Livin' on the MDedge

Drive, chip, and putt your way to osteoarthritis relief


Taking a swing against arthritis

Osteoarthritis is a tough disease to manage. Exercise helps ease the stiffness and pain of the joints, but at the same time, the disease makes it difficult to do that beneficial exercise. Even a relatively simple activity like jogging can hurt more than it helps. If only there were a low-impact exercise that was incredibly popular among the generally older population who are likely to have arthritis.

We love a good golf study here at LOTME, and a group of Australian and U.K. researchers have provided. Osteoarthritis affects 2 million people in the land down under, making it the most common source of disability there. In that population, only 64% reported their physical health to be good, very good, or excellent. Among the 459 golfers with OA that the study authors surveyed, however, the percentage reporting good health rose to more than 90%.

Golf course putting, golfer jacoblund/Getty Images

A similar story emerged when they looked at mental health. Nearly a quarter of nongolfers with OA reported high or very high levels of psychological distress, compared with just 8% of golfers. This pattern of improved physical and mental health remained when the researchers looked at the general, non-OA population.

This isn’t the first time golf’s been connected with improved health, and previous studies have shown golf to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity, among other things. Just walking one 18-hole round significantly exceeds the CDC’s recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Go out multiple times a week – leaving the cart and beer at home, American golfers – and you’ll be fit for a lifetime.

The golfers on our staff, however, are still waiting for those mental health benefits to kick in. Because when we’re adding up our scorecard after that string of four double bogeys to end the round, we’re most definitely thinking: “Yes, this sport is reducing my psychological distress. I am having fun right now.”

Battle of the sexes’ intestines

There are, we’re sure you’ve noticed, some differences between males and females. Females, for one thing, have longer small intestines than males. Everybody knows that, right? You didn’t know? Really? … Really?

A man and woman argue Afif Ramdhasuma/Unsplash

Well, then, we’re guessing you haven’t read “Hidden diversity: Comparative functional morphology of humans and other species” by Erin A. McKenney, PhD, of North Carolina State University, Raleigh, and associates, which just appeared in PeerJ. We couldn’t put it down, even in the shower – a real page-turner/scroller. (It’s a great way to clean a phone, for those who also like to scroll, text, or talk on the toilet.)

The researchers got out their rulers, calipers, and string and took many measurements of the digestive systems of 45 human cadavers (21 female and 24 male), which were compared with data from 10 rats, 10 pigs, and 10 bullfrogs, which had been collected (the measurements, not the animals) by undergraduate students enrolled in a comparative anatomy laboratory course at the university.

There was little intestinal-length variation among the four-legged subjects, but when it comes to humans, females have “consistently and significantly longer small intestines than males,” the investigators noted.

The women’s small intestines, almost 14 feet long on average, were about a foot longer than the men’s, which suggests that women are better able to extract nutrients from food and “supports the canalization hypothesis, which posits that women are better able to survive during periods of stress,” coauthor Amanda Hale said in a written statement from the school. The way to a man’s heart may be through his stomach, but the way to a woman’s heart is through her duodenum, it seems.

Fascinating stuff, to be sure, but the thing that really caught our eye in the PeerJ article was the authors’ suggestion “that organs behave independently of one another, both within and across species.” Organs behaving independently? A somewhat ominous concept, no doubt, but it does explain a lot of the sounds we hear coming from our guts, which can get pretty frightening, especially on chili night.


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