Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Good Scare: Missing Paleo Lifestyle Factor

"Life's no fun without a good scare." The Nightmare Before Christmas

Hunter-gatherer life probably consisted of a lot of walking and standing, fairly infrequent eating, and the occasional short-lived scare. This sounds a lot like a trip to an amusement park. I just came back from Elitch's, where I did a lot of walking and standing in line and a little eating and riding the rides, where I felt like I was going to die. It left me wondering what effect it has on people when they never feel like they're in danger. It seems like it's common to feel an adrenaline rush, and then joy, when you escape a danger, real or perceived. At the 1989 World Series, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck Candlestick Park and shook the stands for what seemed like minutes, as one reporter described it. The crowd let out a cheer when it was over. People pay to go to amusement parks to have a similar experience: fear, focus, relief, joy, and maybe gratitude that it's over and they're OK. The opposite--life unmixed with any of those things, briefly, is bland. It's just speculation, but maybe brief, scary experiences are important to us. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

New Bedtime; New Dentist

The new method of getting to bed earlier is working. Last week I had the idea to see going to bed on time as punctuality. (Punctuality is a virtue to me because I so dislike covering for an employee who often shows up very late or waiting on people who are late just because they're diddling around.) I've generally been getting to bed between 10:45 and 11:00. I had a lapse last night because I lost track of time taking pictures to enter a contest for a kitchen makeover. But I haven't been staying up until midnight. I've not only been less tired, but less hungry. I even got up early one morning and worked out. It's been wonderful not to drag bleary-eyed through the day.

*****

I had to find an new dentist since the last one quit taking my insurance. After searching reviews on the internet, and trying to decide which ones could be trusted, I settled on a dentist off East Colfax. In Denver, the character of a neighborhood can vary from block to block. There are places within walking distance of my house that I don't walk to. But East Colfax in general is gritty and marginal. I took the 15 bus (which one magazine recommended for people looking for an adventure), got off on East Colfax, and stepped over broken pavement and under overgrown trees, wondering if I was in the right place. A block later, I was catty-cornered from new luxury apartments and across from an old office building.

The dentist's office looked clean and well-kept (and so did the dentist). They took 18 x-rays and didn't see the cavity that my old dentist said needed filled. I'd honestly forgotten about it and didn't remember it until I left. Hmmm. Maybe lower overhead lets you be more honest, or at least less enthusiastic about pushing procedures. The new dentist didn't seem to think the fillings that needed to be replaced were a big deal; one of them is going to wait until my next cleaning in November. So I can once again say I haven't developed any new cavities since starting low-carb.

This dentist suggested I brush the back of my tongue better to get rid of bacteria, brush more gently for the sake of my gums, and drink diet soda through a straw. And he agreed readily to give me an anesthetic without epinephrine, a drug that's given me heart palpitations for weeks when I've had it. It looks like I've found a winner.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bedtime as a Virtue

The habit of getting to bed on time, at 10:30, has eluded me. I know it's important to get enough sleep, but I'm never tired at 10 PM. I've been inspired to look at this a different way, though: I've begun to see going to bed on time as punctuality.

Having waited for hours--no exaggeration--on Thanksgiving dinners at relatives' houses, having waited on my ex-jerk to show up to pretty much anything, having carried a coworker who'd often get to work 20 minutes late and then spend ten minutes making her breakfast, I've had enough. I admit that I often run a few minutes late. (I'm usually on time for work, but I do take PTO or a short lunch if I'm more than a few minutes late.) But now I'm inspired to change.

The Art of Manliness site ran an article a few years ago called The Importance of Punctuality. Being on time, it says, shows integrity, dependability, builds self-confidence, and assures you're at your best.  George Washington was a stickler for punctuality, the article says, and waited for nobody. A follow-up article lists reasons why people run late. In my case, I tend to overestimate what I can get done in a certain amount of time.

Another problem is that I'm wide awake at bedtime. I've always been that way, even when I was a kid with no computer or video games, didn't watch much TV, and went to bed at the same time every night. I'd often lie awake until midnight. Nevertheless, I feel better the next day after lying awake than staying up until midnight.

Therefore, I can't rely on feeling tired as a sign to go to bed. I have to go to bed at a certain time, tired or not, because I'll feel better later. It's like other habits most sensible people have: eat good food and take your vitamins before you get sick. Save money now before you have an emergency. Maintain your car before it breaks down. Maintain your reputation before people start seeing you as a flake. Go to bed at a reasonable hour before you end up exhausted. Do these things, and life isn't likely to be a series of calamities. Emergencies will happen, but you'll be better able to take care of them.

My goal is then to start getting ready for bed at 9 and plan my evenings better. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Clueless Meddlers Part 2

Last time, I discussed clueless meddlers who misread, misunderstand and give useless advice on an individual level. This time, I'm looking at a few clueless meddlers who do it on a scale to attract media attention.

