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This Christian Ministry Just Went Galt

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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Recently, my wife approached me with the unwelcome news that our health insurance plan — which we like — will likely be cancelled next year. Her employer, a healthcare provider, generously provides benefits even for those working part-time. Due to the devastation wrecked upon the industry by Obamacare, they anticipate the need to drop coverage for all employees working less than 60 hours per pay period. My wife works 56. Since my employer’s offering proves virtually worthless, far too expensive for far too little coverage, we will be left effectively uninsured.

We may consider Samaritan Ministries as an alternative to insurance. Resembling the mutual aid societies which were common throughout America before the rise of the welfare state, Samaritan Ministries operates as a “health care sharing” service. Here’s how it works:

Each member commits to sending a set “Share” amount each month. These “Shares” are sent directly through the mail from one household to another, to the members with “Needs”. Samaritan Ministries uses a database that randomly matches Shares to Needs, so that the Sharing is coordinated and Shares go to the appropriate members with Needs.

Born to a world dominated by employee-provided health insurance, we may find the notion of health care sharing bizarre or even suspect. But is it really any more odd than our rapidly corrupting government?

It’s with some irony that a Christian ministry has essentially gone Galt. While Ayn Rand may have balked at the religious context in which Samaritan Ministries operates, she also may have tipped her hat at their defiance of convention.

The service “even satisfies the Federal health care law’s (Affordable Care Act) requirement that you have insurance or pay a penalty-tax (see 26 United States Code Section 5000A, (d), (2), (B)).”

Would you consider a health care sharing service like Samaritan Ministries? How might the business model be applied to other needs?

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You Only Need These 6 Things For a World-Class Home Gym

Thursday, May 15th, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe

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Not everybody who wants to train for strength can fit a gym membership into their lifestyle. Scheduling problems, the cost, travel problems from home or work, the absence of an adequately equipped facility in the market, or simply the dislike of a commercial gym environment motivates many people to invest in a home gym.

A serviceable home gym for barbell training need not be a gigantic investment, and in fact should be very simple. A bar, some plates, a rack of some type to facilitate the squat and the pressing exercises, a simple flat bench for the bench press, and a platform for deadlifts are all that is absolutely required. For power cleans and snatches, a few bumper plates are quite useful but not absolutely necessary.

The equipment is simple, and need not be expensive, but there are a few tricks.

1. The Bar

This is the wrong place to save money. Of all the pieces in the gym, the quality of the bar is the most critical. The plates just hang there, the platform just lays there, but the bar is your connection to the force against which you lift — gravity.

Saving money is a good idea. Generic drugs are cheaper than the name-brand products, and they are essentially the same product. This is not true of Olympic barbells. In most cases, you get exactly what you pay for. Unless you get lucky — and these days of rapid expansion in the interest in barbell training, such luck is hard to come by — and find a good used bar cheap, expect to pay around $300 for a good bar.

Why? Because steel is expensive, competent manufacturing is expensive, and warehouse space costs money. A cheap bar will bend, and a badly bent bar is junk. A bar within about 3mm of perfectly straight is useable as a straight bar, while a bar bent more than 4-5mm out of straight is considered bent. When loaded with plates, a badly bent bar will rotate to a position of stability — it will “right” itself, with the ends of the bar pointing down and the bend in the middle pointing up. This is fine for a squat, if you have marked the bar so that you can take it out of the rack in this stable position. But if you unrack the bar for a squat, press, or bench press, or pull it from the floor in its unstable configuration, the bar will spin in your hands or on your back to right itself. This is not good, and can cause safety problems during the lift.

Most commercial gyms have a few bars, and usually all of them are bent, because they bought cheap junky bars not knowing any better or not caring about it. Bars get bent in commercial gyms by being dropped on benches, or inside the rack by jackasses that aren’t invested in the equipment. Even expensive bars will bend when 315 pounds is dropped across a bench. But cheap bars will bend if left loaded in the rack overnight.

You can check a bar for straightness by placing it on the floor and spinning it in the middle with your foot (if the revolving sleeves aren’t frozen, which is also bad). If it wobbles, it’s not straight. Or, you can see the wobble when you rotate it in the rack — the end of the bar will describe a circle in the air larger than the diameter of the sleeve, and the middle of the bar will move back and forth, the greatest deviation being at the point of the bend. One of the advantages of a home gym is that you get to work with a straight bar every time you train.

Bars are available in several diameters. The Olympic weightlifting federations specify a 28mm bar, while the International Powerlifting Federation wants the diameter to be between 28 and 29mm. The standard bar length is a little over seven feet, has “2-inch”/50mm diameter sleeves for loading the plates on, and weighs 20kg/44.1lbs. The thicker the bar, the stiffer the bar, so Olympic lifters doing the faster snatch and clean & jerk like the whippiness of a 28mm bar, and powerlifters need a stiffer bar because they handle heavier weights more slowly. Olympic lifting uses a 25mm bar for the women’s division (smaller hands need a smaller bar), and a competitive lifter will need one of these. For home gym purposes, a 28.5mm or 29mm bar will be the most durable and provide the best service over time.

Never buy a 32mm bar. They are either junk, or a specialty squat bar that a home gym doesn’t need. Usually they are junk. Scrap metal.

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Why a Doctor Would Be Relieved When a New Study Fails To Reduce Deaths

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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Sometimes the New England Journal of Medicine reads like a journal of failed bright ideas. I do not remember ever having read of so many failed trials of treatment as I have recently, but perhaps that is a sign of increasing scientific honesty. After all, it is as important to know what does not work as what does, especially when what does not work is very expensive to administer.

Septic shock is a condition of dangerously low blood pressure brought about by serious infection. About 750,000 cases a year are treated in the United States alone, with a death rate above 20 percent, that is to say at least 150,000 people die of it each year. This is a number well worth reducing.

More than a decade ago the results of a trial were published in which it was shown that aggressive treatment according to a pre-arrange protocol could reduce the death rate from septic shock by about a half. In those days (medicine 10 years ago seems that of a bygone era), the death rate in septic shock was much higher than it is today, which may in part explain the success of that trial compared with the failure of a more recent trial published recently in the NEJM. 

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3 Tips for Falling Asleep at Night

Thursday, May 1st, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

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Getting to sleep at night has never been one of my talents. As a kid, fears kept me awake. As a teenager, I found the night the most intense time and didn’t understand why one was supposed to sleep during it. As an adult… if it wasn’t one thing that kept me awake at night, it was another.

Just recently I’ve been on a new regimen, and it’s actually working. There are three things I’ve been doing differently, and I’ve been sleeping with little or no trouble most nights. As for why I made these three changes, it did not come from any conscious decision but, apparently, from something on a subconscious level, some push for greater purity, a byproduct of which has been successful sleep.

I should add that if exercise is not one of the three things, it’s not because I don’t practice it but because I’ve already been practicing it for decades. I find it indispensable to decent mental and physical functioning. No, by itself it did not solve my sleep problem; but without it I wouldn’t have slept at all.

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The #1 Strategy for Happiness

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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“You need to have a good mood. Good family, good children, good work, and then you’ll be happy,” he added. “You need to be a sociable person. I love and respect all people. After what happened to me, I don’t only value my own life  more, but I deeply value the lives of all human beings. It’s very important to have good company and good friends. I view everything with optimism, it’s very  important.”

The observation seems simple enough, until you realize that they are the words of a Holocaust survivor. Over at Times of Israel, Margareta Ackerman details:

As a grandchild of a survivor, I’ve always had a  special interest in Holocaust studies. I have read many memoirs and attended  numerous classes on the subject. But, from the very first class in a small  Israeli school in the suburbs of Afula, to the courses I attended in a large  North American university — I had always felt that something I had learned from  my Grandfather was missing from these lectures.

For years, I had trouble pinning down that missing  piece. It frightens me that my grandfather’s gift may have been lost all  together: No one would have known that there once lived a man named Srulik  Ackerman, who challenged our understanding of human nature, and with that, could  bring hope in even the darkest of times.

…after just a few minutes with my Grandpa you  would see the mystery that had perplexed me for so many years. The first thing  that would strike you would be his wide, welcoming smile. Grandpa smiled and  laughed more than anyone I knew. He took every opportunity to tell jokes and  bring joy to others. Without a doubt, Grandpa was the happiest person that I had  ever met.

How was that possible? I spent two years writing his  memoir, hoping to discover his secret. But, even after the book was complete, I  still had no idea what gave him such unparalleled resilience.

So, I decided to ask him directly. “How do stay happy  on a daily basis?” I asked during one of our conversations.

Do yourself and your kids a favor: Get to know a Holocaust survivor so you, too, and your children can understand how a human being can survive and thrive in the face of death. There aren’t many survivors left, but there are countless resources through which you can interact with their thoughts and experiences. Tomorrow, the United States Holocaust Museum is sponsoring a Google+ Hangout with Holocaust survivors specifically geared towards school-aged children. Take advantage of this opportunity to get to know the real “secret” to happiness.

And don’t forget to thank them for sharing it.

