Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Food (page 1 / 2)

Why Everything We Know About Salt May Be Wrong →

Gina Kolata reports on new salt research, for the New York Times.

The salt equation taught to doctors for more than 200 years is not hard to understand.

The body relies on this essential mineral for a variety of functions, including blood pressure and the transmission of nerve impulses. Sodium levels in the blood must be carefully maintained.

If you eat a lot of salt — sodium chloride — you will become thirsty and drink water, diluting your blood enough to maintain the proper concentration of sodium. Ultimately you will excrete much of the excess salt and water in urine.

The theory is intuitive and simple. And it may be completely wrong.

New studies of Russian cosmonauts, held in isolation to simulate space travel, show that eating more salt made them less thirsty but somehow hungrier. Subsequent experiments found that mice burned more calories when they got more salt, eating 25 percent more just to maintain their weight.

The research, published recently in two dense papers in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, contradicts much of the conventional wisdom about how the body handles salt and suggests that high levels may play a role in weight loss.

​It's amazing to me how little we definitely know about diet and nutrition. There is a lot of folk wisdom out there, but so little proof based on rigorous research and testing.

This entry was tagged. Food Research

Parents Should Avoid Comments on a Child's Weight

Roni Caryn Rabin reports, at the New York Times' Well blog.

Should parents talk to an overweight child about weight? Or should they just keep their mouths shut?

​And?

Now a new study offers some guidance: Don’t make comments about a child’s weight.

The study, published in the journal Eating & Weight Disorders, is one of many finding that parents’ careless — though usually well-meaning — comments about a child’s weight are often predictors of unhealthy dieting behaviors, binge eating and other eating disorders, and may inadvertently reinforce negative stereotypes about weight that children internalize. A parent’s comments on a daughter’s weight can have repercussions for years afterward, contributing to a young woman’s chronic dissatisfaction with her body – even if she is not overweight.

​Tell me more.

The new study included over 500 women in their 20s and early 30s who were asked questions about their body image and also asked to recall how often their parents commented about their weight. Whether the young women were overweight or not, those who recalled parents’ comments were much more likely to think they needed to lose 10 or 20 pounds, even when they weren’t overweight.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Brian Wansink, a professor and the director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, characterized the parents’ critical comments as having a “scarring influence.”

“We asked the women to recall how frequently parents commented, but the telling thing was that if they recalled it happening at all, it had as bad an influence as if it happened all the time,” said Dr. Wansink, author of the book “Slim by Design.” “A few comments were the same as commenting all the time. It seems to make a profound impression.”

Some studies have actually linked parents’ critical comments to an increased risk of obesity. One large government-funded study that followed thousands of 10-year-old girls found that, at the start of the study, nearly 60 percent of the girls said someone — a parent, sibling, teacher or peer – had told them they were “too fat.” By age 19, those who had been labeled “too fat” were more likely to be obese, regardless of whether they were heavy at age 10 or not.

​That's scary. What should parents do?

Dr. Neumark-Sztainer was besieged by parents asking her this question, and wondering, “How do I prevent them from getting overweight and still feel good about themselves?”

In her book, called “I’m, Like, SO Fat: Helping Your Teen Make Health Choices About Eating and Exercise in a Weight-Obsessed World,” she notes that parents can influence a child’s eating habits without talking about them. “I try to promote the idea of talking less and doing more — doing more to make your home a place where it’s easy to make healthy eating and physical activity choices, and talking less about weight.”

For parents, that means keeping healthy food in the house and not buying soda. It means sitting down to enjoy family dinners together, and also setting an example by being physically active and rallying the family to go for walks or bike rides together. Modeling also means not carping about your own weight. “Those actions speak louder than words,” Dr. Puhl said.

This entry was tagged. Children Food

80% of Americans Support Mandatory Labels on Food Containing DNA →

Ilya Somin writes at the Foundation for Economic Education:

A survey by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics finds that over 80 percent of Americans support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA,” about the same number as support mandatory labeling of GMO foods “produced with genetic engineering.” Oklahoma State economist Jayson Lusk has some additional details on the survey.

If the government does impose mandatory labeling on foods containing DNA, perhaps the label might look something like this:

WARNING: This product contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The Surgeon General has determined that DNA is linked to a variety of diseases in both animals and humans. In some configurations, it is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children.

The Oklahoma State survey result is probably an example of the intersection between scientific ignorance and political ignorance, both of which are widespread. The most obvious explanation for the data is that most of these people don’t really understand what DNA is and don’t realize that it is contained in almost all food.