Remember The Guy from CSPI, the vegan group that got saturated fats at restaurants replaced with trans fats? Food companies may now be replacing trans fats with something worse, another lab creation, according to Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz.

Here's The Guy from CSPI in action in a video from Fathead by Tom Naughton:


Another crusader against fast food, Kia Robertson, put her nine-year-old daughter up to scolding a McDonald's CEO at a shareholder meeting. It wasn't fair that big companies tricked kids into eating food that isn't good for them, said daughter Hannah, who of course wasn't being manipulated in any way and apparently felt herself smarter than the other kids. At this writing, McDonald's is still selling Happy Meals, advertising to kids, and offers a third-pound sirloin burger bacon cheeseburger that's pretty tasty. No word on how Kia Robertson's publicity stunt has affected how her daughter gets along with her classmates.

Currently, food blogger Vani Hari, aka the Food Babe, makes claims about "dangerous chemicals" in food, painting them as disgusting, and has gotten food companies to eliminate them from their products. Well, maybe. Remember Julian Bakery, whose "low-carb" bread was found in a lab test to be just as carby as regular bread? The fact is,

The FDA does not have the staff or resources to police food labeling. Companies can get away with label fraud and they do. Only one company marketing fraudulent low carb foods has ever paid a penalty. That occurred in the case of the 1990s Atkins Advantage bars that were labeled as containing 3g of carbohydrate while actually containing 20g.  
But the penalty Atkins Nutritionals was forced to pay after a class action suit was settled in September of 2002, was so miniscule that it could easily be written off as a cost of doing business.(1)

If a company mismarked products in a way that could seriously harm people and got a miniscule penalty, how minor would the penalty be for including innocuous ingredients? If the ingredient really is harmful to some people, it sucks to be them because  if it's no longer on the label.

With so many people needlessly worrying about ingredients, it can suck to be someone with a genuine food intolerance among the clueless. Chemist Yvette d'Entremont writes,

I have celiac disease, and there are people with genuine life-threatening allergies. When people like me go into a restaurant, we're at the whim of a waiter who may have just served twenty fussy assholes from the Food Babe Army who think that gluten causes your spleen to turn radioactive, or whatever lie she's using to sell organic kale dipped in yak's butter this week. So when I tell a server that I can't do gluten, that waiter might roll their eyes at me because of people like Vani Hari.

A word from a commenter of d'Entremont's article:

Well done! I'm a former chef and a farmer. Since my family has grown crops my entire life, I've always had to argue with people about food safety —it's the recent trend of people declaring themselves 'allergic'' to all kinds of food stuffs. Every-time that response would come into the kitchen, i'd sigh. Because i'd guess that probably only 2% of those requests were REAL requests—the rest? Nope, idiots like this. That, yes, make people in the food service super annoyed. Our kitchen was small enough, that we could, and did, take the time to carefully meet these requests (sanitizing surfaces, new cutting boards, knives, making sure no bread crumbs were around), but a lot of times it'd follow with the server informing us that the same person who said they were gluten free, was drinking a beer. Or eating the barley. Or...you know...whatever idiots do. Of course, the worst, would be the ones who'd complain that they're very special order with no butter, gluten, onions, etc—was taking so long.

I'm afraid this makes people with real food intolerances look foolish or at least suspect, since the Food Babe's very popular site is so, well, full of shit. The top web site searches for her site come up with articles trashing her as a scientific illiterate. And she's disingenuous. The Kraft macaroni and cheese she criticized--and actually got the company to slightly change, maybe--is something you'd never, ever buy if you were gluten-free, as she advises. The absence of the offending ingredient isn't going to make any difference to Vani Hari and her followers. It just makes those of us who really do need to make special requests look like nothing but high-maintenance whiners.

A tip: if you're not celiac, if trace exposure doesn't hurt you, just say "no bread" or throw away the bun.

1. Low-Carb Problems Solved: Say Goodbye to Stalled Weight Loss, Failed Maintenance, and Poor Blood Sugar Control by Jenny Ruhl. 2015. Kindle location 423.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Clueless Meddlers

Has anyone run into this? A caring but clueless meddler sees someone with problems vaguely like their own and starts giving advice, which you know is off the mark. They're not the type of person who mentions once or twice how something worked for them, but persists even when their errors are pointed out to them.

I don't see this often with diet-related stuff, since my mother and I both do low-carb, my meetup group drinks coffee and I avoid health subjects unless others bring them up, and my coworkers are mostly CPAs familiar with HIPAA and have work of their own to worry about.

I think the last part is key: work of their own to worry about. Everybody has something they need to be doing--and ought to be doing it instead of creating problems from thin air so they can save the day.

Robert over at Living Stingy wrote about the urge to save the day a while back. I might have quoted it before, but it's worth repeating.

Before you decide to become an "activist" and fight the man and "save the day" ask yourself the following: 
1.  Does the day need saving, or are things pretty much going OK as they are.   Bear in mind that things not going exactly as you would have done it, if you were in charge is no excuse to stir up trouble....

