Away From the Bench

The world outside of the lab

Archive for the category “Health”


I am a moderate Star Trek fan.  I have never dressed up like Uhura and gone to Comicon or anything, but I’ve seen all the Star Trek movies (most of them since Star Trek V in the theatre) and have watched many of the original TV reruns.  This is mainly because my dad was a huge fan, not able to go on dates on Fridays in the 60’s because he had to be home to watch the show (life was so hard before DVRs).  I never got into any of the TV spin-offs though.  So, when my husband watches The Next Generation (TNG), I refuse to watch it.  It’s not the original.  Cheesy sci-fi in the late-80’s and 90’s just isn’t the same, especially without Shatner.  However, it’s sometimes hard to avoid hearing or seeing some of it in our one bedroom loft.

You might have to squint really hard to see the nanites.

So when my friend Kari sent me an article about how nanoparticles can control blood sugar in diabetics for up to 10 days, I immediately thought of a TNG episode that accidentally seeped into my ear canals (and also guest-stars Dr. Bob Kelso from “Scrubs”).  It was an episode in which nanites, or microscopic robotic devices, could be put into humans and programmed to do medical tasks.  The actual episode storyline revolves around how the tiny computers “evolve” and start attacking the ship.  Eventually the nanites are given their own habitat to live in as autonomous creatures (reason #835 why I can’t watch this show).  But I digress.

Are “nanites” for medical use becoming a reality?

Yes and no.  Actual molecular nanorobots that can perform work inside cells are not a reality yet, but nanoparticles are.  Most nanoparticles used in the medical field utilize coatings that allow drugs or other useful molecules to be transported in the blood stream, targeted to a specific site within the body, or shielded from the immune system to avoid degradation.   Cancer drugs such as Abraxane and Doxil are two examples already in use.  Abraxane is a common cancer drug (paclitaxel) bound to a naturally-occuring blood protein (albumin).  The nanoparticle exploits the feeding system of the tumor, which takes in nutrients normally bound to albumin that are circulating in the bloodstream.  Tumors basically eat themselves to death when Abraxane is present, because they “eat” the albumin…and the drug that is bound to it.  Doxil is another cancer drug (doxorubicin) that is enveloped in a polyethylene glycol-coated liposome (similar to a cell membrane) and is used to treat Kaposi sarcoma, which causes skin tumors.  The coating targets the drug to the skin and the liposome reduces cardiotoxic effects (heart problems) of the drug.  There are many more nanoparticles currently in use, and if you want to read further, Wikipedia has a pretty good article on nanomedicine.

Using nanoparticles for long-lasting blood glucose regulation is a real breakthrough in the treatment of diabetes.  In a normal pancreas, the beta cells transport glucose from the bloodstream into the cell and metabolize it.  The energy and metabolites from glucose metabolism cause a series of events in the cell to release the hormone insulin into the bloodstream.  This mechanism allows the beta cell to sense the blood glucose levels and secrete the correct concentration of insulin in response.  People with type 1 diabetes have lost their beta cells (due to an autoimmune reaction) and can no longer produce insulin.  What makes this new nanoparticle exciting, is that it creates a closed-loop system that releases insulin by “sensing” circulating blood glucose levels, similar to a beta cell.  I have previously posted about an external “bionic” pancreas, which is an open-loop system that consists of an external continuous glucose sensor, an insulin pump, and a glucagon pump.  This type of system relies on electronic automation and accuracy.  Nanoparticles rely on chemistry for glucose sensing and insulin release.

WARNING: this paragraph contains chemistry, read at your own risk.  The nanoparticle that the Anderson lab created consists of insulin, glucose oxidase, and catalase inside an m-dextran matrix surrounded by a chitosan or alginate coating.  Insulin is usually released by the pancreas in response to increased blood glucose levels and the nanoparticle is able to “sense” blood glucose levels with glucose oxidase, an enzyme that converts glucose into gluconic acid.  Gluconic acid decreases the pH of the nanoparticle to degrade the m-dextran sphere and release the insulin.  The chemical reaction of glucose + oxygen + water catalyzed by glucose oxidase not only produces gluconic acid, but also hydrogen peroxide (which is toxic at high levels).  Therefore, catalase is the other enzyme in the particle that converts the hydrogen peroxide back into water and oxygen (to keep the glucose oxidase reaction continuing).  The spheres are coated with positively-charged chitosan or negatively-charged alginate to form an electrostatic network of nanoparticles, or nano-network.  Creating this three-dimensional, porous structure of tiny spheres increases the surface area-to-volume ratio to make the “sensor”, or the interaction between glucose in the blood and glucose oxidase in the nanoparticle, more efficient.