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Parents Begin Hormone Therapy on 9-Year-Old ‘Transgender’ Boy

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

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“It just comes down to love. I mean, if you love your child then you should do anything in the world for your child. And it’s as simple and as pure as that.”

This is not parental love. This is misguided, tragic indulgence. It’s as simple and pure as that. Parental love prepares a child for adulthood–momentary happiness has little to do with it.

Parental love sees beyond what a child currently wants, or thinks he wants, and gives him what he needs. What this child needs is unconditional love and a chance for his brain to mature and his body to fully develop.

It’s far beyond the comprehension of a child to see himself as an adult. To a child of nine, eighteen is a lifetime away. Neither Keat nor his parents can fathom what his life will be like as an adult. The physical and mental consequences of a chemically altered body through puberty cannot be fully understood and weighed.

What if Keat had Body Integrity Identity Disorder? The same feelings of being born wrong exist. A person with this disorder believes he or she would be happier without the appendages they were born with. Would these parents still be good parents by indulging this disorder with amputation before puberty?

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How Do You Decide Which Exercise Works for You?

Thursday, April 24th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I thought about this as I read Mark Rippetoe’s fascinating discussion of why running is not the panacea that so many people think it is:

This highly informative discussion is intended for those people who have taken seriously the advice of doctors, physical therapists, exercise physiologists, and the popular media’s dutiful reporting on these sources of common misinformation about what kind of physical activity is best for your long-term health and continued ability to participate in the business of living well.

Rippetoe goes on to make the case against running and for strength training. Okay, fair enough. I get that we need to be strong, especially as we get older; and strength training helps with this. But I can’t help that feel that a balanced approach is also good if you want to address Rippetoe’s concern that “the more you run, the better you are at running and the worse you are at being strong.”

I have a number of training goals and they change all the time. For example, right now, I want to run a 13 minute mile which I know is not good, but is about the best I can do. It’s important to me. Why? Because running is a skill that can help in situations such as running fast away from something or someone, or running to catch a subway or bus, or running after a kid or adult who needs help, etc.

Do I need to run long, slow distance? No, probably not. I also want to know self-defense because it is important to me and I would like to take more Krav Maga lessons. I suppose these goals take away from strength building but I don’t have time for all of it. So what do you focus on? If being good at strength building builds strength, that’s good, but will it help me to run faster or be better at self-defense? Wouldn’t practice of these “sports” or exercise be the most helpful? Or maybe a balanced approach that focused on strength and practicing running and Krav Maga would be best. If we only strength train, is that enough or does it depend on one’s goals?

*****
Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image via shutterstock / Maridav

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Do Men and Women Practice Medicine Differently?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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That is a question posed by this CNBC article looking at the differences in how many services male and female doctors perform with Medicare patients:

The diagnosis: a serious case of medical gender gap.

Male doctors on average make 88 percent more in Medicare reimbursements than female physicians, according to an analysis of recently released government data, which suggests that the gender of a medical provider could play a role in the number of services they provide patients.

The NerdWallet research found that male physicians on average were paid $118,782 in Medicare reimbursements by the federal government in 2012, compared with $63,346 for women doctors.

Naturally, the “alarming” headline of the article is that male doctors are paid more in Medicare reimbursement than female doctors. However, the real question might be:

“This certainly begs the question of whether men and women practice medicine differently,” Ositelu said. “The bottom line is patients may experience higher costs through doctors who bill for more services per patient.”

Higher costs or tests run that save lives or just make them better? Why are more procedures worse? Maybe men are more willing to ask for procedures that their female counterparts do not? Also, note that men see many more Medicare patients, an average of 512 per male doc and only 319 per female doc. Why is that? Are females less willing to see Medicare patients or less able to take on more of them as clients? And if you see more patients, don’t you charge for more services? This is a troubling article, one that doesn’t look at the quality of medicine and the reasons behind why procedures are being performed, but rather, wonders why women docs are getting less money than men from the government Medicare program.

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

image via shutterstock / Edyta Pawlowska 

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One of the Most Dangerous Ideas in All of Medicine…

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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There are few phrases more dangerous in medicine than “it stands to reason,” because what stands to reason may in fact not be a good idea, however brilliant it may once have seemed. This is because reality is always more complex than our theories about it; grey is theory, said Goethe, but green in the tree of life.

Perhaps the greatest single intellectual advance in the medicine of the last century was the realization that “it stands to reason” is no reason at all; everything must be studied in the light of experience. There was a good example of this necessity in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, which studied the effect of giving patients doses of aspirin or clonidine before and after undergoing non-cardiac surgery.

One of the most serious and feared complications of such surgery is heart attack, especially as the age at which people are operated on has increased. There are good theoretical reasons for believing that either aspirin or clonidine, or both, given peri-operatively might reduce the rate of heart attack in the first month after operation. Aspirin prevents the blood platelets from sticking to one another and the lining of the blood vessels, agglomeration of platelets being one of the mechanisms of heart attack; clonidine blocks the activity of the sympathetic nervous system whose overactivity is thought to be another such mechanism. Therefore it stands to reason, if anything does, that making the platelets less “sticky,” or the sympathetic nervous system less active, before, during and after operation might reduce the rate of post-operative heart attack. But does it?

A large trial was conducted in 135 hospitals in 23 countries, comparing the rates of heart attacks of people given aspirin, clonidine or placebo before and after operation. 10,010 patients were recruited in all, and the rate of follow-up was so high (99.9 percent) that it resembled the results of a Soviet-era election. Surprisingly, more than 40 percent of the patients were already taking low-dose aspirin prophylaxis when they entered the trial; but they were treated in exactly the same fashion as their peers who were not on aspirin.

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Why You Should Not Be Running

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe

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If you are a competitive distance runner or cyclist who is serious about your sport, this article has not been written for you. This highly informative discussion is intended for those people who have taken seriously the advice of doctors, physical therapists, exercise physiologists, and the popular media’s dutiful reporting on these sources of common misinformation about what kind of physical activity is best for your long-term health and continued ability to participate in the business of living well.

Endurance exercise is the most commonly recommended form of activity for health and “wellness.” Every time you see an exercise recommendation denominated in minutes, you are seeing a recommendation for long slow distance exercise — LSD, or “cardio” in the modern vernacular. Running, bicycling, rowing, or their health-club analogs on machines at the gym are what they mean when they say “exercise.”

Depending on who you listen to, 20 minutes per day, 3 hours (120 minutes) per week, or any permutation thereof as a prescription for fitness/health/wellness is the standard in both the fitness and health care industries, and getting stronger is always of secondary importance.

The endurance exercise approach ignores several basic facts:

1. Strength is the ability to produce force with your muscles against an external resistance, like those with which we interact in our environment as we go through our days, living our lives productively. And endurance exercise is directly antagonistic to strength, because an endurance adaptation occurs at the expense of strength.

The body’s basic response to a stress of any type is to recover from that stress in a way that makes it less likely to be a stress when next exposed to it. In other words, we adapt to stress by becoming better able to withstand it. This means that the adaptation to the stress is specific to the type of stress. An endurance stress is low-intensity and highly repetitive, meaning that each of the individual physical efforts that make up the run is easy — none of them are physically difficult from a strength perspective. If they were, you couldn’t do them over and over again for an hour. This means that the hard part is the cumulative effects of the run, not the strides themselves, which are easy.

Since the individual efforts that compose the run are easy, they do not depend on, nor are they limited by, the runner’s strength. Therefore, running cannot make you stronger, since it does not stress your ability to produce increasing amounts of force. Rather, it only depends on your ability to keep producing small amounts of force for an hour.

But more importantly, since running for an hour requires a different adaptation from the muscles, that adaptation will be favored by the muscles and will actively compete for precedence over a strength adaptation — especially if you’re not doing any strength training, or doing it wrong.

Quite literally, the more you run, the better you are at running and the worse you are at being strong.

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How Much Would You Pay for Grass Clippings?

Monday, April 21st, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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For Easter this year, Whole Foods sold Organic Timothy Grass for kids’ Easter baskets. The story sounds good, as usual—plastic is toxic and the stuff in the Easter baskets lingers for years on the planet. Not mentioned is how prevalent shredded, recycled paper has become for baskets or how the plastic grass lasts and gets reused year after year. That is, the menace of plastic grass is overstated. Also not mentioned in the real grass is great story, the price of the real grass.

As I first learned about the grass clippings in a Tweet from @johnrobison, “Salute the marketing geniuses at @WholeFoods for selling grass clippings for $23.96 a pound – More than good steak!”

Price Matters

A few months ago, Rhonda Robinson posted about a poor neighborhood that “ran off” a Trader Joe’s opening. The gist of the article and comments assumed the neighborhood had elevated politics over health and made a bad decision. She concluded, “The Portland African American Leadership Forum would much rather see empty decaying buildings in their neighborhood than give up their victim card.”

I doubt the neighborhood would rather keep vacant buildings. I also doubt that they objected to a grocery store opening. They likely objected to a Trader Joe’s opening.

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Did Flu Drug Companies Perpetuate a Billion Dolllar Scam Around the World?

