Amazon’s Acquisition: Deep Discounts Coming to Whole Foods Today

When Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods becomes final on August 28, 2017, shoppers will immediately see deep discounts on a plethora of items, including salmon, avocados, baby kale, and almond butter – all products that are normally rather pricey, regardless of where you shop. [1]

The following week, look for dropping prices on bananas, eggs, ground beef, rotisserie chicken, butter, and apples.

In a joint statement released August 25, 2017, Amazon and Whole Foods said:

“The two companies will together pursue the vision of making Whole Foods Market’s high-quality, natural and organic food affordable for everyone. Whole Foods Market will offer lower prices starting Monday on a selection of best-selling grocery staples across its stores, with more to come.”

One strategy consultant who previously worked for Amazon in its grocery business expects Whole Foods prices to drop 15-25% in some categories. [2]

Amazon said customers will continue to see prices slide at Whole Foods stores, and Amazon Prime members will eventually see some special discounts not available to other buyers. Analysts say about 70% of Whole Foods shoppers are also Amazon Prime members. [1]

Amazon Prime offers customers faster shipping, video streaming, and other benefits for $99 a year. [2]

Jeff Wilke, chief executive of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, said in a statement:

“Everybody should be able to eat Whole Foods Market quality — we will lower prices without compromising Whole Foods Market’s long-held commitment to the highest standards. There is significant work and opportunity ahead, and we’re thrilled to get started.” [1]

Whole Foods has a reputation for being, eh, pretty expensive. The chain earned itself the nickname “Whole Paycheck” because of its high prices.

There are also a few examples of some rather ridiculous products with ridiculous price tags. A good example is its asparagus water – a bunch of asparagus stalks in a bottle of water that went for $6. The grocery chain eventually pulled the product after receiving a good bit of backlash from customers.

According to Morgan Stanley, Whole Foods’ prices are about 15% higher than at the average grocery store. By immediately cutting prices, analysts say, Amazon is making it clear that major changes are on the horizon, and it doesn’t mind temporarily cutting into profit margins.

Michelle Grant, head of retailing at Euromonitor International, a London-based market research firm, said:

“Amazon is playing to its strengths here. Obviously the low-cost approach is in Amazon’s DNA, and it’s something Whole Foods has been struggling with for a quite some time.”

Jeff Wilke, the executive who runs Amazon’s consumer business, said:

“We’re determined to make healthy and organic food affordable for everyone. Everybody should be able to eat Whole Foods Market quality.” [2]

Sources:

[1] The Washington Post

[2] The New York Times


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Study: How Magnesium Supplementation Could Help with Depression

Sadly, depression is a common mental health condition that affects millions of people in Australia and around the world. However, there are many natural therapies for depression that give you back your power, as they are more preventive in nature and help your body to heal itself. One of these natural solutions for depression may be magnesium, as pointed out in recent research.

This study involved 126 men and women who suffered from mild to moderate depression. Sixty-two were given a supplement containing 248mg of magnesium (as magnesium chloride, not the best supplemental form) for 6 weeks, and then spent 6 weeks with no supplementation. The others first spent 6 weeks taking no magnesium, and then swapped with the first group for the second half.

All volunteers were given questionnaires to evaluate their depression and anxiety at the start of the study and every 2 weeks during treatment.

During supplementation, depression and anxiety scores improved significantly, and participants were less likely to suffer from headaches. During the control period, however, depression scores did not change and anxiety worsened.

As their symptoms showed improvement in 2 weeks, magnesium could be a rapid-acting remedy for mild and moderate depression, while offering a wide range of side benefits. And if you are worried about negative social attitudes towards depression, magnesium is indicated for so many health complaints that a supplement implies nothing.

So, Why? What Does Magnesium Do?

From energy production to the synthesis of neurotransmitters that control mood, magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. If you are deficient, and many people are, then these chemical reactions are limited.

Of course, magnesium is not the only nutrient that we need to make neurotransmitters. B vitamins, particularly B12, folate (B9), B6, and niacin (B3), are essential co-factors in neurotransmitter production.

Deficiencies do not just affect mood, but overall brain function and memory.

