Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sodium Poisoning:

A Salty Death
Way to Die Young #3: Shake it like a Salt Shaker

Can too much salt be deadly? Well, not directly. An overdose of salt won't kill you but the short term effects can be discomforting and the long term effects could play a part in a premature death.

There currently exists talk of regulating the amount of sodium in consumer food products. Many people are outraged by the notion. Others rejoice for the public initiative to take a more active role in our nation's health.

Surely all Americans should have the freedom to choose the foods they eat. But, do they? Does food transcend other consumer goods in the regard of ultimate freedom from regulation? If the government can regulate alcohol, tobacco and medicine all which are plant derivatives they should also be able to regulate processed and packaged foods which exist in an unnatural state. From the point we buy a packaged food at our local retailer we give up our freedom of choice. We have passed this freedom and responsibility on to the corporation and retailer from whom we bought the food.

Excess sodium (daily RDA ranges from 1,500-3000 mg) leads to high blood pressure. Over a period of time high blood pressure could lead to hypertension, stroke and even a heart attack.

Other notable side effects may include edema (fluid retention or bloating), cardiac enlargement, osteoporosis, gastric cancer, various ulcers, kidney stones, kidney failure and heartburn. Salty foods also increase the amount of total intake. That is if you eat salty foods you are prone to eat more than a normal amount. The salt stimulated increase in appetite leads to weight gain.

The problem with salt is that is behaves like a drug in regards to tolerance. The more salty foods a person eats the more they become tolerable to them. So you begin to crave saltier foods and require salt to enhance the flavor of foods that become bland because of your increased tolerance. However if you “quit” salt cold turkey you can make a full recovery. Normal foods will once again taste delicious without salty enhancements and you slowly crave salty foods less and less. Eventually the same salty foods which you once couldn't live without will be spit out in disgust. **[One serving of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup contains 100% of your daily RDA of sodium.]

So should sodium or “salt” be regulated? Absolutely. The government isn't regulating consumer choice but instead corporate responsibility like they have for hundreds of years. Consider it a challenge for food companies to make great food without shortcuts but instead fresh, real ingredients.

The best solution for a low-sodium diet is to eat whole foods including fresh produce and unadulterated meats. You can eat all you want and never have to check a label for sodium content. And my government will never ban nature's abundant harvest.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why Fitness Shoes are a Waste of Money

Shape Ups: Footwear Devolved 
Way to Die Young #2: Wear Shape Ups


Shape ups are just the latest gimmick in the footwear industry. Many predecessors lived before it. Their slogan is, “get in shape without ever setting foot in a gym.” While I agree you should be able to get in shape without ever setting foot in a domesticated fitness environment, I disagree with their methodology. It is the short-cut mindset that every person (at some point in their life) falls prey to.

The idea behind Shape Ups is to mimic the unpredictable landscape of our natural earth. We live in a pavement world today where we constantly walk on an even plane. This leaves ours feet, its connected ligaments, tendons and metatarsal muscles unprepared for the rigid earth they were designed for.
A simple solution to this problem would be to go walking on a trail, hike, run up a hill, rock climb, walk on the beach, or just go barefoot in your own yard.

But Skechers wanted to make things complicated. Instead of marketing a connection to the rugged earth they designed a plastic shoe to “mimic” the effects. You will be sore at first because your feet are being contorted to walk on an unusual plane. Different muscles will be engaged. But in reality these shoes are not an improvement to traditional running shoes, they are only a modification. The bio-mechanics are still predictable only more challenging initially. They only challenge your foot on a single plane of motion. There is no side to side, or dynamic movement as in a barefoot environment because of a firm support. The same effects could be achieved by wearing high-heels [but in reverse since these products put your heal lower than your toe].
Here is the “clinical study” that Skechers conducted on behalf of their product.

This study is flawed from the start.

