Why cities can’t get rid of rats

  • Cities across the US are getting more infested with rats. As hard as we try to get rid of the pests, they always seem to find a way back.
  • In many ways, rats are better suited for living in cities than people. They can climb brick walls and “tightrope walk” over telephone cables.
  • Their incisors grow 14 inches a year, which lets them gnaw into anything – including everywhere you don’t want them.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Wormtail. Professor Ratigan. The R.O.U.S. Pop culture has given rats a bad rep. And it’s understandable why.

Take northeastern India’s rat flood. Twice a century, rats swarm when bamboo forests drop about 80 tons of seeds. After they devour the seeds, they devastate local agriculture. In the 1960s, the resulting famine was so bad, it lead to a major political uprising.

It’s no wonder that the technical term for a group of rats is a “mischief”! And they’re not just a problem for farmers. These crafty rodents are the ultimate urbanites.

Meet your average city rats: Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus. These rats live pretty much wherever we do. Especially in cities. Take New York City, for example. We don’t know exactly how many rats call the Big Apple home. But a 2014 study gave a ballpark estimate of 2 million rats.

That means for heavily-infested areas you could have several rats per person! And in some ways, rats are better suited for living in cities than people. They can climb brick walls, “tightrope walk” over telephone cables, and their incisors grow 14 inches a year. Which lets them gnaw into anything – including everywhere you don’t want them.

But their most powerful ability? Rats are clever. Too clever. Scientists have shown that rats can learn to use tools. And when offered the choice between a chocolate and freeing a trapped friend. Rats chose to free their friend over chocolate!

Translate those smarts to the real world and rats easily avoid traps. Trying to poison them won’t help much either. Rats are extremely patient when it comes to new foods. They’ll taste just a tiny portion at first, wait to see if that food makes them sick and only then, consume the rest if it’s safe.

This is called “delayed learning” and it’s why rats are notoriously difficult to poison. Plus, they can develop resistance to many poisons over time so even outwitting them might not work in the long run.

Another major issue is that rats reproduce quickly. A single doe usually has 8-12 pups every 8 weeks! And those babies can have pups of their own after only 5 weeks!

So as long as they have access to food, rat populations will rebound from just about any attack. The only attack they can’t handle is improved sanitation.

And cities are using that to their advantage. In 2017, for example, New York City launched a $32 million war plan against its rats. Eliminate 70% of the rats in its 10 most-infested neighborhoods.

The plan is simple. Cut off their food source.

You see, NYC produces around 33 million tons of trash a year – more than any other city on Earth! The trash piles aren’t getting any smaller but the city can at least make it harder for rats to reach by replacing traditional trash compactors with a mailbox style opening.

Will NYC succeed by the end of 2018, as proposed?

Judging by the thousands of years where rats came out on top, it sounds a little too optimistic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2018.

Read the original article on Business Insider

One bite from this tick could ruin red meat for the rest of your life

  • A single bite from a lone star tick could cause hives, shortness of breath, or even death.
  • It’s not something they were born with, it’s something their body was taught to reject, by an uninvited little wilderness hitchhiker.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Imagine that you’re a red-blooded carnivore. You love burgers, steak, pork chops, bacon. But one day, out of nowhere, red meat starts to make you physically sick to the stomach. It sounds like science fiction, but it’s real, and it’s spreading.

It’s spreading to people like Amy.

Amy Pearl: My name is Amy Pearl, and I’m a producer for WNYC.

She has what is called a mammalian meat allergy.

Amy Pearl: I have a tendency to not mention it at restaurants, because I feel like if you say to a server, I’m allergic to meat, they’re gonna be like, I’m spitting in your food.

Any meat that came from a cow, a pig, or a lamb, will make Amy sick. Very, very sick.

Amy Pearl: Like I just had hives on my hands and my feet, and like all over my torso. I was nauseous, and I felt like I was fainting, I felt like the world was ending, I felt like I was gonna pass out and I couldn’t really breathe.

Thousands of Americans are suffering like Amy, but until 2009, this sort of allergy went undiagnosed.