A balance of omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids is also important, as they are a part of nerve cell membranes and play a role in communication between cells. Impaired communication affects things like mood, memory and function in general.

Vitamin D deficiency is another common problem, which can contribute to depression by altering gene expression and the ability to control inflammation.

Overall, the ‘chemical imbalance’ is more complex than conventional medicine tells you, and we have far more control over it too.


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The Trouble with Studying Government-Provided Marijuana

Researchers are finally studying the medicinal effects of marijuana after many years of marijuana advocates begging and pleading for science to investigate what they already knew – that the plant has the power to ease seizures, help people sleep, and much more. But scientists aren’t studying the stuff you can buy on the street or in dispensaries, so can we trust their conclusions?

All it takes is a quick glance at the photo above to realize that scientists are using…well, crap…in their studies. And it’s not their fault; this is the schwag the government provides. It’s full of leaves and stems, it’s lighter in color, and it’s stringy. It’s almost like the government is afraid to give ’em the real stuff. [1]

Scientists are starting to get a little angry about the quality of cannabis they’re being forced to use. You can’t study medical-quality marijuana if you’re being provided with what looks like a bag of oregano.

Sue Sisley is a researcher who has just embarked on a first-of-its-kind clinical trial of government medical marijuana for military veterans suffering with PTSD. The study has its difficulties. Sisley says she once got a batch of federal marijuana that resembled green talcum powder.

“It didn’t resemble cannabis. It didn’t smell like cannabis.” [2]

Read: 21 Lawmakers Push Veterans Affairs to Allow Medical Marijuana

She’s not the only one who thinks government weed is a joke. Jake Browne, a cannabis critic for the Denver Post’s Cannabist marijuana news site, says:

“That is, flat out, not a usable form of cannabis.” [1]

Browne, who has reviewed dozens of strains professionally, adds:

“In two decades of smoking weed, I’ve never seen anything that looks like that. People typically smoke the flower of the plant, but here you can clearly see stems and leaves in there as well, parts that should be discarded. Inhaling that would be like eating an apple, including the seeds inside it and the branch it grew on.” [1]

Source: PBS News Hour

It’s unlikely also that Sisley just got a bad batch.

The University of Mississippi is the only facility permitted to grow federal marijuana. The program is overseen by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), so it all comes from one place. Last summer, the DEA formally took steps to allow other entities to supply marijuana for research purposes, but so far none have been approved.

The potency of marijuana grown at the university tops out at 13% THC, but Sisley’s testing revealed that one of NIDA’s strains that was allegedly 13% THC was actually only 8%. The typical commercial weed available in Colorado is about 19% THC. Some higher-end strains can reach 30% or more.

How do you study whiskey when all you have is Mike’s Hard Lemonade? Crappy weed is OK if you’re using it to study how marijuana affects the body in a lab setting, but you can’t use NIDA weed to find out how the plant affects people in the real world. It doesn’t work in highly controlled medical experiments either. So says Rick Doblin, founding director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a group that’s been working with Sisley on the PTSD trial.

Potency is only one of the problems being encountered by researchers. Remember the batch of government weed Sisley got that resembled green talcum powder? Well, some of the samples tested positive for mold. [2]

The government allows only one source of marijuana for clinical research in the United States; and “they weren’t able to produce what we were asking for,” Sisley says.

Sisley and her colleagues were finally able to enroll their first trial subjects, but it took 4 months and 3 rounds of testing after the initial delivery of bad weed. Mold can be dangerous, after all, particularly in people with mold allergies and in people with compromised immune systems. In fact, immunocompromised people were excluded from Sisley’s study.

Doblin says that this recent episode:

“…shows that NIDA is completely inadequate as a source of marijuana for drug development research.” [2]

He adds:

“They’re in no way capable of assuming the rights and responsibilities for handling a drug that we’re hoping to be approved by the FDA as prescription medicine.”

Sisley agrees, and says:

“…if you’re trying to do a study where you imitate what patients do in the real world, you can’t.”

