Later On

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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

The Big Red One: A ferment

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The Big Red One here refers not to the famous 1st Infantry Division (aka “The Fighting First”) but to my new ferment:

red cabbage
• red kale
red beet
red onion
red apple
red cayenne peppers
red Russian garlic
• fresh ginger root
• Medjool dates
• chipotle and ancho chiles

I was aiming for 3 liters (two 1.5-liter jars), but on looking at the gathered ingredients, I thought I would exceed that by about a liter, and I was right:

The two large jars are 1.5 liter each, the small jar is 1 liter. The whole batch, once prepared in my biggest bowl, weighed 2,735g (6 pounds), not counting the weight of the bowl, so I used 55g Himalayan pink salt (a salt to veggie ratio of 2%).

Below is what I did with each ingredient. (The links below are not affiliate links; they’re just meant to be specific and helpful.)

  • red cabbage – quartered and cored it, then I sliced the wedges 1mm thick using my Oxo handheld mandoline (Oxo makes several; link is to the one that I use.)
  • red kale – chopped stems very small, then sliced leaves thin
  • red beet – coarsely grated using my Rösle coarse grater
  • red onion – quartered vertically, then quarters sliced thin with my chef’s knife. (Now that I think about it, I could have used the mandoline, and that may have worked better.)
  • red apple – grated using the Rösle coarse grater
  • red cayenne peppers – sliced in thin cross-sections, using the knife
  • red Russian garlic – peeled (very easy — this garlic’s skin is like a shell and it pops off readily) and then sliced thin using my Oxo garlic mandoline.
  • fresh ginger root – I used about 1/3 of the piece shown, and sliced it thin with my knife; I did not peel it.
  • Medjool dates – pitted and chopped
  • chipotle and ancho chiles – I ground these in my Cuisinart spice & nut grinder

After all the veggies were prepped (sliced or grated or chopped or ground) and in my big bowl, I poured 1/2 cup spring water into my 1-cup measure and stirred in a packet of starter culture. This must hydrate for 10 minutes before use, so I let it hydrate while I mixed and massaged the vegetables.

I added the 55g Himalayan coarse salt to the veggies, and then I massaged and mixed everything by hand, with some vigor and firmness. I made sure the ingredients were well mixed, which required some effort since when I started they were more or less layered in the bowl in the order I had prepared them.

One advantage of using my hands to mix is that I occasionally came across a largish lump of cabbage or onion. When I did, I removed it, sliced it thin with the chef’s knife, and returned the slivers to the bowl.

After 15-20 minutes of mixing and massaging, the vegetables were softened and liquid had pooled in the bottom of the bowl.

At that point I added the culture water and continued to mix and massage for another five minutes to make sure the culture was well distributed throughout the vegetables.

I then packed the two 1.5 liter jars, put the leftover veggies into the 1-liter jar, and put a fermentation weight to each jar. The I poured in enough spring water just to cover the weights, and put fermentation airlocks on two of the jars. For the Weck jar, I just rest the lid on top of its gasket.

This should be ready August 25. Lesson learned: start next batch before this is completely gone so I don’t have to go without for two weeks.

 

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2022 at 12:54 pm

The Weight Loss Program That Got Better with Time

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Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2022 at 10:19 am

When you don’t hear what your body is telling you

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Ijeoma Oluo has a very interesting post on her experience in being body-deaf (the way some people are tone-deaf). And the comments to the article are also interesting. For example, I had not known that body-deafness is common among those who suffer from ADHD. Olumo writes:

It starts with the world’s most boring mystery.

Last week, in the middle of the night, I found myself doubled over in unbearable pain. Again. It was radiating up my back and wrapping around my ribcage. I had fallen asleep feeling fine and then woke up in agony. The pain didn’t subside for hours. After the pain meds didn’t work, pacing the floor didn’t work, sedatives didn’t work – I started to panic. Then I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

This was the second time in about a week or so that I’d experienced this sort of attack. And it was a pain I had remembered cropping up every few weeks for many years. I try to avoid googling body ailments because I always come out of such internet sessions hyperventilating, convinced I’m dying of cancer (find me a google search for a body ailment that doesn’t end in cancer and I’ll name my next pet after you). But I was desperate, and I knew that if this was happening to me with such frequency then it must be happening to other people as well and surely at least one of these people has found a solution.

I remembered that I had eaten the same meal from the same restaurant that I had eaten at the last time this attack of back pain happened. So I wondered if maybe it was some sort of allergic reaction that somehow caused back pain. Starting with that premise was a smart move because a search for “can certain foods cause back pain” quickly turned up an option for back pain associated with stomach upset. My searches said that sometimes stomach pain is felt through the back, and often is associated with IBS.

I knew almost nothing about IBS but further searches had my symptoms line up quite neatly with IBS (type C). I’ve had at least 20 years of digestive issues that I’ve regularly either written off as just having a “weird body” or decided that people who poop more than once a week are the weird ones. That’s sort of beside the point though, because I still need to see a doctor for a more firm diagnosis.

So why am I writing this?

I’m writing this because as I finished eating breakfast this morning, my back started hurting again. My immediate thoughts were, “Oh did I sleep weird?” “Was my posture that bad last night when I was watching tv in bed?” But the ache in my back wasn’t a sharp pain, it was the radiating, throbbing pain I’d had just last week. I looked down at the remains of my breakfast: Coffee with oat milk creamer, a bagel with butter, cantaloupe with yogurt – the really good full fat with added cream kind.