Amy Pearl: I think I made an appointment with my regular physician, but he immediately was like, there’s no such thing as a meat allergy, has to be something else.

That changed with the cancer drug, Cetuximab. In a clinical trial, one in four patients developed severe allergic reactions to the drug. Some even died.

Naturally, Cetuximab was investigated. University of Virginia’s allergy department focused on one specific part of the drug. The key ingredient in Cetuximab is a specific carbohydrate that all non-primate mammals carry in their cell walls and tissues, Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or, if you’re pressed for time, alpha-gal.

Dogs have it, cats have it, and the mice cells involved in the production of Cetuximab have alpha-gal. The team discovered that those who had reactions were from only certain areas of the US, the southeast. The locations of the cases aligned almost perfectly with the range of a specific type of tick, the lone star tick.

Dr. Scott Commins is an allergist, and was working with the University at the time.

Scott Commins: Over 90 to 93% of our patients that developed allergic reactions to red meat and test positive by blood test will have a history of tick bites.

Amy Pearl: The thing I Googled was “sudden meat allergy.” I found an article that said there was some man in Florida, had gone into anaphylactic shock from eating meat after a tick bite. And I was like, “I had a tick bite!” I mean, I often have a tick bite. I’d just taken a tick off me.

One of the leading researchers, Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, went so far to use himself in an unofficial experiment, taking a hike through a nest of larval ticks. It earned him a nice case of red meat allergy.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about how this meat allergy works, but here is the leading theory. Ticks don’t have alpha-gal naturally, but they could be carrying it if they fed off a mammal, like a deer or a dog. If a tick then bites you, it trades some of your delicious blood for its saliva, which is a cocktail of nasty things. An enzyme in that saliva tells your body that there’s a variety of dangerous threats, and your immune system bans everything in that saliva from entering the body, including alpha-gal, which is also in every burger, steak, and bacon strip. So the next time you eat one of those, your body treats the carbohydrate like an intruder, and hits the panic button.

This is happening in the bodies of an estimated 5,000 Americans. What’s worse is that the range of the lone star tick is growing.

Scott: Their range is spreading into the Ohio River Valley and now up into Minnesota. We also know places where this alpha-gal red meat allergy exists, but they don’t have lone star ticks at all. And this would be southern Sweden, for example, there’s parts of Europe, Australia, and now even South Africa. So clearly other tick species can do this as well.

University of Virginia’s researchers have also linked the alpha-gal allergies with a higher risk of heart disease.

Scott Commins: This allergy seems as though it will often go away over time, but the problem has been that any additional tick bites seem to cause the allergy to return. And these are often patients who like to be outside.

Amy Pearl: I know that my numbers have gone down, because I’ve been retested a couple of times, but they’re still 10, 20 times what they should be.

Dr. Commins continues to work towards an immediate cure to mammalian meat allergy. In the meantime, the number of cases are rising.

Scott Commins: So what we’ve been trying to do is work on a vaccine related to tick saliva, in hopes that we can prevent the allergic response from continuing, or recurring, with additional tick bites.

If you’ve been bitten by ticks recently, be sure to get tested. If you haven’t, learn how to explore the woods safely.

Scott Commins: you may want to consider pre-treating your skin or clothing with DEET or Permethrin, respectively.

Amy Pearl: People are so freaked out about ticks, it’s not that bad. They’re much easier to see than you think.

Learn how to do a tick check after spending time in the wilderness. And if you value a juicy steak over a walk in nature, then maybe stay out of the woods.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in August 2018.

Read the original article on Business Insider

We tried a fermentation-tracking device and highly recommend it to find out which foods are making you bloated

Following is a transcript of the video.

Michelle Yan: Burping, farting, bloating, diarrhea: We all experience these things. Some may know exactly what foods are causing them these problems, but others may not. Sure, generic lists on Google may help, but they’re not personal or quantifiable enough. This device, called FoodMarble AIRE, may give you a clearer idea of exactly what foods are causing your discomfort.

