Wednesday, 24 December 2014

"North-Korean Documentary - Western Propaganda"

A thought provoking mockumentary on our consumerism and mendacious political class.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

English Rituals

England's strange winter rituals via DuckDuckGo for Android

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Medication of Wildlife

There is plenty of evidence that many medicines widely prescribed and in use today have dubious pharmacological benefit.  Ben Goldacre's Bad Science has done much to illuminate this otherwise secretive world which is driven largely and solely by profit, whilst persisting on the premise of "trust me, I'm a doctor" rather than sound science.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Urine Trouble

Heads up for what promises to be an interesting program on Radio 4 this evening.  Urine Trouble:
  • You have a headache and take a pill. The headache is gone, but what about the pill?

    What we flush away makes its way through sewers, treatment works, rivers and streams and finally back to your tap. Along the way most of the drugs we take are removed but the tiny amounts that remain are having effects. Feminised fish in our rivers, starlings feeding on Prozac-rich worms, and bacteria developing antibiotic resistance; scientists are just beginning to understand how the drugs we take are leaving their mark on the environment.

    The compounds we excrete are also telling tales on us. Professor of Chemistry, Andrea Sella, gets up close and personal with music festival toilets to find out what the revellers are swallowing, and hears from scientists who are sampling our rivers to learn about our health.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Decline Effect

If you've read Ben Goldacre's Bad Science or Bad Pharma then you'll be aware of the deep rooted problems in medical research.  But it gets worse.  It seems that the truth is a 'perishable commodity', as articulated in Everything We Know is Wrong (available on iPlayer):
  • "Every day the newspapers carry stories of new scientific findings. There are 15 million scientists worldwide all trying to get their research published. But a disturbing fact appears if you look closely: as time goes by, many scientific findings seem to become less true than we thought. It's called the "decline effect" - and some findings even dwindle away to zero.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Medieval Hospital Food

Today the Guardian asks whether medieval hospital food was superior to that provided today.  What jumps out is this bit:
  • "It’s important to remember that for most patients in the past there was much less division between “medicine” and “food” than is the case now. The dominant humoral understanding of the body explained disease as an imbalance of the major fluids of the body, of hot, cold, wet and dry “qualities”. These imbalances could be cured by altering diet, environment, exercise patterns and sleeping habits, as well as with medicines and bloodletting – so a personalised diet might be part of a course of medical therapy."
Their understanding seems in part to be right, but for the wrong reasons!

Moving Home and Microbes

An incredible finding from the Home Microbiome Study and featured in New Scientist:
  • "You may forget your toothbrush next time you go away but you can't leave your microbes behind. Millions of bacteria hitch a ride with you, making themselves comfortable wherever you go. Within only a few hours, they will have colonised a hotel room; give them 24 hours and they can take over an entire house."
Gut flora and discussion about how microbial life impacts our health has long featured on these pages, but this really blows me away.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Guerrilla Swimming

It's approaching 1700hrs on a hot and sultry Friday afternoon.  I look over the office partition in to the next bay and get a nod from a co-worker.  The guerrilla swim is on!

Allergies: Modern Life and Me

BBC2's Horizon aired last night, covering allergies.  Explicitly they looked at the gut mircrobiome and bacterial populations in and around humans and their principle habitats.
  • Changes to the bacteria that live inside all of us are responsible for increasing the number of people with allergies, suggests new research. In this episode of Horizon, the show investigates this claim by conducting a unique experiment with two allergic families in order to find out just what it is in the modern world that is to blame. With a raft of mini cameras, GPS units and the very latest gene sequencing technology, the show discovers how the western lifestyle is impacting their bacteria. Why are these changes making people allergic? And what can be done to put a stop to the allergy epidemic?

Friday, 1 August 2014

Dairy Farming 2500BC

Looks like dairy farming is much older than previously thought according to the Proceedings of the Royal Society B,
  • "By analysing the traces of food left caked in ancient pottery, researchers have revealed that Neolithic settlers in Finland may have been consuming dairy foods as early as 2500 BC.
    Since the end of the last Ice Age 12000 years ago northern latitudes have been settled by humans. For millennia these people survived on fishing, hunting and gathering. Early Neolithic settlers in Northern Europe had begun establishing farming economies across Britain and southern Norway, thanks to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. However, some researchers doubt whether further North in Finland, where the climate was more extreme, farming was being practised as early.

