Saturday, June 23, 2012

Modern Society and Health

Yet more "benefits" of modern industrial society revealed as a drawbacks with serious unintended consequences:
OVER 7,000 strong and growing, community farmers’ markets are being heralded as a panacea for what ails our sick nation. The smell of fresh, earthy goodness is the reason environmentalists approve of them, locavores can’t live without them, and the first lady has hitched her vegetable cart crusade to them. As health-giving as those bundles of mouthwatering leafy greens and crates of plump tomatoes are, the greatest social contribution of the farmers’ market may be its role as a delivery vehicle for putting dirt back into the American diet and in the process, reacquainting the human immune system with some “old friends.”

Increasing evidence suggests that the alarming rise in allergic and autoimmune disorders during the past few decades is at least partly attributable to our lack of exposure to microorganisms that once covered our food and us. As nature’s blanket, the potentially pathogenic and benign microorganisms associated with the dirt that once covered every aspect of our preindustrial day guaranteed a time-honored co-evolutionary process that established “normal” background levels and kept our bodies from overreacting to foreign bodies. This research suggests that reintroducing some of the organisms from the mud and water of our natural world would help avoid an overreaction of an otherwise healthy immune response that results in such chronic diseases as Type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and a host of allergic disorders.

In a world of hand sanitizer and wet wipes (not to mention double tall skinny soy vanilla lattes), we can scarcely imagine the preindustrial lifestyle that resulted in the daily intake of trillions of helpful organisms. For nearly all of human history, this began with maternal transmission of beneficial microbes during passage through the birth canal — mother to child. However, the alarming increase in the rate of Caesarean section births means a potential loss of microbiota from one generation to the next. And for most of us in the industrialized world, the microbial cleansing continues throughout life. Nature’s dirt floor has been replaced by tile; our once soiled and sooted bodies and clothes are cleaned almost daily; our muddy water is filtered and treated; our rotting and fermenting food has been chilled; and the cowshed has been neatly tucked out of sight. While these improvements in hygiene and sanitation deserve applause, they have inadvertently given rise to a set of truly human-made diseases.
Let's add a little dirt to our diet (New York Times)
People are risking their health by working on smartphones, tablets and laptops after they have left the office, according to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. It says people have become "screen slaves" and are often working while commuting or after they get home. The society said poor posture in these environments could lead to back and neck pain.

Unions said people needed to learn to switch off their devices.

An online survey, of 2,010 office workers by the Society found that nearly two-thirds of those questioned continued working outside office hours. The organisation said people were topping up their working day with more than two hours of extra screentime, on average, every day. The data suggested that having too much work and easing pressure during the day were the two main reasons for the extra workload.
Smartphone users 'risking health' with overuse of devices (BBC)
There is the old joke in Houston about how you define a pedestrian: A person looking for their car. People don't do a lot of walking in the heat; perhaps that's why McAllen-Edinburg-Mission in Texas is the most obese region in America and Boulder, Colo. is the least.
But there may be a more important reason than the driving; it may be biological. A study by David Allison of the University of Birmingham found that air conditioning might make you fat:
One of the most intriguing factors listed in the study is the “reduction in variability of ambient temperature.” The widespread use of central heating and air conditioning means that most homes and offices are now kept at a relatively constant temperature year-round. Allison’s group found evidence that this causes the body to expend less energy, because it does not have to work to warm up or cool down, potentially leading to increased fat stores. In the South, where obesity rates are the highest in the nation, homes with central air increased from 37 to 70 percent between 1978 and 1990.
One doctor wasn't so sure, telling ABC: "Since people stay thin in all different climates, it is unlikely [air conditioning] plays much of a role." But that's not much of an answer; People in the southern United States are fat, and people in Italy or France generally are not. In italy, people often live in apartments with thick walls that resist the heat, and as seen in the photo I took in Milan last month, everybody has external shutters pulled down to keep the heat out. Not many people have air conditioning because they know how to keep cool. Few of the people I saw there were obese.
Your air conditioner makes you fat (Treehugger)

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