Kara Chin: My digestive problems include…

Gene Kim: Feeling gassy all the time.

Abby Narishkin: Constipation.

Manny Ocbazghi: Sharp pains in my stomach.

Abby: IBS.

Gene: And also violent diarrhea.

Michelle: So what exactly is this device?

James Brief: FoodMarble AIRE is a breath-analysis device that tracks a specific kind of digestion called fermentation. And fermentation’s a healthy part of digestion, but sometimes too much fermentation from certain foods can cause symptoms in a lot of people. Bloating, pain, gas, and even diarrhea.

Abby: My stomach does not respond well to things like onions and garlic.

Gene: Meat or oily foods.

Abby: Brussels sprouts.

Kara: If it says “sugar-free,” I know I shouldn’t have it.

Abby: If I eat an apple, game over. And avocados, sadly.

What could be causing these symptoms?

James: Fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide, and polyols. It’s a fancy word that means some complex carbohydrates and not carbs like we think of like bread. FODMAPs are found in all kinds of fruits, dairy, vegetables, grains, and these nutrients, while very healthy, if they’re not absorbed properly in certain people, this fermentation causes a lot of the symptoms that people experience.

Manny: I don’t know exactly what I’m reacting to. It could be gluten. It could be dairy. So hopefully this test will help me figure that out.

James: So there’s two general ways that people can use this device. One, you can use it in your regular, everyday use. You can track your foods, track your symptoms, and then you take several breaths throughout the day, and then with our app’s food database, we can tell you which foods contain higher and lower amounts of FODMAPs.

The second way that people could use the app is that we optionally provide pure samples of FODMAPs. You mix it into a little bit of water, and then for three hours while you have an empty digestive system, except for this one FODMAP, we can test you and see if you’re fermenting a lot from this. It’s day one of this experiment.

Gene: I got some teriyaki chicken.

Kara: I got noodle soup.

Gene: Are you excited?

Kara: Uh, yeah, we’re gonna learn things.

Gene: Yeah, let’s do this. Let’s figure out what’s causing our digestive problems.

Manny: So my first week using AIRE has been pretty interesting.

Gene: So it felt like the device was accurately measuring my activity in the stomach.

Kara: My fermentation levels are really high after I’ve had pizza and pita chips and hummus.

Manny: One of the surprising results I got was when I went to Chipotle last week. I purposely stacked my bowl with like dairy products, and then I did my breath test probably about a half an hour later, and my fermentation score actually decreased from the morning.

Abby: I would eat the almonds, and this past week I’ve been recording it, and my fermentation score has been really high. So we asked why that might be happening, and it turns out that almonds are low FODMAP only in smaller quantities, which I have a problem with portion control.

Gene: When I eat meat with vegetables, it was actually fine. The levels would show a low indicator. But when I would eat meat with bread, like a sandwich or a hamburger, the levels were high.

Manny: So when you first download the app, it does tell you not to use the breath tests while you’re drinking. But I was still curious to see what it says, and my readings were like 10 out of 10, like off-the-charts red. But that does let me know that the app is working.

Gene: I tried the inulin elimination diet. I didn’t even know such thing existed before this. I came in thinking that meat is the main problem in my diet, but it turned out that it wasn’t necessarily meat. It was the things that I ate with meat, like bread, garlic, and onion.

Abby: So going forward, I’m gonna eat less almonds and definitely work on portion control.

Kara: I think I just will prepare for suffering whenever I have these foods that I love but know that my body doesn’t react well to.

Abby: I think I would recommend this device. Although it didn’t necessarily give me the answers that I wanted, I think it would be really helpful for someone who definitely has an intolerance to lactose or one of those four pillars and so that they can get a pretty solid answer on what they should avoid to eat.

James: Unfortunately, breath analysis is limited to fermentation-related issues. So if breath analysis and fermentation are not their cause of their problems, they should see a dietician, a healthcare professional, a gastroenterologist for further analysis that can help their issues.

Michelle: So be like, “This is Gene the farting machine.”

