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Five Reasons to Avoid Plastic Containers

By Joshua Corn    Guest writer for Wake Up World

The great American novelist Norman Mailer once said, “I sometimes think that there is a malign force loose in the universe that is the social equivalent of cancer, and it’s plastic. It infiltrates everything. It’s metastasis. It gets into every single pore of productive life.” You would think this was a recent quote, something he might have said after the green movement became popular. But no – he said this in 1983, before America’s obsession with everything plastic was even close to reaching its peak. What amazing foresight he had.

Plastic has its role in modern society. It’s an essential part of our cars, computers, mobile phones, children’s toys – and practically most everything we use on a day-to-day basis. But there’s one place where plastic has worn out its welcome – and that’s as a container for the food we eat and the water we drink.

The bottom line is that plastic is made from toxic materials. It’s a known fact that these toxins can leach into whatever they come into contact with. And it’s a known fact that when the compounds that make up plastic are ingested, they damage your body on a cellular level and cause health problems.

The pundits will say that the human body can easily handle the “small” amounts (which the government insultingly likes to call “acceptably safe levels”) of toxins that are ingested from plastic. But I find this excuse to be one of the world’s biggest cop-outs. If the human body wasn’t designed to ingest plastic, then no amount is good. Period.

Here are 5 reasons why you should avoid plastic containers:

1. Toxic compounds in plastic can make you really sick.

It’s typical to suffer from a variety of health problems as you age. But is this just “part of getting older”? Or is this perhaps the result of a toxic overload in the body? It’s common knowledge that illness and disorders such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, heart disease, vision impairment and many others health problems are all on the rise. Could this be in some way associated with the increasing amount of plastic in our lives? Plastic food and beverage containers became popular fairly recently (in the 1970s) and have become ubiquitous in our lives since then. More and more research is proving that toxic compounds found in plastic cause health problems ranging from cancer to infertility.

2. There’s no such thing as a safe plastic.

Plastics that contain the super toxic compound bisphenol A (BPA) have been in the news a lot lately. And for this reason, consumers have been duped into thinking that if a product is “BPA-free” it’s perfectly safe. But this is a lie. Lots of companies have caught on to the fact that they can sell more of a product if it’s labeled as “BPA-free.” But guess what? It may be BPA-free, but in its place, these companies are using BPS, a close cousin of BPA that may be equally as toxic! The bottom line is – you can’t 100% trust that any plastic doesn’t contain compounds that are toxic to your body.

3. Plastics can cause fertility and reproductive problems.

The ability to produce a healthy child is a wondrous miracle and an amazing event in one’s life. But toxic compounds found in plastic could be making this difficult, if not impossible, for millions of people. What was once speculation is now becoming fact as more and more research is proving that this is a very real problem. For example, almost all plastics contain toxic chemicals that have a negative effect on immunity and hormone regulation, both of which directly affect fertility. Specifically, BPA has been found to make it more difficult for women to conceive and to cause increased risk of miscarriages. New research is also showing that toxins found in plastic can cause birth defects and developmental problems in children.

4. Chemicals in plastic can make you fat.

There are lots of reasons why nearly two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese. But one of them may be the vast amounts of plastics our food and beverages come in contact with. After all, America is the world’s largest consumer of disposable plastic containers. Interesting new research published in Environmental Health Perspectives explains that a chemical widely used in plastics, called bisphenol A diglycidyl ether (BADGE), may actually cause stem cells to become fat cells. According to one of the study’s authors, “Exposure to these kinds of chemicals can reprogram your metabolism and make it more likely for you to store calories instead of passing them through.” Have you found that losing weight is next to impossible, despite eating less and exercising more? Perhaps it’s chemicals in plastics that make losing weight harder than it needs to be.

