Rest Easy, America: Bacon Shortage ‘Highly Unlikely’

You may have heard during the week about the “unavoidable” bacon shortage that is poised to reign over the world. Oh, the hamanity!

Why is this news? Well, mostly because this is how a majority of people in America react to bacon:

Yes, the Midwest drought led to a very disappointing corn harvest, which led to raised prices on pig feed, making it much more difficult for farmers to earn a profit. It has also led to farmers killing more pigs and taking whatever money they could get. Reuters reported on Thursday that more pigs were slaughtered in August than in any month in U.S. history.

But an actual bacon shortage? That can be stopped by basic economics, University of Missouri agricultural economist Ronald Plain told the Huffington Post.

“If we run out (of bacon) today, we’ll have more tomorrow,” Plain said. “And we’re not going to run out, because if we start to get low inventory, the price steps up. Bellies are selling for $1.13 a pound today — and if we run out, they’ll get more expensive. Packers will be happy to charge you $5 a pound if you want to pay it, and they’ll make sure we don’t run out.”

So don’t worry. You’ll be able to have your strips of bacon; you’ll just have to take more out of your wallet to buy them. Will this lead you to think twice before picking some up at the grocery store in the future? Maybe higher bacon prices are a good thing, especially considering a recent study found that processed red meat was associated with a 10 percent increased risk of prostate cancer with every 10 grams of increased intake. Another recent huge study showed that just one serving of processed meat per day increased your risk of premature death by 20 percent.

You got a problem with that? Eat mor chikin.

Peanut Butter Safety

 

With the black licorice recall closely followed by the recent peanut butter recall, one has to think twice about how safe our food supply is- an how much faith the consumer has in our food manufacturers. In the United States, we have a strongly enforced set of standards and regulations set in place and enforced by the federal Food and Drug Administration. But still, every year people get sick and die often before tainted food is discovered and recalled.

 

Recently, black licorice was found to have dangerous amounts of lead in it. Does any one else wonder how much lead is dangerous, or better yet, why licorice is allowed to have any lead in it at all? And the salmonella outbreak found in peanut, cashew and almond butters produced by Sunland Inc. and sold primarily at what are supposed to be health, natural grocery outlets like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods? The scariest part of all is the market for peanut butter includes a high percentage of young children.

 

Although for the most part, grocers and manufacturers act swiftly and responsibly at the first sign of unsafe food (Trader Joe’s voluntarily recalled all similar products upon learning of the outbreak), we can never know for sure whats in our food supply. And I doubt most of us have the time or resources to grow our own gardens and raise our own livestock, so we can really do little else than hope we aren’t one of the unlucky one to “help discover” tainted foods.

 

There are a few things we can do to safeguard ourselves from avoidable food poisoning; make sure your meat is cooked thoroughly, take care when selecting meats, fish and eggs for maximum freshness and always wash your produce! Also, take care in your own homes and kitchens to avoid cross-contamination of fresh foods, keeping your meats, dairy, and produce sealed and separated.

Suicide Is The New No. 1 Cause Of Injury-Related Death In The U.S.

According to the American Journal of Public Health, suicide has surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States.

“Our finding that suicide now accounts for more deaths than do traffic crashes echoes similar findings for the European Union, Canada, and China,”  researchers wrote.

Those researchers found that while the number car fatalities decreased by 25 percent from 2000 through 2009, cases of suicide rose 15 percent over that same amount of time. The top five causes of injury-related death from 2000 through 2009 were suicide, car crashes, unintentional poisoning, accidental falls and homicide in that order.

Researchers found that deaths caused by accidental poisoning and falls increased over the decade by 128 percent and 71 percent, respectively. They credited that alarming increase of poisoning deaths to the recent rise in prescription drug overdoses.

According to a 2008 study by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 32,000 people commit suicide each year in the U.S. It is the third-leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24 and the second-leading cause for people ages 25 to 34.

I know all to well what it’s like to feel alone, depressed and filled with self-loathing. It’s tough, but if you have any suicidal feelings, don’t be afraid to talk to somebody. People are there for you, and it does get better.

The Man Who Could Hear His Eyes Moving

The human body is a marvelous yet weird structure.

Right now, you’re looking at a computer, perhaps feeling the breeze through an open window or tasting that freshly brewed coffee. You are reading these words while your brain processes about 100 million instructions per second, keeping the actions that keep you sensing, breathing, beating, living on track.

Now, can you imagine hearing some of those involuntary movements for every minute of every day for 10 years?

A Massachusetts man named Manny Pavao can, because he did.

Pavao, 44, could hear his heart beating loudly.

He could hear his eyes moving — he said it sounded like “rubbing sandpaper on a piece of wood back and forth.”

He could hear each footstep boom as he walked on pavement.

“Talking, it was as if I was talking through a speaker that was blown out,” Pavao said.

