Later On

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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

U.S. workers are among the most stressed in the world, new Gallup report finds

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The finding is not all that surprising, given (a) the adversarial relationship most companies have with their employees and (b) the finance sector’s encouragement of that aversarial relaationship — for example, Wall Street constantly pressures Costco to cut employee wages.

Jennifer Liu writes in CNBC MakeIt:

U.S. workers are some of the most stressed employees in the world, according to Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workplace report, which captures how people are feeling about work and life in the past year.

U.S. and Canadian workers, whose survey data are combined in Gallup’s research, ranked highest for daily stress levels of all groups surveyed. Some 57% of U.S. and Canadian workers reported feeling stress on a daily basis, up by eight percentage points from the year prior and compared with 43% of people who feel that way globally, according to Gallup’s 2021 report.

This spike isn’t surprising to Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief workplace scientist, who tells CNBC Make It that rates of daily stress, worry, sadness and anger have been trending upward for American workers since 2009. Concerns over the virus, sickness, financial insecurity and racial trauma all contributed to added stress during the pandemic.

But stress spikes were especially acute for women in the last year: 62% of working women in the U.S. and Canada reported daily feelings of stress compared with 52% of men, showing the lasting impact of gendered expectations for caregiving in the household, ongoing child-care challenges and women’s overrepresentation in low-wage service jobs most disrupted by the pandemic. By contrast, the daily stress levels for women in Western Europe went down in the last year, which researchers attribute to social safety nets for parents and workers to prevent unemployment.

And while employee engagement dipped in the rest of the world, it rose to 34% in the U.S. The correlation of higher engagement but also higher stress can result in burnout and mental health challenges and indicates “the intersection of work and life needs some work,” Harter says.

Young people expect their workplace to improve their overall well-being

These sentiments come at a time when younger generations expect their workplaces to provide more value than just a paycheck, Harter says, drawing on previous Gallup research. And in turn, he says organizations have a responsibility to help improve employee well-being if they want to support a resilient workforce; improve learning and performance; and attract top talent.

He points to five elements workplaces can focus on to improve employee engagement and help individuals thrive: career well-being, social well-being, financial well-being, physical well-being and community.

Stress in any one of these areas, such as financial stress due to inequitable pay, or community stress due to an unsafe work environment, can negatively impact a worker’s mental health.

Leaders can do an audit, like through surveys and focus groups, to see if any of their company policies, structures, communications or programs negatively impact their employees’ overall well-being. And when leaders introduce new programs or benefits, Harter says, leaders should connect the value of them to “those five elements, so people understand why you’re providing various benefits, and why you’re trying to provide an overall culture of thriving.”

Who plays the biggest role in employee well-being

It’s crucial CEOs communicate this priority from the top, Harter says, but managers play the biggest role in actually helping improve worker well-being throughout all levels of an organization.

“The most important thing employers can do is to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2021 at 12:07 pm

Black-bean-and-black-rice tempeh a great success

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I had a temperature scare when the batch, once it started, got very hot (internal temperature of 100ºF), but as it turns out, I needn’t have worried. And come to think of it, I doubt that the fungus would generate so much heat it would harm itself. Natural selection would work strongly against that.

So after 3 days 23 hours — let’s just call it 4 days — the tempeh came out beautifully. it felt solid, like a styrofoam board. It smelled good and the mold was very soft and nice to the touch. Note the excellent marbling. 🙂

I wanted to try the tempeh, so I made:

Tempeh minichili test

I diced two of the small slabs shown above — sliced them down the middle, then across into cubes. I was just cooking one serving, so i used my 8″ nonstick skillet. It does have a lid so I could do some of the cooking covered (the simmering, for example).

• 1 Tbsp olive oil
• 1/2 cup chopped red onion
• 1 red Fresno pepper, chopped
• Salt
• 12 mini-San-Marzano tomatoes, chopped
• 1 piece of tempeh, diced as above
• garlic powder
• Worcestershire sauce
• Yuzu ponzu
• Liquid Smoke
• Mexican Oregano
• Ground cumin would be right, but I didn’t feel like it so skipped it — but it really belongs
• California Sweet Paprika (couldn’t find my Smoked Spanish Paprika, so just used this)
• pinch of dried Thyme
• splash of Shaoxing wine

Sauté onion and Fresno pepper in olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook until tomatoes start to soften.  Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix. Then cover the pan, reduce heat,  and let simmer a few minutes.

Remove lid and greatly reduce liquid — evaporate most of the wine. Then serve. I added:

• 1 teaspoon Bragg’s nutrition yeast
• about a tablespoon of pepitas

The tempeh held its shape remarkably well. It tasted good and had a good mouthfeel, with some chewiness. The mold is like the mold on Camembert or Brie: totally inoffensive, eminently edible. And a nice soft touch, like suede.

I was worried about this batch, but it could not have turned out better. Still, I’m going to stick to 2-cup batches: I think they would handle heat better. OTOH, there was definitely nothing wrong with this batch. So: maybe. I have to say a 2-cup batch is probably a better size for things like my next experiment: chickpeas and peanuts.

Stay tuned.

 

Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2021 at 10:35 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Non-animal diet, Recipes

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Some Hospitals Kept Suing Patients Over Medical Debt Through the Pandemic

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There is something deeply wrong with the US healthcare system. Jenny Deam reports in ProPublica:

Last year as COVID-19 laid siege to the nation, many U.S. hospitals dramatically reduced their aggressive tactics to collect medical debt. Some ceased entirely.

But not all.

There was a nearly 90% drop overall in legal actions between 2019 and the first seven months of 2020 by the nation’s largest hospitals and health systems, according to a new report by Johns Hopkins University. Still, researchers told ProPublica that they identified at least 16 institutions that pursued lawsuits, wage garnishments and liens against their patients in the first seven months of 2020.

The Johns Hopkins findings, released Monday in partnership with Axios, which first reported the results, are part of an ongoing series of state and national reports that look at debt collections by U.S. hospitals and health systems from 2018 to 2020.

During those years more than a quarter of the nation’s largest hospitals and health systems pursued nearly 39,000 legal actions seeking more than $72 million, according to data Johns Hopkins researchers obtained through state and county court records.

More than 65% of the institutions identified were nonprofit corporations, which means that in return for tax-exempt status they are supposed to serve the public rather than private interest.

The amount of medical debt individuals owe is often a small sliver of a hospital’s overall revenue — as little as 0.03% of annual receipts — but can “cause devastating financial burdens to working families,” the report said. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has estimated medical debt makes up 58% of all debt collection actions.

The poor or uninsured often bear the brunt of such actions, said Christi Walsh, clinical director of health care and research policy at Johns Hopkins University. “In times of crisis you start to see the huge disparities,” she said.

Researchers said they could not determine all of the amounts sought by the 16 institutions taking legal action in the first half of 2020, but of those they could, Froedtert Health, a Wisconsin health system, sought the most money from patients — more than $3 million.

Even after Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency on March 12, 2020, hospitals within the Froedtert Health system filed more than 100 cases from mid-March through July, researchers reported, and 96 of the actions were liens.

One lien was against Tyler Boll-Flaig, a 21-year-old uninsured pizza delivery driver from Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, who was severely injured June 3, 2020, when a speeding drag racer smashed into his car. Boll-Flaig’s jaw was shattered, and he had four vertebrae crushed and several ribs broken. His 14-year-old brother, Dominic Flaig, tagging along that night, was killed.

Days after the crash, their mother, Brandy Flaig, said she got a call from a hospital billing office asking for her surviving son’s contact information to set up a payment plan for his medical bills.

Then on July 30 — less than two months later — Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee filed a $67,225 lien against Boll-Flaig. It was one of seven liens the hospital filed the same day, totaling nearly a quarter of a million dollars, according to the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access website used by researchers and reviewed by ProPublica.

“It’s during the pandemic, we’re still grieving, and they go after Tyler?” Flaig said. “It’s predatory.” Tyler Boll-Flaig declined to be interviewed.

Froedtert Hospital is the largest in the Froedtert Health system, which includes five full-service hospitals, two community hospitals and more than 40 clinics. The health care system reported more than $53 million in operating income during the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2020 — double the amount from the previous year, according to its financial filings. It has also received $90 million in federal CARES Act money to help with its COVID-19 response and operating costs, a spokesperson said.

Only Reedsburg Area Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, pursued more legal actions in the spring and summer of 2020, with 139 lawsuits and 22 wage garnishments, the study showed. Medical center officials did not respond to a request for comment.

In contrast, Advocate Aurora Health, the top-suing health network in the state before the pandemic, dropped to zero court filings after February 2020, the report found.

Stephen Schoof, a Froedtert Health spokesperson, said in an email he . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2021 at 2:17 pm

The Food That Can Downregulate a Metastatic Cancer Gene

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This is the third video on how diet relates to metastasis of cancer. The first one is here, the second here.

Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2021 at 1:40 pm

News headline: “Coronavirus infections dropping where people are vaccinated, rising where they are not”

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I don’t think that pattern is merely a coincidence. The Washington Post report by Dan Keating, Naema Ahmed, Fenit Nirappil, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Lenny Bernstein begins:

States with higher vaccination rates now have markedly fewer coronavirus cases, as infections are dropping in places where most residents have been immunized and are rising in many places people have not, a Washington Post analysis has found.

States with lower vaccination also have significantly higher hospitalization rates, The Post found. Poorly vaccinated communities have not been reporting catastrophic conditions. Instead, they are usually seeing new infections holding steady or increasing without overwhelming local hospitals.