Sources:

[1] The Washington Post

[2] PBS News Hour


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Plastic Straws, Utensils to Be Banned in Seattle Restaurants in 2018

Plastic utensils are convenient and straws are fun for kids, but much of that plastic eventually winds up in a landfill or as litter. The environment is paying dearly for the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year, and if changes aren’t made, and fast, the problem is only going to get worse. The city of Seattle, Washington, has already banned single-use plastic bags in an effort to reduce plastic pollution, and on July 1, 2018, a new ban on plastic straws and utensils at restaurants will go into effect. [1] [2]

The city is instead making a push to allow only compostable or paper utensils and straws. [1]

Sego Jackson, the strategic advisor for Waste Prevention and Product Stewardship for Seattle Public Utilities, said:

“As of July 1, 2018, food services businesses should not be providing plastic straws or utensils. What they should be providing are compostable straws or compostable utensils. But they also might be providing durables, reusables, or encouraging you to skip the straw altogether.” [2]

The Office of the City Clerk says the ordinance passed the full city council in 2008. However, the exception has been in place since 2010. Restaurants will be forced to abide by the ordinance if the exception is not renewed. Officials say the decree is necessary because disposable food service ware is a burden to Seattle’s solid waste disposal system. [1]

Despite the ordinance’s 7-year existence, efforts to ban disposable plastic food service stalled because there were no viable compostable alternatives at the time. [2]

Read: Edible Silverware Could Cut Down on Plastic Waste and Pollution

Jackson said:

“Early on there weren’t many compostable options,” he explained. “And some of the options didn’t perform well or compost well. That’s all changed now.”[3]

Only restaurants will be affected by the ban. Plastic straws and utensils will still be available for purchase at city grocery stores.

Restaurants that fail to abide by the decree will first receive a warning. If the establishments continue to use plastic food service ware, they could be slapped with hefty fines.

Many dining establishments have decided not to wait until 2018 to start making changes. A campaign called “Strawless in Seattle” is planned for September, according to Jillian Henze, of the Seattle Restaurant Association. Up to 500 local groups and restaurants will cease using straws and disposable utensils for the month.

Sources:

[1] The New York Times

[2] KIRO

[3] EcoWatch


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Cultures Around the World Show Us How Life Purpose Fuels Longevity

We know instinctively that meaning and purpose are necessary in order to live a fulfilling life, with those of us in a career we love often held in high regard. But regardless of how passionate you may be about your career, we all need a hobby – an interest outside of work that we truly love to do. The benefits of purpose and hobbies, however, go beyond quality of life.

Japanese culture has a concept called ikigai, which roughly translates to “purpose in life.” Ikigai has traditionally been associated with health and longevity. One study on over 4000 adults set out to determine if this theory was true.

All participants were over 65, with:

  • More than 1800 identified as at high risk of death
  • More than 1200 at high risk of losing ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • More than 1100 at risk of losing their ability to perform instrumental ADLs.

Data from February 2011 to November 2014 was used, which can be a long time when it comes to age-related disability. Compared to people who had both hobbies and an ikigai, having neither of these was associated with double the risk of mortality, close to triple the risk of losing ADL abilities, and almost double the risk of losing IADL abilities!

Therefore, hobbies and ikigai were linked to increased longevity and healthy life expectancy in older adults.

This was not the only study that found a link between purpose in life and longevity. Another study on 6000 adults with a 14-year follow-up time found that people who initially reported a strong purpose in life had a 15% lower risk of dying from any cause.

Other research found that those who described clear goals and purpose lived both longer and better than those who did not. In fact, other “Blue Zone” cultures (areas with a high prevalence of centenarians) besides the Okinawans of Japan value purpose, with the Nicoyan (Costa Rica) people calling it plan de vida.

Longevity Secrets: 6 Reasons Okinawans Live to Be Older than 100

How to Find Your Own Ikigai

So how can you find your own iikigai, or plan de vida, if you haven’t already? A great way to start is by doing an internal inventory.

Take a piece of paper, and for 20-30 minutes think of all your ideals, principles, standards, and morals, then think of your physical, mental, and emotional talents, strengths, and abilities.

It can take a while, maybe even a couple of attempts, to get an idea of what you really want, but you know you’re getting close if anything brings out a strong emotional reaction. And then…put your skills into action!

