TIME society

The Organic Food Movement Is an Insufferably Classist Waste of Money

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Why must we feed this obsession and give up common sense and taste?

I am 47. I say this for reference. Correction: more as an admonishment. I grew up in the 1980s, the decade of big hair and bigger shoulder pads. In short, a time when excess and indulgence were still cool. That being said, indulge me. Here goes:

I hate the whole organic food movement. Notice I said “movement,” because it is the mindset that is perverse and insufferable.

My hatred stems from the fact that this trend is a repudiation of my own working class background. Eating organic is eating more expensively and, in my opinion, often unnecessarily.

Just this morning as I was drinking my morning coffee with milk (more on this later), I almost choked when I saw the latest report on “Good Morning America.” The “next big super drink” sweeping the country in 2015, according to GMA, is organic birch tree water. The water is actually the sap from birch trees tapped in early spring. Sounds very pastoral, almost nostalgic of a simpler era, something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Think again.

A quick search with Amazon suppliers indicates that this tree sap is like liquid gold. It is hard to come by, except if you happen to be a native of a Slavic country. A case of this forest juice, which equates to 10 bottles, is $24.95 — without shipping. Give me my store-brand bottled water or, better yet, water that comes out of my kitchen faucet.

I do not think it is wise to have to budget for simple hydration. Can you say fad? Remember coconut water?

People who eat primarily organic are the same hipsters who make their little ones toil in community gardens after picking them up from child care cooperatives. What they can’t harvest, they buy in small shops that sell two dozen kinds of honey, and enough soy and tofu to choke a cow.

I don’t know about you, but the only time I ever had honey as a kid was when I was sick. It was added to my mug of Lipton tea and came out of a little golden bear-shaped squeeze bottle. (And in my budget challenged household, we re-used the tea bag.)

And as for cows, they are regarded as one moo short of pure evil by people who fear the possibility they may be treated with antibodies or growth hormones and steroids. The organic foodies raise children who may never experience the lush, velvety feel of a milk mustache. Instead, they get the flat, chalky aftertaste of some almond-based alternative milk product.

Rather than dunk Oreos rich with refined sugars, they wash down carob biscuits baked with agave.

I am not going to argue the health benefits of an organic diet. Medical studies come and go, but there is no conclusive evidence which says eating organic is eating more nutritiously. And the verdict is still out on taste differences. Although those who have tried birch tree water say it is an “acquired taste,” and have likened it to flavored medicine. Yummy.

I fear, however, that some of these all natural choices (all the friggin’ time) are leading us down a strange path.

Let’s face it: When you remove “bad calories,” and “unnatural additives,” you cut out the fun, and not trim it either. Ask any person on a diet if they are happy. But at least on a diet there are cheat days.

The comforting lethargy that follows a big dish of processed macaroni and cheese (made with the little envelope of bright yellow powder) is never experienced by organic foodies or their progeny. Instead of lolling on the couch, they are busy reading labels to determine if what they ingest is locally sourced. I like farmers as much as the next person, but as a city gal, agriculture was never my strong point.

In fact, part of the expense of organic products is the extra inspection and certification by government agencies. This cost to the producers is passed down to consumers. The organic foodies are ever vigilant that their foods are not produced by methods that employ chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Granted, poisons in the food chain should be avoided. It is not like I aspire to be first on the toxic food line.

But I have to confess that the adage, what you don’t know, won’t hurt you has served me well.

There is even organic food in the marketplace for our family pets. Funny, I don’t have a desire to spend more to feed my own three beloved dogs and feel good about myself as a pet parent. I would rather donate the money to an animal shelter.

There is a superiority among the organic foodies and a class distinction that goes beyond pure consumerism. I might be sensitive about my blue-collar upbringing, but digging deeper in your pocket does not mean you are spending wisely.

People who shop in supermarkets, buy in bulk, or clip coupons are not discriminatory, well-informed, or hip enough to live in the same neighborhoods for many organic foodies. Organic food, which has earned prime shelf space, is muscling out some of the less expensive choices, and is making it harder to stretch a dollar.

In short, my own dad, who was a bus driver, could never have afforded the lifestyle enjoyed by these purists. In my day, eating TV dinners and canned foods was good enough. Blissful ignorance? Maybe.

I might have evolved to the point where I prefer fresh (or at least frozen) produce over canned varieties, and meat from a butcher rather than a plastic tray. I have been known to avoid any packaging that has more than three polysyllabic ingredients that I cannot pronounce.

But don’t take away my Oreos.

Andrea Della Monica wrote this article for xoJane.

