F as in FAT

Americans are getting bigger and bigger every year no thanks to our sedentary lifestyle. *image via Reuters*

As many of us know, America is getting fatter and fatter by the year. To give you an idea of how things have changed, more than two-thirds of states (38) have adult obesity rates above 25 percent and in 1991, no state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. Though Australia is the fattest country of the world with 26% of their population as obese, we’re only trailing behind by 1%. If this were college, we’d be at the bottom of the class.

Films like Super Size Me and Fast Food Nation have us believe that it is fast food that mainly contributes to this epidemic. However, we must not forget to note that America leads a very sedentary lifestyle. According to new research findings as part of the American Time Use Survey, Just 5 percent of Americans say they exercise vigorously, according to a new study that finds that most people are either sedentary or perform only light activities on a given day. These findings were based on data  collected between 2003 and 2008 to determine Americans’ 10 most common non-work activities.

They found that sedentary activities dominated people’s time, followed by moderate and then vigorous levels of activity:

  • The most frequently reported, non-work behavior was eating and drinking, at 95.6%.
  • Washing, dressing, and grooming oneself was reported by 78.9%.
  • Driving a truck, car, or motorcycle was reported by 71.4%.
  • Moderate physical activities such as food preparation were reported by 25.7%. In this group, 12.8% of men reported food preparation, compared with 37.6% of women.
  • Caring for one’s lawn and gardening were reported by 10.6%.
  • The most common vigorous activities reported were using cardiovascular exercise equipment (2.2%) and running (1.1%).

Though it is imperative that we, as Americans, stay healthy in order to wean off killers such as heart disease and diabetes, our sedentary lifestyle is very much disallowing our progress toward a healthier living. Now is a better time than ever to put down that fork and pick up our pace everywhere we go.

The research was published in the October 2010 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

High-fructose corn syrup taking a cue from frivolous musicians?

Odd, sure. But just like a famous musician would change his name to reinvent himself (à la Diddy) or a shamed athlete would change his jersey number (à la Kobe), the carbohydrate formerly known as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has taken their cue and changed its name to “corn sugar.”

The Corn Refiners Association, which represents firms that make the syrup, has been trying to improve the image of the infamous sweetener with ad campaigns promoting it as a natural ingredient made from corn. This week the group petitioned the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to start calling the ingredient “corn sugar,” arguing that a name change is the only way to clear up consumer confusion about the product. I wonder if this also has anything to do with their sales being at a 20-year low? The Corn Refiners Association have recently tried to drive a new point home — that unlike regular sugar, HFCS drives profitability for members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and fulfills non-food roles in the following ways:
• Maintains freshness in condiments
• Enhances fruit & spice flavors in marinades
• Aids in fermentation for breads and yogurts
• Retains moisture in breakfast bars & cereals
• Makes high fiber baked goods and cereals palatable
• Maintains consistent flavors in beverages
• Keeps ingredients evenly mixed in salad dressings

Does this mean we should all be running out to the corner store to grab this magical liquid sweetener?

Not quite, says Marion Nestle, a professor in New York University’s department of nutrition and a longtime food industry critic. She says that the plural “corn sugars” is a better description of high-fructose corn syrup, which is actually a mixture of glucose and fructose.

Gosh, what is a food consumer to do now? Are we accurate when we call HFCS the new trans-fat, the new food item that everyone should stay away from as though it were a matter of life and death? Most leading scientists and nutrition experts say no — they agree that in terms of health, the effect of high-fructose corn syrup is the same as regular sugar, and, of course, that too much of either ingredient is bad for your health.

Bottom line: everything in moderation, kids.

Illegal immigrants to receive better health care than citizens?

The year 2010 has been quite a year in terms of controversial decisions—Arizona passed a racist immigration bill that sparked a widespread boycott and Obama signed THE health insurance reform bill into law. To use a less-vulgar version of Joe Biden’s words, these decisions have been “very big deals.” Though these decisions put the care of illegal immigrants at the bottom of the barrel (obviously disregarding how vital they are  to the  prosperity of the U.S.), they are on the minds of some people.

Displaced patients to be covered by a new agreement met at an Atlanta-area church. —David Walter Banks for NYT

In this case, Grady Memorial Hospital is the entity who chose to provide for the needs of illegal immigrants. The Atlanta-based hospital, in a controversial decision that is likely to cause a national uproar, agreed to financially assist dialysis provider Fresenius Medical Services to offer care to 38 patients—including several illegal immigrants— who are end-stage renal patients.

This decision comes as a similar contract between Grady and Fresenius expires. That contract provided dialysis treatment to illegals for a transition period of one year after Grady closed its outpatient dialysis clinic, which was losing money. Sixty immigrants were affected by that decision. Important details, such as which patients will go where, what Grady’s portion of the bill will be and how long the treatment will last have yet to be determined.

In general, this issue of “caring” for illegal immigrants is sure to become a hot-button one, especially considering that the nation is brooding over a financial funk.

To learn more: read this New York Times article.

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