Later On

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

Archive for September 12th, 2022

Diet can influence mood, behavior and more – a neuroscientist explains

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Monica Dus, Associate Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan, writes in The Conversation:

During the long seafaring voyages of the 15th and 16th centuries, a period known as the Age of Discovery, sailors reported experiencing visions of sublime foods and verdant fields. The discovery that these were nothing more than hallucinations after months at sea was agonizing. Some sailors wept in longing; others threw themselves overboard.

The cure for these harrowing mirages turned out to be not a concoction of complex chemicals, as once suspected, but rather the simple antidote of lemon juice. These sailors suffered from scurvy, a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C, an essential micronutrient that people acquire from eating fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin C is important for the production and release of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers of the brain. In its absence, brain cells do not communicate effectively with one another, which can lead to hallucinations.

As this famous example of early explorers illustrates, there is an intimate connection between food and the brain, one that researchers like me are working to unravel. As a scientist who studies the neuroscience of nutrition at the University of Michigan, I am primarily interested in how components of food and their breakdown products can alter the genetic instructions that control our physiology.

Beyond that, my research is also focused on understanding how food can influence our thoughts, moods and behaviors. While we can’t yet prevent or treat brain conditions with diet, researchers like me are learning a great deal about the role that nutrition plays in the everyday brain processes that make us who we are.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a delicate balance of nutrients is key for brain health: Deficiencies or excesses in vitamins, sugars, fats and amino acids can influence brain and behavior in either negative or positive ways.

Vitamins and mineral deficiencies

As with vitamin C, deficits in other vitamins and minerals can also precipitate nutritional diseases that adversely impact the brain in humans. For example, low dietary levels of vitamin B3/niacin – typically found in meat and fish – cause pellagra, a disease in which people develop dementia.

Niacin is essential to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2022 at 5:33 pm

Smoky Maple Tempeh Marinade

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While I was walking, I got to thinking about dinner and decided I wanted to marinate my tempeh before I used it in a stir fry, so I did a search and found this one (a couple of adjustments made in the version below):

Smoky Maple Tempeh Marinade

• 1/4 cup tamari (or soy sauce)
• 2 tbsp maple syrup
• 1 tsp liquid smoke
• 1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
• 1/4 tsp black pepper
• 1 garlic clove, crushed

  1. … Add all the ingredients into a bowl and stir until combined. Alternatively, add all the ingredients into an air-tight jar and shake until combined. You can either store the marinade in the refrigerator or freezer as is or marinate the tempeh (steps below).
  2. Pour marinade over tempeh in a freezer-safe container or bag and toss until tempeh is fully coated in the marinade. Each marinade is enough for 8 ounces of tempeh.
  3. Immediate Use: Refrigerate and let the tempeh marinate for at least 30 minutes (preferably overnight).
  4. Freezing: Transfer the marinated tempeh to the freezer and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to cook, place the frozen marinated tempeh in the refrigerator overnight or until completely thawed. Alternatively, place the tempeh in a bowl of hot water and change water as it cools until thawed. Now the tempeh is ready to be cooked!

I cut off a chunk of my red-kidney-bean-and-millets tempeh that weighed 7.9 oz. (Good eye, eh?) I diced it bite-size put it in a Glasslock storage container, and poured the marinade over, snapped the lid in place, and gave it a shake. It will marinate a total of two hours, and then I’ll make my stir-fry.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2022 at 3:00 pm

Johnson & Johnson and a New War on Consumer Protection

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Corporations are deemed by law to be persons, but they are very sleazy persons, not to be trusted (though Johnson & Johnson has claimed to be trustworthy — a scam). Casey Cep shows the degree to which J&J are to be trusted (zero degrees) in a New Yorker article (no paywall for archived article):

God gives you only one body, Deane Berg always said, so you’d better take care of the one you’ve got. A physician assistant at the veterans’ hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, she knew that spotting between periods wasn’t unusual for a forty-nine-year-old woman, but she went to the doctor anyway. Her two daughters had already lost their father to lung cancer, so Berg wanted to stick around.

Just perimenopause, the doctor concluded after a cursory examination. Probably a blood clot, the nurse practitioner told her when a subsequent ultrasound showed something on an ovary. “It’s not going to be cancer,” the gynecological surgeon said before removing both ovaries on the day after Christmas in 2006. But, when Berg went for her follow-up, she read the words on the pathology report before the surgeon had a chance to break the news: serous carcinoma. She cried, and the surgeon did, too. She would now need a full hysterectomy, chemotherapy, and a great deal of luck. Every year, around twenty thousand women are given a diagnosis of ovarian cancer in the United States, and more than half that many will die of the disease.

