Is Saturated Fat Good or Bad For You?

In nutrition, the question of whether saturated fats are good or bad for you is one of the most controversial topics.   While in the past, the answer was that saturated fats clog the arteries and are bad for you.   Recently, more and more people are saying saturated fats are not so bad after all.

However, there are still strong debates with experts giving us confusing information as best and conflicting information at worst. Perhaps the real answer is that we need some saturated fat but not too much.  What “some amount” means differs from individual to individual.

Eating saturated fat does not means that it becomes saturated fat in the blood.  It depends on how it is metabolized.  In fact, Mark Hyman has book “Eat Fat Get Thin” and PBS show special of same name.  And he also hosted a Fat Summit where various experts said various (something conflicting things) about saturated fats.

Most experts will agree that monounsaturate fats are good (olives and avocados).

Most experts tend to agree that polyunsaturated vegetable oils when heated (hence damaged) is bad.  And most of them on the grocery shelves are already damaged from the heat and light on the long shelf life and during extraction and transport. However, some will say that omega-3 and fish oil supplements are good (when unheated).   Dr. Jose Axe says

“In fact, if you do buy regular fish oil you may be doing yourself more harm than good, because as I explained in the video, they’re typically rancid!”

Instead, he uses Oceans 3 fish oil with astaxanthin antioxidants when he is not eating wild caught salmon twice a week.  The protein matrix of the fish meat protects the omega-3 from being damaged even when the fish is being cooked.

Paul Jaminet says similarly …

“So, give up the fish oil capsules:  they’re all too likely to poison you.  Instead, buy some fresh fish.  Poached or baked salmon is an excellent summer dinner.”

Dr. Sears Zone OmegaRx is tested for rancidity is another good fish oil you might want to investigate.

Dr. Perlmutter is a big fan of olive oil and dizzle uncooked organic extra virgin olive oil over his food.  He doesn’t want the omega-6 in vegetable oils.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman is not such a big fan of olive oil.  He says oils are not whole foods.  He rather eat the olive than take oils.  He says that while olive oil is better than saturated fats from animals, it is not as good as the fats in nuts and seeds….

“Olive oil is less harmful than animal fat, but not as healthful as nuts and seeds.”

Most of the experts believe that the majority of the plate should be vegetables.  The level of amount of animal products varies depending on who you ask.  Fuhrman believe it should be very little and kept to minimum.

Dr. Roizen avoids red meat because the carnitine, lecithin, or choline in red meat interacts with gut bacteria to produce TMAO which is linked with cardiovacular risk and kidney issues.

Dave Asprey is fine with coconut oil, but prefers his MCT oils and Brain Octane oil products.

Dr. Barry Sears thinks coconut oil is better than palm oil, but classifies them both as “class B” fats, which are not as good as olive oil which he thinks is “class A” due to its polyphenols.[ref]

He doesn’t like eggs yolks but is fine with egg whites.  Yolks and meat contain Arachidonic Acid.  And he likes to keep his AA/EPA towards the idea at the low 1.5 value.  [ref]

Of the saturated fats, he doesn’t like palmitic acid, buts likes stearic acid.  Learn about the different types of saturated fats on

Americans gets most arachidonic acid from chicken, eggs, and red meats in that order. Duck and poultry has more arachidonic acid than beef. [ref]  Organ meats are also high in AA.

Dr. Michael Greger doesn’t like arachidonic acid either and believes in vegetarian diet.

But Mark Daily Apple believes that a moderate amount of AA in eggs and meat are fine.

Dietary fats also may be link to endotoxin LPS. [ref]




Is Lemon Acidic or Alkalizing?

By itself outside of the body, lemon is acidic.  But when consumed with water and metabolized by the body, lemon water has an alkalizing effect. It has potassium and other minerals in it that is released upon digestion that produces this alkalizing effect.

However, it is not likely to change the pH of your blood by any significant amount.  Your body has systems in place to keep the blood level at a precise pH range. Your blood pH will always be 7.35 to 7.45 regardless of what you eat.

Nevertheless, for most people there are health benefits to consuming lemon water, and other alkaline-forming foods (mainly vegetables and greens).  This is because by doing so, it reduces the need for your body to use its mineral buffer systems to alkalize the blood down to the desire pH.

Over-consumption of acid producing foods (sodas for example), will require your body to pull calcium and other minerals out of storage in the bones in order to alkalize and maintain desired pH of 7.35 to 7.45.

The article by Dr. Ben Kim explains this the best…

See also which writes…

Inside the body however, when lemon juice has been fully metabolized and its minerals are dissociated in the bloodstream, its effect is alkalizing and therefore raises the pH of the body (pH above 7 is alkaline).”

Maybe this video will explain better …

So when you read articles like this one at which says that lemon water is not likely to change the pH of body.

“Under no circumstances can an acidic food alkalize your blood, said Kat Day, a chemist and science blogger in Oxfordshire, England. Because foods are not known to alter the pH of your blood or body, lemons won’t acidify you either.”

They are technically correct.  However, that is only because your body is using its mineral buffering system to maintain pH. article writes …

“Though it seems counter-intuitive to think that adding an acidic lemon to your purified drinking water could ultimately produce an alkaline result, it’s important to remember that fresh lemons are also anionic. Once you drink the acidic lemon water, it will become alkaline as your body reacts with the lemons’ anions during the digestive process. Use fresh lemons that haven’t been exposed to air for more than 30 minutes”

Note that drinking alkaline water (or baking soda even worst) is not the same as drinking lemon water.  They are not recommended.  They are alkaline to being with and they neutralize the acid of your stomach acid.  You want your stomach acid to be acidic in order to kill pathogens and aid digestion.  Here is video explaining why…

Dr. Mercola says similarly in his article.

Lemon water probably has other benefits besides the alkalizing properties.  Another video: 5 Reasons to Drink Lemon Water before breakfast

What is the difference between a family room and living room?

The room that is the largest and most spacious and is most central to the home is considered the living room. Auxiliary rooms are family rooms.

Family rooms are often next to the kitchen and may even be freely connected to the kitchen.

Living room is where guests are entertained and is more formal. Family room are more casual in function.

It is common for a living room to have an entertainment center.


Does the brain shrink with age?

Yes, the brain shrinks with age.

US News article says …

The inevitable physical changes start in early adulthood but become especially marked after about age 60 or so. Gradually, the brain shrinks, losing around 0.5 percent to 1 percent of its volume each year after that age threshold; brains with Alzheimer’s shrink about twice as fast.

Article in ScienceAGoGo states …

everyone’s brain starts shrinking beginning at young adulthood. On average, a person’s brain will shrink 2.5 percent every 10 years.

But some parts (such as the hippocampus) of the brain shrinks more than other parts. See picture.

In addition to brain mass shrinking, outer surface of the brain thins, brain white matter decreases, and chemical messengers decrease as well.[ref]

In general, as you age, you have fewer brain cells than when you are in your youth.

Article in AOL Health reports that “The typical adult brain does lose neurons with age”.

Reversing Memory Loss states “as we grow older we have fewer brain cells”.[Page 133]

Cortisol kills brain cells

The article “Higher Stress Hormone Correlated With Shrinkage In Brain Region” cites a study that shows higher level of stress hormone is correlated with brain shrinkage.

An article on says “As one ages, hippocampus in the limbic system of the brain is damaged from 20 – 25%. … hippocampus is most damaged by the production of the cortisol.”

BBC News reports “Stressful event kills brain cells”.

Postmortem studies

The paper “Differential Aging of the Brain: Patterns, Cognitive Correlates and Modifiers” states some of the changes that the brain goes though with age including decrease in brain weight and volume:

“reveal panoply of age-related differences in brain structure. The gross differences include reduced brain weight and volume, ventriculomegaly and sulcal expansion (Kemper, 1994; Skullerud, 1985). Microscopic studies documented myelin pallor (Kemper, 1994), loss of neuronal bodies in the neocortex (Pakkenberg and Gundersen, 1997), the hippocampus (Simic´ et al., 1997) and the cerebellum (Ellis, 1920; Nairn et al., 1989), loss of myelinated fibers across the subcortical cerebrum (Pakkenberg and Gundersen, 1997; Marner et al., 2003; Meier-Ruge et al., 1992), shrinkage and dysmorphology of neurons (Haug, 1985), accumulation of lipofuscin (Terman and Brunk, 1998), rarefication of cerebral vasculature (Riddle et al., 2003), reduction in synaptic density (Morrison and Hof, 1997), deafferentation (Bertoni-Freddariet al., 2002), loss of dendritic spines (Jacobs et al., 1997), cumulative mitochondrial damage (Brunk and Terman, 2002), reduction in DNA repair ability, and failure to remove neurons with damaged nuclear DNA (Rutten et al., 2003).”

The Good News

So brain aging doesn’t sound that great, right?

But the good news is that one study found that “on average, men aged 64 years have smaller brains than men aged 60. However, despite this shrinkage, cognitive functions – like memory, attention and speed of processing – are unaffected.”

Exercise is an excellent way to encourage the process of neurogensis. John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, says that “exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain[ref]

A study published in the journal Neurology found that B12 have protect against brain volume loss.[ref]

Other Reasons Why the Brain Shrinks

However, there are other reasons why a brain might shrink.

Article in CalorieLab cites some other reasons why our brains shrinks — some of which are excessive alcohol, cannabis smoking[ref], lack of B12, and obesity.

A study reported in PsychCentral “found that the more alcohol consumed, the smaller the total brain volume over time.”

What is the Universe Made Out Of?

Virtually everything we know, from cars, birds, humans, stars, to planets is composed of bits of matter called atoms. These are the things that are composed of protons and neutrons. Atoms in turn is composed of elementary particles called quarks. However, this only makes up 4 to 5 percent of all the mass and energy in the universe.

Ira Flatow, host of NPR’s Science Friday writes, “Astronomers are saying that all the stuff we can see is only a small percentage of what makes up the universe. The rest of it is dark.” [Chapter 7 Present At the Future]

It is referring to “dark matter” and “dark energy”.

Dark Matter

Another 23 percent of the universe consist of what physicists called dark matter.  Dark matter is matter that we can not see.  This mysterious matter is totally invisible to us.  And it may not even be composed of protons, neutrons, nor electrons like the matter we are used to.  Perhaps it is composed of neutrinos or something like that.

But we know dark matter is there from its gravitational effects; it is able to bend starlight. In our Milky Way galaxy alone, dark matter outweighs all the stars by a factor of 10.

