Seth Roberts passed away on April 26th, 2014, after suffering a heart attack while hiking near his home in Berkeley, California. A self-experimenter and author of The Shangri-La Diet, Roberts described his attempts to combat his own insomnia in Self-experimentation as a source of new ideas: Ten examples about sleep, mood, health, and weight, writing that "Before science was a profession, it was a hobby, which means some people enjoy it for its own sake . . . If a hobby has tangible benefits, such as lower blood pressure or reduced risk of relapse, so much stronger the motivation to do it." He was brilliant, obsessive and always challenging assumptions. His extensive blog is still online.
Your body is home to about 100 trillion bacteria and other microbes, collectively known as your microbiome. Naturalists first became aware of our invisible lodgers in the 1600s, but it wasn’t until the past few years that we’ve become really familiar with them. This recent research has given the microbiome a cuddly kind of fame. We’ve come to appreciate how beneficial our microbes are — breaking down our food, fighting off infections and nurturing our immune system. It’s a lovely, invisible garden we should be tending for our own well-being. But in the journal Bioessays, a team of scientists has raised a creepier possibility. Perhaps our menagerie of germs is also influencing our behavior in order to advance its own evolutionary success — giving us cravings for certain foods, for example.[more inside]
"During the most recent ice age, milk was essentially a toxin to adults because — unlike children — they could not produce the lactase enzyme required to break down lactose, the main sugar in milk. But as farming started to replace hunting and gathering in the Middle East around 11,000 years ago, cattle herders learned how to reduce lactose in dairy products to tolerable levels by fermenting milk to make cheese or yogurt. Several thousand years later, a genetic mutation spread through Europe that gave people the ability to produce lactase — and drink milk — throughout their lives. That adaptation opened up a rich new source of nutrition that could have sustained communities when harvests failed." - The Milk Revolution - how a single mutation expanded (some) of humanity's diet. (Nature.com)
Nutrition experts contend that all we need is what's typically found in a routine diet. Industry representatives, backed by a fascinating history, argue that foods don't contain enough, and we need supplements. Fortunately, many excellent studies have now resolved the issue.(SLAtlantic)
In this sprightly talk (transcript and video) Daniel Lieberman describes why our bodies are so good at running long distances, how our social intelligence developed and how modernity and capitalism require us to learn (or relearn) how to use our bodies. (May inspire tolerance for people who wear five-fingered shoes.) Prof. Lieberman studies human evolution at Harvard where he focuses on heads and feet. (via Tyler Cowen)
Ask for Amazing WATE-ON. Retronaut's collection of dietary supplement ads offers some historical perspective on the obesity epidemic. [more inside]
Is Vitamin C worth taking or not? Does Echinacea kill colds? Am I missing out not drinking litres of Goji juice, wheatgrass extract and flaxseed oil every day? A generative data-visualisation of all the scientific evidence for popular health supplements by David McCandless and Andy Perkins. (Still Image) (data) [via] [more inside]
"People lose weight if they lower calories, but it does not matter how." According to recently published study in the New England Journal of Medicine, "For people who are trying to lose weight, it does not matter if they are counting carbohydrates, protein or fat. All that matters is that they are counting something." [more inside]
Scientists are testing a new diet pill that expands to the size of a tennis ball in your stomach. When taken with two glasses of water, the slow-growing 'gelatinous blob' gives one the feeling of having eaten a plate of food. Although it's no replacement for diet and exercise, it could help some people control their urges.
Science is better: An enormous scientific study has conclusively demonstrated that "diet had no effect" on rates of women getting cancer or heart disease. Because the study investigated the efficacy of overall low fat diets, rather than the more recently developed hypothesis that saturated fats are the only pernicious kind, some leading medical researchers accept these findings but still think there MAY be a direct link between certain diets and major health problems in women, but (and here's the money shot) "if they did a study like that and it was negative, then I'd have to give up my cherished hypotheses for data." Now that, my friends, is a heartwarming example of one of the pinnacles of human creativity, the scientific method, which is under so much attack these days. . .
Where are your limits? Inspired in part by mikhail's earlier post on the gelatin used in Guinness (and Bass), for those with voluntary diet restrictions (kosher, halal, vegetarian, etc.), what unexpected choices have you faced? Does it go beyond food? Toothpaste? Collagen injections? Silk? Buying a car with leather seats? A used car with leather seats?