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November 22, 2000


Remembering Slesinger

To the editor:

I just read of Dr. Reuben Slesinger's passing (University Times Nov. 9, 2000). The University of Pittsburgh has truly lost a great person. During my undergrad years I received a minor in economics due mainly to Dr. Slesinger. Economics did not come easy to me, but Dr. Slesinger seemed to make it easy.

I had three classes with Dr. Slesinger and loved every one of them. I also had the pleasure of working with him on Pitt's Stock of the Month Club, which I believe he founded. My memories are fond of Dr. Slesinger and I think you will have many who feel deep regret at his passing. It wasn't long ago that we had a chat in Forbes Quad; when I went to class, I would always see him eating his bagel and reading.

I learned a lot from Dr. Slesinger and owe him for his teaching efforts; I will truly miss him.

David Silk


Budget and Finance

Graduate School of Public Health


Exercise crucial to weight loss, good health

To the editor:

I read with interest the recent University Times article outlining dietary strategies for weight loss ("Forget the gimmicks," Nov. 9, 2000), but was distressed to find no mention of exercise as an intervention. While I don't disagree that excessive caloric intake can be a contributor to weight gain and obesity-related diseases, a large majority of research now indicates that exercise, even low-intensity exercise, is the preferred method of weight loss intervention. Since 1900, substantial increases in heart disease, Type-II diabetes and obesity, among other health-related disorders, have been reported, yet caloric intake since that time has remained steady or even decreased. The one constant variable underlying these major public health problems is physical inactivity, which has increased dramatically since 1900 due to changes in work environments and technological advances. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Surgeon General reported in 1996 that 60 percent of American adults don't exercise enough and 25 percent do not exercise at all. The report stated that physical inactivity was a "major public health concern" and a "serious, nationwide problem."

Although dieting by itself is temporarily successful in eliciting weight loss (witness the staying power of Weight Watchers, etc.), only approximately 5 percent of individuals are able to maintain that weight loss for more than 18 months. This can lead to "yo-yo" dieting, which has its own adverse health consequences as outlined in another article in the same Times issue ("Yo-yo dieters," pg. 12). Drs. James Hill (University of Colorado Health Sciences Center) and Rena Wing (formerly of Pitt's Obesity/Nutrition Research Center) were instrumental in developing the National Weight Control Registry in 1993, which tracks individuals who have lost at least 30 pounds and maintained that loss for at least one year. The individuals who've made it into this illustrious database report burning 400 calories in physical activity per day on average, a testament to the role of exercise in weight loss and maintenance.

Perhaps more interesting is the recent research outlining the benefits of exercise in overweight individuals without weight loss. Dr. Steven Blair and colleagues at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research have reported lower mortality risk in men described as "fit and fat" compared to lean but unfit men. Their data indicate that exercise by itself is able to improve health and mortality risk in overweight individuals without weight loss, contrary to popular opinion. In other words, the benefits of being lean were only observed in physically fit men, suggesting that being physically fit reduces the hazards of obesity.

The dietary information provided in the article was good, especially regarding extreme diets (e.g., high protein, etc.). But the absence of discussion of exercise follows a disturbing trend in this country to ignore physical inactivity as the major player it is in health-related disorders and mortality.

As outlined recently by Dr. Frank Booth and colleagues (, deaths related to a sedentary lifestyle have risen to 250,000 per year, or about one quarter of all preventable deaths in the U.S.! Regular exercise, even low-intensity activity, is important for health throughout life and should be emphasized in any discussion of obesity and its related disorders.

Stephen Roth

Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Human Genetics

Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at UPMC, replies:

In response to the letter written by Mr. Roth regarding the importance of exercise for weight loss, I agree wholeheartedly. As the presenter of a seminar on fad diets, my emphasis was on the food and eating components rather than the exercise. I do think that successful weight loss and maintenance are not possible without regular physical activity. It is important to note that people interested in weight loss who just try to add in more exercise without changing the food choices, portions or eating behaviors will not experience the same amount of weight loss as those who incorporate fitness, diet and habits into their daily routine. Many people assume that walking one mile three times a week gives them the license to eat whatever they choose. The calorie expenditure is not that great to produce significant weight loss through the walking alone, so the best bet would be to change both sides of the equation for better short- and long- term success. The goal is increased fitness, decreased fatness through eating, exercise and lifestyle behaviors. Isn't this the healthiest prescription for all?


SCORE seeks retired faculty

To the editor:

SCORE, the Service Corps Of Retired Executives, is seeking new members from the academic community who are retired, semi retired, or nearing retirement. We would like to recruit university professors from Pitt. SCORE is a nonprofit, volunteer resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information about us, see our local website at, our national site at or call 412/395-6560 ext. 130.

Robert J. Carlson

SCORE, Pittsburgh Membership Chair


Letters Policy

Letters should be submitted at least one week prior to publication. Persons criticized in a letter will receive a copy of the letter so that they may prepare a response. If no response is received the letter will be published alone.

Letters can be sent to 308 Bellefield Hall (include hard copy and a disk when possible) or can be sent by e-mail to

The University Times reserves the right to edit letters for clarity or length. Individuals are limited to two published letters per academic term. Unsigned letters will not be accepted for publication.

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