Can Diet Stop Alzheimer’s?

Every three seconds, someone in the world develops Alzheimer's disease. It's a devastating disease: millions of people, as well as their caretakers, spend years dealing with disabling disorientation and memory loss. Today, it's the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. By 2050, an estimated 15 million people in America will have Alzheimer's—the combined populations of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. But, after years of failed drug trials, scientists are now realizing that the disease begins with structural changes in the brain decades before sufferers show any symptoms. And some researchers now believe that diet may be the most important factor in determining whether or not those brain changes take place. Listen in now to find out: Can changing what you eat prevent Alzheimer's? …More

Seeds of Immortality

When seeds first evolved, hundreds of millions of years ago, they not only revolutionized the plant world, but they also eventually sowed the path for human civilization. Today, it's nearly impossible to eat a meal without consuming a plant embryo—or many. But how did seeds come to play such a critical role in human history? Why might one seed in particular, the lotus seed, hold the secret to immortality? And, perhaps just as importantly, how does this magical seed taste? Find out in this special episode of Gastropod, sponsored by McCormick.

Episode Notes

Thor Hanson

Writer and biologist Thor Hanson is author of  The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History.

Jane Shen-Miller

Jane Shen-Miller is a botanist at the University of California-Los Angeles. You can read more about her successful germination of centuries-old lotus seeds here, as well as her work to sequence the lotus seed genome, here.

Lotus flower seed heads and raw, un-puffed lotus seeds.

Mark Griffiths

Horticulturalist Mark Griffiths is the author of The Lotus Quest: In Search of the Sacred Flower.

Lotus Seed Snacks

You can find Sruti Jilla's Lotus Pops here, and Amit Bhojraj's Super Lotus snacks here.

Lotus Leaf Technology

You can read more about the nanostructural magic of lotus leaf here, and learn how NASA is using it here.

McCormick Flavor Forecast

Thanks so much to McCormick and Company, the sponsor of this special episode. Their Flavor Forecast identifies top trends and ingredients to discover the tastes of tomorrow. Created by a global team of McCormick experts, including chefs, culinary professionals, trend trackers and food technologists, the Flavor Forecast inspires culinary exploration and innovation around the world. 

 

Pick A Pawpaw: America’s Forgotten Fruit

In 1916, agricultural experts voted the pawpaw the American fruit most likely to succeed, ahead of blueberries and cranberries. But today, most people have never even heard of it, let alone tried it. What is the pawpaw, and how did we forget it? Listen in this episode for a tale that involves mastodons and head-lice, George Washington and Daniel Boone, and a petite but passionate community of pawpaw obsessives.

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Eating to Win: Gatorade, Muscle Milk, and… Chicken Nuggets?

Ancient Greek Olympians swore by beans to give them a competitive edge. Japanese sumo wrestlers rely on a protein-rich soup called chankonabe to get into peak condition. And NBA all-stars Kevin Garnett, Carmelo Anthony, and Steph Curry credit their success to a pre-game PB&J. Throughout history, athletes have traditionally eaten something special they hope will give them an edge. But is there any science behind these special drinks and diets—and will consuming them help those of us who are not destined for sporting glory, too? Listen in this episode as we reveals the backstory behind such stadium staples as Gatorade and Muscle Milk—and the evidence for their efficacy.

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The Secret History of the Slave Behind Jack Daniel’s Whiskey

Back in 1866, Jack Daniel's became the first registered distillery in the United States; today, it's the top-selling American whiskey in the world. For much of the brand's 150-plus years, the story went that the young Jack Daniel learned his trade from a pastor named Dan Call. In reality, he was taught to distill by an enslaved African, Nearest Green, whose contributions had been written out of history. In this episode, listen in as Fawn Weaver, the entrepreneur who has made rediscovering Green's story her business, and Clay Risen, the whiskey expert whose 2016 article in The New York Times launched Weaver's quest, tell us the true story of Nearest Green and Jack Daniel—and of American whiskey.

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Sweet and Low (Calorie): The Story of Artificial Sweeteners

For decades, ads for treats sweetened with substances like Sweet'N Low, NutraSweet, and Splenda have promised what seems like a miracle of modern science: that you can enjoy all the dessert you want, calorie-free. No need to deprive yourself—with artificial sweeteners, you can literally have your cake and eat it, too. But are these substances safe? Don't they give cancer to rats and mess up your metabolism? Listen in now for answers to all these questions, plus the tale of a sugar-free gumball marketing blitz, courtesy of none other than Donald Rumsfeld. …More

Dirty Tricks and Data: The Great Soda Wars, Part 2

Over the past five years, more than forty cities and countries around the world have passed a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. These soda taxes are designed to improve public health—but do they? Or have all the doom-and-gloom predictions of the soda industry come true instead? Researchers have been crunching the data, and this episode we have the scoop: do soda taxes work? We've also got the story of how the soda industry is fighting back, with dirty tricks in Colombia and blackmail in California. Finally, are soda taxes even the best intervention for improving public health? We have brand-new results from a radical, world-first experiment in Chile. Listen in now as we reach the epic finale of the great soda wars!

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Souring on Sweet: The Great Soda Wars, Part 1

Public health researchers agree: the evidence is clear that Americans consume way too much sugar, that sugar contributes to weight gain, and that rising rates of obesity in the U.S. will lead to significant health problems in the future. What's much less clear is what to do about it. In this special, first-ever two-part episode of Gastropod, we tell the story of how sugary beverages—soda, in particular—became Public Health Enemy #1. Why are politicians and scientists targeting soda? Why have most attempts to pass soda taxes failed? And do these taxes even work to reduce consumption and obesity?

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The Truth is in the Tooth: Braces, Cavities, and the Paleo Diet

Brush, floss, and forget: chances are, you only think about your teeth when they cause you trouble. But teeth have tales to tell, such as how old we are, how fast we grew, and how far we've traveled... But, most intriguingly, teeth can tell us both what we evolved to eat and what we actually have been eating. Paleo diet fans insist that our modern teeth troubles—all those pesky cavities—come from eating the wrong diet. If we only ate what our ancestors ate—meat, berries, and no grains—we'd be fine, they claim. But what do our teeth say? Tune in this episode to find out the toothy truth.

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Who Invented Mac and Cheese?

The warm, gooey dish, a childhood staple across North America, is many things to many people: a mainstay of African-American Sunday dinners, according to soul food expert Adrian Miller; a comforting yet celebratory meal that can be jazzed up in dozens of ways, according to chef and former mac and cheese restaurant owner Allison Arevalo; and Canada's de facto national dish, according to journalist Sasha Chapman. So what do the Swiss Alps have to do with macaroni and cheese? Listen to this special sponsored episode for the story of where mac and cheese really came from and how it ended up in a little blue box. Plus, some tips for making the very best macaroni and cheese from scratch.

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