Thursday, March 26, 2009

Supersize that Fire Department...

It seems no group is immune to the ever increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity in our U.S. population. Reuters Health is reporting on a recent study published in the journal Obesity, suggesting that new fire and emergency recruits are overweight and unhealthy. The study was limited to a cohort of recruits in Massachusetts but could this be representative of National or Regional trends? Analysis of Body Mass Index or BMI (reflecting height to weight ratio) showed that almost 80% of the recruits were overweight and over 30% were obese in this young (average age of 26.3 years) recruit population of future emergency workers. However, in some cases BMI does not necessarily reflect that a person's body weight is unhealthy or obesity. For example if a study was analyzing BMI of high school or college football players with unusually large amounts of muscle mass. In such as scenario, BMI does not reflect health and weight very accurately. However, this study suggested that the BMI elevations did not necessarily reflect increased skeletal muscle mass in these recruits. In fact, the study appears to have observed higher blood pressures, worsened metabolic profiles, and lower exercise tolerance in those recruits with higher BMI. The authors state the following:
"Excess weight is highly prevalent and associated with elevated cardiovascular risk among (these) future emergency responders. These findings in a population expected to perform demanding duties supporting public safety merit prompt public health intervention."

"Emergency responders should be fit to safely perform strenuous duties. In particular, young recruits are expected to be at or near peak career fitness."
The statements may seem pretty harsh but truthful since we can all imagine that the strenuous nature of emergency work requires that rescuers have excellent cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength. Otherwise who is going to race up those 12 flights of stairs and then carry you out of that burning building?! Check out the Reuters Health article (link) or better yet check out the abstract of the actual research study published in the journal Obesity (link).

~~ BIO26 ~~

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