Restaurant Meals Can Make You Fat

Even if you eat in upscale restaurants in the U.S. or most other high-income countries, you normally are served meals with considerably more calories than you need. If you want to maintain a “Normal” BMI (Body Mass Index) you need to eat only a portion of the meal and take the rest home. It is even worse if you either (1) eat in downscale restaurants or (2) eat at fancy restaurants with 10-course “tasting menus. And if you eat enough to weigh 100 pounds or more too much you can expect to die 14 years younger than a person with normal BMI.

Music Training May Increase Longevity … and Hearing

It may be that “Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast”, but it also may reward musicians with longer lives and better hearing, depending on when and how long those musicians were engaged in music training. Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory has studied how music affects the human brain for some years, and released their latest study in late 2011.

These results have not apparently led to a big increase in sales of instruments nor music lessons during the last five years, but should have been motivating, or at least interesting to those who contemplate their own mortality. But there are some caveats. Apparently it is best if one has learned music in childhood and continued to play an instrument for at least 10 years, even if there has been a gap of several decades between then and when s/he starts to play again. Another caveat is that the modest number of research studies, none with sample sizes exceeding 100, may not be statistically significant.

On the positive side, however, a musician’s being able to pick out other musicians’ notes helps him/her hear better because of being able to hear a conversation in a noisy environment. Better hearing means that one is less isolated from society, which helps one age more gracefully. And musical activity improves memory, again a defense against aging.

Most of the research focuses on instrumentalists, but an elusive Harvard/Yale study found that vocalists benefit similarly, apparently even more so if they sing with a group.

One simple aspect that seems to have been mostly ignored is the cardiovascular exercise that accompanies musical efforts. This has been most noted in the case of conductors, but some instrumentalists like drummers and all members of marching bands get considerable exercise.

Drinking Too Much Water Can Kill Soldiers … or You

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“Death in combat is understandable. Death during training should not be occurring.” The problem is drinking too much water in combination with having too little electrolytes. It is not clear how effective Gatorade and its ilk are. One alternative from the past is switchel, an old-fashioned drink used (mostly during haying season, the hottest time of summer) to prevent farmhands from over-hydrating. There are different recipes, but the one my grandmother recalled was a combination of water, vinegar, ginger, and honey (of course, coming from a family of beekeepers, the sweetener was honey) Its main purpose was to prevent illness from drinking too much water (called “water intoxication”); horses have to be prevented from the same thing. Part of the death/illness prevention came from the taste of the stuff; you had to be pretty thirsty to drink anything approaching too much.

Gluten-Free: The Latest Dopey Food Fad

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America is blessed with amazing amounts and varieties of foodstuffs. Unfortunately, it is also cursed with the amazing amounts and varieties of both charlatans and well-meaning-but-naïve citizens who preach wide-of-the-mark eating habits and diets. And a lot of those charlatans are large food companies with whopping ad budgets.

We have had low-fat diets, low-carbohydrate diets (e.g., the Atkins Diet), a flock of diet systems (Weight Watchers et al), the Mediterranean Diet, and lots of others. The latest is the gluten-free diet, which has nicely been debunked by Sophie Egan. Ms. Egan makes the interesting point that Americans are judging their food based on what the foods lack rather than what they contain, which probably is a consequence of people’s being more concerned about dieting to lose weight than about eating sane amounts of nutritious food to stay healthy.

“Sports Fan” : More “Fan” Than “Sport”

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Most sports involve motion, strength, endurance, and other features that help keep us fit and healthy. And they take some level of commitment to initiate and continue. Most everyone would agree that this leads to a longer and healthier life. But you have to actually participate to get these benefits. Just watching doesn’t do it. In fact, the food and drink you consume while sitting and watching—either in front of your TV set or in a stadium or other venue–may actually shorten your life and make you less fit. (Another life-shortening activity is to waste time commenting on your favorite or least-favorite sports team after articles such as this. Better to turn off your PC or tablet or smartphone and do something active.) True, if you make the trek to watch in person, you may get some benefit from walking and climbing stairs, being jostled by other fans, etc. But you would be far better off by forgetting the watching and actually engaging in some sport. And never, never hire someone whose resume mainly features a hobby of sports fan.