Is bottled water really better?
Sales of bottled water have grown to record levels as people have become more affluent and more conscious about their health. Advertisements for bottled water help to boost sales by emphasizing the purity and the taste of the product.
In reality, bottled water is seldom better than the city water that comes out of a faucet. Last July, news channels reported that Pepsi's Aquafina and Coca-Cola's Dasani are both made from public water sources. Unless the labels of the bottles say that the source of the water is a spring, bottled water usually comes from municipal water supplies, and it can be 10,000 times more expensive than tap water due to transportation and packaging costs.
Dentists have noticed a rise in the number of tooth cavities in children due to drinking bottled water. Bottled water usually does not have the fluoride that is normally added to municipal water, and fluoride has been shown to strengthen teeth and reduce cavities. Bottled water is basically a luxury item that does not have any benefits over most municipal public water sources, but there are exceptions, such as in some neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. where the water is distributed through old lead pipes.
The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority officials announced a program that will replace all the city's estimated 23,000 lead pipes by 2010 at a cost of $300 million. The agency's Board of Directors mandated the plan after tests showed that thousands of District homes had water with lead levels above the federal safety limit.
Bottled water is a good option for places with unsafe municipal or underground water sources. As an alternative, purifying filters, such as Brita filters that contain activated charcoal and ion-exchange resins, can be used to remove chlorine and heavy metals like lead and mercury, but these filters are not effective against bacterial contamination.
Global warming will increase your insurance
An ice-free Arctic Ocean
Earlier this month, the European Space Agency released satellite photos showing an ice-free passage in the Arctic Ocean along northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland. The amount of ice in the polar region is at its lowest level since 1978, when NASA first started getting images of the Arctic. The melting of the polar ice has been attributed to climate changes caused by an increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by our industrialized society. Most of our energy is derived from fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum which generate carbon dioxide when they burn.
There are still many people who do not believe that global warming is a cause for concern, but researchers predict that the climate change by 2050 will place a large number of species at risk of extinction. The organisms affected will include corals, seals, and polar bears. Humans are so widely distributed that they will not face extinction, but many people will lose their homes.
If all the ice in Greenland melts, the sea level will rise by 7 meters (23 feet), and low-lying islands, such as the Maldives, will be swallowed by the sea. Parts of Bangladesh will become uninhabitable and create a humanitarian catastrophe as millions of people lose their homes and the fields on which they grow their food. New Orleans and the southern half of Florida will be underwater. Miami will disappear under the sea like the legendary city of Atlantis. Even a one-meter rise in sea level would be very damaging to the cities on the Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard of the United States.
Insurance companies have been paying close attention to these scientific predictions and adjusting their rates accordingly. During a trip to the North Carolina Outer Banks, I read a story in a local paper about a man who had bought a beautiful house by the shore many years ago. He had always thought of the house as a nest egg which would finance his retirement. Before he could sell, he was notified by his insurance company that the land on which the house was built had been recategorized as having a high risk of flooding and that his insurance would not be renewed. This also meant that any prospective buyers would not be able to get a mortgage to buy the house because they could not get insurance either. This is a story that is likely to be repeated many times as the sea level continues to rise.
Can we do anything about global warming? It is probably too late to do anything to prevent the Arctic from melting, but our individual actions could be significant.
- Cut down your driving
- Use less electricity
- Telecommute (work from home)
- Take public transportation
- Support solar, geothermal, and wind power
- Move away from low-lying coastal areas while you can still sell your house at a profit
See the Timeline of the Earth and flooding predictions
Conjugation of the English verb BE
To be or not to be ...
The verb BE is the most frequent and most misused verb in English. It is also the most irregular. BE may be used as an auxiliary verb or as a linking verb. Here is the conjugation of the verb "to be":
Contractions of the verb "to be" are very peculiar because some forms can be confused with possessive nouns and must be disambiguated using context. Finally, there is the forbidden word "ain't" which is used indiscriminately for "is not" and "are not" disregarding person agreement.
Ketosis helps you burn fat
The pancreas is a gland organ that produces insulin and glucagon. Insulin is a hormone that directs the body to store glucose as fat, whereas glucagon directs the body to break down fat (triglycerides) into fatty acids and ketone bodies that can be used by the body for energy. These two hormones help to keep glucose at a normal level in the body.
