Health Page: Blinded by the light

There are some things people shouldn’t mind paying a few dollars more for, and according to Jeff Tyson, an expert with the site How Stuff, a decent pair of sun glasses is one of them. Tyson says there is definitely a difference between a $200 pair of Ray Bans and those cheap $9 knockoffs for sale at the checkout counter of your local gas station... There are some things people shouldn’t mind paying a few dollars more for, and according to Jeff Tyson, an expert with the site How Stuff, a decent pair of sun glasses is one of them. Tyson says there is definitely a difference between a $200 pair of Ray Bans and those cheap $9 knockoffs for sale at the checkout counter of your local gas station. Well made sunglasses protect your eyes, while a bargain basement pair can actually do you harm. According to Tyson, a good pair of shades should properly block UV rays and intense light, they should reduce glare and they should eliminate specific frequencies of light. “When you buy a pair of cheap sunglasses, you often give up all of these benefits and can even make things worse,” writes Tyson. “If your sunglasses offer no UV protection…they’ll block some light, causing your iris to open. This lets in more UV, increasing the damage to the retina.” Tyson says that cheap sunglasses have lenses made of ordinary plastic with a thin tinted coating on them that often offers minimal protection. Buyer beware!

Wisdom of the ages meets contraceptives

The birth control pill, which will soon be celebrating its 50th anniversary, has been called the most significant medical advance of the past 100 years. However, long before the advent of the little capsule that is popped by an estimated 100 million females each day, women throughout history have come up with an amazingly diverse (and often ingenious) series of techniques for controlling pregnancies. All-natural female barrier methods are among the oldest contraceptives. Medieval European women fashioned rudimentary diaphragms made of beeswax, while ancient Egyptian women favoured devices made from shaped crocodile droppings (which probably prevented pregnancy by killing the mood for all but the most determined suitors anyway). While the existence of sperm wasn't even discovered until the advent of the microscope in the 1700s, many ancient women also relied on spermacides made from gummy or mildly acidic substances such as olive oil or honey, even though they didn't fully understand why they worked. In ancient Greek times, women did understand that small amounts of poisons like mercury and arsenic could disrupt the female reproductive systems, and consumed them frequently. Others chugged the mineral-laden water blacksmiths used to cool metal to do the trick. It wasn't until the advent of the condom during the 17th Century, which was first made from segments of sheep intestines, that men got into the birth control game.

Waiter, there's a fly in my soup
What’s the best side dish to serve with a plate of caterpillars? What wine goes well with sautéed locust? What’s the best way to prepare a pound of uncooked roaches? Questions like these were all top-of-mind in Cambridge, Ont. this past March, as the city’s Wings of Paradise butterfly conservatory hosted its 7th annual Bug Feast, an event showcasing a variety of edible insects. Jeff Stewart, a chef who specializes in entomaphagy (that’s the art of cooking using insects), hosted the weeklong event in the small city located about an hour west of Toronto. Among the treats attendees got to sample were candy floss made with ants, cricket brittle ice cream and grub soup. Stewart says that while eating insects sounds outlandish to many North Americans, it's by no means unusual elsewhere in the world -- nearly three-quarters of the planet's population dines on them regularly. In fact, 1,400 species of creepy crawlies are on the menu in more than 90 countries worldwide. Even the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization points out that breeding bugs for human consumption makes sense nutritionally, economically and ecologically. “What I want to do is open peoples' minds to the kind of food that is out there,” Stewart recently told the town’s online news site, Cambridge Now. “Just because you haven't tried eating bugs before doesn't mean that they are disgusting.” Still adamant that you’ll never chow down on an bug? Relax. Most people inadvertently swallow a few of them every summer while walking, jogging or biking anyway, so bon appetit. To visit Jeff Stewart's insect cuisine web page, go to

Hey water drinkers: Dry up!
Think you need to be drinking eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy? Well, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania are arguing that this little bit of conventional wisdom is all wet. According to a study by doctors Dan Negoianu and Stanley Goldfarb, guzzling the recommended one-and-a-half-liters of H2O daily doesn't actually flush the body of toxins, won't help people lose weight and offers no noticeable health benefits. “There is simply a lack of evidence,” the researchers report in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, a noted publication for kidney specialists. Actually, the two point out that so many glasses can be harmful. “Drinking large amounts of water tends to reduce the ability of the kidneys to function as a filter,” Goldfarb told NPR radio in the U.S. Instead, they say it's better to simply drink when you are thirsty and leave the prodigious water chugging to parched athletes, outdoor labourers and camels.

Animals have humans beat
Human life spans are on the rise. According to StatsCan, the average life expectancy in this country is in the high 70s and going up all the time. In fact, these days it's no biggie to see people reach and pass the 100-year mark. However, when it comes to real longevity, the animal kingdom has us humans beat. Consider the common parrot, which typically lives into its 80s. In fact, many birds often outlast their original owners. For example, Winston Churchill's parrot Charlie is alive and well at 104 and still entertains customers at a U.K. gardening shop with impressions of his famous owner. Elephants, the animals that never forget, are known to outlive humans as well. One pachyderm in the Taiwan Zoo made it to 86 years before dying in 2003, according to the New York Times, while another one named Vatsala by game wardens at an Indian nature preserve is estimated to be 95 and still going. Swans typically live past 100, as do Turkey buzzards, which can live nearly 120 years. Bowhead whales are known to live into their 100s also. Turtles are known to be the longest living land creatures. Giant tortoises normally live well past 150 years. One, which reportedly lived in captivity in a zoo in Kolkata, India, was 255 years old when it died in 2006. However, the record for the oldest known living creature of all time goes to a lowly clam dredged from the bottom of the Atlantic near Iceland last fall by students at the Bangor University School of Ocean Sciences in the U.K. The mollusk, named Ming by his discoverers, is estimated to be more than 405 years old, reported the Daily Telegraph.