Friday, November 30, 2007

Is Garlic Good for You or What?

Pound360 was saddened earlier this year when research found garlic does not lower cholesterol. But a new article at the New York Times reveals other benefits of garlic, as well as a tip for keeping your breath fresh after eating it.

Researchers at the University of Alabama found garlic cranks up your body’s output of hydrogen sulfide. Yes, that’s poisonous at high levels and it’s a byproduct of refining oil. But at the levels your body produces, it simply relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow. Also, in lab mice, a hydrogen sulfide booster protected the heart from damage during a heart attack.

To get the benefits, you need to eat two garlic cloves per day. And sorry, data on supplements is “mixed”, so don’t rely on those. And please don’t whine about having to eat two whole cloves of garlic. Koreans and Italians eat eight to 12 per day.

Worried about bad breath? According to the Times, “eating fennel seeds like those served at Indian restaurants helps to neutralize the smell.”

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What Happens to Your Body After A Holiday Food Binge

An interesting piece at the NY Times this week looks at the surprising consequences and myths surrounding food binges.

We all do it. At Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Sizzler buffet and other times, places, we gorge on food. On Thanksgiving, for example, Americans pull in 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat. But most of us have no idea what’s going on inside our bodies after a binge and what the possible consequences are.

Worst of all, you could die. After a binge, your heart works strenuously to get blood to the stomach and intestines. Also, a super-dose of fatty foods can lead to blood clots. These factors equal a four to seven fold increase in the risk for heart attack in the two hours after a binge.

Chest pain after a Thanksgiving feast? It’s not necessarily a heart attack. It could also be an overworked gallbladder. As stomach moves from your stomach to the intestine, the gallbladder cranks out bile to breakdown fat. When it works overtime, it can bring on excruciatingly painful gallstone attacks.

Any pain is probably not you stomach bursting, though. “The problem [of stomach ruptures] is usually limited to people with major eating disorders,” reports the Times. For the record, average stomach capacity is 8 cups, but ranges from four to 12.

The reason we binge is in our DNA. “Experts say the ability to ignore satiety signals is an evolutionary adaptation that helped build fat stores during times of plenty.” However, balancing that fantastic ability is a trigger in your stomach that releases a nausea-inducing hormone after 1,500 calories.

Food myth busted: The tryptophan in turkey doesn’t make you sleepy after the Thanksgiving feast. According to one doctor, the amount of the amino acid found in turkey isn’t significant enough to have an effect. You get tired after a mega-meal because your body is working so hard to digest it. The sleepiness causes another potential danger as drivers hit the road after holiday overindulgence.

Interesting fact: The average meal takes one to three hours to leave your stomach. A binge can take eight to 12.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Turkey Trouble: White Meat or Dark?

The dreaded question has faced health-conscious people for as long as turkeys have been served: white or dark? Conventional wisdom says white meat is better. And it is, technically. But practically speaking it’s a toss-up, reports the NY Times this week

A serving (one ounce) of white meat has 46 calories and one gram of fat. A serving of dark has 50 calories and 2 grams of fat. But you get added nutritional benefit with those four extra calories and a gram of fat. Dark meat carries more iron, zinc, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin B6 and B12.

Pound360 is not a medical blog, and not maintained by doctors, but we think the added nutritional benefit is worth those extra four calories and a gram of fat.

What makes white meat different from dark meat? Dark meat is muscle that turkey’s use more, so it has higher levels of “myoglobin,” “a compound that enables muscles to transport oxygen, which is needed to fuel activity.” Since turkeys (and chickens) don’t fly, dark meat is found in and around the legs.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mega-Scorpion Fossil Surprises Experts

"This is an amazing discovery," said one scientists referring to the fossilized, 18-inch “spiked claw” of a giant scorpion that lived about 390 million years ago. The claw’s size suggests the creature it belonged to was an 8-foot-long, giant sea scorpion.

The news was picked up all over the web (I even saw it on the NBC Nightly News). This posting relies mostly on
an article at National Geographic.

According to experts, these monsters were at the top of the food chain (obviously), were cannibals (how charming), and only existed for about 10 million years (see
TIME’s coverage for the 10-million-year figure).

Why did they die out when other top predators (like alligators, sharks) have managed to exist for so much longer? Jawed vertebrates. "When fish evolve jaws during the Devonian period [416 to 359 million years ago], afterwards the sea scorpion fossil record does tail off," explained one scientist.

What they don’t explain in the articles I tracked down is whether or not jawed fish devoured the giant sea scorpions (perhaps in packs), or reduced the population of prey to a level where giant sea scorpions couldn’t feed themselves.

Although smaller sea scorpions were known to have crawled onto land (
according to the Telegraph UK, sea scorpions were “the first animal ever to have moved from water to land”), the 8-foot-long “jaekelopterus rhenaniae” probably stayed in the ocean. Its tiny legs, “would have collapsed under the weight of its body,” said an expert.

This leads me to wonder how menacing of a predator these creatures were. Is it possible that they were so large and cumbersome that they were merely scavengers? I’m not asking to be dropped in a tank with one of these beasts, but how fast could an arthropod that size really move?

What are Your Chances of Dying This Year?

Each year, an adult has a 1-in-1,743 chance of being killed in an accident. This according to a short piece at Discover. Chances are lower if you’re a kid. Nine-year-olds have 1-in-10,000 odds. I wonder if those same odds apply to kids with lead-packing toys from China? Well, if you’re an executive at a company that makes those toys, I bet your odds are definitely lower.

Why Are Plumbers Scrambling on Black Friday?

Pound360 is on location in Palm Springs for Thanksgiving and on Black Friday, a traditional retail shopping frenzy, I saw this teaser on the front page of The Desert Sun: “Black Friday: A big day for plumbers, too.”

Next to the teaser was a picture of a toilet, so my mind immediately jumped to the obvious. But it’s not what you think. It’s not what the graphic implies. Its kitchen sinks that are driving an expected 17,000 frantic calls to Roto-Rooter on Black Friday.

Frantic? Referring to the calls, said a Roto-Rooter rep, “It sounds like they’re calling 911.”

The article couldn’t be found at the Desert Sun’s website (for shame!), but
we tracked it down at The Buffalo News.

Roto-Rooter said service calls jump 50 percent and drive an extra $500,000 in revenue. The prime culprit? Grease. “Cooking grease will definitely clog pipes -- whether you flush the sink with hot water or cold,” according to
a report at Delaware’s News Journal.

But there are other drain-killers, too: “celery, potato peels, poultry skins and bones, pasta, all the starchy stuff,” Roto Rooter told the Buffalo News.

Rice and pasta can be especially bad since it expands in water.

After a bit of searching, I did find mention of toilet-related woes
at the Seattle Times. According to one plumber, “Too many people using the bathroom and flushing the toilets can aggravate an already slow drain, causing a blockage in the main sewer.”

Advice for avoiding a call to the plumber? Enzymes and common sense. From the News Journal: “regular maintenance with bioenzyme solutions is the secret, plumbers said. That and an avoidance of sheer idiocy.”

About Me

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.