Nanoparticle montage

Upper panel: The nanoparticle. Lower left panel: The nano-network. Lower right panel: Insulin release response of the nano-network in a test tube with glucose concentration changes (100 or 400 mg/dL) every 2 hours.
From: Gu, et al. (2013) ACS Nano, 7(5): 4194-4201.

In case you skipped the previous paragraph, what makes this nanoparticle so great, is that it uses chemistry (which is usually infallible) to work.  The nanoparticle is engineered with many layers to encapsulate everything necessary for glucose concentration to be sensed, insulin to be released, and no cytotoxic (cell-killing) byproducts to be created.  And it works pretty well in mice.

Usually people with type 1 diabetes have to inject themselves multiple times a day with insulin.  They must also calculate how much insulin they should inject based on multiple factors: food intake, blood glucose measurements, and physical activity.  In this study, after injecting the 150 microliters of the nano-network into a diabetic mouse, it took 10 days for the nanoparticles to deplete.  Some mice maintained normal blood glucose levels for 15 days.  Two weeks after administration, the glycated albumin ratio (a measure of diabetic control over a few weeks) in mice treated with nanoparticles decreased from 10% to 6% (from a diabetic to a normal range).  If this type of system can be used in humans, it would increase the quality of life for diabetic patients considerably.

The problem with this nano-network system is that it is injected under the skin and sits in a visible lump until the nanoparticles break down and get cleared from the area.  Even though all the materials in the nanoparticle are biocompatible (not harmful to the body), there is local inflammation at the injection site while the lump of nanoparticles are physically there.  This system has yet to be tested in humans, who are much larger than the mice used in this study and may pose different problems.  The authors also don’t mention any experiments with a second injection after 10 days.  Insulin-dependent diabetic patients need to continue their insulin treatment for the rest of their life, so if the nanoparticles or certain components never get completely cleared from the bloodstream or begin building up after multiple injections (the authors do not mention blood pH measurements), then this treatment is not as feasible.

For now, nanoparticles are very promising in many different medical fields.  However, as electronic technology becomes smaller and smaller, nanorobots are not completely out of the question.  There is some really cool science going on in the John Rogers lab at the University of Illinois.  They have created dissolving electronics, stretchable lithium ion batteries, and malleable circuits that could be integrated into the body in the future.  Scientists just need to create electronics that are as reliable as biology and chemistry – and make sure they don’t evolve and take over the ship.


Marshmallow Fluff

I got an email forward from my mother-in-law a few months ago that had several little tricks or tidbits of knowledge that can be useful, such as “Reynolds Wrap has lock-in tabs to hold the roll in place.”  I can’t believe that I never noticed that before.  Some of the tips I had heard of previously, but some others seemed just too good to be true.

One of the tricks was, “Marshmallows can cure a sore throat. Perfect for kids who don’t like medicine.”  First of all, there is no over-the-counter medicine that can cure a sore throat.  The antibiotics that kill the Group A streptococcal bacteria causing your sore throat would do it though (and only if you have strep throat in the first place).  I’m sure they were talking about soothing a sore throat.  Even so, I would love a new trick to soothe a sore throat, especially if it involves marshmallows.  I considered how marshmallows could do such a thing.  I have heard of gargling with warm salt water, but never sugar water.  Maybe the powder on the outside of the marshmallow helps to coat the throat?  I wasn’t sure.

I didn’t really think about it until this week, when I got a cold.  My sore throat isn’t as bad as it usually is, so I thought, maybe I should stop by the store pick up some marshmallows.  That is, until my common sense came back to me and I decided to look into this a little further.  Further, as in, I Googled it.

With a simple search, I found the answer I was looking for.  Although some top hits were websites touting the wonderous marshmallow cure, the real answer was glaringly obvious.  The root of the marshmallow plant, Althaea officinalis, has been used for centuries to soothe a sore throat.  I decided this misinformation was a result of Telephone.  You know, the kids’ game when you whisper something into someone’s ear, then the sentence gets passed from person-to-person, and the words become distorted each time it gets whispered until the last person announces a sentence that makes absolutely no sense?  The problem now is, emails like this get passed around, and the Legend of the Marshmallow grows.  Other people put it on their websites and blogs as fact and eventually doctors will start prescribing marshmallows to children (I hope not).


Public domain image from Franz Eugen Köhler’s “Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen”

Now that I know I can’t make a S’more and cure my sore throat, although I bet it would do wonders on my mental health, I decided to see what this marshmallow plant can do.  The root of A. officinalis contains polysaccharides (long chains of sugars) that are sticky and viscous.  There are many types of polysaccharides present in the plant, including mucilage, pectin, and starch.  Aqueous extracts of the root contain polysaccharides that can coat the throat and stomach to protect it from irritation, which, in turn, may reduce dry coughs or gastric ulcers.  A specific pectic polysaccharide, rhamnogalacturonan, has been shown to suppress coughing in guinea pigs at high concentrations.  There is some evidence that methanol extracts from the root of the marshmallow plant contain antimicrobial activities as well.  A. officinalis inhibited growth of certain strains of bacteria that cause periodontal disease and stressed E. coli bacteria (although did not kill it).  Extracts from the flower may also increase good (HDL) cholesterol, reduce inflammation, alleviate gastric ulcers, and inhibit platelet aggregation.  Although these studies hint at reducing various ills, there are very few published studies (at least in America) that concern the marshmallow plant.

So, there you have it.  If you have some polysaccharide extract from the root of Althaea officinalis, it may reduce throat irritation and help suppress a dry cough.  If you don’t happen to have this on hand, then I recommend sucking on a lozenge.  This example just goes to show, don’t believe everything you read, even when it is intermixed with other useful information.  “Telephone” seems to have turned into “Internet”.  Instead of old wives tales or home remedies being passed orally, we have now turned to internet-doctoring ourselves for the same type of advice.  Mothers everywhere love sending forwards to their children (The perfume is ether!  Driving with no headlights on is a gang initiation!  Car-jackers put paper on your back window!) in an attempt to protect them from afar, even though most all of those scenarios have been proven untrue by Snopes.  My mother-in-law prefaced her email with, “I’ve heard of some of these, but others are a revelation, if they really work!”  If they really work, indeed.

Five Chins

I first heard about Five Guys on NBC’s Inside the Obama White House a few years ago, in which Obama went there and picked up lunch for his staff.  I’m sure that happens all the time (ha).  It was apparently one of Obama’s favorite places to eat.  Soon after that special, I noticed Five Guys restaurants started springing up around town.  One came into our neighborhood recently, so my husband suggested we walk up the street (about a half mile) and try it out a couple of nights ago.  Boy, I’m glad we walked there.

The staff was friendly and loud, and yelled a kind of a statement-and-respond thing.  When you walked in the door, the counter guy would say, “Two in the door” and the response from the cooks was, “Got it”.  There were no descriptions on the menu, but I decided a burger was fairly straightforward.  I ordered the cheeseburger and was happy with all of the available veggies to add for free: lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, pickles, onions, and green peppers.  Then the counter guy asked if we wanted to split a fry – a regular fry, not a large.  I thought – wow, this guy isn’t trying to upsell us and I actually don’t need a lot of fries with this burger anyway.  I was wrong.  The fries came out in a cup, which was a large amount of fries, but then the whole bottom of the paper bag was covered in fries too.  It was enough fries for 4 people.  AND the cheeseburger was a double patty and double cheese sandwich.  I looked at the menu and saw they had a “little cheeseburger” which apparently means “normal size”.  So after we ate most of our burgers and only half of the fries between the two of us, we walked rolled home and I decided to look up the nutrition facts online.

I was pretty shocked.  The cheeseburger has 840 calories (500 of those from fat) and 55 g of fat (26.5 g of those are saturated).  I was actually grossed out by reading these numbers.  The most surprising part?  The fries are listed as “regular” and “large”.  The nutritional information actually states, “one serving of fries (approx. half of regular order)”.  I could not believe that they do not sell individual servings of french fries.  They don’t even offer it.  Everything was super-sized there, and it didn’t need to be.  I’m not sure how many people could even eat all of the food presumed for one person there.  I’m guessing there is a lot of food wasted at that restaurant.

They did have a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, which was fun.  It is a machine that you can use to mix in flavors with your soda or water.  There are apparently 127 different combinations possible between the base flavors and the mix-ins (orange, cherry, lime, raspberry, lemon, strawberry, grape, peach).  This is a good marketing strategy for Coca-Cola and making Coke “new” without having to make New Coke (remember that?).  I was wondering if the raspberry Coke Zero we shared (which was pretty tasty) was still calorie-free.  Five Guys didn’t have nutritional info online for any drinks, but I did find that info elsewhere and was happy to see that all of the mix-ins were zero calories, or 5-10 calories if you drank 20 oz. of the stuff.

That said, I will probably not go back there again.  Other fast food restaurants have burgers and fries that are not healthy, but still contain less fat and calories than Five Guys.  I don’t want to support restaurants that contribute to the obesity problem in America without giving people a choice to enjoy food that is properly portioned.  When my husband wants to go there again (I know he will), I’ll suggest we go to the cafe next door that just opened and was handing out flyers when we walked by.  There’s no way their Thai veggie wrap has the majority of my day’s worth of calories and fat, but it’s probably just as tasty.

Eat Your Nerd Grenades

There is an obesity problem in America.  Educating children about eating a balanced diet is the most important thing we can do to prevent further increases in obesity.  As a child, I had to stay at the dinner table until I ate all my vegetables.  I remember one time that I sat at the kitchen table at least an hour after dinner was over, pouting over my turned-cold broccoli.  I eventually choked it down.  I learned that it’s important to eat a balanced diet, and now I choose to eat my broccoli.  Thanks Mom and Dad.  If children eat fresh fruits and vegetables from an early age, they will actually like to eat some of them.  Just ask my 7-year-old niece and 5-year-old nephew if they like beets and brussel sprouts.  (They do).  Any headway made on reducing childhood obesity depends on parents taking responsibility for their children’s diet and educating them about it.

Courtesy of

Several studies based on exposing children to healthy foods by their parents increase children’s acceptance of that food.   Giving a bite of vegetable to a child every day for 2 weeks exposes them to that food and increases the consumption and likability of that food.  Dr. Lucy Cooke of the University College of London recently demonstrated that exposure to a healthy food followed by a tangible reward of a sticker increased their intake and liking of that food as well.  (Not to brag, but I had a pretty big sticker box as a kid – and I never got any for eating vegetables!)  There has been a lot of media coverage lately on a study claiming that children’s food choices were affected when silly names were associated with vegetables. Although the authors conclude that the silly names increased vegetable intake, I don’t think the experiment was well-controlled.  The baseline vegetable consumption of the control group before the intervention was 1.8-23.5-fold higher than that of the treatment group, depending on the vegetable.  That means, the children who were served the silly-named vegetables were eating a lot less vegetables at the beginning of the study (and intake at the end of the study was still less, for 3-out-of-4 vegetables, in the treatment group than the control group without the silly names).  For example, if Paul in the control group ate 4 carrots at the beginning of the study, and he ate 5 carrots at the end, that would be a 1.25-fold increase.  If Sally ate 1 carrot at the beginning of the study, and then they called carrots “X-ray Vision Carrots” and she ate 3 carrots, that’s a 3-fold increase.  Look what happened when you gave carrots a silly name!  You just can’t compare these groups well with the simple statistics they used.  Perhaps these conclusions were made because the people who performed the study were marketing guys (and I believe, marketed loose data to the public).  Nevertheless, children are influenced to some extent by marketing, but they are influenced more by what those around them (parents and peers) are doing.  It’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure their children are eating a healthy diet.

Along the same lines, there is an uproar over the new government regulations for subsidized school lunches.  I found the clip below from The Daily Show to be humorous (and fairly accurate) – it spawned this post (and the title).  Children need to learn to eat healthier, but if parents and schools don’t teach them that, then the obesity rate will keep on rising.  Advice to children in the immortal words of John Stewart: Eat your motherf*cking lunch.

Juicing the Most out of Your Medication

Many of your medications may have warnings of TAKE WITH FOOD or DO NOT EAT 30 MINUTES BEFORE OR AFTER THIS MEDICATION because oral drugs may upset the stomach or not be absorbed as well depending on food intake.  Some foods, like the grapefruit, can act like a drug themselves.

