‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Crafty Craft Crap

I hope you're reading this with your craft beer in one hand and your craft soda in the other... No, that's a lie. And that's "craft" not "Kraft", even though Kraft had some recent bad publicity re our national US dietitian academy. But yeah, we're covering "craft" food.

Strolled through your supermarket lately and seen craft beer? Maybe craft bread or craft cheese? Or most recently, craft soda? The more 'whole-foods' your supermarket is, the more likely you've seen them.

What the heck is 'craft' anyway?
Good question! I searched, but alas I could not find how the FDA defines 'craft' with relation to food. This leads me to believe there is no legally binding definition. Kind of like other claims commonly used to persuade you to buy food... Like 'natural', or 'wholesome'.

The layman's definition of 'craft food' is something like this: "Food prepared carefully using superior quality ingredients, contrast to fast food". So by that definition, I made craft oatmeal this morning and a craft peanut butter and banana sandwich for lunch, oh and let's not forget that craft omelet with craft sauteed veggies I crafted for dinner.

The other catch word is 'artisan'. Definition: "Traditionally handmade, rural or pastoral goods but are also now commonly made on a larger scale". Thank you wikipedia for that definition.

Clever. Makes you think you're special. Makes you think your beer or bread was made just for you. Makes you think your brew was crafted by the artistic, organic hands of Samuel Adams himself, rather than the finance-focused marketing department.

Craft soda or crafty soda? A reality check.
The ingredients in a carbonated beverage: Carbonated water, a sweetener, an acid, spices/flavours.
How do these differ between craft and conventional?
  • Craft tends to use 'purified' carbonated water, not just regular carbonated water
    • Note: Whoopty-damn-do
  • Craft uses real sugar, compared with some large companies who use high fructose corn syrup
    • Note #1: Based on the research, my opinion is that sugar is preferable to HFCS
    • Note #2: Sugar does not make soda healthy
    • Note #3: A multitude of studies implicate soda consumption in obesity, type II diabetes, insulin resistance, and ultimately... Death
  • Craft uses an acid like citric acid compared to phosphoric acid (PA)
    • Note #1: People blame PA for low bone density
    • Note #2: Research shows the phosphorus:calcium ratio in a meal (and overall diet) is important. Saying PA causes low bone density is not correct. A diet high in phosphorus and simultaneously low in calcium, causes low bone density

The soundbite? 
Soda is not healthy, period. Your body doesn't care two hoots if you spent $7 on a craft soda vs $1 on a regular one. If you really want to treat yourself to a soda, buy the one you like... Just don't delude yourself into thinking 'craft' is healthier.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Slippery Slope of Sleeplessness pt II

Last article I scared you sleepy about lack of sleep spurring obesity, and obesity spawning sleep-related diseases that prevent you sleeping soundly... Yes, that happened. This week, let's discuss your bedroom habits and surmise how to make your time between the sheets a superior sleeping experience.

Many things impact sleep, including the stresses of life like World hunger, making your rent or mortgage, picking a filter on Instagram, Facebook-stalking an ex, and watching the latest Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey.

Where for art thou point?
  • 62% of parents and 45% of kids have a TV in their room
  • 45% of parents and 30% of kids have a smartphone/tablet in their room
  • 26% of parents and 16% of kids report having sent/read emails or texts after initially going to sleep
  • Children who sometimes leave electronic devices on overnight sleep significantly less than children who turn devices off or don't have them in their bedroom
  • Having, and enforcing "bedtime rules" like time spent watching TV, caffeine consumption, time on smartphones/cell phones/tablets/video games, is correlated with significantly longer sleep times
Ok, so the important part here is 'electronic devices'. The decisive devices that divide the generations. The above survey found that within a typical 7 day period, 90% of Americans use some type of electronic device within 1 hour of going to bed. Hold that thought... We need some back-story.

What is the "Circadian Rhythm" and why should we care about it?
You've heard of your body's 24 hours clock, right? This is it. The Circadian Rhythms or Cycles are physical, mental and behavioural patterns that roughly follow a 24 hour cycle. The most potent environmental signal for your 24 hour clock is light and darkness. Humans, plants and even bacteria have these cycles. Ok, now we can press on.

What in blithering blazes is "blue light"?
Blue light is short-wavelength light (compared with longer-wavelength light). Research shows blue light disrupts your 24 hour clock. Devices like smartphones, tablets, computers, TVs, etc emit blue light.