5. Plastics are just terrible for our planet.

Whether you are a hardcore environmentalist or if being “green” is low on your list of priorities, the fact of the matter is that you live on planet Earth, and so will your children and your children’s children. We all have a responsibility to keep the planet has livable as possible. Firstly, plastics are in most cases made from petrochemicals through an energy intensive process that itself creates lots of pollution and toxic discharge. The fact is, every plastic container you use is making the planet less habitable. Also, most plastic in the world is not recycled and usually ends up in landfills, where it degrades very slowly. According to Wikipedia, “Since the 1950s, one billion tons of plastic have been discarded and may persist for hundreds or even thousands of years.”

What Are Your Best Solutions?

Like I said earlier, plastics are a nearly unavoidable part of our everyday lives. But there is a big difference between the plastic on your computer and the plastic that may come into contact with your lunch. You don’t eat your computer. The best solution, which is affordable, convenient and really safe is glass and certain types of metal. Here are some great solutions I’ve found.

  • Break-proof glass water bottles: This glass water bottle has a rubber coating that prevents breakage. It makes water taste amazing! I take mine everywhere I go and it helps me avoid using plastic water bottles.
  • Stainless steel straws: My kids don’t use plastic straws anymore, and instead use these stainless steel straws.
  • Stainless steel containers: Dump your plastic Tupperware and instead go for stainless steel containers. Glass containers are great too, but most of them still have plastic lids.
  • Glass water coolers: If you have a water cooler at your home or office, more and more companies are offering glass containers instead of plastic ones.
  • Alternative to non-stick cookware: The coating on your non-stick cookware may be a type of plastic. Instead choose ceramic cookware or enamelled cast iron.

Sneaky Sources of BPA

Even if you remove all plastic from your food and water supply, there are still some sneaky ways that highly toxic BPA can find its way into your life. Here are the most common:

  1. Cash register receipts: This usually shocks most people. But if you handle a receipt with your hands, then eat your food with your hands, BPA is getting in your system. Avoid receipts or wash your hands immediately after touching one.
  2. The lining of most canned foods. Luckily, we’ve written a buyer’s guide that will help you find the brands that don’t use BPA.
  3. Some baby bottles and pacifiers
  4. Many toys and other children’s products
  5. Some aluminum water bottles (stainless steel is generally safe)
  6. Canned soda and beer

Sources:

environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/2012/05/2012-0605-bpa-brain-cancer-meningioma
anh-usa.org/is-bpa-free-a-lie
blogs.webmd.com/health-ehome/2012/04/pvc-unhealthy-for-our-childrens-health-and-schools
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyvinyl_chloride
cnbc.com
fastcoexist.com/1679908/chemicals-arent-why-youre-fat-but-theyre-making-you-fatter
natural-fertility-info.com/plastic-infertility
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic
1800recycling.com/2011/03/history-plastic-bottles-recycle

 

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9 Rules Of Smart Snacking

BY JEANETTE BRONÉE     JULY 28, 2014

As a health and nutrition consultant, two big questions I’m always asked are: When should I snack? and What should I snack on? Snacking often ends up being more like erratic eating so here are some tips to help you snack smartly:

1. Snack when your hunger is real.

When there is too much time between meals, you might need a bite to hold you over. The stomach takes three to four hours to empty, so if your next meal is five hours away, eat a little. If you under-eat or wait too long, watch out for over-snacking. You don’t want a snack to turn into brunch or dinner.

2. Snack when your blood sugar is low.

How can you tell? If your meals are high in starch or sugar, you might get low blood sugar shortly after eating, a swing that can make you feel falsely hungry. If you have the condition hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), you may feel nauseous without much warning. A small bite will raise your blood sugar level. Choose a food-based snack, like an apple or a carrot. Something sugary will only keep the imbalance going.

3. Snack when you’re running out of fuel.

This is different from low blood sugar. You can feel super tired when your meal did not provide enough calories. Calories are a measure of the energy available for you to use, so under-eating can leave you flat, causing you to run on adrenaline. Many go for coffee to push through. Not recommended!

