Cigarette smoking: an underused tool?
November 26, 2011 5:17 PM   Subscribe

Serum hemoglobin is related to endurance running performance. Smoking is known to enhance serum hemoglobin levels ... alcohol may further enhance this beneficial adaptation.
A recent paper by Kenneth Myers in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reviews the potential benefits of smoking for endurance atheletes.

From the abstract:
The review paper ... when well executed by an expert in the field, can provide a summary of literature that generates useful recommendations and new conceptualizations of a topic. However, if research results are selectively chosen, a review has the potential to create a convincing argument for a faulty hypothesis.
Discussion by Travis Saunders on Obesity Panacea.
posted by nangar (35 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
What will eventually kill me, makes me stronger.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:18 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Everyone laughs at me using belts of whisky as a sports drink. And probably still will!
posted by Earthtopus at 5:31 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Given half a moment's thought, this clearly applies. Although port? Really? At least it's not sherry...
posted by Earthtopus at 5:32 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a fantastic paper, but just to address the arguments in it:

The increased lung volume and serum hemoglobin come from an adaptation to cumulative damage done to pulmonary cells. You could only hope to do net damage to the system. Besides, high performance athletes already stretch the possible boundaries of those adaptations anyhow and would only be tarring their lungs.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:35 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just met a woman marathon runner who smoked. I was a little taken aback. Come to think of it she drank too. This explains everything....not.
posted by Xurando at 5:36 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Christ, people, at least read the post itself. The paper is meant to show how conclusions in review papers can be falsified. Like the academic version of Dark Side of the Moon.
posted by cmoj at 5:48 PM on November 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


Ah, holiday articles, the old staple of medical journals. The door of my office would be boring if it wasn't for this sort of thing, with help from the occasional paper by bored polar scientists.

I used to wonder why the journals in my field never did articles like this, but I guess there's only limited avenues for pest-related humour…
posted by Pinback at 5:56 PM on November 26, 2011


It looks like this was authored by a graduate student, not a bad paper to have on your CV, especially with the resulting press.

cmoj, I'm not sure that anyone in the thread has missed the joke yet, you were supposed to wait until someone comes in OUTRAGED that this has even been printed.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:11 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, in 2173, everyone already knows this.
posted by demiurge at 6:20 PM on November 26, 2011


I always have a martini the night before I race. Nicotine, not so much. Just say no.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:29 PM on November 26, 2011


There's nothing there that's falsified, it's just all cherry-picked and out of context. I'd say that the author is railing not against dishonesty but against tunnel vision.
posted by Etrigan at 6:33 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favourite smoking/running story:

About 15 years ago a friends' uncle was enjoying a beer and a cigar at the Empress Hotel. Some people at the adjacent table interrupted him to say that they were athletes and they'd just completed the marathon, and could he please extinguish the cigar as it wasn't good for their health.

Uncle (thick Scottish accent): Runners, hey? What did you finish in?
Runner: Well the best of us was three hours and thirty minutes.
Uncle: Well, I ran 3:10, so you can go fuck yourselves.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:38 PM on November 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


[cough] bullshit [/cough] [/cough] [hack wheeze]
posted by Old'n'Busted at 6:39 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh man, just looked at the post's author. Ken Myers (the author) is a good friend/former running partner of mine when I lived in Calgary. I recall him telling me about this paper he wrote; it was an exercise in arriving at false conclusions. Read the abstract:

However, if research results are selectively chosen, a review has the potential to create a convincing argument for a faulty hypothesis. Improper correlation or extrapolation of data can result in dangerously flawed conclusions. The following paper seeks to illustrate this point, using existing research to argue the hypothesis that cigarette smoking enhances endurance performance and should be incorporated into high-level training programs.

He's a bit of a goofball and enjoys having a laugh...as much of a goofball as one can be who holds a PhD in Medicine AND is a practicing Pediatric Neurologist.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:48 PM on November 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


Well, smoking might help you win the tour de france...
posted by 445supermag at 6:57 PM on November 26, 2011


I think smoking cures cancer too.
posted by caddis at 7:02 PM on November 26, 2011


The effect is much stronger when combined with Little Chocolate Donuts.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:05 PM on November 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Particularly great quote:

"Children who have not yet developed a pincer grasp might require modified cigarette holders, safety lighters or both."

posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 7:05 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's nothing there that's falsified, it's just all cherry-picked and out of context. I'd say that the author is railing not against dishonesty but against tunnel vision.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
posted by John Cohen at 7:14 PM on November 26, 2011


I'm outraged a stunt like this would even see the light of day in 2011. A publication of this sort is academically dishonest and the worst sort of trolling. I would rescind publication if I wanted my journal to be taken seriously.
posted by Renoroc at 7:27 PM on November 26, 2011