Friday, April 18th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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One of the few laws of political science is that when governments make mistakes, they tend to be whoppers. Luckily for them, the public’s memory is short, and the outrage of today soon declines into the apathy of tomorrow.

From several articles published in a recent edition of the British Medical Journal, it appears that many governments around the world, including those of Britain and the U.S., may have made such a mistake in stockpiling billions of dollars’ worth of anti-flu medications, bought principally from Roche, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world as measured by capitalization.

First the governments overestimated the virulence of the new flu epidemic the drugs were supposed to counter, no doubt a forgivable mistake in the circumstances; but then it stockpiled the  supposedly anti-flu drugs on the basis of inadequate evidence. It took published studies at face value without apparently realizing that the drug companies had withheld a great deal of data – 150,000 pages of it, as it turned out. When, after what seems like a rear-guard action to prevent it, the drug companies released all the data, re-calculation showed that the drugs were not quite useless, but had practically no value from the public health point of view. At best they reduced the duration of symptoms by a few hours and in some cases prevented the development of symptomatic disease. But they also caused serious side effects, and neither prevented deaths nor serious complications nor the rate of hospitalization. They did not prevent the spread of the infection either.

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The New Charlotte’s Web Medicine

Friday, April 18th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

My home state of Colorado is a guinea pig for the pros and cons of marijuana legalization. Other states are observing closely to see if they should move down the path towards legalization.

There’s plenty of bad news to go around. Police in other states are pulling over Colorado drivers with no justification other than the green license plate. (We’re all stoners now, I guess.) A college student named Levy Thamba fell to his death from a high balcony during spring break after eating a marijuana cookie. And last week a Denver man who ate pot-infused candy became incoherent and paranoid and shot his wife to death.

Is there good news? Turns out there is. Colorado Springs is the source of the Charlotte’s Web strain of medical marijuana that has sent parents with gravely ill children flocking to the city for treatment.

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The strain was developed by Joel Stanley and his brothers in their Colorado Springs medical marijuana facility. They’d read that marijuana strains that are high in a chemical called CBD can help to shrink tumors and prevent seizures. The chemical in marijuana that gets users high is called THC, and since it has an adverse affect on seizures the Stanley’s bred it out of the plant.

Their first patient, 5 year old Charlotte Figis, was so affected by a genetic seizure condition called Dravet’s Syndrome that she was not expected to live much longer. Today, she’s almost seizure free. The Stanley brothers named the strain after their first little patient, and it’s showing the world what medical uses marijuana can offer.

Today there are nearly a hundred families with gravely ill children who have relocated to Colorado Springs, purchasing a treatment for their children that would have landed them in prison just a few years ago. Medical marijuana is well known to help in the treatment of nausea in cancer and AIDs patients, but the strains now being investigated may uncover new lifesaving medicines such as Charlotte’s Web.

The recreational use of marijuana is proving to be the problem it was predicted to be, but while the stoners fill the headlines the researchers in medical marijuana are quietly making amazing advances in the treatment of illnesses. That’s some very good news indeed.

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Image via CNN Health.

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‘Training’ vs. ‘Exercise’: What’s the Difference?

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe

Starting Strength Seminar

“Physical fitness.” “Physical activity.” “Working out.” “Exercise.” “Training.” These are all terms that get haphazardly applied to the things we do when we intend to make some type of improvement in our body’s physical capacity. They all have separate and very specific meanings, and understanding them is important if you are to make the right choice about which one to apply to your situation.

“Physical activity” is a rather low standard to hold oneself to, since it merely means movement. Physical activity, according to the American Heart Association website, is defined as “anything that makes you move your body and burn calories.” The world is full of unhealthy people, some of whom are sedentary and some who move all day. Mere movement does not correlate with a significant improvement in physical capacity. It may be a step in the right direction, but a look at its specific recommendations indicates that any steps would be tiny ones.

“Physical Fitness” has a more specific definition. By Kilgore and Rippetoe in 2006 in the Journal of Exercise Physiology Online [9(1):1-10]:

“Possession of adequate levels of strength, endurance, and mobility to provide for successful participation in occupational effort, recreational pursuits, familial obligation, and that is consistent with a functional phenotypic expression of the human genotype.”

This is a description of what fitness entails, and describes a reason to be fit based on the genetics we possess. But it doesn’t say anything about how to accomplish this task, either the process or the components thereof.

Most people decide that the thing to do to get fit is something called “working out.” A “workout” is a term that refers to the period of time spent exercising — the exercise event. Us guys go to the gym for the purpose of “getting a workout” before we know much about it. To most of us guys, getting a workout means hitting the bag, running a few laps, getting sweaty, tired, and maybe doing arms a little. A few curls.

