As much as we focus on food and fitness as the “physical” arbiters of health and longevity, there appears to be much more to it. In fact, most research fails to find any grand commonalities in the diet and fitness patterns of the longest lived. From Okinawans with their sweet potatoes to Japanese centenarians with their dairy to the Ashkenazi with their higher rates of smoking, drinking, and lower rates of formal exercise to the 107 year old with her butter, no exercise, and mistrust of medicine to the supercentenarians with their liver, bacon, wine, chocolate, and eggs to the other supercentenarians with their caloric restriction. Sure, they’re generally not eating Twinkies and Panda Express, but the secret to longevity – at least as it’s practiced by living centenarians – does not lie in one specific diet.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’ll be covering several topics. First, I cover fruit wax, that lovely layer of ultra-thin sheen applied to many fruits and vegetables in the grocery store. Is it harmful or innocuous? Find out below. Next up is one that makes most people extremely squeamish: placentophagy, or the consumption of the placenta by the mother following birth. Does it do anything? Should people do it? What’s the deal with it? Finally, I field a question from a guy who hangs out in a bar for a few hours a week with his friends. All good, right? Unfortunately, this particular bar allows smoking, so he’s wondering whether or not he’s doing any real damage to himself from exposure to second hand smoke.
We’ve got a nice pair of questions for today’s Dear Mark. In the first, a young woman who’s perhaps the most intuitively active person I’ve ever heard about asks whether or not she should incorporate a dedicated, formal workout to her schedule of skiing, playing with dogs, hiking, manipulating heavy bags of dog food (in a physical sense, not an emotional sense), yoga, and rafting. You guys might be able to guess the gist of my response, but read on to find out what I say. In the second, a guy asks about topical ointments that promote wound healing. As a response, I discuss the standard over the counter ointments (antibiotic ointments, petroleum jelly-based ointments) as well as the more “natural” alternatives like honey, coconut oil, and garlic.
I’ve said this before, but inflammation is a necessary response to injury. It’s the inflammatory response that increases blood and lymphatic flow to and from the injured tissues, bringing healing nutrients and inflammatory mediators and removing damaged refuse. It’s the inflammatory response that makes injuries hurt, which prevents us from using and re-injuring the injured area. And yeah, the inflammatory response can get out of hand and do more damage than the initial insult, but it’s ultimately how our bodies heal damaged tissues and recover from injuries. If we didn’t have an inflammatory response, we’d never get anywhere. This was the crux of a very interesting blog post by Kelly Starrett in which he questioned the typical use of ice after injury. In short, Kelly says that putting ice on a healing tissue is counterproductive because it halts or at least disrupts inflammation, which is really how we heal.
Do we want to use ice in order to reduce the inflammation incurred after a soft tissue injury?
Over the past several weeks, I’ve laid out a considerable amount of evidence showing that there indeed are substantive differences between organic produce and conventional produce. Organic is often more nutritious, with a greater concentration of phytonutrients (contrary to what the popular media has been saying). Conventional produce shows up in your kitchen with far more pesticide residues, and these residues appear to be especially harmful to youngsters, babies, and fetuses (feti?). Antibiotic resistance, which is on the rise, is partially attributable to the widespread usage of antibiotics in conventional agriculture; organic agriculture forbids their usage. Many studies have also shown organic farming to be better for the environment, the local ecosystem, the renewability of the farm, and the health of its workers. Organic food is usually more expensive, but the research tends to suggest that you’re getting something extra out of it.
That’s all well and good, but should you buy organic? This is the real question that needs answering.
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