Category Archives: Health, Food, and Fitness

Diet Soda Under the Microscope Again — As Bad for Teeth As Meth?

There was a time when the only disadvantage to enjoying diet soda was the taste.  Heavy use of artificial sweeteners and chemicals you most likely cannot pronounce made diet sodas a far cry from the taste of a syrupy regular Coca Cola, but ironically, the different taste actually ushered in a whole different form of addiction.  Most people don’t drink diet soda because they are avoiding regular soda for dietary reasons.  That may be how it started out, but after a while, people seem to be legitimately addicted to diet soda in and of itself.  Being calorie free and low in sodium content, there was little reason for anyone to see this as a negative.  After all, the only other beverage options that are calorie free is unsweetened tea or water.  So, if you like diet soda and that keeps you from drinking a sugary, calorie-laden beverage, then up until just recently, everyone said, “Good for you.”

Well, the last couple of years diet soda has taken a heck of a beating.  It started when a study revealed that diet soda actually tends to hurt diet goals rather than help.  The studies (there were more than one reaching a consensus on the issue) said that while diet soda did not add to your calorie total directly, it indirectly thwarted diet efforts by increasing the desire for sweetness.  Basically, the chemicals and artificial sweeteners activated the consumer’s “sweet tooth,” making them even more likely to indulge in bad food choices later.  So, diet soda was suddenly being challenged on the one thing that its fans cherished the most:  that it was a calorie-free, diet-friendly option.

Diet Coke -- No cocaine, but still has the same results.
Diet Coke — No cocaine, but still has the same results.

These studies were the start, but now, diet soda is once again getting more bad press.  Another supposed benefit of diet soda over regular soda was that the absence of sugar meant that diet soda did not contribute to teeth problems as bad as the real thing.  New studies indicate that the cocktail of chemicals that make diet soda taste the way it does without sugar make it overwhelmingly acidic, much more so than a regular soda, and truly terrible when compared to water or tea.  This burst of acidity, according to researchers, is so damaging to the teeth in the long run that it is on par with the type of damage you see in people that abuse cocaine or methamphetamine.  That’s right; the study says that Diet Coke can make your teeth look just as bad as a drug addict.

So, what’s our take on it?  Well, like most anything, too much is probably not good.  With the exception of tobacco products, almost everything that is edible is okay at some level but bad for you if you overindulge (tobacco, of course, has the distinction of being pretty bad for you even in small doses).  If you like to have a diet soda now and again, chances are you won’t see any damage to your teeth that is out of the ordinary.  If you drink two liters of the stuff a day, like the woman cited in the study did for over two years, yes, you will probably look like a meth-head before you know it.

We’d also like to point out that the crux of the matter is your oral hygiene.  Remember, sugar doesn’t rot your teeth out if you brush and floss regularly, making sure enough isn’t left behind to get to the dirty work.  The chemicals in diet soda only hurt your teeth while they are actually contacting them, so if you practice good oral hygiene, chances are that you will not see the damaging effects.  Experts in restorative dentistry have publicly acknowledged that the people that had these damning, catastrophic damage to their mouth admittedly did not see the dentist with any regularity and did not practice the best oral hygiene.

Everyone that drinks diet soda waits until their teeth gets this bad to do something about it.
Everyone that drinks diet soda waits until their teeth gets this bad to do something about it.

Bottom line:  if you refuse to brush your teeth, your teeth will probably rot and look like a drug addict.  Unless you drink nothing but water and straight raw vegetables at all times.  If you brush your teeth and maybe go to see the dentist once in a while, fit in a good flossing when you can, and maybe gargle some Listerine or something now and again, you can pretty much do anything you want and you’ll be okay.  Except cigarettes.

Sound familiar?  Common sense anyone?

New Study Causing Outcry About Salt — The Thin Line Between Too Much and Not Enough

Friend of foe?  Both, actually.
Friend of foe? Both, actually.

Some things seem to yo-yo back and forth in the health and wellness world.  One study tells you eating eggs will kill you.  Next week it’s imperative that you eat more eggs.  Coffee is another one.  It has gone from being the health demon to the health savior so many times that you probably couldn’t get through your cup with a good feeling about it.  One enemy of the heart has remained steadfast though.  Salt has gained the evil reputation as the ultimate heart killer.  However, new studies being released have the American Heart Association on edge because they now question the science behind limiting salt to minuscule levels.

The danger here is that there are plenty of Americans that outright struggle day to day to try to reduce salt to the government’s guideline of 2300 milligrams or the AHA’s even stricter guideline of just 1500.  The AHA is concerned that the average American working on cutting salt might see a study like this and throw their hands up and say whatever.

It makes sense, in a way.  Like the above examples.  You like eggs, they tell you to stop eating eggs.  You cut it out or down, and then they tell you it was good for you.  Then a new study tells you you’re screwed.  A lot of people kind of reasoned that out to, hey, I’ll eat some eggs if I want to.  The evidence against the eggs was not unanimous or damning enough to go to great extents to cut them out if you like having them around.  Same with coffee.  For every article out there suggesting you cut it out completely, there’s another one saying that drinking seven cups a day or more will save your liver.  Most people shoot for the middle.  Maybe I won’t drink eight cups today, but I might have two or three and not worry about it.

The problem is that taking this perfectly reasonable approach with salt is dangerous.  Salt is the enemy.  This study needs to be taken with…we apologize for this one in advance…a grain of salt.  The study doesn’t mean that everything you ever heard about salt in too high of a quantity being bad for you is junk science nonsense.  It means that you do need salt, and cutting it down to ridiculously low levels can actually go back the other way, threatening your health in totally different ways.  So, the people that need to take notice of this latest information is those that went too hardcore on their salt conversation.  You need to get that 1500, or even the 2300.  You just don’t need to get more than that.

So, don’t throw your hands up and surrender and ask for the salt shaker.  It’s a good fight, but you might be fighting it too hard.  Don’t overdo the not doing.  Allow yourself the salt you need, and try to control it from there.  The real war on salt has been misunderstood in America for years; people think that this means don’t put salt on your food.  Well, that is good advice, but the salt you add to your fast food fries is bad, but leaving it out doesn’t mean you are that much more salt free.  The fry itself is already packed with tons of sodium before you ever thought about adding to it.  Not to mention the burger you had with it.  Not to mention the apple pie.  Say you stopped by a sandwich joint for a lighter, healthier lunch.  Unfortunately, even processed meat is chock full of salt.  Salt-wise, a sandwich can be worse than a meal you might consider to be the devil itself.  The real danger to people everywhere is the salt that is not in-your-face obvious.

So, don’t overdo it.  Don’t underdo it.  Try to stay within the lines.

Here’s another thing to consider if you are watching your salt intake.  While both the AHA and the FDA have daily guidelines, your body doesn’t shut off at a particular time.  These deadlines are more for us have something to try to gauge it by.  This means that having a salt-fest on Tuesday and then having the daily guideline on Wednesday still means you are way over on salt in general.  The daily guideline is a good way to look at it, but sometimes it can be easier to manage if you also look at it from a weekly standpoint as well.  Budget it like your checkbook.  Maybe you really eat light on the salt during the week because you know you want that one salt-bomb when you go out to dinner on Friday or Saturday night.  It’s not all about one day, because if you look at it that way, you’ll consume 4,000 mg one day and 2250 the next, and be patting yourself on the back.  Like most things in life, you have to try to find the balance and realize that you aren’t going to hit that figure every day, so you might want to try to have a sense of making up for things and budgeting to try to keep it somewhat in balance long term.  After all, it is the long term, and not what you do today or this week, that will determine the toll that excessive salt intake has on your heart.

If you’re interested in this sort of thing, Common Sense Conspiracy has addressed salt in our articles before.  Check out Are We Programmed to Think that Salt Tastes Good?

It's not just about the shaker anymore.  Salt is creeping up on you at every turn.
It’s not just about the shaker anymore. Salt is creeping up on you at every turn.

Sugary Sodas and Fat Taxes — Is the Pocketbook the Way to Attack Waistlines?

images-75Australia is considering instituting a so-called “fat tax.”  What it means is that products deemed to be overly contributing to the nation’s rising level of obesity will be taxed heavier than other products.  The concept is both to discourage people from purchasing and consuming the offending products and also to offset the costs to society of obesity.  It’s not a new concept; France has already done this, and we all know about the New York City debacle with the supersize sugary sodas.  So, Common Sense Conspiracy wants to pose the question:  is the pocketbook the way to attack waistlines?  Is this strategy going to work?

The obvious problem, at first glance, is how the law determines what products the “fat tax” applies to.  For example, Mayor Bloomberg’s assault on Coke and Pepsi as soldiers on the front line of the obesity epidemic may or may not be true, but it certainly probably hurt these companies’ feelings.  It’s a little different than cigarettes and alcohol; no one really feels sorry for Phillip Morris because everyone has the negative connotation associated with the tobacco industry.  Taxing their products is seen as punitive more than anything, but few people equate Coca Cola and Pepsi as even being in the same category.  After all, their products are a part of American culture that most certainly can be enjoyed without being taken to excess.  It is pretty well documented that smoking in any capacity is harmful to your health.  There is no healthy way to smoke.  So, your first problem is the industries that will be affected.  But, if you do trust the government wherever you are to isolate those products that deserve to be given the “fat tax” monicker, then there are other questions?

images-76First of all, does it matter?  How many people actually quit smoking because of the cost of cigarettes?  Our guess is that a lot of people entertained the notion of giving it up that might have never done so because of the prohibitive cost.  So, it was a victory in that sense.  However, will the Australian government make the “fat tax” so steep that it causes that same kind of feeling in other industries.  Cigarettes didn’t rise a few cents; the price of cigarettes skyrocketed overnight.  To do it right, it has to have life-changing implications.  Will Australia raise the taxes enough that vegetable oil suddenly costs the equivalent of $10+ for the average citizen?  There’s another problem too.  Cigarettes are the kind of good that can be discouraged without an effective substitute.  But people still have to eat.  So, does it then follow that the government will find a way to make healthier alternatives cheaper to give consumers an appropriate, affordable healthy equivalent?  Will they have to pay double to get vegetable oil while 100% extra virgin olive oil, heralded as the healthy alternative for this style of cooking, is at the usually economical price of its counterpart?  It’s more complicated than just discouraging the use of a product; if healthy products are overly expensive, and then the non-healthy counterparts are raised, all we’ve really done is make it more expensive for everyone.  And then, the likely result is that people either buy less of that good altogether, or just pick the one they would normally get anyway, as there is no real cost benefit from picking one over another.

There is another concept we at Common Sense Conspiracy want to address.  The American society especially tends to think that punishment is always the effective deterrent to any negative action.  Has anyone ever considered looking at it from the opposite perspective?  Instead of penalizing people for eating foods the government deems to be worse for the obesity epidemic, why not reward people that choose differently?  Instead of raising taxes on unhealthy items, why not provide a tax incentive for consumers and industries that create healthier alternatives?  Why does it always have to be about punishment?

Think about it.  The obesity epidemic stems from a society that has to do less physical labor and has food readily available at every turn.  People like to eat things that give them pleasure.  That is the world we live in.  There is no hunting and gathering, no necessity-stylized living.  People eat things that make them happy.  So, a society that looks at things from that reward-based perspective is probably not going to respond to punitive tactics as well as it might if there was a more positive outlook to be had from it.

exercise-busy-schedule 1Once again, cigarettes are the best example of the phenomenon we are trying to describe.  The extra taxes are not just to punish the tobacco industry; it is actually a punishment to smoker’s themselves.  The idea is to discourage them, but there is also a punishment mentality.  If you are dumb enough to keep right on smoking in the face of all this adversity, then you deserve to have to pay more to do it.  After all, you are most likely going to cost society in general more money in the long run because of your self-destructive habit.  Obesity is the same way.  It will cost more money to society in the long run, and for most people, it is a self-destructive habit.  But unlike smoking, there isn’t a social taboo associated with obesity.  We have a more victim mentality on that.  So, is the “fat tax” more of a punishment?  And what about people that use the products appropriately?  Why does the skinny, healthy fellow get punished by having to pay more for the products because others are packing on the pounds?

It’s complicated, and the most likely result is that it will raise tons of money for the government while doing little to actually fight the problem.

After all, Common Sense Conspiracy takes the stance that fixing the obesity epidemic will not be accomplished on the food side; doing something to promote physical activity is much more effective.  Instead of worrying about taxing fatty foods, why doesn’t the government provide some incentives for the people to go the gym, have enough time in their private lives to exercise, and so on and so forth.  There is more than one way to attack this issue, but only the way they are doing it will raise money for the government.

Guess which way will be tried first?

Plan B Goes OTC: Let’s Put “Morning After” Pill in the Vending Machines in Women’s Restrooms!

Common Sense Conspiracy is not known for innovation, but now that the FDA is considering lowering the age restriction on the infamous “morning after” pill to 15 years of age and making it readily available over-the-counter, we think it needs to go even further.

Why not just put it in the restroom in the little vending machine that dispenses tampons?  Hell, let’s put it in the men’s restroom too.  Right beside the condoms can be the “morning after” pill.  You know, just in case of a catastrophic failure, you are always ready.  Everyone needs a “morning after” pill in their wallet, just in case of accidental impregnation.  Happens all the time, and there’s absolutely no reason to let that little indiscretion ruin your life for years on end.  The real indiscretion is not having sex and getting pregnant unintentionally; the indiscretion is not having the foresight to have a “morning after” pill in your back pocket in case things go south.

