Later On

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

Archive for September 20th, 2022

The best foods to feed your gut microbiome

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It’s important to feed your gut microbiome good food because it feeds you. This Washington Post article (no paywall) by Anahad O’Connor provides a good summary of current knowledge.

Every time you eat, you are feeding trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live inside your gut. But are you feeding them the right foods?

Scientists used to know very little about these communities of microbes that collectively make up the gut microbiota, also known as your gut microbiome. But a growing body of research suggests that these vast communities of microbes are the gateway to your health and well-being — and that one of the simplest and most powerful ways to shape and nurture them is through your diet.

Studies show that our gut microbes transform the foods we eat into thousands of enzymes, hormones, vitamins and other metabolites that influence everything from your mental health and immune system to your likelihood of gaining weight and developing chronic diseases.

Gut bacteria can even affect your mental state by producing mood-altering neurotransmitters like dopamine, which regulates pleasure, learning and motivation, and serotonin, which plays a role in happiness, appetite and sexual desire. Some recent studies suggest that the composition of your gut microbiome can even play a role in how well you sleep.

But the wrong mix of microbes can churn out chemicals that flood your bloodstream and build plaque in your coronary arteries. The hormones they produce can influence your appetite, blood sugar levels, inflammation and your risk of developing obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

The foods that you eat — along with your environment and your lifestyle behaviors — appear to play a much larger role in shaping your gut microbiome than genetics. In fact, genes have a surprisingly small effect. Studies show that even identical twins share just one third of the same gut microbes.

Your ‘good’ microbes feast on fiber and variety

In general, scientists have found that the more diverse your diet, the more diverse your gut microbiome. Studies show that a high level of microbiome diversity correlates with good health and that low diversity is linked to higher rates of weight gain and obesity, diabetesrheumatoid arthritis and other chronic diseases.

Eating a wide variety of fiber-rich plants and nutrient-dense foods seems to be especially beneficial, said Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and the founder of the British Gut Project, a crowdsourced effort to map thousands of individual microbiomes.

Even if you already eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, Spector advises increasing the variety of plant foods you eat each week. One fast way to do this is to start using more herbs and spices. You can use a variety of leafy greens rather than one type of lettuce for your salads. Adding a variety of fruits to your breakfast, adding several different vegetables to your stir fry and eating more nuts, seeds, beans and grains is good for your microbiome. [See the Daily Dozen and Heber’s palette of colorful foods. – LG]

These plant foods contain soluble fiber that passes through much of your gastrointestinal tract largely unaffected until it reaches the large intestine. There, gut microbes feast on it, metabolizing and converting the fiber into beneficial compounds such as short chain fatty acids, which can lower inflammation and help to regulate your appetite and blood sugar levels.

In one study scientists followed more than 1,600 people for about a decade. They found that people who had the highest levels of microbial diversity also consumed higher levels of fiber. And they even gained less weight over the 10-year study, which was published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Clusters of ‘bad’ microbes thrive on junk food

Another important measure of gut health is a person’s ratio of beneficial microbes to potentially harmful ones. In a study of 1,100 people in the United States and Britain published last year in Nature Medicine, Spector and a team of scientists at Harvard, Stanford and other universities identified clusters of “good” gut microbes that protected people against cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. They also identified clusters of “bad” microbes that promoted inflammation, heart disease and poor metabolic health.

While it’s clear that eating lots of fiber is good for your microbiome, research shows that eating the wrong foods can tip the balance in your gut in favor of disease-promoting microbes.

The Nature study found that “bad” microbes were more common in people who ate a lot of highly processed foods that are low in fiber and high in additives such as sugar, salt and artificial ingredients. This includes soft drinks, white bread and white pasta, processed meats, and packaged snacks like cookies, candy bars and potato chips.

The findings were based on an ongoing project called the Zoe Predict Study, the largest personalized nutrition study in the world. It’s led by . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

20 September 2022 at 5:41 pm

Why Bill Barr Turned on Trump

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A very interesting article (no paywall) by Donald Ayer in the Atlantic that explains a lot about Bill Barr and his actions. Ayer served as United States attorney and principal deputy solicitor general in the Reagan administration and as deputy attorney general under George H. W. Bush.

Bill Barr has received approving nods recently for finally publicly turning against his former boss, rejecting Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud in testimony before the January 6 committee and repeatedly condemning on Fox News both Trump’s theft of classified government documents and the bizarre court decision letting a special master consider Trump’s absurd claims. While some have noted that this recent turn does not make up for his gross mishandling of his office over the 22 months he served as attorney general, most people give Barr credit for his recent dalliance with the truth.

Credit for moving the public discussion closer to reality is one thing, but no one should think that Barr is having second thoughts about the awful things he did in office. To the contrary, Barr’s recent trashing of Trump in a manner likely to greatly impair his presidential prospects makes perfect sense when one understands the driving convictions and objectives that have guided him throughout his adult life.

Remember that Barr sought out the opportunity to serve as Trump’s attorney general by submitting a memorandum in June 2018, expanding upon his long-held, breathtaking vision that the Founders created an all-powerful president immune from virtually any limitation on his powers. Those views had occupied Barr’s mind since the 1980s. In the memo, Barr applied that vision to Trump’s then-current obsession, arguing that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was a wholly illegitimate intrusion on those powers.

The June 2018 memorandum shows Barr clamoring for Trump’s attention because Trump offered a unique opportunity to advance Barr’s decades-old objective of an autocratic president. Unlike any of Trump’s predecessors in whose administrations he served, and certainly unlike George H. W. Bush, Trump openly espoused the view that he could “do whatever [he] wanted as president.” Turning Trump into Barr’s ideal of the autocratic president required Trump’s reelection in 2020, and Barr aggressively pushed for changes in law that would largely block interference with the president’s actions.

The nature of those changes, and Barr’s determination to pursue them, were carefully spelled out in a major speech delivered to the Federalist Society on November 15, 2019, in which Barr argued that, contrary to “the grammar-school civics-class version” of the Founders’ government as one of checks and balances, the founding generation actually meant for the president to wield essentially unchecked authority.

Barr’s aggressiveness in defending Trump against those who would second-guess his actions is best known in connection with the lies he told about the Mueller report, while keeping the report itself under wraps so people could not see how inaccurate his statements were. His interventions in ongoing cases—including the criminal cases against Roger Stone and Michael Flynn—to substitute outcomes that were politically desirable for the president for those arrived at in routine course based on the facts and the law also drew widespread objections.

But the central goal laid out in the Federalist Society speech was the negation of the system of checks and balances long recognized as an integral part of our government. This included efforts to resist meaningful congressional oversight, up to and including Barr’s own personal refusal to appear on many occasions. It also included arguing vigorously in court to limit the power of the judiciary to review executive-branch actions. Barr’s Justice Department also worked to undermine Congress’s appropriation power, by litigating in support of the president’s right to divert funds for the border wall, which Congress had repeatedly refused to fund. And Barr was also an active participant in actions to remove officials—including U.S. attorneys and inspectors general—who did not dance to the tune that he and Trump were playing.

During 2020, Barr misused his official authority in many ways calculated to help Trump secure reelection. He sent law-enforcement officers to cities around the country to “suppress violent rioters and anarchists” who he said had “hijacked legitimate protests”—thus echoing Trump’s own calls for a crackdown. He oversaw the law-enforcement action to deny the right of peaceful protest in Lafayette Square so Trump could have a photo op at St. John’s Church. His department unsuccessfully attempted to enjoin the publication of former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s book, which disclosed facts embarrassing to the president.

Again sounding like Trump, Barr made multiple unsupported statements about the untrustworthiness of mail-in voting. He also talked at length—in violation of clear departmental policy to refrain from commenting about ongoing investigations—about supposed improprieties being unearthed by John Durham’s specially commissioned investigation of the FBI inquiry into Russian election interference. Barr echoed Trump’s tweets in interviews on . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

20 September 2022 at 2:42 pm

Walking progress — and Amazfit Band 5 discovery

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I would like to get my average speed back to where it was before the break: 3.5 mph. I’m getting there. 

The big discovery is how to get the Amazfit Band 5 to take more accurate readings of my heart rate. The original instructions said to place the Band 5 one finger-width above the wrist. That is the position where I got erratic readings. 

I got a note from Amazfit support that said to place the Band 5 two finger-widths above the wrist, and that is what I did today. Today my walk rate 37 PAI. Yesterday essentially the same walk (though 1.5 minutes slower) was 4 PAI.

Written by Leisureguy

20 September 2022 at 2:16 pm

A Rural Doctor Gave Her All. Then Her Heart Broke.

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The healthcare situation is getting worse. Oliver Whang has a sobering report (gift link, no paywall) in the NY Times:

CLAY, W.Va. — For most of her life, Dr. Kimberly Becher has moved fast. She was married at 21, started medical school with a 3-month-old and has trained for two marathons. In the halls of her clinic, between a bank and a Baptist church in Clay — the county seat of Clay County with a population of 396 — she walks fast, often looking down at her phone as she speeds around corners. She talks fast, too, organizing her staff and speaking crisply with a mountain accent.

But her aspect changes when she enters an exam room where a patient is waiting. She slows perceptibly, and the otherwise intense beam of her attention softens.

Recently, Dr. Becher, in bright pink scrubs, sat with Zane Wilkinson, 15, who had come in for a monthly checkup in the company of his mother, Julia Wilkinson. He wore a newsboy cap and a blue surgical mask; he has Behcet’s disease, a rare autoimmune disorder that, as Ms. Wilkinson described it, “is like having multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s, lupus, and arthritis in one bundle.” Zane had been on chemotherapy for five years with mixed results and had not attended school in person since before the pandemic. But the recent combination of drugs was working well, his mother told the doctor: “He’s almost back to being a normal boy.”

Dr. Becher made the diagnosis in 2017, after the family had spent years bouncing among doctors in confusion. (“They call her Dr. House, because she can figure out things nobody else can,” Ms. Wilkinson said of Dr. Becher.) The question in July was whether Zane could safely return to the classroom despite the risk of Covid-19.

“So, what do you think about school?” Ms. Wilkinson asked Dr. Becher.

The doctor tilted her head. “Well, I think you might be at a point where you have to consider the social benefits in addition to the health risks,” she said. “Like, I don’t want you to feel like you can’t have quality of life just because you might get Covid. You’ve got to live your life.” Zane and his mother nodded.

“Hoover over Clay?” Dr. Becher asked Zane, referring to two nearby high schools that he could attend, Clay County High School and Herbert Hoover High School. Ms. Wilkinson, who teaches at Hoover, laughed. “Would you like to talk about that?” she asked Zane.

“No, not really,” he said.

It was the first thing he had said during the visit, and all three of them laughed.

Dr. Becher has spent eight years as a family physician in Clay, working for Community Care of West Virginia, a federally qualified health center. West Virginia tops most national lists of poverty and poor health outcomes: the highest prevalence of obesity, coronary disease and diabetes; the fourth-highest poverty rate; the second-highest prevalence of depression; the shortest life expectancy. In Clay County, there is no public transportation, no stoplight, no hospital. Most residents live in a food desert. And as one of only two family doctors in the county, Dr. Becher has an all-encompassing job. She visits children in their living rooms to vaccinate them, organizes food drives and administers Suboxone to treat opioid addiction.

But as the political climate around Covid-19 grew heated, and as some of Dr. Becher’s patients and neighbors began to dismiss the science, she became frustrated, then angry. She began to run more, sometimes twice a day, for hours at a time, “raging down the road.” She was mad about the widespread distrust of vaccines; mad about teachers who went to school even after testing positive for the virus; mad about the endemic food insecurity, the county’s lack of affordable transportation, the high rate of fatty liver disease.

The indignities layered one atop the next, forming a suffocating stack. More than anything, Dr. Becher was mad at how she couldn’t seem to do anything about any of it. Some days she went home from work, chugged a beer and ran for miles. Then, on April 17, 2021, her heart broke.

In 1981, two psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, published a paper in the Journal of Occupational Behavior on “the burnout syndrome.” The authors, Christina Maslach and Susan E. Jackson, set out to measure the degree of . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

I think Covey was right to distinguish one’s circle of concern (things they are concerned about but do not control or influence) and their circle of influence (things they can control or at least influence). One’s own attitudes are well within their circle of influence. More here.

Written by Leisureguy

20 September 2022 at 12:35 pm

The Enduring Wisdom of ‘Goodnight Moon’

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In the NY Times, Elisabeth Egan has a nice essay (gift link, no paywall) on coming to understand Goodnight, Moon:

The first 25 times I read “Goodnight Moon,” I cried. Not in a dainty, tear-dabbing way; I’m talking Niagara waterworks, heaving sobs and a red nose.

My firstborn daughter was only a few days old, swaddled in a blanket printed with baleful teddy bears, when we made our first foray into the iconic picture book by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd. I’d been a mother for long enough to know how little I knew: My bathing and feeding skills were weak. My diapering experience was limited to Cabbage Patch Kids. The one-handed stroller collapse that would become my signature maneuver was a mirage shimmering beyond a desert of sleepless nights.

Reading was something I could do with aplomb, and I thought the experience would be soothing for all involved — including my husband, who was sweating over instructions for a bottle sterilizer that looked like R2-D2. I picked “Goodnight Moon” because I remembered how veteran parents had slapped their hands over their hearts when I unwrapped the slim hardcover at my baby shower. The vote was unanimous: “That one is the best.”

Except it wasn’t. The book was maudlin and depressing. It lacked the wild abandon of “Jamberry” and the wacky nonsense of “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket!” The lone red balloon made me feel like I was staring down a well, and the font reminded me of a standardized test. Plus, “Goodnight nobody?” It was a knife to the heart. By the time I arrived at “Goodnight noises everywhere,” I was mopping my face with the teddy bear blanket.

For the uninitiated, “Goodnight Moon” tells the story of a rabbit getting ready for bed, bidding adieu to a series of items in his bedroom: a little toy house and a young mouse, “a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush and a quiet old lady who was whispering ‘hush.’”

That lady, a mature-looking bunny, sits in a yellow rocking chair, knitting (garter-stitch, nothing fancy) while the little guy makes his rounds. Was she his mother? Grandmother? Babysitter? How could she just sit there? Shouldn’t she hug the little bunny, soothe him, assure him that she was there for him? He looks so sad, clutching his knees, marooned in a too-big bed. Then she exits the room, leaving him in the dark with nary a backward glance. Unconscionable!

My husband quietly lifted our daughter out of my arms, his face arranged in the patient expression he wore while helping his grandmother into a minivan.

Around the time my daughter started preschool,  . . ..

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall) 

Written by Leisureguy

20 September 2022 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

Why Women Are Stripey

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This is why testing prescription drugs only on men (which has been the practice) makes no sense.

Written by Leisureguy

20 September 2022 at 11:32 am

Posted in Medical, Science, Video

Very interesting video from the Guardian: How Steve Bannon’s far-right ‘Movement’ stalled in Europe

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Written by Leisureguy

20 September 2022 at 10:33 am

Gratifying news re: the Special Master and Trump’s theft of classified documents

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Jennifer Rubin writes in the Washington Post (no paywall):

Donald Trump and Federal Judge Aileen M. Cannon might end up regretting their selection of Raymond Dearie as the special master to undertake the review of classified papers retrieved from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago club. In fact, as Trump desperately attempts to delay a possible indictment, the Justice Department’s investigation into Trump seems to be gaining speed.

Things took a turn for the worse for Trump and Cannon when the no-nonsense Dearie demanded what Cannon failed to do: make Trump say under oath whether he had “declassified” any documents. That’s a problem for Trump. If he attests to something widely believed to be false (multiple former Trump officials have said there was no outstanding order to declassify documents), he risks criminal charges for lying. If he says he didn’t declassify them, the government’s classification system is final (worsening his liability for hoarding the documents).

Trump’s attorneys are refusing to answer Dearie’s questions about declassification for now, an astounding act of gamesmanship. Their defiance will only bring Dearie closer to the point of ruling that there is no dispute as to classification (contrary to Cannon’s assertion). Given the nature of the documents and the potential threat to national security their mishandling poses, it seems virtually impossible for Trump to sustain an executive privilege claim.

This should have been obvious to Cannon as well, but she chose to fob the decision off to Dearie, who — unless the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit beats him to the punch — will likely end Trump’s bogus attempt to recover top-secret documents that never belonged to him.

Trump’s team is also whining that Dearie is moving expeditiously with a final report due back to Cannon no later than Nov. 30. If Trump’s advisers were betting on Dearie dragging his feet, they seemed to have miscalculated.

In fact, Dearie might be the least of Trump’s new legal travails. The New York Times reports that . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

20 September 2022 at 10:15 am

Vikings Blade Chieftain and blade feel

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My RazoRock 400 brush easily raised a good lather from Mystic Water Sandalwood Rose. As I was enjoying the feel and fragrance of the lather, my mind drifted to a comment on Wirecutter from one :

I use regular bar soap and shave in the shower. No special soap or brush needed. Works fine. Plus most shaving soap is scented, which I HATE. (Why the hell does everything have to be scented? We live in a world full of of scent pollution.)

Skipping over the fact that almost all bar soaps are scented — Ivory soap, famously 99.44% pure, was made with a fragrance (the other 0.56%) — I pointed out that with few exceptions men who have tried bar soap and shaving soap prefer shaving soap. But this morning I got to thinking: I wonder whether Dario has considered trying saddle soap. His view seems to be “Soap’s soap, so pick what you like,” and saddle soap’s formula softens and preserves leather, preventing dryness. Offhand, it seems as though it might work well as a shaving soap. I’m half-inclined to try it. 

My Vikings Blade Chieftain razornot the same as the Baili BD191 — is quite a good razor that I have praised before. This morning I was surprised by the amount of blade feel I got from the razor. That I did not recall. It might have been the specific brand of blade I was using and other brands might not have so much blade feel. (One difference among brands of DE blades is in the width of the blade.) The blade I used is a King C. Gillette blade — the brand of the pack that came with my King C. Gillette razor. I’ll try a different brand tomorrow to see whether the blade feel lessens.

Despite the somewhat threatening feel (which loses some points in the “comfort” column), I did not suffer any damage (such as a nick or razor burn), and I did get a wonderfully close shave, which I completed with a splash of Saint Charles Shaves Savory Rose (and, speaking of fragrance, that aftershave has a terrific fragrance). Since I included my usual two squirts of Hydrating Gel, my face right now feels very nice indeed.

The tea this morning is the last of my Murchie’s Vanilla Jasmine: “A balanced blend of black, green, and oolong teas, with an enticing aroma of vanilla, jasmine, and magnolia.” I think I might get more of this.

Written by Leisureguy

20 September 2022 at 9:04 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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