Later On

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Kimchi-inflected red-cabbage kraut

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Los Tres Amigos, ready for their Big Adventure

A new batch of fermented vegetables is now underway. Here’s what’s in it:

• 1 large head red cabbage (This time I discarded the core.)
• good-sized chunk of daikon radish
• 1 enormous Cosmic Crisp apple, halved vertically
• 1 large red onion, halved
• 2 large jalapeño peppers, including core and seeds

All of the above were thinly sliced (see below).

• 6 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped

Next three items were pulverized in my spice & herb grinder.

• 2 guajillo chiles
• 2 ancho chiles
• 1″ piece of ginger root, chopped reasonably small

Finally:

• 60g coarse grey sea salt (Celtic is what I have)
• 1 packet Cutting Edge starter culture, hydrated before adding

Cabbage, radish, apple, onion, and jalapeños were slicked using my OXO large handheld adjustable mandoline, with the adjustment set at “1,” the first line after the “Lock” position (photo at right shows the adjustment dial). From a catalog entry: “It has an adjustable dial with 7 thickness options from 1mm to 4mm with 0.5mm intervals.” Thus my slices were 1mm thick.

I removed core and seeds from the guajillo and ancho chiles, toasted them in a skillet, then tore them into pieces and put them into my spice & herb grinder along with the chopped ginger, ground all that to a damp powder, and added it to the bowl of sliced vegetables and chopped dates, along with 60g of coarse sea salt. All that filled the largest bowl I have heaping full, but the vegetables collapsed a fair amount as I massaged them.

I massaged them for 5-10 minutes — going not by the clock but massaging until everything was well-mixed, the cabbage had become soft and supple, and liquid gathered in the bottom of the bowl. I then added the water with the starter culture and mixed that well with the bowl contents for a couple of minutes, still massaging.

Lesson learned: I though the daikon radish slices would break apart as I massaged the mix with the salt. They didn’t. Next time I’ll quarter the daikon lengthwise and then slice: small pieces. The apple did break up pretty well, but I think next time I’ll also quarter that before slicing.

I used 60 grams of salt because the total weight of ingredients was 3030g (6 2/3 lbs!). (I weighed the empty bowl before I began and subtracted that from the weight of the full bowl.) I took 2% of the ingredients’ weight and used that much salt. (TBH, I used 57g because I’m trying to ease up on salt.)

I tried to leave more room at the top in the three jars (two 1-liter, on 1.5-liter), but they were pretty full by the time I had packed them will all the kimchi/kraut mixture. They are firmly packed: I have a kraut packer that works well.

I distributed the liquid left in the big bowl equally among the packed jars, added spring water to barely cover, put a fermentation weight into each jar, and then screwed on a pickle-pipe fermentation airlock and took the photo above.

In two weeks I’m going to have a lot of kimchi-ish kraut. This homemade stuff is sweeter than store-bought, probably because of the apple (and, this time, the dates) and also perhaps because I don’t ferment it so long as commercial krauters do. 

Written by Leisureguy

24 January 2022 at 3:13 pm

“Multitasking Isn’t Progress—It’s What Wild Animals Do for Survival”

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Ted Gioia writes:

I plan to write a series of posts outlining some unconventional or dissident conceptual frameworks I’ve found useful in understanding contemporary society.

These aren’t the usual tired ideas or dead metaphors already familiar to us. I won’t even mention those stale truisms, because you already know every one of them—in fact, we would all probably be better off forgetting them.

Fewer things are more destructive than a dead-end concept. They are much like dead-end roads—they take you on a trip to nowhere. They provide an illusion of motion, but actually bring you further away from any useful destination.

The concepts I’m sharing are less familiar, and all the more valuable for that reason. They have forced me to look at everyday situations in new ways, requiring me to challenge some of my own preconceptions and attitudes. Even when they fail to encompass all of a particular reality, they still add value by disrupting the labels and assumptions that I use—and all of us use—to navigate through day-to-day life.

In this installment, I want to focus on Byung-Chul Han’s concept of the Burnout Society.

Han is one of the most significant German philosophers of our time, but his background is unusual. He was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1959, and studied metallurgy before moving to Germany to immerse himself in philosophy, theology, and literature. He received his doctorate in 1994, writing his dissertation on Martin Heidegger. His philosophy career didn’t start in earnest until his forties, yet he has now published at least twenty books.

Until recently, Han gave no interviews. In a celebrity-driven culture, he refuses to play the game, remaining stubbornly reluctant to discuss his own life and personal background. But that hasn’t prevented him from gaining a large audience, much broader than you might imagine a German philosopher attracting in the current day.  His lectures draw a capacity audience, and his ideas are now crossing over into other disciplines. In particular, a number of people in the art and culture world have started to pay close attention to his concepts and opinions.

Those who have read my book Music; A Subversive History may recall my use of Han’s aesthetic concepts—notably his view that the cult of smoothness is the defining quality of contemporary art. He applies this concept to everything from the design of the iPhone, with its comforting smooth contours, to the Brazilian bikini wax, which aims at a similar endpoint on our bodies.

In this instance, I want to focus on a different concept, namely Han’s notion that we are living in a “Burnout Society” that causes a wide range of characteristic dysfunctions and ailments. These are difficult for society to address because the assumptions built into our inquiries are actually causing these problems.

What follows below is mostly from Han, but reframed and focused by some of my own ideas.


.
THE BURNOUT SOCIETY

Everywhere around us we see the signs: depression, burnout, hyperactivity, anxiety, self-harm. Sometimes the disorders get classified as medical syndromes with impressive acronyms, such as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) or BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder).

In other cases—a suicide or fatal breakdown, for example—things have gone too far for even medical intervention. All the acronyms in the world won’t help you then. But in every instance, something similar can be seen: the victims are at war with themselves.

That’s misleading, Han would say. They only seem to be the instigators of their problems, which are coming from . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

This reminds of something I’ve come to realize in recent years. FOMO (fear of missing out) is pointless because you (and I and any individual) will miss out — inevitably. There is too much in the world — and even too much in human culture or even just in our own particular culture — to absorb. You (and I) will miss out on many more things than we don’t miss out on.

I blogged recently about two brief videos about areas of knowledge and activity on which I’ve totally miss out in the sense of having concrete and specific knowledge, experience, and skill: making movies and making small airplanes. I watched those two videos with fascination because they showed me how much i’ve missed out on in just those two specific areas.

I’ve made my peace with that, and I focus on enjoying (and doing as well as I can, which is generally far short of expertise) things I do encounter and like. Rather than being frustrated by all that I’m missing, I luxuriate in all that I have. That seems the sensible choice, given the ineluctable realities of life. I leap joyously into those things I am not missing out on, and I continue to pay attention to what I encounter, and occasionally seize onto something new (fermenting vegetables, for example).

I believe it’s a big mistake to miss what you actually encounter because your attention is focused on worry about things you’re missing. We taste but a tiny sliver of what life has to offer, so it’s important to enjoy the slice we get.

Written by Leisureguy

24 January 2022 at 12:13 pm

Rejoice! Bookworms live longer!

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Rhea Hirshman writes in the Yale Alumni Magazine:

The next time you talk to a clinician about how you’re taking care of your health, you might want to include a discussion of your
reading habits.

Although sedentary activities are not usually regarded as promoting health, a recent study by Yale researchers showed a significant link between book reading and longevity. (The work was published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.) Researchers examined data from 3,635 individuals who have been involved over several years in a nationwide health study of people over age 50. Based on their answers to the question “How many hours did you spend last week reading books?” respondents were divided into three groups: those who read no books, those who read books for up to three and a half hours, and those who read books for more than three and a half hours.

The study showed a marked advantage for book readers. Over 12 years of follow-up, those who read books for up to three and a half hours per week were  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 January 2022 at 10:24 am

A discovery regarding appetite

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I have read about “intuitive eating,” but don’t really know much about it. I think the idea is to eat only when hungry and to do that by paying attention to your body’s cues. That sounded to me a lot like it meant to eat when I felt like eating and, unfortunately, I find I frequently feel like eating, which makes maintaining a healthy weight difficult.

The other evening I was thinking about this, and I recalled something from one of the books that  I find myself repeatedly recommending, namely A Life of One’s Own, by Joanna Field (the pseudonym of Marion Miller — the book has been republished with Miller shown as the author). Here’s the passage:

The first hint that I really had the power to control the way I looked at things happened in connexion with music. Always before, my listening had been too much bothered by the haunting idea that there was far more in it than I was hearing; but occasionally I would find that I had slipped through this barrier to a delight that was enough in itself, in which I forgot my own inadequacy. But this was rare, and most often I would listen intently for a while and then find I had become distracted and was absorbed in the chatter of my own thoughts, personal preoccupations. Impatiently I would shake myself, resolving to attend in earnest for the rest of the concert, only to find that I could not lose myself by mere resolution. Gradually I found, however, that though I could not listen by direct trying I could make some sort of internal gesture after which listening just happened. I described this effort to myself in various ways. Sometimes I seemed to put my awareness into the soles of my feet, sometimes to send something which was myself out into the hall, or to feel as if I were standing just beside the orchestra. I even tried to draw a little picture to remind myself of how it felt. [drawing is shown in the text – LG]

In my notes I find:

Last Wednesday I went to the opera at Covent Garden, Rigoletto. I was dead tired and could not listen at first (sitting on the miserably cramped gallery benches), but then I remembered to put myself out of myself, close to the music – and sometimes it closed over my head, and I came away rested in feeling light-limbed.

At this time also I began to surmise that there might be different ways of looking as well as of listening.

One day I was idly watching some gulls as they soared high overhead. I was not interested, for I recognized them as ‘just gulls’, and vaguely watched first one and then another. Then all at once something seemed to have opened. My idle boredom with the familiar became a deep-breathing peace and delight, and my whole attention was gripped by the pattern and rhythm of their flight, their slow sailing which had become a quiet dance.

In trying to observe what had happened I had the idea that my awareness had somehow widened, that I was feeling what I saw as well as thinking what I saw. But I did not know how to make myself feel as well as think, and it was not till three months later that it occurred to me to apply to looking the trick I had discovered in listening. This happened when I had been thinking of how much I longed to learn the way to get outside my own skin in the daily affairs of life, and feel how other people felt; but I did not know how to begin. I then remembered my trick with music and began to try ‘putting myself out’ into one of the chairs in the room (I was alone so thought a chair would do to begin with). At once the chair seemed to take on a new reality, I ‘felt’ its proportions and could say at once whether I liked its shape. This then, I thought, might be the secret of looking, and could be applied to knowing what one liked. My ordinary way of looking at things seemed to be from my head, as if it were a tower in which I kept myself shut up, only looking out of the windows to watch what was going on. Now I seemed to be discovering that I could if I liked go down outside, go down and make myself part of what was happening, and only so could I experience certain things which could not be seen from the detached height of the tower…. One might have thought that after the discovery of such a new possibility I would have been continually coming down to look at things. Actually, however, with the press of a daily work which demanded thought, not feeling, I seem to have forgotten the fact of this new freedom, also I think I was afraid of it and loth to leave the security of my tower too often.

So as I was sitting my chair and thinking about getting something to eat, I remembered that passage and decided to put my consciousness into my body — specifically into my gut. When I did, I felt no urge at all to eat. in fact, I felt quite satisfied.

