Eat these 5 things and live to be 110 years old, says 110 year old guy


This 110-year-old man says he managed to keep living for more than a hundred years in part by eating sensibly. Read the rest

Quitting sugar "changed my brain"


Michael Grothaus quit sugar, soon regretted it, but came through after a week or so. Read the rest

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Coca-Cola to fund obesity research that says it's not about diet


Sugar water company Coca Cola is funding scientists who "shift blame" for obesity away from diets, reports The New York Times.

The company supports a new nonprofit, the Global Energy Balance Network, that promotes a “science-based” approach to weight control: Get more exercise and worry less about cutting calories.

A big lie built on a small truth. Read the rest

Long-term weight loss considered nearly impossible

Here's a CBC science piece quoting several obesity experts argues that long-term weight loss is almost impossible, saying that (uncited) meta-analyses of weight-loss intervention found that in the 5- to 10-year range, most weight-loss was reversed. According to Tim Caulfield, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, this is an open secret in scholarly and scientific weight-loss circles, but no one wants to talk about it for fear that it will scare people off of healthier eating and exercise regimes, which have benefits independent of weight-loss.

I found the article frustrating. While I am willing to stipulate that the data on long-term weight-loss suggests extreme difficulty, I wish the journalist had found biologists or doctors to discuss the issue, and had cited actual, specific research to support the claims made, which would make it easier to parse the nuances in the piece. It's not that I think that interdisciplinary lawyers with an undergraduate science background have something to say on this (I am 100 percent for interdisciplinary researchers, especially on complex questions like obesity), and while I think that psychologists like Traci Mann have a lot to say about some dimensions of weight-loss, it would have been great to find out what endocrinologists and other bioscience-types had to say about the phenomenon.

For my part, I went from about 250 lbs to about 170 in 2002/3, by eating a very low-carb diet. This morning, I weighed in at 176 lbs. I attribute my sustained weight loss to daily swimming (which I do for physiotherapy for chronic back pain) and a moderate-carb diet, as well as a two-day-a-week 600 calorie fasting regime. Read the rest

Scientists still trying to figure out how added sugar affects your health

Here's a crazy fact: Thanks to soda and the sneaky added sugars in store-bought foods, 25% of Americans consume a diet that is 25% sugar. In fact, all it takes to hit that is three cans of soda on top of an otherwise sugar-free diet. What does eating like that mean for your health in the long term? Scientists are still trying to figure that out. Scicurious breaks down a recent study in mice that successfully demonstrates both why our sugar intake has health experts concerned AND why we don't yet know exactly what we're doing to ourselves. Read the rest

Vegans expose quitters

Raphael Brion: "the website Vegan Sellout List ... is a refined mix of unchecked self-righteousness and threats of actual physical violence." [Eater] Read the rest

Evolution, pregnancy, and food

The populations at lowest risk for developing gestational diabetes — namely, ladies of European decent — come from cultures that eat (and have eaten, for thousands of years) dairy and wheat-heavy diets that would, normally, increase your risk. Meanwhile, writes Carl Zimmer at The Loom, Bangladeshi women, who have one of the highest risks for gestational diabetes, come from a culture that traditionally ate a low-carb, low-sugar diet. What's going on here? The answer might lie in evolution. It's a particularly interesting read given the ongoing pop-culture debate about whether 10,000 years is enough time for humans to adapt to eating certain foods. This data on pregnant ladies would suggest the answer is, at least in some respects, yes. Read the rest
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How the sugar industry defends itself against claims that sugar is unhealthy

Gary Taubes ("Good Calories, Bad Calories") on how the sugar industry fights research linking sugar consumption with chronic disease.

The infrastructure of longevity — a systems-level perspective of living to 100

I really enjoyed reading a recent story in The New York Times Magazine about attempts to understand extreme longevity — the weird tendency for certain populations to have larger-than-average numbers of people who live well into their 90s, if not 100s.

Written by Dan Buettner, the piece focuses on the Greek island of Ikaria, and, in many ways, it's a lot like a lot of the other stories I've read on this subject. From a scientific perspective, we don't really understand why some people live longer than others. And we definitely don't understand why some populations have more people who live longer. There are lots of theories. Conveniently, they tend to coincide with our own biases about what we currently think is most wrong with our own society. So articles about extremely long-lived populations tend to offer a lot of inspiring stories, some funny quotes from really old people, and not a lot in the way of answers.

Buettner's story has all those elements, but it also proposes some ideas that were, for me, really thought provoking. After spending much of the article discussing the Ikarian's diet (it's low in meat and sugar, high in antioxidants, and includes lots of locally produced food and wine) and their laid-back, low-stress way of life, Buettner doesn't suggest that we'll all live to be 100 if we just, individually, try to live exactly like the Ikarians do. In fact, he points out that other communities of long-lived individuals actually live differently — Californian Seventh-Day Adventists, for instance, eat no meat at all and don't drink, and they live with the normal stresses of everyday American life. Read the rest

Ask science: Does sugar really make children hyper?

"Why aren’t my kids hyper after binging on sugar?" asked Gillian Mayman at Mind the Science Gap, a blog featuring the work of various Master of Public Health students from the University of Michigan.

The punchline: "A review of 12 separate research studies found that there was no evidence that eating sugar makes kids hyper."

The post is great, but greatest of all? The animated GIFs used to illustrate it. (via @Boraz) Read the rest

What you can learn from a chimpanzee's diet

Given the trend lately to look backwards, historically, in search of the ideal human diet, I found this article by Rob Dunn really interesting. Dunn discusses some new research that gives us a better idea of what our closest relatives—chimpanzees and bonobos—are eating out in the wild.

Some of the takeaways fit neatly into the current human food zeitgeist—chimpanzees eat a diverse and varied diet, only consume small amounts of meat, and (for obvious reasons) focus on what happens to be in season and available. But some of the information is less apparently applicable to us. For instance, chimpanzees fracking love figs. In fact, different species of figs make up nearly half of all the food the chimpanzees in the study were eating. Figs, people. Can't get enough of 'em.

But the larger point, Dunn writes, is that we can't really apply any of the facts about chimpanzee diets directly to ourselves in a "Just So Story" sort of way. Geography, resource availability, and culture don't work like that. Neither does biology.

You are unlikely to eat like a chimpanzee eats. If you are the average American, you eat more meat and more simple sugar. You eat differently because of choices you make and choices our societies have made (e.g., to produce huge quantities of the foods that most simply satisfy our ancient urges). You also eat differently because the species around you are different, unless you happen to own a greenhouse specializing in tropical African trees.

But even if you were to abandon agricultural food and move into a forest in Tanzania you would still not eat exactly like a chimpanzee.

Read the rest

Gweek 053: Fitness for Geeks

Click here to play this episode. Gweek is Boing Boing's podcast about comic books, science fiction and fantasy, video games, board games, tools, gadgets, apps, and other neat stuff.

Every once in a while on Gweek, we take a break from talking about movies, science fiction, video games, and gadgets. This is one of those times. I spoke with Bruce W. Perry, the author of a brand new O’Reilly/Make book called Fitness for Geeks: Real Science, Great Nutrition, and Good Health.

If you’re interested in how things work, Bruce’s book will help you experiment with one machine we usually ignore -- our body and its health. Bruce takes a science-based approach to fitness, and shows you healthy ways to tinker with your lifestyle, by using apps and gadgets to self-track your fitness, by creating the ratio of macro- and micro-nutrients work that best for you, and by applying biohacks, such as high-intensity exercise and good stress to your system.

Read the rest

Is responding to food as a reward the same thing as food addiction?

We've had a couple of posts recently about a hypothesis that links the current increase in obesity with an increase in easy access to foods that are designed to trigger reward systems in the human brain. Basically: Maybe we're getting fatter because our brains are seeking out the recurrent reward of food that makes us fat. Scientist Stephan Guyenet explained it all in more detail in a recent guest post.

It's an interesting—and increasingly popular—idea, though not without flaws. To give you some context on how scientists are talking about this, I linked you to a blog post by Scicurious, another scientist who wrote about some of the critiques of food reward and related ideas. In particular, Scicurious questioned some of the implicit connections being made here between body size and health, and eating patterns and body size.

She also talked about another critique, one which came up in a recent article in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience. If people are gaining weight because they're addicted to eating unhealthy foods, we ought to see some evidence of that in the way their brains respond to those foods. After all, brains respond to many physically addictive substances in special ways. But we don't see that with junk food. So does that invalidate the hypothesis?

Stephan Guyenet doesn't think it does. In a recent email to me, he explained that he thinks the food reward hypothesis is a bit more nuanced, and can't really be described as "food addiction". At least, not the same way that cigarettes or heroin are addictive. Read the rest

We need to talk about red meat ...

Last week, you probably heard about a study purporting to show that consuming any amount of red meat significantly upped your risk of premature death. If that news has you freaked out, I highly recommend reading Deborah Blum's roundup of high-quality news coverage of this study. Her piece explains what the study does say, what it doesn't say, and why some evidence is better than other evidence. The takeaway: You should probably be reducing the amount of processed meat that you eat (but we already knew that). Read the rest

Triticum Fever, by Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly

Quick: Name a common food, consumed every day by most people, that:

• Increases overall calorie consumption by 400 calories per day • Affects the human brain in much the same way as morphine • Has a greater impact on blood sugar levels than a candy bar • Is consumed at the rate of 133 pounds per person per year • Has been associated with increased Type 1 Diabetes • Increases both insulin resistance and leptin resistance, conditions that lead to obesity • Is the only common food with its own mortality rate

If you guessed sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, you're on the right track, but, no, that's not the correct answer.

The true culprit: Triticum aestivum, or modern wheat.

Note that I said "modern" wheat, because I would argue that what we are being sold today in the form of whole grain bread, raisin bagels, blueberry muffins, pizza, ciabatta, bruschetta, and so on is not the same grain our grandparents grew up on. It's not even close.

Modern wheat is the altered offspring of thousands of genetic manipulations, crude and sometimes bizarre techniques that pre-date the age of genetic modification. The result: a high-yield, 2-foot tall "semi-dwarf" plant that no more resembles the wheat consumed by our ancestors than a chimpanzee (which shares 99% of the same genes that we do) resembles a human. I trust that you can tell the difference that 1% makes.

The obvious outward differences are accompanied by biochemical differences. The gluten proteins in modern wheat, for instance, differ from the gluten proteins found in wheat as recently as 1960. Read the rest