Its existence was postulated by Fritz Zwicky in 1934 when he realized that the visible mass of galaxies where not enough to hold the galaxies together. Zwicky used two methods of calculating the mass of galaxy. One method was based on the brightness and distance of the galaxy. The other method was based on virial theorem involving speed of galaxy based on gravitation attraction. The discrepancy is a large amount. In fact, the mass calculated from the brightness method is about a factor of 10 too little. There had to be more stuff out there than what we can see.[1]

In 1975, two astronomers Vera Rubin and Kent Ford showed that based on the rotational speeds in spiral galaxies there should be more mass in these galaxies than what can be seen. Again the discrepancy was about a factor of 10. [1]

Using the scientific WMAP satellite launched in 2001, a complete census of the universe determined the amount of dark matter to be 23.3%. WMAP stands for Wilkinson microwave anisotropy probe and the number computed is accurate within 1.3%. The WMAP satellite was designed to make fundamental measurements of cosmology can “see” the cosmic background radiation back to the time of the early universe (which is about 380,000 years after the big bang). 380,000 years is indeed considered early, considering that the universe is 13.7 billion years old.

In August 2006, press release says “NASA Finds Direct Proof of Dark Matter“. From the collision of two large clusters of galaxies, matter and dark had matter separated. In the collision remarked by Maxim Markevitch as “the most energetic cosmic event” besides the big bang, the impact slowed the hot gases but not the dark matter. The resulting galaxy after the collision is the 1E0657-56 galaxy cluster known as the “bullet cluster” due to its bullet shape as observed by the Chandra telescope (picture linked here) The resulting data explains the existence of dark matter. The photo explanation says “The clear separation of dark matter and gas clouds is considered direct evidence that dark matter exists.”

Dark matter is thought to have neutral charge and does not interact electromagnetically. So that means it does not interact with light. They also do not interact with the strong force. It only interacts through the weak force and gravity. Hence the term WIMP “Weakly Interacting Massive Particles” is used to describe hypothetical particles of dark matter.[reference]

[1] Source: page 118-120 of Visions of the Multiverse

Dark Energy

If ordinary matter is 4.6 percent of the universe, and dark matter is 23 percent, then what is the rest? The rest is composed of “dark energy”. Dark energy is pervasive and is everywhere including empty space. In fact, it is dark energy that is causing our universe to expand. It is like anti-gravity pushing everything further apart — until things like stars and suns are so far apart that it gets very cold out there. This “big freeze” is one possible faith of the universe.

In preface of the book Parallel Worlds, Michio Kaku writes …

“Astronomers now realize that the universe is expanding in a run-away mode, accelerating without limit, becoming colder and colder with time. If this continues, we face the prospect of the “big freeze,” when the universe is plunged into darkness and cold, and all intelligent life dies out.”

Data from the WMAP sattelite shows the universe to be made up of 72 percent dark energy.

More References

The Mysteries of Mass from Scientific American by Gordon Kane collected in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2006: “Thus, about 4 to 5 percent of the entire universe — almost all the familiar matter around us — comes from the energy of motion of quarks and gluons in protons and neutrons.” on Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe on says “WMAP’s precision determination that ordinary atoms (also called baryons) make up only 4.6% of the universe (to within 0.1%) … WMAP’s complete census of the universe finds that dark matter (not made up of atoms) make up 23.3% (to within 1.3%) … WMAP’s accuracy and precision determined that dark energy makes up 72.1% of the universe (to within 1.5%)”

Chapter 1 of Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku: “According to the WMAP, 23 percent of the universe is made of a strange, undetermined substance called dark matter, which as weight, surrounds the galaxies in a gigantic halo, but is totally invisible.”

Wikipedia on Dark Matter is also a good reference. is a fun website to learn about particle physics.

You can watch Professor Frank Wilczek, who is also a Nobel-prize winner, give an overview of dark energy and dark matter in the Q and A section of his talk at MIT. He said that dark matter is diffused around and surrounding galaxy, and has more combined mass than the galaxy itself. It almost can be thought of a the galaxy being an impurity within the dark matter.

How to Find Creative Commons Photos on Flickr

What You Can Not Do

We’ll cover what you can do in the last section. But first, let’s mention what you can not do.

According to U.S. copyright laws, you can not simply find any photo on the web and then use it. The photographer owns the copyright to the photo at the time he/she pressed the camera button. They do not need to put a copyright symbol next to the photo. And certainly they do not need to file any copyright forms. The creator of the work owns the copyright by default — meaning they do not need to do anything. They simply own the copyright unless they have explicitly given it away.

Under that premise, you can not go on the photo-sharing site and pick out a photo for your blog (even if you give them credit). That is because many of the photos there are labeled “All rights reserved” at the bottom right-hand column of the photo detail page on Flickr. That essentially means you can not do anything with the photo except look at it.

However, that does not mean that all photos on Flickr have full copyright. Some do and some don’t. There are some users on Flickr that have offered their work under the “Creative Commons” licenses. Creative Commons is a non-profit organization based in San Francisco dedicated to expanding the use of creative work through its licenses.  You can learn more at

Flickr Photos with Creative Commons Licenses

The trick is how to find these “Creative Commons” photographs on Flickr. The main search box on Flickr does not have the feature to search by license type. And if you use that to find photos, you most likely will see that the photo have the “All rights reserved” label. It would take you forever to randomly happen upon ones with the Creative Commons license.

What you have to do is click “Explore” on the Then scroll to the bottom and look for the link “Creative Commons”. After clicking the link, you get to the page linked here that explains a little bit about Creative Commons. That page groups photos by the various Creative Commons licenses.

There are many different versions of the Creative Commons license, the ones that Flickr has listed are “Attribution License”, “Attribution-NoDerivs License”, “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License”, “Attribution-NonCommercial License”, “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License”, and “Attribution-ShareAlike License”.

Each of the terms in the license indicates what you can do with the photo. The “Attribution License” means that you can use the photo if you give the photographer credit. You can also make derivative works with the photo — again if you give credit.

The “Attribution-NoDerivs License” means that you can not modified the work. But you can use the photo “as-is” and if you give credit.

The “Share Alike” licenses means that you can make derivative work and distribute only under the same license as the original work.

The “NonCommercial” licenses means that you can not profit from the use of the photos. If you have a blog that has revenue generating ads, then you can not use this photo on your blog. Since it can be argued that the use of the photo could generate extra traffic and hence income to your blog. Think about the people who might use photos as “link-bait” where a talked-about photo is placed on a site that cause other webmasters to link to that site as a result.

What You Can Do

For using photos in blogs, you should be safe if you find a photo from the “Attribution License” and the “Attribution-NoDerivs” license (assuming that you are not modifying the photo). But make sure you give credit next to the photo. This is a requirement under both licenses.

On the Flickr page next to each license group, you will find a “see more” link. If you click on the the “Attribution License” see-more link for example, you get a search box that search specifically for photos within that license group. So that is how you can find photos on Flickr that you can use (on your blog or website or whereever). Even if you limit yourself to the “Attribution License” group, there are enough photos for you to look through — over 17 million so far.

Once you found the photo you want, you can click on “zoom icon” labeled “all sizes”. Then click on the size you want and you will see a link to download the file to your computer.  It is generally considered better practice to download the photo to your computer and then upload it to your blog and/or site, rather than linking directly to the photo on their site.  That way you have more control as the photo doesn’t suddenly disappear and you don’t use up the other site’s bandwidth.

Flickr Advanced Search

Another way to find photos that you can use commercially is to use Flickr’s advanced search.

1. Click on the search button on the home page without any search term.

2. Now click on the “Advanced Search” link.

3. In this advanced search page, type in your search term and checkmark the boxes “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” and “Find content to use commercially“.

Flickr storm

Alternatively, you can use an third party website tool called Flickr Storm.  It searches Flickr images and has an advanced search where you limit results to photos that you can use commercially with attribution.

The Commons

If you like to use a photo without having to give credit, then you can take the photograph yourself, in which case you become the copyright owner. Or you can find public domain photographs. Or you can purchase photos from stock image sites. See article “Where to get Free Stock Image Photos

Flickr has something known as “The Commons” which is almost like public domain. As before, go to Flickr’s home page and click “Explore”. Then at the bottom, find a link to “The Commons“. The photos in there are from participating institutions such as museums and libraries. The photos there are labeled as “No known copyright restrictions”. That is not to say that there’s no copyright restriction. It is more likely that they just don’t know whether there are any.

For more information about a particular photograph there, click on the link that says “No known copyright restrictions” for that photo and it will take you to the copyright information section of the participating institution that had contributed that photo. For example, the Brooklyn Museum has this to say on its copyright information page when the link is clicked: “Museum is unaware of any current copyright restrictions on the works so designated. … The Museum does not warrant that the sharing of these images will not infringe upon the rights of third parties holding rights to these works. It is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright and other use restrictions.”

In other words, they’re not that much help. And it’s up to you to determine whether you can use it are not.

Right to Privacy and Model Releases

If you plan to put a photo on your blog or website that shows a discernible face of a person, be considerate of the person’s right to privacy. If you think from the point of view of the person in the photo, they may not have wanted their photo to be pasted all over the internet in the first place.

If you are going to use a photograph of a person, you may need to get that person in the photo to sign a “model release form”. The “model release form” is a formal way for the “model” (person in photo) to give you permission to use his or her photo (or likeness) on your website.

Read more about model releases at the American Society of Media Photographer site and on Wikipedia which currently says “Whether or not publishing a photo via the internet requires a release is currently being debated in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals … most legal advisors now argue that any photo of a person for which a signed model release does not exist leaves a publisher susceptible to civil action.”

So you might want to use your own discretion as to finding ones without human faces. Whose knows whether the photographer had gotten the “model’s” permission or not.

Is it better to eat wild or farmed salmon?

The short answer is that wild salmon is better than farmed salmon to eat for your health. In particular wild Alaskan sockeye salmon is the best choice.

The Environmental Working Group says it most succinctly in its article titled “Wild Alaskan Salmon is Still the Best Choice” which says …

“The bottom line is: eating wild salmon from Alaska is better for your health and the environment, for now anyway.”

Dr. Andrew Weil concurs by saying …

“stick to wild Alaskan salmon (which I still strongly recommend), sardines or distilled fish oil supplements for your omega-3 fatty acids.”[1]

Salmon is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acid that is good for your health.

Wild salmon has less contaminates than farmed salmon.

Dr. Perricone says on page 60 of “The Perricone Prescription“:

“EPA studies have shown Alaskan sockeye are among the purest fish ever tested.” [2]

Plus the wild Alaskan salmon is eco-friendly to eat. Dr. Perricone says “Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon are one of the most abunant and treasured of the wild Pacific salmon species.”[p59] The Environmental Defense Fund labeled it as “Safe of the environment – enjoy often!”

But not too often. As with all salmon, there is a certainly level of PCB contaminates in them. The Environmental Defense Fund says “Kids up to age 6 should eat no more than 3 meals per month”.[3]

PCB in Salmon

Farmed salmon has even more PCB toxins than wild salmon due to the PCB in the feed that is fed to the farmed salmon. PCB, polychlorinated biphenyl, is an industrial pollutant and toxin that persists in the environment and has the potential to cause cancer.

Quoted directly from the Environmental Working Group news release, it says …

“Analysis of Fish Consumption Data Shows 800,000 U.S. Adults Eat Enough PCBs From Farmed Salmon to Exceed Allowable Lifetime Cancer Risk 100 Times Over”[8]

and it makes the following recommendations to consumers…

“EWG recommends that consumers choose wild instead of farmed salmon, and they should eat an eight-ounce serving of farmed salmon no more than once a month. Consumers should also trim fat from the fish before cooking – and choose broiling, baking, or grilling over frying, as these cooking methods allow the PCB-laden fat to cook off the fish.”[8]

Wild salmon does not have as much PCB contaminate because they swim long distances and are much leaner. Alaskan sockeye do not accumulate as much PCB because they only live about four years and have a mostly vegetarian diet consisting of marine algae, zooplankton, and krill.[2]

Farmed salmon are intentionally fattened and are confined in small areas where they can not get exercise. provides statistics on the fact that farmed salmon has much higher levels of PCB toxin than wild salmon:

“The study found that farm raised salmon and the feed they were fed appeared to have a much higher level of contamination with respect to PCBs, organo-chlorine pesticides and polybrominated diphenyl ethers than did wild salmon.”[4]

and …

“farm raised salmon have 16 times PCBs found in wild salmon, 4 times the levels in beef, and 3.4 times the levels in other seafood.”[4]

and …

” the journal Science warned that farm raised salmon contain 10 times more toxins (PCBs, dioxin, etc.) than wild salmon. The study recommends that farm raised salmon should be eaten once a month”[4]

Page 190 of Beautiful Brain, Beautiful You says …

“There is much concern about contaminants in fish such as PCBs and mercury, but the benefits still outweigh the risks as long as you follow the FDA guidelines.”

It say that shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish are common fish that are low in mercury.

On page 186 it also says…

“When it comes to brain boosters, fish is the best.  It truly is brain food. …  The best brain-boosting fish to choose from include cold water fatty fish such as salmon, bluefish, herring, sardines, mackerel, tuna, and trout. Wild caught is better than farm raised.”

Farmed Salmon Has Environmental Effects

Because of the crowded farmed conditions, sea lice and parasites from the farms can reach the wild salmon and decrease overall salmon population. This also causes the farms to have to use antibiotics, pesticides, and fungicides. Not to mention the large amount of wastes from the farms that can settle on ocean floor and become a detriment to the environment.[7]

To see learn more about farmed salmon, watch the videos on linked here.

How to Tell if Salmon is Wild?

Wild Alaskan sockeye has a deep red color that is maintained even when cooked. Dr. Perricone says “Without additives, the flsh of farm-raised salmon would not have the familiar pink color but would be gray.”[p56] also concurs by saying that artificial dyes may be used to turn the flesh of farmed salmon pink.

If there are white lines of fat, then most likely it is farmed salmon.

If the salmon is labeled “Atlantic”, then it is farmed. That is because there is not much wild Atlantic salmon out there. They are nearly extinct and are not available commercially.

If the salmon is labeled “Alaskan”, then it is wild. That is because fish farming is illegal in Alaska.

Wild salmon are usually not caught in the winter time. So if you are eating “fresh” salmon (meaning not frozen or canned), then it most likely is farmed.

Canned salmon can be wild. In fact, Dr. Weil says …

“If wild Alaskan salmon is too pricey for your food budget, you can buy canned sockeye (red) salmon in the supermarket; it’s all wild. It will give you the same omega-3 fatty acids found in fresh or frozen Alaskan wild salmon.”[6]

Salmon in Restaurants

What about in restaurants when the menu just says “salmon”. Is that farmed salmon or wild salmon?

If a salmon is not labelled as “wild” or “Alaskan”, then you can often assume it is farmed. Afterall farmed salmon is less expensive. And if they are using the expensive good stuff (the wild salmon), one would assume that they would advertise it as such.

But beware, it is possible that some may advertise “wild salmon”, but for some reason serve you farmed salmon. See blog by Catskill Maison.

Of course, there are some good honest chefs that will only server wild salmon. For example, Marcus Guiliano says …

“My Restaurant Will Never Serve Atlantic Salmon. It’s farmed salmon, and that’s unhealthy salmon. It’s caged, it’s fed dye and anti-biotics. I will never use it.” [source]

Recall that “Atlantic” salmon is synonymous to farmed salmon.

Of course, you can always ask if the salmon in the restaurant is wild or farmed. But some waiters do not know as they do not source the food. Article on writes the following …

“Let’s face it: At some restaurants, there’s clearly no point in asking, because you pretty much already know the answer. (If it’s a budget place and the menu doesn’t list the origin of a single ingredient, you can assume that the salmon is farmed …”

Still Eat Fish

While the information presented may sound scary. You should not be dissuaded from eating fish (even farmed fished).

Doctor Sanjiv Chopra, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, wrote the book Doctor Chopra Says: Medical Facts and Myths Everyone Should Know published in 2010 saying …

“based on the amount of mercury currently found in fish it would be very difficult for anyone to eat enough of it to be at risk for mercury poisoning.” [page 47]

Although he admits that fish does contain mercury, PCBs, and dioxins, he says …

” … the decreased risk of heart disease gained from eating fish more than offsets any potential increased risk of mortality from mercury poisoning, cancer, or other ailments.” [page 48]

So in general, you should still eat fish — a moderate amount. He says about twice a week. Unless you are pregnant, nursing, or a young child, in which case you want to avoid those fish that are high in mercury.

As a general rule of thumb, smaller fish that can fit within your frying pan will have less mercury. Fish that tend to have lower mercury are store-bought farm-raised catfish, wild salmon, pollock, shrimp, scallops, and tilapia. [reference: page 49,50]

Avoid deep fried fish from restaurants which has less of the beneficial omega-3.

Benefit of Eating Fish Outweighs and Risk

The benefit of eating fish (including farmed fish) and the omega-3 that it confers outweighs any risk. Reader Digest Your Health, What Works, What Doesn’t reports on two Harvard researchers that combed through stacks of documents and studies to the following conclusion:

“The bottom line: Eating fish far outweighs any accompanying risks.”[page 124]

And here is what Dr. Mark Hyman says about fish in his article “Wild Fish? Farmed Fish? What Should I Eat?”:

“When possible, eat fish either farmed or caught with sustainable, restorative, regenerative practices. … warning about farmed salmon is only relevant to “feedlot fish” — not sustainably raised salmon … Omega-3 fats are essential for the functioning of every cell in your body and 90 percent of us do not consume enough of them.”

In addition, fish helps fight depression and inflammation as well.

What is so special about the number 7 and the brain?

There are seven days of the weeks.   Telephone numbers originally started with seven digits.  There are seven whole musical notes in a octave.  Seven continents.  Seven seas.  Seven wonders of the world.  Seven deadly sins.  Seven stars in the big dipper constellation.  Why did the convenience store name themselves “7-Eleven”?  Why have a soft-drink named “7-up”? And many others occurrences of the number seven as listed on Wikipedia.

Surely some of these seven’s are pure coincidences.  And some are just pure fun —  such as seven ingredients in a McDonald’s Big Mac as cited in the Big Mag song that goes “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” [ref] Assume both patties as one ingredient.  And the special sauce is one ingredient.

Psychological Basis

But perhaps there is a psychological basis in which the number seven comes up so often is because the human brain can hold about seven independently discrete bits of information simultaneously in short-term memory.

An article titled “In the Brain, Seven Is a Magic Number” cites a paper by Mikhail Rabinovich and Christian Bick that may explain this short-term memory limit as being due to neuronal firings.

According to Wikipedia, “estimates of short-term memory capacity limits vary from about 4 to about 9 items”. Because of this variance among people, this capacity is often cited in literature as “7 plus or minus 2”.[ref]

In fact, Jonah Lehrer in a talk that he gave to the Commwealth Club also mentioned this “7 plus or minus 2” limit of the pre-frontal cortex. He explains and how this limitation can sometimes make the brain makes wrong decision when it is asked to reason and analyze too many variables at once.

Miller’s “Seven Plus or Minus Two”

This “seven plus or minus two” phrase originated from a paper published by George Miller of Harvard University in Vol 63 of “The Psychological Review” dated March 1956 that is titled “The Magical Number Seven, Plus Or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information”.

Although this is an academic paper with charts and results of experiments, Miller starts this paper with a lead-in that sounds almost like an adventure novel. He writes, “My problem is that I have been persecuted by an integer. For seven years this number has followed me around, has intruded in my most private data, and has assaulted me from the pages of our most public journals. This number assumes a variety of disguises, being sometimes a little larger and sometimes a little smaller than usual, but never changing so much as to be unrecognizable. The persistence with which this number plagues me is far more than a random accident. There is, to quote a famous senator, a design behind it, some pattern governing its appearances. Either there really is something unusual about the number or else I am suffering from delusions of persecution.”

At the end, Miller has this to say about the number seven:

“And finally, what about the magical number seven? What about the seven wonders of the world, the seven seas, the seven deadly sins, the seven daughters of Atlas in the Pleiades, the seven ages of man, the seven levels of hell, the seven primary colors, the seven notes of the musical scale, and the seven days of the week? What about the seven-point rating scale, the seven categories for absolute judgment, the seven objects in the span of attention, and the seven digits in the span of immediate memory? For the present I propose to withhold judgment. Perhaps there is something deep and profound behind all these sevens, something just calling out for us to discover it. But I suspect that it is only a pernicious, Pythagorean coincidence.”[ref]

More References to Seven Plus Or Minus Two

In his book Embracing the Wide Sky, author Daniel Tammet mentions Miller’s paper saying that “short-term memory generally has a capacity of between five and nice “chunks” of information.”[Embracing the Wide Sky page 71]. And we can get around this limit, say to remember a 11 digit number, by “chunking” or grouping some of the digits together.

In the book Age-Proof Your Mind, Dr. Zaldy Tan says that short-term memory is “characterized by a limited storage capacity (five to seven bits of information at a time) and a short shelf life (thirty to forty-five seconds).” [page 37]

Number Seven in Books

There are more than 835,000 books with the number seven in its title. This is according to Jacqueline Leo on page 9 of her book “Seven: The Number for Happiness, Love, and Success“.

You can hear Neal Conan interview Jacqueline Leo in NPR program’s “Talk of the Nation”.

Stephen Covey and Deepak Chopra both know psychology. Perhaps is that why Covey titled his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and Chopra titled his as “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success“? Because if there are more than seven habits or more than seven spiritual laws, we would not be able to remember them.