Gene: All right, you give me the cue.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in May 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

What staring at a screen all day does to your brain and body

Following is a transcript of the video.

It’s 11:00 pm. You should be asleep. But you’re watching a video on your phone. Tomorrow, you’ll wake up and go to work, where you’ll stare at your computer for 8 hours. When you get home, you’ll watch a movie on TV. And if you’re anything like the average American adult, you spend more than 7 hours a day staring at digital screens.

So, what’s all this screen time actually doing to your body and brain? Humans didn’t evolve to stare at bright screens all day. And our eyes are suffering the consequences. An estimated 58% of people who work on computers experience what’s called Computer Vision Syndrome.

It’s a series of symptoms that include:

  • eyestrain
  • blurred vision
  • headaches
  • and neck and back pain

And long-term, this amount of screen time could be damaging our vision permanently. Since 1971, cases of nearsightedness in the US have nearly doubled, which some scientists partly link to increased screen time. And in Asia today, nearly 90 percent of teens and adults are nearsighted. But it’s not just the brightness of our screens that affects us.

It’s also the color. Screens emit a mix of red, green, and blue light – similar colors in sunlight. And over millennia, it was blue wavelengths in sunlight that helped us keep our circadian rhythms in sync with our environment. But since our circadian rhythms are more sensitive to blue light than any others,

A problem occurs when we use our screens at night. Typically, when the sun sets, we produce the hormone melatonin. This hormone regulates our circadian rhythms, helping us feel tired and fall asleep. But many studies have found that blue light from screens can disrupt this process.

For example, in one small study, participants who spent 4 hours reading e-books before bed for 5 nights produced 55% less melatonin than participants who read print books.

What’s more, the e-book readers reported that they:

  • Were more alert before bed
  • Took longer to fall asleep and reach a restorative REM state
  • And were more tired the next morning

But perhaps the most concerning changes we’re starting to see from all this screen time is in kids’ brains. An ongoing study supported by the NIH has found that some pre-teens who clocked over 7 hours a day on screens had differences in a part of their brains called the cortex. That’s the region responsible for processing information from our five senses.

Usually, our cortex gets thinner as we mature. But these kids had thinner cortices earlier than other kids who spent less time on screens. Scientists aren’t sure what this could mean for how the kids learn and behave later in life. But the same data also showed that kids who spent more than 2 hours a day on screens scored lower on thinking and language skill tests.

To be clear, the NIH data can’t confirm if more time spent staring at screens causes these effects. But they’ll have a better idea of any links as they continue to follow and study these kids over the next decade. It’s no doubt that screens have changed the way we communicate. But only time will tell what other changes are on the horizon for humankind.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in January 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to find water when you’re stuck in the desert

  • The human body can survive for about three days without water, which can be extremely hard to find in hot desert climates.
  • If you’re ever lost in a desert, knowing how to quickly find water is key to your survival. 
  • Water flows down, so check low terrain. Canyons and mountain bases could be home to a water source.
  • Fruits, vegetables, cacti, and roots all contain water and mashing them with a rock will release some liquid.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories. 

Following is a transcript of the video.

The human body can survive for about three days without water, which can be extremely hard to find in hot desert climates.

Look for signs of life if you can’t find a water source. Vegetation, birds, and insects can all mean a nearby water source. Fruits, vegetables, cacti, and roots all contain water and mashing them with a rock will release some liquid.

Water flows down, so check low terrain. Canyons and mountain bases could be home to a water source.

Morning dew can be collected with a cloth and then wrung out into your mouth.Just make sure you collect it before sunrise or it will evaporate before you can get it. Use cups or any other container to catch rainfall. If possible, build a water-catching tarp. This will allow even more water to be collected.

Look for damp ground, vegetation, and dry river beds. These things can all indicate underground water. If you dig a hole a few feet deep nearby, it’s likely water will seep in. If possible, always filter the water. But if you have to choose between dehydration and unfiltered water – take your chances with the water.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on May 12, 2017.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How autopilot on an airplane works

  • Autopilot is a flight-control system that allows a pilot to fly an airplane without continuous hands-on control.
  • But this feature isn’t as automatic as you might think. There’s no robot sitting in the pilot seat and pressing buttons while the real pilot takes a nap.
  • A modern automatic flight-control system is made of three main parts: a flight-monitoring computer, several high-speed processors, and a series of sensors placed on different parts of the plane.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories. 

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Autopilot isn’t as “auto” as you might think. There’s no robot that sits in the pilot seat and mashes buttons while the real pilot takes a nap. It’s just a flight-control system that allows a pilot to fly an airplane without continuous hands-on control.

Basically, it lets a pilot fly from New York to Los Angeles without white-knuckling the controls for six straight hours. But how does it actually work? Kind of like a polar bear. A polar bear’s core temperature sits at about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It is so well insulated against the frigid Arctic cold that it often overheats. When that happens, its body reacts by releasing excess heat through its hairless parts, like its nose, ears, and feet. The polar bear’s body temperature returns to a comfortable 98.6, and it’s free to hunt seals another day. That cycle is called a negative feedback loop, and it’s the same way an autopilot functions.

A negative feedback loop is a self-regulating system that reacts to feedback in a way that maintains equilibrium. Generally, it uses a sensor to receive some sort of data or input, and the system uses that data to keep functioning in a preset way.

For the polar bear, that preset is body temperature. For an airplane, it’s lateral and vertical movement. A modern automatic flight-control system is made of three main parts: a flight-monitoring computer, several high-speed processors, and a series of sensors placed on different parts of the plane. The sensors collect data from the entire plane and send them to the processors, which in turn tell the computer what’s what.

AFCSs come in three different levels of complexity. There are single-, two-, and three-axis autopilots, based on the number of parts they control. Single-axis controls the ailerons, which are these guys. They make the plane do this. Single-axis autopilot is also called the “wing leveler” because it controls the roll of the plane and keeps the wings perpendicular to the ground. Two-axis handles everything the single-axis does, along with the elevators, located here. They move the plane like this. And three-axis juggles those two plus the rudder. That one there is in charge of this movement. Then the computer tells the servomechanism units what to do. Servos are the little instruments that actually move the parts. All of these pieces come together to make sure your plane stays in the air, where it belongs. But they don’t just work on their own.

The success of the autopilot depends on the knowledge of the actual human pilot.

Greg Zahornacky: Autopilots are dumb and dutiful, meaning this: that if you program them incorrectly, they will kill you.

Narrator: Dumb and dutiful are the “two Ds of automation,” according to Earl Wiener, a former US Air Force pilot and an aviation scholar. He once described autopilot as, “Dumb in the sense that it will readily accept illogical input; dutiful in the sense that the computer will attempt to fly whatever is put in.” It’s crucial, and I cannot emphasize this enough, that you know how to fly a plane before you use an autopilot. Step one is inputting a flight plan. And step one is also where things could start going wrong.

To get from New York to LA, a pilot needs a route. That route translates to a flight plan, and that flight plan gets punched into the computer and logged into the database. If the pilot doesn’t know what the heck they’re doing, then they can end up programming the autopilot to fly the plane upside down or to spell out “I’m a Bad Pilot” in the sky. If they correctly navigate step one, step two is simply turning on the autopilot. The system executes the flight plan and takes over from there.

Zahornacky: That will stay operational until such time as they tell it or turn it off. But it is capable of flying the aircraft essentially from takeoff all the way to touchdown and including touchdown.

Narrator: But you can’t just tap it and nap it. It’s the ABCs of autopilots: Always be checking. Because autopilots can and do fail. Sometimes it’s user error when entering the flight plan. Sometimes it’s a sensor or servo malfunction. Either way, this is when it becomes very important that an inflatable toy isn’t flying the plane.

– Why is it doing that?!

Zahornacky: If it’s not doing what I expect it to do, I’m gonna disengage the autopilot. I’m gonna go back to hand-flying the aircraft and say, OK, this is what I want you to do. I’m gonna rebuild it again.