Doctors couldn’t explain what was going on with Manny for years, not until they recently determined that he was experiencing superior canal dehiscence syndrome, which was caused by a microscopic hole in the bone that separates the inner ear from the brain. According to Dr. Daniel Lee, who performed the four-hour long surgery on Sept. 11 to correct to the defect, it’s common that what Pavao had gets initially missed because it resembles many more ordinary conditions of the ear, such as allergies.

After the hole was filled with Pavao’s own tissue, he awoke from surgery to a beautiful sound, the sound of relative quiet.

“It wasn’t until the next day when I started walking and I just stopped in the middle of the corridor, and I think I broke down. I says, ‘I can’t hear my footsteps,'” Pavao said.

“After a decade of daily aggravation. I’m looking forward to the second phase of my life.”

The human body. It’s a strange deal, yo.

Another Day, Another Scary Study About America’s Weight Problem

A “healthy” portion of America is obese now. But how will we as a country look in less than 20 years? According to a new study released by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, it’s not going to be pretty.

According to the report, appropriately titled F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America‘s Future 2012,  more than half of the adults in 39 states could be not just overweight but obese by 2030. Colorado would remain the leanest state in the union, but about 44.8 percent of its adults would be obese in 18 years, which would be a rise of 23 percentage points from its obesity rate in 2011.

How will this effect Americans physically? A couple of highlights:

  • According to the report, if states’ obesity rates continue on their current trajectories, the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, hypertension and arthritis could increase 10 fold between 2010 and 2020 — and then double again by 2030.
  • Obesity could contribute to more than five million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and more than 400,000 cases of cancer in the next two decades.

In California specifically, the percentage of obese adults could double — from 23.8 percent to 46.6 percent — between 2011 to 2030.

And this post doesn’t even include the projected increase of health care costs. Again, read the entire report; it’s startling.

It’s a disturbing projection that hopefully we won’t have to face, but everyone is going to have to do their part to take care of their own body. It’s going to take effort — a lot of effort — but when you consider the consequences, you have to know that all of the work is going to be worth it.

Year 2030 is not too far away.

7 Exercises And Gym Machines To Skip

The leg extension machine “ties an unnatural movement with a dangerous weight placement.”

I understand the concept of how fooling your muscles leads to a more productive workout. You want to challenge as many muscles groups as possible, all while switching up your reps and weights over time

But in the end, I always think that if it hurts a little bit, it must be working. That’s my naive viewpoint. I have a fairly strict routine at a gym, with which I use machines that I am familiar and comfortable. I’ve never been one for change, and that kind of carries over for me into physical exercise, even though I know that’s how you run into the plateau effect.

Anyway, Shape Magazine has listed seven exercises and gym machines to avoid, stating that people aren’t getting the perceived rewards out of certain exercises at home and in the gym (Sorry for the annoying slide show).

Personally, I use the lat pulldown machine often and do lot of overhead stretching exercises with hand weights. The most interesting tidbit, in my opinion, comes from Nick Tumminello of Performance University and what people are doing wrong when they do seated torso rotation:

This movement will tone your abs “at the price of beating up on your spine.”

Yikes.

Each slide also gives readers hints on what to do instead to still earn that desired result in place of the criticized exercise. Take a look at the list, and let us know how/if its words will cause you to alter your workout routine.

Study: We Eat About 3,400 Milligrams Of Sodium Per Day

Must … resist! But … so … yummy!

Earlier today, I ate about 20 tortilla chips with some cheese dip. I didn’t look at the nutritional facts, but I’m sure a lot of salt was included. But that seems to normal for us these days. A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics states that children and adults alike are consuming, on average, about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day. The recommended limit is no more than 2,300 milligrams per day.

The study puts a lot of focus on children’s sodium intake and how if they are overweight and consume as much sodium as adults, their risk for high blood pressure “goes up dramatically.”

Via CNN.com:

“The study authors found that when young people increased their daily salt levels by 1,000 milligrams, the risk for high blood pressure increased 74% for overweight or obese youngsters, but only 6% for kids in the normal weight range.”

Scientists have found that overweight children are more sensitive to salt’s effects on the body than children in the normal weight range.

Of course, this means parents need to be more diligent with what their kids eat. Cut down on the packaged, processed foods. Cut down on the meal portions. Exercise more often. Eat your fruits and vegetables.

We’ve heard it all before. We know gorging on breads and salted meats isn’t good for you, no matter your age or weight. Yes, it can have even more dramatic effects on children who are already overweight, but these are studies that everyone should heed.

But will we? This is cynical, but it never seems like the advice gets through to us — Americans — until the damage becomes more evident. We may understand that what the study states is correct. We know most of us must do a better job of managing what and how much we eat. We know it.

But, damn, that cheeseburger is cheap, and it sure tastes good!