4. Avoid daylong snacking.

Grazing is not the same as snacking all day. Grazing means splitting your good-food meals into smaller servings. Daylong snacking is having several snacks in addition to regular sized meals. Neither approach is ideal, since our digestive system and blood sugar balance thrive when we fast between meals. It’s best to give your stomach time to empty before eating, so a snack is just to hold you over!

5. Don’t snack when you’re bored, sad, mad, or scared.

Think of emotional snacking as the grown-up version of a pacifier. Eating calms us down, helps distract us, or even numbs us from experiencing our emotions. But it’s not a solution. Use your self-compassion to avoid snacking in those situations. Acknowledge how you feel; it will help you use love-power instead of willpower. I call it “Positive Restraint.”

6. Snack mindfully.

Our habits can get in the way when we want to make healthy changes. They’re difficult to change because it is their nature to be automatic. Bring mindfulness to your habits by starting to notice your triggers. At 4pm., do you go to the office kitchen for a treat? The time has become a trigger and you react by seeking a snack without considering if you need it or not. Start changing the habit by drinking a glass of water or cup of tea instead.

7. My mantra is: food first!

For a healthy snack, think food first: Cutting up an apple and serving it in a bowl makes it feel more like a treat and encourages you to pause and to eat mindfully. You can use almond butter, which adds protein and good fats, on apple slices to create a more substantial snack. Other real-food options are soup, sweet potato, avocado, carrot, hummus, or for a sweetness snack; try these oatballs. Smoothies can also work as long as they are not all fruit. Try a green (or any vegetable-based) smoothie like this one with berry and beet.

8. Keep it real, even when you’re on the go.

Eating whole fruit and nuts is better than bars made from fruit and nuts, though not as convenient. Many snack bars are glorified candy bars. Read the first three to five ingredients on the label; they represent the bulk of what you’re eating. If the list starts with sugar, skip it. My favorite trail mix is dry-roasted root vegetables (carrots and sweet potato) with nuts. I love pistachios because they are so high in antioxidants.

9. Plan ahead. Don’t expect to find nutritious food and snacks on the road.

Bring healthy bites with you. Little containers and pouches will help secure them in your bag. If you were taking care of a baby, you’d bring good food, so “baby yourself” and make sure you will have a proper snack or mini-meal when you need it.


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Health Benefits of Onions

Onion Health Research

Onions not only provide flavor, they also provide important nutrients and health-promoting phytochemicals. High in vitamin C, onions are a good source of dietary fiber, and folic acid. They also contain calcium, iron, and have a high protein quality (ratio of mg amino acid/gram protein). Onions are low in sodium and contain no fat.

Onions contain quercetin, a flavonoid (one category of antioxidant compounds). Antioxidants are compounds that help delay or slow the oxidative damage to cells and tissue of the body. Studies have indicated that quercetin helps to eliminate free radicals in the body, to inhibit low-density lipoprotein oxidation (an important reaction in the atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease), to protect and regenerate vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant), and to inactivate the harmful effects of chelate metal ions.

Major dietary sources of quercetin include apple, tea, and onion. Recent studies at Wageningen Agricultural University, the Netherlands, showed that the absorption of quercetin from onions is twice that from tea and more than three times that from apples. Based on studies conducted at The Queen’s University at Belfast, Ireland and Wageningen Agricultural University, the content of quercetin in onions is estimated to be between 22.40 mg and 51.82 mg per medium-sized onion (100 gram). Further research at the Agricultural University of Wageningen showed that daily consumption of onions may result in increased accumulation of quercetin in the blood. Studies are in progress to determine whether the increased quercetin accumulation from eating onions translates into significant antioxidant benefit.