When they read that a strange substance called “DNA” might be included in their food, they might suspect that this is some dangerous chemical inserted by greedy corporations for their own nefarious purposes.

Let me be perfectly clear. Those who want mandatory GMO labels on food are only slightly less foolish than those who want mandatory DNA labels on food. In both cases, the labels are born out of a fear driven by ignorance and superstition.

This entry was tagged. Food Regulation

Poor Sleep Gives You the Munchies, Study Says →

Courtesy of Jonah Bromwich, at the New York Times:

A study published on Tuesday in the journal SLEEP suggested that the brain receptors that can lead the sleep-deprived to crave unnecessary food were the same as those activated by marijuana. Essentially, not sleeping can give you a ferocious case of the munchies.

The study took a close look at receptors affected by endocannabinoids — so named for cannabis, the marijuana plant — which it found were closely involved in the food cravings that come from sleep deprivation. Sleep restriction in the study’s subjects led to amplified endocannabinoid levels in the blood, leading to hunger pangs, which generally intensify in the early afternoon, to increase further.

Subjects who were deprived of sleep said that they felt hungrier, and had more trouble controlling themselves when faced with the snacks. They ended up consuming nearly twice as much fat and protein as the control group. (There was not a significant difference between the calories consumed by each group during regular meals.) Previous studies have shown that the sleep-deprived are particularly vulnerable to foods that are high in fat and carbohydrates.

I can confirm these results from my own anecdotal evidence.

This entry was tagged. Food Research Science

Icelandic Turkey: A Culinary Experiment →

I'd try this.

To make it, you cut a chicken in half, roll out a flour and water dough, cover it with sage leaves, cover those with bacon, and wrap each half chicken. Each ends up enclosed in successive layers of bacon, sage, and dough. You then bake it. The dough, especially the dough under the chicken that gets the drippings and the bacon fat, is yummy, the meat juicier than with an ordinary baked chicken.

This Christmas we decided to experiment with Icelandic turkey. The bird was about fourteen and a half pounds, that being the smallest we could get for five of us—my immediate family and my wife's mother. Out of respect to Christmas and Thanksgiving tradition I used the whole turkey instead of cutting it in half.

I made the dough with about ten cups of flour and three or four of water, enough to be kneaded into a soft but not wet dough. The turkey was stuffed, the dough covered with sage less densely than the chicken usually is, due to not enough sage leaves. The half of the dough that went under the turkey was covered with bacon strips, the rest of a pound of bacon went on top of the turkey and the other half of the dough on top of that. The two halves of the dough were sealed together.

… Anyone curious about the Icelandic chicken recipe can find it in How to Milk an Almond, Stuff an Egg, and Armor a Turnip: A Thousand Years of Recipes, webbed as a pdf on my site, available as a hardcopy from Amazon.

This entry was tagged. Food

Baby Bananas: An Interesting Idea →

After reading this, I'm certainly willing to give baby bananas a fair chance. I just don't know if I'll be able to find any around here.

Is America ready for a second banana? For most shoppers, one banana fits all: the Cavendish. A foot long and weighing in at seven ounces, it accounts for at least 99% of national banana consumption. It also causes trouble for people who don’t want to slice a whole banana into a bowl of Rice Krispies.

If only bananas could be smaller. Well, some are. Of the 33 billion bananas shipped to the U.S. in a year, a tiny fraction are exotic cousins often sold as “babies.” That is demeaning; baby bananas are full-grown. At a third the size of a Cavendish, sweeter and creamier, a baby fits without waste into a peanut butter, banana and mayonnaise sandwich. No one slicing a baby banana into a bowl of Rice Krispies ever has to ask, “Who wants the rest of this banana?”

This entry was tagged. Food

The Future of Meat Is Plant-Based Burgers →

Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by the idea of plant based meat substitutes. My interest is purely tech based. I'm not worried about the ethics of eating meat or about saving the environment. I just think that the idea of transmorgifying plants into meat is fascinating.

If Beyond Meat is right, it's an idea that may be closer to moving from SF to reality.

a box arrived at my door and made it easy.

Inside were four quarter-pound brown patties. I tossed one on the grill. It hit with a satisfying sizzle. Gobbets of lovely fat began to bubble out. A beefy smell filled the air. I browned a bun. Popped a pilsner. Mustard, ketchup, pickle, onions. I threw it all together with some chips on the side and took a bite. I chewed. I thought. I chewed some more. And then I began to get excited about the future.

It was called the Beast Burger, and it came from a Southern California company called Beyond Meat, located a few blocks from the ocean. At that point, the Beast was still a secret, known only by its code name: the Manhattan Beach Project. I’d had to beg Ethan Brown, the company’s 43-year-old CEO, to send me a sample.

And it was vegan. “More protein than beef,” Brown told me when I rang him up after tasting it. “More omegas than salmon. More calcium than milk. More antioxidants than blueberries. Plus muscle-recovery aids. It’s the ultimate performance burger.”

This entry was tagged. Food Innovation

Hoppy beer is awful →

That’s when I realized that I had a problem. In fact, everyone I know in the craft beer industry has a problem: We’re so addicted to hops that we don’t even notice them anymore.

Hops are the flowers of the climbing plant Humulus lupulus, a member of the family Cannabaceae (which also includes, yes, cannabis), and they’re a critical ingredient in beer. Beer is made by steeping grain in hot water to turn its starches into sugar (which is later converted to alcohol by yeast). While the resulting liquid, called wort, is boiling, brewers add hops to tone down the mixture’s sweetness—without hops, beer would taste like Coke.

Every beer I've tasted is bitter and, I think, nasty. Especially the craft beers. Why can't I have a beer that tastes like Coke? I'd buy that in an instant.

This entry was tagged. Alcohol Food

A Constitutional Argument Against the So-Called "Monsanto Protection Act" →

Baylen Linnekin, writing at Reason.com:

If a federal agency has the power to bar a court from overturning or halting the actions of that agency—an administrative rulemaking body to which Congress delegates far too much power already—then that body may (and will) act with impunity. The power of such an agency would, in fact, exceed that of Congress itself.

Such a law would be worse than almost any that preceded it in this country. Under no theory of agency with which I'm familiar can one delegate more power than one has. And yet this new amendment to the GMO law appears to place some USDA powers almost entirely outside the scope of judicial review.

In effect, this amendment gives the USDA the power to ignore a federal judge’s ruling in some cases. It would take the power of judicial review out of the hand of judges, crumple it up, toss it on the ground, step on it, and set it ablaze.

I know many people have an irrational hated of genetically modified food. When I first heard about this provision, I just assumed that it would protect Monsanto against these biased attacks. This analysis completely changes my opinion. Congress should vote this down.

The Pizza Police →

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Congressman Fred Upton, writing in National Review:

The nutritional boards may cost a lot of dough, but at least the pizza-loving populace will be exposed to the caloric details of their feast, right? Hardly. Ninety percent of Domino’s customers never see the menu sign. That’s because they place their orders on the Internet or over the phone; whether the pie is delivered or picked up in-store, at best the consumer would see the calorie sign only after the order is placed.

Thanks to an Obamacare provision, restaurants will have to spend thousands of dollars putting up government mandated signs that few of their customers will ever see. All in the name of bullying you into eating healthier. Who's your nanny now?

You Can Make Gummy Bear Versions of Yourself →

You can basically create a gummy replica of yourself to eat. It looks absolutely delicious.

FabCafe in Japan is offering the service for approximately $65 (6,000 Yen), which sounds like a complete steal to me. It's apparently a 2-part process that requires a 3D body scanner and a lot of gummy colors. FabCafe, which made a chocolate replica for faces, is doing this for Japan's White Day (in Asian countries, White Day is like Valentine's Day but the girls give the gifts to the guys. Awesome).

How cool is this? Sure, $65 is a bit expensive, but how often do you get to eat yourself as a gummy bear?

This entry was tagged. Food Foods Innovation

Why Times Square Needs a McWorld →

A brilliant idea for a giant McDonalds restaurant that incorporates all of McDonalds international menus. I would visit this.

The central attraction of the ground floor level is a huge mega-menu that lists every item from every McDonald's in the world, because this McDonald's serves ALL of them. There would probably have to be touch screen gadgets to help you navigate the menu. There would have to be whole screens just dedicated to the soda possibilities. A concierge would offer suggestions. Celebrities on the iPad menus would have their own "meals" combining favorites from home ("Manu Ginóbili says 'Try the medialunas!'") with different stuff for a unique combination ONLY available at McWorld. You could get the India-specific Chicken Mexican Wrap (“A traditional Mexican soft flat bread that envelops crispy golden brown chicken encrusted with a Mexican Cajun coating, and a salad mix of iceberg lettuce, carrot, red cabbage and celery, served with eggless mayonnaise, tangy Mexican Salsa sauce and cheddar cheese.” Wherever possible, the menu items' descriptions should reflect local English style). Maybe a bowl of Malaysian McDonald's Chicken Porridge or The McArabia Grilled Kofta, available in Pakistan and parts of the Middle East.

This entry was tagged. Food

Starvation hormone markedly extends mouse life span, without need for calorie restriction →

A study by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers finds that a starvation hormone markedly extends life span in mice without the need for calorie restriction.

"Restricting food intake has been shown to extend lifespan in several different kinds of animals. In our study, we found transgenic mice that produced more of the hormone fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF21) got the benefits of dieting without having to limit their food intake. Male mice that overproduced the hormone had about a 30 percent increase in average life span and female mice had about a 40 percent increase in average life span," said senior author Dr. Steven Kliewer, professor of molecular biology and pharmacology.

... FGF21 seems to provide its health benefits by increasing insulin sensitivity and blocking the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-1 signaling pathway. When too abundant, growth hormone can contribute to insulin resistance, cancer, and other diseases, the researchers said.

FGF21 is a hormone secreted by the liver during fasting that helps the body adapt to starvation. It is one of three growth factors that are considered atypical because they behave like hormones, which are substances created by one part of the body that have effects in other parts, the researchers said.

"Prolonged overproduction of the hormone FGF21 causes mice to live extraordinary long lives without requiring a decrease in food intake. It mimics the health benefits of dieting without having to diet," said co-author Dr. David Mangelsdorf, chairman of pharmacology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator at UT Southwestern.

There was a slight downside though.

FGF21 overproducers tended to be smaller than wild-type mice and the female mice were infertile. While FGF21 overproducers had significantly lower bone density than wild-type mice, the FGF21-abundant mice exhibited no ill effects from the reduced bone density and remained active into old age without any broken bones, the researchers said.

Here's hoping that this offers some insights for how to manage weight in humans. I'm happy to hear about skinny mice, but I'd be happier to have hope for making it easy for me to stay (become) skinny.

This entry was tagged. Food Weight

World Hunger, the Problem Left Behind →

Tyler Cowen, on the slow improvements in agriculture and the difficulties that Africa faces.

Consider Africa, which is often considered to have turned a corner and to be headed toward steady growth. The expansion of the African middle class and the decline in child mortality rates are both quite real, but the advances have not been balanced — and agriculture lags behind.

In a recent address, Michael Lipton, an economist and research professor at Sussex University in Britain, offered a sobering look at Africa’s agricultural productivity. He suggests that Rwanda and Ghana are gaining, but that most of the continent is not. Production and calorie intake per capita don’t seem to be higher today than they were in the early 1960s. It remains an issue how Africa’s growing population will be fed.

... On top of all that, many African nations have unhelpful policies toward agriculture. Malawi, for instance, subjects corn to periodic export and import restrictions as well as to price controls, all of which thwart development of a well-functioning market. When market speculators save corn in anticipation of greater scarcity, they may be punished by law. These restrictions of market incentives exacerbate the basic supply problems.

What can we do about these problems?

... the United States government should stop subsidizing its own corn-based biofuels, mainly ethanol. Today, about 40 percent of America’s field corn goes into biofuels, thanks to a subsidy and regulatory policy dating from 2005. With virtual unanimity, experts condemn these subsidies as driving up food prices, damaging land use and costing the taxpayers money. Once the energy costs of producing the biofuels are taken into account, it doesn’t even appear that this policy helps slow climate change. It has become a form of crony capitalism, at great global expense.

Perhaps Christians should take up the elimination of ethanol subsidies as a "social justice" issue. Is it just to funnel money to American farmers at the expense of hungry, poor people worldwide?

Are GMO foods safe? Opponents are skewing the science to scare people. →

I started paying attention to how anti-GMO campaigners have distorted the science on genetically modified foods. You might be surprised at how successful they've been and who has helped them pull it off.

I’ve found that fears are stoked by prominent environmental groups, supposed food-safety watchdogs, and influential food columnists; that dodgy science is laundered by well-respected scholars and propaganda is treated credulously by legendary journalists; and that progressive media outlets, which often decry the scurrilous rhetoric that warps the climate debate, serve up a comparable agitprop when it comes to GMOs.

In short, I’ve learned that the emotionally charged, politicized discourse on GMOs is mired in the kind of fever swamps that have polluted climate science beyond recognition.

Well. The anti-science idiots exist on the left too. Worse, this kind of idiocy kills people, since it keeps people from planting GMO crops, thereby keeping crop yields lower than they have to be, and making food more expensive.

This entry was tagged. Food Poverty

The Fat Trap →

I think, as a society, we need to stop looking at weight as a moral issue and look at it more as a medical issue. Some people don't gain weight, no matter what they do. Others can't lose weight (and keep it off) no matter what they do. It appears that biology matters far more than mere willpower.

While researchers have known for decades that the body undergoes various metabolic and hormonal changes while it’s losing weight, the Australian team detected something new. A full year after significant weight loss, these men and women remained in what could be described as a biologically altered state. Their still-plump bodies were acting as if they were starving and were working overtime to regain the pounds they lost. For instance, a gastric hormone called ghrelin, often dubbed the “hunger hormone,” was about 20 percent higher than at the start of the study. Another hormone associated with suppressing hunger, peptide YY, was also abnormally low. Levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses hunger and increases metabolism, also remained lower than expected. A cocktail of other hormones associated with hunger and metabolism all remained significantly changed compared to pre-dieting levels. It was almost as if weight loss had put their bodies into a unique metabolic state, a sort of post-dieting syndrome that set them apart from people who hadn’t tried to lose weight in the first place.

… Another way that the body seems to fight weight loss is by altering the way the brain responds to food. Rosenbaum and his colleague Joy Hirsch, a neuroscientist also at Columbia, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to track the brain patterns of people before and after weight loss while they looked at objects like grapes, Gummi Bears, chocolate, broccoli, cellphones and yo-yos. After weight loss, when the dieter looked at food, the scans showed a bigger response in the parts of the brain associated with reward and a lower response in the areas associated with control. This suggests that the body, in order to get back to its pre-diet weight, induces cravings by making the person feel more excited about food and giving him or her less willpower to resist a high-calorie treat.

This entry was tagged. Food Healthy Living

In Defense Of Kitchen Gadgets (2) →

Glenn Reynolds links to Megan McArdle's defense of kitchen gadgets and posts reader email praising a rotating pizza oven.

Reader Paul Curtis writes:

Funny, you recommended the Pizzazz Pizza Oven more than four years ago on the blog. I know because I bought one at the time, and I’ve never tired of it! In fact, this year I bought additional turntables, because I’ve put so much wear on the original.

The device is so convenient, I’ve even started carrying it with me in my car, when I visit friends.

In Defense of Kitchen Gadgets →

Megan McArdle writes a very nice defense of kitchen gadgets.

If you really think that laborious food prep is that elevating, you should go back to the methods of your grandmother. Buy whole nuts and crack them by hand, picking out the meats and hoping you don't accidentally get a bit of shell. Throw out the powdered gelatin and use calf's foot jelly. Make your own confectioner's sugar with a food grinder or a rolling pin. Pluck your own chickens. Render your own lard.

If you think that doing these things would be ridiculous--which it would--then why is it ridiculous to have a machine chop your onions or make your bechamel? There's no particular reason to assume that we have reached some sort of technological plateau where the things that we happen to do by hand right now represent the best possible methods for accomplishing those tasks.

In other words, the "one knife, one pan", "I don't need kitchen gadgets" snobs aren't a better, purer sort of cook; they're just ignoring most of the contents of their kitchen. How many of them cook over an open fire, rather than using one of those high-faluting fancy stoves with their automatic temperature regulation and their electric lights? Why are they storing all their food in a cold box rather than shopping for each day, the way people do in India? Who needs a special pot for coffee when your great grandparents just boiled it up in a saucepan and settled the grinds by dropping eggshells into the resulting brew? Why own a blender instead of putting the food through a grinder and then a chinois? Wouldn't the dishes get cleaner if you boiled up water and washed them by hand? And hey, what's that toaster doing there?

Can your genes help create ‘designer’ diets? →

Scientists at the University of Miami are doing an interesting research project. I've wonder about this a lot recently, as I monitor what I eat and how my weight changes (especially compared the reports of others).

“I believe if we look at people at the molecular level we can improve their health,” says Sylvia Daunert, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the UM Medical School. The studies question long-held beliefs about food selection and weight loss. For example, could 1,000 calories of turkey cause more weight gain in some people than 1,000 calories of cashews? If so, could a person lose weight through food selection without cutting total calories?

And could a person’s genes pre-determine whether he or she will benefit from a particular type of exercise – or perhaps be at greater risk of injury from it?

UM researchers are looking into it. “We can’t say this is 100 percent correct,” Daunert says. “This is our hypothesis. This is brand-new science.”

This entry was tagged. Food Research

No "Fundamental Right" to Own a Cow, or Consume Its Milk →

Wisconsin Judge Patrick J. Fiedler, on your fundamental rights.

"This court is unwilling to declare that there is a fundamental right to consume the food of one's choice without first being presented with significantly more developed arguments on both sides of the issue."

"no, Plaintiffs to not have a fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or a dairy herd;

"no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to consume the milk from their own cow;"

"no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice..."

If Americans don't have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice, what rights do they have?