Later On

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

Archive for December 12th, 2022

The price of ‘sugar-free’: are sweeteners as harmless as we thought?

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Quite a while back I read that artificial sweeteners were toxic to the gut microbiome. Bee Wilson’s article in the Guardian updates that knowledge:

A few months ago, I was in a cinema queue behind a man whose two sons were asking if they could have Tango Ice Blasts – bright blue frozen slushy drinks – to go with their tubs of sweet popcorn. The father stalled for a moment. They’d already had too much sugary stuff that day, he said. “But it’s sugar-free,” replied one of the boys. That sealed the deal. The boys walked off happily into the cinema holding their drinks.

In an era when sugar is widely seen as enemy No 1, sugar-free drinks and treats, sweetened with low-calorie additives, promise guilt-free sweetness. Some people deliberately choose low-sugar options in the hope of losing weight or managing diabetes; others just enjoy the taste. But even if you aren’t seeking them out, it’s hard to avoid artificial sweeteners. In 2021, researchers looked at foods for sale in Hong Kong and found that sweeteners were present not just in products where you would expect them, such as sugarless chewing gum, but also in salad dressings, breads, instant noodles and many crisps. Sweeteners have become such a common part of our diet that environmental scientists have started looking for traces of them – particularly acesulfame potassium, which passes through the body largely undigested – as a marker for human waste in lakes and rivers.

The rise of sweeteners is, in part, a sign of the spectacular success of sugar taxes, which have been introduced in more than 40 countries since 2010. In the UK, the soft drinks industry levy was announced in 2016 and fully implemented in 2018, as part of a plan to “tackle childhood obesity”. The tax charged manufacturers 24p a litre for any drink with 8g or more of added sugar per 100ml. Almost all the major soft drinks brands in the UK cut the sugar content of their products and replaced the missing sweetness with some kind of artificial alternative. “Original” Coca-Cola and “blue” Pepsi were among the few drinks to keep their recipes the same. Once they became more expensive, compared to the sugar-free alternatives, their sales fell. By 2019, 60% of all the soft drinks sold by Coca-Cola and 83% of those sold by Pepsi were sugar-free. Today there are even sugar-free “energy drinks” such as Monster Absolutely Zero and Lucozade Zero Pink Lemonade – a puzzling concept, given that sugar is usually what provides the energy in an energy drink.

“Sweeteners” is a catch-all term for a diverse range of chemicals, most of which are far sweeter than sugar, gram for gram, but contain few or no calories. One sweetener approved for use in the US, advantame, is 20,000 times sweeter than sugar. Other sweeteners, such as xylitol, which is commonly used in chewing gum, are comparable in sweetness to sugar.

It’s easy to see why many public health experts might look warmly on these sweeteners as an alternative to sugar. We know that lots of sugar, consumed daily, will increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, not to mention weight gain and tooth decay. As a lover of chocolate brownies and baklava and hundreds of other sweet and lovely things, I wish it were otherwise.

In the light of the many problems with sugar, three central health claims are regularly made for artificial sweeteners. These relate to weight, diabetes and teeth. According to an industry website managed by the International Sweeteners Association, sweeteners are useful for “weight management” (because they contain no calories), for people with diabetes (because they supposedly “have no impact” on blood sugar levels) and for oral health (because unlike sugar, they don’t promote tooth decay).

Public health organisations around the world have largely accepted the sweetener industry’s claims, particularly when it comes to managing diabetes. One article on the NHS website quotes a dietitian who describes sweeteners as “a really useful alternative for people with diabetes who need to watch their blood sugar levels while still enjoying their favourite foods”.

But at just the point when this range of substances have worked their way into so many products, questions are rising as to whether they really have the benefits that have been attributed to them. In July, the World Health Organization (WHO) sowed terror in the diet soft drinks industry by issuing new draft guidelines on “non-sugar sweeteners”. Researchers for the WHO conducted a vast new review of the scientific evidence, examining hundreds of studies on the effects of sweeteners on humans. What they found was startling.

Contrary to the claims so often made for them, the researchers found consistent evidence that consuming a lot of sweeteners was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (as well as higher risk of heart disease). Similarly, when it came to weight, they found that people who consumed a lot of sweeteners were more likely to gain weight over the long term (though the report also noted that short-term studies, lasting three months or less, showed that switching from sugary drinks to artificially sweetened ones resulted in modest weight loss of 0.71kg).

Even with dental health, the researchers found that the supposed benefits of sweeteners were not conclusive. A couple of studies suggested that daily use . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2022 at 8:31 pm

Tempeh Two-Step

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A blue bowl that contains a stir-fry of vegetables and marinated tempeh. A  piece of cauliflower is visible, along with a coup of pieces of purple potato, diced tempeh, and the green leaves of gai pan.

Step 1: Marinate the tempeh

I took a slab, about 6 ounces, of my Du Puy lentil and Kamut wheat lentil tempeh and cut it in half to make thinner slabs, which I then diced.

I took a storage dish with a tight lid and put into the dish:

• about 3 tablespoons ponzu sauce
• a dash of tamari
• about 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
• a couple of dashes of Frank’s RedHot Xtra Hot Sauce
• about a tablespoon of Smak Dab beer+chipotle mustard
• a little Spanish smoked paprika
• a pinch of MSG (it’s okay)
• a splash of rice vinegar

The mustard is for flavor but also to help the mix emulsify

I whisked that together, added the diced tempeh, clipped the lid on the container, and gave it a good shake, then let the tempeh marinate on the counter for the afternoon.

Step 2: Cook the dish

I used my 12″ MSMK nonstick skillet and its lid, and I started by drizzling the skillet with

• about 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Then I prepped the veg:

• 5 cloves Russian red garlic, chopped small
• about 1″ thick fresh ginger root, minced
• 1  bunch of thick scallions (6 scallions), chopped including leaves
• 5 large domestic white mushrooms, halved and then sliced
• chopped Taiwan cauliflower, about 1 cup total
• chopped gai pan mue, about 2 cups total
• 1/2 of a roasted (long, skinny) Stokes Purple potato from the fridge, cut into disks
• sprinkling of about 2-3 teaspoons dried marjoram
• sprinkling of about 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper

I turned the heat to medium (3 on my induction burner) and after the pan was hot and the gai lan leaves had wilted a bit, I added:

• the tempeh and its marinade
• a splash of vinegar 
• a small splash of Red Boat fish sauce

I covered the skillet and cooked that for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I just had two bowls of it, and it’s excellent. The rest is for tomorrow.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2022 at 5:35 pm

If someone uses a permanent marker on your whiteboard, …

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If a permanent marker has been used on a dry-erase board, you can remove it by writing over the permanent mark with a regular dry-erase marker, letting it dry, and then using the eraser.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2022 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Daily life

In science…

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In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.

— Carl Sagan

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2022 at 1:06 pm

Bad diet causes cognitive decline: Fact or myth?

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Fred Schwaller reports in Made for Minds:

More than 400-500 calories per day of ultra-processed foods such as burgers, chips and packaged cookies is enough to increase the risk of cognitive decline, a new study suggests.

That’s roughly equivalent to two donuts or half a frozen pizza, depending on which brands you choose.

The study, involving 10,775 men and women in Brazil, found people who ate more ultra-processed foods had a 28% faster rate of global cognitive decline compared to people who ate the least amount of ultra-processed foods over an 8-year period.

With people in countries like the US and the UK getting over 50% of their dietary intake from ultra-processed foods, the study, published in JAMA Neurology, indicates concerning health consequences.

Diet only one factor in cognitive health

However, experts have been quick to point out the evidence isn’t so clear cut.

“This study only provides an association between intake of ultra-processed foods and cognitive decline,” said Duane Mellor, a dietitian at Aston University in the UK not involved in the study.

“The problem is that it is observational data, so there is only evidence of association and not causality.”

Mellor said that researchers already know a lot about the science behind the negative impact of ultra-processed foods like donuts on people’s health. However, he said, it is hard to tell whether these foods are any worse than diets high in added fat, salt and sugar. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2022 at 12:59 pm

Future Crunch: a good-news newsletter/

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I just encountered Future Crunch. From the About page:

We’re a group of scientists, artists, researchers and designers who believe that science and technology are the most powerful drivers of human progress. This newsletter exists because of a simple belief. If we want to change the story of the human race in the 21st century, we have to start changing the stories we tell ourselves. That doesn’t mean ignoring bad news – rather, it means finding as many opportunities as possible to celebrate progress for people and the planet when we find it.

Each week, we send more than 47,000 subscribers good news stories from around the world, in an effort to counteract the non-stop, 24 hour bombardment of death and destruction from traditional and social media. If you’d like to see a regularly updated list of those, you can always find it at this link. . .

From the issue of 26th November 2022 to 2nd December 2022:

The fight against measles is one of humanity’s greatest achievements of the 21st century. Despite a brief resurgence in 2019, and a fall in vaccination rates during the pandemic, between 2000 and 2021 the annual number of measles deaths fell from 761,000 to 128,000. Thanks to measles vaccines, an astonishing 56 million lives have been saved since 2000. WHO

Singapore has eliminated rubella – the leading vaccine-preventable cause of birth defects worldwide. This follows Singapore’s elimination of measles in 2018. Seven countries in the WHO’s Western Pacific Region have now interrupted endemic transmission of the virus that causes rubella: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and Singapore. WHO

About 160,000 new HIV infections among children under five occurred last year, a dramatic 50% decline from 320,000 infections in 2010. Since the launch of a global plan in 2011 to prevent mother-to-child transmission programmes, 1.5 million deaths and 2.9 million HIV infections have been averted worldwide among pregnant women and children. UNICEF

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Cambodia’s landmine removal program. Since 1992, over a million landmines and three million explosives have been removed, and 2,531 km2 has been cleared and made safe for the construction of homes, schools, farms and roads for nine million people. Deaths have fallen from 4,320 in 1996 to fewer than 100 in 2021. Phnom Penh Post . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2022 at 12:06 pm

Data brokers deal in your private information

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This article lists the worst offenders and how to opt-out of their casual capture of your private information.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2022 at 11:39 am

My motto: “Start the week with a slant”

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Shave set up with a shaving brush whose knot is made of a fine black synthetic fiber with a dark brown handle, a tub of the shaving soap "The Dead Sea," with a label sowing a photo of the shore of that sea, and a small bottle with a white squirt top and yellow label that says "Grooming Dept Rejuvenating Serum." In font is a stainless steel slant razor.

By me, the week starts on Monday, since Sunday is the last day of the weekend. The end of the end of the week cannot be the start of the week, or so it seems to me (based on my understanding of “end”). And I do like to start the week by shaving with a slant.

But first, the prep. The soap this morning is RazoRock’s The Dead Sea, which to my mind is a superb soap. I tilted the tub so that the fragrance notes are visible, just above the razor. (Click photo to enlarge.) Beyond the fragrance, the soap is unusual in that it prefers a barely damp brush. With this soap, it’s easy to get too much water. The ingredients are pretty straightforward with the exception of Dead Sea Salt:

Aqua(Water/Eau), Stearic Acid, Cocos Nucifera(Coconut) Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Sodium Hydroxide, Myristic Acid, Fragrance(Parfum), Lanolin, Maris Sal (Dead Sea Salt), Aloe Barbadensis(Aloe Vera) Extract.

Given the mostly standard ingredients, I’m not sure why it is such a pleasant soap to use. Maybe that Dead Sea salt really does do something. Coconut oil does make for a good shaving soap, and the added lanolin and aloe vera doubtless help. Myristic acid, a long-chain fatty acid, might also contribute. All in all, a very good soap and definitely worth trying.

My iKon stainless-steel slant is always satisfying to use. It is in the same league of comfort and efficiency as the Superslant, but with the iKon you must pay attention to maintaining a good angle, which has the handle far from the face. The Superslant sort of finds its own best angle — or, rather, the head design nudges the user toward the best angle — but the iKon relies more on user knowledge and skill. Since I have both, I find the iKon a wonderful razor, but a novice might well prefer the Superslant, with a design that compensates for still-incomplete knowledge and skill.

This morning I was remembering a curious slant I got to try several years ago — it had the same characteristic as the Superslant, of pushing the shaver to use the best angle — and I found the post that discusses it, which links to the posts for the shaves where I used it. [Oops. Used the wrong URL; now corrected. – LG]

Three passes left my face perfectly smooth, and then a small squirt of Grooming Dept Rejuvenating Serum finished the job and left my face feeling wonderful. I think this is a particularly good post-shave treatment in wintertime, when the indoor air is spectacularly dry.

The team this morning is Murchie’s Storm Watcher, although today we have brilliant sunshine pouring down from a cloudless sky. However, through special agreement with Murchie’s, I can drink this tea when there is no actual storm to watch. Storm Watch is a Yunnan and Ceylon blend: “Full-bodied with low astringency, a selection of tea terroirs blended for a brisk, satisfying mug. Slightly smoky with toasted malty notes.”

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2022 at 10:23 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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