June 2, 2017

Weekend reads: Got dirt? How germs in dirt can boost your wellbeing

Daily Briefing

Ben Palmer's reads

Is sunscreen going to kill you? Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group have both released their annual sunscreen ratings, highlighting an industry divide between what type of sunscreen is the most effective—and the healthiest. According to Racked, Consumer Reports in its ranking assigned "pretty dismal ratings on actual SPF protection" for mineral sunscreens compared with chemical sunscreens while EWG favored mineral sunscreens over chemical ones, contending that some of the ingredients in chemical sunscreens—namely, oxybenzone—could be harmful to humans. Medical experts generally agree that oxybenzone is safe for humans, based on evidence and dosage in sunscreen, but the best sunscreen, according to dermatologists, is the one you reliably use. Other tips? Use at least SPF 30, make sure it's water-resistant, ensure it's a broad spectrum product, and cover up with protective clothing.

The new antidepressant: A green thumb. There is evidence that suggests that "breathing in, playing in, and digging in dirt" is good for your health—likely because of a helpful, harmless soil bacterium called M. vaccae, Zoë Schlanger writes for Quartz. For instance, one study found that injecting the bacterium in lung cancer patients "significantly improved patient quality of life," while other research exploring its effect on mice found it boosted cognitive function and overall mood. But the benefits of getting your hands dirty isn't limited to M. vaccae, Schlanger writes. Research also has linked childhood exposure to outdoor microbes with a stronger immune system and lower rates of allergies and asthma. The takeaway? "Gardening is great therapy," Schalnger writes.

Rachel Schulze's reads

A wedding on the racecourse. For Krissa Cetner and Alex Salazar, it was only natural that they'd get married in Brooklyn's Prospect Park—during a half marathon they were running together. The couple first met at a volleyball game and developed a friendship that turned into something more after Salazar asked Cetner to join his running club. Salazar proposed to Cetner in May 2015, and the two were married this May at Mile 6 of the Brooklyn Half. Noting that it took the couple about 45 minutes longer than their usual two hours to finish the race, Cetner said, "We didn't care. We accomplished a lot in those 45 minutes."

Dining out for lunch is, well, out. Americans made 433 million fewer midday trips to restaurants last year, a 2 percent drop from 2015 but a "significant one-year drop" for the industry, Julie Jargon reports for the Wall Street Journal. According to Jargon, the factors influencing the trend include busier schedules keeping workers at their desk during lunch, as well as the growing cost gap between dining in and eating out. And while restaurants are trying to tempt consumers with delivery, faster service, and smaller portions, observers aren't sure it will be enough to lure people away from their desks. As Jim Parks, a 55-year-old sales director who used to dine out for lunch nearly daily but now no longer has time in his schedule, said, "I put [restaurant] lunch right up there with fax machines and pay phones."

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