That was odd, because I had definitely been thinking about getting something to eat, so I tried putting my consciousness into my mouth — and there it was. I suddenly had a clear and distinct desire for food in my mouth: a salad, cold and crisp and crunchy; or a hot meal with softer textures, like mushrooms sautéed with butter and onions and some cooked grain; or perhaps some cold spicy veggies, like a bowl of the Other Vegetables or Spinach that was in the fridge. I definitely felt like ating.

Then I switched my consciousness back to my gut, and again the urge to eat vanished. I felt satisfied and didn’t really want anything. I found that interesting (and I did not eat anything more that evening.)

It seems clear that my mouth likes stimulation, and eating food is just such an activity. So my mouth enjoys food a lot, and is always ready for more. In contrast, my gut seems to desire food only when it needs food, and otherwise it wants to be left alone to go about its business and not be bothered by taking on more work.

It’s like my mouth is flighty — easily aroused, readily distracted, never satisfied — so it’s important that i pay attention to my gut, a more reliable guide to my need for food. My mouth is always up for food and is easily distracted into wanting food, so I must it keep it on a short leash. It can have its fun only when my gut wants food — not nearly so often as when my mouth wants entertainment.

Written by Leisureguy

23 January 2022 at 10:08 pm

The mask conundrum: A dialogue

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Kevin Drum treats us to a Socratic dialogue. He writes:

There’s a fundamental problem with our campaign to get people to wear masks. It’s pretty obvious, but here it is:

Socrates: Our greatest healers and physicians are united in urging us to wear masks in order to fight the plague that runs rampant among us. Do you believe their advice to be sound?

Glaucon: Why yes.

Socrates: And what evidence do they offer that you find so persuasive?

Glaucon: It is obvious that masks reduce the expulsion of bad airs from breathing and coughing. If I am suffering from the plague—but still out in the agora because I am not yet feeling any ill effects—it diminishes the number of malignant corpuscles that I introduce into the world.

Socrates: So when you wear a mask, you do it to help other people, not yourself?

Glaucon: That is so. It is not perfect, but it is still beneficent to the good health of Athens.

Socrates: And you consider this a virtuous act.

Glaucon: Indeed I do. A respect for the good of society is one of the highest virtues.

Socrates: Quite so. But you’ll admit that not everyone thinks as you do.

Glaucon: Unhappily, all my experience among men teaches me that you are right.

Socrates: So on the one side, we have your fellow citizens of virtue. They are the most likely to heed the advice of our physicians, are they not?

Glaucon: I cannot disagree.

Socrates: And being virtuous, they have probably already visited a physician and procured for themselves a potion that protects against the plague?

Glaucon: Indeed, I myself have done so. I believe it was called a “vaccine.”

Socrates: And what does this “vaccine” accomplish?

Glaucon:  . . .

Do continue reading. Drum points out a paradox we need to solve.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2022 at 1:36 pm

Best Food to Prevent Common Childhood Infections

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Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2022 at 11:08 am

Study: Green MedDiet Can Slow Brain Atrophy Among Over-50s

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Paolo DeAndreis writes in Olive Oil Times:

A common aging process known as brain atrophy has been effectively limited by the adoption of a Mediterranean diet significantly high in polyphenols and low in processed and red meat, known as Green-Med.

A team of researchers from Ben Gurion University in Israel has found significant beneficial effects of Green-Med adoption on a large group of overweight employees at the Dimona Nuclear Research Center. Two hundred twenty-seven participants completed the 18-month trial during which several brain parameters were analyzed.

The employees were divided into three groups. The first was asked to follow a healthy diet, the second one was instructed to adopt a traditional Mediterranean diet and the third one was asked to follow Green-Med. All of them were also asked to carry out specific physical activities and all were given a free gym membership.

To enhance the high-polyphenol profile of Green-Med, the researchers introduced walnuts and green tea into the diet.

In a note, researchers explained that the polyphenols in walnuts decrease the risk for dementia and reduce brain inflammation. Green tea’s polyphenols are also known for their favorable effects on cognitive function and reduced inflammation in the brain. [FWIW, I eat 1/4 cup of walnuts daily, and I drink green tea (and hibiscus tea) daily. – LG]

While walnuts were also given to the MedDiet group, scientists administered a specific strain of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2022 at 3:13 pm

Textual Healing: The Novel World of Bibliotherapy

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I can totally understand this. For one thing, when you are really immersed in a book, your consciousness enters a world far from the chair in which you sit and the room around you. This happens often in reading a work of fiction, but also with some nonfiction (e.g., The Great Influenza, or The Horse, the Wheel, and Language, or No Contest, or Which Side Are You On? or The Kings Depart or. … oops — got lost there for a minute; see this list for links and comments on those titles).

Katrya Bolger writes in The Walrus:

WHEN THE PANDEMIC STRUCK, in March 2020, Anne Boulton was already feeling overwhelmed. She was pursuing a PhD at Laurentian University, which meant teaching in the English department and spending her days at home reviewing readings on literature and psychoanalysis for her thesis. But personal issues were bubbling just below the surface. “When COVID happened,” she says, “suddenly you were faced with your own isolation.” She wanted to better address the strain she was dealing with.

Boulton contacted Hoi Cheu, her supervisor at Laurentian. Besides teaching literary theory, Cheu is a trained marriage and family therapist: he has drawn on his experience in both areas to offer therapeutic support, on and off, for about thirty years. He also trained in bibliotherapy, using his dual background in psychology and literary studies to recommend specific texts for people coping with life challenges from loneliness to mental illness.

Bibliotherapy is premised on the idea that books can be healing tools. It can occur in individual or group settings, though the main distinction is between clinical bibliotherapy, where texts, including fiction and nonfiction, are recommended by a clinical therapist, and nonclinical bibliotherapy, as practised by a facilitator such as a librarian. Though not a stand-alone clinical practice in Canada, clinical bibliotherapy is a method used by professionals who already have certification in counselling, therapy, and clinical therapy and want to help patients seeking an additional outlet. Nonclinical bibliotherapy can’t replace professional help for patients with mental illnesses; instead, it is often used in conjunction with other forms of clinical therapy.

