Category Archives: Culinary

Coffee

Is it ruining your productivity?

In other words, that euphoric short-term state that you enter after drinking coffee is what non-habitual caffeine consumers are experiencing all of the time. The difference is that for coffee drinkers, the feeling doesn’t last. “Coming off caffeine reduces your cognitive performance and has a negative impact on your mood. The only way to get back to normal is to drink caffeine, and when you do drink it, you feel like it’s taking you to new heights,” Bradberry explained. “In reality, the caffeine is just taking your performance back to normal for a short period.”

See, for me, the thing is that I can’t even tell whether or not I’ve had any. I just drink it for medicinal purposes. In fact, even though I now drink two cups almost every morning, I don’t consider myself a “habitual” drinker, because that implies that it’s a habit. It really isn’t, for me. I sometimes forget to drink it.

Low-Carb Diets

Another well-designed study shows its benefits.

[Update a while later]

Here‘s the original NYT piece.

[Afternoon update]

On an email list, I responded to a friend who was interested, but disgusted by eating fat (doesn’t like butter on anything except potatoes, cuts it off steak, etc.)

I’m not big on just eating fat per se myself, but I now take fat I cut off and render it (tallow for beef, lard for pork, schmaltz for chicken) and add it to other things (like a can of “fat-free” baked beans yesterday), or fry eggs or other things in it. For instance, when you cook bacon, you’re actually rendering the lard (the bacon grease). When I render beef suet I get what I call “beef bacon,” tasty bits of crunchy protein, along with the tallow. I’ve quit using seed or vegetable oil for deep frying and switched to lard or tallow (the latter is what used to make McDonalds fries taste good, until they got mau maued into switching to other oils, and it made a lot of economic sense given that they own cattle ranches and generate so much of it in cooking the burgers). Also, eat crispy chicken skin (the chicken version of bacon). There are a lot of non-disgusting ways to increase your fat intake, while improving food taste/mouth feel.

I’d like to start a social media campaign to get McDonalds to go back to tallow for fries (yes, I know that potatoes are problematic, but if you’re going to eat them, at least fry them in a delicious and healthy fat). It might even knock down the prices.

What Makes Us Fat

Here’s a radical idea: Let’s do some actual scientific research:

…much of what we think we know about nutrition is based on observational studies, a mainstay of major research initiatives like the Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 120,000 women across the US for three decades. Such studies look for associations between the foods that subjects claim to eat and the diseases they later develop. The problem, as Taubes sees it, is that observational studies may show a link between a food or nutrient and a disease but tell us nothing about whether the food or nutrient is actually causing the disease. It’s a classic blunder of confusing correlation with causation—and failing to test conclusions with controlled experiments. “Good scientists will approach new results like they’re buying a used car,” he says. “When the salesman tells you it’s a great car, you don’t take his word for it. You get it checked out.”

NuSI’s starting assumption, in other words, is that bad science got us into the state of confusion and ignorance we’re in. Now Taubes and Attia want to see if good science can get us out.

What a concept.

Coffee

A list of its health benefits.

This sort of thing is why I finally started drinking it a few months ago, even though I don’t perceive any actual benefit in doing so. I’ve been making it for her for years, so it was just a matter of making extra. One discovery I made that reduces the awfulness of the taste is to throw some sea salt in the filter before brewing it. It really does take the bitter edge off it. But it’s still something I basically drink as medicinal. I derive no pleasure from it, and sometimes forget to pour it or drink it if I get distracted, so I’d say I’m not addicted in any way. The only obvious benefit I’ve gotten is much cleaner dental exams, to the point that I’ve backed off from quarterly to semi-annual cleanings.

The Big Fat Surprise

Another review of the book:

The book’s subtitle is Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, which gave me the impression I was about to start reading a hefty science book. There’s plenty of science in The Big Fat Surprise, but it’s more of a history book. It’s the story of how lousy science conducted by arrogant scientists and adopted by equally arrogant policymakers led to lousy decisions that produced lousy consequences. I doubt any Fat Heads out there still believe nutrition science is conducted by impartial researchers who aren’t already wedded to an outcome, but if so, reading this book will disabuse you of that notion. It’s all laid out here in a richly detailed story that runs 340 pages … the egos, the arrogance, the obsession with pursuing and (ahem) proving a single hypothesis, the scientific bullying, the corruption, and of course the ham-handed interference by the 900-pound gorilla known as the federal government.

Gee, in what other field have we seen that sort of thing?

