December 15, 2017

Weekend reads: A food critic's take on America's best-known chains

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    Playing Super Mario 64 could be good for your brain. Older adults who played the video game "Super Mario 64" experienced increases in the amount of gray matter in their brains, particularly in areas of the brain linked to spatial and episodic memory, according to a study in PLOS One. For the study, researchers recruited 33 people between the ages of 55 and 75 and divided them into three groups. The first group played "Super Mario 64" for 30 minutes a day for five days a week for six months, while the second group took piano lessons on the same schedule and the third group did not do any additional tasks. After assessing participants at the start and end of the trial with MRI scans and cognitive performance tests, the researchers found that the group who played video games had increased levels of gray matter in their hippocampus and cerebellum, as well as improvements in their short-term memory. Meanwhile, those who played piano saw more gray matter in their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and cerebellum.

    A fitness regimen you probably haven't tried. To stay fit in the winter, Colorado entrepreneur Joshua Onysko, founder of a skin-care line, opts for a less conventional workout: lumberjacking on his Colorado property. According to Onysko, the chain saw, ax, and two-man saw work every muscle in his body. To build up supplemental strength for his lumberjack routine, Onysko took up CrossFit. On chopping down a tree with an ax, Onysko said, "It's not the most efficient way to chop down a tree, but it's a great stress release."

    Rachel Schulze's reads

    Red Lobster sells how many of those biscuits? Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema in a departure from his usual kind of restaurant has penned a review of America's most well-known sit-down food chains, such as Applebee's, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster. In addition to reviewing the restaurants and assigning them a letter grade A to F, Sietsema offers a fun tidbit about each spot. For instance, of Chili's, Sietsema writes, "The creative director behind the chain's song (brought back this year) says he's never eaten Chili's ribs." And did you know Reb Lobster sells 395 million biscuits each year?

    A cardiologist's take on an ice cream binge. In response to a reader question, Roni Caryn Rabin in the New York Times' "Well" addresses whether eating a pint of ice cream in one sitting is worse for your heart than eating it over a longer time span. On the one hand, an ice cream binge "has physiological effects that can potentially strain the cardiovascular system," Caryn Rabin writes. On the other, Martha Gulati, chief of cardiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and editor of the American College of Cardiology's patient education website Cardiosmart.org, notes that "tons of people"—herself included—"have eaten a pint of ice cream without consequences." That said, Gulati says individuals who are at a higher risk for heart disease "should be careful about eating a calorie-heavy meal" or eating especially fatty, sugary desserts. 

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