Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Monday, April 29, 2013

5 Myths and Facts about Vegetables

As many of you know, I've been trying to eat a healthier diet as part of my goal to lose weight and get in shape.  To this end, I've been eating a whole lot more vegetables than I once was.

I had some ideas about vegetables when I first started out. I later found out that some of these weren't exactly right.  It occurred to me that lots of us might have the same misconceptions so I thought I'd list some of these myths - along with some statements that are true.

1. Fresh vegetables are better than frozen.  Not always! If that fresh produce in your grocery store was shipped across the country, it really might not be as fresh as you'd like - and not as nutritious.  Frozen vegetables are usually flash-frozen soon after they are harvested and might contain more nutrients than some of those store vegetables.  Of course you can't get any fresher than vegetables just picked from your own garden.  Local produce will probably be a lot fresher than the supermarket, as well, so check out your farmers markets.

2. Raw vegetables are better for you than cooked. Again, not always!  While it used to be thought that much of the nutrients were lost when vegetables are cooked, this may not always be true.* The best approach is to not worry about it too much.  Vegetables are still nutritious if cooked so if you prefer your carrots cooked rather than raw, then cook them. No big deal. You're still getting a nutritious dish.

3. The more colorful vegetables are the healthiest.  I'm afraid it just isn't this simple.  While dark green spinach is much better for you than iceberg lettuce, for example, this isn't always the case!  Celery contains protein and calcium so it's healthy despite being pale. (and low in calories, too!)

4. Vegetables are high in fiber. This is true and we should try to get plenty of dietary fiber in our diets.  Fiber can help lower cholesterol levels and help control blood sugars, to name a couple benefits. It can also help keep things moving through your digestive tract, if you know what I mean.

5. Vegetables are low in calories.  This is also true. If you're trying to lose weight, fill up with nutritious vegetables!  The fiber helps make you feel full on fewer calories.
*Tomatoes, oddly enough, actually may be more nutritious when cooked.  When cooked, they release more lycopene which can help your body ward off disease. 

Information for this post was obtained from
Become a Healthier You
Primer Magazine

Image found here.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Six - April 27, 2013

1. What basic non-food household item do you most hate to run out of? Tissues.  I was going to say toilet paper but one can always use tissues instead.  Substituting t.p. for tissues grosses me out (I know, it's clean but I have issues, alright?) so that isn't going to happen very often.

2. Which food do you hate to run out of in your pantry? Flour.

3. Which piece of technology in your home do you think you’d have the hardest time living without? My cell phone. If you mean in the home, itself?  Radio.  I could do without TV (for a little) but don't take away my NPR news!

4. What’s the longest amount of time you’ve gone without power? 4 days. We had a high wind storm come through that took out the power in most of the village.  It took ages to get power back. Luckily, it was warm enough to not worry about heat.  We cooked on our grill and campstove and used our camp lanterns for light.

5. Would you find it easier to lose your cell phone or your internet service for one year? Oh, dear... Well, what I like most about my cell is that I get the internet on it so...  I guess the cell phone, itself.  Heck!  I pay most of my bills online and get electronic copies so I'd really have an issue without internet and I'd miss all you fine people, to boot.  Yes. I'm sure.  Take my cell but leave my internet alone!

6. What beverage would you have the hardest time going without for a year? Coffee. I love my java!

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Prayer instead of Medicine?

In 2009, a 2 year-old boy who lived with his family near Philadelphia passed away.  The coroner determined that the child had died from pneumonia.  His parents had not sought medical help for their son - no doctors, hospitals or even medicine.  They belong to a church called First Century Gospel Church where they do not believe in seeking medical attention. They thought that the better idea was to pray for God to heal their son.  They prayed for 10 days but the boy still died.

The couple, Herbert and Catherine Schaible, were charged and convicted of involuntary manslaughter.  They could have received jail time but instead were placed on probation for 10 years.  As part of their probation, the couple was ordered they must get regular medical check ups for their remaining 7 children.

I was outraged at the time that this couple was allowed to retain custody of their other children and didn't receive jail time but I thought, perhaps, that they had learned something from this incident - or I hoped they had.  See, in Pennsylvania - home of a large Amish community -religious freedom is extremely important in the eyes of the law so the judge had to consider that aspect of the case.

Earlier this week, an 8 month-old son of the Schaibles passed away. He was suffering from diarrhea and breathing problems for days and it appears that his parents did not seek medical help for him.

I have just one question: Just how many children are we going to allow to die under these circumstances before we do something?!?

This reminds me of the Virginia teen who died from appendicitis last year and this Wisconsin child who died because she was diabetic.  I'm sure there are many other cases.

It is one thing for an adult to decide, for whatever reason, that he or she doesn't wish to seek medical attention. If that is what you want, go at it.  I won't say a word.  It is quite another thing for parents to allow their own children to die because they won't get help for them!  It's abuse, plain and simple and states like Pennsylvania allow people to get away with it!

This simply has to stop.  The welfare of children has to be more important to parents than their beliefs in a supernatural deity and if it isn't, we need to remove the children from those homes and prosecute the parents. Perhaps if they realize they might end up in jail, they'll get their children the medical help they need.

Image obtained here

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What is Live Blood Cell Analysis?

I stopped by my local natural food store last night to get a couple loaves of a particularly delicious whole grain bread I like. It also sells questionable products such as homeopathic medicine and all manner of dietary supplements, as well,  but it is the closest place to find the bread so I ignore most everything else they sell.

At the check-out, I noticed an advertisement for an upcoming event:  Live Nutritional Blood Screening (a.k.a. Live Cell Analysis)

I asked the clerk about it and was told that a doctor analyzes a drop of your blood to tell you if you have any hidden illnesses or vitamin deficiencies.  She told me I should look up the doctor online to get more details and so I did.

First off, the "doctor" isn't a medical doctor but she has a Ph.D in Naturopathic medicine.  She's also a reflexologist, a reiki master and offers shamanic energy work.  In short, she is well-versed in various practices of woo. (She is also an ordained minister who does weddings so she really has a diverse range of services.)

I looked into the blood screening she offers.  Here's how it works:  The "doctor" takes a drop of your blood and puts it on a slide which is placed under a dark field microscope that is hooked up to a television monitor so the patient can see what the doctor sees. A dark field is a microscope where the slide is lit up from a light source on the side instead of from underneath like the usual microscope. It is rather dark and hard to see the details that one would see under a bright field microscope but this doesn't seem to matter.  The practitioner will point out various things he or she sees - abnormally shaped cells, perhaps or anything out of the ordinary.

This particular dark field microscopy is supposed to screen for vitamin or mineral deficiencies, tendencies toward allergic reaction, liver problems, digestive issues or arteriosclerosis. The problem is that the practitioner isn't generally qualified to examine a blood sample.  Even if he or she were a trained medical professional, this is not an effective way to diagnose health issues. The writer of this article, a physician, states that there are no credible studies proving this is effective in diagnosing any conditions.

In short, it doesn't work.  Still, the practitioner that provides this service in my local area charges $55.00 for this diagnosis and I'm sure she will be happy to recommend various dietary supplements to patients that are conveniently sold in the store where she does her presentation.  Sounds a bit shady to me.

Needless to say, I won't be participating in this particular screening.  In addition, I think I'm going to be looking into finding another source for my favorite bread.  I'm getting even more uncomfortable about spending my money in this particular establishment.

Information for this post was found at the following websites:

Image found here

Monday, April 22, 2013

Myths and Facts about Your Health and the Sun

When I was a teenager and a preteen, it was common to try to get a tan over the summer.  In fact, we were under the impression that a pale person looked unhealthy!

We used sun tan lotion (SPF 4) to help us tan but not burn.  I had friends who would apply baby oil instead of suntan lotion to help them tan.  We had no idea what we were doing to ourselves nor of the possible consequences.

Today we know a lot more about what can happen if we spend a lot of time outdoors exposed to the sun.  Still, there are some myths out there that I'd like to address.  I've included one (probable) fact in today's list.  See if you can pick it out!

1. Tanning at a salon is safer because you are exposed to a controlled dose of radiation.  Sorry, but no.  Indoor tanners actually have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than those who have only tanned outdoors. Click here to get more information on this.

2. Exposure to the sun is the best way to get vitamin D.  Not really. The amount produced by your body after sun exposure is small and, considering the risks of skin cancer, it isn't the best way at all.  Your best source is through the foods you ingest or from supplements.

3. You can't get a sunburn on a cloudy day.  Up to 80 % of the sun's rays can penetrate clouds so this is a myth.  Wear your sunscreen if you are going to spend time outdoors - even if it is overcast!

4. Wearing sunglasses can prevent cataracts. We aren't sure but limited studies seem to suggest that this is true. UV light may cause certain kinds of cataracts so wearing sunglasses seems like a good idea.  Don't forget to wear them when you are out in the snow in winter as the reflection of sunlight off the snow can damage your eyes, as well!

5. Sunscreen causes skin cancer.  *sighs*  No, again, no. The perceived cause and effect of increased use of sunscreen leading to increased diagnosis of skin cancer is because of other factors. Please read this.

Image cropped from image found here

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Six - April 20, 2013

1. How old were you the first time you used a telephone? I really don't remember.  We really weren't allowed to use the phone by ourselves until we were older - maybe 11 or 12.  I imagine I might have spoken to someone on the phone prior to that but I can't imagine who.

2. What’s the oldest phone number you remember from your childhood? The one we had all my life until I moved out of my parent's house.  To be fair, it was my mother's phone number until she moved recently into assisted living. I was still using it to call her until recently so it isn't such a great feat, then.

3. What’s the oldest phone number you remember from your childhood that is still a valid number for the same party it was then? Well, it would have been my mother's until recently (see previous question).  I guess it would be my oldest sister's number, then, as she's lived in the same house with the same number for 30 years or so. (She's 17 years older than I am so she was married while I was still in elementary school.)

4. Have you ever used a rotary-dial telephone? Of course!  We didn't have the push button phones when I was little!

5. What year did you get your first cell phone? I'm not sure.  Maybe 2006 or 2007?

6. How many cell phones have you owned since then? I think I might be on my 4th.  Again, I'm not sure.

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place.  Feel free to visit Patrick's blog and play along with us!

Friday, April 19, 2013

In the Aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing

[Please note that this post was written throughout the day yesterday, April 18, and scheduled to post this morning.  I decided not to alter it to reflect the recent events that occurred after I went to bed last night.]

I've been really angry this week.  Enraged, even.  I couldn't figure out why, at first. 
I thought I was just in a bad mood.

For hours

    ...and then days.

Then the stress headache hit yesterday and forced me to pay attention to myself and I realized what it was.

See... when I hold in my emotions, I get a horrible headache.  I first recall having this
happen during my father's memorial service.  I was trying not to sob - even though that 
would have been a more honest reaction - because we were trying not to cry.  (all of us) 
Because crying, and sobbing, will make other people uncomfortable, you know.  So we
didn't  (my sisters and I) and I ended up with the worst headache I could recall ever
experiencing.  I finally had to go out and sit in the car, cry my eyes out, take a nap and 
go back inside where everyone was meeting and greeting (and eating) after the service.

I realized that this particular stress headache was related to the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday.

Why anger?

There are 3 people dead and countless others injured and why?  Because some dirtbag wanted to make some sort of STATEMENT?!?

Here.  In the United States. On Patriots' Day, of all days!  The best approach you could come up to express yourself with was to explode bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon?!?

Here! In the United States - where you can legally express yourself no matter how unpopular your opinion might be? (Surely you've heard of the freedom of speech!)

I mean... all the time and money you spent learning how to make an explosive device and planning out how to accomplish your goal when you could have....
  • Told a friend!
  • Written a letter to the editor of a newspaper --- or 10 newspapers!  20!
  • Told your parents, siblings, distant relatives, etc
  • Emailed your Senator(s) or Representative!
  • Blogged about it!
  • Told a neighbor!
  • Made a speech in the public square!
  • Tweeted it!
  • Shouted it from your rooftop!!
  • Written a letter to any authority figure you can name!
  • Taken out a full-page ad in the New York Times!!
But NO!
The BEST WAY you could think of to get your point across was to kill and maim innocent people who (probably) have nothing to do with whatever is bothering you?!?

I have no way to adequately describe what I think of a person who commits this sort of act.

So now, since that is the path you chose, when you are caught - and you surely will be caught! - you will, at the very least, spend the rest of your pathetic life in jail.  


While you are sitting in that jail cell, your message - whatever it was - will be lost.  No one will really, truly, care about what you were trying to say.

