Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Deep-Fried Fluff

The LA Times ran a piece of journalistic Fried Fluff on a Stick a very serious article yesterday about the fried foods being offered at this year’s LA County fair. 

The hungry and the curious follow the greasy, but alluring, scent of batter frying in hot oil to Charlie Boghosian’s stand at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona.

 When they arrive, the menu stops them in their tracks: deep-fried Twinkies, deep-friend Oreos, deep-fried avocados, deep-fried pickles, deep-fried olives and more.

 Boghosian sees himself as not just a fried-food salesman, but as a fried-food innovator. He recently saw possibilities in churros, the already deep-fried sugary treat. He bought one at a nearby stand and took it to his trailer, where he cut it into four pieces. He mixed the pieces in wet pancake batter and dunked them into a frying vat filled with 370-degree soybean oil. 

According to the – um – article, this method of preparing food at fairs is becoming increasingly common and popular. Might this increase in deep frying absolutely anything have something to do with current trend of minor increases in Americas average girth? Or with the resent introduction of HP’s ‘slim fast – the digital way’ camera ? Nah, just me. 

At the Texas State Fair (formerly known as the State Fair of Texas), birthplace of the corn dog, a vendor won best ‘taste’ category with deep-fried peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwiches. (This seems to prove that taste in food and presidents is relative.) 

Oh! And don’t miss the slide show. (Deep-fried Snickers bars?! WTF?!)

I think this is just a simple case of out of the frying pan and into the fire – um – fat!

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Slate Reviews Junk (Food)

After reading Dan Kois’ article review of pre-made school meals, I think there’s a real market for custom catered school lunches. Oh, it would cost more than the evil mass-made stuff, but nothing is too good for those future Masters of the Universe. Right?

And of course we all have spent time wondering which mothers have time or money to supply their kids with Bento. (Oh! Look! Pictures!)

Heads up: Does the Red Cross sell your frozen plasma?

Daniel Engber over at Slate has an article explaining how the American Red Cross sells blood. I’ve known that forever. He doesn’t mention that the Red Cross produces about half of its operating budget selling donated blood. (That figure is from memory but should be in the right ballpark. A Cleveland newspaper put the revenue at 67% in 1987.)

Now that I no longer live in the States, I don’t support any of the Red Crosses, American (ARC), German (DRC) or International (IRC).  Actually I don’t support any of the other shapes either. When I donate to a charity, I usually give to Doctors without borders and for first aid training (have you (re-)done your CPR certificate lately)  I go to the German Malteser International.

I’ll do a separate post ranting about the various RC organisations but suffice it to say I’ve had bad experiences before I left the States, my father had bad experiences during the Korean War and the Red Cross managed to ‘mislay’ the body of my grandfather’s first wife and baby daughter while he was in Europe during the WWI. Yeah, I have issues.

I’ll also do a separate post praising Doctors without borders.

I just wanted to use this post to give the heads up to David’s article.

Oh, and don’t even get me started about real faith-based aid organisations. I won’t call them blood suckers but…

Mortality and Race (an American Perspective)

Today’s Washington Post carried the story Wide Gaps Found In Mortality Rates Among U.S. Groups. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the original study (no I don’t work in at a university with free journal access – the lucky b*st*rds). The story starts with the scary lead

A black man living in a high-crime American city can expect to live 21 fewer years than a woman of Asian descent in the United States. The man’s life expectancy, in fact, is closer to that of people living in West Africa than it is to the average white American.

First off, I would argue that parsing the data according to race is uniquely American. Even after Katrina, race trumps income. In Germany, there is no ‘race’ question on official forms. I don’t remember one in France either (my ex was French). Of course there was one token income comparison mentioned.

Northern Plains whites have a per capita income below that of Middle America whites (about $18,000 vs. $25,000), and essentially the same percentage who are high school graduates (83 vs. 84). But they live longer — 79 years vs. 77.9 years.

Wow, I’m shocked! This of course begs the question, what is the comparison between say upper, middle and lower incomes across all races and locations? (I had hoped to find this in the original paper, I’m sure it would be in there somewhere.) I don’t remember where I saw the value, but isn’t $18,000 vs. $25,000 rather low for an average income? I recall something like $48,000 for the median and somewhat lower for average. Am I way off here? If not, the statistic shows low income white males are screwed wherever they live. Gee, imagine that.

I would agree with the researcher’s sound bite:

“I think it’s pretty fair to say we’re failing,” said Christopher J.L. Murray, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health. “The score card on the macro level has been failure.”

For me, the best part of the article did show that the right wing talking point “black men die because they shoot each other or do drugs” does manage to get trashed.

The paper did not examine the causes of death between the groups. But the researchers note that high mortality in urban black men persists even when homicide and AIDS are removed. Heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cirrhosis and fatal injuries are the major causes of reduced life expectancy in that group.

Interestingly, the reporter seems to have forgotten this inconvenient truth when writing his lead “Black man living in high-crime American city…” Is there a connection between crime and diabetes? Inquiring eclectics want to know!

This last quote is particularly scary for another reason. Why? Well let’s hop over to another paper (pdf) from this research team. This compares BMI in 1990 and 2000. Whether BMI is an accurate measure of mortality or whether 22 is really worse then 25 is up for debate. BMI might not directly predict mortality but is an excellent relative measure. The above paper shows how rapidly America is gaining weight. Now that is scary.

New antibacterial-resistant strain of TB

According to Spiegel-Online, doctors have found an new strain of TB that is resistant to three of the six backup antibiotics. So far this has only been found in South Africa but looks pretty bad.

This looks like a really nasty version of TB, killing 52 of 53 patients within 25 days of diagnosis. Now if this were to get into a prison system (like in Russia) the consequences would be catastrophic.

Tara Smith does a complete run down. Go there. She knows fair more than I do and I still think she’s still the hottest science blogger (irrespective of what the rest of the world thinks).

Go… Go now!