onion

Other studies have shown that consumption of onions may be beneficial for reduced risk of certain diseases. Consumption of onions may prevent gastric ulcers by scavenging free radicals and by preventing growth of the ulcer-forming microorganism, Heliobacter pylori. University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers found that the more pungent onions exhibit strong anti-platelet activity. Platelet aggregation is associated with atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke. A study in progress at the University of Wisconsin is determining the extent to which onion consumption and specific onion compounds affect the in vivo aggregation of blood platelets. “Using an in vivo model, we are beginning to investigate and, in some cases, confirm the potency of the onion as a blood thinner and platelet inhibitor. Onions may be among the vegetables that will be prized not only for their addition to our cuisine, but for their value-added health characteristics,” said Irwin Goldman, Associate Professor of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A recent study at the University of Bern in Switzerland showed that consumption of one gram dry onion per day for four weeks increased bone mineral content in rats by more than 17% and mineral density by more than 13% compared to animals fed a control diet. This data suggests onion consumption has the potential to decrease the incidences of osteoporosis.

Several studies have shown quercetin to have beneficial effects against many diseases and disorders including cataracts, cardiovascular disease as well as cancer of the breast, colon, ovarian, gastric, lung, and bladder.

In addition to quercetin, onions contain the phytochemicals known as disulfides, trisulfides, cepaene, and vinyl dithiins. These compounds have a variety of health-functional properties, including anticancer and antimicrobial activities.



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7 Food Rules Anyone Can Live By

BY ASHLEY KOFF     JULY 21, 2014 

As a registered dietician, every time I begin a talk or a client session with “better nutrition is actually simple” I get looks that range from incredulous, to hopeful, to (frankly) pissed off. Because if there’s one thing most people agree on today, it’s that nutrition — what to really eat, drink, and pop to achieve your personal health goals — is confusing.

It seems to change every day and so dramatically that I’ve actually coined the phrase “nutrition whiplash” to describe the feeling of flipping through channels or pages or aisles in the store and are told the same food or ingredient is at one moment “super” and “disease preventing” and then later, “bad for you” or even “toxic.”

Well, while I can’t control the media or the marketing, I can toss you a life preserver to help you ride the waves of nutrition whiplash in the future.

Here’s all you need to know about better nutrition on one page, and below, I will walk you through it all in under five minutes.

Here are my seven tips for better nutrition, simplified:

1. Yes, you can have it all.

Just don’t have too much of anything at one time. Portion control needs an image makeover. If we think of quantity instead as enabling you to enjoy your favorite foods — then suddenly quantity is your BFF! Yes, to cheese, or steak, or potatoes or cake (that even rhymes, oh my!). Just eat an appropriate quantity.

2. Is that food — or a chemistry project?

Chemistry laboratory projects are “kool,” but just like you noticed the misspelling of “cool,” your body hits a pause when it’s given a ‘c’ instead of a ‘k’ — especially when it’s told they’re the same thing. Be a “Qualitarian”: someone who recognizes better quality choices are the key to better health. Give your body what it recognizes most easily so that it will run most efficiently.

3. Calories count but nutrient balance matters more.

For optimal performance, your body needs some calories from four major nutrient groups each time you refuel: carbs, proteins, fats and non-starchy veggies. Think of them like the gas, air in the tire, engine oil and wiper fluid. Or you can think of them as your dress, shoes, jewels and undergarments.

They all play different roles but nobody wants to attempt to drive or go to a party if any of these things are missing. Design your pit stops to include a serving each of these different nutrients.

4. Eating frequently keeps the hangry monster at bay!

You know the experience: I don’t recall what I ate because I was so hungry I just gobbled everything in sight, and some that was initially out of sight too. Well, eating frequently helps you avoid this.

Our bodies aren’t like a street car that you can fill up and not refuel until close to empty. We run better when treated more like a race car. Only put in us what we need and then refuel when we need more. This usually means eating about every three hours or so.

5. Supplements should fill in nutrient gaps.

Don’t give your body stone and expect it to make bone! Likewise, nobody likes to be played a fool. The body gets confused if you give it something (“take this, it’s good for you”) in pieces or isolated parts with no instruction booklet on how to even assemble them into workable nutrients, even if it wanted to go to the extra effort!

