Odds And Ends (Mostly Odds)

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Time to clean out the bookmarks in my browser again.  Here are some of the items I saved in recent months but never found worthy of a full post:

Diet Purists Are Mentally Unbalanced

All this time, I’ve been thinking I changed my diet to improve my body. Turns out I was just losing my mind.  “An obsession with healthy eating” has been labeled as a “serious psychological condition” and (this is the really important part) given a Latin-sounding name — orthorexia nervosa.  Once you give an otherwise benign behavior or condition a Latin-sounding name, that makes it an official disease … like when “married for 35 years” was renamed erectile dysfunction.  Here are the symptoms of orthorexia nervosa:

Orthorexics commonly have rigid rules around eating. Refusing to touch sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol, wheat, gluten, yeast, soya, corn and dairy foods is just the start of their diet restrictions. Any foods that have come into contact with pesticides, herbicides or contain artificial additives are also out. The obsession about which foods are “good” and which are “bad” means orthorexics can end up malnourished.

If untreated, the disease can apparently lead to all kinds of crazy behaviors:

“It’s everywhere, from the people who think it’s normal if their friends stop eating entire food groups, to the trainers in the gym who promote certain foods to enhance performance, to the proliferation of nutritionists, dieticians and naturopaths who believe in curing problems through entirely natural methods such as sunlight and massage.”

That means nutrition fanatic /  massage therapist /sun-worshipper /carb avoider  Dana Carpender is officially wacko.  I could’ve sworn she’s just spunky.

The article didn’t specify, but I’m guessing treatment involves a strict regimen of beer, pizza, Little Debbie Snack Cakes, corn dogs, fructose-sweetened soy milk, frappucinos, and Chunky Monkey ice cream. Oh, and statins too, since they cure pretty much everything.

Give me a break. If you eliminate foods you believe are bad for your health, you’re not nuts; you’re conscientious.  If you post dozens of 1000-word essays in the comments section of a blog because you believe it’s your mission to convert all non-believers to a “plant-based diet,” then you’re mentally unbalanced.

Exploding Heads

What’s the best way to calm people who have a stress-related condition? I vote for naming the condition Exploding Head Syndrome.

“Any idea what could be causing this, doctor?”

“Nothing to worry about.  Looks to me like a simple case of Exploding Head Syndrome. ”

“Whaaaaat?!!”

“Now, don’t get excited it’s just a  … would you mind moving away from that vase?  The shards could be dangerous.”

Marie Raymond sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night, heart pounding, freaked out by the sound of her name being shouted loud and clear. Other times she’ll be awakened by the sound of a huge crash, as if someone has broken a window or knocked over a set of dishes. After dealing with it off and on for the last several months, Raymond believes she may have exploding head syndrome.

As strange as the name sounds, exploding head syndrome is actually a rare and relatively undocumented sleep phenomenon. While sleeping or dozing, a person with the condition hears a terrifically loud sound in their head, such as a bomb exploding, a clash of cymbals or a gun going off.

I know how Ms. Raymond feels. In college, I once jerked awake after hearing banging, breaking glass, and my name being shouted.  Turned out it was just my roommate coming home after night of experimenting with illegal substances.

But I do wake up now and then after hearing my name called out while I’m sleeping. (Seriously, I do.)  It’s never really freaked me out, though — except for the one time I decided to answer.

“Tom!”

“Uh … yeah?”

“Just seeing if you’re still alive. Guess we have to wait awhile longer.”

“Excuse me?!”

“Nothing.”

Plains Indians Were Tall And Healthy

The buffalo-hunting Indian tribes were the tallest people in the world at time, according to a recent study:

The average adult male Plains Indian stood 172.6 centimeters tall — about 5 feet 8 inches. The next tallest people in the world at that time were Australian men, who averaged 172 centimeters. European American men of the time averaged 171 centimeters tall, and men living in European countries were typically several centimeters shorter.

These results contradict the modern image of American Indians as being sickly victims succumbing to European disease, said Richard Steckel, co-author of the study and professor of economics and anthropology at Ohio State University.

This study shows that despite the many technological advantages that the European-American settlers had over the American Indians, the Plains tribes enjoyed better health, at least nutritionally.

While the reasons for the general good health of the Plains Indians compared to whites has not been extensively studied, Steckel said several plausible theories exist. For one, the Plains Indians ate a varied diet that included a variety of native plants, as well as buffalo and other game that typically roamed the Great Plains.

That’s the good news.  The bad news is that Indians’ diet didn’t include sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol, wheat, gluten, yeast, soya, corn, dairy foods, pesticides, herbicides or artificial additives … so while they were tall, they suffered from extremely high rates of orthorexia nervosa.

Bribery Lowers Health-Care Costs

I expect the current administration to jump all over this idea:

It has long been one of the most vexing causes of America’s skyrocketing health costs: people not taking their medicine. One-third to one-half of all patients do not take medication as prescribed, and up to one-quarter never fill prescriptions at all, experts say. Such lapses fuel more than $100 billion dollars in health costs annually because those patients often get sicker.

Now, a controversial and seemingly counterintuitive effort to tackle the problem is gaining ground: paying people money to take medicine or to comply with prescribed treatment. The idea, which is being embraced by doctors, pharmacy companies, insurers and researchers, is that paying modest financial incentives up front can save much larger costs of hospitalization.

I can’t believe it took the health experts so long to reach this conclusion.  All they have to do is read a few books on economic history and they’d learn that health-care costs were a heck of a lot lower 50 years ago because everyone was taking six or seven prescription drugs.  Now most adults only take two or three, and look where that’s gotten us.

Aetna has begun paying doctors bonuses for prescribing medication likely to prevent problems: beta blockers to prevent heart attacks, statins for diabetes sufferers. Currently, 93,000 doctors are in Aetna’s “pay for performance” program; bonuses average three percent to five percent of a practice’s base income. Even the new federal health care overhaul includes incentives, expanding a program paying pharmacists extra for helping some Medicare patients learn to take pills correctly.

So that’s how we bring down runaway health-care costs: give pharmacists federal dollars to do their jobs.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines also suggest using financial incentives to encourage people to follow the advice. Perfect. Let’s pay farmers to produce lots of whole grains, soy products and vegetable oils, then pay people to eat them. Then when those people become fatter and sicker, we can pay pharmacists to show them how to take their medications, then pay the patients to take the medications.

While we’re at it, we should also pay psychiatrists to prescribe anti-psychotics for people who refuse to eat whole grains, soy products and vegetable oils, then pay pharmacists to mix the drugs into some grass-fed hamburger patties.

Canadian Bacon

According to a recent survey, 43% of Canadians prefer bacon over sex.  I’m not sure what to make of this one.  I can only assume the bacon is very, very good or the sex is very, very British.  Since the bacon-over-sex preference dropped significantly in French Quebec, it’s probably the latter.

As far as I know, I’ve only had sex with one Canadian, which is too small of a sample to make statistically significant comparisons to bacon.  I’d apply for a grant to conduct more research into the matter, but I’m pretty sure my wife would rescind my bacon privileges for life.

Research Endowment

Another study I wouldn’t want to explain to my wife … conducted in France (of course), with an abstract (I’m not making this up) on PubMed:

To test the effect of a woman’s bust size on the rate of help offered, 1200 male and female French motorists were tested in a hitchhiking situation. A 20-yr.-old female confederate wore a bra which permitted variation in the size of cup to vary her breast size. She stood by the side of a road frequented by hitchhikers and held out her thumb to catch a ride. Increasing the bra-size of the female-hitchhiker was significantly associated with an increase in number of male drivers, but not female drivers, who stopped to offer a ride.

Now ya tell me.  If my car ever breaks down and I need to hitchhike, I’m going to regret going low-carb and losing my boobs.  I’m not a big fan of drawing conclusions from associations, but in the case of this study, I’m pretty sure we’re looking at cause and effect.

Cow Farts Exonerated In Global-Warming Caper

I don’t know if this is good news or bad news.  I was really hoping those “Meatless Mondays” at Harvard would save Manhattan from sinking into the ocean 20 years from now.  Our only hope now is to switch to fluorescent bulbs and give our homes the warm, relaxing ambience of gas-station mini-marts.  Here’s the story:

In the past environmentalists, from Lord Stern to Sir Paul McCartney, have urged people to stop eating meat because the methane produced by cattle causes global warming. However a new study found that cattle grazed on the grasslands of China actually reduce another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide.

Authors of the paper, published in Nature, say the research does not mean that producing livestock to eat is good for the environment in all countries. However in certain circumstances, it can be better for global warming to let animals graze on grassland. The research will reignite the argument over whether to eat red meat after other studies suggested that grass fed cattle in the UK and US can also be good for the environment as long as the animals are free range.

Free-range animals are actually good for the environment?  Well, I am shocked.  Next they’ll discover that ruminant animals have been roaming the planet for millions of years without destroying it.

Lierre Keith already figured this stuff out, but somebody needs to inform Dean Ornish.

Door-To-Door Meat

Here in my home state of Tennessee, a man was arrested for swallowing a half-burned marijuana cigarette when police stopped him for questioning.  That’s not the weird part.  The weird part is that he was selling meat door-to-door. From what I can gather, he wasn’t a successful door-to-door meat salesman, but that’s clearly due to having a lousy territory.  He should’ve been selling in Canada.  That would’ve allowed him to work a sales pitch like this:

“Good morning, ma’am.  I’m here in the neighborhood offering housewives like yourself a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have sex with me.”

“What?!  Go away, you pervert, eh?”

“Or we could smoke a joint and eat some of this fine bacon.”

“Listen, ya hoser, I’ll call the … oh. Would you like to come in?”

Meat Is Murder, So Murder The Meat

I guess the door-to-door meat salesman was lucky he didn’t ring this guy’s bell:

A knife-wielding man was arrested earlier this week in what police called a meat massacre at a south-central Indiana supermarket. When officers arrived, they found meat scattered everywhere in what Edinburgh police called one of the most bizarre cases they had ever investigated.

Police said Anthony Coffman, 28, used a hunting knife to cut through meat packages, throwing open containers of raw beef on the floor. He then poured dog food over some of the meat in hopes of contaminating it so it couldn’t be sold, said Edinburgh police Deputy Chief David Lutz. A store employee tried to stop Coffman, but gave up when he threatened the employee with the knife, police said.

Whoa, there, buddy!  You don’t want to stab a human!  They’re almost the metaphysical equals of cows.

Coffman told police that he is a vegetarian and gets upset when others consume beef, telling the employee that God sent him to ruin the meat and that he was trying to save little girls from food he believes would make them “chubby.”

Police think an argument earlier in the day prompted the incident. “He’d got into it with his grandmother. She was preparing a pot roast … and he was upset over that,” Lutz said. “Him and her had a few words, and then a couple hours later, he’s down there at the Jay C Food Store doing this.”

Good thing the guy doesn’t eat meat, or he might’ve become mean and aggressive.  Coffman is clearly out of his gourd.  Meat doesn’t make girls chubby … it just causes global warming.

The article didn’t say if the knife-wielding vegetarian would serve time in prison.  If so, I suspect he’ll lobby for internet privileges and occupy himself leaving 1000-word comments on my blog.

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56 thoughts on “Odds And Ends (Mostly Odds)

  1. Felix

    I meant it when I said that believing that a potato or a piece of bread will cause severe damage is on the border of orthorexia. It’s no different from vegans who worry that eating a piece of meat will ruin their digestion, raw foodists who think they are poisoned by cooked vegetables or organic food junkies who can feel the pesticides in nonorganic apples, but have no worries with organic broccoli or potatoes with skin, which have a way higher natural pesticide level to begin with.
    It’s called the nocebo effect and it can be the beginning of an unhealthy obsession.
    Here’s something I found by googling a bit:

    http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2009/09/how-some-food-can-make-us-sick.html

    I agree that if you believe one potato or piece of bread will kill you or ruin your health, something is wrong. I prefer the diet gurus who say it’s a matter of eating correctly most of the time, which is what I do.

    The Fat Head premiere party was held at an Italian restaurant because it was the only one in town where we could rent a separate room big enough to put up a screen and a sound system. Two famous low-carb doctors ate some of the pasta, pizza, and Italian desserts, since that’s what was being served.

    Reply
  2. Ryan

    “For one, the Plains Indians ate a varied diet that included a variety of native plants, as well as buffalo and other game that typically roamed the Great Plains.”

    Of course the article had to stress plants and make it sound like that was the majority of their diet. More PC that way.

    I’m curious what plants grew naturally on the plains that could have made up a significant part of their diet? My understanding is that their diet was 99+% meat.

    From what I understand, they also gathered berries, seeds and something like turnips, but meat was certainly the basis of the diet.

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  3. Jakounezumi

    You do realize that if “orthorexia nervosa” were to really catch on, there’d be a good chance that the American economy (and with it the world economy) would collapse 😉 You guys are so big on patriotism.. must be a bit of a dilemma, eat crap, or be a bad american 😉

    I’m willing to risk it. If our economy survives trillion-dollar deficits, it’ll survive anything.

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  4. Elenor

    “I’m guessing treatment involves a strict regimen of beer, pizza, Little Debbie Snack Cakes, corn dogs, fructose-sweetened soy milk, frappucinos, and Chunky Monkey ice cream.”

    Oooh! {waving} Me, me!! I want to be treated! Can I be treated? I’ll pretend to be sick – oh, hey! I’ll fill out a food diary to prove I’m sick! Pretty please with an organically grown cherry on top?

    But skip the statins please, cause I have pharmacopexia-nervosa-in-reverse (I call myself a “medical minimalist.”)

    I used that same term with a doctor who wanted to give me antiobotics I didn’t think I needed.

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  5. Ms. X

    Welcome to Tennessee where door to door meat sales, are, well, normal in perspective. True story – my BIL was fueling his car late at night after getting off work when a man approached him at the pump. “Hey! You want some nice steaks? Got some in the trunk of my car over there”… Since nothing happened when the offer was politely refused, one must hold out the possibility the dude really was selling meat from the trunk of his car, after midnight, at the gas station.

    Considering it’s been in the 90s here lately, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to buy steaks from the trunk of a car.

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