    The researchers behind this paper set out to establish the diets of early Finnish cultures by analysing preserved lipid molecules caked onto pottery recovered from sites in Finland. The pottery includes piece of Comb Ware pots from around 3900-3300 BC, Corded Ware vessels from around 2500 BC, Kiukainen ceramics from between 1500 and 2300 BC and Early Metal Age pottery from 1200-500 BC. By analysing food residues left embedded in the pottery the team can determine what sorts of diets these Neolithic cultures may have had."
 I certainly don't shy away from it, enjoying goats cheese in particular in an episodic faschion, and some milk in coffee most days.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Food Unwrapped

I've not been following the 'Food Unwrapped' series, but I did catch this episode (series 4, episode3), featuring black pudding.
  • One of Jimmy's old favourites is black pudding. He learns about the amazing properties of blood and discovers how it's becoming trendy in gastronomy. Could desserts like pavlova be made from no-egg blood meringues?

I am a big fan of black pudding but what I found rather inspiring is the news that blood can be used as a substitute for egg!  The possibilities are endless (and distinctly 'faleo', but damn, if you are going to eat junk, what a way to do it).

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Researchers Recommend Carb Restriction as Primary Method of Diabetes Control

Researchers recommend carb restriction as primary method of diabetes control:
  • A multinational team of researchers has put forward a comprehensive case for recommending dietary carbohydrate restriction as the default intervention in managing diabetes mellitus.

    The critical review, which has been published online by the Nutrition Journal, presents 12 points to support the use of a low carbohydrate diet in people with type 2 and type 1 diabetes. In people with type 2 diabetes, the review recommends a low carbohydrate diet as the first intervention. In type 1 diabetes, a low carb diet is advised as the default diet in addition to taking insulin.
You have to appreciate this simply from the positon of a non-pharmacological, medicinal intervention!

Friday, 25 July 2014

After-Work Wild Swim

After a hot week in the office, a little detour en route home to swim in a river!

I only seems a short time since I last posted about this fantastic swimming location. Time flies eh? 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Overtreatment and Waste

Aseem Malhotra has written a good piece in today's Observer on Stressful Hospital Syndrome and waste and over-treatment in medicine,
  • As a profession we have also been guilty – unwittingly or otherwise – of exaggerating the benefits of medications often perceived as magic pills by patients when their benefits are often modest at best. This also detracts from more meaningful lifestyle interventions by giving the public the illusion of protection.
He is quite stinging in his criticism (and in my opinion, accurate).  He also offers a source of solution,
  • In an effort to curb the unsustainable healthcare costs, estimated to reach a staggering $4.6trn by 2020, a campaign known as Choosing Wisely is gaining momentum in the US. Part of the campaign involves communicating with patients that more expensive medicine doesn't necessarily mean better medicine. And this is reflected by the evidence that four fifths of new drugs are later found to be copies of old onesnot surprising perhaps when pharmaceutical companies spend twice as much on marketing new medications as on research.
 As always, follow the money, especially when YOU are the source of the gain for others!

"Stressful Hospital" Syndrome

What is  interesting in this article is that many of the drivers are arguably endemic in the daily life of many of us:
  • Nearly one fifth of Medicare patients discharged from a hospital — approximately 2.6 million seniors — have an acute medical problem within the subsequent 30 days that necessitates another hospitalization. These recently discharged patients have heightened risks of myriad conditions, many of which appear to have little in common with the initial diagnosis. For example, among patients admitted for treatment of heart failure, pneumonia, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the cause of readmission is the same as that of the index admission for only 37%, 29%, and 36%, respectively.1 The causes of readmission, regardless of the original admitting diagnosis, commonly include heart failure, pneumonia, COPD, infection, gastrointestinal conditions, mental illness, metabolic derangements, and trauma Proportions of Rehospitalizations for Causes Other Than the Condition at Initial Discharge.). The breadth of these readmission diagnoses has been shown in studies using administrative claims and those using chart reviews. Thus, this observation is not likely to be merely the result of variation in coding. Further evidence of the distinctiveness of this syndrome is that information about the severity of the original acute illness predicts poorly which patients will have an adverse medical event soon after discharge and require readmission.