Narrator: The good news is autopilot will never take over a plane, à la HAL. Worst case, the pilot turns it off and on again or pulls the circuit breaker if that doesn’t work and reprograms it to behave itself. Worst-worst case, the pilot just has to fly the plane themselves.

Zahornacky: So, I am a very large proponent of hand-flying that airplane to keep your skills high because, you know what, you’ve gotta go through a check ride at least once a year.

Narrator: A check ride is a practical test regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration that US pilots must pass to get their licenses. And most airlines require yearly check rides to make sure their pilots can actually fly.

Zahornacky: ‘Cause if it’s on autopilot all the time, how can you keep your skills sharp?

Narrator:  There’s a reason we still have pilots flying planes and haven’t handed the yoke over to robots. As advanced as the technology is, an autopilot is not auto enough to think for itself, which means it’s not smart enough to fly a plane by itself, and that’s another thing autopilots have in common with polar bears.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in October 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The biggest volcano eruptions in recorded history

  • The Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) ranks volcano eruptions by size and power.
  • The scale goes from VEI-0 to VEI-8 and measures ash, lava, and rock ejected.
  • VEI-1 is a gentle eruption that can happen frequently. Italy’s Mt. Stromboli has been erupting almost continuously for 2,000 years.
  • VEI-6s are colossal eruptions every 100 years. The 1883 explosion of Krakatoa was the most famous of these.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories. 

Following is a transcript of the video.

Earth has had a dramatic history, filled with its share of angry outbursts. Here’s how the largest volcanic eruptions measure up.

The Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) ranks eruptions by size and power. The scale goes from VEI-0 to VEI-8. It measures ash, lava, and rock ejected.

VEI-0 are usually a steady trickle of lava instead of an explosion. An example is the Hawaiian volcano of Kīlauea.

Next is VEI-1, a gentle eruption that can happen frequently. Italy’s Mt. Stromboli has been erupting almost continuously for 2,000 years.

VEI-2s consist of several mild explosions a month. Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung has been erupting since 2013.

VEI-3 are catastrophic eruptions that happen every few months. Lassen Peak in Northern California had a VEI-3 in 1915.

VEI-4s happen about every other year. In 2010, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull grounded thousands of flights.

At VEI-5 things start getting more dramatic. Both Mt. Vesuvius (79 AD) and Mt. St. Helens (1980) were VEI-5s.

VEI-6s are colossal eruptions every 100 years. The 1883 explosion of Krakatoa was the most famous of these.

VEI-7 eruptions occur every 1,000 years. The most recent was Indonesia’s Mt. Tambora in 1815.

VEI-8 is a devastating explosive eruption every 50,000 years. The Yellowstone Caldera would reach this level if it were to erupt.

Let’s all just keep our cool.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on November 1, 2017.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I ate nothing but ‘healthy’ fast food for a week – here’s what happened

America has an obesity problem, but there are more 200,000 fast foods restaurants dotted throughout the country. Customers have been moving towards places with healthier menus and many traditional chains are adding items to address this. I tried eating these “healthy” fast foods for an entire week. I had every meal at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts or Chick-fil-A. Following is a full transcript of the video. 

Kevin Reilly: Fast food is cheap and convenient. But hidden in between the burgers and tacos are some “healthy” options: salads, grilled chicken, yogurts, oatmeal, power burritos. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? I spent a week eating nothing but these “healthy” fast foods and I lost six-and-a-half pounds. But even though I lost about a pound a day, it didn’t really go well.

I live in New York City, a place with every possible food you could want. Eating healthy here, it’s a breeze. But across America, there are more than 200,000 fast food joints, and they’re bringing in more than $200 billion a year in sales. And no matter where you go, you’re never far from a place like McDonald’s or Taco Bell. But in recent years, consumers want better, healthier choices, and the traditional fast food places have been losing customers to those fast casual healthy options.