Cheu, based in Sudbury, Ontario, first learned of bibliotherapy during his undergraduate degree, when he came across English professor Joseph Gold’s Read For Your Life, which outlines the benefits of bibliotherapy. In fact, the British-born Gold is widely credited with bringing bibliotherapy to Canada. Cheu began working under Gold during his master’s at the University of Waterloo and later wrote his PhD thesis on James Joyce and the art of Zen, applying principles of Buddhism to his analysis of the Irish writer’s works. He eventually became Gold’s assistant, joining him in sessions with clients in his private practice. Books, Cheu says, provide a safely cocooned space inside which people can unearth painful and sometimes repressed feelings.

When Cheu and Boulton logged on to their first virtual session, Cheu started taking notes on Boulton’s needs. “What literary character do you most identify with?” he asked her. She responded with Anna Karenina. She related to the Leo Tolstoy heroine’s strength of spirit. Like the Russian socialite, Boulton was comfortable asking for what she wanted even when she had repeatedly been discouraged by those around her. From this first session, Cheu started to build out her reading list. There was Kaye Gibbons’s Ellen Foster, a novel about a young heroine’s tumultuous childhood in the American South. And there was Nikolai Leskov’s “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,” a short story about a young woman seeking to escape a stifling marriage to an older man. Being a good student of English literature, Boulton dove into the texts with vigour.

THOUGH THE FIRST known use of the term bibliotherapy appeared in a satirical essay published in a 1916 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, the idea of offering reading material to those in mental distress dates back to eighteenth-century asylums. By the early twentieth century, librarians in US hospitals were even considered therapists. American military libraries also prescribed books to soldiers suffering from trauma after the First World War. These programs were eventually expanded to other hospitals and libraries.

The growing interest in the field of psychotherapy in the 1930s led to research on bibliotherapy. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, several books were published on the subject. And, as mental health treatment expanded, bibliotherapy gained broader appeal, according to Bibliotherapy: A Critical History.

Proponents of bibliotherapy firmly believe . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 January 2022 at 4:26 pm

The Effects of Avocados & Red Wine on Meal-Induced Inflammation

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One takeaway from this brief video is that the common combination of wine and cheese or wine and pâté is not a good idea. I also was interested to learn that having an avocado on a burger is a good idea (though not so good as skipping the burger: not the effect of combing meat and white bread).

Written by Leisureguy

18 January 2022 at 4:18 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Fighting the Ten Hallmarks of Cancer with Food

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Some very interesting findings quoted in this brief video.

In his note on the video on NutritionFacts.org, Dr. Greger adds:

Once I’ve finished researching and writing How Not to Age, my next book will be on cancer survival, so there will be a lot more coming on this critically important topic. Until then, I have dozens of videos on cancer prevention and treatment, including:

How Not to Die from Cancer   
Starving Cancer with Methionine Restriction   
Saving Lives by Treating Acne with Diet   
Prostate Cancer and Organic Milk vs. Almond Milk   
Strawberries vs. Esophageal Cancer   
Should We All Get Colonoscopies Starting at Age 50?   
Breast Cancer Survival Vegetable    
Prostate Cancer Survival: The A/V Ratio   
Anti-Angiogenesis: Cutting off the Tumor Supply Line   
Why Might Vegetarians Have Less HPV?    
Zeranol Use in Meat and Breast Cancer    
Animal Protein Compared to Cigarette Smoking    
Is Organic Meat Less Carcinogenic?    
The Best Diet for Colon Cancer Prevention   
What Causes Cancer to Metastasize?    
How to Help Control Cancer Metastasis with Diet    
The Food That Can Downregulate a Metastatic Cancer Gene

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2022 at 1:56 pm

Zinc Supplement: Why, Which, and How

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Why

Immediately after I read the article on white rice [see previous post], I happened across an article in the Washington Post: “Zinc helps fight infections, but many people are deficient in this vital mineral,” by Diane Kwon (gift link — no paywall). That put a bee in my bonnet, particularly since I recently discontinued taking a zinc supplement. 

Still, with any nutrient, too much is as bad as too little — for example, your body requires potassium, iron, and sodium, but too much potassium can trigger seizures; too much iron acts as a poison; and too much sodium leads to high blood pressure. The requirement for moderation — neither too little nor too much — applies both to micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins).

The Post article notes, “experts recommend that adults [emphasis added – LG] consume no more than 40 milligrams of zinc per day.” That link is to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) article on zinc, which also specifies the maximum daily intake for other ages. For example, children 1-3 years old should not consume more than 3mg of zinc per day.

That NIH article also includes recommended minimum daily amounts by age. However, usually not all of a vitamin or mineral in a supplement is absorbed. Kwon comments in her WaPo article: “We need better zinc supplements, Knoell says: Most now come in salt form, as zinc sulfate or chloride, but these are not readily taken up by the body.”

One important factor in whether or not a micronutrient is absorbed is age. As we age, our ability to absorb some micronutrients declines. For example, young people on a plant-based diet require a B12 supplement, but older people generally need a B12 supplement regardless of their diet.

My practice is first to look for good food sources of any vitamin or mineral of interest — in this case, zinc. Healthline lists the 10 best foods high in zinc, but the first two listed are meat and shellfish, which I eat rarely. The list also includes dairy and eggs — again, no longer part of my usual diet. The list does include some foods I eat regularly — legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and some vegetables (notably potatoes, which I avoid: too much starch). However, the amount of zinc in those foods is not so impressive. From the Healthline article:

100 grams of cooked lentils contain around 12% of the DV (10). However, legumes also contain phytates. These antinutrients inhibit the absorption of zinc and other minerals, meaning zinc from legumes isn’t as well absorbed as the zinc from animal products (11).

I also checked what Dr. Michael Greger’s NutritionFacts.org had to say about zinc, and I found this:

Zinc from plant foods is not absorbed so well as zinc from animal foods, which may be a concern for vegetarians. In fact, a 2009 study revealed that vegetarians may be at risk for zinc deficiency. Vegetarians in the study had low blood zinc levels due to the high intake of phytates in their diet.

That definitely caught my eye, especially since I typically eat legumes at each meal.

So: food sources of dietary zinc are 1) foods I normally do not eat, and 2) not all that high in zinc anyway. And when I also saw in the Healthline article “Your body doesn’t store zinc, so you need to eat enough every day to ensure you’re meeting your daily requirements (2).” [emphasis added – LG], I decided that I definitely should resume taking a zinc supplement, choosing one that’s comfortably less than 40mg/day. That amount should be perfectly safe, especially since I am unlikely to absorb the full amount of the zinc in the supplement.

It’s important to note that, since zinc is not stored, one may well have days — perhaps many days — of some degree of zinc deficiency. Those low-zinc days would not necessarily have obvious symptoms but would nevertheless be suboptimal, creating a drag on one’s well-being. People can get easily get along on a suboptimal diet, but when their diet improves, so do their health, stature, and energy level

On the whole, it seems better to me to be safe than sorry, and to take a daily zinc supplement as a fail-safe precaution. 

Which

I next searched for “best form of zinc supplement” and found a Forbes article: “Best Zinc Supplements Of 2022, According To Experts,” by Sarah Berger, fact-checked by Alena Hall.

I decided to go with the first one listed: NOW Foods Zinc Glycinate (30mg/softgel), which got 5 stars. I usually order my supplements from Well.ca. Their catalog description says “Dietary bioavailability of zinc is relatively poor, so NOW® Zinc Glycinate (also known as Bisglycinate) is chelated to improve absorption and bioavailability. NOW uniquely offers Zinc Glycinate in a softgel capsule with Pumpkin Seed Oil as a healthy synergist.” (Pumpkin seeds are fairly high in zinc, FWIW.)

How

In my budget plan, I put aside in savings each month the money I’ll need for foreseeable regular expenses. By doing that, when one of those expenses comes due, I can just pay for it from savings, with zero impact on my regular weekly budget. Vitamin/supplement purchases are certainly foreseeable, and in my budget workbook I have one worksheet specifically for those, with the total from that worksheet carried into the Overall Plan. (See this post for details.)

Adding a zinc supplement required a new line in my Supplements worksheet and increased slightly the amount transferred into savings each month. I inserted the Zinc line at the top, pushing down the entries already there. Here’s what it looks like now. (Here I truncated the URLs because they’re irrelevant for this post. They’re in the worksheet because I like to have them handy when I re-order.)

By adding the zinc supplement, my savings transfer goes up by $4.54/month, which means my Discretionary budget drops by $4.54/month. (Discretionary is what’s left after everything else is taken care of.)

That’s trivial. It’s amounts to $1.05/week, a negligible difference. And when it comes time to replenish my zinc supply, I will just take the money from savings, with zero impact on my daily spending.

I ordered two bottles, so that 1) I have a spare, and 2) the order qualifies for free shipping. (When I reorder, I’ll also order enough overall to get free shipping.)

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2022 at 12:56 pm

How Killer Rice Crippled Tokyo and the Japanese Navy

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Problems due to nutrition (whether from a deficit or an excess of some micronutrient) are sneaky: even when the health impact is evident, the cause may remain obscure. Anne Ewbank writes in Gastro Obscura:

IN 1877, JAPAN’S MEIJI EMPEROR watched his aunt, the princess Kazu, die of a common malady: kakke. If her condition was typical, her legs would have swollen, and her speech slowed. Numbness and paralysis might have come next, along with twitching and vomiting. Death often resulted from heart failure.

The emperor had suffered from this same ailment, on-and-off, his whole life. In response, he poured money into research on the illness. It was a matter of survival: for the emperor, his family, and Japan’s ruling class. While most diseases ravage the poor and vulnerable, kakke afflicted the wealthy and powerful, especially city dwellers. This curious fact gave kakke its other name: Edo wazurai, the affliction of Edo (Edo being the old name for Tokyo). But for centuries, the culprit of kakke went unnoticed: fine, polished, white rice.

Gleaming white rice was a status symbol—it was expensive and laborious to husk, hull, polish, and wash. In Japan, the poor ate brown rice, or other carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes or barley. The rich ate polished white rice, often to the exclusion of other foods.

This was a problem. Removing the outer layers of a grain of rice also removes one vital nutrient: thiamine, or vitamin B-1. Without thiamine, animals and humans develop kakkenow known in English as beriberi. But for too long, the cause of the condition remained unknown. [See also this article by the Harvard School of Public Health. From the article: “The bran is the fiber-rich outer layer that supplies B vitaminsiron, copper, zincmagnesiumantioxidants, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural chemical compounds in plants that have been researched for their role in disease prevention.” That’s in part why I cook intact whole grain for my meals. – LG]

In his book Beriberi in Modern Japan: The Making of a National Disease, Alexander R. Bay describes the efforts of Edo-era doctors to figure out the disease. A common suspect was dampness and damp ground. One doctor administered herbal medicines and a fasting regimen to a samurai, who died within months. Other doctors burned dried mugwort on patients’ bodies to stimulate qi and blood flow.

Some remedies did work—even if they didn’t come from a true understanding of the disease. Katsuki Gyuzan, an early, 18th-century doctor, believed Edo itself was the issue. Samurai, he wrote, would come to Edo and get kakke from the water and soil. Only samurai who went back to their provincial homes—going over the Hakone Pass—would be cured. Those who were seriously ill had to move quickly, “for the worst cases always result in death,” Katsuki cautioned. Since heavily processed white rice was less available outside Edo and in the countryside, this likely was a cure. Similarly, a number of physicians prescribed barley and red beans, which both contain thiamine.

By 1877, Japan’s beriberi problem was getting really serious. When the princess Kazu died of kakke at 31, it was only a decade after her former husband, Japan’s shogun, had died, almost certainly from the mysterious disease. Machine-milling made polished rice available to the masses, and as the government invested in an army and navy, it fed soldiers with white rice. (White rice, as it happened, was less bulky and lasted longer than brown rice, which could go rancid in warm weather.) Inevitably, soldiers and sailors got beriberi.

No longer was this just a problem for the upper class, or even Japan. In his article British India and the “Beriberi Problem,” 1798–1942, David Arnold writes that by the time the emperor was funding research, beriberi was ravaging South and East Asia, especially “soldiers, sailors, plantation labourers, prisoners, and asylum inmates.”

Into this mess stepped a precocious doctor: Takaki Kanehiro. Almost immediately after joining the navy in 1872, he noticed the high numbers of sailors suffering from beriberi. But it wasn’t until he returned from medical school in London and took up the role of director of the Tokyo Naval Hospital that he could do anything about it. After surveying suffering sailors, he found that “the rate [of disease] was highest among prisoners, lower among sailors and petty officers, and lowest among officers.”

Since they differed mainly by diet, Takaki believed a lack of protein among lower-status sailors caused the disease. (This contradicted the most common theory at the time: that beriberi was an infectious disease caused by bacteria.) Takaki even wrangled a meeting with the emperor to discuss his theory. “If the cause of this condition is discovered by someone outside of Japan, it would be dishonorable,” he told the emperor. Change couldn’t come soon enough. In 1883, 120 Japanese sailors out of 1,000 had the disease.

Takaki also noticed that Western navies didn’t suffer from beriberi. But instituting a Western-style diet was expensive, and sailors were resistant to eating bread. An unfortunate incident, though, allowed Takaki to make his point emphatically. In late 1883, a training ship full of cadets returned from a journey to New Zealand, South America, and Hawaii. Out of the 370 cadets and crewmen, 169 had gotten beriberi, and 25 had died.

Takaki proposed an experiment. Another training ship, the Tsukuba, would set out on the exact same route. Takaki leveraged every connection he had to arrange for the Tsukuba to carry bread and meat instead of just white rice. So while the Tsukuba made its way around the world, the doctor spent sleepless nights fretting about the result: If crew members died from beriberi, he would look like a fool. Later, he told a student that he would have killed himself if his experiment failed.

Instead, the Tsukuba returned to Japan in triumph. Only 14 crew members had gotten beriberi, and those men had not eaten the ordered diet. Takaki wasn’t exactly right: He believed the issue was protein rather than thiamine. But since meat was expensive, Takaki proposed giving sailors protein-filled barley, which is actually rich in thiamine. In the face of this evidence, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2022 at 9:56 am

A Q&A With the Scientist Who Discovered Cannabis Can Prevent COVID-19

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Science has its gatekeepers — those who control funding and thus can refuse funding to projects they dislike (because, for example, the project goes against current trends or is contrary to received scientific wisdom). Audrey Cafleton in Vice interviews a scientist whose project was rejected by the gatekeepers and was thus not funded, but who did it anyway and made some interesting findings:

A groundbreaking new study out of two Oregon universities has identified an unusual naturally-occuring substance as a promising tool to prevent COVID-19 infections: cannabis.

Published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Natural Products, the study identified three cannabis compounds—non-psychoactive precursors found in the plant before it’s converted into the stuff that gets you high—as being notably effective at blocking the entry of SARS-COV-2 into human cells by glomming onto the virus’s spike protein. The study is an early sign that cannabis could be an effective tool in the arsenal of global coronavirus responses; but with piecemeal laws and pushback from federal agencies, the future of cannabis in COVID-19 treatment remains unknown.

Here, Dr. Richard van Breemen, first author on the study and professor of medicinal chemistry at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, tells Motherboard about his findings, the public response to the study, the legal challenges he encountered in this research, and why cannabis-derived gummies might just be an important public health intervention.

Motherboard: Your paper is really making the rounds—congratulations! Can you walk me through your key findings?
Dr. Richard van Breemen: 
Our interest has always been in discovering natural products that have medicinal value. With COVID, we thought we’d go about trying to find natural products that can stop the virus from infecting cells or inhibit their ability to replicate and go on to infect other individuals. We decided to attack the virus at the starting point, where it enters the cell. That’s the exact same point at which antibodies attack the virus.

We asked the question: “Could small molecules from nature, like from plants, have the same ability to stop the virus from infecting a cell if they had an ability to bind to the surface of the virus and specifically to the spike protein of the virus, which is what’s making contact with the human cell and enabling it to infect the cell?”

Initially, when we proposed this to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) back in 2020, one of the reviewers said, no one’s made the proof of principle that this can work. So they didn’t give me the money. We did it anyway, and we’ve established this principle that small molecules including natural products, in this case from hemp, have the ability to stop the virus from infecting human cells.

We were looking at black cohosh, and red clover and licorice, and we added hemp, and we discovered three compounds in hemp that had this high ability to bind to the spike protein. And we even determined that some of them bind to sites on that spike protein and synergistically they can have a bigger effect than if one is using one compound at a time instead of the mixture. So we think the mixture of cannabidiolic acid (CBD-A), cannabigerolic acid (CBG-A), and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A) would be more effective than any one of them alone. So this speaks to the idea that the supplement, containing a complex extract of a plant, sometimes is better than monotherapy in the traditional drug approach, where you purify it and use only one compound at a time.

I did see in the study that, crucially, you couldn’t really test THC-A in the ways that you wanted to, because it’s a controlled substance, and you just weren’t able to get your hands on enough of it to test it. Is that right?
That is correct. We screened extracts of hemp, and there are traces of THC-A in these extracts. And so we identified it, but we weren’t allowed, actually due to campus rules. We weren’t allowed to purify it and even test it alone, because it can be converted to THC. If one heats it, the acid group can be removed and chemically it transforms into a psychoactive substance, but THC-A alone is not psychoactive.

Neither CBD-A nor CBG-A are psychoactive, right? So what we’re looking at is a little more complicated than smoking weed to prevent COVID-19 infection. What we’re talking about is something that would be orally ingested. What do you envision for that?
I envision  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

12 January 2022 at 5:18 pm

“Restaurant of Mistaken Orders”

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Written by Leisureguy

12 January 2022 at 1:16 pm

Pesticides and cancer risk

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Another example of effects of environmental pollution:

Written by Leisureguy

12 January 2022 at 1:02 pm

Why more stringent regulation is needed for ‘forever chemicals’

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The Harvard Gazette has a three-question interview:

 The Biden administration recently announced a plan to set enforceable drinking water limits on certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—long-lasting, man-made chemicals that are used in a wide range of consumer products and that are known to pose health risks to millions of Americans. Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, discusses the importance of regulating PFAS.

Q: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it plans to establish a national drinking water standard for certain PFAS chemicals by March 2023. What do you think of the plan?

A: I’m thrilled about it. Any support we can conjure for the EPA to get going is good, because we’re so far behind in limiting the use of these dangerous chemicals. PFAS are used in many products, such as waterproof clothing, nonstick cookware, firefighting foams, cosmetics, food packaging, cleaning supplies, and electronics. We know that the blood of nearly all Americans contains some PFAS, which we call “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the body. And we’ve shown with two decades of intensive research that PFAS are linked to serious health issues such as kidney and testicular cancer, weakened immune system, endocrine disruption, fertility problems, and decreased birth weight.

The European Union (EU) is way ahead of the U.S. on regulating PFAS. In September 2020, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) set a new safety threshold for the four most common PFAS. The EPA’s limit is for only two PFAS—PFOS and PFOA—and it’s more than 30 times higher than the European limit, and it pertains only to drinking water. So that illustrates how far behind the U.S. is.

In setting their limit, the EFSA took into account toxicity to the immune system posed by PFAS, which is expressed by lowered antibody responses to childhood vaccines—an effect that we first reported in JAMA in 2012. The EFSA’s exposure limit is meant to ensure that women of reproductive age do not accumulate too much of a PFAS burden. The strategy makes sense, in my opinion, because PFAS compounds tend to pass through the placenta during pregnancy, so that a mother will share her accumulated burden of these compounds with the next generation. In addition, our 2015 study found that when the mother is breastfeeding—something that is strongly recommended by the CDC and WHO—these compounds are excreted through human milk. The infant may reach a blood concentration of PFAS that is 10-fold higher than the mother’s. And this happens at the most vulnerable stage of life, when various organs and biochemical functions are being fine-tuned. If something goes wrong at this stage, it will likely stay with us for the rest of our lives and affect our disease risks later on.

For example, in a study we published recently, we found that, even in nine-year-old children, their accumulated PFAS exposures were associated with elevated cholesterol, an outcome that was thought only to affect adults. And people who have high cholesterol as children or young adults are also likely to have high cholesterol later in life.

Q: The EU regulated four PFAS, but not others. Why?

A: The EU decided to look at those four because they are so-called “legacy” PFAS, about which there is substantial documentation. They didn’t address the field of substitutes—new potential compounds that might enter the environment in the future. But we have to face this problem at some point. These compounds are so useful that, if industry realizes there’s a certain compound they can’t use, they will immediately look for alternatives. That’s my concern, and many of my colleagues have the same concern: that if the physical and chemical properties of the substitutes are the same, they may have the same toxicological problems as the legacy chemicals.

One positive development in the U.S. is that, in late December, the EPA granted a petition from six North Carolina public health and environmental justice organizations to compel companies to conduct toxicity testing of additional PFAS. It’s a step in the right direction.

Q: Given that substitutes may be dangerous, what do you think governments should do in terms of regulating PFAS?

A: I’m willing to accept that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 January 2022 at 12:56 pm

Apple Peels Put to the Test for Chronic Joint Pain

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Michael Greger has an interesting blog post, which begins:

Are the health benefits associated with apple consumption simply due to other healthy behaviors among apple-eaters?

Regular apple intake is associated with all sorts of benefits, such as living longer and, more specifically, a lower risk of dying from cancer. At 0:17 in my video Apple Peels Put to the Test for Chronic Joint Pain, you can see the survival curve of elderly women. Of those who do not eat an apple a day, nearly a quarter had died after 10 years and nearly half were gone after 15 years. In comparison, those who eat on average about half an apple a day don’t die as young, and those eating one daily apple—more than three and a half daily ounces, which is around a cup of apple slices—lived even longer. Is it possible that people who eat apples every day just happen to practice other healthy behaviors, like exercising more or not smoking, and that’s why they’re living longer? The study controlled for obesity, smoking status, poverty, diseases, exercise, and more, so the researchers really could compare apples to apples (so to speak). 

What they didn’t control for, however, was an otherwise more healthful diet. As you can see at 1:04 in my video, studies show that those who regularly eat apples not only have higher intakes of nutrients like fiber that are found in the fruit, but they’re also eating less added sugar and less saturated fat. In other words, they’re eating overall more healthful diets, so it’s no wonder apple-eaters live longer. But, is apple-eating just a marker for healthful eating, or is there something about the apples themselves that’s beneficial? You don’t know, until you put it to the test. 

Given that “athletes use a variety of common strategies to stimulate arousal, cognition, and performance before morning training,” subjects were randomly assigned to a caffeinated energy drink, black coffee, an apple, or nothing at all in the morning. Did the apple hold its weight? Yes, it appeared to work just as well as the caffeinated beverages. The problem with these kinds of studies, though, is that they’re not blinded. Those in the apple group knew they were eating an apple, so there may have been an expectation bias—a placebo effect—that made them unconsciously give that extra bit of effort in the testing and skew the results. You can’t just stuff a whole apple into a pill. 

That’s why researchers instead test specific extracted apple components, which allows them to perform a double-blind, placebo-controlled study where half the subjects get the fruit elements and the other half get a sugar pill, and you don’t know until the end who got which. The problem there, however, is that you’re no longer dealing with a whole food, removing the symphony of interactions between the thousands of phytonutrients in the whole apple.

Most of those special nutrients are concentrated in the peel, though. Instead of just dumping millions of pounds of nutrition in the trash, why couldn’t researchers just dry and powder the peels into opaque capsules to disguise them and then run blinded studies with those? Even just a “small amount could greatly increase phytochemical content and antioxidant activity…”

The meat industry got the memo. A study found that “dried apple peel powder decreases microbial expansion” in meat and protects against carcinogen production when it’s cooked. One of the carcinogens formed during the grilling of meat is a beta-carboline alkaloid—a neurotoxin that may be “a potential contributor to the development of neurological diseases including Parkinson’s disease.” Uncooked meat doesn’t have any. The neurotoxin is formed when meat is cooked, but you can cut the levels in half by first marinating it with dried apple peel powder, as you can see at 3:27 in my video.

Apple peel also . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 January 2022 at 5:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

How our ancestors used to sleep can help the sleep-deprived today

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Full disclosure: In retirement, I have found my sleeping pattern to often be biphasic a first sleep,. a period of being awake (like now, at 2:45am), generally lasting 60-90 minutes, and then a second sleep, with both the first and second sleep being quite sound. That is, I don’t get up because I am sleeping poorly and am restless. Instead, I have a good sound sleep, become awake and get up, then return to bed as I become sleepy again, usually in 55-65 minutes though sometimes a little longer (but seldom shorter).

When I was in high school, I think, I read a comment that if you awaken in the night and you’re awake for 20 minutes, it’s best to just get up and read until you’re sleepy again, and that’s the pattern I’ve followed. However, during my working life I mostly tried (successfully) to sleep through the night because I had to get up early to get ready to be at work at the specified time — and with a commute, that might mean getting up quite early.

This CNN article by Katie Hunt provides more information. It begins:

Like many people, historian A. Roger Ekirch thought that sleep was a biological constant — that eight hours of rest a night never really varied over time and place.

But while researching nocturnal life in preindustrial Europe and America, he discovered the first evidence that many humans used to sleep in segments — a first sleep and second sleep with a break of a few hours in between to have sex, pray, eat, chat and take medicine.

“Here was a pattern of sleep unknown to the modern world,” said Ekirch, a university distinguished professor in the department of history at Virginia Tech.

Ekirch’s subsequent book, “At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past,” unearthed more than 500 references to what’s since been termed biphasic sleep. Ekirch has now found more than 2,000 references in a dozen languages and going back in time as far as ancient Greece. His 2004 book will be republished in April.

The practice of sleeping through the whole night didn’t really take hold until just a few hundred years ago, his work suggested. It only evolved thanks to the spread of electric lighting and the Industrial Revolution, with its capitalist belief that sleep was a waste of time that could be better spent working.

The history of sleep not only reveals fascinating details about everyday life in the past, but the work of Ekirch, and other historians and anthropologists, is helping sleep scientists gain fresh perspective on what constitutes a good night’s sleep. It also offers new ways to cope with and think about sleep problems.

There is value in knowing about this prior pattern of sleep in the Western world, said Ekirch. He’s convinced “a large number of people who today suffer from middle-of-the-night insomnia, the primary sleep disorder in the United States — and I dare say in most industrialized countries — rather than experiencing a quote unquote, disorder, are in fact, experiencing a very powerful remnant, or echo of this earlier pattern of sleep,” said Ekirch, who stressed he was speaking from a historical perspective and not as a medical doctor.

Adults need more than seven hours of sleep a night, but more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Myth of 8-hour sleep?

The first reference to biphasic sleep Ekirch found was in a 1697 legal document from a traveling “Assizes” court buried in a London record office. The deposition of a 9-year-old girl called Jane Rowth mentioned that her mother awoke after her “first sleep” to go out. The mother was later found dead.

“I had never heard the expression, and it was expressed in such a way that it seemed perfectly normal,” he said. “I then began to come across subsequent references in these legal depositions but also in other sources.”

Ekirch subsequently found multiple references to a “first” and “second” sleep in diaries, medical texts, works of literature and prayer books. A doctor’s manual from 16th century France advised couples that the best time to conceive was not at the end of a long day but “after the first sleep,” when “they have more enjoyment” and “do it better.”

By the early 19th century, however, the first sleep had begun to expand at the expense of the second sleep, Ekirch found, and the intervening period of wakefulness. By the end of the century, the second sleep was little more than turning over in one’s bed for an extra 10 minutes of snoozing.

Ben Reiss, author of Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World and professor and chair of the English department at Emory University in Atlanta, blames the . . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more.

Written by Leisureguy

11 January 2022 at 3:00 am

How useful is personalized nutrition?

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The comment on caffeine was particularly interesting. 

Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2022 at 11:14 am

Management greed knows no bounds

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Written by Leisureguy

9 January 2022 at 4:38 pm

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