As recently as 10 days ago, vaccination rates did not predict a difference in coronavirus cases, but immunization rates have diverged, and case counts in the highly vaccinated states are dropping quickly.

Vaccination is not always even within each state, and The Post found the connection between vaccine shots and coronavirus cases at the local level comparing more than 100 counties with low vaccination rates (fewer than 20 percent of residents vaccinated) and more than 700 with high vaccination rates (at least 40 percent vaccinated).

Counties with high vaccination had low coronavirus rates that are going down. In counties where few people are vaccinated, not only are there higher case rates, but the number of cases there also is growing. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including this chart:

Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2021 at 11:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Walking vs. fasting blood glucose

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I resumed daily walks on 6 June — normally, I don’t walk on Sunday, but since I hadn’t been doing any real walking, I figured I should just start.

I noticed an immediate effect on by fasting blood glucose levels, which I graphed for that first week: steps each day and fasting blood glucose level the next day.

And you can see from last week’s steps-per-day chart, I wasn’t really doing all that many steps — I wanted to ramp up gradually. Still, I was using Nordic walking poles, which increase calorie burn by 20% (with no perceptible increase in effort, an attribute I like).

What surprises me is the impact the walking has had on my average fasting blood glucose readings. As of this morning (June 15), here’s what the averages look like:

These readings are all still in the “pre-diabetic” range, but observe the trend. (The readings in mg/dL, the measure commonly used in the US: 103, 106, 108, 114 mg/dL.)

My goal is to get all the averages below 5.5 mmol/L (99 mg/dL). That would be comfortably within the normal range.

Of course, this result is not due solely to exercise, since diet also plays a major role. I’m convinced that my whole-food non-animal diet is also essential. But (as the figures show) diet alone is insufficient. Exercise also is required, and I believe aerobics exercise (Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s term), or cardio exercise — sustained exercise — works best. I’ll continue Nordic walking, and I’ll soon be doing 1-hour walks, 6 days a week.

Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2021 at 10:32 am

Holding diet constant, increasing exercise — look at what happens to fasting blood glucose

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Starting last Sunday I resumed my Nordic walking. My fasting blood glucose, as I mentioned in an earlier post, held steady (in the “pre-diabetic” range) for three days, and then dropped into the normal range (a fasting BG reading of 5.5 mmol/L (99 mg/dL) or less). In fact, the past 3 days my readings have been 5.4, 5.3, and 5.2 (in mmol/L — in mg/dL, that’s 97, 95, and 94).

Obviously, my fasting blood glucose cannot continue dropping (or I’m in serious trouble), nor will the number of steps per day monotonically increase. For one thing, I don’t walk on Sundays as a rule (last Sunday was an exception), and once I get to 8000 I’ll level out since I see no need to go beyond that. (The 10,000 step guideline was a marketing ploy by Japanese pedometer manufacturers.)

But even in this short sample, I’m impressed by the impact that exercise (Nordic walking) has made. It certainly wasn’t due to diet, since I held my (whole-food plant-only) diet steady — and indeed, I’ve kept my fasting blood glucose readings relatively low (though still in the “pre-diabetic” range) simply by diet. But to get to the next level — readings in the “normal” range — exercise is clearly required.

I’ll go one more day to complete the week. It was a good experiment.

Written by Leisureguy

12 June 2021 at 9:41 am

Type 2 diabetics: Diet modification PLUS walking has helped me

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Some things I have to relearn. I have type 2 diabetes, and I can keep it under control if I do the right things. I found that modifying my diet was necessary but not sufficient. Getting good control also requires exercise (Nordic walking for me), and I believe cardio exercise — what Kenneth Cooper called “aerobics” — is the best approach from a health perspective, though certainly resistance training (for muscular strength) is a good complement.

I first changed my diet to a low-carb high-fat diet — not excessively high fat, just enough additional fat to make up the calories lost by reducing carbs, the idea being not to increase the protein level but keep it moderate. So if net carbs are reduced by 100g, fat is increased by 45g — the same caloric amount.

But after I learned of various health risks of a low-carb diet and that saturated fat increases insulin resistance, I took another look at my diet and did more reading and research. It was then that I read Michael Greger’s How Not to Die, which discusses what we know about the relationship between diet and chronic diseases from scientific studies. In Part 2 of the book, he recommends a diet based on that research, and that’s the diet I adopted.

His recommended diet is what I call a “whole-food plant-only” diet, though I also include fungi (as pesudo-plants). That means no meat, fish, dairy, or eggs (though on rare occasions I’ll have a modest amount for one meal). No meat, fish, dairy, or eggs is the same as a vegan diet, but the other restriction — whole foods — means that I avoid refined foods (refined sugar, flour, fruit juice — whole fruit is fine — and so on) and also avoid highly processed foods that are manufactured using industrial methods from refined ingredients and various additives (preservatives, coloring, flavors, and so on — usually with substantial salt and refined sugar). The vegan diet does not preclude those, though of course some vegans do avoid them and in fact follow a whole-food plant-only diet, even though the vegan diet per se does allow for refined and highly processed foods so long as they are free of animal products — and indeed a supermarket will often have a fairly large section of highly processed vegan food products.

My blood glucose readings improved remarkably on that diet, and when I also included exercise (Nordic walking is what I like), things got even better. But winter came, walking faded, and my fasting blood glucose readings slowly drifted up — my 90-day average right now is 6.4 mmol/L (115 mg/dL).

This past Sunday I started walking again.  My daily step counts starting last Sunday June 6: 2288, 2861, 3995, 4564, 4660, and 5527 steps per day — and my fasting blood glucose readings for the following days, starting Monday: 6.3, 6.3, 6.5, 5.4, 5.3, and 5.2 mmol/L. That is pretty convincing to me. Walking did seem to make a big difference (after a startup lag). The last three readings — 5.4 mmol/L = 97 mg/dL, 5.3 mmol/L = 95 mg/dL, and 5.2 mmol/L = 94 mg/dL — are well within “normal.” (“Pre-diabetic” starts at 5.6 mmol/L (101 mg/dL), and 7.0 mmol/L (126 mg/dL) is the starting point for “diabetic.” Update: See graph below, which I’ll continue to update for a while.

It seems that after four days of walking (gradually increasing the distance), the exercise effect kicked in and — with my diet staying constant — my fasting blood glucose dropped back to where it should be. I see I must walk.

Luckily, I live in a good neighborhood for walking. And it’s also lucky I enjoy the foods included in my diet (and enjoy cooking).

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2021 at 11:05 am

Time for some good news: A Pivotal Mosquito Experiment Could Not Have Gone Better

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Ed Yong reports in the Atlantic:

Adi Utarini had her first of two bouts of dengue fever in 1986, when she was still a medical student. Within a few hours, she spiked a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit and couldn’t stand up, because her knee was shaking so badly. Within a few days, she was in the hospital. That experience is common in Utarini’s home city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia: It has one of the highest rates of dengue in the country, which itself has one of the highest rates of dengue in the world. “Here, when you ask people if they know someone who’s had dengue, they can always name someone,” says Utarini, now a public-health professor at Gadjah Mada University.

Thanks to her work, that might soon change.

Dengue fever is caused by a virus that infects an estimated 390 million people every year, and kills about 25,000; the World Health Organization has described it as one of the top 10 threats to global health. It spreads through the bites of mosquitoes, particularly the species Aedes aegypti. Utarini and her colleagues have spent the past decade turning these insects from highways of dengue into cul-de-sacs. They’ve loaded the mosquitoes with a bacterium called Wolbachia, which prevents them from being infected by dengue virusesWolbachia spreads very quickly: If a small number of carrier mosquitoes are released into a neighborhood, almost all of the local insects should be dengue-free within a few months. It’s as if Utarini’s team vaccinated a few individuals against a disease, and soon after the whole population had herd immunity.

The World Mosquito Program (WMP), a nonprofit that pioneered this technique, had run small pilot studies in Australia that suggested it could work. Utarini, who co-leads WMP Yogyakarta, has now shown conclusively that it does. Her team released Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in parts of Yogyakarta as part of a randomized controlled trial. The results, which were unveiled last year and have now been published, showed that Wolbachia rapidly spread among the local mosquitoes, and reduced the incidence of dengue by 77 percent. “That provides the gold standard of evidence that Wolbachia is a highly effective intervention against dengue,” says Oliver Brady, a dengue expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who was not involved in the study. “It has the potential to revolutionize mosquito control.”

The trial’s results were so encouraging that the researchers have since released Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes over all of central Yogyakarta—a 32-square-kilometer zone that’s home to more than 400,000 people. They’re now expanding into the densest surrounding provinces, aiming to protect 4 million people by the end of 2022. If they succeed, they should be able to prevent more than 10,000 dengue infections every year, Katherine Anders of the WMP told me. And the team is optimistic enough that it’s daring to think about an even grander goal: eliminating dengue from the city altogether.

“Dengue is a particularly challenging virus,” Natalie Dean, a statistician at the University of Florida, told me. It comes in four distinct versions, or “serotypes.” People who recover from one serotype can still be infected by the other three; if that happens, they’re more likely to develop severe and potentially lethal symptoms. For that reason, the only existing dengue vaccine also increases the risk of severe dengue in people who’ve never been infected, and is recommended only for people who’ve already encountered the disease.

Then there’s the mosquito. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 7:17 pm

4700 steps and a grandson graduates from high school — a good day

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Baltimore School for the Arts, which draws students from across the city. Good weather save for cicadas. And the walks do seem to have an effect on blood glucose. No change in diet, and the fasting reading this morning was 5.4 mmol/L (97 mg/dL).

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Health

How to Help Control Cancer Metastasis with Diet

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This video is the second of a three-part series on controlling cancer metastasis through diet. Part 1 is here, and part 3 is here.

Written by Leisureguy

9 June 2021 at 10:31 am

Role of diet in assisting metastasis of cancer

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This is the first of a three-part series (the next two parts probably arriving over the next two days), but even this one part has interesting useful information. – Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

Written by Leisureguy

7 June 2021 at 10:36 am

Nestlé Document Says Majority of Its Food Portfolio is Unhealthy

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The Financial Times article is behind a paywall, but Slashdot has a quote posted by msmash:

The world’s largest food company, Nestlé, has acknowledged that more than 60% of its mainstream food and drinks products do not meet a “recognised definition of health” and that “some of our categories and products will never be ‘healthy’ no matter how much we renovate.” Financial Times:

A presentation circulated among top executives this year, seen by the Financial Times, says only 37 per cent of Nestlé’s food and beverages by revenues, excluding products such as pet food and specialised medical nutrition, achieve a rating above 3.5 under Australia’s health star rating system. This system scores foods out of five stars and is used in research by international groups such as the Access to Nutrition Foundation. Nestlé, the maker of KitKats, Maggi noodles, and Nescafe, describes the 3.5 star threshold as a “recognised definition of health.”

Within its overall food and drink portfolio, about 70 per cent of Nestlé’s food products failed to meet that threshold, the presentation said, along with 96 per cent of beverages — excluding pure coffee — and 99 per cent of Nestlé’s confectionery and ice cream portfolio. Water and dairy products scored better, with 82 per cent of waters and 60 per cent of dairy meeting the threshold.

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2021 at 9:38 pm

Improved recipe for tempeh breakfast sausage

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I found that the tempeh sausage patties were somewhat fragile and tended to break apart when turned. The problem worsened when I included minced mushrooms. I was thinking of trying one beaten egg mixed into the sausage to act as a binder when The Eldest suggested using a small amount of chia seed soaked in water.

When you do soak chia seed you get a kind of gelatinous paste. That might work to hold the sausage together. Moreover, I would then get the benefit of chia seeds (good fiber, good source of omega-3, an excellent protein profile, and high in nutrients) and also avoid the nutritional drawbacks of eggs.

I tried it, and it worked. I have modified the recipe, with modifications in bold. I am now going to try including 1=2 mushrooms in Batch 2 (which is processed to a paste).

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2021 at 12:32 pm

Black cumin’s health benefits and how I use it

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Some time back I learned about black cumin, which (as studies have confirmed) has a variety of nutritional benefits, some of which are of particular interest to diabetics with other benefits generally useful. Evolution has made seeds generally difficult to digest: the fruit acts as bait for an animal, and the seeds pass through through its digestive track unharmed and later sprout where deposited, generally far from the parent plant. Thus the animal unwittingly assists the plant by ensuring a wider propagation (plants in general being deficient in mobility, thus the observation that the apple falls not far from the tree). Other seeds reflect other strategies not depending on being consumed. Dandelion, milk thistle, and maple seeds take flight and are dispersed by the wind — they have no fruit because their propagation doesn’t require it. Cockleburs, burdock, and other seeds hitch a ride by sticking to the fur (or clothing) of passing animals.

To be actually digested, seeds in general must be cracked or ground, so (for example) I grind the flaxseed and peppercorns that I eat. Some seeds — sesame seeds, for example — can be ground by chewing; other seeds — cumin, for example — are generally sold already ground.

I tried grinding black cumin in the whirling-blade grinder, which works well for flaxseed, but it seemed that black cumin seeds are too small and tough for that to work. So I bought a pepper mill and filled it with black cumin. You need only a little black cumin to gain its benefits, and this seemed like a good approach. (At the bottom of the mill you see some peppercorns that came with it. I’ll soon work through those and reach the black cumin.)

The three-minute video below explains some of the benefits (and see also this video for how it helps with Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid).

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2021 at 10:08 am

Best Food to Prevent Common Childhood Infections

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When my children were little they ate nutritional yeast tablets a lot. We promoted it as a treat.

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2021 at 10:53 am

America Has a Drinking Problem

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I have gradually come to recognize that alcohol undermines constancy of purpose. A recovering alcoholic warned me when I was still in college, “Alcohol is sneaky.” He meant that you can think things are going well, but if alcohol is part of one’s daily diet, I would say that person is at serious risk. In recent years my consumption of alcohol has been minimal. I am not a teetotaler, but I drink very little and most weeks not at all.

Kate Julian writes in the Atlantic:

Few things are more American than drinking heavily. But worrying about how heavily other Americans are drinking is one of them.

The Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock because, the crew feared, the Pilgrims were going through the beer too quickly. The ship had been headed for the mouth of the Hudson River, until its sailors (who, like most Europeans of that time, preferred beer to water) panicked at the possibility of running out before they got home, and threatened mutiny. And so the Pilgrims were kicked ashore, short of their intended destination and beerless. William Bradford complained bitterly about the latter in his diary that winter, which is really saying something when you consider what trouble the group was in. (Barely half would survive until spring.) Before long, they were not only making their own beer but also importing wine and liquor. Still, within a couple of generations, Puritans like Cotton Mather were warning that a “flood of RUM” could “overwhelm all good Order among us.”

George Washington first won elected office, in 1758, by getting voters soused. (He is said to have given them 144 gallons of alcohol, enough to win him 307 votes and a seat in Virginia’s House of Burgesses.) During the Revolutionary War, he used the same tactic to keep troops happy, and he later became one of the country’s leading whiskey distillers. But he nonetheless took to moralizing when it came to other people’s drinking, which in 1789 he called “the ruin of half the workmen in this Country.

Hypocritical though he was, Washington had a point. The new country was on a bender, and its drinking would only increase in the years that followed. By 1830, the average American adult was consuming about three times the amount we drink today. An obsession with alcohol’s harms understandably followed, starting the country on the long road to Prohibition.

[Hypocrisy is a serious accusation that should not be lightly made. If an automobile manufacturer — or a typical driver — made a statement opposing speeding or reckless driving, I would not see that as hypocrisy. For a brewer or distiller to state that drinking excessively is bad does not seem hypocritical to me, any more than a restaurateur or grocer stating that gluttony is bad. It seems to me that the author did not think through that accusation. – LG  Postscript: It occurs to me that perhaps people nowadays do not understand how bad hypocrisy is. Perhaps the term has weakened through being used too frequently and/or inappropriately. But hypocrisy is a serious failing indeed, and a hypocrite weakens the social fabric though a basic dishonesty.]

What’s distinctly American about this story is not alcohol’s prominent place in our history (that’s true of many societies), but the zeal with which we’ve swung between extremes. Americans tend to drink in more dysfunctional ways than people in other societies, only to become judgmental about nearly any drinking at all. Again and again, an era of overindulgence begets an era of renunciation: Binge, abstain. Binge, abstain.

Right now we are lurching into another of our periodic crises over drinking, and both tendencies are on display at once. Since the turn of the millennium, alcohol consumption has risen steadily, in a reversal of its long decline throughout the 1980s and ’90s. Before the pandemic, some aspects of this shift seemed sort of fun, as long as you didn’t think about them too hard. In the 20th century, you might have been able to buy wine at the supermarket, but you couldn’t drink it in the supermarket. Now some grocery stores have wine bars, beer on tap, signs inviting you to “shop ’n’ sip,” and carts with cup holders.

Actual bars have decreased in number, but drinking is acceptable in all sorts of other places it didn’t used to be: Salons and boutiques dole out cheap cava in plastic cups. Movie theaters serve alcohol, Starbucks serves alcohol, zoos serve alcohol. Moms carry coffee mugs that say things like this might be wine, though for discreet day-drinking, the better move may be one of the new hard seltzers, a watered-down malt liquor dressed up—for precisely this purpose—as a natural soda.

Even before COVID-19 arrived on our shores, the consequences of all this were catching up with us. From 1999 to 2017, the number of alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. doubled, to more than 70,000 a year—making alcohol one of the leading drivers of the decline in American life expectancy. These numbers are likely to get worse: During the pandemic, frequency of drinking rose, as did sales of hard liquor. By this February, nearly a quarter of Americans said they’d drunk more over the past year as a means of coping with stress.

Explaining these trends is hard; they defy so many recent expectations. Not long ago, Millennials were touted as the driest generation—they didn’t drink much as teenagers, they were “sober curious,” they were so admirably focused on being well—and yet here they are day-drinking White Claw and dying of cirrhosis at record rates. Nor does any of this appear to be an inevitable response to 21st-century life: Other countries with deeply entrenched drinking problems, among them Britain and Russia, have seen alcohol use drop in recent years.

Media coverage, meanwhile, has swung from cheerfully overselling the (now disputed) health benefits of wine to screeching that no amount of alcohol is safe, ever; it might give you cancer and it will certainly make you die before your time. But even those who are listening appear to be responding in erratic and contradictory ways. Some of my own friends—mostly 30- or 40-something women, a group with a particularly sharp uptick in drinking—regularly declare that they’re taking an extended break from drinking, only to fall off the wagon immediately. One went from extolling the benefits of Dry January in one breath to telling me a funny story about hangover-cure IV bags in the next. A number of us share the same (wonderful) doctor, and after our annual physicals, we compare notes about the ever nudgier questions she asks about alcohol. “Maybe save wine for the weekend?” she suggests with a cheer so forced she might as well be saying, “Maybe you don’t need to drive nails into your skull every day?”

What most of us want to know, coming out of the pandemic, is this: Am I drinking too much? And: How much are other people drinking? And: Is alcohol actually that bad?

The answer to all these questions turns, to a surprising extent, not only on how much you drink, but on how and where and with whom you do it. But before we get to that, we need to consider a more basic question, one we rarely stop to ask: Why do we drink in the first place? By we, I mean Americans in 2021, but I also mean human beings for the past several millennia.

Let’s get this out of the way: Part of the answer is “Because it is fun.” Drinking releases endorphins, the natural opiates that are also triggered by, among other things, eating and sex. Another part of the answer is “Because we can.” Natural selection has endowed humans with the ability to drink most other mammals under the table. Many species have enzymes that break alcohol down and allow the body to excrete it, avoiding death by poisoning. But about 10 million years ago, a genetic mutation left our ancestors with a souped-up enzyme that increased alcohol metabolism 40-fold.

This mutation occurred around the time that a major climate disruption transformed the landscape of eastern Africa, eventually leading to widespread extinction. In the intervening scramble for food, the leading theory goes, our predecessors resorted to eating fermented fruit off the rain-forest floor. Those animals that liked the smell and taste of alcohol, and were good at metabolizing it, were rewarded with calories. In the evolutionary hunger games, the drunk apes beat the sober ones.

But even presuming that this story of natural selection is right, it doesn’t explain why, 10 million years later, I like wine so much. “It should puzzle us more than it does,” Edward Slingerland writes in his wide-ranging and provocative new book, Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization, “that one of the greatest foci of human ingenuity and concentrated effort over the past millennia has been the problem of how to get drunk.” The damage done by alcohol is profound: impaired cognition and motor skills, belligerence, injury, and vulnerability to all sorts of predation in the short run; damaged livers and brains, dysfunction, addiction, and early death as years of heavy drinking pile up. As the importance of alcohol as a caloric stopgap diminished, why didn’t evolution eventually lead us away from drinking—say, by favoring genotypes associated with hating alcohol’s taste? That it didn’t suggests that alcohol’s harms were, over the long haul, outweighed by some serious advantages.

Versions of this idea have recently bubbled up at academic conferences and in scholarly journals and anthologies (largely to the credit of the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar). Drunk helpfully synthesizes the literature, then underlines its most radical implication: Humans aren’t merely built to get buzzed—getting buzzed helped humans build civilization. Slingerland is not unmindful of alcohol’s dark side, and his exploration of when and why its harms outweigh its benefits will unsettle some American drinkers. Still, he describes the book as “a holistic defense of alcohol.” And he announces, early on, that “it might actually be good for us to tie one on now and then.”

Slingerland is a professor at the University of British Columbia who, for most of his career, has specialized in ancient Chinese religion and philosophy. In a conversation this spring, I remarked that it seemed odd that he had just devoted several years of his life to a subject so far outside his wheelhouse. He replied that alcohol isn’t quite the departure from his specialty that it might seem; as he has recently come to see things, intoxication and religion are parallel puzzles, interesting for very similar reasons. As far back as his graduate work at Stanford in the 1990s, he’d found it bizarre that across all cultures and time periods, humans went to such extraordinary (and frequently painful and expensive) lengths to please invisible beings.

In 2012, Slingerland and several scholars in other fields won a big grant to study religion from an evolutionary perspective. In the years since, . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2021 at 12:29 pm

The Effect of Animal Protein on Stress Hormones, Testosterone, and Pregnancy

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Animal protein doesn’t seem to be all that good for you, particular if you eat it every day — and some eat animal protein in every diet. Indeed, some eat only animal protein — the carnivore diet. I’ll be interested to see scientific studies of the long-term effects of their diet (not their own personal impressions).

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2021 at 1:55 pm

Exercise and eating right reduces your biological age

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Wikipedia has an extensive article on the topic of biological age, determined by DNA methylation levels. From that article:

In 2010, a new unifying model of aging and the development of complex diseases was proposed, incorporating classical aging theories and epigenetics.[20][21] Horvath and Raj[22] extended this theory, proposing an epigenetic clock theory of aging with the following tenets:

  • Biological aging results as an unintended consequence of both developmental programs and maintenance program, the molecular footprints of which give rise to DNA methylation age estimators.
  • The precise mechanisms linking the innate molecular processes (underlying DNAm age) to the decline in tissue function probably relate to both intracellular changes (leading to a loss of cellular identity) and subtle changes in cell composition, for example, fully functioning somatic stem cells.
  • At the molecular level, DNAm age is a proximal readout of a collection of innate aging processes that conspire with other, independent root causes of ageing to the detriment of tissue function.

More information is found on this page.

DNAm age can be reversed to some degree by a good diet (such as a whole-food plant-based diet) and regular exercise, along with adequate rest and an optimistic outlook. Science Daily has a report of a clinical trial that measured this:

A randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted among 43 healthy adult males between the ages of 50-72. The 8-week treatment program included diet, sleep, exercise and relaxation guidance, and supplemental probiotics and phytonutrients.

Aging published “Potential reversal of epigenetic age using a diet and lifestyle intervention: a pilot randomized clinical trial” which reported on a randomized controlled clinical trial conducted among 43 healthy adult males between the ages of 50-72. The 8-week treatment program included diet, sleep, exercise and relaxation guidance, and supplemental probiotics and phytonutrients.

Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis was conducted on saliva samples using the Illumina Methylation Epic Array and DNAmAge was calculated using the online Horvath DNAmAge clock (also published in Aging).

The diet and lifestyle treatment was associated with a 3.23 years decrease in DNAmAge compared with controls.

DNAmAge of those in the treatment group decreased by an average 1.96 years by the end of the program compared to the same individuals at the beginning with a strong trend towards significance.

This randomized controlled study, published in Aging, suggests that specific diet and lifestyle interventions may reverse Horvath DNAmAge epigenetic aging in healthy adult males.

The study’s lead author, Kara Fitzgerald ND IFMCP, from The Institute for Functional Medicine said, “Advanced age is the largest risk factor for impaired mental and physical function and many non-communicable diseases including cancer, neurodegeneration, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”

Methylation clocks are based on systematic methylation changes with age.

DNAmAge clock specifically demonstrates about 60% of CpG sites losing methylation with age and 40% gaining methylation.

Almost a quarter of the DNAmAge CpG sites are located in glucocorticoid response elements, pointing to a likely relationship between stress and accelerated aging. Cumulative lifetime stress has been shown to be associated with accelerated aging of the methylome.

Other findings include that PTSD contributes to accelerated methylation age; and that greater infant distress is associated with an underdeveloped, younger epigenetic age.

This is to say the authors have tentatively accepted the hypothesis that the methylation pattern from which the DNAmAge clock is computed is a driver of aging, thus they expect that attempting to directly influence the DNA methylome using diet and lifestyle to set back DNAmAge will lead to a healthier, more “youthful” metabolism.

The Fitzgerald Research Team concluded . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2021 at 10:40 am

Why hatred should be considered a contagious disease

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Izzeldin Abuelaish, Professor of Global Health, University of Toronto, writes in The Conversation:

A significant portion of violence in the world is based on hatred. People find so many reasons to hate one another: their class, gender, authority, religion, skin colour, ethnicity, sexual orientation, creed, customs, nationality, political opinions, physical attributes or imagined attributes. And many of those who are targets of hatred in turn hate their haters and return the violence.

Hatred and violence are threats to human health and global stability. As a medical doctor who researches public health as a tool for peace, I consider hatred a contagious disease and a health emergency of international concern.

Hatred and violence have considerable costs in terms of human health and life. Hatred should be acknowledged as a contagious disease, a public health issue and a determinant of health because prevention is needed — and because of the limited health-care resources available to fight it.

In a 2002 report, the World Health Organization called violence a “leading worldwide public health problem” and estimated that 1.6 million lose their lives to violence every year. The report is almost 20 years old now. How many more have died as a result of violence since then?

A long history of hatred

The world has recently seen the latest example of hatred-inspired violence playing out between Palestinians and Israelis.

A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was announced after 11 days of violence that killed more than 250 people, including 66 children and 39 women, and wounded 2,000 in Gaza. Beyond the deaths is the destruction to infrastructure from the Israeli attacks — called a war crime by some international organizations — that has displaced thousands of Palestinians.

What do we expect from all those who are exposed to different varying aspects of harm from discrimination, racism, violence, intimidation, humiliation, oppression, occupation, hate crime, hate speech, incitement and violence?

The WHO defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development, or deprivation.”

Fueled by hate

Health, freedom, justice, education, well-being, violence and war depend on who you are and where you live. Many of the current violent civil or civil-military conflicts across the globe are either based on, or fuelled by, hatred.

In an academic paper I co-authored in 2017 with Dr. Neil Arya, entitled The Palestinian–Israeli conflict: a disease for which root causes must be acknowledged and treated, we noted that hatred goes side by side with violence. Hatred self-perpetuates, usually through cycles of hatred and counter-hatred, violence and counter-violence — sometimes manifested as revenge.

Hatred has been studied for centuries by philosophers and theologians, and more recently by social psychologists, anthropologists and evolutionary scientists.

There is no consensus on a definition of hatred that is scientific, comprehensive and holistic.

Hatred is more than just . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2021 at 9:11 pm

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