The rules were pretty simple: Eat every major meal at a national fast-food chain and stick to the healthy options. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, and Chick-fil-A; nothing but them for a week. Yeah, I lost almost seven pounds, but let’s take a close look at the numbers.

On a normal day, I’m eating around 2,500 calories. An adult man should be having about 2,400 to 2,600 calories a day. But on this fast food plan, my calories plummeted. Most of these meals came in under 400 calories, and that was one of my first problems. I’d eat and just a couple hours later, I was starving. And I had days when I didn’t eat more than 1,000 calories.

Now, some of these meals were really good. My favorite was this grilled chicken market salad from Chick-fil-A. It had blueberries, strawberries, apples; it was delicious and it was actually healthy. However, a lot of the other salads from Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s were loaded with salt, often more than 50% of what I needed for the entire day, from a salad. In fact, excess salt was a problem the entire week. I thought I had hit the jackpot with Taco Bell’s al Fresco menu. They take off all the cheese and mayo-based sauces and replace it with lettuce and pico de gallo. One night I got tacos, another night I got a power cantina burrito, and these were meals with more protein than usual. So, I felt like I was getting enough food. They were good, too good. It was all salt. In fact, just one burrito had almost as much salt as I needed in just one day. The American Heart Association says we should limit our sodium to about 2,300 milligrams a day, but the ideal is closer to 1,500 milligrams a day, especially for a person like me with high blood pressure. But if you look at my sodium intake, it was high every day, yet I was barely getting the calories I needed. If I wanted to keep the sodium down, I was starving. If I wanted to feel full, salt through the roof. You see, that’s an issue in the fast food industry. Wendy’s even acknowledges on their website that there’s going to be a trade-off between salt and flavor.

It was weird. I didn’t feel healthy at all throughout the week, even though I was eating healthy foods and losing weight. And on the last day, I had this massive headache that was just infuriating. These places, they’re supposed to be tasty, cheap, and convenient. But it wasn’t cheap. Every healthy option was expensive, but left me hungry. For eight grilled nuggets and this tiny kale salad at Chick-fil-A, $12. For the power Mediterranean salad at Wendy’s, it was almost $8, yet I could get a cheeseburger, nuggets, fries, and a soda for only $4. That brings me to another problem. Walk into McDonald’s and you get hit with that sweet, sweet french fry smell, and I had to get a salad.

Would I recommend this to anyone? Nope, unless you’re stuck on the road with no other options. Though there was a bright spot: breakfast at Subway. They have these egg-white-and-cheese sandwiches, which I got covered in spinach and peppers. And let me tell you, it was good. But after all this, I just want a cheeseburger.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in May 2018.

Read the original article on Business Insider

We compared our bodies to Barbie. Here’s what the doll would look like in real life.

    • Research shows that dolls with unrealistic proportions, like Barbie, promote body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem among young girls. 
    • We set out to to discover how unrealistic Barbie’s body is by scaling her up to the height of an average American woman.
    • The most noticeable difference was in the waist. Barbie’s was about 50 centimeters around, compared to the waist of an average American woman of 98 centimeters.
    • In 2016, Barbie’s maker Mattel released a handful of new sizes, including Curvy Barbie, which are more representative of real-life body diversity. But some experts say these dolls are still far from perfect.
    • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Ken: Hiya, Barbie!

Barbie: Hi, Ken! You’re looking unrealistically thin today!

Ken: Funny, I was going to say the same about you.

Narrator: Barbie is one of the most popular dolls in America. But that doesn’t mean that she’s loved by everyone. For years, women advocates have criticized the doll for her proportions, which they say set unrealistic and damaging body expectations for young girls.

In response, her maker, Mattel, created a handful of new sizes in 2016, including Curvy Barbie. But how unrealistic is Barbie really? Is Curvy much better? And where does Ken fit into all of this? That’s what we set out to discover.

Benji Jones: Hello, and welcome to our Barbie experiment. Today, we’re going to open up each of these three dolls and do a little bit of math to try to figure out what they would look like if they were life-size. We have your more typical Barbie over here. We’ve got a Curvy Barbie, which is kind of a newer doll. And then, of course, we also have a Ken doll because I couldn’t not get Ken. So let’s get started.