Grapefruit juice contains a chemical called  bergamottin (and 6’,7’-dihydroxybergamottin, which were first found in bergamot oranges).  This chemical is a specific inhibitor of an enzyme in your liver and small intestine called cytochrome P450, family 3, subfamily A, polypeptide 4 (CYP3A4) that usually metabolizes macromolecules (lipids, proteins), but also drugs and toxins.  Depending on the drug, CYP enzymes can either increase or decrease the amount of active drug in your circulation (called bioavailability).  There are warnings not to drink grapefruit juice with some statin medications because that would increase the bioavailability of the statin and could cause side effects and organ damage.

Creative Commons Copyright John Steven Fernandez

Some researchers are actually using the power of the grapefruit to benefit patients.  They are investigating whether grapefruit juice could be used as a ‘drug booster’ –  the drug dosage could be lowered, but the resulting bioavailability would be the same.  Using less drug would translate to a lower cost to the consumer.  During Phase I trials in humans, researchers determined that an 8-oz. daily glass of grapefruit juice increased the bioavailability of 25 mg of sirolimus (a possible anti-cancer drug that is currently used as an immunosuppressant) to that of 90 mg of sirolimus alone.  That translates into taking 25% of the usual drug dose but seeing the same effects of the drug on cancer cells.

There are a couple of drawbacks to using grapefruit as a prescription.  The concentration of bergamottin can vary between grapefruit juice batches.  The authors of the Phase I study contacted the Florida Department of Citrus to obtain a frozen concentrate that was tested for bergamottin levels before they used it.  The other inconsistency is the variation between individuals.  Some people have higher levels of CYP3A4 enzyme in their small intestine (as much as 40-fold), and those people see the greatest effect from grapefruit juice.

Grapefruit could be a powerful medical tool because it is a natural, easily available, low-cost food that has a specific and well-known molecular mechanism.  Who said money doesn’t grow on trees?


The next time you go to McDonald’s, don’t just automatically order your #4 Extra Value Meal, take a look at the menu board.  McDonald’s just announced they will post the calories on all of their in-store and drive-thru menus this month.

I think this is a step towards educating the general consumer.  Some people who go to McDonald’s frequently may not care about this information, but for people who go to McDonald’s when they just don’t have time or are on the road and want to make smarter choices, this will be a welcome change.  In July, McDonald’s began their Favorites Under 400 Calories program, which lists menu items in 100-calorie sections.  This is a great way to attract attention to healthier options, even though some of those items are fairly small and would need other items to make a filling meal (looking at you, side salad without dressing).

For any restaurant, having nutrition information available online is necessary to make better choices (especially for people with diabetes or food allergies), but having nutrition information quickly available when you order is even better.  However, calories are not everything.  Maybe you want a cheeseburger but think to yourself, “I should really just get a salad and be healthier”.  You look at the menu board and see that a cheeseburger is 300 calories (12 grams of fat) and a Southwest salad with grilled chicken and Southwest dressing is 390 calories (14 grams of fat).  The salad may have more calories, but when other nutrient data is factored in, the salad is actually healthier with more fiber and vitamins and less saturated fat.  It might even satiate your appetite longer than the cheeseburger, which could lower your total daily calorie intake.  Even so, the calorie information on the board will probably be more useful to people who usually get a large Extra Value Meal and are shocked by how many calories they are actually eating and cause them to order something less calorie-laden.  And for this reason, I support the calorie information on the menu.

All of this, of course, comes four years after New York City required restaurants (or, technically, food service establishments) to post calories on their menu boards.  Studies (based on surveys) suggest reduced calorie choices were made at some establishments (McDonald’s, KFC, Au Bon Pain) but not others (Subway) after this law was enacted.  In one study, only a subset of people who were surveyed (15%) knowingly made lower calorie choices after calories were posted on the menu.  Socioeconomic factors seem to have a large impact on menu choices and calorie-posting did not seem to affect a majority of adolescents.  However, these studies must be looked at with caution, because they do not consider food choices in the same people before and after the calorie-posting.  When a regression model was used to control for restaurant chain, store location, sex of customers, type of purchase, and inflation-adjusted cost, there was a statistically significant decrease in average calories before and after the regulations, which was masked when all the data was pooled together.  In addition, some people may have stopped patronizing certain restaurants altogether after the calorie regulations but these surveys don’t control for that type of information.