It’s also important to build relationships with people who can help you achieve your goals. Overall, longevity is for everyone, and it turns out that some of the best ways to extend your life also improve its quality.


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Anorexia May Be Genetic, Not Just a Mental Health Issue

For the first time, scientists have located a genetic variant for anorexia nervosa – an eating disorder that until now was believed to be entirely psychiatric in nature. Genetic variation refers to the variation in the DNA sequence in the human genome. [1]

Researchers at King’s College London, the University of North Carolina, and Stanford University found that people with anorexia had a genetic variant on chromosome 12, but those without the disorder did not. This chromosome has been associated with type 1 diabetes and autoimmune disorders.

The finding could lead to new or repurposed treatments for anorexia. Currently, anorexia is treated with cognitive analytic therapy (CAT), cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), focal psychodynamic therapy, and family therapy. [1] [2]

It also sadly means that anorexia patients could pass the disease to their children. [3]

Source: Office on Women’s Health

Prior to the study, anorexia nervosa was thought to be fueled by a combination of physical, social, and environmental triggers, including anxiety, depression, and the West’s obsession with thinness and outward appearance. [3]

Teasing Out the Genetic Connection

For the research, the scientists compared the genetic code of 3,495 individuals with anorexia to that of 10,982 healthy people. [2]

The team found faulty genes in over half of the anorexic patients they analyzed – genes that are associated with neuroticism, schizophrenia, and metabolism.

Professor Cynthia Bulik, of the University of North Carolina, said:

“Anorexia nervosa was significantly genetically correlated with neuroticism and schizophrenia, supporting the idea that anorexia is indeed a psychiatric illness.” [2]

However, Bulik added:

“We identified one genome-wide significant locus for anorexia nervosa on chromosome 12, in a region previously shown to be associated with type I diabetes and autoimmune disorders.

We also calculated genetic correlations — the extent to which various traits and disorders are caused by the same genes. Anorexia nervosa was significantly genetically correlated with neuroticism and schizophrenia, supporting the idea that anorexia is indeed a psychiatric illness.

But, unexpectedly, we also found strong genetic correlations with various metabolic features including body composition (BMI) and insulin-glucose metabolism. This finding encourages us to look more deeply at how metabolic factors increase the risk for anorexia nervosa.” [2]

The researchers are continuing to increase their sample sizes and view the outcome of the study as the beginning of genomic discovery in anorexia nervosa.

Sources:

[1] The Huffington Post

[2] Psych Central

[3] The Telegraph

Smith College


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Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP Company Accused of Deceptive Advertising

Some are saying that Gwyneth Paltrow has given out some not-so-sage advice on her website, GOOP. In early 2017, the actress recommended that women place jade eggs inside of their vaginas all day or while they slept to “increase vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy in general.” Unsurprisingly, OBGYN’s across the country responded with shock and quickly advised women against the germy practice. Now GOOP, Paltrow’s lifestyle company, is facing legal action over some of the claims it makes about the products it sells online. [1] [2]

Truth in Advertising, or TINA, has filed a formal complaint with 2 California district attorneys following an investigation, which revealed that GOOP is making deceptive health claims to promote the products it sells on its website. [1]

The watchdog group cites 51 examples of products sold on the GOOP website which the company advertises can “treat, cure, prevent, alleviate the symptoms of, or reduce the risk of developing a number of ailments.” Some of the products in question include a rose quartz egg for hormonal balance, and a detox seaweed bath soak which is said to fight aging. TINA is taking aim at both GOOP-brand products such as vitamins, and products from outside vendors.

TINA argues that GOOP “does not possess the competent and reliable scientific evidence required by law to make such claims.”

Bonnie Patten, executive director of TINA.org, said in a statement:

“Marketing products as having the ability to treat diseases and disorders not only violates established law but is a terribly deceptive marketing ploy that is being used by GOOP to exploit women for its own financial gain.

GOOP needs to stop its misleading profits-over-people marketing immediately.”

