Let me be the first to say: I am pro-sunlight. I’m not talking about weather patterns, either. I’m talking about exposing yourself to some rays. I spend a fair amount of time outside soaking up the sun’s energy (of course, being careful not to burn). Although evidently most dermatologists believe we would be better off spelunking in caves 24/7 and covering ourselves in head-to-toe black garb whenever we venture out, my own evolutionary perspective leads me to believe we were designed to get sunlight almost every day and that our health suffers if we don’t get enough.
In fact, recent studies show that, as a result of our shunning the sun, many of us suffer from Vitamin D deficiency and a resulting loss of bone density and immune function (to name just a few effects). Some researchers opine that more people die from lack of sun than from too much sun! But, I digress.
I came across an article the other day that piqued my curiosity since it dealt with the combination of running and sunning. It basically showed that marathoners (e.g. formerly yours truly) tend to get skin cancer at higher rates than other people. The more they run, the higher the incidence of skin cancer.
My take on what’s happening is that not only are runners exposed to more sun (which can cause DNA damage in skin cells – ergo, cancer), but they are also bathed in more free-radicals overall from the excessive oxidation of glucose and fats.
We know that sun exposure does deplete the skin of the antioxidant Vitamin C. Stick with me on this: the act of running tends to divert blood flow away from the skin, starving it of additional important antioxidants that could neutralize the free-radical damage in the skin tissues. Add to that the enormous amounts of stressful cortisol marathoners pump out doing this unnaturally high steady-state oxidative work and we not only get the DNA damage, we get the immune-bashing effects of the high-stress activity. The effect: more DNA damage and a reduced ability to recognize that damage and take steps to eliminate those cells and/or repair the damage.
That’s one reason (among many) that I have doused myself with antioxidants inside and out for over 20 years now. That’s also why one of my mantras is: a little running is OK – a lot is bad.
The above article also brings up other points of discussion, such as whether the reliance on inferior sunscreens might be another cause. This is vitally important to discuss and it’s not getting much attention in the mainstream media. It appears that for the past 30 years so-called sunscreens have been good at blocking UVB rays (the ones that burn) but not UVA (the ones primarily responsible for DNA damage and skin cancer). Thank you, FDA. The terrible effect is a generation of gung-ho health fanatics slathering on sunscreen and running 40, 50 or 100 miles a week. The fact that we didn’t burn only lead us to believe we could stay out even longer. Little did we know that the burning of skin might have been a great first warning to get the hell out of the sun! How’s that for nature’s way of saying “Yo! Enough!”? Unfortunately, the sunscreen gave us the false notion we were invulnerable. Oops. Guess big Pharma was wrong again. More on that later….
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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I have to hand it to Taco Bell for being both devastatingly brilliant and unforgivably evil. In a new campaign called the Fourth Meal, they’re pumping the fourth meal (yes…“the meal between dinner and breakfast”) with a dazzling disregard for health, ethics, decency and taste.
Normally, I tend to admire rebels and rule-breakers. I don’t exactly have best friends over at Big Pharma. And I understand Taco Bell isn’t in business to kiss babies and hug Aunt Sue. Taco Bell is in business for the same reason everyone else is: to make some cash. Hopefully, you can make some cash while doing something good. Not so with el Taco. To that end, their marketers are brilliant.
Running a late-night campaign obviously aimed at college kids, night owls and (let’s be frank) bar flies – and being so blatantly cavalier about – is smart business.
The website is so cool, it’s appalling. At the site, viewers can choose to enter as a hip young man or woman. Next up, you pick trendy threads to wear. You navigate a late-night, funky urban street. Via a glossy black virtual handheld device (of course), you can talk, make buddies, and play – you can become a “Fourth Mealer”.
That’s right: Taco Bell is pushing an entire online community a la MySpace, Friendster, Squidoo (and your very own Mark’s Daily Apple) devoted entirely to feeling cool about scarfing a late night meal complete with the Taco Bell version of the four food groups: Melty, Crunchy, Spicy, Grilled.
Hey, I was a college kid once; maybe you were, too. We’ve all had a wild night (or ten) at some point in our lives. I don’t hold anything against Taco Bell for wanting to make a buck. In fact, I advocate a fourth meal – in the sense that I advocate several small meals throughout the day to maintain appropriate blood sugar levels and keep the metabolism firing full speed ahead.
But let’s consider, just for a second, if Taco Bell could have done something different. Kids are smart. They also like to rebel against authority. Don’t we all?
What if Taco Bell had incorporated a few healthy items into their menu, marketed them as still being tasty (surely the food chemists can handle that order), and gone with the whole Fourth Meal campaign anyway. Only, instead of advocating the late-night consumption of complete garbage, pitching the healthy Fourth Meal as something only college kids and night owls would really “get”.
Taco Bell: “Hey, it’s late. The parental units are home in bed and feeling great about their three squares. Your boss thinks you’re still at the office and your professor thinks you’re studying for that exam. Right. All the nerds are probably reading and listening to Beethoven. But you need a little veg, a little protein, and a little taste – now. So you’re eating a cheap, fast, healthy meal because you have a life. You’re a fourth-mealer. You either get it or you don’t.”
Just when I think I’ve seen it all, along comes fried Coke. Earlier this year I saw a major Southern California “quick service” food chain promoting their deep-fried fries. That’s right – fries that are breaded and … fried.
I barely had time to recover from that one before fried soda burst onto the scene in several versions. There are fried Coke rings, in which the corn-syrup liquid is frozen, breaded in some variation of corn starch, and deep fried in (of course) corn oil.
The article linked below highlights what appear to be deep-fried Coke bonbons. Fortunately, they are drizzled with syrup and powdered sugar, thereby accelerating consumers from mere obesity, diabetes and heart disease to plain old death. I’m glad to see that science and the spirit of innovation are alive and well across our great land. Of that, we can be proud. Besides, next year, plans are in the works for a version that really keeps your health in mind:
“Next year’s fair-goers can look forward to fried Sprite or — for those watching their weight — fried diet Coke.”
Here’s the clickativity for the above quote and the story.
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