Stories tagged food


Anorexia: Model: Ma. Jose Zambrano
Anorexia: Model: Ma. Jose ZambranoCourtesy José Miguel Serrano
A few years ago, some close friends called with the grim and heartbreaking news that their 21 year-old daughter had committed suicide. My first reaction was anger. Why would she do something like that? How could she cause such heartache for her family and friends? I knew she had been battling with the eating disorder known as anorexia nervosa since high school, but as it turns out I was totally oblivious to the magnitude of her disease. I knew nothing of the agony she had suffered or the struggle her family had gone through dealing with it. But it all became clear once she gave up hope and decided not to fight it anymore. At her funeral, memorial posters included shocking photographs of her decimated person wasting away in the throes of her disease. And in the weeks following, when my friends would relate stories of their desperate efforts to get their daughter to take in nourishment, or their exasperating attempts to get her back into treatment, or the hardships of just taking care of her in their own home, it became all too obvious that in her last years their poor daughter had led a very tortured and depressing struggle against herself.

But that’s how devastating anorexia nervosa can be. It’s an extremely puzzling and potentially deadly eating disorder characterized by a distorted body image, self-starvation, and excessive weight loss. One researcher described it as the body digesting its own nervous system. Nine out of ten of those diagnosed with the disease are female, and while it’s long been considered a white, suburban disorder, it’s now recognized that it can occur across all social and economic barriers. Incidents of the disease have risen since the 1950s, and some researchers blame the rise on the heavy cultural emphasis of beauty defined by flawless and very thin models.

But new research ties the troubling disorder to prenatal genetics and disrupted brain chemistry.

In the first study, it appears sex steroid hormones released by the mother into the womb during pregnancy could set up the female fetus for anorexia later in life. Researchers reached this conclusion after studying data from thousands of twins born in Sweden between 1935 and 1958. When comparing sets of female twins against sets of male twins, the females were statistically more likely to develop anorexia than the males, just as expected. However, with mixed-sex twins, the male was as likely to become anorexic as the female. This signaled to scientists that more than likely the triggering mechanism had to do with something taking place during pregnancy.

The second study, which was done by University of Pittsburg researchers, tested both anorexic and healthy patients while monitoring their brains with a magnetic resonance imaging device, Those subjects suffering from anorexia – and even those who were recovering from it - displayed unusual patterns of activity in regions of the brain associated with anxiety and perfectionism. Test questions were given and correct answers were rewarded. In the healthy women, the activity in the brain’s emotion-response center showed distinct differences when they won compared to when they lost. But the women with a history of anorexia showed very little emotional response no matter which way they answered.

Dr. Walter Kaye, the study’s head author, thinks this could affect how a person suffering from anorexia experiences the normally positive responses derived from eating food.

“For anorexics, then, perhaps it is difficult to appreciate immediate pleasure if it does not feel much different from a negative experience”, he said.

The study’s findings appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry and could lead to new developments in fighting the disorder.

Since their daughter’s death, my friends have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders, including establishing a treatment center in their daughter's name. And as that awareness grows, a tremendous amount of information has become available for anyone looking for answers and help.

Finally, the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week takes place from February 24 - March 1, 2008. If interested in participating you can learn more about it and register here.


Eating Disorder and Referral Information Center
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
More Anorexia info
Anna Westin Foundation
More Links on Squidoo Health
Karen Carpenter's struggle with Anorexia

Researchers in Honduras have uncovered evidence of the earliest known use of chocolate. Residues in pottery indicate that some American Indians were fermenting chocolate fruit into an alcoholic drink as much as 2,400 years ago.

Evidence of the most recent use of chocolate can be found in my garbage can pretty much any day of the week.


Sleep good!: A midday nap is good for your health. Photo by alykat from

A perfect post for a Monday morning...

The new book Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream by Jennifer Ackerman explores a wide range of new findings in human physiology. According to a review in the NY Times,

A host of new hormones have been discovered to govern appetite and satiety, and while the doldrums that follow lunch are still not completely understood, recent research strongly supports a brief nap to treat them.

So the next time the boss catches me napping at my desk, I’ll have bona-fide scientific research to back me up – all the way to the unemployment line.


Name needed: The apple variety, currently known at the University of Minnesota Arboretum as MN-447, needs a proper name. What do you think this small, sweet and sometimes cracked apple should be called? Send in your suggestion.
Name needed: The apple variety, currently known at the University of Minnesota Arboretum as MN-447, needs a proper name. What do you think this small, sweet and sometimes cracked apple should be called? Send in your suggestion.
A few years ago, actress Gwyneth Paltrow named her new-born son Apple. Now you have the chance to name an apple.

