Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 16th, 2019

Study Finds Ultra-Processed Foods Drive Weight Gain

leave a comment »

This report states one reason I prefer to make my meals from whole foods (the other reason being that I enjoy cooking). Maria Godoy writes at NPR:

Over the past 70 years, ultra-processed foods have come to dominate the U.S. diet. These are foods made from cheap industrial ingredients and engineered to be super-tasty and generally high in fat, sugar and salt.

The rise of ultra-processed foods has coincided with growing rates of obesity, leading many to suspect that they’ve played a big role in our growing waistlines. But is it something about the highly processed nature of these foods itself that drives people to overeat? A new study finds the answer is yes.

The study, conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, is the first randomized, controlled trial to show that eating a diet made up of ultra-processed foods actually drives people to overeat and gain weight compared with a diet made up of whole or minimally processed foods. Study participants on the ultra-processed diet ate an average of 508 calories more per day and ended up gaining an average of 2 pounds over a two-week period. People on the unprocessed diet, meanwhile, ended up losing about 2 pounds on average over a two-week period.

“The difference in weight gain for one [group] and weight loss for the other during these two periods is phenomenal. We haven’t seen anything like this,” says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina who has studied the role of ultra-processed foods in the American diet but was not involved in the current research.

Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, agrees that the findings are striking. He says what was so impressive was that the NIH researchers documented this weight gain even though each meal offered on the two different diets contained the same total amount of calories, fats, protein, sugar, salt, carbohydrates and fiber. Study participants were allowed to eat as much or as little as they wanted but ended up eating way more of the ultra-processed meals, even though they didn’t rate those meals as being tastier than the unprocessed meals.

“These are landmark findings that the processing of the foods makes a huge difference in how much a person eats,” says Mozaffarian. That’s important, because the majority of foods now sold in the U.S. — and increasingly, around the globe — are ultra-processed.

And ultra-processed foods include more than just the obvious suspects, like chips, candy, packaged desserts and ready-to-eat meals. The category also includes foods that some consumers might find surprising, including Honey Nut Cheerios and other breakfast cereals, packaged white bread, jarred sauces, yogurt with added fruit, and frozen sausages and other reconstituted meat products. Popkin says ultra-processed foods usually contain a long list of ingredients, many of them made in labs. So, for example, instead of seeing “apples” listed on a food label, you might get additives that re-create the scent of that fruit. These are foods designed to be convenient and low cost and require little preparation.

The new research, which appears in the journal Cell Metabolism, was led by Kevin Hall, a senior scientist at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hall says he was surprised by his findings, because many people have suspected that it is the high salt, sugar and fat content in ultra-processed foods that drives people to gain weight. But “when you match the diets for all of those nutrients, something about the ultra-processed foods still drives this big effect on calorie intake,” Hall says.

To conduct the study, Hall and his colleagues recruited 20 healthy, stable-weight adults — 10 men and 10 women — to live in an NIH facility for a four-week period. All their meals were provided for them.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of two diets for two-week stretches: One group was fed an unprocessed diet full of whole or minimally processed foods like stir-fried beef with vegetables, basmati rice and orange slices. The other group ate an ultra-processed diet of meals like chicken salad made with canned chicken, jarred mayonnaise and relish on white bread, served with canned peaches in heavy syrup. When the two weeks were up, the groups were then assigned to the opposite diet plan.

Even though the study was small, it was also highly controlled. Researchers knew exactly how many macronutrients and calories participants were eating — and burning, because they took detailed metabolic measurements. The scientists tracked other health markers too, including blood glucose levels and even hormone levels. Hall notes that this makes these kinds of studies extremely difficult and expensive to carry out. But the study design also makes the findings that much more significant, Popkin and Mozaffarian both say.

“Putting people in a controlled setting and giving them their food lets you really understand biologically what’s going on, and the differences are striking,” says Mozaffarian.

For one thing, previous studies have linked an ultra-processed diet to weight gain and poor health outcomes, like an increased risk for several cancers and early death from all causes. But these studies were all observational, which means they couldn’t prove that ultra-processed foods caused these outcomes, only that they were correlated. 

Hall says the new study wasn’t designed to see what exactly it is about ultra-processed foods that drives overeating, but the findings do suggest some mechanisms.

“One thing that was kind of intriguing was that some of the hormones that are involved in food intake regulation were quite different between the two diets as compared to baseline,” Hall says.

For example, when the participants were eating the unprocessed diet, they had higher levels of an appetite-suppressing hormone called PYY, which is secreted by the gut, and lower levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone, which might explain why they ate fewer calories. On the ultra-processed diet, these hormonal changes flipped, so participants had lower levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone and higher levels of the hunger hormone.