3.  Do you have your own shit together?   Have you saved enough for retirement?  Are you about to lose your job?  Is your house clean and tidy, or a hoarder's nightmare (hoarding and "save the day" are related, remember).  Are you smoking pot or abusing other drugs?  Could the energy you put into "Saving the world" be better spent saving yourself
Just something to think about.   There are a lot of things in this world which won't go your way.   You have to pick your battles wisely....
And yes, I used to buy into this "Save the Day" nonsense, until I had an epiphany in the matter.  The day doesn't need saving, and people don't want to be saved from their own folly - and will fight you tooth and nail on this.   The best you can do is make a rational case for your viewpoint and then move on.  

And when you point out errors and it seems to go unnoticed, someone reads your blog and sees their own issues (not what is, you know, actually there), kind of like Toni and Candace on Portlandia, all you can do is move on.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Health Reporters Easily Punked by Chocolate Study

Did you read about the new study showing chocolate helps you lose weight? I'm sure regular readers here weren't taken in, but you might want to show something to your friends who keep up with health "news." The authors of that study just revealed that it was a hoax to shine a light on the sloppiness of the health media. The study was real and the authors didn't lie about anything but their credentials, they just did a poor experiment, sent out press releases and paid the impressive-sounding journal The International Archives of Medicine 600 euros to publish it.

The study really did show greater weight loss in the chocolate group than the non-chocolate group and the control group, but...

Here’s a dirty little science secret: If you measure a large number of things about a small number of people, you are almost guaranteed to get a “statistically significant” result. Our study included 18 different measurements—weight, cholesterol, sodium, blood protein levels, sleep quality, well-being, etc.—from 15 people. (One subject was dropped.) That study design is a recipe for false positives.... With our 18 measurements, we had a 60% chance of getting some“significant” result with 0.05. (The measurements weren’t independent, so it could be even higher.) The game was stacked in our favor. It’s called p-hacking—fiddling with your experimental design and data to push p values under 0.05—and it’s a big problem. (Emphasis added.)

In other words, the weight loss results could have been luck--for instance, the women might have been on a certain place in their cycles. If the result had been lower blood sugar, some people in the control group might have been getting a cold or under stress--both things raise blood sugar. As for sleep and well-being, a thousand different things are more likely to affect those than a few bites of chocolate.

But the reporters--and even the prestigious sounding International Archives of Medicine, which purports to "rigorously review" articles--asked about none of this. Even a "fact checker" from Shape didn't ask for many details about the study. Quite a bit of nutritional science is like getting a diploma from a mail-order college in the Caribbean: answer a few questions, write a check, and you're official.  Health reporters recycle the articles until junk science becomes conventional wisdom, the same conventional wisdom you'll get from most medical professionals, because that's mostly where they (in general) learn about nutrition.

But...the chocolate is still good for you, isn't it? They selected bitter chocolate because it's a favorite of "whole food fanatics." Never mind that chocolate is highly processed--you can't even make a proper chocolate bar at home--or that the stuff they used (81% is bitter and chalky as aspirin) isn't the milky, sugary junk food the magazines and web sites showed.

For the full story, read this: http://io9.com/i-fooled-millions-into-thinking-chocolate-helps-weight-1707251800.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Apple Cider Vinegar FAIL: FODMAPs & Reflux

On the hypothesis that my mineral deficiencies are caused by low stomach acid, today I tried supplementing with vinegar. This morning, I took a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with some water at breakfast (a Quest bar and coffee) and at lunch sprinkled some red wine vinegar on my salad. The good: I didn't get hungry between meals--that's unusual for me, especially on such a light breakfast. The bad: I got acid reflux and a lot of burping, which is also unusual for me. Sinus congestion, too. Given my very low-carb breakfast, the only reason I could think of for the reflux was FODMAPs. (Quest bars have prebiotic fiber that gives some people FODMAPs problems, but not me.) Apples are one of the worst things for giving me acid reflux, and apple cider vinegar is apparently high in FODMAPs--fermentable carbohydrates that some people don't digest well. When you don't digest a carbohydrate well, it ferments in your intestines.

Fermentation requires bacteria. But I haven't been giving any care and feeding to my gut bacteria. I've been on a low-carb diet for over five years, don't use resistant starch, don't eat fermented foods except a little homemade coconut yogurt, and I'm in the middle of another round of antibiotics (the second one this year). I've shown the bugs all the charity of Ayn Rand. Yet they've gotten along well enough without any help to give me three hours' acidic misery with nothing but a little vinegar to feed them.

The lack of hunger between meals suggests that I'm digesting my food better, and hopefully, absorbing more minerals. I'm going to try again tomorrow with lime juice or red wine vinegar, which are supposed to be low-FODMAPs.

ETA: From looking at a few scholarly articles (not the alternative health hype that's all over the internet), it's unclear why vinegar is antiglycemic. It may have to do with interference with carbohydrate digestion.