Monthly Archives: June 2010

Is NYC really “healthier” or just driving out the elderly?

According to an  article in today’s NY Times, NYC is ‘healthier’ than the nation.  That may not seem shocking to people that associate NYC with Manhattan, but  NYC also includes all the outer lying boroughs.  That’s quite an accomplishment when just north of 125th street is the largest population, per density, of obesity and diabetes.    So, while I fully note the stamina it requires to mount the subway stairs, speed-walk across major intersections, there must be other explanations than those cited by the author, ‘less gun ownership’ and ‘less car accidents’ from residents that rely on mass transit.  The first thing that comes to my mind is that proximity to hospitals means lower mortality statistics in cities, as opposed to the distance to rural health facitilites, so it is likely that several cities are ‘healthier’ than the national average.

NYC is a melting pot, with more products sold for increasing immigrant populations.  Often that means more fresh produce and, in a stagnant economy, beans and rice become a staple in every home, even those that can trace their ancestors back to the Mayflower.   In my suburb, I can count on one hand the grocers that stock plantains, but near my office, they can be found at every bodega, or street cart vendor, all evidence of healthy dietary offerings.  Before we celebrate, however, we should not disregard the impact of age.

For the elderly in a rent controlled apartment, failed health likely means a move to the retirement facility, often out of the city or state.   Her landlord, unencumbered by Rent Control, will charge whatever the market will bear for her prime Gramercy park apartment, to someone younger [read: healthier]  as it  will not be affordable for many on a fixed income.  In addition, shrinking corporate tax revenue has increased the taxes levied on residents,  making it unaffordable  for retirees.

The critical factor in the depression in the housing market, is that it has an inverse affect on the rental market, which comprises most of NYC residences.    Contrary to prices in home sales,  the rental market climbs as home seekers no longer qualify for mortgages with higher down payment and asset requirements.     It is the younger median age of NYC dwellers that likely accounts for the ‘health’ statistic reported.   From my perspective, seemingly “better health” at the expense of unaffordable housing, for young and old,  is not something to cheer about.

“Healthier” for whom exactly?

My children head out the door in the morning protesting they don’t want breakfast because I have “nothing good”.       As parents, we’ve all read the studies that show students that have had breakfast, achieve a higher performance.   So I begin my search,  hither and yon, to far away aisles, for a product acceptable to all.   But upon deeper examination, the ‘healthier’ fiber  packed cereal contains a whopping 51 carbohydrate grams per serving, and 270 calories for 8 ounces, with milk, suitable for perhaps Calista Flockhart, or your parakeet, but not nearly a sensible portion, which, if doubled, translates to  consuming nearly 40% of the RDA, recommended daily allowance, of carbohydrates and over 25% of the RDA in calories  before even starting your day.   Our compromise choice however, Chocolate Cheerios, has the same generous percentage of fortified vitamins and minerals and almost half the calories, 140 calories for 6 ounces, with milk, and with 23 carbohydrate grams per serving, 45% less than the fiber-fortified choice.  So my family can go past the displayed serving size for a real portion, without concern of  blowing through those RDA by lunchtime.

For  adults the increased fiber may be an advantage, assuming they don’t consume the additional snacks,  but children reportedly consume 3  snacks/sweets daily so carbohydrate consumption skyrockets throughout their day; welcome to Diabetes Prevention 101. Start counting now, and you will count your, and your kids’, blessings longer.

Note to our readers:  We receive no payment in any form, from General Mills , or any other brand, ever mentioned in this blogsite.   Coincidentally, the carb-loaded cereal I referenced is also one of theirs.

A sugar fix like no other

Somewhere our kids got the ridiculous notion that everything they eat must delight their taste buds.    Like many of  my generation, I was threatened with ‘no dessert!’ unless I finished my vegetables.   Today, many families don’t prepare,  let alone purchase vegetables.   While vitamins can help, I am curious how vitamins and minerals digested from natural sources compare with those in capsule form.    I couldn’t find any studies regarding  differences in metabolism, digestive health, etc,  but I have already determined they are harmful simply because they taste like candy.    Even medicine for children tastes like candy.   Cognizant or not of our actions, we are brain washing our children to expect sweets, so why are we surprised when they demand them?

The negative repercussions from this were brought to light last week when elementary school children in Queens drank poisoned water from their school’s fountains.     The company working on the refrigeration system, leaked fluid into the water supply.    More than half the children questioned said they knew it tasted different, but continued to drink because it was ‘sweet’.     Even while recognizing the abnormality, they disregarded common sense for a sugar fix.  For a humorous take I could swear this was a James Bond plot, or was it Jackie Chan?   But for a more serious perspective, we should all be deeply troubled and note  the ease with which a population could be poisoned.   Let’s hope this serves as a wake up call to those in Food Safety as our food and water supply is this nation’s largest terrorist target.

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