--If I have my way, we won't even remember your name.  You don't deserve recognition.--

Meanwhile, do you know what else will happen? 
  1. We will grieve the loss of the 3 people who died. 
  2. Those who lost limbs will grieve the loss of their mobility and will work on recovering.
  3. People who were witnesses to the incident will come to grips with what they experienced.
And... we will move on.

See, next year (on Patriots' Day) the Boston Marathon will run as it always does. Yes, we'll probably pause to remember the lives that were lost this year and those who were injured and we will grieve a bit but the race will go on.  We won't change very much.  Oh, there will probably be even more security than there was this year.  And yes, the participants and spectators will be even more watchful for anything unusual - but the marathon will go on as planned. 

Why?  Because we will NOT allow the actions of a pathetic, ignorant, bottom-feeder change the way we do things.  

You see, here in the US, we don't give into terrorists and we sure as HELL are not going to allow the actions of a cowardly loser to influence the way we live our lives.

So, for most of us, life will go on.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

An Examination of Homeopathy

I overheard a co-worker describing some sort of medical treatment as homeopathic - in a manner that one would relate that a treatment was "natural" or "organic" or perhaps even "herbal" - and it occurred to me that many people are simply not aware of what homeopathy really is.

Homeopathy is an alternative medicine that is based on the idea that something that causes the symptoms of a disease can also cure the disease and that if these substances are watered down they become more potent.  In fact, the greater the dilution, the stronger the treatment is supposed to be.

Yes. You are reading that correctly.

Let's try an example. A person has allergies and one of his major symptoms is watery eyes.  Onions are known to cause a person's eyes to water so a tiny bit of onion is diluted in water. Then it is diluted several more times to the point that it is unlikely that any particular dose of this "medicine" contains even one molecule of the substance being diluted. (This article contains a chart a near the bottom of the page that shows what I mean.)

To explain how their "medicine" could work without even a molecule of the cure in the solution, proponents have a theory that water has memory of the substance that it once came in contact with.

From what we know today about the way things work, it seems unlikely that these treatments would be effective, doesn't it?

Let's backtrack a little to the origins of this alternative medicine.  In the 19th century, a man named Samuel Hahnemann was looking for an alternative to the treatments popular at that time - namely blood-letting.  When a person became ill, a doctor would cut open a vein causing the patient to bleed.  It was thought that the illness would leave the body along with the blood.

Hahnemann was correct in thinking that bloodletting is not an effective treatment for disease but that might be about the only thing he was right about.  His medications were designed to help the vital force - an energy he believed was contained in the human body -  magically heal the body. One can see the attraction of his therapy over the blood-letting or the mercury treatments of the day but, unfortunately, they were not effective either.

There have been no scientific studies done that show that homeopathy is more effective than a placebo and there have been hundreds studies done to test the effectiveness of these treatments.  Despite this, there are a lot of people making a good amount of money off of people who want to believe that it works.  It's sad, really, that some folks are so willing to hand over their hard-earned cash for such a dubious alternative to medicine.

What might have made more sense back in the 19th century when folks didn't know any better should not be considered effective treatment today in light of what we now know about the human body and disease. Homeopathy is not a sensible medical treatment for any illness.

Information for this post was found on the following websites:
Popular Science
Science-Based Medicine 
Rational Wiki

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and was obtained here

Monday, April 15, 2013

Saturday Six - April 13, 2013

1. How old were you when you learned to ride a bicycle? I'm not sure but I was fairly young.  Perhaps 6 or 7?

2. How many bicycles have you owned in your life? 4  - and I don't own any right now.  I should get one now that I live out in the country where I could ride again.

3. How old were you when you learned to drive a car? 15. When I was a teenager, you could get your permit when you were 15 but had to wait until your 16th birthday to test for your license.

4. What was the most difficult part of your driving test? The 3-point turn.  I had no problem parallel parking but for some reason the 3-point turn had me all worried!

5. What’s the longest distance you’ve driven? About 240 miles to Pittsburgh - and back again.

6. What’s the longest road trip you took as a passenger with someone else driving?  Most of the way to Florida from here in Pennsylvania - though I did drive a bit of the way, myself.