But hey, even if posting calories on the menu only affects 15% of consumers (although I think more-controlled studies would show a higher percentage), that is still 15% of consumers making healthier food choices when eating away from home.  So thank you McDonald’s, for at least attempting to assist customers nationwide in making healthier decisions.  The fast-food chain’s 2012 nutrition progress report also introduces their plan to include more fruits and vegetables on their menu; reduce sodium across the board; and reformulate some items to reduce sugar, saturated fat, and calories.  And don’t worry, a packet of low-fat balsamic vinaigrette is only 35 calories…and you probably wouldn’t use the whole thing on your side salad anyway.  Morgan Spurlock would be proud.

Courtesy of McDonalds USA

Not Signed, but Sealed

The 2012 Farm Bill has seen twists and turns in the legislature over the last couple of months.  Although it has turned into a bipartisan standoff over money, many of the programs from the 2008 Farm Bill have expired or will expire in September.  Several ‘food and health leaders’ have signed an open letter to Congress asking them to reject the Farm Bill in its current form because they believe the bill gives the most money to the largest commodity crop growers while underfunding conservation and nutrition assistance programs.  I agree that most fruit and vegetable growers for human consumption are currently overlooked in the Farm Bill.  I won’t get into politics here, but I think most bills that come through our government are bloated and need revision because politicians are attempting to help out their constituents.  I also believe the 2012 Farm Bill should be revised in several areas…but why does it seem like everyone waited too long to voice their opinion?  Any really beneficial programs that are supported by the Farm Bill will be terminated if it is completely rejected.  Will everyone be able to compromise and revise the Farm Bill before it’s too late?  What makes the bill especially important right now is the drought that has taken over the Midwest.  How will the government respond when those harvests – which will affect food, animal feed, and ethanol supplies – are lost?  I just got back from a road trip and the brown fields in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas were a bit depressing.

Sad Corn

The Farm Bill is huge.  You can read the 2008 bill here.  It includes commodities, conservation, trade, nutrition, farming credit and loans, rural development, research , forestry, energy, horticulture, livestock, crop insurance and disaster assistance, commodity futures, and even a section of ‘miscellaneous’.  What actually caught my eye was the research part of the bill.  I earned my undergraduate degree from a land-grant university, so I was well-acquainted with that part.  This section of the bill also sets aside funds specifically for nutrition and agriculture research.  You are probably familiar with many innovations to come out of this bill but you would never really know it.  Ever wonder how those cut apples from McDonald’s stay white and crisp?  You can partially thank the U.S. government for that.

The USDA Agricultural Research Service teamed up with Mantrose-Haeuser, an edible coating company, to create and patent a product that would keep fresh-cut fruit and vegetables from browning.  The result is NatureSeal AS-1.  For years prior, scientists attempted to come up with a solution to prevent fresh food browning without harsh chemicals, flavors, or reduction in nutrition.  They finally did it with the help of the USDA.  NatureSeal AS-1 is a mixture of vitamins and minerals that will keep some fresh fruits from browning for at least 21 days.  That sure beats the couple hours it took last time I left an apple core out on the counter!

Apples to Apples

The calcium citrate-based coating is applied to freshly cut produce to maintain color, crispness, and water content.  Originally developed for apples and pears, AS-1 also retains the freshness of pineapples, melons, avocados, limes, nectarines, plums, starfruit, and coconut.  NatureSeal has developed formulas for many other fruits and vegetables as well as for frozen and dried fruits.  Which makes me happy – I love dried apricots, but the sulfites used to preserve them would always make me wheeze and cough.  NatureSeal products are sulfite-free.  My husband loves the baby carrots that come ready-to-eat (well, not technically baby carrots, they are just big carrots that have been shaved down, or ‘baby-cut’).  NatureSeal is used to prevent whitening and carotene loss from those little guys too.  The company has expanded their product line to include pre-washes that kill bacteria on fresh fruits and vegetables without the harsh chlorine.

Even though I am a proponent of buying fresh, whole foods at the market or grocery store, I am glad that grocery stores and restaurants are able to serve more fresh fruits and vegetables to people who will reach for the baby-cut carrots or a fruit cup instead of a bag of chips.  Fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s are able to add fresher foods to their menu too.  No matter how you feel about fast food restaurants, they aren’t going away any time soon.  It’s nice to have the ability to order apple slices instead of french fries when your sandwich just doesn’t quite fill you up.  Switching from a small fry to a packet of apples saves you 215 calories and 11 grams of fat – and will even give you 160% of your daily allowance of vitamin C.  You just have to make the switch.  And keep an eye on that Farm Bill – it’s not all bad, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum.

Some things still grow in Kansas

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