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March 2, 2018

Weekend reads: How Burger King and Taco Bell stack up on unhealthiness

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    Having kids makes women's DNA look 11 years older. Women who have given birth have shorter telomeres, the parts of DNA associated with lifespan, that more closely resemble telomeres among older, childless women—but that doesn't mean women with children are dying earlier than their childless peers, according to a study in Human Reproduction. Anna Pollack—lead author on the study, who works as a researcher at George Mason University—said the findings shouldn't deter women from having children, as a lot of factors can influence telomere length, such as smoking or stress. But she did note that the findings fit with personal anecdotes and previous research. "Anecdotally, just chatting with my friends who have children, we all do feel that having kids has aged us," said Pollack. "But scientifically, this does fit with what we understand pretty well. We know that having kids is associated with a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. And some large studies have linked telomere length to mortality risk and risks of other major diseases."

    So which is worse for your health: Burger King or Taco Bell? Reegan Von Wildenradt, writing for Men's Health, decided to dive in to figure out whether Burger King or Taco Bell is worse for your health—and Burger King took the cake, so to speak. According to Von Wildenradt, Burger King had the most calories in a single item of the two chains (its Bacon King burger coming in at 1,150 calories, compared with Taco Bell's 870-calorie Beef XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito). Burger King also had the menu item with the highest sugar content of the two, with the Fruit Loops Milkshake at 103 grams of sugar. "Both of these fast food joints have some pretty egregious offerings," Von Wildenradt concludes, "but Taco Bell's worst items have nothing on Burger King's monster menu."

    Rachel Schulze's reads

    To fight a snack attack, try 'surfing' it. Writing for the Washington Post, Carrie Dennett, a registered dietician nutritionist, explains that while some cravings could be characterized as an urge or impulse a true craving is like a "slow burn" or a "yen for a favorite dish." When it comes to impulse-type cravings, Dennett suggests "surfin[ing] the urge." That entails thinking of the craving as a wave, and watching it build, peak, and fall. Instead of denying it, "actively surf if," Dennett writes. When it comes to a craving that won't disappear, Dennett advises getting the food and savoring it—when you're having a true craving, less sinful alternatives won't suffice.

    The history of anesthesia, briefly. Out of the 21 million who undergo general anesthesia each year, Amanda Foreman was one of the roughly 26,000 Americans who woke up during the experience. Following the experience, she's written a "brief history of anesthesia." Her account begins with the ancient Greeks—who used alcohol, poppy opium, and mandrake root—and covers the advent of ether as an anesthetic during surgery in the mid-1800s, but, despite continuing advances, she concludes by noting "scientists still don't entirely understand how [anesthesia] works." As for her own experience of "anesthetic awareness" during sedation, Foreman writes, "I still can't say what was more disturbing: being conscious or seeing the horrified faces of the doctors and nurses."


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