Supplements can play a helpful role if the body gets something that it recognizes as needing and wanting to support optimal health, but just bombarding it with isolated nutrients won’t do the trick (and can lead to it becoming irritated!).

6. Liquids should be held to the same standards as solids.

Both your liquids and your solids need to be held to the same nutritional standards noted above. I’m all for chewing and sipping, as long as you follow these principles.

7. What did I have to eat yesterday?

If you can’t answer that question, nobody can help you make better nutrition choices. How you track or journal is up to you. The best method is the one you actually do!

And that’s it! Better nutrition, simplified? While it can still feel like a lot, the good news is that I rarely have had a patient who is doing all of the above all wrong, so try journaling your intake for a few days and see what area presents the greatest opportunity. (There’s no reason to say you are “bad” at or doing something “wrong” if you didn’t have the right information to begin with.)


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10 reasons to eat sourdough bread

A Healthy Bread That is Good For You!

by Halle Cottis 

There is so much debate out there on whether or not we should be consuming grains.  I agree, that modernized grains are most likely not good for you.  Most of them are made from genetically modified grains and can damage your health.  For the past year or so, I have eliminated grains from my diet…I needed the break.  I have slowly started to reintroduce grains back to my diet.  I have chosen to focus on the traditional preparations of grains so that my body can break down the grains and digest them more easily.

What is sourdough?  According to the Bread Bakers Forum,   Sourdough is an American term for a natural leaven of “wild” or natural yeast and lactobacilli.  Also the process of leavening bread with a natural leaven.  Do not mistaken this with todays modernized yeast, it is not.  Sourdough is created from a sourdough starter.

A sourdough starter is a starter or culture of wild/natural yeast and lactobacilli in a medium of flour and liquid which is propagated through ongoing refreshments (or “feedings”) for the purpose of leavening bread dough, is on-going and is continued on from one bake or activation to the next.

Sourdough Bread  is bread which has been leavened with a sourdough starter. It may or may not be a sour bread, depending on the characteristics of the starter.

Sourdough bread is bread that is baked without the use of modernized yeast.  It is the traditional way bread was made thousands of years ago.  The bread rises slowly  allowing the bread to ferment for several days to up to a month.  This helps to promote the growth of more probiotic organisms.

10 reasons to eat sourdough bread

The probiotic microorganisms that are created when fermenting the dough:

1. Digest and assimilate (properly absorb) the foods you eat. Without adequate beneficial microflora in your gut, you can’t absorb nutrients in the foods you are eating.

2. Are necessary in order to maintain a healthy intestinal tract.

3. Contain uniquely balanced proteins, fatty acids, cellulose, minerals, and innumerable other nutrients our bodies need.

4. Provide vitamins B1 through B6 from lactobacillus and B12 vitamins from wild yeast. Wild yeast multiplies aerobically. This is because they have oxygen in them (not free radical oxygen ions) that feed your blood cells and not cancer cells. Most plant proteins including grains, seeds, cereals, beans, nuts, and some grasses form gluten. However, sourdough microflora has all the amino acids available, without the protein that forms gluten.

bread

5. Depletes damaged starch in bread, thus diabetic people should not get insulin shock. It is a misconception that whole wheat is better than white flour for diabetics (the Glycemic difference is only 1%).

6. Produce acids, which will break down and remove some of the glutens from the bread. Acids do not allow mold and most bad bacterial growth. Alkaline with high pH allows mold growth and toxins. Mold ferments at a higher pH, allowing bad bacterial growth and the secretion of toxins. The absence of acids is abnormal, even animals have acid stomachs to kill bad bacteria.

