Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Heroin, A Great Way to Restrict Calories

First step to a calorie-restricted diet
I was having an online chat with a friend who thinks The China Study is the word of God. Of course I pointed him to Denise Minger and his first reaction was the old appeal to authority. "Who is this woman, what is her education/profession?" Then I pointed him to "qualified" people like Stephan Guyenet (PhD in neurobiology), Chris Masterjohn (PhD in Nutritional Sciences with a concentration in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition) and Dave Dixon (PhD in physics) and his reaction was "I can find you twice as many who think it is brilliant."


Inevitably, this turned into an attack on low-carb diets. My friend said he came across a study that "proves" that Atkins only works because it is just another calorie-restricted diet. Anyone who's read Good Calories, Bad Calories knows that this canard has been used against low-carb diets since the whole a calorie is a calorie a calorie bullshit took root. My response:
Atkins is a low-calorie diet like heroin addiction is a low-calorie diet.
Both diets are linked to chemical addiction. In the first case, breaking insulin/glucose addiction gives the body access to fat stores. In the second case adding a heroin addiction seems to reduce the desire for lesser pleasures such as eating (and may even subsume an opiate addiction to wheat). The Young Turks think insulin is a red herring but I'm sticking with it for now. Low-carb diets and heroin addiction both tend to reduce caloric intake but saying they work by simply restricting calories is just plain silly.

Are Artificial Sweeteners OK?

And which ones are the best?

I was sitting with a couple friends, one who puts saccharin in his coffee and the other who claims that saccharin is the worst thing you can ingest. Then they both turned to me and asked that I bestow the truth upon them as I am a world-renowned health blogger. Ok, I made up that last part. But it did make me curious to explore the subject a bit more.

First of all, Mark Sisson and Methuselah have excellent summaries of the different types of sweeteners.

I put saccharin in my coffee for years but decided to quit when I read that the taste of sweetness could provoke an insulin response. That and giving up nuts is what seemed to really kickstart my weight-loss when I first went low-carb, then paleo. On the other hand my friend lost tons of weight ten years ago (and probably added many years to his life) doing Atkins but also putting saccharin in his coffee (which he drinks a ton of) and drinking lots of Diet Coke. So your mileage may vary.

Do artificial sweeteners actually provoke an insulin response due to conditioning? As usual the literature is mixed and muddled. This small study (12 normal subjects and 10 with diabetes) indicated that artificial sweeteners had no effect on glucose. But this study found that a breakfast with aspartame was had a comparable effect on glucose and insulin as a sucrose breakfast. And this Dutch study concluded that sweetness from aspartame caused increased insulin levels and increased appetite.
In the present study, for all drinks combined, higher perceptions of sweetness of the drinks were associated with less hunger suppression following their consumption. Sweet taste has been suggested to stimulate appetite by some (Blundell & Hill, 1986; Rogers et al. 1988; Tordoff & Alleva, 1990) but not all investigators (Mattes, 1990; Rodin et al. 1990; Rolls, 1991). The sweet taste of aspartame, in combination with the sight and smell of food has been shown to result in decreased blood glucose and increased insulin concentrations (Bruce et al. 1987). In that study, the volunteers’ blood glucose response correlated negatively with their combined subjective sensory scores, which is similar to our result of the negative correlation between blood glucose response and sweetness perception. Hedonic ratings and/or palatability have been shown to relate to insulin responses in the cephalic phase of ingestion in some studies (Lucas et al. 1987), but not all (Teff et al. 1991, 1995).
Unfortunately the Dutch study didn't add a second (or even third) artificial sweetener to confirm that the effects were from sweet taste alone and not specifically related to aspartame. The controversy over negative health issues from aspartame has its own Wikipedia page.

My takeaway on all this: better to ditch all the sweeteners if possible. If not, don't sweat it but try to avoid the ones with the negative effects. As I said earlier, I knew someone who lost tons of weight doing low-carb + diet coke + saccharin coffee, but in my case ditching the saccharin seemed to help. Is saccharin the worst thing you could put in your body? Not by a longshot. If you've ever tasted my father's cooking you'd know better (yeah, I'm pretty sure he doesn't read this). Artificial sweeteners are probably best used as a stepping stone towards eliminating sweets altogether, so find what works and enjoy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Jump Sucks

I just noticed I can't touch the ceiling in our flat which is 292 cm (9' 7"). I'm pretty close but definitely not there. Considering I could dunk a volleyball in college--not much of a feat considering I'm almost 6'4"--that's a hell of a difference. Heavy squats with a toe raise are a great way to increase jump height but I don't do any gym work so I'm going to add more box jumps and other explosive bodyweight leg work in an effort to increase my jump.

And of course losing more weight would help a lot. Still got a ways to go on that front.

Having a specific goal is a good motivator in exercise especially when one only does bodyweight stuff.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Oh! Foul Temptress!

I usually don't have a problem avoiding grains. But yesterday my wife brought home some dolmades from the local deli. Man, I inhaled them so fast I sent my stomach backwards in time.

Addendum:  Turns out the wife was hiding these from me. She was planning to take them to work for lunch but forgot them, so she's not a foul temptress (just a devious fiend).

Homemade Ghee

I'm somewhat wary of the lard sold here. I suspect it might be hydrogenated even though it is sold refrigerated. Ghee is available at the local bio store but is somewhat expensive (and that's not even grass-fed), so I decided to try my hand at making my own.

After a long, involved self-tutoring process, which mostly consisted of watching this video, I felt I was ready. By the way, the guy in the video is a great example of all the wonderful health benefits of a vegetarian diet--nice man-tits, dude, but he does seem to know how to make ghee. And I envy him that big ole hunk of New Zealand butter he uses.

This is somewhat messy and time consuming, so a really large batch would be better, but for my first time I just started with 1/2 kilo of butter.

After a few minutes, the light milk solids make a foam on top which can be skimmed off with a spoon.

I scraped the bottom of the pan with a spatula to prevent any of the heavy particulates sticking to the bottom and burning.

Emptied it through a sieve, which didn't do much because it is a crap sieve.

Tried a cloth which was something of a disaster. I don't think it is really necesary to use a filter actually, next time I think I will just use the panning-for-gold method.

Finished product. After the reduction and all the spilling I ended up with about 300 grams of the stuff. Which makes the stuff in the store not all that unreasonable but I think I will stick with the homemade stuff and hopefully get better at making it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's Not a Figment of Your Imagination!

Closing your eyes won't make it go away

For those celebrating Thanksgiving today, enjoy yourselves. But be careful of stuffing and gremlins.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dispelling More Vegan BS

What keeps the wheels on Fred's car?
Don Matesz highlights an excellent article by Ted Slanker. Slanker, a grass-fed rancher who knows whereof he speaks, dismantles some blather by a Pulitzer-Prize nominated vegan idiot, John Robbins.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Salt is Bad, Children. M'kay?

The Center For Consumer Freedom has a reality check on NYC's new ad campaign to demonize salt. As Walter Olsen points out such false advertising would be decisively punished by the FTC if perpetrated by the private sector, but is considered a wonderful public service when done by the government in order to 'teach' the public not to engage in such dangerous behaviors as eating a can of lethal salt-infested soup.

Here are the ingredients from a can of Campbells chicken soup:

Look at all that crap. Modified food starch? Corn margarine, corn and/or soybean oil? Chicken powder? WHAT THE HELL IS CHICKEN POWDER!?!? Is that what chicken astronauts drink?

Anybody eating this, the last thing they need to worry about is their salt intake. As Gary Taubes pointed out way back in 1998, the evidence that salt is actually harmful to health is completely unsubstantiated.

Thanks, government, for spending our money telling us what to eat, and getting it totally wrong as usual. How's that working out so far?

Young Turks Say, "It's the Leptin, Stupid"

I first heard the idea that leptin, not insulin, is actually the culprit for 'metabolic syndrome' or 'diseases of modern civilization' or whatever one wants to call it, when Stephan Guyenet was interviewed by Jimmy Moore. Now Chris Masterjohn has a fascinating post on the subject. Robert Lustig also is a big believer in leptin as the bad guy (triggered by HFCS).

These Young Turks (well, Robert Lustig is no spring chicken) are knowledgeable as hell and they think insulin is a red herring--too much attention has been paid to insulin, leptin resistance is where it is really going on.

Leptin was only discovered in 1994 hence it hasn't been studied nearly as much as insulin, so they may have a point. Chris and Stephan also believe that the trigger for leptin resistance is not carbs, but processed foods and non-traditional preparation methods (at least that's what I think they believe).

Stephan's latest post talks about an ethnographic study where the New Guinea Highlanders ate a diet of basically solid sweet potatoes (95% carbs) yet supposedly suffered from much lower glucose intolerance than a typical American of the time.

It's an interesting hypothesis and we'll see how it plays out. My gut feeling is to regulate diet according to evolutionary principles. 5000 years is still a drop in the genetic bucket, what were these New Guineans eating before the sweet potato was introduced? I'm also skeptical of ethnographic studies in general, too many uncontrolled variables and too much fudging going on. People studying 'traditional' diets tend to operate under a Noble Savage predilection (and I'm going to lump Weston Price in this group), especially back in the sixties, so it is somewhat like trusting a study done by vegans that shows meat to be unhealthy. But that's just my got feeling, and the Young Turks make a compelling (and much more knowledgeable) argument.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Toddlers and Junk Food

No thanks
I was at a child-oriented café this morning. Vypálené koťátko (fired kitten) lets kids paint ceramics (although it mostly seemed like frustrated artist mothers taking things very seriously while the kids sat there with idle brushes) which are then sent to a kiln and can be picked up a few days later. Pretty cool. But I was dismayed to see a toddler there munching down on some sort of Cheetos-like monstrosity. The mother had a tupperware container full of them and the kid would toddle around a bit, grab a Cheeto-monstrosity, toddle around some more, grab another one, ad nauseam (literally). Admittedly, it kept the little guy entertained--he was lost in a haze of frankeoils, MSG, and all the other crap one shouldn't be ingesting, much less a toddler with a developing brain.

The rest of the kids, big and small, were drinking apple juice.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

John Stossel Totally Biffs It

Stossel is a libertarian, a reformed leftie like myself. So I agree with a lot of what he has to say. But this is time he is just plain wrong. His latest editorial is titled Natural Is Not Always Better and is about grass-fed vs grain-fed beef. He thinks grass-fed is a waste of money and backs this up with generous quotes from Dr. Jude Capper "an assistant professor of dairy sciences at Washington State University, (who) has studied the data."

I'd just like to point out that dairy is not a science, okay? Biochemistry, that's a science. Biology that's a science. Animal milk is not a science, it's the stuff that comes out of animal udders. If she was a biochemist who specialized in dairy I might not be ready to dismiss her out of hand.
"Simply because they have a far lower efficiency, far lower productivity. The animals take 23 months to grow. (Corn-fed cattle need only 15.) That's eight extra months of feed, of water, land use, obviously, and also an awful lot of waste. If we have a grass-fed animal, compared to a corn-fed animal, that's like adding almost one car to the road for every single animal. That's a huge increase in carbon footprints."(Dr Capper)
The animals take longer to grow (fatten), because they don't get metabolic syndrome from eating something they aren't designed to eat, they don't turn into obese, unhealthy, bloated disasters like the humans who also base their diet on corn. And don't start talking about carbon footprint (or footprints either), the utilitarian argument holds no weight with me, and she doesn't take into account all the money and space used to grow and transport all that corn, with plenty of help from the taxpayer of course. And what's the carbon footprint of the damage caused by eating crappy or even mediocre food? What's the carbon footprint of making all those statins,  beta blockers, blood pressure meds, insulin pumps and multivitamins?

Then she pulls out this whopper:
"There is absolutely no scientific evidence based on that [naturally raised animals are healthier]. Absolutely none," she replied. "There is some very slight difference in fatty acids, for example, but they are so minor that they don't make any significant human health impact."
I did my own analysis (Ned did a better analysis here and here's a scientific experiment on grass vs grain fed). And while the fatty acid difference is not huge, it is not "very slight". Of course, I'm not an (assistant) professor in dairy science, my analysis could totally off but I tried to check out the facts for myself, not content to be told the truth by some self-described expert, whenever possible. Is there evidence that having a terrible n-3/n-6 ratio in the diet is unhealthy? Yes, of course there is. And what about the other differences? Cunjugated linoleic acid (CLA), B12, etc. There is evidence that these things are good for you, there is evidence that grass-fed contains more of them, so how could the be ABSOLUTELY no scientific evidence that grass-fed is healthier? Dr Capper, you are simply full of shit.

I don't have much access to grass-fed beef, and I don't stay up nights sobbing into my pillow because of it, but I do think it is preferable to eat a ruminant that has been raised as a ruminant, not on beer and pizza and subsidized corn. Of course it is also preferable to eat corn-fed beef rather then corn chips cooked in corn oil with a little HFCS thrown in for good measure.

I have great respect for John Stossel but in this case he totally biffed it. Natural is definitely better.

Addendum: apparently these columns are precursors for his his weekly TV show, which I don't watch, mostly because I live in Central Europe.  I can download them of course (totally legally, dude) but haven't. I might download this one though.

Still Not Crazy About the Taste

Way back before I heard of paleo I started experimenting with brushing my teeth with baking soda. I really enjoy the way it makes my teeth feel squeaky clean. I'm not crazy about the weird salty taste, though, nor the weird flavor it leaves in the mouth. In fact I usually brush my teeth with toothpaste after using baking soda cause I like that minty fresh breath.

I also use vinegar on my hair with more success (this also started before I'd heard of paleo), as a cure for dandruff and it works like a charm. My Swedish friend who was staying at our flat thought it was pretty bizarre. "Why does the bathroom smell like vinegar?" "You shower with it!?" Yeah, well at least I don't eat rotten fish.

I try to avoid shampooing often which is a lot easier when my hair is super short, but haven't been able to give it up completely. I'm just not able to tough out the two month or so adjustment phase. What a slacker.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bloggers Have Destroyed the Fabric of Society, Says Abraham Simpson

John Hawks points to this comical editorial about bloggers and their uncrafted blather.

The author is a "Cen­ten­nial Pro­fes­sor of Phi­los­o­phy at Van­der­bilt University", a sinecure apparently given to centenarians so they can write angry, rambling letters to editors and news blogs. He seems unaware that his piece was published on a blog. 
Of course, we are free not to read the blogs that addle the brain. But to know they do, we have to read them and as a result fill our heads with worth­less chatter.
We have to read crappy blogs first before deciding they are crap, but by then our brains have turned to crap. Damnit, it's a catch-22! I sure hope Vanderbilt doesn't let this guy teach any courses in logic.

I, for one, am proud of my contribution to the rending of Society's fabric. My brain is quite addled, and if you made it this far, your's must be also.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Roast Beast

Low and slow cooked hovězy plec (some sort of shoulder cut, chuck?). Salt the beef then brown in butter in a skillet. Place in a dutch oven (or just a casserole dish with a lid in my case) then toss some veggies like carrots, onions and bell pepper into the skillet to sear.

Deglaze the pan with some wine, brandy or just water and pour that in.

I tossed some apple and green onions also. Put on the lid and bake for about four hours on 140C (280F). Turn off the oven and let it sit in there for a few more minutes. The lower and slower the better. I've tried to cook this all night at really low temperature but our oven has some sort of damn safety feature that turns it off after 6 hours or something.

Right out of the oven.

Meat is falling apart like Soviet Union.

I Hate Pushups

But this morning I did 150 of them. Oh yeah. Not all at once, mind you, but in sets of ten. A couple of months ago I switched to pushups from doing isometric exercise. Isometric is interesting but it is difficult to gauge progress. I started by doing 100 pushups and the first time was very difficult, on the last 20 I was only able to do two or three at a time. Afterwords I was crazy sore, serratus (ribs), back, and of course pecs and triceps. Maybe if I get good enough, I will start to love doing pushups.

Strange thing, after doing all those pushups I got an intense craving for tuna salad. Maybe my body was craving protein and n-3 or maybe I just wanted tuna salad. I only had a tin of sardines around so I mashed them up added some mayo (not good but it goes so well) and lettuce.

The result wasn't exactly visually stunning, but it totally hit the spot. I was craving this so bad it was difficult forcing myself to take a picture first.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

It's Not What You Eat but How You Eat It

Enriching the flour is the secret to healthy, diet-friendly Twinkies

 Kids, throw away your copy of Good Calories Bad Calories. In case you haven't seen this yet, a "professor of human nutrition" lost 27 lbs in 10 weeks on a diet of Twinkies and other horrors.
Before his Twinkie diet, he tried to eat a healthy diet that included whole grains, dietary fiber, berries and bananas, vegetables and occasional treats like pizza.
Hmmm, there seems to be something missing from that "healthy" diet. I'm sure a "professor of human nutrition" wouldn't have any sort of vegetarian agenda, that's probably just paranoia caused by all that protein and saturated fat I consume clogging up my synapses. And why was a "professor of human nutrition" who tried to eat such a "healthy" diet of grains, fruit and veggies fat to begin with? Apparently the culprit was the occasional pizza.
To curb calories, he avoided meat, whole grains and fruits. Once he started adding meat into the diet four weeks ago, his cholesterol level increased.
Twinkies are healthier than meat! Hallelujah! That vegetarian agenda stuff was just a figment of my SFA-addled mind.

Cholesterol is simply a messenger for bad health, not the cause. I'm not surprised it increased after eating crap for 10 weeks. I believe it was Dr Mike Eades who came up with the fire engine analogy:  a little kid notices fire trucks at every house that is on fire, his conclusion, fire trucks cause fires! Cholesterol is a lipoprotein used by the body repair damage caused by eating crap, it is not what causes the damage in the first place.

The point of this professor's experiment was to show that losing weight really is just about the number of calories, as the media and "experts in human nutrition" have been saying for years and years. Turns out it was a resounding success.
His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most -- not the nutritional value of the food.

The premise held up: On his "convenience store diet," he shed 27 pounds in two months.
That's pretty sciencey. He started with a hypothesis (or premise if you prefer extremely technical jargon) then confirmed that hypothesis by experimenting on himself. Weight loss really does just boil down to calories. Turns out he was able to prove to himself (and CNN) with his n=1 experiment that what "experts" like himself  have been saying for years has been true all along.

And how much was he craving on this crap diet? Actually he wasn't just eating crap, just mostly eating craps.
Two-thirds of his total intake came from junk food. He also took a multivitamin pill and drank a protein shake daily. And he ate vegetables, typically a can of green beans or three to four celery stalks.
Families who live in food deserts have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, so they often rely on the kind of food Haub was eating.
So he was eating 600 calories a day of veggies and a protein shake. The rest in Twinkies or equivalent.

A Twinkie has 150 calories, so to get 1200 calories a day you'd need to eat 8 of them. But how can we even believe a word this guy says? It's well-known that Twinkies cause insanity.
For 10 weeks, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate one of these sugary cakelets every three hours, instead of meals.
Wait a sec, it would take 24 hours to ingest 1200 calories of Twinkies by eating one every three hours. Was he up all night eating Twinkies?  Did he set the alarm to wake up every three hours? I am shocked, SHOCKED that this hard-hitting CNN reporter didn't catch the apparent mathematical discrepancy.

And don't even get me started on food deserts.  Caitlin Flanagan sums it up much better than I could in this excellent article in The Atlantic (long quote).
As it happens, I live fewer than 20 miles from the most famous American hood, Compton, and on a recent Wednesday morning I drove over there to do a little grocery shopping. The Ralphs was vast, well-lit, bountifully stocked, and possessed of a huge and well-tended produce section. Using my Ralphs card, I bought four ears of corn for a dollar, green grapes and nectarines (both grown in the state, both 49 cents a pound), a pound of fresh tortillas for $1.69, and a half gallon of low-fat milk for $2.19. The staff, California friendly, outnumbered the customers, and the place had the dreamy, lost-in-time feeling that empty American supermarkets often have.

But across Compton Boulevard, it was a different story. Anyone who says that Americans have lost the desire and ability to cook fresh produce has never been to the Superior Super Warehouse in Compton. The produce section—packed with large families, most of them Hispanic—was like a dreamscape of strange and wonderful offerings: tomatillos, giant mangoes, cactus leaves, bunches of beets with their leaves on, chayote squash, red yams, yucca root. An entire string section of chiles: serrano, Anaheim, green, red, yellow. All of it was dirt cheap, as were the bulk beans and rice. Small children stood beside shopping carts with the complacent, slightly dazed look of kids whose mothers are taking care of business.