Read next: A Guide to What Kind of Eggs You Should Buy

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Income Matters Most to People in This Age Group

TIME.com stock photos Money Dollar Bills
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Money may mean the most in midlife

Can money buy you happiness? It might depend on your stage of life, finds a new study in the journal Psychology and Aging. The link between life satisfaction and income is strongest in 30-50 year-olds, while it’s only weakly correlated in older people and young adults, the study shows.

Researchers looked at life satisfaction survey data from more than 40,000 people in Germany, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, taken over the course of many years. The results were consistent in all three regions.

People in the middle of their lives likely value income because of increased financial responsibilities, including the need to support a family, the study authors say. Young adults may place less value on income because of support from their parents, and older people are more likely to have resources outside of income like retirement savings, they explain.

Other research has suggested that money doesn’t do anything to make people happy, and, if it does, its influence is fairly subtle. But this study suggests that looking at the aggregate data without teasing out different age groups won’t necessarily provide the most relevant view.

“Our findings suggest that if money does buy happiness, it does so to different degrees for different people,” the study says.

TIME health

These Are the States Where People Live Longest

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The states with the longest life expectancies have concurrently low mortality rates

This post is in partnership with 24/7 Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247WallSt.com.

The United States has a health problem. Across the country, life expectancies routinely fail to meet the standards set by other developed nations. Differences in life expectancy between the United States and other developed nations, such as Switzerland and Japan, are dramatic.

However, some states have closed the gap with these nations. In both Hawaii and Minnesota, a resident born in 2010 could expect to live 81 years on average. In 12 states, the life expectancy at birth was 80 years or more.

The states with the longest life expectancies have concurrently low mortality rates, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Across the United States, the age-adjusted mortality rate was 732.8 deaths per 100,000 people in 2012. However, in eight of the states with the highest life expectancies the mortality rate was less than 700 deaths for every 100,000 residents. In Hawaii, the age-adjusted mortality rate was just 586.5 per 100,000, the lowest in the country.

Access to health coverage is among the important factors that promotes good health — and as a result leads to longer lives. In most of the states with the longest life expectancies a far lower percentage of the population was uninsured relative to the nation as a whole. While 14.5% of Americans did not have health care coverage last year, only 3.7% of Massachusetts residents did not. In Hawaii and Vermont the uninsured rates was also less than half the national rate.

However, not all the research is conclusive on the effects of health care coverage on mortality. One 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health stated that a lack of coverage led to nearly 45,000 deaths in the United States a year. However, another 2009 study appearing in Health Services Research argued that “there is little evidence to suggest that extending insurance coverage to all adults would have a large effect on the number of deaths in the United States.”

Poverty, too, can contribute to poor health outcomes. In fact, many states that have relatively high life expectancies also have relatively low poverty rates. New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Hawaii were all among the states with the longest life expectancies, as well as among the five states with the lowest poverty rates.

Some contributors to poor health and the resulting low life expectancies are preventable. Smoking, for instance, was far more prevalent in the states with the lowest life expectancies, as was physical inactivity. By contrast, in many of the healthiest states, people were far more likely to have healthy habits, such as not smoking and being more active.

In order to identify the states with the highest life expectancies at birth in 2010, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed figures from the OECD’s 2014 study on regional well-being. Data on age-adjusted mortality rates are from the CDC for 2012. Figures on poverty and health insurance coverage are from the Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey. Other figures cited are from the 2014 edition of America’s Health Rankings, an annual study from the United Health Foundation.

These are the states where people live longest.

10. Utah
> Life expectancy: 80.2 years
> Obesity rate: 24.1% (4th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.7% (14th lowest)

Utah has one of the highest life expectancies in the United States, at just over 80 years. No state had a lower percentage of adults who smoke. Utah is also the only top state for life expectancy that has not yet committed to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Utah Governor Gary Herbert has instead pushed an alternative plan, called Healthy Utah, to provide coverage to disadvantaged residents.

Read more: Cities With the Largest Homes

9. New Jersey
> Life expectancy: 80.3 years (tied-8th highest)
> Obesity rate: 26.3% (12th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.4% (8th lowest)

New Jersey has especially high number of medical professionals. There were more than 143 general practitioners as well as 83 dentists for every 100,000 residents as of the most recently available data. In addition to high numbers of medical professionals, residents were among the least likely Americans to smoke. The effects of a high life expectancy at birth are also reflected in a low age-adjusted death rate, at just 677.6 deaths for every 100,000 people. By comparison, the death rate for all Americans was 732.8 per 100,00 people.

8. New Hampshire
> Life expectancy: 80.3 years (tied-8th highest)
> Obesity rate: 26.7% (16th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 8.7% (the lowest)

Limiting poverty can also improve health outcomes, and no state had a lower poverty rate than New Hampshire. Just 8.7% of the New Hampshire population lived below the poverty line in 2013, versus 15.8% of all Americans. Residents were more likely than most Americans to exercise regularly, and were likely than almost all states to be a victim of a violent crime. Violence has become increasingly recognized as a public health matter in recent decades.

