chicken

  1. Take two chickens and call me in the morning

    It's the Buy-One-Get-One-Free special stores don't advertise: Buy some chicken, get some meds for free.

    And just to make it more convenient for everyone, the drugs aren't in their own package -- they're already inside the chicken.

    Chickens raised on factory farms are being fed everything from banned antibiotics to painkillers -- and some are even poisoned with arsenic -- all in the name of raising the fattest and pinkest possible birds in the shortest possible time.

    Now, two new studies on chicken feathers (which hold traces of drugs and other toxins fed to the birds) show just how many meds are pumped into them -- and remember, whatever that chicken eats is what ends up on your plate on Chicken Night:

    Caffeine: You know people who seem to eat every waking minute, right? Chickens are like them. Keep them awake longer, and they'll eat more and get fatter. But caffeine also makes chickens jittery (just like it does to some people), and since jittery chickens have tougher meat, they need something to help them to relax before they turn into tough old birds.

    Prozac: One feather-meal sample from China found this antidepressant, and it's almost certainly there to help counter the caffeine and keep the chickens relaxed so their meat doesn't get leather-tough. And it's not the only drug that can have that effect.

    Benadryl & Acetaminophen: These drugs turned up in the U.S. samples, and not because the chickens have allergies or need pain relief. It's because, like Prozac, these drugs can also relax the chickens and help keep the meat tender.

    Antibiotics: Factory farm chickens are kept in such cramped and filthy conditions that illness is a much bigger threat than the wolf ever was. So the birds are drugged to preemptively protect them from a rapidly spreading infection -- and, conveniently, the drugs also help them to gain weight. The researchers found a class of antibiotics banned from poultry... but it looks like that ban is about as strong as a rubber chicken.

    Arsenic: It's crazy, but this is actually allowed. Arsenic kills two birds with one stone (so to speak) because it kills bacteria and keeps the meat nice and pink. The problem, of course, is that it's arsenic -- and when you eat a bird fed this poison, you're getting a little dose of poison yourself.

    It's enough to keep chicken off the menu for good, but you don't have to go that far. Just go organic instead.

    And for more on food ingredients and additives -- including a few you just won't believe -- keep an eye on your inbox on Sunday for my Weekend Roundup.

  2. Chicken thighs and healthy hearts

    Don't feel bad if you've never heard of taurine. Most people haven't, and that apparently includes Microsoft since it's not even in my spellchecker.

    It's an amino acid found in the tastiest part of the chicken, aka the dark meat you've been told not to eat.

    Well, go ahead and eat up -- because a new study finds that some women with high dietary levels of taurine have a lower risk of a heart attack.

    Researchers from the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York checked the records on more than 14,000 women between the ages of 34 and 65, and found...almost nothing.

    Not at first, anyway.

    But once they started to break the numbers down, they found that high blood levels of taurine slashed the risk of heart disease by 60 percent in women with total cholesterol levels of more than 250 mg/dL.

    The study doesn't prove that taurine lowers heart risk, nor does it indicate why that connection would even exist. But let's take a stab at it here and guess that women with higher cholesterol AND high taurine came by their cholesterol levels honestly.

    They're eating natural meats and dairy -- all great sources of taurine -- and if their cholesterol levels happen to be a little elevated by mainstream standards, they've really got nothing to worry about.

    And thanks to that healthier diet, they're probably going to have a lower risk of a heart attack anyway.

    Women with high cholesterol and low taurine, on the other hand, might be getting their chicken from a greasy paper bucket and other nutritionally empty sources -- and that's the best way to ensure you'll experience heart problems eventually.

    Again, that's just a guess. And since this is just one study, I wouldn't rush out to stock up on taurine in any case (but feel free to grill up some chicken thighs).

    When it comes to protecting your ticker, stick with the tried-and-true. And for some tips on the best tried-and-true nutrients out there, I turned to one of the nation's leading experts on natural health.

    Dr. Mark Stengler, a California naturopath and author of multiple best-selling books on natural cures, says there are four supplements everyone interested in cardiovascular health should be taking: fish oil, coenzyme Q10, L-Carnitine and magnesium.

    If you're missing out on any of these, do your heart a favor and add them to your supplement regimen today. They're inexpensive, easy to find and they could save your life.

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