a mealworm, flies, things with a very short life span. Not people, and people about ready to die shouldn't be used.

  • will post the study results well in advance of the research of the actual study/study group itself. Then after everyone believes it there will be a little retracted article a year later that probably 1% of the original readers will even see/hear of.

The time spent on any item of the agenda [of a finance committee] will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved. -- C.N. Parkinson

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