The Big Fat Silence

It’s time to end it:

…if one has been teaching that high-fat diets can lead to heart attacks for 30 years but then finds that this may not be true, or that, indeed, more fat and less carbohydrate in the diet may be beneficial to one’s health and longevity, feelings of discomfort can result. Subconscious mechanisms may then keep enduring convictions firmly in place for extended periods of time, despite evidence to the contrary.

And it’s hard to confront the fact that you may have been responsible for the poor health and lives cut short of people you’ve been advising.

Triglycerides

So I heard about this story on the news this morning, and it sounded a little junk sciency:

“What’s exciting about this is it takes that to another place,” said Toni Pollin, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who led the 2008 work. “Just as you’d expect from something that prevents coronary artery buildup, there is strong evidence that having [a gene mutation] reduces the risk of having a heart attack.”

Kathiresan and colleagues benefited from the revolution in genome technology, sequencing 18,666 genes in each of 3,734 people in their search for genes that appeared to be linked to triglycerides. Rare mutations in the APOC3 gene stood out.

Once they understood where to look, they searched for four mutations in that gene in more than 110,000 people. They found that people with any one of the mutations — about 1 in 150 people — were 40 percent less likely to have heart disease and had lower levels of triglycerides.

There is no doubt in my mind that that there is a genetic basis for heart-disease risk, but I am not seeing anything in this study that would indicate that trying to reduce triglycerides per se (as statins attempt to lower cholesterol) are doing anything but treating a symptom, and possibly a harmless one. The mutation reduces both triglycerides and heart risk, but doesn’t mean that high triglycerides increase heart risk per se, or that lowering them artificially will reduce it.

But for what it’s worth, since I went partially paleo, my triglycerides have become almost immeasurable.

The Big Fat Lie

Another review of Nina Teicholz’s book:

Because the importance of cholesterol as a risk factor for heart disease had been accepted as dogma, it was pretty well impossible to challenge it. For example, one of the outstanding nutrition scientists, David Kritchevsky, suggested in the 1980s that there should be a weakening of the recommendation on dietary fat and encountered hysterical opposition. Here is what he told the author:

“People would spit on us! It’s hard to imagine now, the heat of the passion. It was just like we had desecrated the American flag. They were so angry that we were going against the suggestions of the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health.

This meant that anyone who had the temerity to challenge the official line was committing professional suicide. Applications for funds to support research, which might question the prevailing views on fat, were unlikely to be supported. Even if funds were obtained (eg from independent foundations) the researchers would find difficulty in publishing their results in scientific journals and they were rarely invited to serve on expert panels. By stifling opposition, the public was presented with what appeared to be a uniform scientific consensus.

Say, that sounds familiar somehow.

Transfats

Hey, let’s come up with a new poison to replace them with:

“In icings, PHOs provide the air-holding capacity to achieve specific desired gravities, along with the melting and spreading characteristics that allow icings to be evenly spread on cakes,” said Tom Tiffany, senior technical manager, ADM Oils in Decatur, Ill. “The heat stability enables the icing to remain stable when exposed to a variety of transportation and storage conditions.”

Dr. McNeill said icings sold at retail may require a shelf life of up to 1.5 years. If shelf life fails to reach that duration, consumers may open a tub of icing and find it’s “like a piece of concrete,” Dr. McNeill said.

To replace PHOs and still keep the desired shelf life in icings, formulators may use palm oil along with a liquid vegetable oil such as canola oil or sunflower oil that may keep saturated fat as low as possible, he said.

Guys, there’s this thing called “butter.” And “lard.”

As Dr. Meade says:

Dietary Animal Fat

It’s long past time to end the war on it:

The public MUST NOT let TBFS slip slowly into oblivion. Nina’s first story should create an outraged public that demands the following:

  1. Government-sponsored nutrition must be totally terminated.

  2. Freedom of information in valid nutritional sciences must be made widely available.
  3. All citizens must have the right to design their own nutrition plans.
  4. A primary prevention program based on eliminating the causes of diseases must be implemented.

It won’t happen unless we make it happen. It has to become a political issue. Attacking Michelle’s school-lunch tyranny would be a good start.

[Update a few minutes later]

And yet the USDA is still spending millions to propagandize us about low fat:

The USDA also proposed a study on changing how food is described on menus, labeling low-sodium and low-fat versions as “regular,” and “framing regular versions of certain snack products as high-fat or high-sodium.”

I’d like to see someone on the Hill make an issue of this.

