Hot Topics: The Evils of Potatoes, RIP Columbo, Giffords-Kelly Book Deal
This has not been a good week for Mr. Potato Head, or for boomers who are fond of his fried, mashed or baked relatives. A new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, based on data collected from more than 120,000 adults over a 20-year period, reveals the impact of specific foods on weight gain, and potatoes rank at the top of the most-fattening list.
The study helps demolish the conventional wisdom that it's the calories that matter most in weight control, rather than what you eat, as this Washington Post article details. Lead author Dariush Mozaffarian of the Harvard School of Public Health explains to the Post: "All foods are not equal, and eating in moderation is not enough."
All potatoes aren't equal, either: The study shows that french fries caused the most weight gain, an average of 3.6 pounds over a four-year period. (Over a 20-year period, that can really add up.) But potato consumption of any sort contributed about 1.25 pounds of additional heft to subjects' waistlines and posteriors. That's even more than the one pound added by drinking sugar-sweetened beverages. Even when prepared in the least-fattening manner -- boiled, baked or mashed -- potatoes added slightly more than half a pound to subjects' physiques, more than deserts or butter. Here's a chart showing the findings.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the study may come as a shock to health organizations that have put their seals of approval on the starchy tuber. The American Heart Association, for example, has certified potatoes as a "heart healthy" food, and the United Nations proclaimed the International Year of the Potato back in 2008 and touted it as a source of nutrients ranging from B vitamins to potassium.
Exactly why potatoes and other foods are linked to weight gain is unclear, though it may be due to some combination of their caloric content and chemical composition.
But the study had some good news, as well; yogurt, nuts, fruit, whole grains and vegetables all help people to lose weight.
In other news:
RIP Lt. Columbo: Actor Peter Falk has died at 83 at his Beverly Hills home. The gravelly voiced actor became a boomer icon in the 1970s as the rumpled, meandering but brilliant mystery-solver of the TV series Columbo. Falk also appeared in more than 50 feature films, including A Woman Under the Influence, The In-Laws, The Great Race, The Cheap Detective, and The Princess Bride. Falk's Los Angeles Times obituary is here. Foreign art film buffs may also remember that he had a small but memorable part as a former angel in German director Wim Wenders' 1987 film, Wings of Desire.
Astronaut Mark Kelly starts his second act: U.S. Navy Capt. Kelly, who commanded the final flight of the space shuttle Endeavour in May, has announced his retirement from NASA. Kelly has had an even higher public profile than most astronauts because he's also the husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, who miraculously survived being shot in the head by a gunman in January. Giffords has recovered to the point that she was able to watch Kelly's liftoff in person. Entertainment Weekly reports that Kelly and Giffords have signed a publishing deal to write a joint memoir, which will provide a "deeply personal" account of both their love story and the struggle that they've faced since the attack.
Kerouac on your iPad: Over a three-week period in 1951, Jack Kerouac famously wrote his Beat Generation epic On The Road on a single 120-foot-long scroll of paper sheets that he taped together beforehand, so that he could type at a 100-word-per-minute pace with long, amphetamine-fueled stretches without interrupting his chain of thought. Six decades later, you can experience his wild, free-form vision on your iPad, with a little help from this new app that provides an "amplified" edition -- including notes and commentary; photographs of the real people and places who inspired the story; video clips of Kerouac's wife, Carolyn, and Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti discussing Kerouac; and even audio of the author reading from the novel. There's also a slick interactive map depicting the fictional journey of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty.
Career help for boomers: Silicon Valley, Hollywood and UCLA are joining forces to help boost job prospects for boomers with this week's launch of the Los Gatos, CA-based Encore Career Institute. The new institute has raised $15 million in an effort to revolutionize career counseling and development for older workers and will offer online courses and year-long certificate programs in fields such as engineering, public health and entertainment. Encore's board is headed by tech entrepreneur Steve Poizner, who pioneered the technology GPS receivers into mobile phones, and Sherry Lansing, the first woman to head a Hollywood film studio.
Boomer celebs on Twitter: Third Age gives us this list of the top 10 boomer glitterati who tweet. And no, former Congressman Anthony Wiener isn't on the list -- though oddly, it does include 80-year-old William Shatner. But that's okay, since boomers, who grew up watching him on Star Trek, love the the Shatmeister.
Bookstores charging fans to attend author appearances: The New York Times reports that some independent bookstores, in their struggle for survival against online retailers, have begun to charge admission fees of $5 to $10 to fans who attend author events. Proprietors, who invest time and money organizing the events, complain that they actually see people who show up at readings and then order the books on their iPhones from Amazon, rather than buying them in the store. We have to admit that they have a point. On the downside, requiring listeners to buy a ticket is going to eliminate the casual book shoppers who may wander into a reading on the spur of the moment.
Quote of the week: "If you want to measure Clarence Clemons as a musician, consider what it must have been like to have to find a solo that could stand up after lines like "And the poets down here don't write nothin' at all / They just stand back and let it all be." Then consider that, even if it took 16 hours in the studio, he found it." -- rock critic Dave Marsh, eulogizing E Street Band saxophonist Clarence "Big Man" Clemons, who passed away at 69.
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