In response, a GOOP spokesperson said:

“Goop is dedicated to introducing unique products and offerings and encouraging constructive conversation surrounding new ideas. We are receptive to feedback and consistently seek to improve the quality of the products and information referenced on our site. We responded promptly and in good faith to the initial outreach from representatives of TINA and hoped to engage with them to address their concerns.

Unfortunately, they provided limited information and made threats under arbitrary deadlines which were not reasonable under the circumstances. Nevertheless, while we believe that TINA’s description of our interactions is misleading and their claims unsubstantiated and unfounded, we will continue to evaluate our products and our content and make those improvements that we believe are reasonable and necessary in the interests of our community of users.”

Paltrow founded GOOP in 2008, but she now serves as CEO of the company. [3]

On the GOOP website, the growing retail and lifestyle business promises:

“We test the waters so that you don’t have to. We will never recommend something that we don’t love and think worthy of your wallets and your time. We value your trust above all things.”

Initially, TINA sent the letter to GOOP with a deadline to change its marketing claims. However, the consumer watchdog filed a complaint after GOOP had made only “limited changes” to its materials. [4]

In June 2017, a NASA expert debunked the claim that body stickers sold by GOOP could balance a person’s energy in a Gizmodo article, leading GOOP to remove the claim from its website.

GOOP still sells the maligned jade eggs for $66 on its website and claims it helps “women to increase sexual energy” and promotes “health and pleasure,” as well as its rose quartz eggs.

Sources:

[1] The Washington Post

[2] The Hollywood Reporter

[3] Today

[4] The Huffington Post


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CDC Survey: Obesity is Still Growing in America

One of the largest surveys of health in the United States reveals some sobering, though not entirely unexpected news: Americans are fatter than ever. Ouch.

The CDC has been asking Americans 18 and older about their health and their family members’ health every year since 1957. The National Health Interview Survey, which contains data from 2015 on more than 100,000 people, shows that more Americans had health insurance and smoked fewer cigarettes in 2015 than in previous years, but obesity and diabetes rates are still climbing.

In 2015, 30.4% of Americans age 20 and older said they were obese, up from 29.9% in 2014. It’s not a huge increase, but it represents a continuation of a trend that has been going on since at least 1997, when researchers began using the current survey format. At that time, the obesity rate was only 19.4%. [1]

cdc-obesity-study
Source: BGR

Brian Ward, health statistician at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and one of the authors of the report, told CNN:

“That is not a good trend there. But it is not necessarily anything unexpected.”

However, according to other surveys, the obesity problem is far worse than the CDC’s suggests. In 2012, the National Health and Nutrition Survey found that 34.9% of adults age 20 and over were obese. To reach their conclusions, the researchers behind that survey measured the height and weight of more than 9,000 Americans to calculate their body mass index (BMI). The current survey relied on respondents self-reporting their body size.

Michael W. Long, assistant professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, said the National Health and Nutrition Survey is probably more accurate, because people tend to exaggerate their height and downplay their weight.

That’s a discouraging thought. The CDC’s findings show that more than 97 million U.S. adults are grossly overweight, but that number might actually be much higher.

Other findings from the CDC survey included:

  • The rates of obesity among blacks were higher than Hispanics and white adults. About 45% of black women reported that they were obese, compared with 32.6% of Hispanic women and 27.2% of white women. Similarly, 35.1% of black men said they were obese, compared with 32% and 30.2% of Hispanic and white men, respectively.
  • Adults between the ages of 40 and 59 had the highest rates of obesity. In this age group, 34.6% of people said they were obese, compared with 26.5% of adults 20 to 39 years old 30.1% of adults 60 and older.

Long said:

“[The 40 to 59 age group] is really where you see a lot of the effects of obesity on diabetes-related morbidity and mortality, and you see premature deaths related to heart disease and are starting to see some of the cancers related to obesity.”

The survey showed that diabetes is on the rise, too – a natural consequence of rising obesity. Among people 18 and older, 9.5% said they had diabetes in 2015, compared with 9.1% in 2014. Again, the increase isn’t big, but it indicates an ongoing trend.

In 1997, only 5.1% of Americans had diabetes.

Additional Sources:

[1] BGR


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