Research: The Biggest Danger of the Gridiron is Heart Disease

In his book Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman claims the training concept of "bulking up," common among NFL lineman, jeopardizes players' long-term health. Steven Reinberg of HealthDay News reports on new research supporting Dr. Fuhrman's position:

"In the general population, there is about a 20 percent incidence of metabolic syndrome," Croft said. "In our cohort of retired NFL players, almost 51 percent of linemen had metabolic syndrome compared to non-linemen."

Among non-linemen, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome was less than that seen among the general population, Croft noted.

Croft thinks these problems are the result of linemen not changing their lifestyle after retirement. These players continue to maintain their weight while not maintaining their previous level of physical activity, she said.

One expert thinks that increasing your weight to play a sport can lead to health problems later on.

"These studies underscore the fact that striving for success on the playing field sometimes ironically leads to worse overall health," said Dr. Byron K. Lee, an assistant professor of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. "A similar phenomenon has been also seen in sumo wrestlers."

These studies should not be interpreted as meaning that being a NFL lineman causes cardiovascular disease, Lee said. "The fact is that many former NFL linemen are overweight. This is not surprising after many years of being told to eat more and more because larger size, even due to fat, can be advantageous for linemen," he said.

"We already know that obesity is linked to most, if not all, of the outcomes found in this study. The bottom line, whether you are an NFL lineman or not, is to stay lean," Lee said.

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