7. Offset the effects of phytic acid, which robs your body of precious minerals.

According to Wikipedia:
Phytic acid is found within the hulls of nuts, seeds, and grains. In-home food preparation techniques can reduce the phytic acid in all of these foods. Simply cooking the food will reduce the phytic acid to some degree. More effective methods are soaking in an acid medium, lactic acid fermentation, and sprouting.

Phytic acid is a strong chelator of important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, and can therefore contribute to mineral deficiencies in people whose diets rely on these foods for their mineral intake, such as those in developing countries. It also acts as an acid, chelating the vitamin niacin, which is basic, causing the condition known as pellagra. In this way, it is an anti-nutrient. For people with a particularly low intake of essential minerals, especially young children and those in developing countries, this effect can be undesirable.

 “Probiotic lactobacilli, and other species of the endogenous digestive microflora as well, are an important source of the enzyme phytase which catalyses the release of phosphate from phytate and hydrolyses the complexes formed by phytate and metal ions or other cations, rendering them more soluble ultimately improving and facilitating their intestinal absorption

8. Dissolve proteins by producing protein enzymes, thus loosening multiple peptide bonds so that you can absorb more amino acids into your body. They dissolve four gluten-forming proteins: albumin, globulin, prolamin, and glutalin. They also produce alcohol that dissolves the most stubborn water insoluble protein bonds. These bonds are the reason why so many people have gluten intolerance.

9. Inhibit the growth of bad bacteria by:

  • creating a more acidic environment
  • producing anti-bacterial agents, and
  • absorbing all the B vitamins from their surroundings leaving none for the harmful bacteria.

10. Have most everything needed for optimum nutritional absorption. To absorb calcium, you need magnesium. To absorb magnesium, you need vitamin E, C, etc. Most of these are in the sourdough microorganisms, thus providing optimum absorption.


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Need A Natural Energy Boost? Here Are 7 Food Strategies

Kara, selected from TreeHugger     July 19, 2014

Food is fuel for our bodies, and our bodies reflect what we put into them. By learning how to eat in ways that boost energy and combat fatigue, you can do a lot to optimize your mental and physical performance throughout the day.

1. Make sure you’re getting enough iron

Iron is the most common nutritional deficiency in the United States. An estimated 10 percent of women between 20 and 40 are iron-deficient. Iron is a crucial nutrient that boosts energy, combats fatigue, and enhances physical and mental endurance. Iron is responsible for transporting oxygen through people’s bodies, and without sufficient oxygen, your body will become fatigued. Women need more iron because of monthly menstruation, and small children need a lot because their bodies are growing so quickly.

Focus on making iron-rich foods a part of every meal. Kale, spinach, lentils, beans, sesame seeds, prune juice, edamame, whole grains, red meat, and molasses are good food sources of iron. Here is a longer list from the Dietitians of Canada.

2. Cut the caffeine

Many of us turn to coffee as a way to boost energy instantly but, as a stimulant, it creates an artificial sense of energy that will eventually crash, leaving you feeling more tired than ever. While I’m a big fan of my morning latte and have no intentions of giving it up, it’s a good idea not to go too crazy with the coffee addiction. Restrict your daily intake to 1 or 2 cups a day, or cut it out completely.

3. Drink plenty of water

Keeping hydrated is absolutely necessary for optimal physical performance. Try starting the day off by drinking a tall glass of water to replenish the fluids lost during the night. A glass of water does wonders to wake you up during the early afternoon slump. Avoid sugary juice and soda, as well as caffeine-laden coffee and energy drinks, and make water your go-to beverage throughout the day.

4. Don’t forget the fat

Healthy fats can provide energy. Fat helps to absorb the antioxidants in other foods that you’re eating, which in turn are important for maintaining healthy cells. Fat also makes you feel full for longer, which means you don’t have to eat as much to feel satisfied at the table. I realize this goes against the U.S. and Canadian Food Guides’ recommendations for low-fat, high-carb diets, but there is mounting empirical evidence that that kind of diet is not so good for us after all and is a leading cause for high levels of Type 2 diabetes. Seek out healthy fats, which can be found in olive oil, coconut oil, avocadoes, raw nuts and seeds, and fatty fish.

