I’ve been testing my brain function daily for the last six years. I use a reaction-time test (see digit, type digit as fast as possible) that takes about five minutes. I have gradually improved the test over the years — this is about version 8. One reason for this testing is that I might observe a sudden change. That could suggest a new factor that affects brain function — whatever was unusual before the change (e.g., a new food). This is how I discovered the effect of butter. My score suddenly improved, I investigated. Another sudden change (improvement) happened soon after I switched from Chinese flaxseed oil to American flaxseed oil. I hadn’t realized that something was wrong with the Chinese flaxseed oil. I started brain tracking after I noticed a sudden improvement in balance the morning after I swallowed about five flaxseed oil capsules. Millions of people had taken flaxseed oil capsules, but no one, it seemed, had noticed the balance improvement. Maybe other big changes in brain function go unnoticed, I thought.
Archive for the 'fermented food' Category
- Against the new statin guidelines. “For people who have less than a 20 percent risk of getting heart disease in the next 10 years, statins not only fail to reduce the risk of death, but also fail even to reduce the risk of serious illness.” This is one way of saying that although heart disease has been a top cause of death for more than half a century, doctors still have almost no idea how to prevent it. Vast amounts of money and time have been spent studying heart disease, but, judging by the great emphasis on an almost useless method of prevention (statins), the researchers who spent the money and time didn’t do effective research. Cancer could have a hundred different causes. Heart disease, probably not.
- Follow mainstream food advice, increase risk of death. I’ve covered this earlier but it bears repeating. “There was a 30% greater risk of cardiovascular death among the people in the study who ate the cholesterol-lowering oil.” The cholesterol-lowering oil was safflower oil, high in omega-6. According to the Cleveland Clinic and many others, oils high in omega-6 are “heart-healthy”.
- Use of yogurt to prevent infections in hospitals
- Surviving your stupid stupid decision to go to graduate school (a reading list)
Thanks to Phil Alexander and Claire Hsu.
- The promise of Bitcoin (the platform). “Bitcoin encapsulates four fundamental technologies . . . “
- Bacteria and our behavior
- Alternate-day fasting by normal-weight subjects. ”These findings suggest that ADF is effective for weight loss and cardio-protection in normal weight and overweight adults.” The experiment lasted 12 weeks.
- Small interesting psychology experiments. “Whenever I go to a conference, I hate to wear those silly stickers that say “HELLO! MY NAME IS.” I just write “SATAN” in the blank space.”
- Pomona College dean of students sneers at a more reality-based college. She said: “Discovery, empathy, adaptability is goal of broad-based education, prepares students for life, learning & jobs known & unknown.” As the author, John Tierney, says, “What makes some people at liberal-arts colleges so dismissive of, and condescending toward, institutions that actually train people for careers?” I encountered a similar attitude at Berkeley. At a faculty meeting, I praised someone’s research. Another professor complained that the research was “applied”.
Thanks to Donna Warnock.
A Korean artist named Jihyun Ryou has invented modules to keep food fresh without refrigeration. This connects with the themes of this blog in several ways: using science to find cheap safe low-tech solutions, minimal solutions (Ryou’s designs use no electricity, I try to find solutions that require no willpower), and increasing (rather than reducing) the microbial content of food. Food stored at room temperature will have more microbes than food stored cold. Ryou says:
I’ve learned that we hand over the responsibility of taking care of food to the technology, the refrigerator. We don’t observe the food any more and we don’t understand how to treat it.
That there could be something wrong with division of labor — handing over tasks to specialists, including specialist machines — is a subtle point. Division of labor works fine for inanimate things, such cloth and furniture and pencils. No economist has realized that animate things (such as our bodies) might be different.
The value of Ryou’s designs partly rests on the variability of living things, as does the value of personal science. Well-educated Americans, in my experience, have little idea what they lose when they hand over care of their body to experts, such as doctors and drug companies. As Ryou says, they lose a kind of mental fitness (“we don’t observe the food any more,” we don’t observe ourselves as closely) and are forced to accept solutions in which what the experts want plays a big role. I discovered the power of self-experimentation when I decided to see for myself if the acne medicine my doctor had prescribed was working. I found it wasn’t, a possibility the doctor hadn’t mentioned.
Thanks to Steve Hansen.
- Do they read this blog? ”Eventbrite, also in San Francisco, offers a treadmill desk (max speed 2 miles per hour) and a kitchen stocked with a Vitamix blender, fresh fruit, almond milk, hummus, Greek yogurt, flaxseed and kombucha.”
- The high cost of drugs. Note the disinterest in prevention, which is an extreme version of a cheap cure.
- Ars Technica tries home-brewing apple cider. Impressive.
- Stagnation of economics. “The courses are nearly all maths.”
- What caused my bladder cancer?
- Probiotic increases Vitamin D in the blood
- It’s hard to criticize Jared Diamond. “You’re just a nit-picking specialist.” Steven Pinker & Jared Diamond: separated at birth.
- Concern about academic freedom at Duke University’s new Kunshan campus in China. “In a preprandial discussion with [Duke President] Brodhead, the professor expressed concern over academic freedom [at Kunshan] — and Brodhead shot back at him that he is a “worrier.” . . . He told the professor if he ever needed a worrier to serve on a committee, he’d be picked.” Kunshan sinkhole.
- Butter is not as bad as we’ve been told. “The motto has been, if you want to sell crap, make sure it’s low-fat crap.” Related BMJ article.
- Sleep cleans brain of toxins. Have you heard of the glymphatic system?
Thanks to Claire Hsu.
- Probiotics reduce frequency of colds, Cochrane review finds
- A dentist says prophylactic removal of wisdom teeth is a bad idea. “Ten million third molars (wisdom teeth) are extracted from approximately 5 million people in the United States each year at an annual cost of over $3 billion. . . . More than 11000 people suffer permanent paresthesia—numbness of the lip, tongue, and cheek—as a consequence of nerve injury during the surgery. At least two thirds of these extractions, associated costs, and injuries are unnecessary, constituting a silent epidemic of iatrogenic injury.”
- Duke University trustees defend endowment secrecy in funny ways. “David Rubenstein ’70, the Trustee chair, [says] Duke can keep a student’s grades secret — available only to a few administrators — and the principle is the same with Duke’s money.”
- Self-assembling robots
Thanks to Allan Jackson and Bob Levinson.
- The science of fermented sausage and cheese
- Fermented food in Australia. “There’s a yeasty funkiness to fermented foods that I find really interesting,”
- Bad medical journalism pushes down good medical journalism. Decline of TheHeart.org. In contrast, I don’t think The New Yorker got worse after it was bought by Conde Nast.
- Whole body vibration. Clearly helps some people in chronic pain (the pain goes away). In other cases, the benefit is less clear.
Probiotic fermenting bacteria only work in the upper part of the gut, not in the colon. The anaerobic bacteria that work in the colon must be slowly acquired by persistent eating of diverse veggies to provide diverse polysaccharides and uncooked veggies to provide the bacteria.
I agree and disagree. It’s an excellent point that the bacteria near the stomach are quite different from the bacteria deep in the colon. So you need different sources of each. I don’t know what “probiotic fermenting bacteria” are (I was under the impression that all bacteria “ferment”), but, yeah, bacteria that live on lactose (e.g., in yogurt) are going to be quite different than bacteria that live on more complex sugars that are digested more slowly than lactose and thus pass further into the intestine.
To me, this explains why I like vegetables. I have no trouble avoiding fruit, bread, rice, pasta, and so on, but I hate meals without vegetables. Why? This line of thought suggests it is because they supply complex polysaccharides needed for deep-colon health. As Ayers implies, you wouldn’t need a lot. This line of thought suggests how you or nutrition scientists can decide what fermented foods to eat (some for each part of the digestive system).
I disagree about raw vegetables. Like most people, I don’t like raw vegetables. I like the crunchiness but the taste is too weak. That most people are like me is suggested by the fact that raw vegetables are almost never eaten without dip or dressing (which add fat and flavor) or something done to make them more palatable (e.g., sugar and liquid from tomatoes). If raw vegetables were important, even necessary, for health, the fact that they are hard to eat would make no evolutionary sense.
I do like pickled/fermented vegetables of all sorts, such as kimchi and sauerkraut. I believe they are a far better source of the bacteria you need than raw vegetables (they have far more of the bacteria that grow on raw vegetables than ordinary raw vegetables).
- Fruit kimchi recipe
- Eight types of natto at all-you-can-eat natto restaurant in Tokyo. This calls for a trip to Tokyo!
- Yale University gives Nobel Prize to someone who didn’t win one. Oops.
- Michael Lewis on the last crisis. ”I don’t feel, oh, how sad that Lehman went down. I feel, how sad that Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley didn’t follow.”
- Psychology and neuroscience research fraud at Washington University.
- Puzzling scientific fraud. Someone made up a paper and put fictitious names on it. Why? On the face of it, the goal was to hurt someone the fraudster didn’t like but actually the publicity helps the victim.
- A guide to sour beer. “The brewers I interviewed for this story agreed that in many ways, sour-beer-making is more like winemaking than brewing.” I love sour beers.
- The Willat Effect at xkcd
- press release from the Korean Food Foundation about kimchi
Thanks to Aaron Blaisdell and Peter Lewis.
In a review of Anna Reid’s new book, Leningrad: Tragedy of a City Under Siege, I learned that one of the calorie sources that starving Leningraders came to eat was:
‘macaroni’ made from flax seed for cattle
To which I say: Damn. The implication is that, before the famine, “flax seed for cattle”, which is roughly the same as flax seed, was considered unfit for human consumption. Only when starving did Leningraders stoop to eat it. I can buy flax seed in Beijing. But not easily.
The triangle is complete. I have now learned that the main things I care about in my diet, which I go to great lengths to eat every day, are all considered “disgusting” by a large number of people:
1. Flax seed. It is the best source of omega-3 I have found. I eat ground flax seeds every day. Flaxseed oil goes bad too easily.
2. Butter. Perhaps the most reviled food in America, at least by nutritionists. A cardiologist once told me, “You’re killing yourself” by eating it.
3. Fermented foods. Many fermented foods are considered disgusting — after all, they are little different than spoiled foods.
- Moldy yogurt claimed unsafe, later turns out to be safe.
- Brain repair during sleep
- Surprising effects of a high-carb diet, a Quantified Self talk by Greg Pomerantz. His low carb diet — that is, his previous diet — was red meat, eggs, butter and green (non-starchy) vegetables. Low-carb paleo with butter. His HbA1c went from 5.6 (low-carb) to 5.5 (high-carb).
- Speaking of “doctors hurt you“, a letter to The New Yorker says that a herb common in Traditional Chinese Medicine causes liver cancer. “The traditional [medicinal] use of this family of highly nephrotoxic and carcinogenic herbs represents a significant problem for global public health.”
- Financial incentives increase C-sections
- Positive correlation between Alzheimer’s and cleanliness. In its use of principal component analysis and transformations (e.g., square root transformation), this paper is more sophisticated than most epidemiology.
Thanks to Alex Chernavsky.
- electric field perception by humans
- Umami plate
- Jana Beck confirms that a low-carb diet improves her blood sugar levels
- “Goldman Sachs got the FBI to do its bidding” (Felix Salmon)
- Whey protein reduces after-meal blood sugar rise. Whey protein is in cheese, for example.
- Several unpleasant aspects of surgery prep unhelpful
Thanks to Alex Chernavsky.
From a recent story in the Santa Cruz Sentinel:
[Kelly] Dearie turned to fermented foods in a moment of despair.
Her husband Charlie, who suffered from an autoimmune disorder that attacked his platelets, was told by doctors that he needed a spleen removal and a hip replacement. That would mean Charlie, an active 32-year-old man, would never be able to run or mountain bike again. . . .
The family decided to seek an alternative, and consulted Santa Cruz clinical health coach Craig Lane from Health Alkemy. . . . He checked Charlie’s temperature, blood pressure and lab results, and listened to Charlie talk about his diet, sleep and exercise. Instead of the surgeries, Lane recommended some dietary changes such as taking out coffee, wheat and sugar, and adding beet kvass, a traditional Russian fermented tonic.
Within three weeks, his platelet numbers were almost normal. Within two years he was running again, said Dearie. . . . Inspired by her husband’s healing, Dearie opened Creative Cultures and sells the beet kvass.
Before the 1950s, almost all wines were made with wild ferments. Only then did cultured (store-bought) yeasts start to be used on a large scale. The new wines surely tasted worse, but it was the era of TV dinners. The first cultured yeasts were especially popular in Australia, where less tradition blocked their adoption. (more…)
- The increasing popularity of kvas. “We ferment with ginger and, I believe, longer than other people – for seven to 10 days.”
- Giving up wine (and other alcohol) for a month. Before this he drank 2 glasses of wine/day.
- Wellness Mart (in California) makes it easy to get basic medical tests. “In California, you are required to have an order from a doctor for blood tests, but WellnessMart, MD stores all have medical doctors on staff. Our doctors allow their license to be used for basic screening tests because there are some things that really shouldn’t be that difficult to find out. If you don’t have a doctor’s order and you want to run tests that aren’t a part of our standard screening packages, you will be charged a MD Consultation Fee of $25. Our doctor will help you to put together a panel that will accomplish the goals you are looking to accomplish. If the doctor determines that it is not appropriate for you to run the tests you want to run at WellnessMart, MD there will be no charges.”
- Riding a bike while learning Polish. It helps.
Thanks to Casey Manion and Adam Clemens.
I came to believe that we need to eat fermented foods to be healthy partly because this idea solved an evolutionary question: why do we like food that is sour, umami-flavored, and complex? I realized that all three preferences could be explained the same way: All three push us to eat more fermented food. For example, fermented milk (yogurt) is sourer than fresh milk.
Fermentation also increases complexity. An example is miso. I noticed that miso by itself was sufficient flavoring for soup. I had to add quite a few spices to produce the same amount of complexity that miso alone produced — miso was a super-spice.
Wine is a fermented food, of course, but long ago all fermentation was “wild” — it proceeded from whatever fermenting agents were in the air, on people’s hands, and so on. Fermentation increased complexity not just because the microbes metabolized the food but because there were many kinds of microbes. Australian winemakers were recently given a lesson in the connection between wild fermentation and complexity:
We were tasting two glasses of pinot noir, blind, and the questions were: is there any difference between them? If so, how are they different?
- Obesity associated with hearing loss. The correlation is surprising and, if explained, might shed light on what causes obesity or what causes hearing loss.
- The three biggest lies of Teach For America. From the same blogger: A devastating comment about Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
- Benefits of breast-feeding. “Breast-fed babies are less likely to have ear infections and diarrhea as infants, and less likely to be obese and have diabetes as adults.” More evidence for the importance of microbe-rich food.
- Heart guidelines aren’t changed after underlying data shown to be fraudulent.
- Old-fashioned self-experimentation: does a snakebite treatment work? For a long time, self-experimentation to help yourself was undocumented.
Thanks to Alex Chernavsky and dearime.
- A hospital specialized for hernia surgery. Much better outcomes, much lower cost. The combination (better outcomes, favored by patients, and lower cost, favored by insurers) suggests this could spread, if patients plus insurers > doctors plus hospitals.
- Unlocking umami. I use koji salt, works really well. Comes in plastic squeeze container, which says “today’s newest seasoning”.
- More about the rise and fall of heart disease. This 1980 article considerably predates David Grime’s 2012 article on the same subject It is more methodologically sophisticated but reaches the same conclusion: The rise and fall is not explained by any popular theory (e.g., smoking causes heart disease, cholesterol causes heart disease). Because of this failure, using those theories to try to prevent heart disease (e.g., telling people stop smoking) makes little sense. Likewise, I doubt that experts know why dementia is decreasing, although they have theories.
- Hypochondriasis and self-tracking
Thanks to Alex Chernavsky.