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High Fructose Corn Syrup- I can tell you why it’s bad! September 25, 2008

I love these high fructose corn syrup ads that the Corn Council has been putting out recently. Its their way of saying “you’re stupid, so you will eat this.”

You’ve seen them, right?
There are a few, in one there’s a man and a woman sitting on a picnic blanket in the park. The woman offers the man a bite of her popsicle “want a bite?” and he says “I thought you loved me?” to which she replies “okay, two bites” and the man says “that has high fructose corn syrup in it” and the wife asks “So?…” The man just stares at her with a blank look on his face because he doesn’t know the answer.

Do you know why it’s bad for you? Do you honestly believe that because you don’t know the answer then that makes it okay to eat? It’s like people who eat a few extra slices of cake because they don’t know how many calories are in it, so that makes it zero, right? We all know there are still calories in it and it’s not doing them any good to keep on eating. It’s the same with High Fructose Corn Syrup, just because you don’t know why it’s bad for you doesn’t mean that it’s not hurting you to eat it.

I may make a YouTube response to those commercials, where just the ending is changed, so that rather than staring at the other person with a blank expression when they ask, I can reply “I’m so glad you asked! Let me tell you!”

In fact, I’m so glad you asked! Let me Tell you!
HFCS messes with the way that your body functions because your body processes it differently than it does regular sugar. It causes your liver to throw more fat out into your bloodstream, which causes your body to store more fat, as well as tricking your body into wanting to eat more by suppressing the chemical leptin, which tells your brain when your stomach is full.

                                         

And why do I care so much? Because this stuff is in everything! The NCC claims that it’s safe in “moderation,” but since it’s used in everything, it’s impossible to consume in moderate amounts. Companies love to make use of it because it’s cheap and it acts as a preservative. I can try as hard as I want to avoid it, but it always sneaks into something. The fact that the FDA allows so many things to slip through for the sake of profit makes me furious. The FDA seems to know more about money than it does about health. This is why we all need to pay attention. Get angry. Don’t let them get away with it.

As for what you can do specifically; write letters and emails to companies that use this product. Tell them that you will not continue to buy their products at the expense of your health. For corporations, especially big ones, each email the recieve counts for several thousand opinions. This is because for each email they recieve, there are several thousand other people who agree with the person, but didn’t write emails of their own. This actually matters to companies! You may not believe me, but try writing to a company with any sort of constructive criticism or complaint, make sure you are polite, and ask for a response. Usually a company will say on it’s feedback forms how many business days you can expect to wait for a response. If they do not respond, then they don’t care about their customers and don’t deserve your business. Don’t buy from companies that don’t care about their customers. Their products will be consumed by you and your loved ones. Don’t risk it.

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The Epidemic of Obesity September 11, 2008

Filed under: Health,nutrition — jordysullivan @ 6:47 pm
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The schools play a large role in the health of our nation’s children. With children spending a large proportion of their time during the school year at school, the time that they spend there should be spent promoting mental and physical health as much as possible. Obesity has become an epidemic and the schools can accept a large part of the blame. Recess has been cut at many schools. The cafeterias serve high fat, high calorie menus. Home economics classes reinforce unhealthy habits. And gym classes teach kids to loath the very idea of exercise. This responsibility cannot be left solely to the parents.

Over the last decade or so, obesity has become a growing epidemic among children. They carry their weight and unhealthy habits on to adulthood, when they pass these traits on to their own children. In 1982 only 4% of children were overweight. This increased to 16% in 1994. In 2001 the percentage of obese American children had reached a whopping 25%! (pmmedia.com) The health problems resulting from these negative lifestyles will ultimately shorten their lives. “[A] new study suggests one in four overweight children is already showing early signs of type II diabetes.” (www.pmmedia.com) These habits and addictions are formed primarily in two places, at home and in the schools. It is not a matter of vanity; even skinny people can harbor toxic fat.

Children aren’t allowed to run on playgrounds at school anymore because the teachers are afraid that they will fall and hurt themselves. The risk of obesity is much higher and the exercise that kids get on the playground is very important in order to prevent it. 78% of Americans do not meet basic activity level recommendations. (www.pmmedia.com) A skinned knee is preferable to a bad heart. According to Joe Frost, emeritus professor of early childhood education at the University of Texas-Austin, “Having time for play is essential for children to keep their weight under control.” (Bazar, Emily)

Cafeterias tend to serve high fat, high calorie meals. Most of the time when you look at a school cafeteria’s lunch menu, it’s like looking at a menu for a bad country buffet. Everything is creamed, fried, or doused in gravy. Many schools even provide French fries, which are usually the main course for most of the student’s lunches. I remember going into the cafeteria in high school; it was like the school had completely given up on the idea of serving anything with any real nutritional value. Everything was high fat, high calorie, low in fiber and would ultimately make the consumer crash within an hour of eating it. Still, the allure of French fries is irresistible to most people, especially when it’s offered so readily. Looking at Providence, my old high school’s lunch menu, it’s easy to see why the health of our nation’s children is in such peril. Providence High School has a Dominos pizza cart set up right in the middle of the cafeteria each day. The cafeteria workers know that it is almost worthless to attempt to compete with it. The “healthy” options are pitiful and unattractive, the salads consisting of a soggy tomato slice on top of a couple of wilted leaves of ice burg lettuce. The schools are unintentionally training kids to avoid healthy foods. The schools need to switch to an organic menu packed with nutrients, low in fat and free of red meats as well as provide vegetarian and vegan options. Most of all, they need to get rid of food options that will negatively affect a person’s health. Providing unhealthy options like French fries, cakes, and cookies creates temptation that most students will not resist.

Serving high quality foods in the cafeteria will ultimately result in better performance in the classrooms. Rather than crashing right after lunch, the lasting energy provided from a nutritious meal will fuel the students through their classes and help them to concentrate on their school work without becoming exhausted or distracted by hunger pains. Lotta Granholm is a neuroscientist at the Medical University of South Carolina who was interested in the effects of fats on the brain. After conducting memory tests on mice involving hydrogenated coconut oil and soybean oil in order to test the effects of trans fats on the brain, “Granholm suspects trans fat increases inflammation in the brain, which damages the proteins.” (spurlock 132)

Of course there is no hiding the fact that organic, healthy foods will be more expensive than the fried garbage that we are currently feeding to our kids. But there is also no denying the fact that the results would make the extra cash worth spending. We would be lazy and irresponsible not to put forth a little bit of effort to find proper funding in order to care for our children’s health. Most people would be happy to know that their tax dollars were being spent in a positive way for a change. Farm to School programs are one option that will benefit the students as well as the local community. “These programs connect schools with local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing health and nutrition education opportunities that will last a lifetime, and supporting local small farmers.” (FarmtoSchool.org) Programs like this would help to curb the cost of healthy, organic school lunches. The school lunch problem could be solved easily if the right people took the initiative to do so.

Gym class is another area where the schools are lacking in terms of promoting the health of their students. Gym teachers tend to force the kids to play games where the kids pick teams or that are simply no fun for the kids. Being picked last in gym class is something that can scar a kid emotionally and steer them away from sports and exercise for life. Instead of forcing kids to attend grueling gym classes where they play sports that usually don’t appeal to the kids; they should be required to join a team from a variety of sports, including non-team sports. Many more children would take interest in physical activity if they could choose from a wide variety and pick something that interests them. Schools could take advantage of their locations by engaging in local sports, like surfing lessons for schools that are near beaches and hiking for schools in the mountains. Classes for disabled children should also be made available. A disability should not hold someone back from being as healthy as they can be. If a child chooses a sport that appeals to him or her, it is more likely to be one that they keep up with throughout their lifetimes.

Not only are current physical education classes alienating to many, they are overall ineffective when it comes to providing an outlet for pent up energy. “…studies have shown that out of a typical gym period; only six minutes are spent being physically active! … the amount of physical education students get is actually very small—It can be measured in minutes per week.” (spurlock 127) Because of legislation like “No Child Left Behind” schools are being pressured to replace “free time” with more academics.

Some may argue that playground time, or time spent exercising while at school wastes time that could otherwise be spent learning and studying. Exercise is beneficial to the mind as well as the body. Exercise can help to improve one’s memory. “…exercise enhances the formation and survival of new nerve cells as well as the connections between nerve cells, which in turn improves long-term memory.” (Sejnowski, Terrence J.) Surely no teacher can argue that this would aide students in their schoolwork.

For the schools that require it as an elective, Home Economics classes should teach children skills that they can take home and use to educate their own families. They should teach kids how to cook healthy meals, instead of cakes and cookies as well as educate them about meal planning and nutritional information. If a child is introduced to the idea of replacing unhealthy ingredients with healthier ones, they will be more open minded about doing it on a regular basis rather than assuming that healthy and bland are synonymous. If the goal of home economics courses is to teach kids how to take care of themselves and their families, they should not exclude looking after the health of those people.

Health courses need to give as much focus, if not more, to teaching kids about nutrition and the dangers of obesity as they do to teaching them about drugs, sex, and alcohol. Parents and teachers tend to focus on more immediate health threats. A slice of pizza can look innocent next to a cigarette, but the negative repercussions of imbibing can cause plenty of life threatening health problems in a relatively short amount of time. Dr Wendy Wills, researcher in child and adolescent health at the University of HertfordshireIf, conducted interviews with teenagers aged 13 and 14, half of whom were overweight, and their parents. She said, “There was a sense that at 13 or 14 the last thing you need is to get hung up about your body and, as they saw it, pushed towards being diagnosed with an eating disorder.” (Duffy, Judith) Of course, the range of eating disorders is not limited to those that make you excessively thin; binge eating is a disorder as well. The results of binge eating can be extremely dangerous. “The major complications of binge eating disorder are the diseases that accompany obesity. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, gallbladder disease, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.” (health.com) Health courses are intended to spread awareness of the things in our lives that can kill or harm us then there is no reason why certain foods should be left off the list. With all of the awful food options we are all faced with in daily life, kids need to be educated about how to make the proper decisions and the reasons why it is important to do so.

Some people say that it is the parent’s responsibility to ensure that their children are healthy. It is, partially. Parents do need to stop allowing their children to get hooked on such unhealthy foods, many of which have addictive qualities. If they are short on time, they need to work with their kids to make healthy meals that the children can prepare on their own. Even a single mother who works two jobs has no excuse for allowing her child to chow down on Twinkies instead of eating a nutritious meal. Parents should not stock the pantry with unhealthy snacks. The foods that are kept in the house are the ones that will be consumed by the parents and the children. Instead of filling up the kitchen with snack foods like snack cakes and other foods that are high in fat and empty calories, parents should provide fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain breads. There are plenty of healthy meals that a child can prepare on his or her own these days. There are frozen vegetables that you can simply microwave and eat as well as a ton of other choices that will keep kids healthy and happy. The problem is that while these are not difficult changes to make, many parents will not keep up with these habits. If they haven’t already made some positive changes, then chances are that they are not going to start anytime soon. Besides, a parent can only monitor their child during the time that they are both home together, a large portion of the rest of the time is spent in the hands of the school system. I can’t imagine that many parents are thrilled about the fact that they have to leave their kids in the hands of a system that displays such irresponsibility each day. Unlike the individual households, the school systems can be more easily regulated and should be utilized to accomplish the goal of a healthier nation.

The school plays a very important role in the health of the children that attend. They need to spend more of the time that children spend there ensuring the kid’s health, and less of it worrying about skinned knees. Gym classes often do more harm than good when it comes to exposing kids to exercise by making it seem like a grueling activity. Requiring kids to join a team of their choice will make kids more open to the idea of exercise throughout their lifetimes. Health and home economics classes need to focus more on teaching kids how to keep themselves healthy and avoid obesity. Parents cannot always be counted on to do what is best for their child’s health, schools can be regulated, making it easier to control what sort of food options are available as well as ensuring that the children are getting proper exercise. With children spending a large proportion of their time during the school year at school, the time that they spend there should be spent promoting mental and physical health as much as possible.

Works Cited:

Bazar, Emily. “‘Not it!’ More schools ban games at recess” USA Today 6 June 2006. 15 November 2007 http://usatoday.com/news/health/2006-06-26-recess-bans_x.htm?imw=Y

“Binge Eating Disorder” Health.com National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases http://www.athealth.com/Consumer/disorders/Bingeeating.html

Birchum, Jana. Fatty Foods Under Attack in Texas Schools. 11 March 2004. http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://cache.viewimages.com/xc/3076153.jpg%3Fv%3D1%26c%3DViewImages%26k%3D2%26d%3D17A4AD9FDB9CF193B3EA2C03450C9486620E98D22B9322B05A5397277B4DC33E&imgrefurl=http://www.viewimages.com/Search.aspx%3Fmid%3D3076153%26epmid%3D2%26partner%3DGoogle&h=396&w=594&sz=48&hl=en&start=1&tbnid=u6G3J8JPjaVCfM:&tbnh=90&tbnw=135&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dchildhood%2Bobesity%2Bschool%2Blunch%2Bfrench%2Bfries%26gbv%3D2%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den

Duffy, Judith. “Parents Worry More About Drugs Than Obesity” The Sunday Herald 13 August 2006. 15 November 2007. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4156/is_20060813/ai_n16648762

“Farm to School” Farm to School.Org 2006 Occidental College

Obesity in America May 02, 2006. November 15, 2007 http://www.pmmedia.com/obesitypage1.htm

Sejnowski, Terrence J. “Exercise Improves Learning and Memory.” Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 9 November 1999. 15 November 2007. http://www.hhmi.org/news/sejnowski.html

Spurlock, Morgan. Don’t Eat This Book Berkley Books: New York, 2005

 

McDonalds; Attractive or Addictive?

Filed under: Health,nutrition — jordysullivan @ 6:45 pm
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You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t recognize McDonalds’ signature “Golden Arches.” The big yellow “M” that looks suspiciously similar to a couple of limp French fries. When you’re driving down the highway and you see this symbol towering high over the rooftops you are almost immediately reminded that you are utterly famished, and of course you have no choice but to stop in for some French fries, maybe a soda, and it is near dinnertime so let’s throw in a Big Mac. Why not make it two Big Macs, because you can’t Supersize anymore.

Of course most people have fond childhood memories from McDonalds; romping in the play place, opening up the happy meal that Mom and Dad got for you as a reward for being good while they ran errands, and finding the cool toy stashed in the box along with your tasty burger, fries and small soda. As we grow up, we hold on to these fond memories and we return to McDonalds again and again in the hopes of feeling the simple joy that we felt there as a child. We also come to realize that McDonalds is a source of fast, cheap food. Though most of us are well aware of the fact that fast food is unhealthy, we normally ignore this knowledge and keep on eating it. Typically, once the signs that fast food is hurting us start appearing, signs such as a growing waistline or decreased energy, the food has already taken hold of your body and you have developed an addiction. How does the McDonalds Corporation lure customers in and hook them for life in spite of the well known fact that the food served in the restaurant is unhealthy? Are there subliminal messages? Are there special addictive chemical additives? The McDonalds corporation uses several methods, including business practices, that encourage overeating and addictive ingredients, to lure customers in and hook them for life. “Our bodies crave fats, salt, and sweet. For millions of years they were hard to come by. Now everything we eat is bursting with them, dripping with them, caked in them. But our bodies still think it’s the bad old days, and they can’t get enough.” (Spurlock, Pg 84) McDonalds loads up all of it’s foods with an excess of each of these ingredients. Inconclusive data suggests that a meal high in fat may dull the hormonal signals that your body usually sends itself to let you know that you’re full. (Spurlock Pg 84) McDonald’s food tricks our bodies, first into thinking that we need the “nutrients” being supplied, and lots of them, and second into eating far more than our fair share of the food because we can’t tell when our stomachs are full. (Spurlock Pg 84)

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a major contributor to the overeating and the weight gain that normally result from dining at McDonalds. HFCS messes with the way that your body functions because your body processes it differently than it does regular sugar. It causes your liver to throw more fat out into your bloodstream, which causes your body to store more fat, as well as tricking your body into wanting to eat more. And McDonalds loves to make use of it. A lot of food manufacturers do. It’s cheap and it extends shelf life. And obviously if you want to eat more, then you’ll buy more. HFCS can be found in virtually every item on the McDonalds menu, from the burger buns to the sodas. (Spurlock Pg. 97)

It’s very easy to ignore the nutritional information in a fast food restaurant. This ignorance is encouraged by the restaurants, most of which will place the information in an area where you’d really have to search for it, if you bother to look for it at all. The nutritional information for a restaurant’s food is supposed to be readily available to the customers, but many restaurants don’t have any at all, or their employees are not aware of it. Most of the people eating in fast food restaurants have no idea how much fat, salt, or calories are in the food that they are consuming, much less the ingredients that the “food” is made up of, though one could also assume that most of the people dining on fast food don’t care. The consumers who do try to be health conscious may be stopping in as a last resort on a road trip because there’s not another restaurant for miles, and by ordering chicken or fish instead of beef they may be doing even more damage than if they were to order a hamburger. “…many chicken and fish products contain more fat than a hamburger or roast beef sandwich” (Jacobson and Fritschner 89). Even the salads are bad for you because they contain more sugar than a Big Mac! McDonalds fools people into believing that there are healthy options on the menu. McDonalds was able to regain a large number of their customers after films exposing the restaurant for serving foods that are unbelievably destructive to our bodies scared many customers away. By simply adding salads to the menu and allowing the consumers to believe that they are making a healthy choice and doing something good for their bodies. The sugar in many of the salads simply adds to the addiction and the customer is back to including Big Macs and milk shakes in no time. When the company is slapped with another frivolous lawsuit for someone gaining weight from eating at McDonalds, the corporation can claim that they provide healthy options, but really there’s no easy way to eat a balanced meal in the restaurant.

The cash registers at McDonalds are even programmed to prompt the employees to push more food on the customers. “If a customer orders a meal without a dessert, the cash registers remind the worker to suggest a hot apple pie or an ice cream sundae” (Kincheloe Pg 70). A few years ago McDonald’s workers were trained to encourage each customer to “Supersize” their meal. Since the film “Supersize Me” was released and caused a wave of attention to sweep across the nation, people began to complain about McDonald’s unhealthy menu and the “supersizing” option has been removed. To “Supersize” meant that the customer would receive a gargantuan amount of food for only an additional 30 cents or so, on top of the ridiculous amount of food that they would have received anyway. We think that we’re getting a great deal, and no one likes to pass up a bargain, so we go for it every time. Instead of realizing that we are getting more than enough food already and saving that 30 cents, we take the food and eat every bite of it because we don’t want that great deal to go to waste. “Waste not, want not” is a proverb we have all been raised on.

What it all comes down to is that the fast food company is doing everything in it’s power to turn us into McZombies, by pumping chemicals, fats and sugars that trick our bodies and throw them out of whack; but we have the majority of the control over what we put into our own bodies. We all have at least some iota of knowledge as to what’s bad for us. It’s a battle, but it’s one that we can’t afford to lose. We have options; we don’t have to hand our bodies over to the corporations. Short of growing all of our food in an organic garden at home, the best thing that we can do is to make wise decisions when we dine. Low income families can research ways to make healthy meals on a low budget. Travelers can pack healthy meals and snacks to eat on road trips. It’s not always easy to fight off temptation, and corporations shouldn’t be able to trick their clients by erasing the line between being a loyal customer and an addict.

Works Cited
Kincheloe, Joe L. The Sign of the Burger Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002
Michael F. Jacobson & Sarah Fritschner The Fast-Food Guide New York: Workman Publishing Company, Inc., 1986
Spurlock, Morgan Don’t Eat This Book New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2005

 

“The Secret Your Man Isn’t Telling You” -My Response September 3, 2008

Filed under: Vanity — jordysullivan @ 11:42 pm
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This is my response to this article that they keep running on AOL. They’re focusing on women’s clothing sizes and trying to figure out what men find the most attractive. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: http://www.momlogic.com/2008/08/americans_like_em_hungry_page.php This article is actually a continuation of a previous one in which they acted like they had discovered that men prefer large women.

The writer said “Although we wanted to believe that we don’t live in a society where the men find a size 0 to be the perfect body type, we do.”
Which is absolutely not true! I’ve heard guys criticize overly-skinny girls on many occasions, saying that they look like boys. Chasing after a number is dumb, people’s goal should be to be healthy.
In the previous article, the writer seemed thrilled because the conclusion that they arrived at was that men prefer to date fat girls, leading me to believe that the writer is a large woman who was hoping to add more cupcakes to her diet and thought she had finally found an excuse to do so, and after wrting this article she seems disappointed that that isn’t the case.
Anyway, here’s the picture of the model lineup that they used to survey the men referred to in the article, the comment that I left in response is below it:

bodythumb2.jpg

The fact is that both fat and skinny people have to face body image issues. When it comes down to it, fit is always the most attractive body type. It’s not the size, but how healthy you appear. It makes evolutionary sense. People are more likely to go for someone who is fit looking than fat because they are healthier and evolutionarily speaking, more likely to survive and reproduce. If model 1 is actually a size zero, she looks a little bigger (in a good way) so she may think that she’s a 0 because of vanity sizing (which they didn’t cover in the article) She seems to be in amazing shape, her ribs are not showing, yet she doesn’t have excess fat buildup, she just looks healthy. Healthy is attractive. I’m not actually sure what size I am, shopping at Old Navy I found myself buying sizes 2 and 4 mostly, but I’m sure that’s vanity sizing taking effect (not that I’m complaining) I don’t think I’ve lost any weight, but the numbers on the clothes I buy are lower (stores do this because they know customers like to see that lower number and they’re more likely to buy the clothes if they get to tell people they went from a size __ to a size __ without even trying!)