Tag: Hype

How to Snack Responsibly in the New World of Health Food Marketing

The growth of the Primal movement has not gone unnoticed. Food producers have latched on because, as much as we emphasize foraging the perimeter of the grocery store—the produce, the meats, the bulk goods—and eschewing processed foods, we remain creatures of convenience. Not everyone has the time or inclination to personally prepare every single morsel that enters their mouths. Sometimes we just need something quick and easy to snack on. And the food industry has risen to the occasion, offering ostensibly healthy Primal-friendly snack foods.

But are they really healthy?

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Can Techies Improve Food?

Technology has improved our lives, whether through the creation of new tools or by upgrading existing ones. Taxis were okay, but Uber and similar car service apps make them better (and self-driving cars will improve upon car service further). Craigslist makes classified ads free and easier to access. E-readers save trees and let people store entire libraries in the palm of their hands. Whereas world travelers used to have to wait a month for their postcard to reach a recipient (with another month for the reply), emails sent from Bangalore to Boston arrive in milliseconds. And perhaps most importantly of all, knowledge has been democratized. You can read anything from almost any time period using a device that fits in your pocket. You can talk to people halfway across the world in real time. Without technology, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do on a daily basis. Using the tools created by tech enthusiasts, I can reach millions of people every day and millions of entrepreneurs are creating new lives for themselves and new services and tools for others.

But are there limits to technological progress? Can technology improve everything?

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Essential Oils: Separating Fact from Fiction

If you spend a day or two on social media sites, you get the idea that essential oils are a panacea that can replace every modern medicine, both over the counter and prescription. Kid got a fever? Rub a little of this oil on his feet. Big job interview coming up in a few minutes? Inhale a little of this to relax. Fungal infection? Splash some of this on. It’s gotten particularly out of hand on Pinterest, where multi-level marketing schemers attempt to convince everyone they absolutely need to become essential oil wholesalers. Conversely, if you hang around in the online skeptic communities (Science Based Medicine, Quackwatch, etc.), you come away with the impression that essential oils are at best pleasant-smelling placebos and at worst expensive poisons. So – who’s right? Who’s wrong? Are essential oils simply glorified air fresheners without any evidence of efficacy, or does the truth lie somewhere between the two extremes?

Let’s first dig into the common claims and the evidence for some of the most popular essential oils.

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Is the Obesity Epidemic Exaggerated?

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions. People are fat and getting fatter, with no end in sight. Even kids are fat these days. Right? We’ve all seen the picture of the McDonald’s-eating toddler and heard the dire nightly news reports about growing obesity narrating back shots of anonymous overweight families trudging along with wedgies and short shorts. But just as the public at large bemoans the pervasiveness of the obesity epidemic, many critics are claiming the opposite: that the obesity epidemic is exaggerated and overinflated; that the “overweight” and “obese” categories are ploys by insurance companies to get more money from policy holders; that obesity in and of itself isn’t actually a health hazard. Some, like Paul Campos, are even arguing that America’s weight problem is “imaginary.”

Could this be? Am I tilting at windmills when I decry our collective weight problem?

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Weight Loss Shortcuts: Pills, Suction and Now… Lasers

Imagine a world where you could stroll into a clinic, spend fifteen minutes reading a magazine while a doctor’s assistant points a bizarre contraption at your backside, and skip out the door, down a few thousand bucks and twenty pounds lighter. Provided you had the money and the extra weight, would you do it? Would you be willing to take the ultimate weight loss shortcut? With less invasiveness than liposuction and fewer complications, it would be tough to say no. Just make sure you save money for new pants and a new belt on the same trip.

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Marlboro to Introduce “Smoke Rite” 6 Cig Health Packs

Smokers rejoice. There is a new, healthier way to smoke, all thanks to the innovators at Altria (formerly known as Philip Morris). Marlboro has just released Smoke Rites, a new line of health conscious products for modern people with active lifestyles.

The concept was borne over two years of intense research at Marlboro laboratories. Head researcher Dr. Dylan Pantzenfahr explains, “Curing lung cancer is one of Marlboro’s top priorities. And while we can’t change the nature of [tobacco], we can change the way people smoke it.” Pantzenfahr is referring to serving size. To date there is no standard serving size for cigarette consumption. “It’s a tricky question,” says Pantzenfahr, “A man with massive lungs may consume a much larger serving of cigarettes than, say, a tiny person.” Nevertheless, in early 2007 Pantzenfahr and his team of specialists made it their one mission to answer the serving size question.

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Coca-Cola Cares About Your Health

It’s the stuff of quintessential irony. Paradox. An absurdity so egregious it’s painful to type, let alone view on the screen. (There’s actual smoke rising from my keyboard….) We’re talking corporate “public health” sponsorships so ridiculous your eyes will fall out of your head. First, a show of hands. How many of you are familiar with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)? Sounds like a thoughtful, professional organization, yes? A group dedicated to noble and intelligent advocacy for good family health, no? Voices of expert reason, rational and practical medical authority, right? A group that would – with sound mind and sobriety – partner with a soda company for a nutrition-focused consumer education program??? Folks, I got my boots on today for a good old-fashioned butt kicking (blog style, that is). Pull up a chair. I’m just getting started.

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The Biggest Loser… Is the Audience

I watched The Biggest Loser last week – as well as the prior week’s opener, thanks to TiVo. I know what you’re thinking, but, hey, it’s my job and it has to be done. Truth is, I figure it’s about time someone shook America by the lapels and exposed the myths and fallacies in this show, which has become one of the most popular on TV. With all the glowing coverage, the average viewer is starting to think The Biggest Loser somehow represents the indomitability of the human spirit and the triumph of modern bariatric medicine. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a made-for-TV spectacle that has morphed into a cruel hoax perpetrated on the typical overweight person in America who is desperately looking for the weight-loss secret. It shows precisely how NOT to lose weight. Talk about two steps forward and three steps back. A few years ago, I suggested in this post that there were a few things right with the show (I still took them to task for their sponsor choices) but I’ve changed my mind. If this season’s opener, in which two morbidly obese, untrained contestants nearly died trying to race a mile in the heat, is any indication, nothing will do more to prolong the current obesity epidemic than a fixation on the Biggest Loser and its yelling, screaming, puking, crying, collapsing, extreme dieting, six-hour workout mentality. Hell, if I were an obese person watching all this, I’d be thinking, “dude, if this is what it takes to lose the weight, pass me another Twinkie and let’s see what’s on VH1.”

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Who You Callin’ Stupid and Lazy?

A number of readers have sent me links (thanks, readers) to a new study coming out of the UK that raised some eyebrows all across the Internet earlier this week. The headlines seemed to scream from everywhere “Do High Fat Diets Make Us Stupid and Lazy?” That, in turn, made me scream, so I took a look at this paper in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology: Deterioration of physical performance and cognitive function in rats with short-term high-fat feeding

What I found was a less-than-impressive short-term study on rat performance that told me what I already knew: that it takes a while for new gene expression to really kick in when you radically shift diets. Just like some of you are seeing in the 30-day challenge. So what?

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Food Labeling Nonsense

I thought I’d forgo my regularly scheduled “Dear Mark” Monday post (or “Dear Readers” as the case may be) for a subject very near and dear to my heart: the constantly-evolving, ever-confusing ways of the food rating labelers. Whether it’s the AHA-approved red “Heart Healthy” stamps that implore overweight diabetics to stuff themselves with “healthy” whole grains or the mention of antioxidant and fiber content somehow making that sugary breakfast cereal good for your kids, packaged food distributors seem to love making outlandish claims that bear little to no fruit. It’s incredibly effective, though, for the same reason people will believe anything they hear on TV or uttered by someone with an official title. We’ve already got a far-reaching bunch of bureaucrats at the FDA deciding which macronutrients to highlight and which to demonize on the official nutritional labels that adorn the back of every packaged food item, so the natural next step is a mishmash of extraneous labeling that tries to make nutritional recommendations based on the FDA data (which is itself based on flawed, misguided, or even blatantly false science).

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