I’m lactose intolerant. My mom, sister, and brother are as well. My two sons are. With the addition of a partner who is also lactose intolerant I have often marveled at how in this household I’m the only one who can seem to indulge in dairy (within reason) without paying much of a price outside of some gas. I’ve had to pick my kids up from school early because the milkshake they begged for the night before had kept them in the bathroom the first two periods of school the next day. When I was their age I too used to have horrible stomachaches after eating dairy that left me pretty incapacitated for hours. But over the years that had faded to an extent that really surprised me.

As I stared at my breakfast and felt the pain radiating up my back I realized that I was likely experiencing stomach pain. I closed my eyes and tried hard to concentrate on my body. The feeling of unease that was filling me. Was that anxiety, my old friend? Yes. But behind that it was….nausea? Yes, that might be what nausea is to me today.

It might seem weird to have to sit and concentrate to figure out if you feel nauseous or not but as I realized that I was probably experiencing nausea it all clicked into a long, familiar pattern in my relationship with my body, especially with my digestive system. It doesn’t exist.

The relationship, that is. Pretty sure my digestive system hasn’t gotten up and walked away (although if it did, I likely wouldn’t have noticed).

The first time I passed out due to low blood sugar was in the first grade. It was certainly not the last. Years of iron supplements, vitamins, doctor recommendations, nothing helped. By the time I hit high school I was swooning like I was a white maiden in a Jane Austen novel who had just been told that we could only afford 5 household servants due to our now “reduced circumstances”.

There was about a 10 year period of time between  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2022 at 10:13 am

What is the optimal diet?

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Something happened in 1926, and I have no idea what it was. Look at the two charts in the video at 00:44 to 00:51. Note the sharp change in rate of increase that happened in 1926. Any ideas about that year?

— Update: Just received a phone call from The Eldest, who works at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. She told me that it was around 1926 — in fact, slightly before — that scientists began to discover the chemistry of food: what things in food made it nutritious. She sent me a PDF of a timeline of nutrition research. 

Still, that leaves open the question of what happened in 1926 to bend upward the rate of deaths from heart disease — e.g., 

Chart from the video below, which includes also a chart for Females (showing the same upward bend at 1926)
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Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 11:47 am

Burn, baby, burn: The new science of metabolism

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In October of 2021, David Cox reported in the Guardian:

Losing weight may be tough, but keeping it off, research tells us, is tougher – just not for the reasons you might think.

As the director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA Nutrition Center Tufts University, Massachusetts, Susan Roberts has spent much of the past two decades studying ways to fight the obesity epidemic that continues to plague much of the western world.

But time and again, Roberts and other obesity experts around the globe have found themselves faced with a recurring problem. While getting overweight individuals to commit to shedding pounds is often relatively straightforward in the short term, preventing them from regaining the lost weight is much more challenging.

According to the University of Michigan, about 90% of people who lose significant amounts of weight, whether through diets, structured programmes or even drastic steps such as gastric surgery, ultimately regain just about all of it.

Why is this? Scientists believe that the answer lies in the workings of our metabolism, the complex set of chemical reactions in our cells, which convert the calories we eat into the energy our body requires for breathing, maintaining organ functions, and generally keeping us alive.

When someone begins a new diet, we know that metabolism initially drops – because we are suddenly consuming fewer calories, the body responds by burning them at a slower pace, perhaps an evolutionary response to prevent starvation – but what then happens over the following weeks, months, and years, is less clear.

“Does metabolism continue to go down, more than it should,” asks Roberts, “or does it initially go down, and then bounce back? This is an enormously controversial topic, and one that we’re looking to address.”

Over the next three to four years, we may get some answers. Roberts is co-leading a new study, funded by the National Institutes of Health in the US, which will follow 100 individuals over the course of many months as they first lose and then regain weight, measuring everything from energy expenditure to changes in the blood, brain and muscle physiology, to try to see what happens.

The implications for how we tackle obesity could be enormous. If metabolism drops and continues to stay low during weight loss, it could imply that dieting triggers innate biological changes that eventually compel us to eat more. If it rebounds to normal levels, this suggests that weight regain is due to the recurrence of past bad habits, with social and cultural factors tempting us to go back to overeating.

“If someone’s metabolism really drops during weight loss and doesn’t recover, it shows we have to put all of our money on preventing weight gain in the first place,” says Roberts. “Because once it’s happened, you’re doomed. If metabolism rebounds, it means that the lessons about eating less because you’ve now got a smaller body haven’t been learned effectively. So we might need to encourage people who have lost weight to see psychologists to work on habit formation. These are such different conclusions that we really need to get it right.”

This is just one of many ways in which our understanding of metabolism is evolving. In recent years, many of the traditional assumptions, which had long been accepted as truth – that exercise can ramp up metabolism, that metabolism follows a steady decline from your 20s onwards – have been challenged. For scientists at the forefront of this field, these answers could go on to change many aspects of public health.

The age myth

In mid-August, a paper emerged in the journal Science that appeared to challenge one of metabolism’s universal truths. For decades, scientists have accepted that metabolism begins to slow down in early adulthood, initiating a steady descent that continues through middle age and later life, inevitably resulting in the phenomenon known as “middle-aged spread”.