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

5 Nutritional Myths and Facts

We hear statements about the nutritional value of products and foods all the time - especially from advertisements.  Low fat, fat-free, low sodium, high in fiber and other phrases are splashed across the labels of products we encounter in the grocery store.  It's difficult to know what is really important to look for, however, and what might just be hype.  Here are some common statements or beliefs about nutrition.  Which ones do you believe are true?

1. "Fat free" means reduced calories.  No, not necessarily.  Sometimes companies will add things like sugar to help a product taste better since they have removed the fat.   You should always read the label.  Fat free may not be better for you and may contain additional salt, as well.

2. Reducing salt intake can lower blood pressure.  Yes, this is true - but losing excess body weight will probably make more of a difference.  Eating more fiber and reaching your daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables will also help! Doing all of these, of course, will do you the most good.

3. Children can drink as much fruit juice as they want as it is good for them.  No.  Just no.  The sugar content of fruit juice is about the same as soda and sugar is sugar - no matter where it comes from. Drinking too much sugar can cause weight gain and be harmful to their teeth.  Water is a much better choice.

4. Extra virgin olive oil is good for you.  Well, yes and no. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and those along with polyunsaturated fats are better for you than other fats.   It contains omega-6 which is important for cardiovascular health.  It is, however, still a fat and fats can lead to weight gain. Yes, our bodies do need a certain amount of fat to function correctly so extra virgin olive oil is a good choice but remember that it is still a fat.

5. Eating carrots can help you see better in the dark. Well, alright.  Carrots contain vitamin A.  A deficiency in vitamin A can result in night blindness - along with other problems like glaucoma.  So, yes, there is some truth in this.  Eating carrots and other foods high in vitamin A can help you see better when it is dark.

Much of the information contained here was found from this source and re-checked by consulting various other sources.

Image by monojussi and found here

Friday, April 12, 2013

An Addition to the Beauty Standard?

It is constantly implied that women need to look a certain way to be considered attractive.  The beauty product industry seems especially harsh but we have to blame society, itself, really. After all, if we didn't come up with the standards in the first place and convince ourselves that they have merit, then those companies wouldn't even exist!

I'm used to commercials selling us products to remove unwanted hair, perfect our skin tone, moisturize, tan our skin, dye our hair, enhance our facial features, lose weight and cover up/remove our natural scent.  This is considered normal as we, apparently, aren't attractive enough in our natural state.

Of course, we also must try to look as young as possible, as well!  There are hair dyes, age spot fading products, lotions to remove/prevent wrinkles and serums to plump up our skin to make it more youthful and, of course, surgical procedures if things get real bad.  Heaven forbid if we should actually look our age!

Now I've noticed some new commercials recently.  Apparently, there is one more thing that women need to be concerned about as they age:  their hair.  No, I'm not referring to graying hair.  I imagine is it presumed that we will all "wash that gray right out of our hair".  We are now being told that our hair changes as we age and we are in danger of having old-looking hair.  It thins out and the texture changes as we grow older - as gray hair tends to be more coarse. Plus women who dye their hair or use hair dryers, straighteners and curling irons might have damaged hair that needs attention.

But don't worry! All the major companies in the beauty industry have products to help us!  There are serums to restore and rejuvenate our hair, scalp revitalizers, and advanced thickening agents!

Yes, once again women are being told that we have a problem that we need to solve by spending money on products that will presumably help us look better.

Well, I call bullshit.

I'm tired of these companies who are trying to make money off of manufactured problems.  I'm disgusted with a society that wants to fit us all into the same molds.  Yes, our hair might get thinner as we age.  So what?  Yes, it'll gray.  Big deal.  To be honest, though my hair may have thinned, it has body that it never did thanks to my silver highlights. Even if that weren't the case, what is wrong with looking my age?

Sorry, folks, I'm not going to be doing anything to new to my hair.  I'm not going to dye it because I am nearly 50 and I am supposed to have some gray in my hair!  I'm certainly not going to spend money on beauty products to "fix" my aging hair!  What a waste of money!  I could find oodles of other items to spend money on if I wanted to waste it.

I can't be the only person who feels this way.

Isn't it about time to tell ourselves that there is nothing wrong with looking our age?  What is wrong with our natural appearance in the first place?  We don't need make-up to look attractive!  We don't need to smell like flowers - just clean!  Yes, I'll apply lotion if my skin is dry but I'm just fine the way I am for the most part.  My wrinkles and gray silver hair are part of me.  Don't like it?  I don't care.  I simply refuse to spend my hard-earned cash to purchase products that promise to help me fit into some stereotypical idea of what is considered attractive.  Enough is enough.