A Whopper a day…

…might be all the calories your body needs for the day! It is no mystery that obesity is a growing epidemic in the U.S.. Our lack of control over weight maintenance is such a significant health crisis that legislation is being written and enacted to “save us from ourselves”.  Some of the lawmakers give consumers the benefit of the doubt; for example, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA)

passed in 1990 and enacted in 1994 required all foods packaged and sold in grocery stores or food marts to bear Nutrition Facts panels, which inform consumers of not only fat and calorie contents, but also the “good” information such as protein and vitamins. More importantly, the panels have to also indicate percent daily values. Basically, lawmakers went so far as to assume that the customer is uneducated as to what their body needs each day. And yet, 18 years later, obesity is still on the rise.

Lawmakers seem to think the consumer simply cannot be to blame, and it seems that they have turned the attack on the Food-away-from-home (FAFH) sector. In 2008, New York was the first state to mandate that restaurants post or provide nutrition content in menu items. Some California cities now do this as well. Obesity is still on the rise, and studies on the impact of these changes

have showed weak results and minimal change.  Just weeks ago, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was able to sign into law an act which banned the sale of soft drink larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, convenience marts and movie theaters.

If the 2012 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is enacted, soon nutrition content labeling in the FAFH sector will be a federal mandate. This seems like a good idea to me, since today in the U.S. We eat about 40 percent of our food intake away from home. But is lack of information really our dilemma? A study which looked at how and why Americans eat fast food showed that 50 percent considered it a “treat”, and have no interest in health when ordering from a fast-food menu.


I think it’s great that our government is concerned about our health, but people need to take some personal responsibility . I feel that weight gain itself is enough of a physical cue that whatever we are eating, it is more than we need. To  claim consumer ignorance to nutrition content is a huge cop-out and  unneccessarily points a finger in the wrong direction.

Concussions Will Always Be A Part Of Football, No Matter How Safe The Helmets

Left: Healthy brain tissue. Right: Brain tissue belonging to former NFL player John Grimsley who suffered 9 concussions during his career.

Football is back. Heck, I’m watching a football game as I write this.

Week 1 of America’s favorite pastime played out over the weekend. With all of the amazing displays of speed, strength and athleticism also come concussions. A few players suffered concussions Sunday. I can recall seeing at least one player — Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nate Washington — being knocked unconscious.

But concussions also have a major presence in youth football. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 175,000 kids are sent to the hospital each year due to sports-related brain injuries, most of which are suffered while playing football.

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer announced his support for a new legislation designed to improve the standards for youth and high school football helmets.

That’s great, as long as Schumer and everyone else understand that safer helmets are not a cure-all. Take it from one of most well-written sports articles I’ve ever read:

“Scientists compare the brain to Jell-O, or an egg yolk, or an oyster, or fettuccine Alfredo — it’s hard to get the metaphor just right when you’re dealing with the seat of consciousness — but the point is that you’re not supposed to jiggle it. The brain is not a snow globe. Neurons don’t simply settle back down after a vigorous shake.

“No helmet can prevent the head from stopping short, nor keep the cortex (thinking, vision), basal ganglia (messaging neurons), frontal lobes (problem solving, judgment) and temporal lobes (hearing, memory) from sloshing forward and banging into bone. That’s when the damage occurs, damage that shows up in postmortem staining tests as heinous brown splotches. Yes, it’s true, football turns the brain brown. Football makes the brain look like a football.”

Concussions in football have become a major headline as a rash of ex-players have said they believe they are living with the symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive, degenerative brain disease that is found post-mortem and often in people who have suffered multiple concussions. The symptoms include psychosis, dementia and depression, to name a few. A few players have committed suicide in the past couple of years, and CTE was later detected in their brains. Numerous current and former players have already signed a waiver to donate their brains to science after they are gone.

But no matter the safety regulations implemented to curb concussions, be it safer headgear, banning hits to the head, limiting the number of plays that a high school or youth player can spend on the field, concussions will always be a risk for any football player.

The only way to truly avoid them in football … is to not play football. Due to what is being discovered by scientists, more and more parents, including some NFL players, are demanding that their children take that route instead.

Is Organic Food Worth the Expense?

Produce!

I’ve been committed to buying organic produce for several years now, and on average I’ve noticed that I pay almost double for my organic produce. There has been plenty of research foretelling of the dangers of consuming excessive pesticides which we assume to be found on regular produce. But Stanford University released a study which has made me reconsider the necessity of my expensive preference. Study author Dr. Dena Brevata says that overall there is little difference or impact on health for adults whether we consume organic or regular produce.

There are of course, some benefits in choosing organics. For one thing, it’s better for the environment to produce food without using toxic chemicals. The study also showed that antioxidants were richer in organic produce than in that residues in childrens’ urine was 30 percent lower when they switched to organic produce.

To keep costs low and stick with the greener option, I reccommend choosing grocery stores like Sprouts and Trader Joes rather than the pricier Whole Foods. Check out your local farmer’s markets as well, this is a good way to find veggies free from pesticides and support your local growers.

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