That makes “working out” the same thing as “exercise.” The term “exercise” best describes a physical activity performed for the sake of the effect it produces on your body today — right now — or immediately following the workout. If you’re just exercising, the workout itself is the point. Yoga, Pilates, cardio on the treadmill, a group class of any kind — basically punching your time card at the gym is “exercise.” For most people, “exercise” probably involves doing the same thing in the gym every time you go, because the effect is predictable. You want to get hot, sweaty, and tired, because it makes you feel that something positive has occurred. And it has. For many people, the acute effect of “exercise” is all that is necessary for an improvement in their physical wellbeing.

The modern fitness industry is built exclusively around the “exercise” model.

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Are Diet Supplements Dangerous?

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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If something is either essential or good for the health, surely more of it must be good for you? Such at any rate is the reasoning of half the American population who, between them spend more than $30 billion on dietary supplements, that is to say $200 a head per annum. All things considered, these supplements must be pretty safe, unlike prescription drugs, for few people die or have serious side-effects from them. Whether they do any good, other than as placebos, is another question entirely of course.

According to an article in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine there are 85,000 different supplements and combinations of supplements on the market, meaning that each of them sells, on average, approximately $375,000 worth per year. Given the popularity of some, this must mean that many are in a very small way of business indeed. It is the job of the Food and Drug Administration to monitor the safety of all these preparations: a task, one might have supposed, quite beyond the capacity of even the largest bureaucracy.

Not all the supplements are safe. One, called OxyElite Pro, caused hepatitis and even liver failure, first spotted by a liver transplant surgeon in Honolulu. It was used by body-builders to “burn off” fat, and it is isn’t difficult to find people on the internet who mourn the fact that the product has been withdrawn from the market, despite its potentially dangerous side-effects (one person died).

Dietary supplements do not undergo the rigorous testing, either as to efficacy or safety, that pharmaceuticals undergo. The author of the article points out that many supplements contain newly-devised amphetamine-like stimulants, anabolic steroids, untested chemical analogies of Viagra and various antidepressants, and weight-loss substances that have already been banned from the pharmaceutical market.

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The Brains of Brawn

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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If you’re a skeptical gym rat — someone who likes to stay fit, but raises an eyebrow at flash-in-the-pan fitness trends — your curiosity will be piqued by a new book on the history of fitness and exercise in America.

Making the American Body: The Remarkable Saga of the Men and Women Whose Feats, Feuds, and Passions Shaped Fitness History by Jonathan Black is a fascinating whirlwind tour through fitness history, starting with a brief review of ancient Greece and the first Olympics before fast-forwarding to the Chicago World’s Fair.

I went into this book expecting to learn many damning things about gurus who offer false promises of health and pleasure with one hand while taking all your money with the other. What surprised and encouraged me, as I read, was that many fitness pioneers seemed genuinely interested in making people healthier, and helping them to feel more confident and empowered. Mixed with that impulse was, of course, the desire to sell something to those people, and pressure to achieve body image goals — for the bulk of fitness trends, that meant simply fitting into fashionable clothes, but for some of the larger than life (literally) it meant sculpting a body that would make a Greek god quake in his sandals.

The most rewarding strands of the book told the stories of the great bodybuilding pioneers — men (and a few women) who took big muscle out of the circus ring and onto the beach. The personalities that created the American bodybuilding scene were as epic as the muscles they grew. The feuds between lifters, posers, dopers, and hopers is as thrilling as the rush of endorphins after a heavy lift (at least, I think so, remembering that one time I tried it).

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You Can’t Wish Away the Fertility Gap

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Jill Knapp begs us to “Please Stop Asking Me When I’m Going to Have Children.”

Being that I am still a newly-wed and have just moved to a new city, I am in no rush to have a kid. This is an unacceptable answer to a lot of people. The constant reminders that your clock is ticking and that you don’t want to be confused for your child’s grandparents when they grow up are not making us move any faster. Having children is a big responsibility.

What Jill doesn’t understand is that her fertility is not subject to whim or wishful thinking. Her chances of getting pregnant decline rapidly after 30. By age 40, less than 5 out of every 100 women will be successful at conception. When the Jills of this world decide they want children at 36 or 38 or 42, they enter a long, often fruitless quest for safe pregnancy and childbirth.

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Men achieve fertility at 12 years old and can father children all the way to 96. Women have a narrow fertility window of around 16 to 40. That’s a fertility gap of up to fifty years!

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Get Fit or Die

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg
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Pudgy Stockton (via)

Do we work out for health or beauty? Yes.

I’m in the middle of reading Making the American Body: The Remarkable Saga of the Men and Women Whose Feats, Feuds, and Passions Shaped Fitness History by Jonathan Black. (Full review to come.)

So far, it’s enormously entertaining and enlightening, and I’m recommending it to friends already. Interestingly, it focuses more on the clash of personalities (and marketing styles) than on the fitness methods themselves. But what stood out to me is how so many marketing campaigns for fitness regimes, dating all the way back to the nineteenth century, played on fear and shame. Apparently every era of American society has teetered on a crisis of emasculation and/or unhealthiness. And that crisis also happens to necessitate buying lots of new equipment, accessories, and specialty food, so we can fit into the clothes that exalt the body type that the fitness trend tells us we must have.

Another thing that stood out to me was the changing shape of the “ideal” woman. One of my favorite stories from the book so far (and a welcome note of positive, encouraging marketing) was that of Pudgy Stockton. Pudgy’s nickname originated in her chunky teen years, but she shed the pounds and gained a very different reputation on Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach. A smiling, playful fitness icon, Pudgy is credited with demonstrating to women of her generation that females can lift weights without losing their femininity — and that lifting can even enhance their womanly curves. It was refreshing to see a female fitness icon who didn’t look like she could fit through the eye of a needle — but was still healthy, attractive, and feminine.

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Good and Bad News for Reducing Heart Attack Deaths

Monday, March 24th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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Good and bad news often go together, for what is good news for some is bad for others. Shareholders in pharmaceutical companies that produce statins will have been heartened (no pun intended) by a paper in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine in which the authors calculated that, under the new guidelines of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association with regard to lipid levels in the blood, 12.8 million more adults in the United States alone would be “eligible” for (i.e. ought ideally to have) treatment with statins. In fact, very nearly half the population older than 40 ought to take them, and seven eighths of the population over 60. As a man over sixty who never has any blood tests done, my heart sinks (again no pun intended). We are all guilty of illness until proven healthy: not good news.

The authors compared the therapeutic consequences of the old guidelines with the new. In effect the new guidelines lowered the threshold for treatment. According to these guidelines, anyone over 40 with known cardiovascular disease should receive statins, irrespective of their level of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL); while anyone with a level of 70 milligrams per decilitre or more and who has diabetes or a statistical risk of a heart attack of more than 7.5 percent within the next ten years should also receive them.

Taking a rather small sample of adults over 40 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey whose blood lipids were measured and extrapolating it to the U.S. population as a whole, the authors conclude that, if the new guidelines were put into practice rather than the old, 14.4 million adults in the U.S. who would not have been “eligible” for treatment under the old guidelines would now be “eligible” for it, while 1.6 million who would have been “eligible” under the old guidelines would no longer be “eligible.”

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3 Reasons Why You Need to Lift the Barbell Over Your Head

Monday, March 24th, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe

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Pressing a barbell overhead is one of the oldest exercises in the gym. It might well have been the first exercise invented after the first barbell was discovered. Since it is performed while standing with the bar in the hands — after the bar is cleaned from the ground to the shoulders, or taken from the rack at shoulder height — the entire body is involved in the exercise. From the floor to the hands, the job of pressing the bar overhead is shared by all the muscles in the body.

But for some bizarre reason, the press has acquired the entirely undeserved reputation as a dangerous exercise for the shoulders.

Due to a poor understanding of the mechanics of the movement, doctors and physical therapists commonly advise against performing this perfectly natural and perfectly safe exercise. The alleged problem is an injury known as “shoulder impingement,” and nothing could be further from the truth. The correctly performed press (incorrectly-performed exercises do not count) is not only perfectly safe for the shoulders — more importantly, the press is the best exercise for keeping shoulders strong and injury-free. Here’s why.

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Schrödinger’s ♡bamaCare

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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Let’s get metaphysical with Jay Sekulow:

Does “ObamaCare” truly exist? Are we actually living with the law that was passed with so much fanfare four years ago?

Gallup says the number of uninsured dropped very slightly from 17.1% of Americans to 15.9% — a result so insignificant that it’s close to the poll’s 1% margin of error and still 1.5% higher than the number of uninsured when President Obama took office.

Did you catch that? Almost four years after ObamaCare was signed into law – rammed through Congress via procedural trickery and against the will of the majority of Americans – a higher percentage of Americans are uninsured than before the law was passed.

How could this happen?

♡bamaCare!!! neither exists nor doesn’t exist. The law is neither known nor settled, as its strictures blip in and out of reality by the exigencies of the moment. Mandates are taxes, penalties are fees, mandates are suggestions, deadlines contain no discernible dates.