Berg told herself that twenty-six years of caring for patients might help her get through the treatments ahead. But her experience with veterans’ port-a-caths did not make it any less painful to have them implanted in her own abdomen and chest; nausea and headaches were no more manageable because she’d counselled others through them. And nothing prepares a person for losing her hair and much of her hearing or developing nerve damage in her hands and feet or having her teeth crack from chemo. Weak and immunocompromised, Berg left her job at the hospital, which meant she had more time to study the handouts about ovarian cancer that nurses had given her when she was diagnosed.

One of those pamphlets was distributed by Gilda’s Club, a group founded by friends of the comedian Gilda Radner, who died of the disease in 1989, when she was only forty-two. The pamphlet included a list of risk factors, which Berg went through one by one. No, she didn’t have a family history of reproductive cancer; no, she hadn’t struggled with infertility and had never used fertility drugs; no, she had never had cancer before; no, she had never had an unhealthy diet or been overweight. Then she came to a section about talcum powder. After reading it, she went to look at the big container of Johnson & Johnson body powder she kept in her bathroom to use after daily showers and the little bottle of Johnson & Johnson baby powder she took with her whenever she travelled. Both listed talc as an ingredient.

Berg immediately posted a message on the forum of the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, asking if any other women thought their cancer might have been caused by talcum powder. Only two people replied. The first was a cancer researcher in Illinois who had been trying for more than a decade to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to warn American customers that talc could be a carcinogen. The second was R. Allen Smith, Jr., an attorney in Mississippi. He was interested in talking to her about a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson; she wasn’t convinced he was a real lawyer.

Smith did in fact practice law, and, years before, his father, a doctor, had tipped him off to a contentious debate over the safety of talc—one that continues to this day. A study published in 2020 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which pooled data from four earlier long-term observational studies and involved a quarter of a million women, found no statistically significant link between talc and ovarian cancer. But, as its authors noted, the underlying studies did not always distinguish between powders that contained talc and those which did not, and were not consistent in asking participants how often or for how long they’d powdered themselves. Many other studies, meanwhile, found a significantly increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who used talc for feminine hygiene—in their underwear, on their sanitary napkins, for storing their diaphragms.

Determining the etiology of diseases is difficult, especially when it comes to cancers, which often have long latency periods and multifactorial causes. But the evidence against talc had grown substantial enough by the time Berg was diagnosed that many U.S. manufacturers, including the makers of crayons, condoms, and surgical gloves, had erred on the side of caution and stopped using it in their products. Why hadn’t Johnson & Johnson done the same, when an alternative, cornstarch, was cheap, abundant, and safer?

Johnson & Johnson is one of America’s most trusted companies, and as Berg moved through her cycles of chemotherapy she kept thinking about a slogan for its body powder: “A sprinkle a day helps keep odor away.” For more than thirty years, she had taken that advice, applying the powder between her legs to prevent chafing. But that powder wasn’t like her chemo drugs: their side effects were awful, but they were keeping her alive. The powder felt, instead, like an unnecessary gamble, one she thought other people should be warned about.

All along, Berg had worried about her daughters—not only how they’d fare if she died but whether her diagnosis meant they had a greater inherited risk of cancer. In 2007, to find out, she underwent genetic testing and learned that she had neither of the two main mutations that increase the odds of developing reproductive cancers. Two years later, she had her ovarian tissue tested, and the pathologist found talc in one ovary. Shortly afterward, with her cancer in remission, she decided to sue, in what became the first baby-powder lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson to ever make it to trial.

Almost every American, from nursery to deathbed, uses Johnson & Johnson products: baby shampoo, Band-Aids, Neosporin, Rogaine, and O.B. tampons; Tylenol, Imodium, Motrin, and Zyrtec; Listerine mouthwash and Nicorette gum; Aveeno lotion and Neutrogena cleanser; catheters and stents for the heart; balloons for dilating the ear, nose, and throat; hemostats and staples; ankle, hip, shoulder, and knee replacements; breast implants; Acuvue contact lenses. But what few of those consumers grasped until a series of baby-powder cases began to go to trial was that, for decades, the company had known that its powders could contain asbestos, among the world’s deadliest carcinogens. . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2022 at 2:30 pm

Rise in deaths spurs effort to raise alcohol taxes

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Ted Alcorn has an interesting report in the Boston Globe (no paywall for archived report):

Oregon is a drinker’s paradise. The state boasts more craft distilleries than Kentucky and is second only to California in the number of wineries. Some call Portland, Ore., “beervana” for its bevy of breweries.

But Oregon also has among the highest prevalence of problem drinking in the country. Last year, 2,153 residents died of causes attributed to alcohol, according to the Oregon Health Authority — more than twice the number of people killed by methamphetamines, heroin, and fentanyl combined.

Sonja Grove, a retiree in Portland whose adult son drank himself to death in April 2020, feels the toll is overlooked compared with those of other drugs. “Alcoholism has sort of taken a back seat.”

In 2021, confronted by these conflicting trends, as the pandemic raged on, Oregon lawmakers made it easier to drink. They permanently legalized the sale of to-go cocktails, which the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States called a “lifeline,” and increased the number of cases that wineries could ship directly to consumers.

Reginald Richardson, director of the state’s Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission, described the policies as incongruent. “We obviously want to create an environment that’s probusiness, that helps the state to develop, but we’ve got this other thing,” he said.

That disconnect is typical: Before COVID-19 lockdowns, no state permitted bars or restaurants to deliver liquor to customers at home, according to a trade association. Now, 28 have relaxed the rules.

In contrast, policies that experts consider most effective at curbing excessive drinking have been ignored. For example, even as alcohol-related deaths soared to record highs in the past few years, alcohol taxes have fallen to the lowest rates in a generation.

Americans drank more during the pandemic, but national data on the change have only recently become available. Alcohol tax revenues collected by the Treasury Department rose by 8 percent in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2021, compared with the previous year, and remain well above prepandemic levels.

Deaths caused by drinking also rose during the pandemic, spiking 25 percent in 2020 over the previous year. But the deaths — which have topped 140,000 nationwide — have been rising for decades in every state. Few places have seen a greater uptick than Oregon, where the rate of alcohol-induced deaths grew 2.5 times from 1999 to 2020, after adjusting for the state’s changing age distribution.

Grove’s only son, Jonathon, had begun drinking excessively in college, she said, but managed to work as a pharmacy tech for years at Oregon Health Sciences University despite his worsening addiction. Cheap beer and white wine were his weaknesses. “He always thought that he wasn’t drinking hard alcohol, so he wasn’t really an alcoholic,” Grove said. He died in a cheap hotel, surrounded by empty cans and containers.

Various studies in recent years have suggested that  . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2022 at 1:18 pm

Expanded Safety Net Drives Sharp Drop in the Number of Children Who Live in Poverty

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Jason DeParle has an interesting report (gift link, no paywall) in the NY Times:

For a generation or more, America’s high levels of child poverty set it apart from other rich nations, leaving millions of young people lacking support as basic as food and shelter amid mounting evidence that early hardship leaves children poorer, sicker and less educated as adults.

But with little public notice and accelerating speed, America’s children have become much less poor.

A comprehensive new analysis shows that child poverty has fallen 59 percent since 1993, with need receding on nearly every front. Child poverty has fallen in every state, and it has fallen by about the same degree among children who are white, Black, Hispanic and Asian, living with one parent or two, and in native or immigrant households. Deep poverty, a form of especially severe deprivation, has fallen nearly as much.

In 1993, nearly 28 percent of children were poor, meaning their households lacked the income the government deemed necessary to meet basic needs. By 2019, before temporary pandemic aid drove it even lower, child poverty had fallen to about 11 percent.

More than eight million children remained in poverty, and despite shared progress, Black and Latino children are about three times as likely as white children to be poor. With the poverty line low (about $29,000 for a family of four in a place with typical living costs), many families who escape poverty in the statistical sense still experience hardship.

Still, the sharp retreat of child poverty represents major progress and has drawn surprisingly little notice, even among policy experts.

It has coincided with profound changes to the safety net, which at once became more stringent and more generous. Starting in the 1990s, tough welfare laws shrank cash aid to parents without jobs. But other subsidies grew, especially for working families, and total federal spending on low-income children roughly doubled.

To examine the drop in child poverty, The New York Times collaborated with Child Trends, a nonpartisan research group with an expertise in statistical analysis. The joint project relied on the data the Census Bureau uses to calculate poverty rates but examined it over more years and in greater demographic detail.

The analysis found that . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall) 

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2022 at 1:04 pm

Taking mycelium growing to the next level

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Chuchu Huang is a fermentation scientist at Mycorena in Gothenburg, Sweden. Credit: Francesco Rucci and Francesco Marinelli/contrasto


As readers know, I grow mycelium myself, which I harvest to serve as a food. (I’ll have some tonight for dinner.) However, my incubator looks nothing like the one above. Linda Nordling writes in Nature:

I work for Mycorena, a biotechnology company that grows fungus-based vegan protein. We launched in 2017 and are based in Gothenburg, Sweden. The mycoprotein we grow can be used to manufacture a variety of products, from vegan leather to animal feed and meat substitutes. Our food product, Promyc, is already available in Swedish shops and restaurants, and we are collaborating with companies that will sell it elsewhere in the European Union.

As a fermentation scientist, I develop and optimize the company’s procedures for growing mycoprotein in big vats called bioreactors. In this picture, I’m studying a desktop version of the process. I can vary the bioreactor’s parameters by using different nutrients, changing the stirring speed to regulate the airflow or adjusting the pH, for example.

Our product looks nothing like the mushrooms in a forest. We grow mycelium, the microscopic filaments from which such mushrooms grow. The mycelium is fibrous, like animal muscles, and its neutral taste means that you can add any flavour you like. Food protein grown in this way produces fewer carbon emissions than does conventional meat production, while still providing abundant nutrients.

I have studied fungi for many years. I earned my PhD at the University of Copenhagen last year, studying how different microorganisms interact. Fungi are amazing. With some . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2022 at 11:52 am

In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Are Flush With Public Money

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Hasidic schools seem to have embraced a deliberate strategy of using “education” to keep students ignorant to protect the power of their established religion. The report (gift link, no paywall) is by Eliza Shapiro and Brian M. Rosenthal, with photographs by Jonah Markowitz, and appears in the NY Times

The Hasidic Jewish community has long operated one of New York’s largest private schools on its own terms, resisting any outside scrutiny of how its students are faring.

But in 2019, the school, the Central United Talmudical Academy, agreed to give state standardized tests in reading and math to more than 1,000 students.

Every one of them failed.

Students at nearly a dozen other schools run by the Hasidic community recorded similarly dismal outcomes that year, a pattern that under ordinary circumstances would signal an education system in crisis. But where other schools might be struggling because of underfunding or mismanagement, these schools are different. They are failing by design.

The leaders of New York’s Hasidic community have built scores of private schools to educate children in Jewish law, prayer and tradition — and to wall them off from the secular world. Offering little English and math, and virtually no science or history, they drill students relentlessly, sometimes brutally, during hours of religious lessons conducted in Yiddish.

The result, a New York Times investigation has found, is that generations of children have been systematically denied a basic education, trapping many of them in a cycle of joblessness and dependency.

Segregated by gender, the Hasidic system fails most starkly in its more than 100 schools for boys. Spread across Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley, the schools turn out thousands of students each year who are unprepared to navigate the outside world, helping to push poverty rates in Hasidic neighborhoods to some of the highest in New York.

The schools appear to be operating in violation of state laws that guarantee children an adequate education. Even so, The Times found, the Hasidic boys’ schools have found ways of tapping into enormous sums of government money, collecting more than $1 billion in the past four years alone.

Warned about the problems over the years, city and state officials have avoided taking action, bowing to the influence of Hasidic leaders who push their followers to vote as a bloc and have made safeguarding the schools their top political priority.

“I don’t know how to put into words how frustrating it is,” said Moishy Klein, who recently left the community after realizing it had not taught him basic grammar, let alone the skills needed to find a decent job. “I thought, ‘It’s crazy that I’m literally not learning anything. It’s crazy that I’m 20 years old, I don’t know any higher order math, never learned any science.’”

To examine the Hasidic schools, The Times reviewed thousands of pages of public records, translated dozens of Yiddish-language documents and interviewed more than 275 people, including current and former students, teachers, administrators and regulators.

The review provided a rare look inside a group of schools that is keeping some 50,000 boys from learning a broad array of secular subjects.

The students in the boys’ schools are not simply falling behind. They are suffering from levels of educational deprivation not seen anywhere else in New York, The Times found. Only nine schools in the state had less than 1 percent of students testing at grade level in 2019, the last year for which full data was available. All of them were Hasidic boys’ schools. . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall) 

The deliberate de-educating of children strikes me as criminal, a plan devised by fanatical radical zealotry such as we see also in the Taliban and certain Evangelical Christian organizations. We also an abject abdication of responsibility and repudiation of duty by the officials who the state empowered to ensure that children receive a good education. Failure abounds in this situation.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2022 at 11:17 am

A Virtual Museum Trip Can Improve Your Physical, Mental, and Social Health

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SciTechDaily reports an interesting finding:

Scientists have known for a long time that social isolation is linked to a variety of health issues, such as an increased risk for heart disease and stroke, as well as mental deterioration and even early mortality. Because they are more prone to be socially isolated and lonely, older adults are particularly vulnerable. The coronavirus pandemic worsened the situation by requiring social distancing, particularly to preserve the health of the world’s senior population.

However, when paired with interactive art-based activities, the same digital technology that let workers connect remotely might help older adults become more physically, mentally, and socially healthy. This is the conclusion of a recent study, which is the first to show how trips to virtual museums may considerably improve the quality of life for elderly people who are confined to their homes. The researchers’ findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

Researchers from Canada and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) collaborated to look at the advantages of conducting weekly virtual visits over the course of three months. 106 Montreal metro area residents 65 and older were recruited for the research. One guided tour each week was attended by half of the participants, whereas no cultural activities were taken part in by the control group over the same time period.

Art improves life

The intervention group showed significant improvements in their social isolation, well-being, quality of life, and frailty assessment scores when compared to the control group, according to the paper.

“Our study showed that art-based activity may be an effective intervention,” said lead author Dr. Olivier Beauchet, a professor at the University of Montreal. “On a global scale, this participatory art-based activity could become a model that could be offered in museums and art institutions worldwide to promote active and healthy aging.”

The biggest benefit of the 45-minute virtual museum tours, which also included a 15-minute Q&A at the end with a museum guide, was an improvement in frailty.

Frailty refers to a “vulnerable condition exposing individuals to incident adverse health events and disabilities that negatively impact their quality of life and increase health and social costs,” Beauchet explained. “Health and social systems need to address the challenge of limiting frailty and its related adverse consequences in the aging population.”

A creative way to improve health

The new study is an extension of previous research that investigated the potential health benefits of an ongoing MMFA program for seniors called “Thursdays at the Museum.” Findings from the single-arm pilot study in 2018 indicated that art-based activities hosted by the museum can improve well-being, quality of life, and health in older adults.

In fact, the success of the pilot study led to a three-year multinational study to test the effectiveness of such art-based interventions across societies and cultures. In addition, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2022 at 10:32 am

A week of shave sticks begins with seeing what happens when using an Omega Pro 48

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I have in the past avoided using my Omega Pro 48 when I’m using a shave stick because I feared that my stubble would not scrape from the stick a sufficient amount of soap to load the brush. But after Saturday’s shave, where my experiment in using a very small amount of Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave had such a happy outcome, I felt more willing to expermient.

So again I used a deci-smidgen of Moisturizing Pre-Shave on my wet stubble, than I rubbed the D.R. Harris Lavender shave stick against the grain — and thoroughly — all over my face. I reheated the soaked knot of the Pro 48 by holding it under the hot water tap briefly, shook it out well until it was but damp, and brushed the stubble briskly.

The brush did begin to load and then to generate lather, which made loading easier. I added a tiny driblet of water to brush and continued loading and working up the lather. One more addition of water, and by golly, the thing worked — the brush was fully loaded and the lather had that fine D.R. Harris quality. 

So again: live and learn. My fears, as often is the case, proved groundless. Experience is a good teacher, gently correcting mistaken ideas. (Sometimes not so gently, I’ll admit.)

I set to work with my iKon Shavecraft X3 slant, which here is mounted on the RazoRock Barber Pole handle. Three passes completely smooth my face, and then a splash of D.R. Harris Marlborough aftershave with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel finished the job. I had not noticed, BTW, that, of the two D.R. Harris shave sticks I have, I had picked up Lavender. I had thought it was the Marlborough shave stick, thus the choice of aftershave.

The tea this morning is Mark T. Wendells Pu-erh Tou Cha: “Maintaining the Pu-erh tradition of being sold in various shapes and sizes, this selection has been compressed into small nest shapes, often referred to as tuo cha. We have found that each Yunnan black tuo cha tea piece will make approximately 16 ounces of hot tea. When brewed, Pu-erh tuo cha tea yields a dark, full-bodied brew that has a unique damp and earthy aroma taste. It retains its flavor through several infusions very well.”

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2022 at 9:13 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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