Ok, back to devices that deliberately disallow one to drift into slumber. It's long been hypothesised that blue light and electronic devices used before bed impact sleep. A new study found devices emitting blue light suppressed melatonin release by 55%. By the by, melatonin is a sleep-promoting hormone.

The study also found that people who used blue light-emitting devices in the hours before bed:
  • Took significantly longer to fall asleep
  • Had reduced evening sleepiness
  • Displayed reduced melatonin secretion
  • Had later timing of their circadian clock
  • Had reductions in the amount of REM sleep, and delays in the onset of REM sleep
  • Were less alert the next morning
Look, it's impossible to shun technology, and sometimes it is necessary to use a device before bed. I'm a millennial, my phone sleeps on the nightstand and wakes me with a horrendous tune in the morning.

Remember from Pt I that lack of sleep plays with your body's ability to control hunger and appetite? Sacrificing sleep doesn't just turn you into a sleep-deprived zombie, it can transform you into a stout stupefied snack-snatching sleepyhead... That's definitely not healthy.

I'm not going to tell you to stop using your devices, or read a book and do yoga before bed (but if you want to...) If you want to sleep better, start small:
  • Set your alarm early in the evening so it's taken care of
  • Try to finish work/reading on devices before dinner
  • Find ways to relax without the TV, Xbox and phone
  • If you love your e-reader, invest in one that doesn't emit blue light (see list here)
All I'm saying is, knowledge is power. If you want to sleep better, be smart about your priorities.
May sleep be with you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Slippery Slope of Sleeplessness pt I

Remember as a kid you wanted to stay up all night? If you've babysat a kid lately and heard the bedtime protest, maybe you've thought to yourself... Geez, I'll go to bed and you can stay up! Sleep is something that eludes many adults. It's stressful being a grown up and dealing with bills, work and Instagram. But children are starting to share in our grown up sleep-deficiency. Why is this a problem? Let us count the ways...

First up, it's worth knowing how much sleep you actually need:
  • Infants - 12-17 hours
  • Toddlers - 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers - 10-13 hours
  • School age - 9-11 hours
  • Teens - 8-10 hours 
  • Adult years - 9-10 hours
Detailed description here.

The importance of sleep at a basic level covers things like mood, well-being, the ability to function by way of constructing a complete sentence or concentrating effectively at school/work, and "health".
 "Health" is a very broad. For the purpose of this article, let's break it down to these:
  • Sleep disorders
  • Diet
  • Obesity
Research finds 25-50% of preschoolers don't get enough sleep. The study found sleep-disordered breathing (including snoring, sleep apnea and mouth-breathing) strongly predicted obesity risk.

How does that work?
People who don't sleep enough are at a higher risk of obesity. People who don't sleep enough experience changes in their metabolism and hormone levels responsible for regulating hunger and appetite. Thus, feeling hungry and eating more is a sorry side effect for sleep-deprived zombies.

A vicious cycle
If lack of sleep increases one's risk of obesity, how does gaining more weight and becoming more obese impact one's ability to sleep? Negatively. Worsening one, worsens the other. Morbid yes, but face this ugly truth we must.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of apnea. OSA is characterised by repeated events of upper airway obstruction occurring whilst sleeping. It often includes snoring, fragmented sleep and daytime sleepiness. Some sobering stats about OSA:
  • Prevalence of OSA in obese people is 30%
  • Prevalence of OSA in morbidly obese people is 50-98%
  • 60-90% of OSA patients are overweight 
Fatty tissue accumulated on the abdomen, neck and chest, and within the walls/muscles lining the airway (all associated with obesity) contribute to restricted upper airway size... Thus, OSA. Think about it, sleeping with a 50lb sack of sand on your chest would probably make breathing difficult... Or your boob-job went horribly wrong (sorry, no photo for that).

The good news: Weight reduction leads to substantial OSA improvement.
What to do?
Research found that young shorter-sleepers had significantly higher obesity markers (eg: BMI, body fat, waist and hip circumference and fat mass index). They also had poorer diet quality, which includes things like not eating enough fruit, veg and fish.

Weight gain is particularly associated with lack of sleep in younger age groups (1, 2). It is therefore pertinent to "get on this" when kids are young. Setting kids up for a healthy, happy adulthood is kinda important... and it starts all in the bedroom.

In the next installment of The Slippery Slope of Sleeplessness (pt II) we'll examine your bedside manner and how you stack up in the bedroom department. Sleep on it till next article.