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Marta Zaraska    

Science Journalist & Bestselling Author

Zaraska is a science journalist (Washington Post, the Atlantic, Scientific American, BBC, Financial Times, etc.) and the author of two nonfiction books: "Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million Year Obsession with Meat" and "Growing Young: How Friendship, Optimism and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100," a Globe & Mail bestseller. Her books were translated into seven languages.

She has appeared on dozens of top podcasts and live radio shows including NPR's Here & Now, NPR’s Life Kit, MindValley, Kwik Brain, the Michael Shermer show, and on live television including The Social/CTV, The Agenda with Steve Paikin and leading breakfast shows in Poland. Zaraska gave speeches on topics related to her books for Google, as well as at Bocconi University (TEDx), INSEAD business school, and at several conferences including VivaTech Paris and European Development Days (by European Commission). She has also appeared in several documentary films.

Speech Topics

How Friendship, Optimism, and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100

In our quest to live long and healthy we are often fixating on all the wrong things – miracle diets, miracle foods, miracle supplements etc. We skip gluten and invest in exercise gadgets. We swallow vitamins. We obsess about BMI. While healthy nutrition and physical activity are indeed important for health, there are things we all too often sacrifice that have an outsize impact on our centenarian potential. Friendships. Purpose in life. Empathy. Kindness. Volunteering. Science shows that these 'soft' health drivers are often more powerful than diet and exercise.

Consider the numbers: studies show that building a strong support network of family and friends lowers mortality risk by about 45 per cent. Exercise, on the other hand, can lower that risk by 23 to 33 per cent. Eating six servings of fruit and veg per day can cut the danger of dying early by 26 per cent, while following the Mediterranean diet by 21 per cent. For volunteering, it's 22 to 44 per cent.

Attendee Results:

  • Understand the importance of "soft drivers" of longevity and how we've evolved them
  • Learn how to boost your social hormones, such as oxytocin and serotonin, for health benefits
  • Learn how to boost your immune function through social connection
  • Learn how to navigate social media and technologies such as zoom and their impact on health
  • Learn how kindness, volunteering and donations can benefit your health, and how to choose the right activities
  • Learn the Japanese "rule of 5" and the importance of ikigai (purpose in life) for cardiovascular health

Why (Most) Humans Love Meat

We are constantly told we should reduce our meat consumption: But why is it so difficult to do?

One of the great science and health revelations of our time is the danger posed by meat-eating. Every day, it seems, we are warned about the harm producing and consuming meat can do to the environment and our bodies. Many of us have tried to limit how much meat we consume, and many of us have tried to give it up altogether. But it is not easy to resist the smoky, cured, barbecued, and fried delights that tempt us.

What makes us crave animal protein, and what makes it so hard to give up? And if consuming meat is truly unhealthy for human beings, why didn't evolution turn us all into vegetarians in the first place?

In this talk, science writer Marta Zaraska explores what she calls the "meat puzzle": our love of meat, despite its harmful effects. From the power of evolution to the influence of the meat lobby, and from our genetic makeup to the traditions of our foremothers, she reveals the interplay of forces that keep us hooked on animal protein.

Attendee Results:

  • Learn how meat "made us human"
  • Learn how the taste of meat keeps us hooked (including umami, fat, and products of the Maillard reaction) and how to find these flavors in plant-based foods
  • Learn the connections between meat and masculinity
  • Learn why meat is the most contentious of foods
  • Understand the protein myth -- how much protein do we really need?

The Loneliness Epidemic: Ways to Cope and Thrive Amidst Social Isolation and Disconnection

Loneliness doesn’t merely feel bad: It takes a toll on our health, too. It can lead to high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. It can also double the risk of Type 2 diabetes and raise the likelihood of dementia by 40%. As a consequence, chronically lonely people tend to have an 83% higher mortality risk than those who feel less isolated. According to some research, loneliness may be worse for longevity than obesity or air pollution. Meanwhile, 22% of Americans and 23% of British people say they feel lonely always or often.

Neuroscience suggests that loneliness doesn’t necessarily result from a lack of opportunity to meet others or a fear of social interactions. Instead, circuits in our brain and changes in our behavior can trap us in a catch-22 situation: While we desire connection with others, we view them as unreliable, judgmental and unfriendly. Consequently, we keep our distance, consciously or unconsciously spurning potential opportunities for connections.

In this talk, science writer Marta Zaraska explores the health dangers of loneliness and shows how loneliness can trap us in a catch-22 situation. She then explains how to escape the many traps of loneliness.

Attendee Results:

  • Understand the difference between loneliness and social inclusion and why both are important for health
  • Be able to spot behavioral and cognitive biases induced by loneliness
  • Learn how to overcome biases caused by loneliness (example: by practicing mimicry and synchrony, engaging in activities that promote trust)
  • Learn the importance of touch for release of social hormones and for overcoming loneliness
  • Learn why calling is (almost always) better than texting

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