As Valentines Day approaches, Geezer passes on some advice from the New York Times that could be useful, or not. Writer Sarah Kershaw takes the search for culinary aphrodisiacs to medical researchers and food studies scientists and comes away a big picture answer: of all the senses, only smell bypasses the conscious parts of the brain and goes directly to the limbic system, the region responsible for basic memory, motivation and emotion. That’s one reason there is a strong connection between scent, emotion, and sexual attraction. On the more practical level, readers hoping for what the Times describes as a “satisfying conclusion” to a Valentines dinner should steer clear of cherries, whose smell, the Times reports, “caused a sharp drop in excitation among women, as did the smell of meat cooked over charcoal.” What scents work in a good way? The paper cites one experiment that correlated penile and vaginal blood flow with various smells. Men responded to the scent of doughnuts mingled with licorice. For women, the Times reports, first place for most arousing was a tie between baby powder and the combination of Good & Plenty candy with cucumber. Coming in second was a combination of Good & Plenty and banana nut bread. Food for thought there. Or for other things. Read more in the New York Times.
Wasn’t alcohol found to be good for us three years ago, shortly before it was found to be not so good for us two years ago? The good news, or not news, is that alcohol is good for us, again, according to a study published recently in the British Medical Journal. The BBC reports that reseachers at the University of Calgary who reviewed 84 pieces of research between 1980 and 2009 have found a 14 percent to 25 percent reduction in heart disease in moderate drinkers compared with people who had never drunk alcohol. BBC reports that another article, by the same Canadian research group, showed alcohol increased “good” cholesterol levels. The researchers also say regular moderate drinking reduced all forms of cardiovascular disease by up to 25 percent.
Boys, in the case of one recent study, boys between the ages of 12 and 17, get a greater rush from coffee than do girls in the same age group. Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo studied 26 boys and 26 girls between the ages of 12 and 17, who were given a beverage containing 50 mg, 100 mg or 200 mg of caffeine, or one with no caffeine that served as a placebo. Blood pressure and heart rate measurements were taken every 10 minutes during the first hour. In addition to the differences in the subjects reported responses to caffeine–the boys said it improved their athletic performance; the girls did not; the researchers found that diastolic blood pressure increased and heart rate decreased as percentage of caffeine increased in males, but not in females. No word on gender differences in older subjects.
Yes, it’s funny how this news broke just a few days before Valentine’s Day: Web MD reports that researchers have found the antioxidant activity of dark chocolate and cocoa powder to be equivalent to or higher than that found in some other so-called “super fruit” powders or juices, including acai berry, blueberry, cranberry, and pomegranate. Two groups of antioxidants in particular, polyphenols and flavonols, which are found in various fruits and seeds, have been the focus of much research. Foods and fruits high in these antioxidants have been dubbed as “super foods” or “super fruits” by the media.
In other dark chocolate news, the common Valentine’s Day gift has been found to lower blood pressure.
In an interview with the Boston Globe, Men’s Health magazine editor David Zinczenko offers this advice for losing five pounds after the holidays:
“Cut out empty calories like soda. We’re drinking 450 calories a day. There’s no nutrition in soda. That alone is 30 pounds lost.
Do at-home exercises. Like five to 15 minutes in the morning. It gets your metabolism revving for the day.
And if you can eat at home more often, you can lose 10 pounds in a year and save money and time.”
This Thanksgiving, Geezer is giving thanks to Google, which makes it possible for him to remember (and copy) some of what he wrote last Thanksgiving, and the Thanksgiving before that, et cetera.
Geezer was surprised to learn that he had already done the math to calculate how many hours a 160- pound man would have to walk to burn the calories normally consumed at a Thanksgiving meal. According to this handy calories burned chart, walking burns about 250 calories an hour. And according to this discouraging Thanksgiving calorie counter, a typical Thanksgiving meal delivers 4,575 calories. Yes Virginia, the numbers are discouraging. If you start walking at 7p.m., you will burn the last of your Thanksgiving related calories 18 hours later, at 1 p.m. on Friday. Have fun.
Energy drinks, much derided by Geezer as little more than water, sodium, potassium and sugar, have been shown to increase the endurance of young (12 to 14-year-old) and very amateur athletes. The University of Edinburgh reports that researchers at the school measured the performance of 15 adolescents during exercise designed to
simulate the physical demands of team games such as football, rugby and
hockey. The researchers found that drinking a 6 per cent carbohydrate-electrolyte
solution (containing carbohydrate, sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium) improved endurance capacity up to 24 percent, but did not make people run
faster during high-intensity intermittent exercise.
Men’s Health, a veritable monthly book of lists, entertains us with its annual presentation of the 10 worst fast foods that fast money can buy, as well as a more healthful alternative for each listing. Presented in no particular order, the list includes:
Sports drinks, which are for the most part water, with sodium, potassium and often, sugar, can help sustain us during a workout on a hot day, but the component that is offers the most sustenance is water. The LA Times, citing authoritative sources, points out that the benefit we get from the sodium and potassium really isn’t needed by most people who do a moderate workout. Sports nutrition consultant Nancy Carter, the author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, tells the Times that sports drinks are for an hour to an hour-and-a-half or more of hard
exercise, like a 100-mile bike ride or a 10-mile run. As for the sugar, we don’t need that at all. Bottom line, the Times says, for a moderate half-hour workout, stick with water.
It ended 12,000 years ago, and resurfaced recently in southern California. Paleolithic fitness, an epochal part of the Ancestral Health movement, promises health and fitness as we knew it back in the day, the Paleolithic day. Followers endorse a diet similar to that of “our paleolithic ancestors,” — a combination of lean meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Dr. Loren Cordain, co-author of The Paleo Diet for Athletes, and its mass market counterpart, The Paleo Diet, explains that “his concept represents the ‘unified field theory’ of nutrition that has
until now been lacking.” At least for some time..
Now comes a reporter from public radio station WBUR, visiting a group of Paleo lifestylers who swear that a Paleo diet–no processed foods, no sugar, no whole grains, legumes or dairy, but lots of meat–has drastically improved their health–no more eczema, allergies, acne
or stomach issues. But diet, of course, is only one part of any lifestyle. WBUR reports that Paleo fitness includes several exercise routines that emphasize heavy-duty strength and agility training, rather than
cardio. No machines, WBUR reports, just leaping, crouching, sprinting and endless
dead-lifts. Reader who regard this as another soon-to-be-history fad are reminded that the Paleolithic Age last 2.5 million years.