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True or False – Hostess Twinkies have a shelf life of just over two years?

Posted on January 28, 2015

False. image46

As I was preparing to write this post I realized it had been years since I’ve enjoyed the sweet, spongy, cream filled delicacy that is the Twinkie.  So, I made my way to a store and soon realized I couldn’t buy just one individual cake, I had to buy a box of 10.  What I thought was going to cost me a quarter, ended up costing me $3.39!  Twinkies have been around since 1930 when a baker in Chicago wanted to better utilize shortcake pans and started experimenting with the cream filled spongy cakes.  The cakes were initially filled with a banana cream filling but during WWII when bananas were hard to come by, the banana cream filling was replaced with a vanilla flavored filling.  Many people think that Twinkies last a long time.  I’ve read that some believe Twinkies have a shelf life of 2, 5, and even 10 years.  Some have even thought that Twinkies never go bad because they are made from nothing but chemicals.  Not true.  The shelf-life of Twinkies is about 25 days.  Don’t believe it? I didn’t either! In comparison, some MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) can last up to 10 years if stored at 60 degrees.  Shelf life is defined as the time that a product is acceptable and meets the consumer’s expectations regarding food quality (Martins 2008).  Things that impact shelf life include temperature, water content, light exposure, and oxygen.  There are a lot of chemicals in Twinkies (too many to list in this short chapter), but there is also flour, sugar, shortening and eggs.  If you indulge, do so in moderation as each cake contains 150 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 27 grams of carbohydrates and 220 mg of sodium. 


Martins R, Lopes V, Vicente A, Teixeira J: Computational shelf-life dating: complex systems approaches to food quality and safety.  Food Bioprocessing Technology (2008), Vol 1, pps. 207-222.

True or False – Individuals who multi-task are more productive?

Posted on January 20, 2015

False. image47

There has been a fair amount of research performed on multitasking.  However, before I reference a scientific study I’d like to discuss an “informal experiment” I conducted with one of my best friends in a canoe on a sunny summer afternoon.  My friend and I were fishing, and the fish were biting!  My friend has the habit of using 2 or 3 rods at the same time, and this particular day he was using 3.  He held one in his hand, had one balanced in his lap, and had the other one propped up diagonally in the canoe.  Not paying close attention to any of his rods, he missed many more fish than he caught.  I’d estimate I out-fished him 5 to 1 that afternoon.  That was all the “evidence” I needed to confirm that it is better to focus on one task than to do multiple things at once.  Our brains are wired in such a way as it is difficult for us to take in multiple streams of information at one time.  Likewise, we are not wired to be able to perform more than one task at a time very well (try reading and saying the alphabet at the same time).  Now you might think that, considering the lives many of us lead, multitasking seems to be a necessity.  A vision of a mother paying the family bills, checking her son’s homework, cooking dinner, answering e-mails, talking on the phone, all while listening to her i-pod, comes to mind.  The truth is that when we try and do two things at once, our productivity actually decreases.  The authors of one study (Ophir et. al., 2009) which examined cognitive control in media multitakers concluded “This led to the surprising result that heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability”.  Not only can multitasking decrease productivity, it can also be dangerous – think about the dangers of texting while driving!


Ophir E, Nass C. Wagner A: Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Psychological and Cognitive Sciences (2009), Vol 106, pps. 15583-15587.

True or False – Stress causes hair to turn gray?

Posted on January 13, 2015

False. image44

Have you ever heard someone say something like “you are going to give me gray hair” or “all this stress is going to turn me gray”?  I actually remember saying this a few times in my life, for example when our children were progressing through the terrible twos.  Well, there really is no scientific evidence that links stress and hair turning gray.  Graying often starts in the mid 30’s for Caucasians and the mid 40’s in people of color.  However, graying can start as early as the mid to late teens or not start until an individual is in their 50’s or 60’s.  If you read much on this topic you will likely come across the 50/50/50 principle.  That is roughly 50% of people will have 50% of their hair turn grey by the time they are 50 years old.  As I sit and write this chapter I happen to be attending a meeting and am sitting directly behind a woman in her mid 50’s.  She has very long pretty hair, and I’d say that somewhere between 50% and 60% of her hair is grey.  I’m currently 40 years old and started noticing the appearance of grey hairs 5 or 6 years ago and it is progressing quickly!  My father is in his mid 70’s and has brilliantly white hair, so I anticipate in the next 5 to 10 years I will be completely gray.  Some people work hard to cover up their gray hair with things like artificial coloring products, where others just accept that graying is a normal part of the aging process.  Some people even like to see their hair turn gray as they think it makes them look distinguished.  What actually causes gray hair?  Hair has the color it does due to pigment, this pigment is called melanin.  The cells that create melanin are called melanocytes.  As we age, melanocytes die or produce less pigment resulting in gray hair.  An article (Trueb 2005) about aging hair also states that genetics play a role and autoimmune disorders can turn hair gray.


Trueb, R: Aging of Hair. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology (2005), Vol 4, pps. 60-72.