Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Archive for the ‘ Hype ’ Category

28 Nov

A Reader Rants

Junior Apple Sarah writes:

“I just saw something on the news for an e. coli antidote and how it will revolutionize not only the food industry but also healthcare. What ever happened to just making sure that the food and facilities are clean? It’s my understanding that e. coli comes from fecal matter. Is it too much to ask to keep poop off my food? Why do we have to put another chemical in something / everything we eat?”

A recent article in the New York Times entitled “The Vegetable-Industrial Complex” deals with this issue at length. Writer Michael Pollan explores how modern food production yields more than bumper crops – it also yields very high potential for significant public health hazards. It’s the law of unintended consequences put to play on the dinner table.

I really recommend that you check out the article. In a nutshell:

- Modern food production has created two problems out of what was once a single solution. Animals fertilized crops, and crops fed animals. Pull them apart, mass produce them in factories and feedlots, and you have two problems:

1) As it collects in feedlots, manure becomes pollution, full of antibiotics, chemicals and e. coli, leading to the second problem:

2) Crops are now at risk for contamination, which invariably means crops get fertilized artificially. Great for the chemical industry, not so great for small farms, public health, economic efficiency, animals, or the earth.

- Calling for local, organic, small-time food production isn’t about being a dread-locked tree-hugger. It’s actually far more logical and economically viable to return to the way we used to do things. Small-scale food production is healthier. It’s easier to trace if something goes wrong, and fewer people are likely to be affected. Small-scale food production benefits small businesses instead of huge single food conglomerates. That means a freer market, more competition, better choice.

Everyone wins: small-scale farming is better for the environment and creates a solution whereas now we have two big problems.

- Small-scale farming also avoids the current obvious threat of terrorism. The article points out that our meat comes from but a few slaughterhouses. All the bagged spinach in the country passes through just four locations. How easy would it be for a terrorist to contaminate our food? That’s what Homeland Security is wondering.

Unfortunately, industrial food production looks to short-term, engineered fixes. When e. coli was found in the beef supply during the whole Jack in the Stomach fiasco of the 90s, producers just blasted the meat. (Pollan writes: Rather than clean up the kill floor and the feedlot diet, some meat processors simply started nuking the meat — sterilizing the manure, in other words, rather than removing it from our food.)

Why bother cleaning up the waste? It’s only our health on the line. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if our government starts requiring that our entire food supply be irradiated.

- Finally, well-meaning though it may be, calling for even more regulation and inspection of our food actually makes things worse. What small-time farmer can afford the safety requirements when he’s only got 10 cows to milk? Lucerne, Darigold, et al, can afford the hassle of regulation. And the lobbyists. And the chemicals.

Short-term solutions = long-term disaster. You’d think we would learn by now to think about those unintended consequences.

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28 Nov

The Fuming Fuji Says No to Chocolate Milk!

FUJ

The Fuming Fuji is outraged at the marketing of toxic food, especially when it’s aimed at the small fry. This week, the Fuming Fuji has decided to have a serious problem with chocolate milk.

But, Fuming Fuji, you ask, isn’t chocolate milk sometimes the only way to get calcium in a kid?

The Fuming Fuji says no!

The claim: Chocolate milk has all the protein, calcium and vitamins of regular milk, and kids love it!

The catch: Chocolate milk has all the protein, calcium and vitamins of regular milk, plus it’s full of sugar!

The comeback: So it has a little sweetening. At least it’s getting kids to drink their milk, right?

The conclusion:
The Fuming Fuji cannot help those who believe in glorified dessert for tiny tots. Chocolate milk is a very mean thing to give your child. Milk is also mean, though admittedly not as delicious. Chocolate milk: all the fat, hormones and antibiotics of regular milk, plus sugar!

The catchphrase: Cow’s milk is for baby cows. Chocolate cow’s milk is for fat baby cows.

Disclaimer: Mark Sisson and the Worker Bees do not necessarily endorse the views of the Fuming Fuji.

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27 Nov

Sunscreen Causes Osteoporosis, Part 2

Made you think twice, didn’t it?

Many of us glom on the sunscreen in the hope of warding off the slightest wrinkle or, worse, skin cancer. And many of us diligently gulp down glass after glass of milk, convinced calcium will save our bones from the high rates of osteoporosis Westerners suffer from.

Enter critical reassessment.

For those craving some clickativity related to Mark’s examination of the Vitamin D-sunblock-health issue, the New York Post ran a terrific piece recently on the importance of getting your daily D-licious dose. I tend to beat the osteoporosis horse quite a bit – but hey, it’s important! D is absorbed through the skin. D is necessary for bones. And sunscreen stops this nice little evolutionary convenience from…well, convening.