I need a gallon of milk, loaf of bread, and, oh yeah, my Plan B One Step...  Can I hire a hitman while I'm here?
I need a gallon of milk, loaf of bread, and, oh yeah, my Plan B One Step… Can I hire a hitman while I’m here?

You know, it’s like abortion, but quicker and easier.  As a matter of fact, spread the word to the children.  Attention 15-year-old’s everywhere… don’t bother even trying to avoid unwanted pregnancies… who needs a condom?  Sex it up.  You can always pop one of these little aspirins at the end of the night and make sure you are covered.  And if you were too blitzed from alcohol and drugs to remember to take it before you bed down, you can still catch it in the morning.  No worries.

Why even have condoms?  Oh yeah, there is that pesky thing about sexually-transmitted diseases, but I’m sure every little girl that has a “morning after” pill is known for making good, sound, educated decisions before doing things like that.  I mean, the “morning after” pill is only for that rogue situation when things go wrong… you know, when you are fifteen and having sex and the condom breaks.  That’s when you need your over-the-counter murder pill…for those situations that no one can predict.  I mean, you can’t know when you decide to have sex at fifteen years of age with someone hopefully somewhere near your age range (because society really frowns on it when you are having sex with someone a lot older than you…that’s a damn crime!) that you might be doing something that could have repercussions throughout your life.  You couldn’t possibly be held responsible for your actions at that age, even though if you murdered someone, you would most likely be tried as an adult.

Oh wait… that’s exactly what you did in this case.  Murdered someone.

Good job, FDA.  Good job America.  Now, you can murder over the counter.  But you have to sign your name and address to get pseudoephedrine.

McDonald’s Burger is 14 Years Old and In Mint Condition — Why Does McDonald’s Food Not Rot?

Hmm…maybe it’s the green slime.  Whatever it is, there are tons of accounts of McDonald’s food, particularly burgers and French fries lasting for years and appearing unblemished by any sort of biological decay.  Should we regard this as a marvelous system of preserving food, or a scary one?  You be the judge.

Is President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative a Public Recognition of Mind Control Experimentation?

If you haven’t heard the good news, President Obama excitedly announced a new initiative.  We taxpayers of the United States of America will be investing a cool $100 million for a “brain-mapping project” to begin in 2014.  The initiative is being called BRAIN (fittingly enough), an acronym which stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies.  A bit of a mouthful, but catchy nonetheless.

Dubbing the initiative “the next great American project,” Obama attempted to drum up support by referencing all of the scientific and technological discoveries and innovations we as humans have made, and yet, we still have not completely figured out what is happening inside our own minds.

So, the government wants to get a better idea of what's going on in that noggin of yours...but what other sinister intentions could be behind their curiosity?
So, the government wants to get a better idea of what’s going on in that noggin of yours…but what other sinister intentions could be behind their curiosity?

You probably don’t have to look much farther to see where any good conspiracy theorist might cry foul.  Obama is selling the project as something that might give us the keys to fighting mental illness and diseases as well as understanding hate crimes and racism.  Of course, along the way, it might go a long way toward helping the government understand just how to control and mold your brain.

It’s an inconvenient and unfortunate truth that even the noblest of scientific and medical programs can wander far from the path of good intentions.  There is always someone that realizes the potential to use any good work for an evil agenda.  Even if this BRAIN initiative has promising results for everything Obama listed, do you believe that the government and military isn’t licking its lips to get their hands on this information?

Another thing of note to conspiracy-minded individuals:  this is pretty bold.  We all know of the speculation that the United States’ government has long experimented with mind control and such.  As a matter of fact, there are schools of thought that some of the school shooters, such as Adam Lanza in Newtown, Connecticut, might have been the victim or unintentional side effect of a government-mandated mind control experiment.  Up until now, however, no such experiments were openly acknowledged and embraced by the government.  With the BRAIN initiative, President Obama is putting it out there publicly that the government is indeed trying to make strides in this area and has a plan in place to get where it wants to be.  Should this boldness be interpreted as a victory?  Is this a sign that a more enlightened and critical public is asking more questions, so President Obama and company know they need to find a way to pass this off in public before it inevitably winds up on Internet message boards and forums?  Or is it simply a sign that they just don’t care to conceal it anymore?  Are we coming to a point where we have given up so many rights that the government is on the verge of just giving us a “That’s just the way it is” speech and we’ll all have to smile and accept it?

What do you think of the BRAIN initiative?  Authentic steps forward with good intentions, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?