Later On

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

Archive for June 29th, 2019

High-tech moves into restaurants

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Dave McGinn reports in the Globe & Mail:

There was nothing unusual about the restaurant I recently took my kids to until our server showed up.

Sun shone in through floor-to-ceiling windows on the busy lunch crowd. There were vinyl records for sale near the entrance, a small ice-cream parlour across from the bar and huge steel vats, part of the in-house brewery, in the far corner. The kind of hip elements you might expect from a restaurant inside a tech hub in Kitchener, Ont.

“Have you been to Graffiti Market before?” our server asked. I told her we hadn’t. “Okay then, I’m just going to give you a quick tutorial about the table,” she said.

Never before have I needed a tutorial on how to use a table. But this was an interactive smart table – essentially a giant iPad. There was an individual display for each of us filled with different apps. Before the brief tutorial had ended, my daughter was already colouring away on a painting app.

There were apps for puzzles, games and one to read the news. The menu app showed pictures and ingredients of every item. We could order lunch with a few taps of our fingers. When we were finished, I could tap the payment app, enter my credit-card information and walk out the door without having to get our server’s attention and wait for her to bring the credit-card machine.

I worried that the entire experience would be cold and impersonal. It turned out to be the best meal out I’ve had with my kids in I can’t even remember how long.

The hospitality industry is undergoing a technology-driven transformation that has already become commonplace in so many other areas of our lives. From banking to buying movie tickets, shopping online to purchasing groceries, we increasingly conduct our business through devices instead of face-to-face interactions with other people. But does tech threaten to take the hospitality out of the hospitality industry? It may, and it’s something we’ll just have to get used to.

“The old standards of service are disappearing,” says Doug Fisher, president of FHG International Inc., a Toronto-based food-service consultancy. “Technology is moving hospitality to a model of efficiency.”

Baby boomers and millennials are the two biggest demographics driving changes in the restaurant industry, Fisher says. One of these groups may not like dealing with technology rather than people, but the other is used to it and often even prefers it. “Personally, I don’t like it,” Fisher says. “But my 25-year-old son is happy to order a beer on his phone and have it delivered to him rather than wave down a waitress or a waiter.”

Self-check-in kiosks at hotels and apps that allow people to order and pay at restaurants and bars attract customers who want convenience, Fisher says. But technology also helps cut costs by reducing staff and speeding up the rate at which customers come and go.

Glance Pay, one of the many apps on the market that allows people to pay their bar or restaurant bill on their phones, turns tables over up to 30 per cent faster compared with restaurants that rely on debit card, credit card or cash transactions, says Desmond Griffin, chief executive of the company behind the app.

The company has launched in close to 200 locations, most of which are in Vancouver, and has signed hundreds more that have yet to launch. More than 50,000 people in Vancouver have downloaded the app, with approximately another 10,000 downloads in regions such as Toronto and California.

The appeal of ordering and paying through an app isn’t about cutting out service from the bar and restaurant experience, but reducing the frustrations that come with having to wait for servers, Griffin says.

By eliminating the annoyance of having to flag down a server to order and pay, technology is actually elevating the experience for customers, says Tammy Vaillancourt, a professor in the school of hospitality and tourism management at George Brown College in Toronto.

“In one way, technology is putting the hospitality back into hospitality,” she says. “The service experience can now be focused in on more of the personal elements as opposed to the transactional elements.”

As technology is increasingly becoming part of the hospitality experience, discussions around it have entered the school’s curriculum, Vaillancourt says. One key point of discussion is how technology can influence a customer’s experience at a bar or restaurant, even playing a role in whether or not they chose to come back. “Have you ever dined out and had a wonderful experience, but the area where the organization fell short was that you were waiting forever for your bill?” Vaillancourt says. “It ruins the whole night.”

But Robert Carter, a food-service-industry adviser at market-research company NDP Group, warns that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2019 at 7:12 pm

Posted in Business, Food, Technology

How the USDA betrays the public

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In Part 2 of his book How Not to DieDr. Greger describes the foods and diet that are most healthy for us, and he divides foods using a traffic-light analogy:

  • Green light: Unprocessed plant foods – eat in abundance
  • Yellow light: Processed plant foods, unprocessed animal foods – eat rarely
  • Red light: Ultra-processed plant foods, processed animal foods – don’t eat at all

A recent study reported on some of the downsides of ultraprocessed foods: they don’t satisfy, so people eat more of them (which, from the manufacturer’s point of view, is an advantage: greater revenue).

From How Not to Die, starting on page 296:

Why Don’t the Dietary Guidelines Just Say No?

The green-light message shines brightly in pronouncements telling you to “eat more fruits and vegetables,” but the yellow and red lights can be dim and cloudy thanks to politics. In other words, the guidelines are clear when there is eat-more messaging (“Eat more fresh produce”), but eat-less messaging is obscured into biochemical components (“Eat less saturated and trans fatty acids”). National health authorities rarely just say to “eat less meat and dairy.” That’s why my green-light message will sound familiar to you (“Oh, ‘eat fruits and veggies’—I’ve heard that before”) but the yellow- and red-light messages may sound controversial (“What? Minimize meat? Really?”).

Part of the USDA’s mission is “expanding markets for agricultural products.”14 At the same time, the federal agency is tasked with protecting public health by helping to develop the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That’s why, when those two directives are in sync, their eat-more language is clear: “Increase fruit intake.” “Increase vegetable intake.”15 But when their dual mandates are in conflict—when “improving nutrition and health” is at odds with promoting “agriculture production”16—the eat-less messaging of the Dietary Guidelines gets repackaged and ends up referring to biochemical components: “Reduce intake of solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fatty acids).”

What’s the average consumer supposed to do with that obscure little nugget?

When the Guidelines tell you to eat less added sugar, calories, cholesterol, saturated fat, sodium, and trans fat, that’s code for eat less junk food, less meat, less dairy, fewer eggs, and fewer processed foods. But they can’t actually say that. When they did in the past, all heck broke loose. For example, when a USDA employee newsletter even suggested trying a meat-free lunch once a week as part of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health “Meatless Mondays” initiative,17 the resulting political firestorm from the meat industry led the USDA to retract the advice just hours later.18 “As a result of these conflicts [of interest],” concluded an analysis in the Food and Drug Law Journal, “the Guidelines sometimes favor the interests of the food and drug industries over the public’s interest in accurate and impartial dietary advice.”19

This reminds me of the landmark report on trans fat from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, one of our most prestigious institutions.20 They concluded that no amount of trans fat is safe “because any incremental increase in trans fatty acid intake increases C[oronary] H[eart] D[isease] risk.”21 Since trans fats are found naturally in meat and dairy products,22 this placed them in a quandary: “Because trans fats are unavoidable in ordinary, nonvegan diets, consuming 0 percent of energy would require significant changes in patterns of dietary intake.”23

So if trans fats are found in meat and dairy and the only safe intake of trans fats is zero, that means the Institute of Medicine went on to encourage everyone to start eating a plant-based diet, right? No, they did not. The director of Harvard’s Cardiovascular Epidemiology Program famously explained why: “We can’t tell people to stop eating all meat and all dairy products,” he said. “Well, we could tell people to become vegetarians,” he added. “If we were truly basing this only on science, we would, but it is a bit extreme.”24

We certainly wouldn’t want scientists to base anything on science!

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2019 at 5:06 pm

Effects of whole-food plant-based diet?

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From my Contour NEXT One app:

I’m eating a lot more carbs than I did before (previously my net carbs ranged 30g-40g per day, and today’s net carbs amounted to 115g), but:

  • I am refrigerating the carbs after I cook them (for grain, beans, and vegetables—fruit is  uncooked, of course), which makes the starch resistant; and
  • I am eating a lot more dietary fiber—today 54g; and
  • I am losing weight, which almost certainly includes intramuscular fat (which increases insulin resistance).

All those things help with blood glucose control.

I feel that I’m going in the right direction. The odd thing, a diet without meat or dairy or eggs or added salt seemed almost impossible in the past, but it turns out to be pretty easy in practice once you work out a few basic routines. (Total sodium today is 929mg, well below the 1200mg limit recommended for men my age.)

And Cronometer is terrific. I was low on pantothenic acid (B5), so I looked up foods good in B5. Peanuts were on the list, so I had a couple of ounces of peanuts and took care of that.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2019 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

How healthy would you be if you stopped eating meat?