Another interesting finding: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2019 at 1:20 pm

The Toilet Book: Findings from bathroom graffiti, contrasting men’s and women’s

leave a comment »

Very interesting. Keep scrolling at this link.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2019 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Daily life

The sound of millions of Monarch butterflies

leave a comment »

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2019 at 11:47 am

Posted in Video

Was the writer of Shakespeare’s plays a woman?

leave a comment »

Elizabeth Winkler writes in the Atlantic:

On a spring night in 2018, I stood on a Manhattan sidewalk with friends, reading Shakespeare aloud. We were in line to see an adaptation of Macbeth and had decided to pass the time refreshing our memories of the play’s best lines. I pulled up Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy on my iPhone. “Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,” I read, thrilled once again by the incantatory power of the verse. I remembered where I was when I first heard those lines: in my 10th-grade English class, startled out of my adolescent stupor by this woman rebelling magnificently and malevolently against her submissive status. “Make thick my blood, / Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse.” Six months into the #MeToo movement, her fury and frustration felt newly resonant.

Pulled back into plays I’d studied in college and graduate school, I found myself mesmerized by Lady Macbeth and her sisters in the Shakespeare canon. Beatrice, in Much Ado About Nothing, raging at the limitations of her sex (“O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the marketplace”). Rosalind, in As You Like It, affecting the swagger of masculine confidence to escape those limitations (“We’ll have a swashing and a martial outside, / As many other mannish cowards have / That do outface it with their semblances”). Isabella, in Measure for Measure, fearing no one will believe her word against Angelo’s, rapist though he is (“To whom should I complain? Did I tell this, / Who would believe me?”). Kate, in The Taming of the Shrew, refusing to be silenced by her husband (“My tongue will tell the anger of my heart, / Or else my heart concealing it will break”). Emilia, in one of her last speeches in Othello before Iago kills her, arguing for women’s equality (“Let husbands know / Their wives have sense like them”).

I was reminded of all the remarkable female friendships, too: Beatrice and Hero’s allegiance; Emilia’s devotion to her mistress, Desdemona; Paulina’s brave loyalty to Hermione in The Winter’s Tale; and plenty more. (“Let’s consult together against this greasy knight,” resolve the merry wives of Windsor, revenging themselves on Falstaff.) These intimate female alliances are fresh inventions—they don’t exist in the literary sources from which many of the plays are drawn. And when the plays lean on historical sources (Plutarch, for instance), they feminize them, portraying legendary male figures through the eyes of mothers, wives, and lovers. “Why was Shakespeare able to see the woman’s position, write entirely as if he were a woman, in a way that none of the other playwrights of the age were able to?” In her book about the plays’ female characters, Tina Packer, the founding artistic director of Shakespeare & Company, asked the question very much on my mind.

Doubts about whether William Shakespeare (who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564 and died in 1616) really wrote the works attributed to him are almost as old as the writing itself. Alternative contenders—Francis Bacon; Christopher Marlowe; and Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford, prominent among them—continue to have champions, whose fervor can sometimes border on fanaticism. In response, orthodox Shakespeare scholars have settled into dogmatism of their own. Even to dabble in authorship questions is considered a sign of bad faith, a blinkered failure to countenance genius in a glover’s son. The time had come, I felt, to tug at the blinkers of both camps and reconsider the authorship debate: Had anyone ever proposed that the creator of those extraordinary women might be a woman? Each of the male possibilities requires an elaborate theory to explain his use of another’s name. None of the candidates has succeeded in dethroning the man from Stratford. Yet a simple reason would explain a playwright’s need for a pseudonym in Elizabethan England: being female.

Long before Tina Packer marveled at the bard’s uncanny insight, others were no less awed by the empathy that pervades the work. “One would think that he had been Metamorphosed from a Man to a Woman,” wrote Margaret Cavendish, the 17th-century philosopher and playwright. The critic John Ruskin said, “Shakespeare has no heroes—he has only heroines.” A striking number of those heroines refuse to obey rules. At least 10 defy their fathers, bucking betrothals they don’t like to find their own paths to love. Eight disguise themselves as men, outwitting patriarchal controls—more gender-swapping than can be found in the work of any previous English playwright. Six lead armies.

The prevailing view, however, has been that no women in Renaissance England wrote for the theater, because that was against the rules. Religious verse and translation were deemed suitable female literary pursuits; “closet dramas,” meant only for private reading, were acceptable. The stage was off-limits. Yet scholars have lately established that women were involved in the business of acting companies as patrons, shareholders, suppliers of costumes, and gatherers of entrance fees. What’s more, 80 percent of the plays printed in the 1580s were written anonymously, and that number didn’t fall below 50 percent until the early 1600s. At least one eminent Shakespeare scholar, Phyllis Rackin, of the University of Pennsylvania, challenges the blanket assumption that the commercial drama pouring forth in the period bore no trace of a female hand. So did Virginia Woolf, even as she sighed over the obstacles that would have confronted a female Shakespeare: “Undoubtedly, I thought, looking at the shelf where there are no plays by women, her work would have gone unsigned.”

A tantalizing nudge lies buried in the writings of Gabriel Harvey, a well-known Elizabethan literary critic. In 1593, he referred cryptically to an “excellent Gentlewoman” who had written three sonnets and a comedy. “I dare not Particularise her Description,” he wrote, even as he heaped praise on her.