For the rest of the list, please go to 24/7WallStreet.com.

Read next: 20 Things You Should Throw Away for Better Health

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TIME ebola

The Ebola Virus Is Mutating, Say Scientists

Guinea West Africa Ebola
A health care worker, right, takes the temperatures of school children for signs of the Ebola virus before they enter their school in the city of Conakry, Guinea, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 Youssouf Bah—AP

The outbreak has so far claimed 8,795 lives across the affected West African region

Scientists at a French research institute say the Ebola virus has mutated and they are studying whether it may have become more contagious.

Researchers at the Institut Pasteur are analyzing hundreds of blood samples from Guinean Ebola patients in an effort to determine if the new variation poses a higher risk of transmission, according to the BBC.

“We’ve now seen several cases that don’t have any symptoms at all, asymptomatic cases,” said human geneticist Dr. Anavaj Sakuntabhai. “These people may be the people who can spread the virus better, but we still don’t know that yet. A virus can change itself to less deadly, but more contagious and that’s something we are afraid of.”

Although virus mutations are common, researchers are concerned that Ebola could eventually morph into an airborne disease if given enough time.

However, there is no evidence to suggest this has happened yet, and the virus is still spread only via direct contact with an infected person.

Institut Pasteur, which first pinpointed the current Ebola outbreak last March, is hoping that two vaccines they are developing will reach human trials by the end of the year.

Current figures indicate 8,795 of some 22,000 cases across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — around 40% — have been fatal.

[BBC]

TIME Infectious Disease

A California High School Suspended 66 Kids Over Measles Fears

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School districts are grappling over whether to make vaccination a condition of enrollment

A two-week suspension for 66 high school students who have not been fully immunized for measles has been handed down by a California high school.

The move comes after one student was believed to have exposed 20 others to the highly contagious disease during a school field trip.

That student is being allowed to return to the Palm Desert High School according to the Los Angeles Times, and the suspended students can return to school earlier if they provide proof of immunization or are medically cleared by the Riverside County Public Health Department.

“We are simply responding, being very careful and making sure we’re taking the best care of students and staff,” Desert Sands Unified School District spokeswoman Mary Perry told Reuters.

School districts are grappling with the decision of whether or not to require students to prove they have been vaccinated before enrollment.

The homegrown measles virus, which causes rash and fever, was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000. Its reappearance and subsequent surge has created concerns over parents who do not have their children vaccinated because of fears of negative side effects.

California and the surrounding states, plus Mexico, have reported over 90 cases of measles from an outbreak that is believed to have originated in Disneyland in mid-December.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME public health

Even More Bad News For Young Football Players

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Former NFL players performed below expectations for their age groups on cognitive assessments

Professional football players who began playing tackle football before age 12 experienced more dramatic cognitive decline as adults than their counterparts who begin playing later in life, found a new study in the journal Neurology. Overall, former NFL players in the study performed below expectations for their age groups on cognitive assessments.

“As a society we need to question whether we should sanction and condone allowing our children at a young age to having their brains be jostled about inside their skulls hundreds of times per season,” says study author Robert A. Stern, a professor at Boston University.

The study tested 42 former NFL players who were experiencing brain function issues on their ability to remember a list of words, solve problems requiring mental flexibility and read and pronounce uncommon words. Athletes who began playing before age 12 performed significantly worse than their late-starting counterparts on all measures.

MORE: The Tragic Risks of American Football

The results challenge a common misconception that young people are likely fine if they aren’t experiencing full-blown concussions or dramatic injuries. Repeated hits sustained by children under 12, even if they’re not traumatic, may also affect the brain’s structure and function, the study suggests.

“For me, the biggest concern in long-term consequences is not concussion, but rather sub-concussive exposure,” says Stern. “We need to continue anything and everything possible to reduce the number of hits.”

Stern describes the findings as “robust” but noted the study’s limitations. For one, focusing solely on NFL players makes it impossible to generalize the findings to all athletes, or even all football players. Still, he says, the notion that tackle football poses the risk of brain damage just makes “logical sense.”

MORE: Football Head Impacts Can Cause Brain Changes Even Without Concussion

The study, released just days before the Super Bowl, adds to a growing body of evidence on the dangers of the sport, particularly for young people. A 2012 Virginia Tech study, for instance, tracked accelerometers in the helmets of youth football players ages 7 and 8 and found that the average player received 107 impacts throughout the course of the season, some at speeds equivalent to a car accident. Parents have responded to the mounting research by questioning whether their kids should play the sport at all. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of children ages 6 to 12 playing tackle football declined by more than 25%.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Researchers Claim Breakthrough in Treating Peanut Allergies

Peanut
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A daily combination of peanut protein and a probiotic helped 80% of children in a study

Researchers say they are one step closer to finding a cure for people with severe peanut allergies.

