Category Archives: Culinary

Another Reason To Eat Chiles

They reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. This kind of thing always makes me question such studies, though:

Chen and his colleagues turned to hamsters for the study, animals that serve as stand-ins for humans in research that cannot be done in people. They gave the hamsters high-cholesterol diets, divided them into groups, and supplemented each group’s food with either no capsaicinoids (the control group) or various amounts of capsaicinoids. The scientists then analyzed the effects.

In addition to reducing total cholesterol levels in the blood, capsaicinoids reduced levels of the so-called “bad” cholesterol (which deposits into blood vessels), but did not affect levels of so-called “good” cholesterol. The team found indications that capsaicinoids may reduce the size of deposits that already have formed in blood vessels, narrowing arteries in ways that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.

Capsaicinoids also blocked the activity of a gene that produces cyclooxygenase-2, a substance that makes the muscles around blood vessels constrict. By blocking it, muscles can relax and widen, allowing more blood to flow.

Emphasis mine. The assumption is that one gets high cholesterol from dietary cholesterol, when in fact there’s little evidence to substantiate that. But in this case, I don’t think it invalidates the research, fortunately.

Speaking of nutrition myths, here’s one that says bacon is good for you, but still gets it wrong:

Nutritionist Zoe Harcombe says: ‘Typically, about 45 per cent of the fat in pork is unsaturated. Most of that is oleic acid, the same healthy fat found in olive oil, which is known to help lower cholesterol levels.

‘Of course, the rest is unhealthy saturated fat, so moderation is key.’

Repeat after me: there is nothing wrong with saturated fat. In fact, it is much healthier than seed oils with their high omega 6s, which is where we got too much of our dietary fat. The key is to cut back on the high-glycemic carbs.

Bad Cholesterol

…is there no such thing?

I’m kind of amused by the commenter who fantasizes that he’s making some kind of point by claiming that “Eades is not a scientist.” What does he think a scientist is, or does?

[Update a few minutes later]

Speaking of nutritional science, this is junk nutritional science:

“Overall, we found that obese rats fed a high-fat, low-carb diet — comparable to that humans would consume — had larger, more damaging and deadly heart attacks than rats fed the control diet,” Lloyd says. “Our findings also suggest that, at the cellular level, a high-fat, low-carb diet impaired recovery of heart function in obese rats immediately following a heart attack.”

Only one problem. You can’t extrapolate dietary results for rats to humans. We have a different physiology and natural diet. Actually, there’s a lot of junk science based on rat research.

[Update a while later]

Link was missing. Fixed now.

A Trade-Deficit Solution

There seems like a big market opportunity here. Put people to work by fishing, and sell the proceeds to China. You could do it canned, frozen and fresh. I know that when I was a kid growing up in Michigan we’d never eat carp, and considered them junk fish, though the blacks would eat them (and dogfish, too — I remember dogfish runs by the dam near our cottage on the Muskegon River, where people would just pull them out with nets and cover the banks with them). Not sure what the difference is between Asian carp and the native variety, or if it’s tastier. But the Asians definitely do know their carp (which is what koi and goldfish are).

Nitrates And Nitrites

The junk nutritional science:

…a 2005 study by scientists with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute with investigators supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, found that sodium nitrite infusions led to the production of nitric oxide which increased blood flow and protected the hearts and livers in mice undergoing experimental heart attacks and liver injuries, reducing heart muscle and liver tissue damage.

All of this experimental research is preliminary but does illustrate that in the past 15 years, “we’ve gone from considering all of these things to be toxic and carcinogenic to realizing that [nitrites are] playing a fundamental homeostatic role,” said Dr. Ferric Fang, M.D., professor of laboratory medicine and microbiology at the University of Washington in Seattle. They’re a normal, natural part of a healthy body and not chemicals to fear.

So, hotdogs and processed meats are condemned as junk food because they contain nitrates, which they don’t, while vegetables are declared health food because they’re free from the same chemicals, which they’re not. It may be awhile before people will get to the point of calling bacon and hotdogs health food.

Woody Allen’s notion in Sleeper is looking more and more prophetic.

[Update mid morning]

Some disgusting anti-bacon propaganda.

Appalling Nutritional Ignorance Among Doctors

on parade:

The event, which sold out all 4,000 tickets in 25 minutes, offers something to make every swine lover swoon: unlimited bacon samples, a bacon-eating contest, educational lectures, a bacon-themed songwriting contest and crowning of a new bacon queen. Organizers plan to serve up about three tons of the fatty strips.

They’re also prepared for a bit of oinking from outsiders.

A group of vegetarian doctors has been skewering Iowans over the event for months. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, says he wants to publicize the flip side of bacon.

He says the PCRM plans to hand out fliers with warnings about how bacon “rotting in your mouth” potentially has various health risks, including cancer and diabetes.

I am aware of zero scientific evidence that anyone has ever gotten diabetes from eating bacon. And this is great:

Growing up in Fargo, N.D. …Dr. Barnard chowed down on bacon.

Both his father and grandfather were cattle ranchers. His palate changed, though, when he went off to Washington, D.C., for medical school.

A pathologist told Dr. Barnard, then 22 years old, to unlock a morgue freezer, pull out a body and help him examine the patient, dead from a heart attack.

The patient’s arteries were “hard as a rock,” Dr. Barnard recalls. The pathologist replied: “There’s your bacon and eggs, Neal.”

Soon, the medical student began to leave his carnivorous ways behind.

Primitive thinking like this is how ignorance is propagated. “You are what you eat.” “Big chief make crops grow.”

And we’re supposed to rely on these people for nutritional advice? And then let them force-feed our kids awful meals?

Hey, if you have ethical problems with eating animals, then be a vegan, but don’t delude yourself that it’s healthy, or that even if is for you that it will be for others. Now I’m curious as to what his cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels are.


What’s amusing about this kerfuffle is that the chimichanga is the Mexican-food equivalent of chop suey, which is a dish invented in San Francisco, and no one in China had ever heard of. It’s not from south of the border, but originated in Tucson, at the best restaurant in town when it comes to Tucsonian cuisine. And most places in other locales don’t really know how to do it, often adding beans or rice, making it a mere fried burrito. It’s best filled with carne seca, an El Charro specialty that is also not widely available. The other things that are local to southern Arizona, but hasn’t made it much farther is a cheese crisp (flour tortilla topped with monterey jack and broiled open face to melt it, with or without jalapenos, then sliced and served like a pizza) and green-corn tamales. I was eating them in the seventies when I lived in Tucson, working for the L-5 Society, before most people had ever heard of them.

[Update a few minutes later]

I see that Prudence Paine is amused at the ignorance as well. Though I take issue with her denigration of them. They are excellent, and better than most Mexican dishes, in my opinion. I suspect her antipathy toward them is based on a misplaced fear of fat. When I used to eat them in Tucson, they were fried in lard, and that’s actually much healthier than low-fat, or vegetable oils. The bad thing about them is the flour tortilla itself, not the fact that it’s fried.