The number 7 not only a prime number, but it is also a Mersenne prime.

When you roll a pair of dice, the value 7 is statistically mostly likely to occur. Statistically, it should come up 1 in 6 throws. You are 6 times more likely to get a seven than to get a value of 2 from the dice roll.

Does Happiness Increase with Money?

Does having more money make one happier? Many people as well as economists and psychologists have tried to give their opinions on this questions. Like many deep philosophical questions, the answer maybe yes and no. Or “yes, to a certain extent”.

Science article Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer? concludes that …

“The belief that high income is associated with good mood is widespread but mostly illusory. People with above-average income are relatively satisfied with their lives but are barely happier than others in moment-to-moment experience, tend to be more tense, and do not spend more time in particularly enjoyable activities.”

After Needs Are Met, Money Doesn’t Affect Happiness

Robert Frank, Professor of Economics at Cornell University, talks about money and happiness in Chapter 3 of his book The Economic Naturalist’s Field Guide. There he cites the views of the influential economist John Maynard Keynes: “Keynes thought income matters for happiness, but only to the extent that pressing material needs remain unmet.” [Note 2: p 54]

If a person is in poverty and is lacking in food, heat, and shelter, then surely money will contribute to his happiness since now he will be able to buy commodities that is needed to fulfill basic human needs.

However, if one has accumulated enough wealth to met all these basic needs, then having more money may have limited effect on happiness. Frank writes “A widely reported finding from happiness literature is that measured happiness levels changes very little as incomes grow over time.” [p57]

Psychologist Daniel Gilbert makes the same conclusion in his book Stumbling on Happiness. He writes that …

“Economists and psychologists have spent decades studying the relation between wealth and happiness, and they have generally concluded that wealth increases human happiness when it lifts people out of abject poverty and into the middle class but that it does little to increase happiness thereafter. Americans who earn $50,000 per year are much happier than those who earn $10,000 per year, but Americans who earn $5 million per year are not much happier than those who earn $100,000 per year.” [p239]

Many other people have expressed the same sentiment that money helps in improving happiness if it is to provide the most basics of physical needs such as food, shelter, and health. Beyond that, money has little effect on happiness.

The book Happier says …

“In extensive cross-cultural and longitudinal studies of happiness, psychologist David Myers found a very low correlation between material wealth and happiness, except in cases of extreme poverty where people’s basic needs were not being met.” [p56]

In a New York Times article titled Maybe Money Does Buy Happiness After All, it says “People in poor countries, not surprisingly, did become happier once they could afford basic necessities. But beyond that, further gains simply seemed to reset the bar.”

People in Wealthier Countries Are Happier

Schwartz writes in Paradox of Choice (p106) that …

“people in rich countries are happier than people in poor countries. Obviously, money matters. But what these surveys also reveal is that money doesn’t matter as much as you might think. Once a society’s level of per capital wealth crosses a threshold from poverty to adequate subsistence, further increase in national wealth have almost no effect on happiness.”

Note that Schwartz is implying that there is a satiation point after which money no longer matter.

In the New York Times chart that plots the happiness of people in various countries versus the countries GDP per capita, it does show that people in wealthier countries are happier.

But ironically, Forbes 2007 article says that United States (which is among the richest countries) tops the list as the country with the most incident depression. It cites “with 9.6% of the population experiencing bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or chronic minor depression over the course of a year. ” This may be due in part to the fact that American’s are more open about admitting their depression. 2006 article Rating Countries for the Happiness Factor reports that a country’s wealth does contribute to its citizens happiness. It says “the countries that are happiest are those that are healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Denmark tops the list with GDP per capita at $34,600 at 77.8 years. Switzerland is second with GDP per capita at $32,300 and life expectancy at 80.5 years. Both countries are have high wealth and health. In contrast, country such as Zimbabwe which ranked low on the happiness scale has an average life expectancy of 39 (along with an AIDS rate of 25%) and a poverty rate of 80%.

A country’s happiness ranking doesn’t change much over the year.  A 2008 World Values Survey found Denmark at the top of the list for happiness again.  As reported by Businessweek, it says “freedom of choice gained through wealth has made people happier—not necessarily the wealth itself.”

And an recent 2010 report on Forbes still shows Denmark as topping the list yet again. It also suggest that money matters to a country. Because Denmark’s GDP per capita is higher than 196 of the 227 countries for which the CIA has data on.

Happiness comparisons within a country

Some of the above comparisons were comparing people from one country to another country (somewhat like comparing apples and oranges). However, if you compare people within the same country (such as comparing one apple to another type of apple), then as people in a country collectively get wealthier, their happiness does not increase.

Tal Ben-Shahar writes …

“although for the last fifty years the population in many countries has become wealthier, studies reveal no increase, and often a decrease, in levels of happiness.” [p56 of Happier]

It may be that as the population collectively become wealthier, the people are not becoming happier because their neighbors are becoming just as wealthy. It is your comparison to your peers that affects your happiness. If you are much better off than your peers, then you may be happier. But if all your peers are just as better off as you are, then there may be no reason for you to be happier than they are.

What about just within United States? A Gallup poll showed that high-income Americans are more likely than lower income Americans to say that they are very happy. If you look at the chart linked here, 64% of those making $75,000 or more per year said they were “very happy”. Compared to only 40% of those earning less than $30,000 per year said they were very happy. Data were from December 2005 to December 2007.

Another PewResearch chart shows a similar trend.

A 2008 New York Times article showed more tables and charts indicating greater happiness with greater wealth.

Going back to economist Robert Frank, he wrote in his 2004 paper How not to buy happiness the following …

“When we plot average happiness versus average income for clusters of people in a given country at a given time, we see that rich people are in fact much happier than poor people. In one study based on U.S. data, for example, people in the top decile of the income distribution averaged more than five points higher on a ten-point happiness scale than people in the bottom decile. The evidence thus suggests that if income affects happiness, it is relative, not absolute, income that matters.”[1]

So Frank is agreeing that income does affect happiness, but it is relative income in relation to others that matters.

However, this is in contrast to Stevenson and Wolfers who say absolute income matters. In an article, Stevenson and Wolfers found that …

“the higher a country’s income, the happier it was, and the results held regardless of such factors as the age of its citizens or their number of children. Even more provocatively, the economists found no satiation point at which additional earnings failed to make wealthier countries happier.”

In fact, they say …

“Our key finding is that income appears to be closely related to happiness. We find little evidence to support the competing notion that it is only relative income that matters.”

The truth may be in between. Article in MedicalnewsToday talks about Glenn Firebaugh’s study to determine “whether the income effect on happiness results largely from the things money can buy (absolute income effect) or from comparing one’s income to the income of others (relative income effect).” The finding is that both effects play a role, but the relative income effect plays a larger role. And example of the relative income effect is that if you are rich in comparison to your similar-aged peer, then you tend to be happier.

On a side note, Firebaugh’s found that the following factors are good predictor of happiness: physical health, income, education, and marital status — and in that order. Income is only the second best predictor of happiness. Health is even more important — perhaps we should be talking about health rather than money.

Perhap it is How You Spend Your Money?

Or perhaps we should be talking more about how people spend their money and how that affects happiness.

Because all this is quite confusing in that some say there is a satiation point, and some say not. Others say it is “relative income” and others say it is “absolute income” that matters. To add to the complexity, factors such as the way in which you spend your extra income can affect happiness as well.

Frank explains …

“Considerable evidence suggests that if we use an increase in our incomes, as many of us do, simply to buy bigger houses and more expensive cars, then we do not end up any happier than before. But if we use an increase in our incomes to buy more of certain inconspicuous goods–such as freedom from a long commute or a stressful job–then the evidence paints a very different picture. The less we spend on conspicuous consumption goods, the better we can afford to alleviate congestion; and the more time we can devote to family and friends, to exercise, sleep, travel, and other restorative activities. On the best available evidence, reallocating our time and money in these and similar
ways would result in healthier, longer–and happier–lives.”[ref]

He even gives an personal example where he recounts that changing a clothes dryer back when he was a poor graduate student was much more stressful than now when he is making ten times more. He says “Money doesn’t guarantee happiness. But having enough can make life much less stressful.” [Note 2: p.67]


Hedonic Adaptation Plays a Role

We have now seen evidence that for within-country comparisons (such as those done by Gallup in the United States), the rich are happier than the poor.

However, when we do the happiness comparison among societies over a timespan, we do not see this positive correlation between income and happiness. For example, the Western countries has increased in income growth but without a corresponding increase in happiness.

Frank gives the example of Japan which was a poor country in 1960 and has transitioned to become rich country in the 1980’s with a 400% increase in per capita income. [1] However, their reported happiness was no higher in 1987 than back in 1960.

This is known as the Easterlin Paradox named after economist Richard Easterlin who wrote the paper Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot?

The Easterlin Paradox can be explained by the concept of hedonic adaptation. Hedonic adaptation is a nice idea that having more money is not going to matter, because you are going to get used to it and drop back to your original level of happiness.

Hedonic adaptation, or hedonic treadmill, is defined by Wikipedia as “The tendency of a person to remain at a relatively stable level of happiness despite a change in fortune or the achievement of major goals. According to the hedonic treadmill, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness.”[ref]

We had heard from the economists. Now lets hear from the psychologists. Surely, they would be familiar with the concept of “hedonic adaptation” which may explain this Easterlin Paradox.

Jonathan Haidt, associate professor of psychology at University of Virginia, says “the riches you accumulate will just raise your expectations and leave you no better off than you were before.” [Note 3: page 86]

Daniel Pink, former political speech writer who has a law degree, says the following at Aspen Ideas Festival 2006 as he shows a chart in which the prosperity of American has tripled during a 50 year timeframe. He says “We’ve gotten in this country three times richer, but not one jot happier.”[ref video at 23:00]

Now let’s hear from a psychologist who also knows economics. That would be Daniel Kahneman of Princeton who also won the 2002 Nobel prize in Economic Sciences.

In response to the question “What have you changed your mind about”, he wrote the essay The sad tale of the aspiration treadmill where he refutes the idea that we get adapted to our increase income. He cites evidence that GDP of countries is highly predictive of life satisfaction — meaning people in rich countries are indeed happier than people in poor countries.

He writes, “although I still find the idea of an aspiration treadmill attractive, I had to give it up.” And he concludes his essay by saying “The implied conclusion, that citizens of different countries do not adapt to their level of prosperity, flies against everything we thought we knew ten years ago. We have been wrong and now we know it. I suppose this means that there is a science of well-being, even if we are not doing it very well.”

And we’ll end on that note. Because the field of positive psychology is a new one and the science of happiness has only just begun. We still have a lot to learn.