Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Seat of Death?

Everyone knows that they need to eat right and get enough exercise to be healthy. That should be enough...right?

Not so according to a growing body of research that shows that even if you eat the recommended amount of servings in the food pyramid and exercise for an hour it is not enough to prevent obesity and heart related diseases. The number one culprit/public enemy number one for the onset of such diseases is sitting?! How could such a mundane activity such as sitting be the leading cause of obesity?

The scientific explanation is that we have special enzymes in certain muscles of our bodies that never tire when we stand up, and one of those enzymes called lipoprotein lipase converts fat into energy and LDL (the bad kind) into HDL (the healthy kind). When you sit, those muscles that are used while standing are relaxed and enzymes like lipoprotein lipase are essentially shutdown, allowing fat and LDLs to collect and build up in the bloodstream. Indeed, sitting is the second most passive activity (Sleeping of course is the most passive). What's surprising is that the people who workout everyday and eat a balanced diet but sit a lot still have obesity problems. It's as if sitting negated your workout.

Now don't jump to the conclusion that sitting is evil and that I must stand all the time. The problem is that the average American spend about 9 hours a day sitting. Lets assume that you had 8 hours of sleep and an hour workout. In those remaining 15 hours, you still need to burn the majority of your 2000 calorie diet. (Unless you are Michael Phelps who can burn 1000 calories per hour). Sitting for more than half of the remaining 15 hours will not get you to break even point, and slowly the daily excess calories accumulate around your waistline.

Personal thought/experience

After I finish a meal my parents often tell me to stand up for about an hour and their reason is, "because it's good for you." I would ask for further explanation and they would reiterate their statement in a different form: "because sitting after a meal is bad for you." Since this was such a minor thing, I did what was told without inquiring further into the matter. A few years later I find out that my parents were right after all.

My personal guideline is to stand up every other hour. I know this sounds weird but I put my laptop on a ledge that is adjusted comfortably to my height while searching the web, watching Youtube clips and writing this post. Not only is standing healthy but it helps me not fall asleep, especially if I need to stay late to study for finals.

Friday, April 2, 2010

"Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" and tag, you're it!

There is this new T.V. show called "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" and it is about a guy named Jamie Oliver who is on a mission to change the unhealthy eating habits of the people who live in America's unhealthiest town: Huntington, West Virginia. He's not just some random idealist who has good intentions and doesn't know what he's doing. Instead he's a successful food health reformer in Britain; he ran a campaign that successfully secured about $380 million for school food programs.

Despite his successes in Britain, I believe there are a few more problems that Jamie has or will face in America. First and foremost is the high cost of making healthy meals. According to the person in charge of the school's food "the invoices are double what we normally spent here." In America, leafy green vegetables and fresh fruits are indeed more expensive than fried potatoes and processed meats. A possible reason is that it's still too hard to process leafy green vegetables and fruits. For example, orange plantations still need people to do the strenuous and tedious task of handpicking oranges from the trees. Another possible reason is that leafy green vegetables are not subsidized by the government. Corn and soybeans that are used to feed cows, pigs and chickens are heavily subsidized by the government. In 2005, the government allocated about $9 billion to corn and soybeans. The other $8 billion were allocated to cotton, wheat, tobacco, diary, rice and peanuts.

Second is the current recession. Almost every firm is suffering from this recession except for two big companies: Walmart and McDonald. Through decades of aggressive advertising, these two companies are one of the most famous companies in America and have made their products synonymous with cheap, affordable goods. So naturally more people would turn to these two companies to save money.

Third is the economic and political power of these fast food companies. Let's say Jamie's idea of cooking a nutritious, affordable and tasty home-cooked meal takes hold in America. That means less people will eat at fast food restaurants or visit less frequently, which translates to lower revenues. Since their future livelihood is at stake, the fast food industry would find ways to stop Jamie's food revolution from taking root: they can buy out politicians, lobby against any unfavorable legislations etc.

The power of information/education has enabled us to take down the powerful tobacco industry by revealing the ugly truth to people about the health dangers of tobacco, which led to a push in legislation to ban smoking in public places. So no matter how big the obstacles are we must educate people that the short term savings made by buying fast food will cost people even more in the future because of all the exorbitantly expensive medical bills people need to pay for medication and surgeries.

Please watch the first episode and second episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Share this with your friends and family. Do your part by signing this petition to help improve the food in America's school cafeteria.

Personal thoughts

I was deeply moved by Jamie's talks and actions to help people become healthy. I started to tear up on the part where he got frustrated and emotional about the insurmountable obstacles he has faced. Jamie is truly a selfless guy; he left his family and mother country to help a foreign country where he is treated like an alien.

I remember the very same types of junk food that were served at my elementary: oblong shaped pizzas, french fries, nuggets etc. Luckily I come from a family that prefers to cook food from scratch. Also my parents didn't mind bagging a bit of what they cooked that day and walking a few blocks to my school. So I rarely consumed school food. I remember I had a Russian friend named Eugene. He would frequently ask me for some of my homemade food and I'd share it with him. I can tell he preferred my homemade food over school food because he always had that gleam in his eyes when I opened my lunch box. But I didn't have enough for both of us so he still had to eat school lunch just like most school kids. At least after lunch we were able to go out for recess where we would play ball, freeze tag and other kid games. Now schools have cut back on recess so that kids can have more class time. I understand that it may seem intuitive to increase class time so that teachers can cover more material and supposedly increase test scores but how can kids study more when they are physically unfit to do so? Most schools get approximately 45 minutes of physical education and that is not enough exercise for kids. (FDA recommends at least an hour of moderate exercise everyday) Also an added benefit of recess is that it gives kids an environment where they can practice social/communication skills. Yes there is some bullying during recess but recess isn't the reason why people get bullied. Kids get picked on by bullies in the hallways and stairways in schools where there is no recess. In other words, bullies will always find other places to pick on kids with or without recess.

Conclusion: Reinstitute recess in all schools and support Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Will soy products emasculate you? What about cow milk?

I've recently been told that soy milk has estrogen that cause men to develop feminine qualities. My first reaction was disbelief/denial but later I couldn't help but get scared that the many years I have spent eating tofu and drinking soy milk will cause me to lose my semi deep voice and develop women-sized breast! I immediately got back home and frantically read a ton of articles regarding this subject. Article after article warned about the "evil soy bean" that will not only destroy your health but bring down our whole society by making our kids gay. After a good hour of searching, I finally made up my mind about the subject in one word: Moderation. Reason: Not enough evidence to determine the consumption of soy products lead to emasculation. More research is needed in this area.

Here's a list of articles that I thought were noteworthy from both sides of the aisle:


Edit (3.18.2010): I've been reading some of people's comments on this issue and there was this one comment that really got me thinking about the bigger picture. One commenter brought up the issue of cows being injected with growth hormones as well as estrogen. Another reader, named Beto, responded by stating:
"C'mon, get real dude! This site,, has for many long years been promoting highest quality
animal quality flesh and dairy products, which are healing/strengthening for the humans consuming them, and less damaging for the planet from low impact, green practices on such farms & businesses. "

The problem with this statement is that even though the Weston A Price Foundation is a more reputable source than others, the organization is indeed run by humans and therefore is not infallible.

Then he started talking about the health benefits of raw milk:

"I've always had mucus coating my mouth,& in my sinuses & throat after consuming commercial cow's milk and cheeses since childhood. And I drank LOADS of commercial milk until age 15 throughout my entire childhood. When I was in India for 6 months in 1997 @ age 32, I noticed the fresh, unpasteurized, non-homogenized daily milk and curds(yogurt) I consumed caused me ABSOLUTELY NO MUCUS and was an important and yummy part of my daily diet there! Unfortunately, most Indians are consuming mass produced dairy products similar to ours and the family cow has largely disappeared. Though it can be searched for & found obviously there. I was vegan/vegetarian for 17 years, and I got weak, thin & pale from deficiencies. Now I eat a modified Primal diet I can live happily with: I eat a lot of veggies, some nuts,some coconut & olives and olive oil, some fruits and very little grains. I eat generous amounts of avocados, wild seafood, organic organ meats, some raw dairy, and loads of organic spices and medicinal mushrooms. I am happy and healthier than when I was in the latter part of my veganism."
If raw milk is so healthy why aren't people buying them instead of regular and soy milk? The reason is raw milk (at least in NYC) cost $5 for half a gallon!
(Source: I can buy a whole gallon for even less than $5. Beto mentioned earlier that "goat milk & goat yogurt/kefir have loads of health benefits & none of the allergenic properties of cow's milk." But goat milk is even more expensive than raw milk: $8 for half a gallon. So for the majority who can't afford specialty diary products and must stick with cow or soy milk, which one is better?

Even though more research is needed, lets say that soy milk did have harmful health effects. But it is well known that cow milk has it own set of "evils". So I believe the real question is which one is the lesser of the two evils?