The University of Minnesota is taking suggestions for a more proper name for one of its research apples. It’s currently known as MN-447. And who really wants to go by MN-447, right?

The apple has actually been around for some time, although it hasn’t been put out on the commercial market. It’s a breeding apple that’s been used to create new varieties of apples, including the U’s world-famous Honeycrisp.

According to apple researchers at the U, while it has some great genetic characteristics to pass along to other apples, it isn’t exactly the “apple of the eye” to consumers. It is a smaller apple that often cracks around the top and has a strange flavor that’s been compared to Hawaiian Punch, molasses and sugarcane on steroids.

In taste tests, usually five or ten percent of samplers give it high marks. But it’s exactly that small group, a niche market, that the university wants to provide an apple to. And it wants to market it with a better name than MN-447.

Hmmmmm? What would be some good names for this particular apple? It’s small, very sweet and sometimes a bit cracked. How about “Harpo” after Harpo Marx. Or maybe something more contemporary like “Howie” after Howie Mandel from Deal or No Deal.

You can submit your own name suggestion for MN-447 by clicking in the "What's New" section at through Oct. 31. Here are some of the names that have already been suggested: Tropical Blizzard, Tropical Punch, Arctic Blast, Arctic Oasis, Polar Picnic, Northern Nugget, Hardy Tropical Punch, Tundra Crunch, Nordic Delight, Sugar Cane, Cold Snap, Iceberg.


Or, I think… I think the world wins, actually.
The Field of Dreams: Heroes are made here. And hot dogs are eaten. And hot dogs are eaten. And hot dogs are eaten. (photo by wallyg on Flickr)
The Field of Dreams: Heroes are made here. And hot dogs are eaten. And hot dogs are eaten. And hot dogs are eaten. (photo by wallyg on Flickr)

At any rate, the American Joey Chestnut has finally toppled the Godzilla of Gluttony, Takeru Kobayashi of Japan, from the greasy throne of the world-champion competitive hot dog eater.

Kobayashi has dominated this sport of kings since 2001, until a qualifying match last month, when San Jose native Joey Chestnut downed 59.5 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes, solidly topping Kobayashi’s previous record of 53.75.

After several weeks during which Kobayashi’s website claimed that the athlete was suffering from a recently-extracted wisdom tooth, the contenders have now met at “Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest” in Coney Island. While Chestnut pulled out to an early lead, he was never more than three hot dogs ahead of Kobayashi, and in the last several minutes of the race Kobayashi made a valiant effort to finish in a tie. After 12 minutes, both contestants appeared to have eaten 63 hot dogs, but after comparing scraps left on the plate, and food still in the mouth (and able to be swallowed) at the buzzer, it was determined that Joey Chestnut had eaten… 66 hot dogs. Whoa.
Here’s some perspective on 66 hot dogs:

    66 Hot Dogs (minus buns)

  • 396 inches of hot dog
  • 3.43 kg, or 7.54 lbs
  • Contains meat from:
    1. cows
    2. pigs
    3. chickens
    4. other hot dogs
  • Exactly 66 times greasier than a single hot dog
  • More hot dogs than the entire state of Idaho will eat all year

And, again, this is all without the buns. The buns (66) alone could have been used to construct a very awesome fort. Now that fort is in Joey Chestnut’s tummy. I would live in that fort.

The Body of a Competitive Eater

Takeru Kobayashi began his career in sports as a 5’ 7”, 110-pounder. He is currently hovering around 196 pounds (although his height has remained the same), and claims to be under 10 percent body fat. According to some, slender men and women often make excellent competitive eaters due to a lack of a “fat belt,” which restricts the elasticity of the stomach. Joey Chestnut is 6’ 3” tall, and around 220 pounds, and apparently controls the elasticity of his stomach through pure will power.

Stomach elasticity is credited as the key to dominance in competitive eating, and “competitors commonly train by drinking large amounts of water over a short time to stretch out the stomach.” The International Federation of Competitive Eating - and I - strongly discourage this method. Because it can kill you. In fact, the International Federation of Competitive Eating discourages training of any sorts.

Why competitive eating is only for professionals like Chestnut and Kobayashi

Like many of our more glorious sports (e.g. NASCAR, lawn darts, snake-handling, etc.), competitive eating is certainly not without its risks. Obesity and diabetes are, of course, associated with chronic overeating (although restricting caloric intake while not competing may allow competitors to remain healthy in this respect). Also, many physicians worry that stretching the stomach can reduce its ability to function. Vomiting –a disqualifying action, which it, you know, sometimes just happens – can lead to esophageal tearing and infection, and, obviously, simple choking is a serious consideration.

So, people, always remember to eat safely and responsibly. And, this Fourth of July weekend, take a moment to think of one of our country’s newest heroes: Joey Chestnut.

PS – Civilizations of the future are going to think we were so cool.

”The majors”

Some things to learn about hot dogs. Nutritionally.

Competitive eating

The straight story


Green insulation: That plate of oyster mushrooms you're going to eat could soon be the insulation inside the walls of your home if two young researchers continue to have success with their plans for "Greensulate," insulation that's made from mushrooms and other renewable products. (Photo by ulterior epicure)
Green insulation: That plate of oyster mushrooms you're going to eat could soon be the insulation inside the walls of your home if two young researchers continue to have success with their plans for "Greensulate," insulation that's made from mushrooms and other renewable products. (Photo by ulterior epicure)
Maybe the Hobbits and those little creatures from the fairy tales were on to something. Mushrooms may just be the thing when it comes to insulating your home or building.

Researchers are using mushrooms as a key ingredient in “Greensulate,” an environmentally-friendly, renewal form of insulation. Here’s the recipe for the insulating boards that are fire resistant and organic: water, flour, oyster mushroom spores and perlite, a mineral that is often found in potting soil.

You won’t find “Greensulate” at a building supplies store near for at least another year. More work needs to be done to make the concept commercially viable. But a team of researchers is confident that they’re on to a good, green idea.

So far, the two 20-something developers, college graduates just this spring, have been growing the concoctions under their beds. But they’ve applied for grant money from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance.

So far, so good with the testing results. A one-inch thick piece of “Greensulate” had a 2.9 R-value, the scale used for rating insulation. Most current commercially produced fiberglass insulation has an R-value of between 2.7 and 3.7.

The beauty of “Greensulate” is that it doesn’t take a lot of energy or toxic materials to produce. Here's how it works: A mixture of water, mineral particles, starch and hydrogen peroxide are poured into 7-by-7-inch molds and then injected with living mushroom cells. The hydrogen peroxide is used to prevent the growth of other specimens within the material.

Placed in a dark environment, the cells start to grow, digesting the starch as food and sprouting thousands of root-like cellular strands. A within two weeks, a 1-inch-thick panel of insulation is fully grown. It's then dried to prevent fungal growth, making it unlikely to trigger mold and fungus allergies. The finished product resembles a giant cracker in texture.

The inventors also envision using the process to create building walls, like sheetrock, that could be installed and provide good insulating properties.

There’s no word, yet, if people living and working inside those walls will feel especially happy or have the munchies!


Poison found in food and drugs from China.

Melamine: poisoned pets
Melamine: poisoned pets
In recent months, multiple deaths of people and pets have been blamed on Chinese ingredients. At least 51 people in Panama died after taking medicine containing diethylene glycol falsely labeled as glycerin from China. The same poisonous ingredient was found in toothpaste traced back to China. China was also blamed for 14,000 reports of sickened pets due to tainted pet food.

In recent years, for instance, China’s food safety scandals have involved everything from fake baby milk formulas and soy sauce made from human hair to instances where cuttlefish were soaked in calligraphy ink to improve their color and eels were fed contraceptive pills to make them grow long and slim. New York Times

Melamine fools food testers

Melamine, a cheap plastic made from oil, and when added to animal feed, looks like protein in tests.

“It just saves money if you add melamine scrap,” says a manager of an animal feed factory in China.

Melanine in food is illegal in the United States. Sixteen pet deaths linked to melanine led to the recall of 60 million packages of pet food.

China needs to improve food and drug regulations.

China's former top drug regulator was sentenced to death today for taking bribes to approve substandard medicines, including an antibiotic blamed for at least 10 deaths.

Zheng's acts "greatly undermined ... the efficiency of China's drug monitoring and supervision, endangered public life and health and had a very negative social impact," the court said.

Under a nationwide safety campaign launched Monday, 90 administration inspectors will be sent to 15 provinces over the next two weeks. The government also announced plans for its first recall system for unsafe products. Hopefully China will learn that regulating food and drug safety is worth while.

Not a chicken eating a spider. But a giant spider eating a dead chicken. More photos here.

Seriously, what more do I need to say?


Lobster: death by boiling. Courtesy sooz.
So you think that boiling lobsters alive to get to their meat it too inhumane? Whole Foods markets did to. So now they will only be selling lobster meat processed with the Avure 687L food processing machine. This giant gadget, essentially squeezes the lobster to death under huge water pressure, separating its meat from its shell. Crazy. Trevor Corson's description of the whole deal is quite interesting. Ahhhh, food science, it makes you hungry huh?