Why People Are Getting Fatter

New thinking:

One reason we consume so many refined carbohydrates today is because they have been added to processed foods in place of fats — which have been the main target of calorie reduction efforts since the 1970s. Fat has about twice the calories of carbohydrates, but low-fat diets are the least effective of comparable interventions, according to several analyses, including one presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association this year. A recent study by one of us, Dr. Ludwig, and his colleagues published in JAMA examined 21 overweight and obese young adults after they had lost 10 to 15 percent of their body weight, on diets ranging from low fat to low carbohydrate. Despite consuming the same number of calories on each diet, subjects burned about 325 more calories per day on the low carbohydrate than on the low fat diet — amounting to the energy expended in an hour of moderately intense physical activity. . . . If this hypothesis turns out to be correct, it will have immediate implications for public health.

Actually, it’s only “new” thinking for people who’ve been paying no attention.

The Big Fat Latest Review

Ancel Benjamin Keys may be responsible for more premature death and suffering of Americans than anyone in history.

As someone said on Twitter:

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s probably the ultimate review, from Michael Eades:

I want to write a review so good it inspires everyone to buy the book immediately and read it. Why? Because I think it is one of the most important books on nutrition ever written. Maybe the most important. And I feel a responsibility to inspire as many people as I can to get their hands on it.

…this book is so brimming with valuable information that I was almost paralyzed in trying to figure out which parts to excerpt. A book review always comes with excerpts, and this book presented me with such a bounty of choices, it took me forever to decide which to use.

Considering the source, that’s pretty high praise.

Nutritional Ignorance

On a bi-partisan basis:

The federal government has excluded only one fresh vegetable from the WIC program: the fresh white potato. This makes no sense and, in fact, ignores the latest nutritional science.

Because some people don’t differentiate between french fries and baked potatoes, the potato has gotten a bad rap. We believe a balance can be found that preserves the integrity of programs such as WIC while also ensuring that the most updated facts are being used to determine the best nutrients for Americans — including from the potato.

Sorry, senators, but this is nonsense. The problem with french fries isn’t the fat (particularly if it’s saturated fat, though unfortunately McDonalds got mau maued into ending the use of tallow decades ago): It’s the potatoes themselves, which are high glycemic.

Soylent

A New Yorker reporter gives it a try.

I haven’t read the whole thing yet.

[A while later]

OK, I did read it. I was amused to learn that he was hawking it at my own local Whole Foods. One concern I have is his use of seed oils. Canola has too much omega 6 for my health. I’d use olive instead, though it costs more. If you don’t use virgin, though, it doesn’t have to cost that much.

The Big Fat Surprise

Another victory for low carb, high fat.

That Eisenhower anecdote is sad. Nina Teicholz’s new book looks interesting, too:

The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics and bias.

Gee, sort of like climate “science.”

[Sunday afternoon update]

How the war against saturated fat created carb overload, obesity and heart disease:

…there was no turning back: Too much institutional energy and research money had already been spent trying to prove Dr. Keys’s hypothesis. A bias in its favor had grown so strong that the idea just started to seem like common sense. As Harvard nutrition professor Mark Hegsted said in 1977, after successfully persuading the U.S. Senate to recommend Dr. Keys’s diet for the entire nation, the question wasn’t whether Americans should change their diets, but why not? Important benefits could be expected, he argued. And the risks? “None can be identified,” he said.

In fact, even back then, other scientists were warning about the diet’s potential unintended consequences. Today, we are dealing with the reality that these have come to pass.

One consequence is that in cutting back on fats, we are now eating a lot more carbohydrates—at least 25% more since the early 1970s. Consumption of saturated fat, meanwhile, has dropped by 11%, according to the best available government data. Translation: Instead of meat, eggs and cheese, we’re eating more pasta, grains, fruit and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Even seemingly healthy low-fat foods, such as yogurt, are stealth carb-delivery systems, since removing the fat often requires the addition of fillers to make up for lost texture—and these are usually carbohydrate-based.
The problem is that carbohydrates break down into glucose, which causes the body to release insulin—a hormone that is fantastically efficient at storing fat. Meanwhile, fructose, the main sugar in fruit, causes the liver to generate triglycerides and other lipids in the blood that are altogether bad news. Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease.

First emphasis mine. In that, it has much in common with climate “science.”

And as I’ve often noted, my father was a fatal casualty of that war, back in the late seventies.

[Update a few minutes later]

One other point, that I’d never considered before. The American Heart Association is probably responsible for more heart disease and cardiac (and stroke) fatalities than any other organization.