Whopper Nation: Americans’ Eating Habits Grow Even Worse

If you thought Americans’ eating habits couldn’t possibly get any worse, think again. In a recent Gallup poll, Americans reported a drop in healthy eating this year over last year, with fruit and vegetable consumption down across all demographics.

When asked if they “ate healthy all day yesterday,” 66.2% of respondents answered “yes,” compared to 68.2% last year. Likewise, 61.3% of women and a meager 50.1% of men reported eating five or more servings of fruit and vegetables at least four times a week in 2011, compared to 63.5% and 51.7% in 2010, respectively.

Of course, the poll does not acknowledge that “healthy” is a highly subjective term. Are potatoes “healthy”? What about granola? Fruit juice? Pasta? The list goes on and on.

Even worse, Americans’ unhealthy habits extended beyond diet, with increases in smoking and decreases in exercise reported over last year’s numbers.

So what’s causing the bad trend? The easiest – and perhaps erroneous – assumption would be to link unhealthy habits with the faltering economy: People are working more to make up for their debt, and they’re earning less money, eating cheaper food and smoking to kill stress – leaving them less time to exercise.

Gallup throws the blame on high gas prices, which have led to more expensive food and less consumer money to pay for it. But maybe it’s not that easy. Have Americans become complacent? Are we failing to see the connection between poor health and disease? Are we funding the healthcare, insurance and drug companies with our “the doctor will fix it” attitude?

What about false advertising, greenwashing and pseudo-healthy food products? How will all of this factor into Americans’ lifestyle and well-being?

These numbers may only represent a blip on the radar. However, Americans’ health – as well as its correlation with the state of the economy – will be an important trend to watch in the months and years ahead.


Not Just For Junior: Four Reasons Why You Should Adopt A Pet

It’s no secret: We love our pets. More than 63% of Americans have at least one, and it’s no wonder why: There are many proven benefits of pet ownership. Here are just a few of the reasons why you should consider adopting a new friend:

1. You’ll be in better shape. Numerous studies have shown that dog owners exercise more – an average of 30 minutes more per week – than people who do not have dogs. In fact, one study even showed that people walked 28% faster when accompanied by their dog than another human. We can easily make excuses not to go to the gym, but it’s a bit harder to  avoid dogs’ natural urge to release their energy.

2. You’ll be happier. Studies have also proven that pet owners are considerably happier than non-pet owners. Pets offer unconditional love and companionship, which are key sources of human happiness. Research has also proven that owning a pet reduces stress levels and anxiety, which also has health benefits.

3. You’ll be a better person. Caring for a pet – just like being a parent – requires patience, nurturing and love. As a pet owner, you’ll develop these qualities naturally and learn to not sweat the small stuff so much.

4. You’ll be helping a friend in need. According to the ASPCA, there are about 70 million homeless cats and dogs living in the United States at any given time, and many of these animals will be euthanized due to no fault of their own. If you are capable of giving one of these animals a good home, you have not only saved a life, but given a dog or cat (or both!) a friend they may have never had. Check out petfinder.com for a list of animals at local shelters.

These are just a few of the many reasons to consider adopting a pet. Before doing so, however, make sure you have both the time and financial means to care for the animal. Millions of the stray cats and dogs found roaming the streets were owned by irresponsible people who should have never adopted these animals in the first place. If you decide to adopt, good luck! If you are patient and caring, pet ownership will be one of the most rewarding decisions you’ll make.

Lawsuit Dropped: Taco Bell Settles Beef Over Fake-Meat Allegation

(Photo credit: Marler Clark L.L.P.)

If you’ve been deterred from indulging in that “Fourth Meal” lately, rest assured: Taco Bell’s “seasoned taco filling” is really meat, after all!

Okay, so that might be a tad optimistic, considering its list of ingredients. But the California woman who sparked the backlash in the first place has dropped her lawsuit without receiving a penny, according to a Reuters report.

In January, attorneys for Amanda Obney filed a class-action lawsuit against the fast-food chain, claiming the “seasoned taco filling” contained only 35% beef and therefore did not qualify as meat under the USDA’s minimum standards.

Since then, Taco Bell has countered the claims, of course, maintaining that its “signature recipe” contains 88% meat but that “Plain ground beef tastes boring.” It also launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign — including this television spot — to fight the claims.

But does any of this really matter? Most of the people reading this right now — or who even knew about the lawsuit in the first place — wouldn’t touch a Chalupa anyway. On the other hand, after the initial media buzz about the fake-meat claim, there was still a snaking line of cars around my local Taco Bell drive-through.

So my question to you is, does knowledge really change consumer behavior? Join the conversation by leaving your comments.

A Sugar By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

Brace yourself; it’s happening again: Another self-serving group is lobbying to use deceptive rhetoric to brainwash the American public into thinking and behaving a certain way – in this case, tricking them into purchasing products made with high-fructose corn syrup.

According to several media reports, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) has applied to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seeking to change the name of “high-fructose corn syrup” to “corn sugar,” because the group is worried about Americans’ negative perception of the substance.

Corn sugar. Sounds healthy, right? Well, the “corn” part, anyway. By attempting to change the name, the corn-refining industry is intentionally exploiting the public’s confusion regarding high-fructose corn syrup’s derivation, which actually involves the chemical conversion of corn starch into fructose.

There’s a reason why consumers perceive the substance as unhealthy — because it is. There have been numerous studies linking it to higher rates of diabetes and obesity, not to mention the resulting complications, such as heart disease.

Still, television campaigns, such as this one by the CRA, are attempting to dupe consumers into thinking they’re body “doesn’t know the difference” between high-fructose corn syrup and sugar from say, sugar cane. What these ads fail to mention is the chemically induced nature of the conversion process or that the country is using corn products as a sugar substitute simply because it’s cheap and abundant.

The good news is that consumers are becoming more informed and making smarter decisions, much in the same way they’ve made progress in regard to smoking. The tobacco industry has suffered from bad publicity, and the corn-refining industry should suffer that same fate.

Don’t let the CRA use deceptive PR tactics to mislead consumers. To urge the FDA to deny the CRA’s request, click here.


EPA’s Actions On Human Pesticide Testing: Confused Priorities, Motives

I was really starting to get tired of complaining about corrupt industries. First, it was tobacco. Then came financial services, real estate, insurance, pharmaceutical — the list goes on. But when I found out that in 2006, the EPA canceled its ban on human pesticide testing, I had to put my censure moratorium on hold.

According to a statement from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), public records show that researchers paid people “to eat or drink pesticides, to enter pesticide vapor ‘chambers,’ or to have pesticides sprayed into their eyes or rubbed onto their skin.”

“In one experiment,” the NRDC statement adds, “the people tested were even told that the chemical was a medicine instead of a pesticide.” Under the rule in place since 2006, it is legal for adults get paid for pesticide testing done on their own children.

It’s bad enough that these products are releasing their harmful toxins into our environment, inevitably affecting human health as well. The pesticide companies know their products are harmful; that’s why their effects on humans need to be measured in the first place.

The good news is that EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson is taking another positive step forward to reverse the corruption that took place under the previous administration: Under a proposed rule, which is currently under a 60-day comment period, the EPA will eliminate the incentive for pesticide companies to conduct testing on humans, the NRDC says.

However, even if it is passed, the rule will not ban human testing altogether — nor will it ban animal testing, which is another issue entirely. But instead of merely proposing stricter regulations — which is a start — maybe we should be taking a harder look at the need for these toxic chemicals in the first place, and instead of wasting money on lawsuits, spend it on researching and developing safer alternatives.