Here’s the Real (No Good) Reason Glasses Are So Expensive

iStock.com/GoodLifeStudio
iStock.com/GoodLifeStudio

Anyone with impaired vision knows that eyewear doesn’t come cheap. While prices vary depending on the brand, design, and style of frames you select, a pair of prescription glasses can easily set you back several hundred dollars.

And as the Los Angeles Times explains, we’ve all been getting ripped off. The average cost of frames is $231, according to VSP Vision Care, but the actual cost of the materials is fractional. Acetate frames are made of plastic and metal, and those components can cost as little as $10, according to some estimates. That means consumers often end up paying 10 to 20 times what the frames and lenses are actually worth. So what gives?

This markup can be attributed to the monopoly held by a single company called Luxottica. The Italian company owns and holds licenses with some of the most recognizable name brand, including Ray-Ban, Oakley, Michael Kors, DKNY, Coach, Burberry, Versace, and Chanel. It also operates more than 7400 optical stores around the world, including LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Sunglass Hut, Target Optical, and EyeMed Vision Care. A lack of competition—which might drive prices down—means Luxottica can keep eyeglasses pricey.

Luxottica gained even greater access to the global market when it merged with France’s Essilor eyewear company last fall. At the time of the merger, Essilor CEO Hubert Sagnières framed the creation of the new entity—EssilorLuxottica—as a positive for customers. “The creation of EssilorLuxottica is a defining moment in our fight to elevate the importance of good vision as both a basic human right and a key lever for global development,” Sagnières said, according to the Australian ophthalmic magazine Insight.

Some groups, like Consumer Watchdog, think the true cost of eyewear should be part of the national health care discussion, right alongside the high cost of many prescription drugs. However, many companies keep that information closely guarded, as the Los Angeles Times found out, and there's little chance that those figures will be made publicly known anytime soon.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

Alcohol-Producing Gut Bacteria May Harm Livers—Even if You Don't Drink

itakdalee/iStock via Getty Images
itakdalee/iStock via Getty Images

Teetotalers might think their liver is safe from the damaging effects of alcohol consumption, but new research is hinting that even non-drinkers and light drinkers might have cause for concern. It turns out a type of gut bacteria is capable of producing alcohol—and enough of it to potentially cause some pretty serious health consequences, including liver disease.

A study led by Jing Yuan at the Capital Institute of Pediatrics in Beijing, China and published in the journal Cell Metabolism offers details. After evaluating a patient with auto-brewery syndrome (ABS), a rare condition brought on by consumption and fermentation of sugary foods that leaves a person with high blood alcohol levels, researchers made an intriguing discovery. Rather than finding fermenting yeast that may have led to the condition, the patient’s stool contained Klebsiella pneumonia, a common gut bacteria capable of producing alcohol. In this subject, K. pneumonia was producing significantly more alcohol than in healthy patients.

The patient also had nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), characterized by fatty deposits in the liver. While many cases of NAFLD are relatively benign, too much fat can become toxic. Examining 43 other subjects with NAFLD, scientists found that that K. pneumonia was both present and potent, pumping out more alcohol than normal in 60 percent of participants with NAFLD. In the control group, a surplus was found in only 6.25 percent.

To further observe a correlation, scientists fed the bacteria to healthy, germ-free mice, who began to see an increase in fat in their livers after only one month. While not conclusive proof that the bacteria prompts NAFLD, it will likely trigger additional research in humans.

It’s not yet known how K. pneumonia acts in concert with the bacterial profile of the gut or what might make someone carrying stronger strains of the bacteria. Luckily, K. pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics. That’s good news for people who might never touch a drink and still find themselves with a damaged liver.

[h/t Live Science]

Visit Any National Park for Free on September 28—or Volunteer to Help Maintain Them

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Nick Hanauer/iStock via Getty Images

By the end of September—which always seems especially busy, even if you’re not a student anymore—you might be ready for a small break from the hustle and bustle. On Saturday, September 28, you can bask in the tranquility of any national park for free, as part of National Public Lands Day.

According to the National Park Service, the holiday has been held on the fourth Saturday of every September since 1994, and it’s also the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort. It’s up to you whether you’d like to partake in the service side or simply go for a stroll, but there is an added incentive to volunteer: You’ll get a one-day park pass that you can use for free park entry on a different day. Opportunities for volunteering include trail restoration, invasive plant removal, park cleanups, and more; you can see the details and filter by park, state, and/or type of event here.

If you’re not sure how you should celebrate National Public Lands Day, the National Park Service has created a handy flowchart to help you choose the best course of action for you—which might be as simple as sharing your favorite outdoor activity on social media with the hashtag #NPLD.

National public lands day celebration flowchart
National Park Service

There are more than 400 areas run by the National Park Service across the U.S., and many of them aren’t parks in the traditional sense of the word; the Statue of Liberty, Alcatraz Island, and countless other monuments and historical sites are also run by the NPS. Wondering if there might be one closer than you thought? Explore parks in your area on this interactive map.

For those of you who can’t take advantage of the free admission on September 28, the National Park Service will also waive all entrance fees for Veteran’s Day on November 11.

And, if you’re wishing a free-admission day existed for museums, you’re in luck—more than 1500 museums will be free to visit on Museum Day, which happens to be this Saturday.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER