Is Santa's lifestyle good for his health? Scroll through this quick slideshow for a deeper look at how 5 of his habits, both naughty and nice, impact his health.
Every year, Santa brings the world’s children toys and happiness, circling the globe and working tirelessly with his elves to make sure he is prepared for the next year. But his hard work for world happiness is sometimes taken for granted, and I often wonder about Santa’s health, especially since he’s now >1700-years-old.Â Unfortunately, there aren’t that many doctors at the North Pole, so I also started to wonder: Is Santa’s lifestyle good for his health?Scroll through the slides below for a look at 5 of Santa’s habits, both naughty and nice, and examine the evidence to help you be prepared, just in case he shows up in your office!
While there are plenty of foods that contain naturally-occurring sugars, the sugar that has been established to be detrimental to health is the added sugar found in processed foods. It can be difficult for patients to identify sugar on an ingredient list because it has many names, including high fructose corn syrup, maltose, sucrose, and fructose. The total recommended daily limit for added sugar is 25 g for women and 36 g for men. It is important for patients to understand is that this is a maximum, not a minimum, like they might be used to hearing with fiber or number of fruit and vegetable servings.
A recent study examining the association between sugar and mortality found that those with the highest sugar intake (>20% of total energy consumption) had a 30% higher mortality rate. They also found associations between low sugar intake and mortality, though they noted that the associations depended on sugar source (again – added sugars are the key takeaway). Also, there could be potential confounding, because researchers noted that those with the highest sugar intake tended to have the unhealthiest lifestyles as well.
Another study found a clear, dose-dependent association between sugar intake and CVD mortality, even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors, physical activity, and other potential confounders.
The longest trip I’ve ever taken is from Florida to Japan, so I can’t imagine what Santa goes through to circle the globe every year. While his reindeer are getting plenty of exercise the only thing Santa is exercising is his voice, shouting “Ho, Ho, Ho,” as he rides, which is not a good thing for him. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to weaker bones, poor circulation, increased inflammation, reduced immunity, and an increased risk of a range of poor outcomes (eg, heart attack, stroke, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes).
Exercise is as close as we’ll probably ever get to a cure-all. The National Institutes of Health lists numerous health benefits of exercise and research shows exercise can reduce the chance of developing dementia. The Australian Diabetes, Obesity, and Lifestyle Study recruited approximately 11 000 adults to examine the relationship between watching TV and biomarkers of cardiovascular (CV) risk, including waist circumference, body mass index, resting blood pressure, blood glucose, and lipids. Watching TV was associated with deleterious effects on nearly all these biomarkers; even after the researchers controlled for waist circumference, there was still a link between nearly all the other biomarkers and the amount of time spent watching TV.
Marriage goes a long way towards maintaining health. According to a large report by the CDC based on interviews with >127 000 adults, married adults are less likely to be in poor or fair health, less likely to have poor health habits (ie, smoking, drinking, physical inactivity), and less likely to have activity limitations.
One 2016 UK study that examined >25 000 patients with a heart attack diagnosis found that married people were 14% less likely to die after a heart attack and able to more quickly recover vs their single peers. Several studies have even found a higher overall mortality rate and shorter lifespan in single and divorced people vs married people.
As Robert Waldinger, Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, said in his 2015 Ted Talk, "Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism." As Santa's steady companions, elves help keep Santa both physically and mentally healthy, help him age gracefully, and protect him from loneliness which is a powerful predictor of overall health.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest ongoing studies of happiness, has followed 268 men since they were teenagers in 1938. There are 19 men left in the study, and researchers have gained enormous insight into what drives happiness and longevity. The most striking lessons learned center on social support:
According to the CDC, owning a pet decreases cortisol levels, increases oxytocin levels, reduces feelings of loneliness, and improves one’s sense of social connection which can have very real effects on the body as well.
While owning any pet might confer some level of benefit, the most widely studied is dog ownership. In the general population, dog owners are more likely to meet exercise recommendations vs non-dog owners, fall asleep more easily vs non-dog owners, are more likely to meet CV health goals, and have even been found to have a reduced risk of mortality.
In those living with mental health conditions, a 2018 systematic review described improved symptoms in veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder vs those that do not. Researchers also conducted interviews with pet owners and found that many believed their pet provided: