Stardust Can’t Live on Sunshine

Day and night, the sun is something most of us take for granted. But on Respectful Insolence, disciples stare at it intently in order to gain its energy. Orac writes “sun gazers seem to think that mammals are like plants in possessing an ability to absorb energy directly from the sun”—and diehard gurus claim to have lived for years without food or water. Earnest practitioners risk blindness, dehydration, starvation and death. Orac says “Sun gazing also leaves out the fact that plants get the organic building blocks they use to produce their actual structures from the ground in which they grow. Humans have no such capacity.” As the sun grows to a red giant it will boil our oceans and strip off the atmosphere; later it “will die in a fiery, catastrophic explosion, one which will quite possibly obliterate our entire planet, and then eventually cease to shine at all.” But as Ethan Siegel reveals on Starts With a Bang, there’s a silver lining to that future planetary nebula. He says “everything that makes up you, me, and the entire planet—the tiniest parts of everything we’ve ever known—they were all made inside a star.” Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and solar system to solar system.


The Quest for Fitness—Join the Party

i-adb57b247ad00a9a0e4251130519cc11-fitbuzz.jpgResolutions are one thing, but change doesn’t happen overnight. If you find yourself not living up to your goals, don’t put them off for another year; regardless of the date on the calendar, every day is a chance to get something right. There is a growing buzz here on ScienceBlogs about health and fitness, and we invite all our readers and bloggers to join the discussion. ERV kicks things off, wondering why there aren’t more scientific voices to guide those on the quest for personal health through the “minefield of woo” that promises miraculous ways to get in shape. Ethan Siegel responds on Starts With A Bang!, writing that fitness is ultimately a personal ideal, about “your body and your life.” Ethan goes on to outline proper workout methodology and explains how to start building the muscles we want. And ERV trashes the idea that weightlifting will bulk you up while cardio will make you slim, since skinny people can still hold on to an unhealthy percentage of body fat. Lifting weights will foster lean and not necessarily bulky muscle, a vital aspect of developing fitness. We see a different aspect of the quest on Thus Spake Zuska, where Zuska reveals the obstacles that get in the way of our best intentions. And before recounting his incredible ambulatory feats, Greg Laden compares us to a bunch of cattle, slow to get going but just waiting to stampede.

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Rawness versus Pasteurization

i-8dcc60b0394ead4a372a4be058676f4d-milkbuzz.jpgAlthough it is illegal to sell in most states, raw milk is gaining popularity as claims about its healthfulness multiply. Proponents of raw say the heat of pasteurization destroys beneficial enzymes and probiotic bacteria, while homogenization damages the natural structure of milk. Sharon Astyk drinks raw milk on Casaubon’s Book, but only from animals she raises herself. She says raw milk “tastes better,” “is easier to digest,” and “should be available for sale everywhere.” But she also acknowledges the inherent bacterial risks of rawness, warning that it is not for everyone and requires extra vigilance in selection and storage. On The White Coat Underground, PalMD regards the raw milk movement as so much woo, writing that the pasteurization of milk has been one of the biggest success stories in public food safety. Pal adds that milk is “not adversely affected by pasteurization” and its “nutritional value is preserved,” while dismissing the idea that humans utilize enzymes other than their own. And on Adventures in Ethics and Science, Dr. Free-Ride recounts the story of Louis Pasteur himself, who undertook his foundational experiments at a time when “your morning milk could be a good source of calcium and tuberculosis.”

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Food for Thought

i-eb16704199f38067335eef1c139ca54b-foodthoughtbuzz.jpg‘Tis the season, time for many of us to eat as much as we swore we wouldn’t. But before you cozy up beside the fire with a pound of chocolates and a quart of egg nog, see if these articles won’t sate your appetite. First, on Casaubon’s Book, Sharon Astyk cites a recent statistic that America wastes 40% of its food supply, and offers practical ways for us to improve our eating efficiency. Then on The World’s Fair, Benjamin Cohen says that for sustainable eating to really take off, we must “reduce costs by reconfiguring price structures based on local economies.” On Tomorrow’s Table, Pamela Ronald pans the poor excuse for fruitcake that’s sold at the supermarket, and tells us how to make the real thing. And on Tetrapod Zoology, Darren Naish shows us the dire consequences of biting off more than you can chew—again, and again, and again. Finally, visit Ed Yong for your RDI of Not Exactly Rocket Science, where he suggests that the proper nutrient balance can promote both longevity and fecundity, characteristics which typically demonstrate an inverse relationship.

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Eating Your Words

i-f8b24259e4cb4a4f197409c0bc261682-smorgasbord_small1.jpgWe often hear that “you are what you eat,” but the relationship between what goes in our bodies and what our bodies make of it is really quite complex. On Respectful Insolence, Orac laments that “diet does not have nearly as large an effect as we had hoped” on the prevention of cancer, and that by the time we reach adulthood, dietary interventions may be too late. Elsewhere, Joseph on Corpus Callosum examines a new study which suggests that drinking coffee lowers the risk of hepatitis C progression in afflicted individuals. Bucking the study’s correlative conclusion, he says it’s “not possible to generalize” about such a select population. On Guilty Planet, Jennifer Jacquet cautions against nutritional narcissism, saying that healthy eating is about more than “me and my body,” it’s about “my community, my country, my planet.” In a separate post, she shows us the first photo taken of a coral eating a jellyfish, making that old adage sound more dubious than ever.

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