It is Schrödinger’s Law, existing in a permanent state of undeterminable impermanence.

****
Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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10 Controversial Medical Questions Answered by Dr. Dalrymple

Saturday, March 15th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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Editor’s Note: Dr. Theodore Dalrymple has been contributing thoughtful pieces on medicine, culture, and politics to PJ Media for a number of years. This is the beginning of an attempt to collect and organize some of his writings on similar subjects. Here is an assortment of 10 articles weighing in on perpetual medical controversies.

1. Is obesity a disease or a moral failing?

2. Should an alcoholic be allowed a second liver transplant?

3. Are psychiatric disorders the same as physical diseases?

4. Do doctors turn their patients into drug addicts?

5. As life expectancy increases will the elderly become too much of a burden on society?

6. Is marijuana a medicine?

7. Is nutrition really that important for good health?

8. Is drug addiction really just like any other illness?

9. Are obese children victims of child abuse?

10. Should you vaccinate your kids?

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The Deadlift: 3 Reasons Why Just Picking Up Heavy Things Replaces Most of Your Gym

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe

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The deadlift may be the simplest and easiest exercise to learn in all of barbell training. You pick up a loaded barbell and set it back down, keeping the bar in contact with your legs the whole way. There are a few subtle complications — the bar should move up and down the legs in a vertical line over the middle of the foot, the bar should start from a position directly over the mid-foot, and you should keep your back flat when you pull. But that’s really about all there is to it. The deadlift is one of the basic movements of which strength training is composed.

Pulling things off the ground is a part of your human heritage, and bending down to pick them up is what your knees and hips are for. With the bar in your hands and your feet against the floor, your whole body is completely involved in the exercise, which means the deadlift makes the whole body strong. It would be very difficult to invent a more natural exercise for the body than picking up a progressively heavier barbell.

“Kinetic chain” is an exercise term that refers to the musculoskeletal components (the “links”) of an exercise between the load (the barbell) and the base of support (your feet against the floor). The kinetic chain in the deadlift is essentially the entire body, and everything between hands and floor is doing its anatomically-determined proportion of the work of moving the bar. This means that your legs, hips, back, lats, arms, and grip contribute the fraction of the lifting that their individual positions on the skeleton and their relationships to each other permit.

Here’s the best part about barbell training: if you use good technique, your anatomy sorts out each bodypart’s contribution so that you don’t have to.

These large exercises — essentially normal human movement patterns loaded with a barbell to make them progressively heavier — eliminate the need for dozens of smaller exercises, and the strength you obtain is directly applicable to your job of being an active human.

Deadlifts are important, and you should be doing them. Here’s 3 reasons why…

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Obama: Give Up Your TV and Phone to Fund Other People’s Healthcare

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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By now you may have caught the LIBRE Initiative report of President Obama telling a town hall audience to consider cutting personal expenses to afford health insurance under the [Un]affordable Care Act. Here’s the quote:

[Obama] responded to a question received via email, from a consumer who makes $36,000 per year and cannot find insurance for a family of three for less than $315 per month. The President responded that “if you looked at their cable bill, their telephone, their cell phone bill… it may turn out that, it’s just they haven’t prioritized health care.” He added that if a family member gets sick, the father “will wish he had paid that $300 a month.”

Imagine a Republican politician saying the same thing. The leftist media would go apoplectic.

While that may appear to be a partisan double standard, the truth has more to do with ideology than parties. A Republican telling people to prioritize healthcare expenses over their cable or cell phone would likely do so in a free-market context where such priorities would serve the consumer’s individual interest. Obama, by contrast, asks people to sacrifice for the sake of others.

Obamacare depends upon its mandated enrollments to fund its mandated benefits, a process designed to redistribute wealth. Since paying for others is considered morally superior to paying for yourself in Obama’s worldview, he advises cancelling your cable or cell phone to pay for Obamacare. A Republican offering the same advice in a free-market context would be castigated not primarily for the notion of prioritization, but for the notion of self-reliance. Prioritizing to benefit yourself — bad. Prioritizing to benefit others — good.

The philosophical underpinning of Obama’s comment is altruism, the idea that you exist for the sake of others. The countervailing idea, that you exist for your own sake, is egoism. Obama gets away with his comment not because he’s a Democrat so much as because our culture embraces altruism and bristles at egoism.

Critics of the president would do well to focus on that point rather then the “audacity” of suggesting families might need to prioritize one expense over another. Indeed, families will always need to prioritize one expense over another. That’s part of being an adult in the real world. An alternative to Obamacare should not promise a world without prioritization, but a world where the priorities which individuals choose redound to their own benefit.

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