Study Finds Value in Spam

A steady diet of spam -- the electronic variety -- can be good for you.

Researchers split a group of more than 2,100 Canadians into two groups. One group got emails that promoted healthy lifestyles, the other got none.

"These were informative and motivational messages sent weekly for 12 weeks," explained study leader Ron Plotnikoff of the University of Alberta.

The emails promoted the benefits of a good diet and physical activity.

Those who were effectively smapped, as a group, saw their mean body mass index (BMI) go down, meaning it improved. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. Overall BMI rose for the control group, which did not get the emails.

Spam has been estimated to cost the U.S. economy several billion dollars a year in decreased productivity and anti-spam efforts. Meanwhile, the new study shows that mass email might produce small effects on a case-by-case basis, but it could be effective because of the low cost and large reach, Plotnikoff said.

"We need to improve the population's health," he told LiveScience. "Also we need more creative ways to reach the 'hard to reach' groups."

The results will be published in the July/August 2005 edition of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

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