As Mark points out, why slather on a sunblock that doesn’t prevent the more dangerous UVA rays (thanks, Uncle Sam), does prevent absorption of critical vitamin D that is as equally important to bone health as calcium, and interferes with nature’s built-in “Get your buns indoors!” mechanism? (Or, as the Big Apple puts it, burning to a crisp.)

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21 Nov

Why Melatonin Is a Dangerous Supplement

Melatonin is a popular supplement for the sleep-deprived, namely because it carries rather innocent associations. Melatonin is “natural” and “safe” and “herbal”, right?

Wrong. I’ve been arguing with the melatonin prophets for years because I believe the image melatonin has, and what melatonin really is, are vastly different. Like so many things that we trust in, consume or think we understand, the truth may not be what we want to believe.

My caution with melatonin is simple: melatonin is a hormone.

That’s right – a hormone. Like estrogen. Like testosterone. And just like taking estrogen (whether it’s Hormone Replacement Therapy or the Pill) or testosterone therapy, melatonin comes with risks. Frequent melatonin use – especially in the typical dosage of 3-6 milligrams – can trigger a bit of a vicious cycle in the brain. Supplement with melatonin regularly to get to sleep, and your body is going to produce even less, creating even greater need for the hormone. It’s not that you can’t ever take melatonin; but I think it’s important that people understand the facts.

A caveat: While I am generally against using hormones (it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature), I am in favor of using the natural version of the hormone melatonin to “reset” the diurnal clock when traveling across time zones. Because, after all, you got there by fooling Mother Nature in the first place! Humans did not evolve a mechanism to adapt to changing time zones. Jet travel can be some of the most destructive stress you can encounter, especially the older you get.

In fact, a recent article in ScienceNow Daily News reported on the growing concern in the scientific community over the dangers of jet lag. Turns out it’s more serious than we previously realized. Jet lag increases risk of cancer, ulcers, and sleep disorders, as well as weakening the immune system. Now, this isn’t reason to stop traveling; simply be aware of the risks and take some smart precautions (drinking alcohol on the plane: not a good idea).

I travel frequently, and I don’t suffer from jet lag, because I use melatonin judiciously in these instances. I also have a few rules about travel (feel free to crib my notes):

- Once you’ve landed and checked in to your lodgings, immediately get an aerobic workout. This will help stimulate circulation, hormones and serotonin production – it’ll just be that much easier adjusting to the new time zone. Don’t tuck into a glass of wine or take a nap. Spend 30 minutes getting your heart racing instead.

- Eat a small, protein-rich meal that also includes some fiber. But keep it light so your body isn’t further stressed.

- Reset your watch and then… lie to yourself. Don’t think about it; just immediately adapt to the new time zone.

- Of course, the goal is to adjust as soon as possible to your new time zone. If you’re flying overnight or flying to a place where everyone else will have just finished sleeping, by all means, do what you can to nap on the plane or otherwise refresh yourself.

- Drink at least a quart of water your first day there (4 glasses).

- Go to bed when everyone else in your new time zone goes to bed, and take 3-6 milligrams of melatonin an hour before you plan to fall asleep to make that possible.

Here’s the ScienceNow clickativity.

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21 Nov

The Fuming Fuji Says No to Popcorn Shrimp!

FUJ

The Fuming Fuji is outraged at the marketing of toxic food, especially when it’s aimed at the small fry. This week, the Fuming Fuji has decided to have a serious problem with popcorn shrimp.

But, Fuming Fuji, you ask, isn’t popcorn shrimp rich in protein? I thought seafood was healthy! Aren’t we supposed to eat more fish?

The Fuming Fuji says no!

The claim: Shrimp are a low-fat, high-protein food, and we all know seafood is very good for you. So what’s a little bit of breading?

The catch: Popcorn shrimp are breaded in a chemical-bleached-flour concoction. Next, they are fried in trans-fats. Also, shrimp are disgusting.

The comeback: But Fuming Fuji, isn’t a little fat okay? It’s better than fried chicken, right?

The conclusion:
Shrimp are very bad for you, especially when dipped in a sugary mess of flour and deep-fried. Shrimp are not your friends. They are not fish. They are sea-bugs.

The catchphrase: Do not eat fried bugs of the sea!

Disclaimer: Mark Sisson and the Worker Bees do not necessarily endorse the views of the Fuming Fuji.

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