All her conceits are illuminate with the light of Reason; all her speeches beautified with the grace of Affability … In her mind there appeareth a certain heavenly Logic; in her tongue & pen a divine Rhetoric … I dare undertake with warrant, whatsoever she writeth must needs remain an immortal work, and will leave, in the activest world, an eternal memory of the silliest vermin that she should vouchsafe to grace with her beautiful and allective style, as ingenious as elegant.

Who was this woman writing “immortal work” in the same year that Shakespeare’s name first appeared in print, on the poem “Venus and Adonis,” a scandalous parody of masculine seduction tales (in which the woman forces herself on the man)? Harvey’s tribute is extraordinary, yet orthodox Shakespeareans and anti-Stratfordians alike have almost entirely ignored it.

Until recently, that is, when a few bold outliers began to advance the case that Shakespeare might well have been a woman. One candidate is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2019 at 11:38 am

Posted in Art, Books

Firms That Promise High-Tech Ransomware Solutions Almost Always Just Pay the Hackers

leave a comment »

But of course add in their own fee. Renee Dudley and Jeff Kao report in ProPublica:

As ransomware attacks crippled businesses and law enforcement agencies, two U.S. data recovery firms claimed to offer an ethical way out. Instead, they typically paid the ransom and charged victims extra.

FROM 2015 TO 2018, a strain of ransomware known as SamSam paralyzed computer networks across North America and the U.K. It caused more than $30 million in damage to at least 200 entities, including the cities of Atlanta and Newark, New Jersey, the Port of San Diego and Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. It knocked out Atlanta’s online water service requests and billing systems, prompted the Colorado Department of Transportation to call in the National Guard, and delayed medical appointments and treatments for patients nationwide whose electronic records couldn’t be retrieved. In return for restoring access to the files, the cyberattackers collected at least $6 million in ransom.

“You just have 7 days to send us the BitCoin,” read the ransom demand to Newark. “After 7 days we will remove your private keys and it’s impossible to recover your files.”

At a press conference last November, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that the U.S. Department of Justice had indicted two Iranian men on fraud charges for allegedly developing the strain and orchestrating the extortion. Many SamSam targets were “public agencies with missions that involve saving lives,” and the attackers impaired their ability to “provide health care to sick and injured people,” Rosenstein said. The hackers “knew that shutting down those computer systems could cause significant harm to innocent victims.”

In a statement that day, the FBI said the “criminal actors” were “out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement.” But they weren’t beyond the reach of an American company that says it helps victims regain access to their computers. Proven Data Recovery of Elmsford, New York, regularly made ransom payments to SamSam hackers over more than a year, according to Jonathan Storfer, a former employee who dealt with them.

Although bitcoin transactions are intended to be anonymous and difficult to track, ProPublica was able to trace four of the payments. Sent in 2017 and 2018, from an online wallet controlled by Proven Data to ones specified by the hackers, the money was then laundered through as many as 12 bitcoin addresses before reaching a wallet maintained by the Iranians, according to an analysis by bitcoin tracing firm Chainalysis at our request. Payments to that digital currency destination and another linked to the attackers were later banned by the U.S. Treasury Department, which cited sanctions targeting the Iranian regime.

“I would not be surprised if a significant amount of ransomware both funded terrorism and also organized crime,” Storfer said. “So the question is, is every time that we get hit by SamSam, and every time we facilitate a payment — and here’s where it gets really dicey — does that mean we are technically funding terrorism?”

Proven Data promised to help ransomware victims by unlocking their data with the “latest technology,” according to company emails and former clients. Instead, it obtained decryption tools from cyberattackers by paying ransoms, according to Storfer and an FBI affidavit obtained by ProPublica.

Another U.S. company, Florida-based MonsterCloud, also professes to use its own data recovery methods but instead pays ransoms, sometimes without informing victims such as local law enforcement agencies, ProPublica has found. The firms are alike in other ways. Both charge victims substantial fees on top of the ransom amounts. They also offer other services, such as sealing breaches to protect against future attacks. Both firms have used aliases for their workers, rather than real names, in communicating with victims.

The payments underscore the lack of other options for individuals and businesses devastated by ransomware, the failure of law enforcement to catch or deter the hackers, and the moral quandary of whether paying ransoms encourages extortion. Since some victims are public agencies or receive government funding, taxpayer money may end up in the hands of cybercriminals in countries hostile to the U.S. such as Russia and Iran. . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more and it’s worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2019 at 8:58 am

Solar Flare, Asses’ Milk Shaving soap, and Fine Marvel

leave a comment »

Phonenix Artisan’s Solar Flare brush made a superb lather from the organic Asses’ Milk Shaving Soap (which The Wife brought to me from Paris). Three passes with the Fine Marvel head on a bronze UFO handle left my face perfectly smooth and ready for Musgo Real’s Classic aftershave.

And today I had my first new standard breakfast, the variation with beans—lentils in this case, though I also have a batch of lima beans ready in the fridge. It’s quite a satisfactory breakfast and I don’t really miss the eggs.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2019 at 8:36 am

%d bloggers like this: