Weekend Diversions 1.31.16

I failed. I did not post yesterday, which means I have broken my streak and my pledge. My excuse: I was at work all day and did not make time before, during or after to write. I am mostly okay with this lapse, however, because I missed the act of writing and that is proof writing is becoming a habit, my ultimate goal. Tuesday will mark one month since I decided to write for four continuous weeks. Once I reach that benchmark, my posting will probably drop down to once or twice per week, which is much more manageable than my current daily schedule. I hope this will give me the opportunity to write more in depth pieces. 

Now for the weekly readings, all health-related. 

  1. Eating Right Can Save the World: Tim Zimmerman wrote this insightful article for Outside Magazine about the impact our food choices have on the environment. He interviewed environmentalists, chefs, farmers and scientists to uncover research about what we eat. The article discusses the amount of carbon created by beef, pork, chicken, fish and vegetables production; the amount of resources (especially water) needed to create adequate nutrition from each source; and the most sustainable ways to feed the planet. Although a vegan himself, Zimmerman does not shy away from the transportation costs associated with shipping produce long distances. He also delves into the debate about organic versus non-organic. He collects solid data on myriad food production systems and allows readers to decide which environmental costs they are willing to incur. 
  2. Bad thoughts can’t make you sick, that’s just magical thinking: The premise of researcher Angela Kennedy’s argument is that anxiety cannot really create health problems and should not blamed for otherwise inexplicable illnesses. Instead of associating diseases with mental states (worried people are more likely to receive a diagnosis of cancer; overachievers are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease), Kennedy believes we should focus on scientific, quantitative causes. I understand not wanting to dismiss illness as merely an anxiety problem or personality glitch (thereby overlooking a potentially serious health issue) but she does not give credence to the real effect anxiety can have on the body. Stress can create a slew of negative health symptoms and increased cortisol levels are linked to increased risk of disease. Furthermore, high levels of stress can impact lifestyle habits and create unhealthy bodies that are more susceptible to disease. I do not believe it is possible to dismiss the connection between psychic and physical health.
  3. How Meditation, Placebos and Virtual Reality Help Power ‘Mind Over Body’On the topic of mind-body connection, this article from NPR. It is based on a recent interview between Fresh Air host Terri Gross and science writer Jo Marchant whose recent book, Cure, examines how our expectations and associations can influence the way our bodies interpret pain, stress and illness. Marchant found that placebo pills can cause our brains to release the same hormones stimulated by chemically engineered pills. If a Parkinson’s patient is given a placebo pill, for example, instead of their regular medicine designed to increase dopamine production, their brains will still create this hormone. The key might be in the feelings of safety and being taken care of engendered by the placebo pill, in conjunction with the patients’ expectations for a positive outcome. This research could have a profound impact on the way doctors approach care, resulting in more holistic methods of treating illness. 

Now tell me, what interesting stories have caught your eye this week? 

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