Today I’m taking a break to share some things I’ve learned lately. I thought they were interesting. Perhaps you will too.
The World’s Population
We’ve all heard the statement, “Of all the people who ever lived, most are alive today.” It has just enough authority to it, just enough sense of “Huh, that’s interesting” that we all take it at face value. Well, I learned from a short article in the June 2011 issue of National Geographic Magazine that this is not true. As of this year, approximately 103 billion people have ever lived. And only 6.4% of them are alive today. Doesn’t that make more sense?
Most of us learned in elementary school that taste is one of our five senses. My health book explained in detail where each taste sensation is located on my tongue—bitter in the back, salty and sour in the sides, and sweet on the tip. Well, according to an article by Michele Collet, it turns out my health book was wrong. Yes, our tongue senses flavors, but the receptors are scattered randomly over the entire surface. Apparently a Harvard professor mis-translated a discredited German paper, resulting in millions of deceived school children.
The same article destroyed another belief I’ve held—that sugar makes children hyperactive. As a parent, I loved being able to blame my children’s misbehavior on the candy bar they got from a friend, rather than my lack of training. However, it’s hard to argue with science. Collet writes: “Twelve controlled, double blind trials have shown that there is absolutely no connection between children’s behavior and their sugar intake.”
I found those results particularly interesting because I know sugar gives me a short-lived energy boost, followed by a crash. Precipitately raising my blood sugar turns my metabolism on, but an over-production of insulin quickly moves all that glucose into my cells, where it happily converts to fat while I lie on the couch, exhausted. I wonder if they repeated these results with adults, especially adults who are insulin resistant.
Plant a Canola Tree?
Finally, in an effort to improve my family’s health, I often sauté food in olive oil or canola oil rather than butter. Clearly, olive oil comes from olive trees, but where does canola come from? Is there such a thing as a canola tree?
It turns out there is!—or at least a plant. Canola (from CANadian Oil, Low Acid) is a cultivar bred from rapeseed, otherwise known as field mustard. While rapeseed oil was initially used as fuel source and industrial lubricant, the canola plants grown for human consumption produce an oil that is much more palatable. Plain rapeseed oil contains high levels of erucic acid that may (or may not) cause heart damage; Canola has a mere 2%, a level considered safe. Moreover, it is low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat. Plus it has the highest levels of any cooking oil of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that helps your heart.
So that’s it for your trivia update. Have you heard anything lately that we should all know about?