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To answer that question: It would depend strongly on what you ate instead. “Not eating meat” doe not automatically qualify a diet as good. For example, eating a diet that consists of corn chips, white bread with loads of syrup, popcorn, beer, and soda pop is “not eating meat,” but it’s a terrible diet. A 2014 article in Psychology Today by Hal Herzog, 84% of Vegetarians and Vegans Return to Meat. Why?” includes this passage:

One of my daughters recently asked me for suggestions on types of meat she might enjoy. I was shocked. A vegetarian for nearly 18 years, she has always found meat, well, icky. In retrospect, I should not have been surprised about her new interest in carnivory. After all, as a researcher, I have studied vegetarians who return to meat. But I never figured she would join the ranks of ex-vegetarians, so I asked her to jot down a few words about why she originally gave up the consumption of flesh and why she now feels compelled to change her veggie ways. Here’s what she wrote….

I stopped eating meat when I was 13. I told my mom and dad that my decision was based on animal welfare and the high carbon footprint of meat. But the truth is that while I theoretically cared about animals and the planet, mostly I just wanted to be different. I lived in a small Southern town where it was more common to see the image of Jesus in a piece of toast than encounter a real live vegetarian. So while my motives weren’t entirely pure, giving up meat certainly made me different: Population of Cullowhee, NC: 9,427 meat eaters and 1 vegetarian.

For the next 17 years, I ate grains, produce, legumes, and fake meat products like those Morningstar bacon strips that have a lower nutritional value than cat food. And for the next 17 years, it seemed like I was always hungry no matter how large my bowl of beans and rice. Even worse than constant hunger, I didn’t seem to enjoy food the way other people did. Eating was a chore, like folding laundry or paying bills, but even more annoying because if I didn’t do it I would die. I was sick of being hungry, I was sick of beans and rice, and so at the age of 31, I have made a decision: I will try and become a meat-eater.

It seems totally evident that her motivation for being a vegetarian was not health but love of animals (and teenage rebellion and identity-creation), but she admits to eating processed foods (a bad idea to begin with—It’s Not Just Salt, Sugar, Fat: Study Finds Ultra-Processed Foods Drive Weight Gain) and moreover she ate processed food that she herself recognized was not nutritious (“lower nutritional value than cat food”). And she was constantly hungry, a dead giveaway of a poor diet. And her food was not tasty: “Eating was a chore.” And her food selection was terribly limited: “beans and rice.”

This woman chose a bad diet, presumably through ignorance—of good nutrition, of food, and of cooking skills.

I’ve noted previously that on my current whole-food plant-based diet, I never feel hungry. Indeed sometimes I have to split a meal I’ve prepared and eat part of it for one meal and the remainder for another. And I eat a lot of fruits and fresh vegetables. Plus I know how to cook. Indeed, one thing about the new diet that surprised me is how filling it is—I never feel hungry.

I do not eat any rice, though, and it sounds as if this poor creature tried to live on beans and rice and processed food (that she knew had no nutritional value). I gave my own diet more thought, with the result that my diet probably differs from that of many vegans.

So it’s not a matter just of not eating meat (which is a good idea, as it turns out: One reason I decided to break in the new skillet with squash and not steak), but of making good and informed food choices about what you do eat.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2019 at 2:47 pm

Fun colonoscopy facts

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From How Not to Die, by Michael Greger MD, starting on page 284:

Colonoscopies

The colonoscopy. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more dreaded routine procedure. Every year, U.S. doctors may perform more than fourteen million colonoscopies,81 an exam used to detect abnormal changes in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. During the procedure, doctors insert a five-foot-long flexible tube fitted with a tiny video camera and inflate the colon with air to visualize the colon lining. Any suspicious polyps or other abnormal tissue can be biopsied during the procedure. Colonoscopies can help doctors diagnose causes of rectal bleeding or chronic diarrhea, but routine colon cancer screenings may be the most common reason they are performed.

The reasons doctors often find it difficult to convince their patients to keep coming back for colonoscopies include the necessary bowel prep, during which you have to drink quarts of a powerful liquid laxative before the procedure to completely clean yourself out. There’s also the pain and discomfort of the procedure itself82 (though you’re purposefully given drugs with amnesiac effects so you won’t remember how it felt),83 feelings of embarrassment and vulnerability, and the fear of complications.84 These fears are not unfounded. Despite how routinely colonoscopies are performed, serious complications occur in about 1 out of every 350 cases, including such issues as perforations and fatal bleeding.85 Perforations can occur when the tip of the colonoscope punctures the wall of the colon, when the colon is overinflated, or when a doctor cauterizes a bleeding biopsy site. In extremely rare cases, this cautery can ignite some residual gas and cause the colon to literally explode.86

Death from colonoscopy is rare, occurring in only about 1 in every 2,500 procedures.87 Yet this means colonoscopies may be killing thousands of Americans every year, raising the question: Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Colonoscopies are not the only screening technique for colon cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the official prevention guidelines body, considers colonoscopies just one of three acceptable colon-cancer screening strategies. Starting at age fifty, everyone should get either a colonoscopy once a decade, have their stool tested for hidden blood every year (which involves no scoping at all), or have a sigmoidoscopy every five years, along with stool testing every three. The evidence supporting “virtual” colonoscopies or DNA stool testing was judged insufficient.88 Though routine screenings are no longer recommended at age seventy-five, this assumes you’ve been testing negative for twenty-five years. If you’re now seventy-five and have never been screened, then it’s probably a good idea to get screened at least into your eighties.89

Sigmoidoscopy uses a much smaller scope than in a colonoscopy and has ten times fewer complications.90 However, because the scope may only go about two feet inside your body, it might miss tumors farther inside. So which is better overall? We won’t know until randomized controlled colonoscopy trials are published in the mid-2020s.91 Most other developed countries do not recommend either scoping procedure, though. For routine colon cancer screening, they still endorse the noninvasive stool blood testing.92

Which of the three options is best for you? The USPSTF recommends that the decision should be made on an individualized basis after weighing the benefits and risks with your doctor.

To what extent, though, do doctors inform patients of their options? Researchers audiotaped clinic visits to find out. They were looking for the nine essential elements of informed decision making, which include explaining the pros and cons of each option, describing the alternatives, and making sure the patient understands these options.93

Unfortunately, when it came to colon cancer screening, in most cases, the doctors and nurse practitioners studied communicated none of this vital information, zero out of nine elements.94 As an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association put it: “There are too many probabilities and uncertainties for patients to consider and too little time for clinicians to discuss them with patients.”95 So doctors tend to just make up patients’ minds for them. What do they choose? A National Cancer Institute–funded survey of more than one thousand physicians found that nearly all doctors (94.8 percent) recommended a colonoscopy.96 Why do doctors push colonoscopies in the United States when most of the rest of the world appears to prefer noninvasive alternatives?97 It may be because most doctors in the rest of the world don’t get paid by procedure.98 As one U.S. gastroenterologist put it, “Colonoscopy … is the goose that has laid the golden egg.”99

An exposé in the New York Times on spiraling health care costs noted that in many other developed countries, colonoscopies cost just a few hundred dollars. In the United States? The procedure may cost thousands, which the journalists concluded has less to do with providing top-notch medical care and more with business plans aimed at maximizing revenue, marketing, and lobbying.100 Who’s in charge of setting the prices? The American Medical Association. A Washington Post investigation exposed that each year, a secretive AMA committee determines billing standards for common procedures. The result is gross overestimates for the time it takes to perform common services like colonoscopies. As the Post pointed out, if AMA standards are to be believed, some doctors would have to work more than twenty-four hours a day to perform all the procedures they report to Medicare and private insurers. Is it any wonder that gastroenterologists bank nearly $500,000 per year?101

But why would your family doctor or internist push the procedure if they’re not the ones doing it? Many doctors who refer their patients to gastroenterologists receive what are essentially financial kickbacks. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported on this practice of so-called self-referrals, a scheme where providers refer patients to entities in which they have a financial interest. The GAO estimated that doctors make nearly a million more referrals every year than they would have if they were not personally profiting.102

What to Take Before a Colonoscopy

Ever popped one of those breath mints after a big meal at a restaurant? Peppermint doesn’t just make your breath smell better; it also helps to reduce the gastrocolic reflex—the urge to defecate following a meal. Nerves in your stomach stretch after eating, which triggers spasms in the colon to enable your body to make room for more food coming down the pike. Peppermint can reduce these spasms by relaxing the muscles that line your colon.103

What does this have to do with colonoscopies? If you take circular strips of human colons removed during surgery and lay them on a table, they spontaneously contract about three times per minute. Isn’t that kind of creepy? But if you drip menthol (found in peppermint) onto the colon strips, the strength of the contractions diminishes significantly.104 During a colonoscopy, such spasms can hinder the progress of the scope and cause the patient discomfort. By relaxing colon muscles, peppermint can make the procedure easier for both doctor and patient.