Image by JoePhilipson and found here

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Is the Mercury in our Dental Fillings Poisoning Us?

What kind of fillings do you have in your teeth, if any?  Chances are that you have silver amalgam fillings as they are the most common kind.  Back in the early 1990s, the television show, 60 Minutes, did a report (which you can view here) on these fillings.  They were concerned about the safety of the fillings as they contain mercury along with the silver, copper, tin and zinc. Mercury poisoning can be a real problem but the real question was whether the fillings in a person's teeth would release enough mercury to cause a problem.  The 60 Minutes report really played up this possibility and caused a lot of people to become scared that their fillings were poisoning them.

In 1993, the US Department of Health and Human Services released a report stating "there is no evidence at present that the health of people with amalgam is compromised in any way" but they admitted that there were limited studies at that time. In 1998, after more studies had been completed, the American Dental Association released a report which read, "based on available scientific information, amalgam continues to be a safe and effective restorative material. Finally in 2009, the FDA called amalgam "a safe and effective restorative option for patients."  It appears that the evidence available shows that there is no reason to believe that our dental fillings are releasing enough mercury into our bodies to harm us.

Case closed, you'd think.  You'd be wrong.  Enter my favorite television doctor, Dr. Mehmet Oz.  Yes.  Dr. Oz has covered this topic recently with the same attention to scientific research and studies that he generally uses. That is, none whatsoever.*

This professor is a bit more charitable than I am and simply believes that Dr. Oz is misinformed - or hopes so.  He adeptly picks apart claim after claim made by Dr. Oz and his guests.  In short, once again, Dr. Oz is ignoring the scientific evidence and making wild statements.  In this case, it could alarm an uninformed person to spend a lot of money to have their fillings removed and replaced with those made of another substance - and for no good reason.

The take-away from this is, of course, is to check out what you hear or see on TV - or on the internet - and consider the source.  If something sounds incredibly exciting or terrifying, chances are that you aren't getting the entire story.
*I know I sound harsh, but I'm really disgusted that this medical doctor either doesn't bother to check into these claims before he makes them or ignores proof to the contrary for the sake of his ratings. 

Image found here

Monday, April 8, 2013

5 Myths and Facts about Drinking Water

I'm tempted to ask my readers to tell me whether they view the glass in the picture as half empty or half full but that has nothing to do with my topic today. (Besides.  It's half-full of water and half-full of air.  It's not empty at all!)

Back on topic...
We've previously discussed the fact that we don't need to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day to be healthy and that no one is sure exactly where that notion came from. There are plenty of other statements made about drinking water that we can examine, however.

Which of these do you think are fact and which ones are myth?

1. Drinking lots of water helps to clear out toxins from the body. Our kidneys filter toxins from our blood and we release them through our urine.  Drinking more water doesn't aid this process at all.  In fact, drinking large amounts of water may actually reduce the ability of the kidneys to filter toxins properly. That makes this statement a myth.

2. Drinking a lot of water will give you healthier skin.  It can be correctly stated that dehydration does affect the skin.  Drinking more water than the body needs has not been shown to improve the skin's appearance, however.

3. Drinking water can help to contribute to weight loss. The idea behind this is that if you drink a glass of water before a meal - or with a meal - it will help you feel fuller and prevent you from overeating.  The truth is that there is no evidence that this actually works this way - but there is no evidence that it doesn't work, either. One thing for sure is that substituting a glass of water for a can of soda or other calorie-laden drink will benefit you if you are trying to lose weight!

4. It's easy to get dehydrated when you are working out.  Probably not.  Dehydration occurs when you've lost 2 percent or more of your body weight.  For a 130 lb woman, that would be 2.6 pounds of water.  That's an awful lot, isn't it?  Chances are that, unless it is extremely hot out or you are running or biking several miles, you won't have to worry about dehydration.  Still, if you are exerting yourself outdoors, you should know the signs of dehydration just to be safe.  The best advice is to just drink water when you are thirsty.

5. Bottled water is better for you than tap water. Well, to be honest, most tap water in the US is perfectly safe to drink. If you get water from a well, you need to test your water on a regular basis to be sure that it remains safe.  Most water from municipal systems is safe to drink and it is better regulated than bottled water is.  Bottled water is more expensive, as well.  Worse, it comes in plastic bottles so that creates another problem:  What to do with the plastic.
If you are concerned about your local drinking water, you can go to this EPA website page and find out the facts on your local supply or contact your supplier for a copy of their annual report. (which might be easier because the website isn't set up to make it easy to search for your particular water company)  Another suggestion is to get one of those Brita filters for your faucet or, if you can afford it, an even better idea is to get a reverse osmosis filter for your home.  We have one because I didn't like the taste of our local tap water  but it has the added benefit of helping to filter out any possible contaminants so its a win-win for me.

Data for this post was obtained from the following sources:
The CDC - Healthy Homes
NPR News - Your health
CNN - Health

Image obtained here.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday Six - April 6, 2013

1. Have you ever wanted to compete in a race or marathon? Yes.  One day I hope to complete a 5K - but that won't be any time too soon.
2. If you had to choose one, which activity would you most like to try: rock climbing, surfing, hang gliding or skydiving? That's a tough one.  I couldn't do skydiving, I don't think (unless someone pushed me out of the plane!), I don't have the upper body strength for rock climbing, and I don't think I could balance well enough to surf. I guess hang gliding would be my first choice.
3. What’s the most extreme exercise you enjoy? Extreme?  Um...  is there such a thing as extreme walking/jogging?
4. What specific exercise do you hate most?  Squats.
5. What makes you most uncomfortable about a gym atmosphere? I don't like being watched when I exercise. I'm aware that the slightest physical exertion makes my face flush bright red and I always think everyone is staring at me.  That's why I have a treadmill at home.
6. If you could afford to outfit the perfect gym/workout center in your own home, how often do you think you’d actually make use of it?  Well, it depends.  Right now my treadmill is in an unheated room so I don't use it much in the winter and there is no air conditioning there, either, so I don't use it when it's too hot.  I imagine I'd put other equipment in there if I purchased some so during two seasons of the year, I'd use it quite a lot (3 to 4 times a week). During the other two?  Not so much.

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Who is to blame for the distrust of science?

Sometimes I feel that the news media does us a disservice when they report on scientific findings. When a scientific study with a surprising or shocking conclusion is published in a journal of science, many news outlets will make a big deal about the findings of the study without even mentioning the fact that one study by itself really means very little.  It would be better if they would wait until that finding is reviewed by the scientist's peers and other studies are done that prove or disprove the conclusions before they report. Of course, this doesn't - and won't - happen in this day and age of sensationalism.

The problem is that this sometimes results in the original conclusion being proven false and this can lead to people thinking that scientists don't know what they are doing. "They are always saying one thing is true then saying something completely opposite!" I hear this complaint all the time. People say that they just don't know what to think. I think this is one of the reasons that people distrust science, in general.*

I am so tired of having to explain scientific peer review to people. I just had this discussion with a co-worker last week. She didn't understand how science works at all despite being a reasonably intelligent individual.  It's very frustrating.**

Maybe the news outlets could take the extra time to explain how this peer review process works when they announce this sort of news.  Maybe we as consumers should make a point of telling them they should do this and hound them until they do so.

Of course, perhaps sometimes they do drop hints that we miss.  Maybe we aren't good listeners.  Perhaps we need to be more critical thinkers even in the absence of the entire story.  I suppose it is fair to say that we, the public, might be somewhat to blame ourselves.

But, then again, aren't journalists supposed to be critical thinkers?  Perhaps that went the way of the dinosaurs along with proper research techniques.  (Don't even get me started on that topic!)  Worse, we oftentimes hear our news from people who aren't really journalists but are just reading the copy that they receive from someone else.  I suppose it is a little too much to ask for these newsreaders to act as journalists.  They aren't paid to do that, really.  They're paid to look nice and read what is given them.

I'm honestly not sure who to blame the most here.  I realize that people aren't always taught to think critically so the idea of doing so is foreign to them. If this is the case, then perhaps it is the job of the news media to help educate them.

What do you think?  Is the listener/reader/viewer responsible for doing the critical thinking or should that be part of the journalist's report?

* No. It is certainly not the only reason but I can't do very much about people who refuse to believe in any science because some of it conflicts with their superstitions, for example.
**She argued that most people don't know how that works.  I pointed out that now she knew and she could spread the word to others! I figure it's worth a try...

Image found here

Thursday, April 4, 2013


I decided to give my blog a make-over and I think I've finished tweaking it.  Although I liked the brown/tan/orange theme, it just didn't seem right for spring.  So, I've adopted a pink-stripe theme that seems more appropriate for the season.

Let me know if you have any problems reading anything.  Frankly, I think this theme is easier on the eyes than the old one but I'm only one person.

Suggestions and comments are welcome.

Thank you!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Vampire Facial - Does it really work?

I'm sure most people who have access to the internet or watch television news have heard that Kim Kardashian, a celebrity who seems to be famous for being famous, recently underwent a process called a blood facial or vampire facial.

The procedure works like this: a numbing agent is applied to the face then a couple vials of blood are drawn from the patient.  The blood is spun in a centrifuge to separate the red blood cells from the platelets. This takes about 10 minutes. A special piece of equipment is used to puncture the skin on the face while placing the platelets on the skin's surface.  The platelets are supposedly absorbed into the skin during the process.  (Popular Science compares it to the procedure used when making a Jell-O Poke cake.) This Miami News site has a video that shows you how it is done.

The idea is that the platelets are absorbed by the skin and since the platelets contain growth factors, it is possible that they might cause new collagen to be formed. The collagen will plump up the skin causing wrinkles to disappear or be less visible.  This is all a theory, however, as there is no real proof that it works this way.

Dermatologists say that there really is little evidence that this process will make you look younger but they also say that there is probably no harm in undergoing the procedure because a patient's own blood is used.  Of course any time that the skin is punctured, there is a risk of infection but as long as the equipment is properly sterilized, this risk is reduced.

Still, it is not a cheap procedure. It can cost $1000 to $1500 per treatment. That is a little out of the range for most people for a procedure that might not actually work for you.  Any results are said to be temporary - lasting maybe 6 to 8 months.

Frankly, unless you have money to burn I wouldn't bother with this treatment.  It certainly is not a miracle.  Besides, who ever said there is anything wrong with looking your age?

Image of red blood cells found here

Monday, April 1, 2013

5 Myths and Facts about the Brain

The human brain is our most complex organ but we understand so little about it!

Our lack of knowledge doesn't stop us from suspecting that we know things that might not have basis in fact. In addition, it doesn't stop us from repeating things that we think of as "common knowledge" without investigating whether or not they are accurate.  This is why I like to take a step back now and then and examine some of these commonly held beliefs and see what I can find out.

Below are five statements about the brain.  Can you tell which ones can be proven and which ones can't?

1. We only use 10% of our brain.  People who want us to believe in supernatural abilities often say something along these lines and then suggest that the rest of the brain is there to be used for psychic powers or other such rubbish. This statement is a myth and no one is exactly sure where it came from but there is no scientific evidence to back it up. What we do know is that damage to even a small portion of the brain -such as occurs during a stroke - can be devastating to an individual so this cannot be accurate.

2. Getting hit on the head can cause amnesia.  This is part of a standard soap opera plot.  A character gets hit on the head and suddenly doesn't remember who anyone is!  The truth is that amnesia can be caused by disease, psychological trauma and even physical trauma.  Surprise! There might be a bit of truth in this one. Most of the time amnesia is temporary, however, and you don't "cure" anyone by hitting them on the head again.

3. Our brains are gray. Yes, I know we refer to "gray matter" and if you've seen a brain preserved in formaldehyde it looks grayish but the brain isn't all gray.  The brain is actually white, black, red and gray.

4. The average human brain weighs just under 3 pounds.  This is actually true!  I don't know about you, but that surprised me a little. I didn't realize it was that heavy. Humans don't have the largest brain in the world, however.  We do have the largest in relation to our body mass, though, and that seems to be the key when you are trying to determine the intelligence of a particular animal.

5. Listening to classical music can make you smarter. Nope.  I'm afraid not. There is no scientific proof that listening to Mozart - or any other composer's music - increases your intelligence. Yes, there was a study that seemed to suggest that this is true but it has been debunked.

Image obtained here