Ha ha how droll. (slow clap)

I will note that when I was on a big exercise program while quitting smoking, I charted my performance in extreme detail (hooray for the Nike+ iPod gadgets). My lap times were consistently 1.5% faster when I was wearing a nicotine patch, than without. The same improvement in lap times were evident if I smoked and did not wear a patch.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:36 PM on November 26, 2011


Pinback! Those were delightful. Dissent of the Testis had some great/awful puns.
posted by kavasa at 7:58 PM on November 26, 2011


This post reminded me why Sleeper is my favorite Woody Allen movie.
posted by mcmile at 8:04 PM on November 26, 2011


"I'm outraged a stunt like this would even see the light of day in 2011. A publication of this sort is academically dishonest and the worst sort of trolling. I would rescind publication if I wanted my journal to be taken seriously."

You've read the abstract right? It may be trolling but the spirit is made clear and there is certainly not an academically dishonest word in it. Besides papers like this are, if anything, a strong indication of the health of a journal. It means that the editors are comfortable enough with the status and reputation of their baby that they are willing to have some fun with it. The Lancet does this every year.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:10 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I worked stadium security on the '96 olympics. Many, many, of the track and field olympic athletes and coaches smoked. They would have to leave the athletes area and go outside the stadium in order to light up so there was always a convention of asian and eastern european decathletes and such hanging out in the grassy area outside the back entrance.
posted by Megafly at 8:24 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Renoroc: "I'm outraged a stunt like this would even see the light of day in 2011."

Just as well the article was published in 2010. Humour was much less sophisticated back then…

(And, as Blasdelb points out, The Lancet has been doing this every year for many years now. The earliest example I can find is from 1859…)
posted by Pinback at 8:29 PM on November 26, 2011


I worked stadium security on the '96 olympics. Many, many, of the track and field olympic athletes and coaches smoked.

I attended a couple track and field parties that year and can attest to the athletes smoking. Also the drinking like the fishes.
posted by fshgrl at 9:38 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the best thing I got out of that paper was this cited paper on how mountain climbing can lead to extreme flatulence (denoted HAFE):
While not as catastrophic as barotrauma nor as debilitating as HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema), HAFE nonetheless represents a significant inconvenience to those who prefer to hike in company.
Oh man.
posted by selenized at 10:22 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I smoke and drink to increase my longevity. It works for food - smoking and pickling are ancient methods of preservation . so it probably works for me too.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:43 PM on November 26, 2011


This reminds me of a paper a few years ago where the researchers performed fMRI scans on a dead salmon and "showed" that it could recognise human facial expressions. The purpose of the paper was to show the danger of data mining of very large data sets without statistical corrections.

The multiple comparisons problem is basically the birthday paradox: If you go through a huge data set looking for correlations, you will find results that appear to be inconsistent with the null hypothesis for large sigmas. Of course, there is a big difference between showing that for a single null hypothesis, and doing so for a very large number of null hypotheses and acting surprised when one of them seems to be excluded with some degree of certainty.
posted by atrazine at 3:24 AM on November 27, 2011


It's funny that people think you can't be rewarded for bad behavior. Yes, smoking kills you in the long run, and yes, some truly loathsome tactics to acquire their customer base. That does not mean there must be some short term negative impact on athletic performance. It'd be surprising and counterintuitive but you know that defines the majority of science in the last century or so.

I don't like this paper, not because it's serious, but because it isn't. It basically says, look, here's something that couldn't possibly be true, but look here at evidence that it might be! Clearly this means we should doubt the evidence.

Maybe it means we should actually collect the contradictory evidence, rather than assuming it does not exist because it must not exist. This here is lazy, lazy work -- in its attempt to make a joke, it argues evidence that challenges orthodoxy should simply be dismissed. Unwise.
posted by effugas at 4:16 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Now, that fMRI paper, that is one of the best posters I've ever seen. )
posted by effugas at 4:18 AM on November 27, 2011


The paper is meant to show how conclusions in review papers can be falsified. Like the academic version of Dark Side of the Moon.

If you start listening to Dark Side of the Moon after line 5 of paragrah two, you'll hear some trippy shit.
posted by Fizz at 6:01 AM on November 27, 2011


[cough] bullshit [/cough] [/cough] [hack wheeze]

You know you don't actually inhale cigar smoke, right...
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:16 AM on November 27, 2011


This moderate performance benefit is outweighed by several severe and life-threatening risks, including [...] severe flatulence.

Whose life is threatened? and regardless of the answer, I want video proof.
posted by BurnChao at 10:06 AM on November 27, 2011


« Older Alan Moore discusses current use of the V for Vend...  |  Azealia Banks (a 20-year-old l... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments