Monday, May 18, 2015

Why are these food stamp challengers so miserable? Because they don't know about Wikipedia.

... or at least they chose not to use it, going by the high-profile examples of Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, and Business Insider's Kathleen Elkins.

All three wrote about their experiences trying to live on less than thirty dollars a week, but none of them appear to have done any significant reading on relevant topics like nutrition. If they had spent twenty or thirty minutes on Wikipedia, they probably would have come across this:
Considerable debate has taken place regarding issues surrounding protein intake requirements. The amount of protein required in a person's diet is determined in large part by overall energy intake, the body's need for nitrogen and essential amino acids, body weight and composition, rate of growth in the individual, physical activity level, individual's energy and carbohydrate intake, as well as the presence of illness or injury. Physical activity and exertion as well as enhanced muscular mass increase the need for protein. Requirements are also greater during childhood for growth and development, during pregnancy or when breast-feeding in order to nourish a baby, or when the body needs to recover from malnutrition or trauma or after an operation.

If not enough energy is taken in through diet, as in the process of starvation, the body will use protein from the muscle mass to meet its energy needs, leading to muscle wasting over time. If the individual does not consume adequate protein in nutrition, then muscle will also waste as more vital cellular processes (e.g. respiration enzymes, blood cells) recycle muscle protein for their own requirements.

According to US & Canadian Dietary Reference Intake guidelines, women aged 19–70 need to consume 46 grams of protein per day, while men aged 19–70 need to consume 56 grams of protein per day to avoid a deficiency. The generally accepted daily protein dietary allowance, measured as intake per kilogram of body weight, is 0.8 g/kg. However, this recommendation is based on structural requirements, but disregards use of protein for energy metabolism. This requirement is for a normal sedentary person.

Several studies have concluded that active people and athletes may require elevated protein intake (compared to 0.8 g/kg) due to increase in muscle mass and sweat losses, as well as need for body repair and energy source. Suggested amounts vary between 1.6 g/kg and 1.8 g/kg, while a proposed maximum daily protein intake would be approximately 25% of energy requirements i.e. approximately 2 to 2.5 g/kg. However, many questions still remain to be resolved.
Based on admittedly crude back-of-the-envelope calculations, none of these people were hitting even their sedentary targets and all of them reported substantial physical hardships -- severe hunger, lack of energy, headaches, mood swings, nausea -- but all of them passed over high protein foods for comparably priced low protein options. Elkins' choice to pay a dollar extra for almond milk is perhaps the most egregious example.

At the risk of patronizing, I am willing to give the movie star a pass here, but for a journalist or an executive, "let me research this" should have been the first impulse.

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