Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Here is a fascinating discussion on NPR’s Forum from earlier this year on the subject of mercury and fish:

If you’ve listened to this the whole way through (which you should), I’m curious as to how it will affect your habits, if at all.  And why?

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I just tweeted on a subject that I suspected would cause a stir, and so it has, I’m moving it here:

RafeFurst: I strongly support a soda tax! RT @mobilediner: check it out:  a Soda Tax? http://amplify.com/u/dvl

coelhobruno: @RafeFurst what about diet soda? Would it be exempt?

RafeFurst: @coelhobruno no diet soda would not b exempt from tax.  Tax should be inversely proportional to total nutritional content.  Spinach = no tax

Lauren Baldwin: I do as well … and while they are at it they should tax fake fruit juice too.

Kevin Dick: I think this would be an interesting experiment. I predict a tax does not cause any measurable decrease in BMI.

Kim Scheinberg: New York has had this under consideration for a year.  Perhaps surprisingly, I’m against it. In theory, people will drink less soda. In reality, it will just be another tax on people who can afford it the least.

Leaving aside the “rights” issues and just focusing on effectiveness, I guess we can look towards cigarette taxes and gasoline taxes and see what the lessons are.  What do these forebears suggest?

As an FYI, there is supposedly a new total nutritional score (zero to 100) that is to be mandated on all food in the U.S. by the FDA.  Can anyone corroborate this and its current status?  Presumably this would be the number to base a tax on.

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Given everything I hear about obesity stats in the U.S. and malnutrition in the developing world, the last thing I was expecting to find in my inbox this morning was a plea to join a Facebook cause to help end hunger in America.  Really?

I’m usually not skeptical in this way, and I’m loath to focus on the negative when it comes to philanthropy, but I can’t get these thoughts out of my head and I’d like some perspective from those who are better informed about the alleged U.S. hunger crisis.  In the mean time, here’s my food for thought:


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1. Smile.

2. Spend time with friends, or even try and make a new one.

3. Help another person. Donate a small amount of money, that has nominal value to you, but significant value to someone else. (Kiva, Vittana Foundation.)

4. Quit Smoking. It might be even worse for you today.

5. Stop worrying about tomorrow.

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If, like Aubrey de Grey, you believe that immortality is achievable, or you are just intrigued by the possibility, you should check out this news story on The Methuselah Foundation.


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As part of President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, NIH is awarding $200 million in “Challenge Grants.” But, according to Science Magazine, these grants are far more competitive than initially intended:

A frantic grant-writing effort that has consumed biomedical research scientists this spring came to an end last week, resulting in a huge pile of new applications—more than 10 times larger than expected—to be reviewed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). After this enthusiastic response, there will be many disappointed applicants: The rejection rate could run as high as 97%.

Increased time cost spent not just applying for money but also reviewing applications to allocate the funds. Additionally, many qualified researchers chose not to apply for funding after hearing how competitive the grants were. Is this a good thing? Does this competition result in better science? Could there be a better way to allocate scientific funding?

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With flu the incubation period ranges from 24 hours to four days, meaning people often are infectious before they have symptoms. Unless already feeling ill, the majority of people assume they haven’t been infected and behave accordingly. Perhaps, instead, they should act as though they are infected until proven wrong. If a person knows they are infected they will certainly not shake hands or kiss. They will wear a mask (masks are more effective in preventing transmission than in preventing reception of the virus) when they need to go into public areas. They will be more fastidious with this mindset than by assuming they are not sick. (It is not suggested that people stay home from work as that cure might be more harmful than the disease.) This interruption behavior could drastically reduce the transmission rates.

Changing the mindset could change the outcome.

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