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

Mark's Daily Apple

18 Apr

Wednesday Webbin’

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

All the news, none of the trans fat! There’s plenty of controversy brewing in health today, and we’d love to hear your viewpoints!

Angst or Antidepressants?

A study from JAMA reports that antidepressants are perfectly safe for teens – something that will no doubt fire ongoing controversy, in light of the FDA’s own warnings about antidepressants for teens. Many countries ban antidepressant prescriptions for children due to significant health and safety concerns. What’s interesting is that antidepressants do appear to help teens deal with anxiety, but when it comes to depression, there’s no statistical significance over placebos.

“In the studies involving depression, 61 percent of patients improved while on antidepressants. But 50 percent of depressed patients taking dummy pills also improved.” – Boston.com

Dicey subject. What are your thoughts, Apples?

pills 1

This is Emagic’s Flickr Photo

Spice Up Your Efforts Against Diabetes

Cinnamon may be good for those with both types of diabetes! Here’s the clickativity.
cinnamon

This is Bitzi’s Flickr Photo

The FDA Debate Continues

We make no secret of our disappointment with the FDA as an institution ostensibly created to protect public health. From hiring, firing and publishing practices that look like a Pharma pajama party, to misguided approvals processes, to this latest news, we think our tax dollars deserve better. Don’t miss the click – it’s a worthy read, Apples.

See you tomorrow!

18 Apr

Aaron’s Additions

Am I getting the most out of Mark’s Daily Apple? This is a question you should be asking yourself if your experience has been limited to reading our daily posts. Mark’s Daily Apple offers so much more! Check out these helpful hints on how to take advantage of all we have to offer.

Many premium benefits only go to Mark’s Daily Apple members, so if you haven’t signed up yet be sure to do so ASAP! What are you waiting for? Simply click on ‘Login’ at the top of the page and follow the prompts to become a member. If you still have questions on how to become a member check out this link for further information.

Commenting on Posts:

Add your two cents, or get into a full-on, heated philosophical debate over any of our daily entries by posting a comment. Leaving a reply allows you to voice your opinion and connect with other readers. We are all about giving the little guy a voice. Here is your chance!

There are two easy ways to post a comment. Sign in using your username and password. Once this is done simply click on the ‘Comments’ link at the bottom of any post. You will be directed to our blog forum that contains all of our blog entries and their corresponding comments. At the bottom of the page you will find a dialog box you can use to post replies. Alternatively, click on ‘Forum’ at the top of the home page and then ‘Blog Forum’. From here you can find the blog entry to which you would like to leave a comment.

Once you’ve posted a comment check back regularly to see what other readers have to say about it. You may be (pleasantly or otherwise) surprised by the response!

Using an RSS Feeder:

As Google puts it, an RSS feeder is “like an inbox for your favorite sites”. An RSS (don’t worry about what RSS means – it’s unimportant geek-speak) feeder pulls content from each of your favorite blogs and puts them into a convenient and easy to view format. If you don’t already have an RSS feeder you can get one here or here. Add Mark’s Daily Apple to your feeder and receive our latest posts automatically. You won’t even have to type in our web address to get the latest in health and nutrition news!

I will be retiring Aaron’s Additions until a new round of healthy tools and quality blogs pop up. (In the last year alone 28,000 health blogs were created, but only a very small percentage had any staying power!) Instead I will be focusing on bringing you Aaron’s Awards – congratulating the food industry for their latest obesity-inducing shenanigans.

18 Apr

Is There Any Safe Meat?

Reader Sheila asked me a great question recently: is there really any safe meat to eat these days?

Beef and pork? Raised in cramped factories and fattened as quickly as possible, the happiness of the animal is nonexistent and the health of the meat is seriously in question. These animals are fed hormones, antibiotics, and an unnatural high-sugar grain diet that reduces beneficial fatty acids in the meat and causes illness in the animal (hence the need for drugs). Red meat and the “other” white meat (come on, it’s red) aren’t exactly the boon of health we low-carbers would like them to be. Sheila wondered about the rumors of dangerous parasites and germs in pork. Because of the modern factory system, pork really doesn’t have any greater health danger than beef. However, just because things like listeria have been reduced since the days of Upton Sinclair, doesn’t make meat healthy.

The sheer production level of meat is so high that it draws greedily on natural resources like oil, water, and land (and it’s a major contributor to rainforest deforestation). It’s no wonder many people are turning to vegetarianism. Either that, or it’s the fact that a typical burger patty is literally a composite of hundreds of cows, and processed meats are made of stripped spinal meat, which is turning so many people off of meat. This always turns my stomach, and although I do espouse responsible meat-eating (more on that in a moment), I’d sooner go hungry than eat a single meal that is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of animals. To me, it’s cruel and vulgar, and yet, a burger is the most popular food item in America. Sad.

How about chicken and turkey? Fowl is raised in much the same manner as beef and pork. Modern chicken is far more fatty than the chicken your grandparents ate. You even have to be careful with free-range products. The only thing that “ranges” with many of these free-range products is the degree of accuracy in the term. In some states, the “free range” is still a pen, albeit with some sunlight. My idea of healthy protein is not tens of thousands of chickens crammed into a sunless room smelling of chemicals and covered in filth, and I’m sure it’s not yours either, yet this is the reality.

But fish is healthy, right? Again, it’s not a pretty picture. Our oceans’ fisheries are in jeopardy. In fact, an entire section of California’s coast has been banned because the fish populations are close to being wiped out. This sort of thing is going on in many places. This isn’t fun news, but the facts remain. Our way of life is causing serious problems. Couple overfishing with the gross levels of pollutants in many waterways – particularly southern waters – and fish isn’t necessarily your best bet. Farmed fish is problematic because it can interfere with wild fish habitats, and farmed fish are often overcrowded to the point of cannibalism. And there’s the sea lice infestation to consider.

Sheesh! What about shellfish? My staffers jokingly call shrimp “sea bugs” because they have exoskeletons, much like any ordinary garden insect. Like lobster and crab, they sorta are sea bugs, if you think about it. Here’s the “bad news” about shellfish. I personally avoid shellfish.

This isn’t an apologia for vegetarians. I eat meat. But I have friends, family members and staff who don’t. If you think what I’ve just written is depressing, spend some time on the vegetarian blogs and you’ll see where my pals are coming from. For me, the problem is that our modern meat production system is grossly out of step with sustainability in every sense. This is a radical problem for the environment, for our sense of compassion and our ethical integrity, and human health. It’s that serious.

I believe another serious aspect of this problem is that the human body is designed to be omnivorous – subsisting on a healthy mix of animal flesh, vegetables, seeds, nuts and fruits. I am firmly against the modern diet rich in sugars, refined flours and processed starches. I think occasional whole grains are fine, but based on my background in biology, neither burgers nor burger buns are the road to the blessings of good health. I believe humans are meant to eat some meat – whether fish, fowl or livestock – based upon the facts I have observed in my studies of human evolution. That’s where most of my veg pals and I part ways. For example, I don’t think most types of soy are healthy. But we can disagree while still agreeing that the basic problem – the current system of meat production – has got to change. Period.

What to do?

If you don’t want to “go veg”, whether for reasons of personal preference or scientific convictions (my case), then do all you can to support better practices:

- Go organic. Expensive, yes, but I believe this is a non-negotiable. If you buy “free-range”, make sure it’s really free-range.

- Try to find local producers. This supports smaller farms, who often raise meat sustainably and in accordance with organic protocols but can’t afford the hoops of being officially labeled organic. This requires significant digging and a lot of phone calls, but this is your earth and your body, so I really don’t think it’s such a big deal.

- Eat less. This is a huge one that I never see anyone talking about. I am a big fan of “low carb” eating. I think sugar is no better than a toxin. But that doesn’t mean anyone needs to eat massive steaks. Humans are designed to eat some flesh, but fish and eggs are certainly sufficient, and more importantly, you only need 1-3 ounces at a time. Unless you’re an athlete in training, the need for anything more than a small handful of flesh is exaggerated. We’re used to eating huge servings of meat, but then, we’re used to eating huge servings of everything.

- Write some letters. It’s easy.

So, Sheila, in answer to your question, I don’t believe there’s really any one type of meat that is superior to any otherthe way meat is currently produced. Produced sustainably, organically, with the animals’ health in mind, chicken is a great source of protein. And grass-fed, “happy” cows provide meat rich in good fats. And wild fish from safe, cold-water regions like Alaska contains Omega-3′s and very low levels of contaminants. Pigs not raised in cruel, cramped gestation crates provide lean protein. Personally, I eat mostly fish and fowl. But for every type of flesh we can consume, there’s a healthier, saner alternative. I don’t recommend one type of meat over the other, because ultimately, it’s the whole system that’s gotta go. I recommend rethinking the entire “meat paradigm”, and shifting your habits to support a better way of life. In a few short years, we’ll all have to anyway.

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17 Apr

Is the FDA Serious?

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

They’re for real. Read on.

FDA Officially Jumps the Shark

The FDA is attacking your freedom. That’s no hyperbole, and it’s not just because we take issue with Labelman. Evidently, the FDA figures they’ve done such a bang-up job regulating drugs safely and effectively, why not extend their sticky fingers responsibilities to other profitable public health modalities? Read this, or this or this to find out what’s going on. Hint: any vitamin, herb or alternative therapy may soon be regulated as “medicine”.

Admittedly, this sounds great – we all know there are plenty of fake diet pills and far too many snake oil supplement hucksters out there. However, think about how this move also significantly reduces your freedom.
Bringing natural therapies under the jurisdiction of the FDA has all sorts of implications:

- Will natural therapies be turned into Big Pharma profit projects? How does one patent an herb, anyway?

- What about people who have no access to a doctor or health insurance? Or seniors who are on limited budgets?

- Why should the FDA be given any further control when its existing credibility and capability are already legitimately in question?

Read about it. And then, if you have a moment, do something about it here.

UPDATE 5/2/07: Mark has reigned us in. His experience in the supplement industry and a double-check analysis reveals: “no dice”. Apparently this is really an old issue that’s been dredged up again. Visit this link for a good perspective.

If Only

Chocolate is better than kissing, according to all the latest reports. Scientists say the sweet treat really, really does make you feel better than a tasty kissing session. Hmm. (Not buying it!)
choc

This is Eszter’s Flickr Photo

17 Apr

10 Quick Tips to Boost Your Serotonin

This week’s Tuesday Ten features simple tips to make your brain hum. You’ll feel so great, you’ll be looking down on Cloud 9.

Before we get to it, a word to the wise about serotonin:

There is quite the plethora of mood-elevating, serotonin-enhancing products and drugs available. If you don’t want to go the Prozac route, there are many excellent natural methods for boosting your mood. Indeed, many studies have shown that natural methods like exercise may be just as effective as traditional drug therapies. (However, in some cases, depression can become so severe, there’s simply no food or supplement that is going to “cure” you. I like to remind my readers that it’s always important to consult an expert before embarking on your own curative adventure.)

But for light cases of the blues, or stressful days, there are plenty of things you can do to elevate that feel-good hormone, serotonin:

10. Avoid the fast track to happiness.

Carbohydrates give you an instant lift because they trigger the release of serotonin. Indeed, I’ve seen several articles lately actually recommend eating a sugary treat to boost your mood and sleep better. Bad advice (see Dr. Weil’s take). Carbs are a quick fix, but they do nothing to stimulate ongoing production of serotonin, which is what you want.

9. Don’t avoid carbs entirely.

Proteins contain tryptophan, a large amino that converts to serotonin in the brain. (I’ll be discussing tryptophan supplements in the future.) Yet relying solely on protein can hamper serotonin production. Though scientists aren’t sure why this is, it makes sense that subsisting entirely on one macro-nutrient might cause problems for brain chemistry.

Tryptophan works best when consumed in conjunction with a small bit of carbohydrate, such as a scoop of brown rice, a handful of nuts, or a few tablespoons of legumes. These complex carbohydrates are essential to helping your brain properly process the tryptophan in protein. Vegetables are also great – and my preference.

8. Eat protein.

Turkey, fish, chicken, cottage cheese, nuts, cheese, eggs, and beans all contain generous levels of tryptophan.

protein

7. Eat fat.

Hormonal processes require essential fatty acids, so don’t shirk your “good fats”. Get plenty of DHA-enhanced eggs and dairy in your diet, and eat fish a few times a week. Good sources are wild salmon, mackerel, and tuna. You vegheads can also nosh on avocados, nuts, flaxseed, vegetable oils (walnut, avocado, almond, flax, olive) and seeds.

6. Take a fish oil supplement!

Though fish oil won’t produce serotonin, essential fatty acids play a vital role in brain health and mood regulation. I recommend Vital Omegas, of course, but there are plenty of good ones on the market. As with most things, you do get what you pay for, so buy the best you can afford.

5. Exercise to feel good.

Exercise is a natural stimulator of many important “mood” hormones, including serotonin and dopamine. Don’t think of exercise as a chore to lose weight or prevent heart disease “someday”. Realize that 15 or 20 minutes of exercise every day will naturally release these feel-good hormones that are so vital to feeling happy and calm. As junior apple Mike A. says, exercise is about feeling good, not just looking good.

4. Avoid the stimulant cycle.

Caffeine, sugar, alcohol. Caffeine, sugar, alcohol. Many of us get trapped in the stimulant cycle. These substances temporarily give you a lift, but actually deplete and blunt valuable hormones in the long run. If you like caffeine, try to limit your java intake to one or two cups a day at the most. The same for alcohol. I recommend avoiding sugar completely.

3. Sleep right.

When we’re feeling down, it’s tempting to sleep, sleep and sleep some more. But quality sleep is far more important than quantity. Force yourself to get up early, but allow for a rejuvenating nap midday if you need it (just don’t exceed one hour). The same goes for stressed-out workaholics getting by on 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night. Find a way to get an extra hour (hey, that sounds like another Tuesday 10 to me!).

2. Investigate supplements wisely.

HTP is a popular supplement, but I personally prefer rhodiola, which actually slows the process of serotonin breakdown (it also has better scientific backing).

1. Boost other hormones!

Oxytocin is another feel good hormone often called the “cuddle hormone”. Oxytocin is released when we feel love, trust and comfort. It can be even more powerful than serotonin. If you need a lift, remember the power of simply spending time with your significant other or family members and friends.

Sponsor note:
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