It only tests things independently. They may seem impressive on their own but they may have opposing negative side effects. For instance, a strengthened lower back may mean weakened abdominal muscles. The body is all about balance. If Shape Ups make you rely more on your glutes and lower back, they could possibly make you depend less on your abdomen and quadriceps. If one muscle is forced into a prolonged stretch another muscle must relax and contract. They need to test all muscles that are used in walking to show the overall effect of the shoe.

The study consisted of ten participants- two of which turned out to be pregnant during the course of the study. This is not a large enough sample. And twenty percent of the participants were pregnant! This creates a new imbalance and change in body weight that would surely taint the study.

The study only lasted 6 weeks. Anything that changes the bio-mechanics of your mobility needs to be tested for a longer period to notice substantial effects on posture, muscle imbalances and general fitness. 6 weeks is just long enough for a false positive or a confounding variable. For instance, the participants could have been excited they had new shoes that presented a new challenge thus increasing their daily walking,. The study did not indicate if the participants engaged in more physical activity during the period of the study.

If you want to challenge your body against the unpredictable surfaces of a natural earth without gimmickry take a walk on the beach or in your local park barefoot. If you are looking for protection pick yourself up a pair of Vibram FiveFingers. The idea behind modern footwear is support and protection. Footwear prior to this modern era was purely for protection and aesthetics. These shoes are the closet alternative to being barefoot with the protection of traditional shoes. Going barefoot will challenge your feet and body in ways Shape Ups will not. So use the feet that were uniquely designed for your body and gait in the way they were intended. Just like all mankind before us and not jammed in a one size fits all “fitness” shoe.

There is no substitute for real exercise and diet when it comes to being fit and healthy. There are no shortcuts when it comes to true health.

Check out Vibram FiveFingers and Born to Run (a great novel exposing modern footwear as the cause of injury and how going barefoot is the solution) to find out more about barefoot footwear and running.

UPDATE 5/15/2012:
Skechers is fined $40 million dollars by the FTC for false claims.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Buckets for The Cure

KFC Marketing Suicide
Way to die young #1: Eat at KFC

Is it April fools month at KFC? This is the only plausible explanation I can conjure. First the double down sandwich. Have you ever seen the machine that jump starts someones heart when it has stopped beating? Well, this is the opposite of that device. If there was such a condition where you were “too healthy” your doctor would prescribe you a KFC Double Down. Sure, KFC is a fried chicken establishment but wouldn't it be better to market a new menu item that caters to people who choose a healthier life style. That is the wave of the future if we want to save our nations livelihood.


A few days later I saw another brilliant KFC ad. Buckets for Change. Was this a program to allow homeless people to use their discarded buckets to collect spare change? No, for every bucket of deep fried chicken they sell, a small portion is donated to find the cure for breast cancer. Their goal is to sell 34,000,000,000 calories worth of fried chicken. Yes, billion. This is like Marlboro advertising “Cigarettes for Change”. For every pack of cigarettes they sell they will donate a nickel to find the cure for lung cancer. They are making a dent in one problem while making an even bigger problem worse. The number one killer in our country is obesity related illness. This comes from our countries unrelenting appetites for killer food.
So, who is to blame?
KFC: They want good PR especially after the backlash of the Double Down and cruelty against animals. They want more positive salient brand affiliations. They use warm fuzzy feelings to sell chicken.

Susan G. Komen: They want $8.5 million dollars. Where do they draw the line? Sure KFC isn't an illegal activity but it is a contributor to the overwhelming obesity epidemic. An epidemic that is growing exponentially in the youth population. They even state the effects of weight gain on breast cancer on their very own Web site .
Consumers: They want greasy delicious deep fried chicken. They are the ones buying the chicken. Yes, marketing is very influential especially on younger populations, but consumers and their parents make purchasing decisions. If people didn't buy KFC they would fail as a business or be forced to adopt a healthier menu.

So the solution lies in your power as a consumer. You aren't making business decisions at KFC or Susan G. Komen so you can only act within your own power. Don't eat at KFC. Contact KFC and Susan G. Komen and let them know how you feel. These are simple actions for a big problem.