After a meal, the pancreas reacts to an increase of glucose in the blood by secreting insulin. When the body is not active enough to burn the available glucose and it cannot produce enough insulin to convert it to fat, blood sugar increases above normal levels. Persistent, elevated blood glucose is diagnosed as diabetes.
During periods when much of the available glucose has been consumed and the blood glucose level decreases, the pancreas releases glucagon causing the liver to convert fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies that can be used by the body for energy. This metabolic process is called ketosis. Carbohydrate shortages cause the liver to increase the production of ketone bodies from fatty acid oxidation, and allow the heart and skeletal muscles to use ketone bodies for energy, thereby preserving the limited glucose for use by the brain. Ketosis starts when carbohydrates are depleted and you feel hungry. At this time, your body starts to burn fat.
Diets, like the Atkins diet, work by limiting carbohydrates. This forces the body to burn fat for energy. You will lose weight when the number of calories in the diet is reduced below those needed to maintain your current weight.
 Medical Biochemistry Page - Fatty Acid Oxidation
Psychological techniques that encourage gambling
I visited Atlantic City during the Labor Day holiday. The weather was perfect and it was very pleasant to walk along the beach wading in the warm water. However, Atlantic City is also known for its casinos. Atlantic City is the Las Vegas of the East Coast.
The casinos are dimly lit, the atmosphere is always filled with cigarette smoke even though there are separate smoking and non-smoking areas, and there is the constant din of the slot machines 24 hours per day. I risked $20 Dollars in a 25-cent slot machine, and cashed out when the total went up to $50 Dollars after several plays -- a $30-Dollar profit. Other people around me were not so lucky. I saw several who started with $50 or $100 Dollars and had nothing 30 minutes later. In the $5-Dollar machines, the money goes even faster. One pull with a bet of 3 credits costs $15 Dollars. You can lose $100 Dollars with seven pulls of the handle in less than one minute. No wonder that the casinos are so rich. New Orleans is still a disaster zone full of rubble two years after hurricane Katrina destroyed the city in 2005, but the casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi which were also wiped out, were reconstructed in record time. There is no financial incentive for rebuilding New Orleans, but the casinos would have lost billions of Dollars if they had not been rebuilt promptly.
During my stay in Atlantic City, I paid attention to the players. I tried to figure out why they kept putting coins in the slot machines even though they kept losing. I risked another $20 Dollars, and this time I got nothing. I quit while I was $10 Dollars ahead for my two-day stay. It seems that humans are no more intelligent than fish who go after a shiny lure, get hooked, and become a meal for a fisherman. Casinos have refined the art of taking our money using techniques that take advantage of our greed and our lack of discipline.
Calorie Restriction can reduce bone massCalorie Restriction (CR) is being promoted as a way of extending human life span based on experiments that show that CR increases longevity of monkeys, dogs, mice, and even worms. Americans, who are now the world's fattest people, are aware that being overweight leads to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but they seldom take steps to control their weight. Instead, doctors help Americans live longer by treating the symptoms of their indulgent life style with statins like Lipitor to lower cholesterol, oral glucophage tablets to help control high blood sugar levels, and thiazide diuretics to reduce high blood pressure.
Some people hear the message that CR extends lifespan by eliminating the diseases associated with obesity, and embrace the concept with great intensity. They go on severe diets, lose weight, and feel great until one day they discover that their bone density tests show bone loss and increased risk of fractures. How could this have happened?
Many nutrients are required to maintain bone mass. Bones require more than calcium. The glue that holds the bone minerals together is collagen, a protein. In order to preserve healthy bones while losing weight, it is necessary to practice Optimum Nutrition. You cannot simply stay on the Standard American Diet while cutting calories. The Standard American Diet, which is the basis for the USDA Reference Values, consists of 15% protein, 30% fat, and 55% carbohydrates. This provides only 75 grams of protein per day for a 2000-Calorie diet. If you reduce your intake by 300 Calories to try to lose approximately 2 pounds per month, the remaining 1700 Calories of American Standard diet will only provide 63 grams of protein per day which will put your bones at risk.
Lower calorie diets require proportionally higher percentages of protein such as those of the Zone diet which has 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbohydrates. A 1700-Calorie diet with this proportion of nutrients will provide 127 grams of protein which will keep muscles and bones healthy while you lose weight. Of course, make sure that you also have adequate levels of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, Vitamin D, and trace elements that help to maintain healthy bones -- and don't forget your weight-bearing exercises.
2007-09-11 @ 10:49:07
Thanks for all the info. From what you've written, I would guess I haven't been eating enough protein. However, I do have one question: if I really start consuming 127 grams of protein every day, won't I risk going into ketosis? Just wondering.
Brazil nuts - a variable source of selenium
Selenium is a chemical element that has received substantial attention as an antioxidant which plays a role in preventing cell damage and may help prevent certain cancers. Selenium is necessary in trace amounts in the diet because it is a component of certain enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase, but excess selenium can be toxic. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set the Daily Value for selenium at 70 micrograms (mcg). The tolerable upper level of selenium is 400 mcg/day for adults based on the prevention of hair and nail brittleness and early signs of chronic selenium toxicity. Toxic effects have occurred when blood selenium concentrations reach a level corresponding to an intake of 850 mcg/day.
Brazil nuts are high in selenium content relative to other human foods. Since the limits between meeting human selenium dietary requirements and toxicity are narrow, it is important to know the variation in selenium content of individual nuts. Analysis of Brazil nuts has shown that the average selenium content is approximately 14.7 ppm with a range of 0.2 to 253. The amount of selenium in the nuts depends on the selenium content of the soil where the trees grow.
It is significant that some Brazil nuts have almost no selenium, whereas others have very high values. This means that it may be very difficult to regulate the amount of selenium in the diet by eating Brazil nuts. Two Brazil nuts weigh about 10 grams, so two Brazil nuts with the average concentration of 14.7 ppm contain 147 mcg of selenium. However, two Brazil nuts containing 253 ppm of selenium will contain a whopping 2,530 mcg or 2.5 mg of selenium. This is substantially in excess of the tolerable upper level and already in the toxic range.
It is important not to overeat Brazil nuts.
 Carol L. Secor, Donald J. Lisk (1989), Variation in the selenium content of individual brazil nuts, Journal of Food Safety, 9(4), 279-281 (1989).
Shirley Crawley said,
2008-02-17 @ 10:03:04
1. How can I tell the difference in the selenium content when I buy brazil nuts? 2. Why do brazil nuts have less selenium if we buy them already shelled (25 mcg as opposed to 100 mcg).
2008-02-17 @ 14:58:22
Unless a batch of Brazil nuts is sampled and tested for selenium content, it is not possible to know how much selenium is present. This is the reason why it is important to eat Brazil nuts in moderation.
I don't know where you got your information about shelled vs. unshelled Brazil nuts, but it does not make sense. Brazil nuts are always eaten unshelled. If the shells contain selenium, the nut with the shell would have a greater quantity of selenium, but this is irrelevant since the shells are always discarded.
Vladimir Putin flexes his muscles
Russian President Vladimir Putin went on vacation in the Siberian mountains. He created a lot of commotion when he took off his shirt for the cameras while fishing in the Yenisey River on Monday, Aug. 13, 2007. The bare-chested photographs were received with criticism and admiration after they were posted on the presidential web site. Politicians were awed and speculated that Putin is trying to gain popularity to stay in power beyond the legal limits of his second term. Female admirers sent complimentary and congratulatory messages.
This is not the first time that a national leader tries to show off for the cameras to gain popularity. On July 16, 1966, 73 year-old Mao Zedong swam in the Yangtze River to show his fitness. Things turned out badly for Jimmy Carter in 1979, when he had to be carried away after he collapsed while participating in a jogging marathon. George W. Bush had to stop running and had to have knee surgery after the cartilage of his knees was damaged from many years of high-impact exercise.
Exercise can help you to stay fit, but only if it is done regularly and in moderation. The best way of maintaining a good figure is through diet. You have to eat nutritious food. You cannot have a good body if you eat junk food.
Synesthesia - Interweaving the Senses
Synesthesia is a rare neurological condition in which two or more senses intertwine. For people with this condition, ordinary black digits on a white background may elicit highly specific color experiences, or specific tastes may elicit unusual tactile sensations. Some people not only see colors, but they can also feel, taste, hear, or smell them. One person out of about 1000 has synesthesia of some sort. Behavioral neuroscientists are discovering the neurological basis of synesthesia using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The prevalent theories about the causes of synesthesia share the basic idea that neural connections within the brain link areas of the brain that are normally not interconnected. The theories differ on whether these interconnections arise before birth or during brain development after birth.