Around 80% of a group of 30 children had no allergic reaction to peanuts after scientists gave them a daily combination of peanut protein and a probiotic in increasing amounts over an 18-month period, according to a new study announced Wednesday.

The probiotic, bacteria useful in fighting disease, deployed by the Melbourne, Australia-based Murdoch Childrens Research Institute was Lactobacillus rhamnosus. Its dosage in the study was the equivalent of eating 20 kg of yogurt a day.

“Many of the children and families believe it has changed their lives, they’re very happy, they feel relieved,” lead researcher Mimi Tang told the Guardian. “These findings provide the first vital step towards developing a cure for peanut allergy and possibly other food allergies.”

Tang cautioned against attempting the study at home, as some children in the study did still have serious allergic reactions. A follow-up study will test whether the peanut tolerance continues in the future.

[The Guardian]

TIME celebrities

Rebel Wilson: ‘Bigger Girls Do Better in Comedy’

"Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb" Australian Premiere - Arrivals
Rebel Wilson arrives at the Australian premiere of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb on Dec. 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Don Arnold—Getty Images/WireImage

She's set to reprise a character named "Fat Amy" in the upcoming Pitch Perfect 2

Rebel Wilson isn’t shy about addressing her weight – in fact, she views her shape as an asset.

“I took something that was seen as a disadvantage – no one thinks, if you’re fat, that you’re going to be an actress and everyone’s going to love you – and turned it into a positive,” she told Australia’s Daily Life.

Wilson, 28, believes her physique works especially well for comedic roles. She’s set to reprise a character named “Fat Amy” in the upcoming Pitch Perfect 2.

“Bigger girls do better in comedy,” she said. “I don’t know why. Maybe because people find it easier to laugh. It’s very hard to laugh at someone who’s very attractive, I think. And normally those people don’t have a great personality anyway.”

The Bridesmaids star (who also holds a law degree!) adds that she has no plans to slim down.

“I do have these dreams, like, ‘What if I just went to a health farm and lost 50 kilos? What would happen? Would it affect my career?’ But then I think, that’s never going to happen.”

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME health

Was Iceland Really the First Nation to Legalize Abortion?

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Satellite image of Iceland Planet Observer / Getty Images / Universal Images Group

The oft-cited law was passed 80 years ago, on Jan. 28, 1935

Ask the Internet which country was the first to legalize abortion and you’re likely to find some confusing answers, many of which point in one direction: Iceland.

It’s true that, 80 years ago, on Jan. 28 of 1935, Iceland’s “Law No. 38″ declared that the mother’s health and “domestic conditions” may be taken into consideration when considering whether to permit doctors to perform an abortion. And, according to the 1977 book Abortion by Malcolm Potts, Peter Diggory and John Peel, that law stuck for decades.

However, there are a lot of caveats to that “first” label. For one thing, abortion spent centuries as neither illegal nor legal, before becoming formally legislated, which happened in the 19th century in many places. Iceland, then, was the first Western nation to create what we might now recognize as a common modern abortion legalization policy, with a set of conditions making the procedure not impossible but not entirely unregulated.

Some other nations that passed abortion laws before Iceland’s (like Mexico, for example) also included conditions, like rape, under which it would be permitted. And, as Robertson’s Book of Firsts clarifies, the Soviet Union had actually legalized abortion, on demand, more than a decade earlier. The difference was that (a) the Soviet law didn’t last, as that nation underwent a series of regime changes, and (b) the conditions for legality were different. Though abortion was later strictly limited in Russia, legalization was apparently no small thing when it was first introduced.

As TIME reported on Feb. 17, 1936:

A not entirely enthusiastic participant last week was Dictator Joseph Stalin at the celebration by massed Communist delegations from all over Russia of the tenth anniversary of the founding in Moscow of the Union of the Militant Godless. This unprecedented Jubilee of Godlessness could only be compared to that celebrated by Bolsheviks in honor of the tenth anniversary of the Legalization in Russia of Abortion.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 27

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Political differences aren’t the problem in America. It’s our fierce intolerance of political differences.

By Clive Crook in Bloomberg View

2. Instead of burying carbon emissions underground, a new plan converts it to minerals for longer-lasting, safer storage.

By Andy Extance in Slate

3. As more states and communities give ex-cons a fair chance at employment, the momentum is building for action by the White House.

By Lydia DePillis in the Washington Post

4. Games inspire deeper engagement and interaction. Can we gamify the news?

By Lene Bech Sillesen in Columbia Journalism Review

5. It’s time to reimagine youth sports in America with an eye on inclusion and health.

By Tom Farrey in the Aspen Idea Blog

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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