Thursday, November 29, 2007

How Much Do You Procrastinate?

Are you reading this instead of working, doing your laundry, or going to the gym? If so, you are part of a growing trend of procrastinators. According to Piers Steel, a psychologist at the University of Calgary who studies the history of this vice, its prevalence appears to be growing. Steel points his finger at the decline of structure in the workplace and the growing number of accessible distractions competing for our attention. There are no shortage of things that can tempt us along our path of good intentions -- email, IM, Podcasts, and YouTube all come to mind. If you'd like to avoid the next item on your to-do list, you might consider taking Steel's survey, which will tell you how much of a procrastinator you really are. Just click on the headline above to while away 20-30 minutes.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Stink About Garlic

We all have heard at some point in our lives that eating garlic is good for us. It has been credited with warding off colds as well as more serious illnesses. But, despite its use for centuries, no one has really understood why. Now researchers at the National Academy of Sciences think they may have stumbled upon the cause. It appears that the production of hydrogen sulfide in our blood stream is boosted by the consumption of garlic. This compound has been linked to protection from various cancers and heart disease.

So how much of this potent plant do you need to consume to reap its benefits? The latest study used a garlic extract equivalent to two medium-sized cloves per day. That might not seem like much if you frequently find yourself cooking from scratch. But before you chop and sauté a couple of cloves in your next dish, take time to let them sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Apparently, that helps boost their health benefits.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Good Calories, Bad Calories

In his new 601-page tome, Good Calories, Bad Calories, science writer Gary Taubes shows us that almost everything we believe about the nature of a healthy diet is wrong. Taubes argues that obesity and diabetes stem from refined carbohydrates and sugars via their dramatic and longterm effects on insulin, the hormone that regulates fat accumulation. Furthermore, he claims that the key to good health is the kind of calories we take in, not the number. Given the not-so-distant popularity of the Atkin's diet, carb-bashing surely seems like nothing new. But has it once and for all been definitively validated?

In her New York Times review of Taubes' book, Gina Kolata writes: "Taubes ignores what diabetes researchers say is a body of published papers documenting a complex system of metabolic controls that, in the end, assure that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie." Harvard Medical School recently published an article in which they listed several concerns with low-carbohydrate/high-protein diets: they contribute to kidney stress, cause ketosis, often lead to increased cholesterol, and may offer insufficient plant-based nutrients.

Throughout his book Taubes debunks many historical studies, asserting that, due to the limitations of nutritional experiments, most research eventually gets overturned. Therefore, the question begs to be asked: how do we know that years from now scientists won't once again be arguing in favor of carbohydrates and telling us to put our butter knives away?