5. Eat whole grains

Whole grains slow down the digestive process and burn more slowly than refined or processed foods, providing energy over a longer period of time. You’ll also get more nutrients since the individual foods will not have lost any ‘original parts’ in the act of the processing. Choose whole grains such as steel-cut oats, millet, barley, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat, and buckwheat.

6. Balance your food intake

“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” By properly balancing your daily food intake, you will ensure optimal energy throughout the day. A hearty, energizing breakfast that includes low-glycemic carbs and healthy fats gives you the fuel to start the day. As your metabolism slows before bedtime, it’s important to eat less. Be sure to eat healthy snacks throughout the day to maintain energy, such as raw nuts, seeds, and fruit.

7. Buy fresh and local

The fresher produce is, the more nutrients it has. By buying locally, you’ll minimize the amount of time wasted between harvest and consumption, and optimize the nutritional value for your body. The produce is fresher and usually has not been subjected to irradiation (getting zapped by radiation to kill germs), wax coatings, or prolonged refrigeration.

By Rick Ligthelm, TreeHugger


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Bingeing On Bad News Can Fuel Daily Stress

by JON HAMILTON    July 10, 2014 

Tracking frightening events closely for days on end even overwhelms some newshounds.

If you’re feeling stressed these days, the news media may be partly to blame.

At least that’s the suggestion of a national survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

The survey of more than 2,500 Americans found that about 1 in 4 said they had experienced a “great deal” of stress in the previous month. And these stressed-out people said one of the biggest contributors to their day-to-day stress was watching, reading or listening to the news.

The result comes as no surprise to Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a psychologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She’s been studying stress and the news media since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. In that incident, a rental truck filled with explosives killed 168 people, including children in a day care center.

McNaughton-Cassill was hundreds of miles away. Even so, “I had small kids in day care and got kind of stressed,” she says. And she realized that “certain kinds of news can push your own buttons and make you very anxious.”

Take a break from catching up on social media and emails — even if it’s only for a few days.

Since then, McNaughton-Cassill and other researchers have done many studies showing that certain types of news coverage can produce emotional responses associated with stress. The biggest effect comes from traumatic events covered in a sensational way — something that’s hard to avoid these days, McNaughton-Cassill says. “There is so much more news available, and so many different channels that are competing, that they’re trying harder to be sensational,” she says.

information-overload

Another factor is the growing prevalence of disturbing images delivered in something close to real time, McNaughton-Cassill says. During the Civil War, media outlets relied on line drawings that could take days or weeks to reach an audience. By the Vietnam War, nightly video was available. “And now, of course, we’ve got the reporter there waiting to see where the bomb hits,” she says.

To see how that kind of coverage is affecting the public, a team of researchers questioned more than 4,500 people across the country about their reaction to last year’s Boston Marathon bombing. The study found that “people who exposed themselves to six or more hours of media daily actually reported more acute stress symptoms than did people who were directly exposed — meaning they were at the site of the bombings,” says professor Alison Holman of the University of California, Irvine.

One reason for this extreme reaction may be that news outlets frequently “take a clip of images and they repeat that same clip over and over and over as they’re talking about what happened,” Holman says. The result can be symptoms like those of post-traumatic stress disorder, she says.

But consumers and the news media can take steps to minimize news-related stress, researchers say. News outlets can help by warning their audience before presenting something that’s particularly disturbing. And consumers can avoid bingeing on news, especially after an event like Sept. 11 or the Boston Marathon bombing. “Just don’t overdo it,” Holman says.

That can be hard to do, though. There’s evidence that our brains have evolved to pay close attention to potential threats, McNaughton-Cassill says. So we have to remind ourselves that absorbing every detail about a bombing doesn’t help us survive. It just stresses us out.

source: www.npr.org