What we see at Superior Super Warehouse is an example of capitalism doing what it does best: locating a market need (in this case, poor people living in an American inner city who desire a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and who are willing to devote their time and money to acquiring them) and filling it.
 Ok, so she bought low-fat milk, no one's perfect. But the whole article is well worth reading.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Paleo is Dead, Long Live Paleo

When I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to be a rock star, Guns 'N' Roses was the hottest band in town. Then they got picked up by a major record label and next thing you know they were all over MTV (this was when MTV still had music videos). Suddenly, they were no longer hip, they were no longer cool, they had been discovered by the unwashed masses. All bands that build up an underground following then hit the big-time go through this. They suck, they sold out, they aren't hardcore anymore, they aren't edgy. This can certainly happen, but usually the problem is simply a backlash against mainstream recognition.

I get the feeling that Paleo is beginning to experience some Underground Band Syndrome (UBS). The inevitable backlash. Paleo (and its kinder, gentler and more commercial cousin Primal) is far from mainstream, but there are stirrings. When the US President's personal trainer goes out of his way to trash Paleo or when a Reuters article on possible traces of 30,000 year old starch does the same you know that the movement has begun to ruffle some feathers. At the same time you've got early adopters and purists beginning to complain that things are getting 'diluted', distancing themselves or just dropping out altogether.

This is all inevitable. Movements, revolutions, bands, politicians, clothing styles, etc, all go through these stages. Paleo is in something of a retrenchment period, I think, entering it's third wave (DeVaney and Cordain being the first wave, Sisson, Nikoley and Harris being the second and Weston Price the visionary who set the stage). There's going to be the inevitable fragmentation, recriminations, infighting and so on. It's all part of the growing process so one shouldn't really sweat it. Except for Matt Stone, of course, who is just a fat little fuck.

Homemade Stock

Soups and stews just lack flavor without a solid base of stock. So I always try to keep some around, in the freezer. I'm not sure this is something I would do if I could buy stock. Unfortunately, it isn't something sold here, bullion cubes yes, but they can make things too salty. The great thing about stock: it's great way to use up fruits and vegetables that have seen better days and of course you know exactly what went into it.

A bunch of chicken wings or some beef or pork bones.

Any dodgy vegetables, even lettuce. Celery root adds a lot of flavor but I didn't have any. I'll also add lemon rinds or oranges for a bit of an exotic flavor.

Fill with water and pressure cook for 1-2 hours (an hour is probably enough). Once it has reached pressure I put it on the very lowest setting on the smallest burner. Just enough heat to maintain pressure. 'Real' cooks make stock by cooking on low heat for 12 hours. If you have all day to make stock then it might extract more flavor, I've never tried it. It could be possible to do it in a crock pot, but I don't know much about them. The pressure cooker is my weapon of choice for these kinds of things.

Drain with a collander. Squeeze the muck to get as much juice as possible.I don't keep the meat from the chicken wings because it will have been overcooked and stringy (and it is a pain to go through and extract it). Chicken wings are dirt cheap, and they've already given their all to make this stock.

Throw half in a pickle jar, freeze and use the rest to make some soup. If you want to get rid of the chicken fat, put in the fridge until the fat solidifies and scoop it off.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Lamb Shank and Carrots

"Fake" grilled this, same method as the steak. We hardly ever come across lamb here for some reason. Too bad because it is great stuff.

Bio is European for organic
I'm not sure if kýta is actually shank, it literally means leg or haunch. It was cut like a steak so I cooked it like one and it turned out great. Sprinkled it lightly with sea salt let sit for ten minutes then patted dry and tossed it one the super hot skillet.

Here's a new thing I'm trying, an action shot. The camera doesn't really show all the smoke.

Check out the lovely bone marrow
Nice and crispy crust. Pop it in the oven for a few minutes. And since the oven was already hot I decided to roast some carrot slices to go with the meat.

Butter, sweet paprika and a bit of herb sea salt (I'm using this stuff all the time now). Toss to coat and stick it in the oven.

And the result, nice crust, juicy inside. Yum. And the carrots weren't bad either.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Beeb Sets Something of a Precedent

I thought this article by the BBC was interesting, mostly because they actually linked to the study in the BMJ. It is the first time I can recall a mainstream media publication doing that since I started paying closer attention (mostly with the intention to mock their poor science). I wonder if this unprecedented linking has anything to do with the preponderance of health blogs where people actually analyze the data themselves rather than just get it spoonfed from some j-school graduate. Naw, probably not.