Doctors have experimented with spraying peppermint oil from the tip of the colonoscope,105 as well as using a hand pump to flood the colon with a peppermint solution prior to the procedure.106 The simplest solution might be the best, though: asking the patient to swallow peppermint oil capsules. Premedicating with eight drops’ worth of peppermint essential oil four hours before a colonoscopy was found to significantly reduce colon spasms, patient pain, and make the scope easier to insert and withdraw compared with a placebo.107

If you do need a colonoscopy, ask your doctor about using this simple plant remedy. It might make it easier on both of you.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2019 at 1:13 pm

How climate change and disease helped the fall of Rome

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Kyle Harper, professor of classics and letters and senior vice president and provost at the University of Oklahoma, has in Aeon an extract from his latest book is The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire (2017):

At some time or another, every historian of Rome has been asked to say where we are, today, on Rome’s cycle of decline. Historians might squirm at such attempts to use the past but, even if history does not repeat itself, nor come packaged into moral lessons, it can deepen our sense of what it means to be human and how fragile our societies are.

In the middle of the second century, the Romans controlled a huge, geographically diverse part of the globe, from northern Britain to the edges of the Sahara, from the Atlantic to Mesopotamia. The generally prosperous population peaked at 75 million. Eventually, all free inhabitants of the empire came to enjoy the rights of Roman citizenship. Little wonder that the 18th-century English historian Edward Gibbon judged this age the ‘most happy’ in the history of our species – yet today we are more likely to see the advance of Roman civilisation as unwittingly planting the seeds of its own demise.

Five centuries later, the Roman empire was a small Byzantine rump-state controlled from Constantinople, its near-eastern provinces lost to Islamic invasions, its western lands covered by a patchwork of Germanic kingdoms. Trade receded, cities shrank, and technological advance halted. Despite the cultural vitality and spiritual legacy of these centuries, this period was marked by a declining population, political fragmentation, and lower levels of material complexity. When the historian Ian Morris at Stanford University created a universal social-development index, the fall of Rome emerged as the greatest setback in the history of human civilisation.

Explanations for a phenomenon of this magnitude abound: in 1984, the German classicist Alexander Demandt catalogued more than 200 hypotheses. Most scholars have looked to the internal political dynamics of the imperial system or the shifting geopolitical context of an empire whose neighbours gradually caught up in the sophistication of their military and political technologies. But new evidence has started to unveil the crucial role played by changes in the natural environment. The paradoxes of social development, and the inherent unpredictability of nature, worked in concert to bring about Rome’s demise.

Climate change did not begin with the exhaust fumes of industrialisation, but has been a permanent feature of human existence. Orbital mechanics (small variations in the tilt, spin and eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit) and solar cycles alter the amount and distribution of energy received from the Sun. And volcanic eruptions spew reflective sulphates into the atmosphere, sometimes with long-reaching effects. Modern, anthropogenic climate change is so perilous because it is happening quickly and in conjunction with so many other irreversible changes in the Earth’s biosphere. But climate change per se is nothing new.

The need to understand the natural context of modern climate change has been an unmitigated boon for historians. Earth scientists have scoured the planet for paleoclimate proxies, natural archives of the past environment. The effort to put climate change in the foreground of Roman history is motivated both by troves of new data and a heightened sensitivity to the importance of the physical environment. It turns out that climate had a major role in the rise and fall of Roman civilisation. The empire-builders benefitted from impeccable timing: the characteristic warm, wet and stable weather was conducive to economic productivity in an agrarian society. The benefits of economic growth supported the political and social bargains by which the Roman empire controlled its vast territory. The favourable climate, in ways subtle and profound, was baked into the empire’s innermost structure.

The end of this lucky climate regime did not immediately, or in any simple deterministic sense, spell the doom of Rome. Rather, a less favourable climate undermined its power just when the empire was imperilled by more dangerous enemies – Germans, Persians – from without. Climate instability peaked in the sixth century, during the reign of Justinian. Work by dendro-chronologists and ice-core experts points to an enormous spasm of volcanic activity in the 530s and 540s CE, unlike anything else in the past few thousand years. This violent sequence of eruptions triggered what is now called the ‘Late Antique Little Ice Age’, when much colder temperatures endured for at least 150 years. This phase of climate deterioration had decisive effects in Rome’s unravelling. It was also intimately linked to a catastrophe of even greater moment: the outbreak of the first pandemic of bubonic plague.

Disruptions in the biological environment were even more consequential to Rome’s destiny. For all the empire’s precocious advances, life expectancies ranged in the mid-20s, with infectious diseases the leading cause of death. But the array of diseases that preyed upon Romans was not static and, here too, new sensibilities and technologies are radically changing the way we understand the dynamics of evolutionary history – both for our own species, and for our microbial allies and adversaries.

The highly urbanised, highly interconnected Roman empire was a boon to its microbial inhabitants. Humble gastro-enteric diseases such as Shigellosis and paratyphoid fevers spread via contamination of food and water, and flourished in densely packed cities. Where swamps were drained and highways laid, the potential of malaria was unlocked in its worst form – Plasmodium falciparum – a deadly mosquito-borne protozoon. The Romans also connected societies by land and by sea as never before, with the unintended consequence that germs moved as never before, too. Slow killers such as tuberculosis and leprosy enjoyed a heyday in the web of interconnected cities fostered by Roman development.

However, the decisive factor in Rome’s biological history was the arrival of new germs capable of causing pandemic events. The empire was rocked by three such intercontinental disease events. The Antonine plague coincided with the end of the optimal climate regime, and was probably the global debut of the smallpox virus. The empire recovered, but never regained its previous commanding dominance. Then, in the mid-third century, a mysterious affliction of unknown origin called the Plague of Cyprian sent the empire into a tailspin. Though it rebounded, the empire was profoundly altered – with a new kind of emperor, a new kind of money, a new kind of society, and soon a new religion known as Christianity. Most dramatically, in the sixth century a resurgent empire led by Justinian faced a pandemic of bubonic plague, a prelude to the medieval Black Death. The toll was unfathomable – maybe half the population was felled.

The plague of Justinian is a case study in the extraordinarily complex relationship between human and natural systems. The culprit, the Yersinia pestis bacterium, is not a particularly ancient nemesis; evolving just 4,000 years ago, almost certainly in central Asia, it was an evolutionary newborn when it caused the first plague pandemic. The disease is permanently present in colonies of social, burrowing rodents such as marmots or gerbils. However, the historic plague pandemics were colossal accidents, spillover events involving at least five different species: the bacterium, the reservoir rodent, the amplification host (the black rat, which lives close to humans), the fleas that spread the germ, and the people caught in the crossfire.

Genetic evidence suggests that the strain of Yersinia pestis that generated the plague of Justinian originated somewhere near western China. It first appeared on the southern shores of the Mediterranean and, in all likelihood, was smuggled in along the southern, seaborne trading networks that carried silk and spices to Roman consumers. It was an accident of early globalisation. Once the germ reached the seething colonies of commensal rodents, fattened on the empire’s giant stores of grain, the mortality was unstoppable.

The plague pandemic was an event of astonishing ecological complexity. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2019 at 10:10 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

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Brazil Nuts for Cholesterol Control?

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Again from How Not to Die, Chapter 1, page 30:

Can a single serving of Brazil nuts bring down your cholesterol levels faster than statin drugs and keep them down even a month after that single meal?

It was one of the craziest findings I’d ever seen. Researchers from—where else?—Brazil gave ten men and women a single meal containing between one and eight Brazil nuts. Amazingly, compared to the control group who ate no nuts at all, just a single serving of four Brazil nuts almost immediately improved cholesterol levels. LDL—the “bad”—cholesterol levels were a staggering twenty points lower just nine hours after eating the Brazil nuts.51 Even drugs don’t work nearly that fast.52

Here’s the truly insane part: The researchers went back and measured the study participants’ cholesterol thirty days later. Even a month after ingesting a single serving of Brazil nuts, their cholesterol levels stayed down.

Normally, when a study comes out in the medical literature showing some too-good-to-be-true result like this, doctors wait to see the results replicated before they change their clinical practice and begin recommending something new to their patients, particularly when the study is done on only ten subjects, and especially when the findings seem too incredible to believe. But when the intervention is cheap, easy, harmless, and healthy—we’re talking just four Brazil nuts per month—then in my opinion, the burden of proof is somewhat reversed. I think the reasonable default position is to do it until proven otherwise.

More is not better, however. Brazil nuts are so high in the mineral selenium that eating four every day may actually bump you up against the tolerable daily limit for selenium. Nevertheless, this is not something you have to worry about if you’re only eating four Brazil nuts a month.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2019 at 8:40 am

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