    How might the post-hospital syndrome emerge? Hospitalized patients are not only enduring an acute illness, which can markedly perturb physiological systems, but are experiencing substantial stress. During hospitalization, patients are commonly deprived of sleep, experience disruption of normal circadian rhythms, are nourished poorly, have pain and discomfort, confront a baffling array of mentally challenging situations, receive medications that can alter cognition and physical function, and become deconditioned by bed rest or inactivity. Each of these perturbations can adversely affect health and contribute to substantial impairments during the early recovery period, an inability to fend off disease, and susceptibility to mental error.
These drivers will be familiar to those who hang around the paleosphere.  Think 'resilience' when attempting to improve your health (adaptability trumps 'adapted'), the foundations of which are laid down by attention to sleep, nutrition, exercise and stress levels.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Obesity; More Than Just 'Calories'?

It would appear that simply cutting out 'calories in' via radical surgery isn't properly understood.  It is premised on a naive 'mechanical' model and the results/success achieved are inconsistent.  But now,
  • ...a slew of high-profile animal studies is identifying potential mechanisms in how the gut adapts to its strange new configuration: with sweeping changes in bacterial populations, bile acids, hormone secretions and tissue growth. The hope is that more research on what happens after bariatric surgery will enable physicians to identify who will respond best — and even lead to ways of altering metabolism without resorting to the knife.

Get a load of that last line!  Who'da thunk it?

When we look after/keep animals and plants, no one questions the wisdom of subjecting them to conditions similar to their 'ancestral' past.  Yet we assume our own inherent adaptability means we can subject ourselves to incredibly novel foods and physical environments with little detriment to our health.

When Scientists Back The Wrong Horse

Check out @nytimeswell's Tweet '3 Things to Know About Niacin and Heart Health':

  • Recent studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine are adding to concerns about the safety and effectiveness of niacin, a popular drug for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. The studies reveal that although this B vitamin can reduce triglyceride levels, raise “good” cholesterol levels (HDL) and reduce “bad” cholesterol levels (LDL), it does not produce the benefits that patients and their doctors might expect. And the studies are revealing serious harms.

A lack of quality in the original trials is indicative of the wider problems of transparency in medicine..., oh, and follow the money.  You need to remember;

Policies need to be analyzed in terms of the incentives they create, rather than the hopes that inspired them.

The real kicker for me though is this line:
  • "No study is perfect, and for niacin advocates, many of whom have spent their careers promoting and prescribing the drug, the results of the new trials evoked disbelief."

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Can a Bodybuilder Be a Gymnast?

We've had a few of these 'body builder does X' type films on here before.  This is a great two parter which doubles up as a tutorial for those of you aspiring to do a muscle up:

(Part 1 of 2):

Me?  I can pull off multiple MUs on both bar and rings.  A reverse grip MU on the bar still evades me though!

Nest of Giants

A great film from Vice.TV about Iceland's strongmen,  from Jon Pall Sigmarsson (who shed body weight for the WSM specifically to target the more athletic, speed- and endurance-oriented events) to the legend that is Magnus Ver Magnusson.

There is also an interesting aside looking at a new fitness trend taking off amongst Iceland's youth which builds upon a more functional application of strength (using strength oriented apparatus on an assault course).  JPS would be proud!

The Giants of Iceland: 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Rule of Thumb

Wise words from @RoyalStatSoc:

Friday, 13 June 2014

The Thrifty Gene

The thrifty-gene hypothesis has reigned as the dominant explanation for soaring rates of obesity and diabetes among many aboriginal groups.  The Globe & Mail dig a little deeper in to the substance of this meme:

  • Dr. Neel, an influential geneticist at the University of Michigan, felt that genes were partly to blame. He speculated that genetic traits among the world's prehistoric hunter-gatherers enabled them to store calories during times of feast in order to survive in times of famine.

    But with "the blessings of civilization," he wrote, these thrifty genes had become hazardous baggage in a sedentary world of all feast and no famine, predisposing carriers to obesity and the diseases it brings.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Time on Fat

The Truth About Fat

Different dogma but a fine conclusion!

General Health Checks

A thoughtful editorial in the BMJ - General Health Checks Don't Work (my emphasis):
  • We check our cars regularly, so why shouldn’t we also check our bodies so that we can find and treat abnormalities before they cause too much harm? It seems so easy, but the human body is not a car, and, in contrast to a car, it has self healing properties. Actually, the first thing we know about screening is that it will cause harm in some people. This is why we need randomised trials to find out whether screening does more good than harm before we decide whether to introduce it.
The medicalisation of each part of our life leads us to focus on numbers and simple solutions; focus on a metric (often something we measure because we CAN, rather than because we SHOULD), sell pill or lifestyle to shift this metric towards the (currently) 'approved' value.  As we move to the age of the quantified self, this nonsense will get worse.  We end up chasing numbers and lose the bigger picture.

What drives this medicalisation is money.  Lots of it.  The most obvious manifestation of which is the marketing arm of pharma, and the BEHAVIOURS thusly generated:
  • Our drug regulators approve diabetes drugs solely on the basis of their glucose lowering effect without knowing what they do to patients. The only large trial of tolbutamide was stopped prematurely because the drug increased cardiovascular mortality, but nothing material happened with its regulatory status and people continued to use it. More recently, rosiglitazone, which was the most sold diabetes drug in the world, was taken off the market in Europe, as it causes myocardial infarction and cardiovascular death and pioglitazone could also face trouble, as it has been linked to heart failure and bladder cancer.
There are good reasons to go to your doctor and to get an issue seen.  But there is a line to be drawn - if you eat well, exercise appropriately, address stress, get your sleep and generally feel 'well', then you are probably fine and you don't want to create an issue for yourself from the side effects of an unneeded treatment.

Even if a single metric (whatever that may be) is outside of 'normal' (whatever THAT may be), you should still exercise some cation before sucking up the pills.  Put diagnosis in to the context of lifestyle.  Lifestyle should be the first line of any non-urgent intervention.

Health is a moving target.  Our 'numbers' will change as the body adapts. As I said in Polypharmacy & the Inverse Care Law, the 'worried well' seem to be complicit in much over diagnosis (see Inverse Care Law).  Let's not make it easy for pharma's marketing arm eh?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

What's the Story?

The HuffPo ask Are All Calories Created Equal? It isn't a bad article and covers the more nuanced ideas behind obesity that you'll have read around these here parts for the past seven years:

- A calorie is a calorie (ACIAC).
- We are not bomb calorimeters.
- A physicist would correctly state calories in vs calories out (CICO) as fundamental to an increase in the mass of the human body. But obesity is a problem of biology, not of maths.
- CICO contains no causal information, it just restates the problem.

Still not convinced? Consider this; we could get two people (unknown to one another and with no contact), to each write a story in any genre they wish - the only constraint being that they use the same number of letters and the story is in English.

The physicist or mathematician could state that the number of letters in each story were identical.

What are the chances these two stories are the same? 

A letter is a letter. A word is a word. English is English (notwithstanding dialects and patois). Grammar is grammar.  All these statements are true, but this tells us little about the subject of each story.

It's about time this nuance in the story of obesity became mainstream.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Keep Yourself Healthy

Dr Aseem Malhotra is spot on with this article:
  • Most of us value our health but engage in behaviours that undermine it. It's all too easy to understand, tempted as we are by that extra pint at the pub or the brightly coloured chocolate bar at the checkout. But, viewed from inside the NHS, I think that as a nation we've also lost perspective about what healthcare and modern medicine can achieve. Don't worry if we let things slip, we think, we can always find a pill to fix things or secure a hospital makeover. (It's a belief, often encouraged, I have to admit, by a medical profession too ready to administer drugs.)
 His anti-sugar rhetoric is perhaps a bit too strong for my liking at times, but hell, he is putting in a good fight against the dessertification of our diets!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The Antibiotic Winter

A great article on 'Why antibiotics are making us all ill'.

What caught my eye was that finally scientists are looking at many modern ailments as different manifestations of the same underlying cause:

"Why are all of these maladies rapidly rising at the same time across the developed world and spilling over into the developing world as it becomes more westernised? Can it be a mere coincidence? If there are 10 of these modern plagues, are there 10 separate causes? That seems unlikely.

Or could there be one underlying cause fuelling all these parallel increases? A single cause is easier to grasp; it is simpler, more parsimonious. But what cause could be grand enough to encompass asthma, obesity, oesophageal reflux, juvenile diabetes, and allergies to specific foods, among all of the others? Eating too many calories could explain obesity, but not asthma – in which many of the ill children are slim. Air pollution could explain asthma but not food allergy."

A thoughtful read.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Arthur Haines on Grains

I still largely avoid grain food but would not be averse to some grain in my diet, particularly if they grains form part of a traditional food culture and especially if they are prepared in a traditional style/method (but not necessarily using traditional technology).

But make no mistake;  most grains I'm likely to encounter in my ever day life come in the form of sugary cereals, sliced bread and heavily processed baked foods made from a few grains industrially processed to optimise profit not quality.  I can live without it.
The excellent Arthur Haines makes the case for why anti-grain rhetoric in the paleosphere lacks biological and anthropological sense.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Domestic Bottlenecks

Interesting article on  safeguarding the future of food security | Nicola Davis

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Sleep Arrogance

Sleep, a tenet of the paleo model - a something covered several times over the years at Natural Messiah, now goes increasingly mainstream. The artcile notes that cancer, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infections and obesity have all been linked to reduced sleep - which kind of ties in to a paleo viewpoint that many of our modern ailments are different manifestations of the same underlying problem; we're trying to force genes selected for a lifestyle some 40,000 years ago to adapt to a modern lifestyle that is devoid of the necessary cues that allow our genes to express themselves in a healthful way.

These cues include periodicity of:
  • Light/dark,
  • Hunger/feeding,
  • Activity/rest,
  • Temperature
From the article,
  • "...scientists have warned that modern life and 24-hour society mean many people are now "living against" their body clocks with damaging consequences for health and wellbeing.


    We are the supremely arrogant species; we feel we can abandon four billion years of evolution and ignore the fact that we have evolved under a light-dark cycle. "
Why limit that interpretation to our body-clock?

When it comes to our survival, our body works over longer periods than 24 hours - it has to prepare for periods of days weeks and months.  It has to make sense of the world from energy flows, hormonal flows, and, other signals that pulse, ebb and flow in response to external forces.  These signals hold information.

If the signal isn't clear then our body will be confused by noise - the noise of persistent grazing, persistent indolence, persistent temperature exposure, and yes, persistent light of an eternal summer - trapped in a state where it prepares for a lean times that never come. 

Lean times signal repair, renewal and regeneration.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

The Trouble with Rice

An interesting article from the NYT on metal absorption in rice:

  • "'s not just arsenic and cadmium, which are present in soil both as naturally occurring elements and as industrial byproducts. Recent studies have shown that rice is custom-built to pull a number of metals from the soil, among them mercury and even tungsten. The findings have led to a new push by scientists and growers to make the grain less susceptible to metal contamination.The highest levels often occur in brown rice, because elements like arsenic accumulate in bran and husk, which are polished off in the processing of white rice. The Department of Agriculture estimates that on average arsenic levels are 10 times as high in rice bran as in polished rice."
Diversify you food sources (and eat food that does this! )

Fed Up

A calorie is a calorie but calories are only one way we can slice the nutrition-pie. Isocaloric diets are not isometabolic. Your body is not a bomb calorimeter.  Fed Up looks in to this:

  • "He has studied the effects that different foods have on weight gain and said that it is true that 100 calories of fat, protein and carbohydrates are the same in a thermodynamic sense, in that they release the same amount of energy when exposed to a Bunsen burner in a lab. But in a complex organism like a human being, he said, these foods influence satiety, metabolic rate, brain activity, blood sugar and the hormones that store fat in very different ways.

    Studies also show that calories from different foods are not absorbed the same. When people eat high-fiber foods like nuts and some vegetables, for example, only about three-quarters of the calories they contain are absorbed. The rest are excreted from the body unused. So the calories listed on their labels are not what the body is actually getting."
  • Tuesday, 6 May 2014

    The Dubious War on Saturated Fat

    The paleospere can pat itself on the back for a job well done in bringing real food back in to fashion - and specifically for yhe rehabilitation of saturated fat, the prodigal son of nutrition.

    This WSJ article suggests a victory of sorts is close,

    "Saturated fat does not cause heart disease"—or so concluded a big study published in March in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. How could this be? The very cornerstone of dietary advice for generations has been that the saturated fats in butter, cheese and red meat should be avoided because they clog our arteries. For many diet-conscious Americans, it is simply second nature to opt for chicken over sirloin, canola oil over butter.