But this may not actually be true. Over the past few years, Herman Pontzer, an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, North Carolina, and more than 80 other scientists have compiled data from more than 6,400 individuals – from eight days to 95 years old – that shows something very different.

It appears that between the ages of 20 and 60 our metabolism stays almost completely stable, even during major hormonal shifts such as pregnancy and menopause. Based on the new data, a woman of 50 will burn calories just as effectively as a woman of 20.

Instead, there are just two major life shifts in our metabolism, with the first occurring  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 August 2022 at 12:39 pm

A Uranium Ghost Town in the Making

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Mark Olalde and Maya Miller report in ProPublica:

The “death map” tells the story of decades of sickness in the small northwest New Mexico communities of Murray Acres and Broadview Acres. Turquoise arrows point to homes where residents had thyroid disease, dark blue arrows mark cases of breast cancer, and yellow arrows mean cancer claimed a life.

Neighbors built the map a decade ago after watching relatives and friends fall ill and die. Dominating the top right corner of the map, less than half a mile from the cluster of colorful arrows, sits what residents believe is the cause of their sickness: 22.2 million tons of uranium waste left over from milling ore to supply power plants and nuclear bombs.

“We were sacrificed a long time ago,” said Candace Head-Dylla, who created the death map with her mother after Head-Dylla had her thyroid removed and her mother developed breast cancer. Research has linked both types of illnesses to uranium exposure.

Beginning in 1958, a uranium mill owned by Homestake Mining Company of California processed and refined ore mined nearby. The waste it left behind leaked uranium and selenium into groundwater and released the cancer-causing gas radon into the air. State and federal regulators knew the mill was polluting groundwater almost immediately after it started operating, but years passed before they informed residents and demanded fixes.

The contamination continued to spread even after the mill closed in 1990.

The failures at Homestake are emblematic of the toxic legacy of the American uranium industry, one that has been well-documented from its boom during the Cold War until falling uranium prices and concerns over the dangers of nuclear power decimated the industry in the 1980s. Uranium mining and milling left a trail of contamination and suffering, from miners who died of lung cancer while the federal government kept the risks secret to the largest radioactive spill in the country’s history.

But for four decades, the management of more than 250 million tons of radioactive uranium mill waste has been largely overlooked, continuing to pose a public health threat.

ProPublica found that regulators have failed to hold companies to account when they missed cleanup targets and accepted incorrect forecasts that pollution wouldn’t spread. The federal government will eventually assume responsibility for the more than 50 defunct mills that generated this waste.

At Homestake, which was among the largest mills, the company is bulldozing a community in order to walk away. Interviews with dozens of residents, along with radon testing and thousands of pages of company and government records, reveal a community sacrificed to build the nation’s nuclear arsenal and atomic energy industry.

Time and again, Homestake and government agencies promised to clean up the area. Time and again, they missed their deadlines while further spreading pollution in the communities. In the 1980s, Homestake promised residents groundwater would be cleaned within a decade, locals told the Environmental Protection Agency and ProPublica. After missing that target, the company told regulators it would complete the job around 2006, then by 2013.

In 2014, an EPA report confirmed the site posed an unacceptable cancer risk and identified radon as the greatest threat to residents’ health. Still, the cleanup target date continued shifting, to 2017, then 2022.

Rather than finish the cleanup, Homestake’s current owner . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 August 2022 at 12:16 pm

Choosing foods that cultivate a healthy gut microbiome — and how that enhances your health in general

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The research findings discussed in the video below are extremely interesting — with clear implications for what one should eat to optimize health. More information.

Written by Leisureguy

8 August 2022 at 11:40 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

5 Foods You Should Always Buy Organic And Why!

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This is definitely worth watching.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2022 at 6:08 pm

Doctors don’t want to take jobs in antiabortion states

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Christopher Rowland has an interesting article in the Washington Post (gift link, no paywall). From the article:

. . . One large medical recruiting firm said it recently had 20 obstetrician-gynecologists turn down positions in red states because of abortion laws. The reluctance extends beyond those interested in providing abortion care, as laws meant to protect a fetus could open doctors up to new liabilities or limit their ability to practice. . .

One large health-care staffingfirm, AMN Healthcare, said clients in states with abortion bans are having greater trouble filling vacancies because some prospective OB/GYN candidates won’t even consider opportunities in states with new or pending abortion bans.

Tom Florence, president of Merritt Hawkins, an AMN Healthcare company, cited 20 instances since the Supreme Court ruling where prospects specifically refused to relocate to states where reproductive rights are being targeted by lawmakers.

“To talk to approximately 20 candidates that state they would decline to practice in those restrictive states, that is certainly a trend we are seeing,” Florence said. “It is certainly going to impact things moving forward.”

Three candidates turned down one of the firm’s recruiters, who was working to fill a single job in maternal fetal medicine in Texas, he said: “All three expressed fear they could be fined or lose their license for doing their jobs.”

In another example, a physician contacted by phone by an AMN Healthcare recruiter trying to fill a post in an antiabortion state “simply said, ‘Roe versus Wade,’ and hung up,” Florence said.

Florence said the shift has especially serious implications for small, rural hospitals, which can afford just a small number of maternal specialists or, in some cases, only one.

“They can deliver hundreds of babies each year and see several thousand patients,” he said. “The potential absence of one OB/GYN that might be in their community, if not for the Supreme Court decision, is highly significant. The burden will be borne by the patients.”

Tellingly, Florence added, none of the recruiters had encountered a single physician seeking to practice in a state because it had banned abortion.

There’s quite a bit more, so read the whole thing (gift link, no paywall).  Conservatives have sown the wind; now they reap the whirlwind.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2022 at 11:17 am

Long COVID comes in three forms

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Despite public behavior — no masks or distancing in most stores, people unmasked in crowds — Covid has not gone away, and for some the Covid experience has been long-lasting. Now scientists are getting a better picture of long Covid (aka post-Covid syndrome, or PCS). The Hill has a brief report, with video at the link, that begins:

  • New research from scientists from King’s College London supports the idea that there are three different types of long COVID, each with their own symptoms.
  • Researchers studied more than 1,000 people suffering from post-COVID syndrome and found that there are three different subtypes of the condition.
  • The first subtype consisted of respiratory symptoms, the second neurologic and third autoimmune.

There are three different kinds of long COVID, and all have their own set of symptoms, according to researchers.

In a new preprint study — which means it has yet to be peer reviewed — on MedRxiv, a site that distributes unpublished research in the health sciences, scientists from King’s College in London analyzed the experiences of thousands of people across the U.K that were infected with the virus.

Researchers focused on 1,459 people living with post-COVID syndrome — which study crafters defined as having symptoms for at least 12 weeks after being infected with the virus — and were able to place patients into three main “symptom profiles.”

PCS patients — which are also referred to colloquially as long COVID patients — placed in the first group suffered from respiratory symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or palpitations.

The second group was made up of long COVID patients who experienced neurological symptoms like . . .

Continue reading.

FWIW, I continue to wear a mask in stores and in crowds. No Covid so far, knock on wood.

Written by Leisureguy

4 August 2022 at 12:21 pm

Potential treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

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Ayanna Tucker reports from Johns Hopkins University:

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have helped develop a nanobody capable of getting through the tough exterior of brain cells and untangling misshapen proteins that lead to Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia, and other neurocognitive disorders.

The research, published last month in Nature Communications, was led by Xiaobo Mao, an associate professor of neurology at the School of Medicine, and included scientists at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Their aim was to find a new type of treatment that could specifically target the misshapen proteins, called alpha-synuclein, which tend to clump together and gum up the inner workings of brain cells. Emerging evidence has shown that the alpha-synuclein clumps can spread from the gut or nose to the brain, driving the disease progression.

Nanobodies—miniature versions of antibodies, which are proteins in the blood that help the immune system find and attack foreign pathogens—are natural compounds in the blood of animals such as llamas and sharks and are being studied to treat autoimmune diseases and cancer in humans. In theory, antibodies have the potential to zero in on clumping alpha-synuclein proteins, but have a hard time getting through the outer covering of brain cells. To squeeze through these tough brain cell coatings, the researchers decided to use nanobodies instead.

The researchers had to shore up the nanobodies to help them keep stable within a brain cell. To do this, they genetically engineered them to rid them of chemical bonds that typically degrade inside a cell. Tests showed that without the bonds, the nanobody remained stable and was still able to bind to misshapen alpha-synuclein.

The team made seven similar types of nanobodies, known as PFFNBs, that could bind to alpha-synuclein clumps. Of the nanobodies they created, one—PFFNB2—did the best job of glomming onto alpha-synuclein clumps and not single molecules, or monomer of alpha-synuclein, which are not harmful and may have important functions in brain cells.

Additional tests in mice showed that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2022 at 9:34 am

Plant-based processed meat substitutes: Not so good

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Because I follow a whole-food plant-based diet, I don’t explore refined and highly processed foods, though I did once try a Beyond burger (meh).

I do “process” some foods in various way — rinsing, peeling, chopping, blending, steaming, roasting, sautéing, fermenting — but that’s a far cry from manufacturing foods from refined ingredients and including a variety of additives (flavor, coloring, salt, cheap oil, preservatives) to be sold packaged under a brand name. That kind of “food” I skip, and that takes care of manufactured meat substitutes. 

Two recent studies show the drawbacks of manufactured (aka “highly processed,” “ultraprocessed”) foods.

Unintended Consequences: Nutritional Impact and Potential Pitfalls of Switching from Animal- to Plant-Based Foods

Abstract:

Consumers are shifting towards plant-based diets, driven by both environmental and health reasons. This has led to the development of new plant-based meat alternatives (PBMAs) that are marketed as being sustainable and good for health. However, it remains unclear whether these novel PBMAs to replace animal foods carry the same established nutritional benefits as traditional plant-based diets based on pulses, legumes, [grains,] and vegetables. We modelled a reference omnivore diet using NHANES 2017–2018 data and compared it to diets that substituted animal products in the reference diet with either traditional or novel plant-based foods to create flexitarian, vegetarian, and vegan diets matched for calories and macronutrients. With the exception of the traditional vegan diet, all diets with traditional plant-based substitutes met daily requirements for calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and Vitamin B12 and were lower in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar than the reference diet. Diets based on novel plant-based substitutes were below daily requirements for calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and Vitamin B12 and exceeded the reference diet for saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. Much of the recent focus has been on protein quality and quantity, but our case study highlights the risk of unintentionally increasing undesirable nutrients while reducing the overall nutrient density of the diet when less healthy plant-based substitutes are selected. Opportunities exist for PBMA producers to enhance the nutrient profile and diversify the format of future plant-based foods that are marketed as healthy, sustainable alternatives to animal-based products. View Full-Text

A metabolomics comparison of plant-based meat and grass-fed meat indicates large nutritional differences despite comparable Nutrition Facts panels

A new generation of plant-based meat alternatives—formulated to mimic the taste and nutritional composition of red meat—have attracted considerable consumer interest, research attention, and media coverage. This has raised questions of whether plant-based meat alternatives represent proper nutritional replacements to animal meat. The goal of our study was to use untargeted metabolomics to provide an in-depth comparison of the metabolite profiles a popular plant-based meat alternative (n = 18) and grass-fed ground beef (n = 18) matched for serving size (113 g) and fat content (14 g). Despite apparent similarities based on Nutrition Facts panels, our metabolomics analysis found that metabolite abundances between the plant-based meat alternative and grass-fed ground beef differed by 90% (171 out of 190 profiled metabolites; false discovery rate adjusted p < 0.05). Several metabolites were found either exclusively (22 metabolites) or in greater quantities in beef (51 metabolites) (all, p < 0.05). Nutrients such as docosahexaenoic acid (ω-3), niacinamide (vitamin B3), glucosamine, hydroxyproline and the anti-oxidants allantoin, anserine, cysteamine, spermine, and squalene were amongst those only found in beef. Several other metabolites were found exclusively (31 metabolites) or in greater quantities (67 metabolites) in the plant-based meat alternative (all, p < 0.05). Ascorbate (vitamin C), phytosterols, and several phenolic anti-oxidants such as loganin, sulfurol, syringic acid, tyrosol, and vanillic acid were amongst those only found in the plant-based meat alternative. Large differences in metabolites within various nutrient classes (e.g., amino acids, dipeptides, vitamins, phenols, tocopherols, and fatty acids) with physiological, anti-inflammatory, and/or immunomodulatory roles indicate that these products should not be viewed as truly nutritionally interchangeable, but could be viewed as complementary in terms of provided nutrients. The new information we provide is important for making informed decisions by consumers and health professionals. It cannot be determined from our data if either source is healthier to consume.

Introduction

By 2050, global food systems will need to meet the dietary demands of almost 10 billion people. To meet these demands in a healthy and sustainable manner, it is put forward that diets would benefit from a shift towards consumption of more plant-based foods and less meat, particularly in Western countries1. This has raised questions whether novel plant-based meat alternatives represent healthy and nutritionally adequate alternatives to meat2,3,4,5.

The new generation of plant-based meat alternatives such as the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger are becoming increasingly popular with consumers. Their success has led other international food companies—including traditional meat companies—to invest in their own product versions6. The global plant-based meat alternative sector has experienced substantial growth and is projected to increase from . . .

Continue reading.

Always keep in mind that the main priority of corporations is their profits, not your welfare.

Written by Leisureguy

2 August 2022 at 10:48 am

Venturing out to walk again

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I wrote this yesterday, when I took the walk, but had a WordPress problem that prevented posting. So here it is, a day late.


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After my pacemaker was installed, I was told to wait 6 weeks before doing anything strenuous with my left arm to allow time for the wires from the pacemaker to be securely seated in scar tissue. Just as the six-week wait ended, we had a stretch of very hot weather — well, very hot for here: in the mid-80s, in Fahrenheit terms — nothing like the 3-digit temperatures that have become the summer norm in some regions, but still too hot to walk, IMO.

Today is more like it: 69ºF with clear skies and a light breeze.

I’m quite a bit slower after my layoff — back then I was walking at 3.5 mph routinely — and despite the uphill start I never got my heart rate up. I’ll try next time walking a bit more briskly at the outset and see how that works. Still, 19 minutes of aerobic effort is enough to instigate the training effect, according Kenneth Cooper MD. He found that the training effect kicked in after 15 minutes of aerobic effort. 

Little by little and bit by bit.

Written by Leisureguy

2 August 2022 at 8:14 am

‘They’re Just Going to Let Me Die?’ One Woman’s Abortion Odyssey

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Men should not be passing laws on abortion. This long read from the NY Times (gift link, no paywall) tells a harrowing story:

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Madison Underwood was lying on the ultrasound table, nearly 19 weeks pregnant, when the doctor came in to say her abortion had been canceled.

Nurses followed and started wiping away lukewarm sonogram gel from her exposed belly as the doctor leaned over her shoulder to speak to her fiancé, Adam Queen.

She recalled that she went quiet, her body went still. What did they mean, they couldn’t do the abortion? Just two weeks earlier, she and her fiance had learned her fetus had a condition that would not allow it to survive outside the womb. If she tried to carry to term, she could become critically ill, or even die, her doctor had said. Now, she was being told she couldn’t have an abortion she didn’t even want, but needed.

“They’re just going to let me die?” she remembers wondering.

In the blur around her, she heard the doctor and nurses talking about a clinic in Georgia that could do the procedure now that the legal risks of performing it in Tennessee were too high.

She heard her fiancé curse, and with frustration in his voice, tell the doctor this was stupid. She heard the doctor agree.

Just three days earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the constitutional right to abortion. A Tennessee law passed in 2020 that banned abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy had been blocked by a court order but could go into effect.

Ms. Underwood never thought any of this would affect her. She was 22 and excited to start a family with Mr. Queen, who was 24.

She and Mr. Queen had gone back and forth for days before deciding to terminate the pregnancy. She was dreading the abortion. She had cried in the car pulling up to the clinic. She had heard about the Supreme Court undoing Roe v. Wade but thought that since she had scheduled her abortion before the decision, and before any state ban took effect, the procedure would be allowed.

Tennessee allows abortion if a woman’s life is in danger, but doctors feared making those decisions too soon and facing prosecution. Across the country, the legal landscape was shifting so quickly, some abortion clinics turned patients away before the laws officially took effect or while legal battles played out in state courts.

Century-old bans hanging around on the books were activated, but then just as quickly were under dispute. In states where abortion was still legal, wait times at clinics spiked as women from states with bans searched for alternatives.

It was into this chaos that Ms. Underwood was sent home, still pregnant, and reeling. What would happen now? The doctor said . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

1 August 2022 at 11:24 am

The lasting anguish of moral injury

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Constance Summer writes in Knowledge magazine:

On a Sunday evening in September 1994, David Peters drove to a church service in Beckley, West Virginia, as the sun set over the horizon. He was 19 years old, just back from Marine Corps boot camp. He hadn’t been behind the wheel of a car all summer.

The road curved, and Peters misjudged the turn. Rays from the dipping sun blinded him. The car hit the median and headed straight at an oncoming motorcycle. And then, Peters says, “Everything went crash.”

His friend, sitting in the passenger seat, seemed fine. Peters got out of the car. The driver of the motorcycle was alive, but the woman who’d been riding behind him was now laid out on the pavement. Peters quickly realized she was dead.

Now an Episcopal priest in Pflugerville, Texas, outside Austin, Peters says there have been periods during the last 28 years when he’s found the knowledge that he killed someone almost unbearable. “I felt like I wasn’t good anymore,” he says. At times, he even wished he were dead. Years after the accident, he purchased a motorcycle, thinking “that’d be sort of justice if I died on a motorcycle.”

Moral injury results from “the way that humans make meaning out of the violence that they have either experienced or that they have inflicted,” says Janet McIntosh, an anthropologist at Brandeis University who wrote about the psychic wounds resulting from how we use language when talking about war in the 2021 Annual Review of Anthropology.

Although research on moral injury began with the experiences of veterans and active-duty military, it has expanded in recent years to include civilians. The pandemic — with its heavy moral burdens on health care workers and its fraught decisions over gathering in groups, masking and vaccinating — intensified scientific interest in how widespread moral injury might be. “What’s innovative about moral injury is its recognition that our ethical foundations are essential to our sense of self, to our society, to others, to our professions,” says Daniel Rothenberg, who codirects the Center on the Future of War at Arizona State University.

Yet moral injury remains a concept under construction. It is not an official diagnosis in psychiatry’s authoritative guide, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). And until the recent publication of a major study on the subject, researchers and clinicians lacked well-defined criteria they could use to determine if someone has moral injury, says Brett Litz, a clinical psychologist at VA Boston Health Care System and Boston University. “The prevalence of moral injury is utterly unknown, because we haven’t had a gold standard measure of it,” he says.

‘It starts working on your head’

Moral injury was first described by Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist in Boston, who defined it as  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2022 at 7:56 am

The feud between a weed influencer and scientist over puking stoners

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Amanda Chicago Lewis writes in MIT Technology Review:

She had made a name for herself as an online cannabis influencer, but after a weed-infused dinner in a Malibu home in 2018, she spent more than two weeks constantly puking—unable to keep down food or water, going back and forth to urgent care for IVs, and at one point growing so weak she passed out in her yard. She was finally ready to accept it was the marijuana that had made her sick.

It was an unexpected turn of events. Moon, now 33, was a fixture at the marijuana mansion parties and lavish networking events that characterized the frenzied period after California’s November 2016 ballot initiative legalizing weed. Dressed in a polychromatic raver style, she had gone from working at medical marijuana dispensaries, where she leaned across the counter in neon eye makeup to explain which gummies hit the hardest, to writing reviews of weed-infused snacks and drinks, and selling flower crowns on Etsy that concealed a pipe so you could sneak pot into Coachella.

“She was trying very hard to be a cannabis influencer,” a former coworker at a weed company says. “Cute blond girl eating edibles: that was the premise.” By 2016, Moon had amassed over 14,000 followers on Instagram.

Then she started vomiting. She puked every few months at first, and then every time she got on an airplane, and then every day. Her mom got her an appointment in early 2018 with a gastrointestinal specialist who suggested, to Moon’s horror, that her digestive issues might be caused by all the cannabis she was consuming—a rare disorder called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS.

“I had heard about CHS before but didn’t think it was real,” Moon recalls. It didn’t make sense, she thought, since one of pot’s best-known therapeutic uses is alleviating the stomach trouble brought on by chemotherapy: “We know weed helps with nausea, so why would it also cause nausea and vomiting?”

At the time of her diagnosis, only a few hundred CHS patients had been identified in the medical literature, and very little was known about the condition. Doctors told patients they had it after a process of elimination. There was no definitive biomarker indicating someone had CHS; only a set of symptoms. Those who did suffer from it were heavy cannabis users who became prone to multiweek vomiting spells that often landed them in the hospital. Patients also frequently reported a compulsive need to take hot showers and baths, which somehow relieved the urge to throw up. When Moon first heard about CHS, the condition sounded absurd. To her, it reeked of moral panic, like the Tide Pod challenge: a fabricated concern intended to scare.

That skepticism was the default view in pothead circles. After decades of seeing the federal government vilify marijuana and ignore evidence of the drug’s medical potential, many stoners trust their own observations over institutional science and are reflexively resistant to the idea that weed could cause any harm. When it comes to cannabis science, it can be hard to know who to trust. Everyone seems to have an agenda, or a product to sell. Despite its widespread use, there is little peer-reviewed clinical research involving weed. The studies the American government does help fund and approve are much more likely to support the argument that pot is bad for you, distorting the available evidence and fomenting doubt, confusion, and conspiracy theories.

As a result, much of what most people know about marijuana and its effects on the body and brain, positive or negative, amounts to little more than folklore. Indeed, scientific investigations into cannabis often reference types of historical documents seldom mentioned in other fields. One 2007 paper published in the journal Chemistry and Biodiversity cites an ancient Egyptian papyrus advocating cannabis and honey “to cool the uterus and eliminate its heat” during childbirth; Assyrian clay tablets suggesting weed “for or against panic”; and certain translations of Exodus 30:23, in which cannabis may have been included in a recipe given to Moses by God for a holy anointing oil.

That paper’s author is Ethan Russo, a neurologist and psychopharmacologist. “Ethan has more experience researching cannabinoids than almost anybody else. He’s been doing it for decades,” says Peter Grinspoon, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Grinspoon describes Russo as “a leader” in the field, with “broad knowledge of both disease and cannabis.”

A balding and bespectacled 70-year-old, Russo first became interested in marijuana back in the 1990s, when he noticed the relief that many of his patients got from the drug. He began trying to organize a clinical trial around pot and migraines, but like many of the well-meaning folks who have tried to study the therapeutic effects of cannabis in human beings, he couldn’t get government approval in the United States. This brought Russo to the UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals, where it was easier to do legal research, and to a position of authority that would ultimately put him on a collision course with Moon.

Moon and Russo have never met in person, but they have spent the past few years embroiled in a bitter online battle over Russo’s attempt to research CHS.

The influencer and the scientist have little in common—Moon never graduated from high school, and Russo doesn’t quite understand how to use Instagram—but still, I was surprised to see their conflict spin out with such vehemence. There have been accusations of scamming and sabotage, social media trash-talking, and an incident in which hundreds of people backed out of a scientific study. It is not an exaggeration to say their inability to get along may have forever warped the public conversation around CHS, just as the disorder is becoming increasingly common in emergency rooms across the globe.

As a journalist covering the insular marijuana industry, I’ve known both Moon and Russo for several years. Both have kept me updated on their respective sides of the squabble. This intensely personal dispute feels like a heightened microcosm of our current moment, when established hierarchies are being upended and no one knows what to believe. As far as modern medicine has come, there are still so many things we do not know and cannot fix. Most diseases and injuries come  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2022 at 2:07 pm

Video survey of beans

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Because my diet is based on Greger’s Daily Dozen (with an assist from Heber’s palette of colorful foods), I eat beans every day, nowadays generally in the form of a bean-and-grain tempeh (50-50 mix). I found this video interesting. 

The video mentions the misinformation common on the internet in connection with the lectin in beans. I also have encounter that sort of thing — for example, a stern warning not to eat millets (which in fact are a healthful family of grains). The reason for the warning is that millets are a goitrogenic food, one that can impede the absorption of iodine. But so are soybeans, tofu, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables. That these foods impede iodine absorption does not mean you should avoid eating these foods, it means you should (a) eat a variety of foods, and (b) ensure that your diet provides adequate iodine. I eat unpolished millets from time to time, mostly in tempeh, but I also make sure that I get ample iodine in my diet and I don’t eat millet as a major food source. I also cook millet, and as noted at the link, cooking minimizes the goitrogenic effects.

Most people get ample iodine from iodized salt and seafood. I eat a couple of sheets a nori a day, which delivers all the iodine I need. As noted in a video on the best natural sources of iodine, kelp is not a good source because kelp contains too much iodine, and iodine, like many other micronutrients (iron, copper, selenium, sodium, and others) requires moderation: while essential for health, too much is harmful.

At any rate, here is the story of beans.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2022 at 11:03 am

Our Obsession With Growth Must End

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In the NY Times David Marchese interviews the economist Herman Daly on why never-ending growth is absurd and a harmful idea (gift link, no paywall):

Growth is the be-all and end-all of mainstream economic and political thinking. Without a continually rising G.D.P., we’re told, we risk social instability, declining standards of living and pretty much any hope of progress. But what about the counterintuitive possibility that our current pursuit of growth, rabid as it is and causing such great ecological harm, might be incurring more costs than gains? That possibility — that prioritizing growth is ultimately a losing game — is one that the lauded economist Herman Daly has been exploring for more than 50 years. In so doing, he has developed arguments in favor of a steady-state economy, one that forgoes the insatiable and environmentally destructive hunger for growth, recognizes the physical limitations of our planet and instead seeks a sustainable economic and ecological equilibrium. “Growth is an idol of our present system,” says Daly, emeritus professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, a former senior economist for the World Bank and, along with the likes of Greta Thunberg and Edward Snowden, a recipient of the prestigious Right Livelihood Award (often called the “alternative Nobel”). “Every politician is in favor of growth,” Daly, who is 84, continues, “and no one speaks against growth or in favor of steady state or leveling off. But I think it’s an elementary question to ask: Does growth ever become uneconomic?”

There’s an obvious logic to your fundamental argument in favor of a steady-state economy,1

1 One in which the population and the stock of capital no longer grow but, as John Stuart Mill has put it, “the art of living would continue to improve.”

 which is that the economy, like everything else on the planet, is subject to physical limitations and the laws of thermodynamics and as such can’t be expected to grow forever. What’s less obvious is how our society would function in a world where the economic pie stops growing. I’ve seen people like Peter Thiel, for example, say that without growth we would ultimately descend into violence.2

2 Speaking on the Portal podcast in 2019, the billionaire tech investor and libertarian-leaning conservative power broker said, “But I think a world without growth is either going to be a much more violent or a much more deformed world. . . . Without growth, I think it’s very hard to see how you have a good future.”

 To me that suggests a fairly limited and grim view of human possibility. Is your view of human nature and our willingness to peacefully share the pie just more hopeful than his? First, I’m not against growth of wealth. I think it’s better to be richer than to be poorer. The question is, Does growth, as currently practiced and measured, really increase wealth? Is it making us richer in any aggregate sense, or might it be increasing costs faster than benefits and making us poorer? Mainstream economists don’t have any answer to that. The reason they don’t have any answer to that is that they don’t measure costs. They only measure benefits. That’s what G.D.P. is.3

3 More specifically, it’s the monetary value of the final goods and services produced by a nation.

 There’s nothing subtracted from G.D.P. But the libertarian notion is logical. If you’re going to be a libertarian, then you can’t accept limits to growth. But limits to growth are there. I recall that Kenneth Boulding4

4 An economist, longtime professor at the University of Colorado and former president of the American Economic Association. He died in 1993 at age 83.

 said there are two kinds of ethics. There’s a heroic ethic and then there’s an economic ethic. The economic ethic says: Wait a minute, there’s benefits and costs. Let’s weigh the two. We don’t want to charge right over the cliff. Let’s look at the margin. Are we getting better off or worse? The heroic ethic says: Hang the cost! Full speed ahead! Death or victory right now! Forward into growth! I guess that shows a faith that if we create too many problems in the present, the future will learn how to deal with it.

Do you have that faith? [Laughs.] No, I don’t.

Historically we think that economic growth leads to higher standards of living, lower death rates and so on. So don’t we have a moral obligation to pursue it?  . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

22 July 2022 at 3:42 pm

Dr. Greger’s Optimum Nutrient Recommendations for Supplements

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Dr. Greger’s optimum nutrient recommendations for supplements include recommendations for:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium
  • Omega-3
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Selenium

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2022 at 11:36 am

American gun violence has immense costs beyond the death toll, new studies find

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For decades Republican blocked any government-funded study of the social effects of firearms in the US, presumably because they strongly suspected what such studies would reveal and, in their typical bad-faith attitude, they were determined to prevent the public from knowing what was happening.[

The ukase against studies was recently lifted, and we are now getting an idea of the true toll exacted by widely available firearms. Eric Westervelt reports for NPR:

On one level, it’s almost impossible to put a dollar figure on lives shattered by gun violence or to try to measure the pain of having a loved one killed or seriously injured.

But researchers of two new studies using federal health care and hospital data underscore that the repercussions from firearm deaths and injuries are deeper, wider and far costlier than previously known.

In a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr. Zirui Song and colleagues found a four-fold increase in health care spending as a direct result of a non-fatal firearm injury.

Dr. Song, an Associate Professor of Health Care Policy and Medicine at Harvard Medical School, also charts a substantial increase in other health disorders that undermine a person’s health and well-being.

“In the first year after a non-fatal firearm injury, survivors experienced a 40% increase in physical pain or other forms of pain syndromes; a 50% increase in psychiatric disorders; and an 85% increase in substance use disorders,” Dr. Song says, while on break from his rounds at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he practices internal medicine. He adds more research is needed as to exactly why those addiction numbers and other disorders go up so dramatically.

“These results are disturbing and we, as a research team, found them quite striking, as well,” he says. “The ripple effects are quite profound and meaningful for both survivors and family members and, I would argue, clinically and economically substantial.”

And those effects aren’t just on those injured by bullets. The study shows family members of survivors, too, can carry massive physical and mental burdens.

“Family members on average, including parents, siblings and children, experienced a 12% increase in psychiatric disorders,” he says.

The study is based largely on healthcare claims data, not hospital survey or discharge data. Dr. Song says that allows for a more detailed look at spending than previous studies based on other types of data.

“There is really an undercurrent of forgotten survivors whose own health and economic conditions are affected quite profoundly, even though they were lucky enough to survive,” he tells NPR.

And the financial burden for this fallout is mostly landing on the shoulders of taxpayers and employees: Dr. Song’s study shows 96% of the increase in health care spending on firearm injuries is shouldered by Medicare and U.S. employers.

“In direct costs alone, it’s $2.5 billion in healthcare spending in the first year after non-fatal firearm injuries,” he says. “This number is much larger if you include indirect costs of lost wages or productivity.”

A study out this week by Everytown for Gun Safety delves into that larger picture and looks at a wide range of direct and indirect costs from all gun violence in America, fatal as well as gun injuries.

“This epidemic is costing our nation $557 billion annually,” says Sarah Burd-Sharps, research director at the gun control advocacy group. “Looking at . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2022 at 10:59 am

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