I take vitamin E, as it is recommended by Drs Eades and Eades, and I am going to continue for the reasons they cite: increased insulin sensitivity, 40% lower heart disease risk and most importantly, preventing wrinkles (I've got my public, dahling).  The meta-study (I'm not a huge fan of meta-studies, too much room for cherry-picking) cited shows that vit E might increase the rarest form of stroke, haemorrhagic, by 22% whilst lowering the risk for the most common stroke, ischaemic, by 10%. This comes out as a net gain in the apparent benefits for vit E. So why the headline, Vitamin E linked to increased risk of some strokes rather than Vitamin E linked to decreased risk of most common strokes? The link to the article on the front page is even worse, Vitamin E linked to stroke risk. Misleading, oversimplified and silly, just what I would expect from a mainstream media 'health' article, but at least they linked to the actual study that had numbers, statistics and lots of sciencey stuff. Perhaps things are slowly improving.

Addendum: there are actually studies that show that vit E has zero or even negative effect on health. This article sources a couple of them. The beeb didn't mention any of those studies, so they still suck.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Happy Meals Succesfuly Banned in SF and Why Robin Hanson is Full of It.

 To quote the Freakonomics summary:
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has “passed an ordinance that will require meals to meet certain nutritional guidelines if restaurants wish to include a toy with the food purchase.” Meals with toys must meet nutritional requirements with respect to fruit, vegetable and multigrain content. The ordinance passed by an 8-3 vote, enough of a margin to override a promised mayoral veto. Which comes first: a McDonald’s capitulation or a black market in happy meals?
They didn't actually ban happy meals, they just required that any food served with a toy must fit CSPI inspired guidelines. Hurray.

This was ridiculously easy to find on Google
I'm not a huge fan of happy meals, my kid has never even had one, as far as I know (unless his grandparents gave him one when I wasn't around). I'm not even sure they have happy meals here, Mickey D's varies its menu from place to place, they don't serve breakfast here, for example but they do have beer. The stuff I consider most unhealthy about a happy meal: vegetable oil, potato starch, bun, are not what the SF Overlords have a problem with (though we can all agree on the HFCS-infused Coke).

I've been reading (sort of) Robin Hanson attempts to pigeonhole the so-called left/right divide into Hunter-Gatherers (or Foragers as he refers to them) vs Farmers, apparently after having a near religious experience reading Sex At Dawn. The HG's representing the enlightened left and the less enlightened conservatives are a result of agriculture. As we become more wealthy and educated, we are released from our Farmer bindings and revert back to our HG roots. By that logic, today's progressives hanging out at Starbucks with their macbooks and ironic t-shirts represent a reversion back to liberal HG values. And If that's the case why are these same boneheads obsessed with eating "heart-healthy" grains and putting soy milk in their coffee, and most of all, telling other people what to do? In the case of SF Overlords vs McDonald's, perhaps the most left wing place in the US is trying to force a company to serve grains. These are typical HG values?

I think there could be something to this although not in the sense that Hanson has been proselytizing. Certainly it requires some money and perhaps education to follow a paleo diet (much as he believes for modern liberal HGs). In that sense paleo is a recent modern reversion to more HG-ish values (and hopefully eating and exercise habits).

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Zombie Diets

We shun grains for BRAINS.
John Quiggin has a new book coming out called 'Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us' (I came across it here). Quiggin is a social democrat who has a bone to pick with classical economic ideals (such as the perfectly efficient market). I'm not a big fan of socialism but I can respect an interesting left-wing economist that has not succumbed to populism.

This got me thinking about the giant zombie in the health room: the low-carb diet. There's an idea that wouldn't die (how's that for an extended metaphor?). Quiggin's book is about ideas he thinks ought to be stabbed in the heart with a wooden stake. The low-carb diet, first popularized by Banting, is an idea that goes way, way back (and won't go away) and has resurfaced time and again. This is one zombie that will never die because it works.

I find it somewhat amazing that people were being advised to skip the bread and sugar to lose weight long before germ theory had begun to gain traction. Think about it, people were having leeches affixed to them for health reasons long after the conventional wisdom had decided that starch and sugar were bad.

Nowadays, we have antibiotics, antivirals and, of course, the USDA food pyramid. Talk about one step forward, two steps back.