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Food

It's either almost worthless or downright dangerous?and we STILL eat too much of it! - Global warming isn't the only reason that food isn't as nutritious as it used to be, and some things, like popcorn, may be downright dangerous. Many of the foods we eat every day, including eggs and bacon, used to be full of essential nutrients, when the animals they came from were eating grass, insects, and other green foods. Now that our livestock eat mostly seeds and grains, that's no longer the case.

Omega-3s are an essential part of our diet, since they help to prevent heart disease. Researcher Susan Allport says that they originate in the green leaves of plants (not fish, as many people believe), and they accumulate in animals that eat those leaves, including fish. When livestock no longer graze, our foods are full of a second family of polyunsaturated fats, omega-6s, which are much more prevalent in the dried parts of plants, such as the dried corn which is fed to cows and chickens. These oils actually compete with omega-3s inside our cells. As our reliance on seeds and seed oils (such as canola or corn oil rather than olive oil) has increased since the turn of the last century, so has the incidence of heart disease.

Allport is the author of The Queen of Fats: Why Omega-3s were removed from our diet and what we can do to replace them."

Is one of our favorite snacks dangerous? Inhaling the artificial butter put on microwave and movie popcorn caused lung damage in mice, so what is it doing to us?

A new study by the National Institutes of Health shows that exposure to a chemical called diacetyl, a component of artificial butter flavoring, can be harmful to the nose and airways of mice, causing obliterative bronchiolitis. OB is a debilitating but rare lung disease, which has been detected recently in workers who inhale the flavoring in microwave popcorn packaging plants.

The risk to workers in popcorn plants is well documented?now scientists are trying to determine whether inhaling the vapor while EATING the popcorn (or opening it up after microwaving it at home) can be harmful as well, but in order to protect big business, the NIH may be 4reluctant to take the final step of banning butter flavor.

Meanwhile, good things come in small packages, like the Nabisco 100 Calorie Pack. But do these portion-controlled offerings help dieters lose weight? Researchers Amar Cheema and Dilip Soman say they do, because dividing food into smaller portions creates a "partitioning effect" that can dramatically affect how much we eat, reducing the rate of consumption as well as the total amount consumed.

In one study, each participant was given a box of 24 cookies and asked to record how long it took to consume them. Half of the participants' cookies were individually wrapped. The group that received the unwrapped cookies consumed them in an average of six days?compared with an average of 24 days for the group with the individually wrapped cookies.

Cheema says, "Partitions introduce a small transaction cost. In the case of 100 Calorie Packs, the cost is the action necessary to open a second package," Cheema said. "This transaction cost gives consumers the opportunity to pay attention to how much they're eating and may help many control overeating.

"Consumption is a meta-decision, one in which we decide whether or not to start eating, but don't consider each individual action. Take potato chips, for example. Once we begin eating them, we don't ask ourselves, 'Should I have another?' The introduction of a partition stops automatic behavior and forces the consumer to decide whether or not to continue eating. before each chip."

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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