There are different types of synesthesia. Among the people who associate letters and numbers with color, there are "projector" synesthetes where the color can fill the printed letter or it can appear directly in front of their eyes as if projected on a screen, whereas "associate" synesthetes see the colors in their mind rather than outside their bodies. For "Perceptual" synesthetes the phenomenon is triggered by sensory stimuli like sights and sounds, while "conceptual" synesthetes respond to abstract concepts like time.
The terms "musical color" or "musical coloration" which combine visual and auditory terminology may seem perplexing to many people, but for people with synesthesia these terms may represent reality. Some interesting books have been written about synesthesia, including "The Man Who Tasted Shapes".
 Daniel Smilek & Mike J. Dixon,
Towards a Synergistic Understanding of Synaesthesia
Combining Current Experimental Findings With Synaesthetes' Subjective Descriptions
Splenda sweetener - the delusion of low calories
Millions of Americans use artificial "no calorie" sweeteners in their eagerness to get rid of their bulging waistlines or control diabetes. Unfortunately, FDA regulations make it possible for manufacturers to claim that a product has no calories by reducing the serving size and then rounding to zero the calories of any ingredients which weigh less than 0.5 gram per serving. The trade names of the products, which are not regulated, also mislead the public. The average consumer would expect a product such as "SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener" to contain no calories, but this is simply a trade name and does not reflect the actual caloric content of the product. Here is how Splenda is promoted:
SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener contains sucralose (SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener), the no calorie sweetener made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar, with no unpleasant aftertaste. SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener can be used virtually anywhere sugar is used. It can also be used in cooking and baking in a variety of recipes. Like many no and low calorie sweeteners, each serving of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener contains a very small amount of common food ingredients, e.g., dextrose and/or maltodextrin, for volume. Because the amount of these ingredients is so small, SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener still has an insignificant calorie value per serving and meets FDA's standards for "no calorie" sweeteners.
SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener comes in two forms for consumers, granular and packet. The granular form of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener measures and pours just like sugar. SPLENDA® Packets provide a convenient way to add sweetness without guilt!
It is certainly true that sucralose, the artificial sweetener in Splenda, is free of calories, but Splenda is a mixture of dextrose, maltodextrin, and sucralose. The calories from Splenda come from the dextrose and maltodextrin both of which are carbohydrates.
The USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference shows that 10 grams, i.e., ten individual packets, of Splenda (NDB No: 19868) have 33 Calories. Ten grams of Splenda contain 9.00 g of carbohydrates consisting of 8.03 g of sugars (dextrose) and 0.96 grams of starch (maltodextrin).
For comparison, 10 grams of granulated sugar (NDB No: 19335) have 39 Calories. This is only 6 calories more than the equivalent weight of Splenda. Anybody who uses Splenda instead of sugar is saving an insignificant number of calories.
When I commented on the Calorie Restriction Society list about this, Michael Rae replied:
Artificial sweeteners such as Splenda are mixtures of dextrose, maltodextrin, and sucralose. The carbohydrates in ten grams of Splenda have 33 Calories compared to 39 Calories for an equal weight of sugar. The manufacturers reduce the serving size so that the calories can be rounded to zero. You can check this using CRON-o-meter by typing
"splenda" (USDA 19868) and specifying 10 grams.
These numbers here aren't quite right on a couple of fronts. First off,
as regards soft drinks, the manufacturers don't use Splenda mix, which
is bulked up as you describe for consumer use, but pure sucralose, which
contains exceedingly close to zero metabolizable energy, so it doesn't
apply to them (or to other premanufactured foods).
As to Splenda proper: the error here is that you're assuming that one
substitutes the stuff for sugar on a gram-for-gram basis, which for the
packets you don't: as the USDA entry notes, a packet is only 1 g, but it
replaces 1 tsp (4.2 g) of table sugar. So you're replacing 16.3 Calories
with 3.3 Calories -- a substantial savings. Cf the manufacturer's
... pp. 13-14, where they round UP a bit, indicating that a packet has 1
g carb and 4 Calories. (SPLENDA® Sugar Blend and Granulated are
higher-Calorie as they contain a lot more sugar, for the bulking
properties required to substitute in baking and other projects, but
still contain a lot fewer Calories than pure sucrose).
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