Narrator: First, we measured each of the dolls, their height, waist, and so on, and used some high-school algebra to figure out their life-size measurements. Then, we compared them to a real-life woman for comparison: our colleague Jensen.

Jones: So Jensen, how tall are you?

Jensen Rubinstein: I am 5-3 and a half.

Jones: So you are the average height of an American woman, congratulations.

Rubinstein: Wow, thank you!

Jones: First thing we’re gonna do is take some of your measurements.

Rubinstein: OK.

Jones:And then we’re gonna compare that to Barbie. Will you point to your belly button for me?

Rubinstein: Right here.

Jones: OK.

Narrator: Although Jensen is the average height of an American woman, she has a smaller-than-average waist. But still, it’s not nearly as thin as Barbie’s. If we scale Barbie to life-size, her waist would be a mere 50 centimeters, and her hips, just 71 centimeters. And if Jensen had Barbie’s proportions, this is what she would look like. She’d have shorter arms, a longer neck, and tiny feet. In fact, they’d be so small that she’d have trouble balancing and would be forced to walk on all fours.

And what about Curvy Barbie? Is she any more realistic? Actually, yes, at least relative to Jensen. Her waist would be around 63 centimeters and her hips around 90, the same as Jensen’s. Now, here’s Jensen with Curvy Barbie’s proportions. Not that different. Though, of course, she still wouldn’t be able to walk upright.

Now, we can’t forget about Ken. This time, I stood in for comparison. If we scale Ken up to my height, his waist would be just 63 centimeters, and he would also have unusually small feet, long legs, and larger calves. But his biceps, well, mine are actually bigger. Uh, Ken, you better watch out.

So as you might expect, most Barbies look nothing like average Americans, as fit as they may be. In fact, researchers found that the chance of a woman having traditional Barbie’s proportions is less than one in 100,000. And that’s a problem.

Deborah Tolman: My name’s Deborah Tolman. I’m a professor of critical social psychology and women and gender studies at Hunter College at City University of New York.

Narrator: And according to Tolman:

Tolman: Dolls actually have an enormous effect on girls’ and boys’ sense of themselves, their ideas about body, particular thin-body ideals. If you have an ideal, and you’re never able to achieve it, you don’t need a psychological study to show that it makes you feel bad.

Narrator: But there are plenty of studies that do. A study published in 2006, for example, found that young girls who are exposed to Barbie-doll images had more body dissatisfaction and lower body esteem compared to girls who were shown similar pictures of a larger-sized doll. But fortunately, it goes both ways.

Tolman: Playing with a more, I guess, quote, chubby doll actually suppresses the desire for a thin body. So thinking about it only as negative really doesn’t tell the full story because there are ways that we can introduce dolls and play that will actually yield protective effects.

Narrator: And that’s why some experts applaud Mattel for creating Curvy Barbie. But it’s also led to a whole new business for people who want to make even more realistic dolls because let’s face it, Curvy Barbie still doesn’t depict the average American woman.

Nickolay Lamm: So Curvy, Tall, and Petite Barbie, like, I think it sounds good, like, “Oh, Curvy, Tall, and Petite, we’re all diverse and everything.” But if we actually look at their individual, each doll, each doll is still unrealistic because the Curvy is still like the perfect hourglass shape. The Petite is very extremely slim, and the Tall is basically like essentially the original Barbie, except kind of a little bit taller.

Narrator: That’s Nickolay Lamm.

Lamm: I’m the founder of Lammily, which makes dolls with realistic body proportions to promote healthy body image.

Narrator: Lamm competes with Mattel for business, so of course there’s some difference in opinion about the perfect doll, but if you look at his dolls, it’s easy to see how they differ from Barbie, Curvy or otherwise. And in the end, maybe there is no perfect doll. After all, people come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, and it’s pretty clear that dolls should too.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in June 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider