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 … Continue reading “A Reader Rants”

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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.)

[tags] New York Post, sunscreen, osteoporosis, wrinkles, skin cancer, calcium, dairy, milk, vitamin D, UVA rays [/tags]

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Sunscreen May Not Be Your Friend

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 … Continue reading “Sunscreen May Not Be Your Friend”

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Smart Fuel After Turkey Day

SMART FUEL

Today’s Smart Fuel isn’t any particular item. Instead, let’s address the real topic at hand: the mountain of Thanksgiving leftovers lurking in the fridge. Perhaps you really indulged yesterday and felt more like a stuffed turkey yourself than a human about to eat one. Or, perhaps you were the model of restraint. No need to reveal which one.

For the weekend, for everyone, the smartest way to fuel up is to give away the sweets, get in a few good workouts, and enjoy the turkey. High in protein and some good fats, turkey is a fairly healthy choice (certainly in comparison to pie, candied yams and stuffing).

I don’t want to be responsible for any Pilgrims turning over in their graves here, but I’m always a little amused (no…annoyed) at what Thanksgiving has become. Why can’t we have a holiday where we all get together and exercise? Or make food for the homeless? Or how about a potluck where everyone has to bring a new, undiscovered healthy food?

If Americans didn’t already eat like it were Thanksgiving every single day (as many do…look at the portions at most restaurants), I’d say dig in, gobble, and don’t wear your belt. Unfortunately, I don’t see many belts at all these days.

[tags] Thanksgiving, turkey, Pilgrims, leftovers [/tags]

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Social Networking Out

Last week we brought you a great new way to track your dieting progress with The Daily Plate. But The Daily Plate isn’t the only ‘Web 2.0’ application in the online universe that is designed to help you cut the fat. Introducing Traineo. The philosophy behind Traineo is that having a coach, friend, or spouse to motivate you through your journey of weight loss is the best way to see results. Having a personal motivator talk you down from that box of doughnuts you were about to consume can pay huge diet dividends. With this in mind Traineo was designed to connect you with people that have similar health goals that may be able to offer words of encouragement and support. If you don’t like the idea of having friends and family follow your weight loss journey you also have the option of allowing other Traineo members track your progress. Having someone there when the going gets tough – someone to motivate you and help you through the difficult times – can be all it takes to push you over the edge and into a healthy lifestyle.

Traineo has a slick interface which makes it a cinch to use. While you can’t pick and choose your food items from a database of thousands of dishes there are many other features that set this website apart. Beside the ‘motivator’ feature, there are online forums, featured articles on health and nutrition, and a ‘My Stats’ page that allows you to track you weight loss over time. The greatest part of this incredible resource is that it is entirely free. If you are looking for yet another tool to help realize your health goals and would like to unite with similarly minded people this may be just the ticket.

[tags] Traineo, web 2.0, Daily Plate, free resources for health, weight loss, online diet help [/tags]

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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, … Continue reading “Why Melatonin Is a Dangerous Supplement”

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