    The new study's conclusion shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with modern nutritional science, however. The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics and bias."

    I hope Paleo doesn't blow it by demonising another macronutrient!  :)

    Friday, 25 April 2014

    Lions, Bones & Diet

    This healthy diet and lifestyle stuff IS complicated when we try to formalise it in to a set of prescriptive guidelines. We lose the overall view and context whilst unnecessarily complicating things as we try to structure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

    Imagine trying to describe the act of throwing a dart in to a dartboard using the language of mathematics (such as a programmer might be inclined to do to control a robot arm to perform this task).  Sure we would describe vectors, trajectories,  torque and so forth, but I assure you the best dart players alive don't use this approach - and would beat the robot every time. For the given effort, humans will beat robots for a long time to come.

    So it is with diet and exercise.  We were chiselled by the forces of evolution to exploit a broad biological niche.  But we stray from those forces at our own peril.

    Of course this is most apparent when we move a (non human) wild animal in to a domesticated environment. This is truly novel, animals such as big cats having even less time to adapt to to the industrial age than humans. The damage is often subtle, extensive and pervasive:

    "It is pretty striking," says Luke Hunter, president of Panthera, a wild cat conservation organization based in New York. "There is a surprisingly high mortality rate of lions in captivity, a lot of which has gone unexplained," he says. This study is a starting point to understanding it, Hunter says, but cautions that more work needs to be done to link the bone malformations seen in the skull collections to neurological disorders.

    "The foramen magnum is one of these most important holes in mammalian body," he says. "You can imagine if it were occluded or narrowed – which Saragusty and his colleagues are seeing – that could very well have consequences."

    What aspect of growing up in a zoo could cause these malformations? Some have suggested they are linked to a lack of vitamin A, although many zoos add supplements of this to lions' diets.

    Another possibility has to do with how lion cubs are fed in zoos. On the savannah, they eat entire carcasses including muscle, organs and everything apart from the largest bones. The act of crunching down on hard bone, says Hunter, builds up muscles that pull and stretch a cub's developing skull in ways that zoo diets don't. He says some of the better zoos will throw in whole donkey or cow legs, but the practice isn't common."

    Deindustialise your diet, activity and sleep patterns.

    Tuesday, 22 April 2014

    Dark Skies

    It's very easy to see the importance of species appropriate diets for all other animals except ourselves.

    The same goes for dark skies and appropriate light exposure over each and every 24 hour period.

    If you're in any doubt about the latter then read this.

    Monday, 21 April 2014

    Tricks of the Trade

    Nature on real food and obesity:

    "As long as the animal eats the foods that it evolved to consume, this balance is maintained. The trouble comes when it eats a diet with a disproportionate quantity of a particular macronutrient, either because of a lack of appropriate foods in the environment or because its appetite control systems have been fooled or subverted."

    Nothing new here, but good to see 'common sense' go mainstream.

    The problem with highly processed food is that its familiarity makes it appear harmless.

    How the Immune System Works

    Excellent post on the topic above!

    Tuesday, 15 April 2014

    Not Just What, But Where & How

    Check out @wiredscience's Tweet:

    In Western Tanzania tribes of wandering foragers called Hadza eat a diet of roots, berries, and game. According to a new study, their guts are home to a microbial community unlike anything that’s been seen before in a modern human population — providing, perhaps, a snapshot of what the human gut microbiome looked like before our ancestors figured out how to farm about 12,000 years ago.

    Hunter Girl

    I don't really 'do' fiction, but mightily enjoyed Conn Iggulden's Conqueror series.  And this is exactly what came to mind when reading about this 13 year old Mongolian Eagle huntress.  The story and photos are stunning:
    • Most children, Asher Svidensky says, are a little intimidated by golden eagles. Kazakh boys in western Mongolia start learning how to use the huge birds to hunt for foxes and hares at the age of 13, when the eagles sit heavily on their undeveloped arms. Svidensky, a photographer and travel writer, shot five boys learning the skill - and he also photographed Ashol-Pan.

      "To see her with the eagle was amazing," he recalls. She was a lot more comfortable with it, a lot more powerful with it and a lot more at ease with it."

    Monday, 14 April 2014

    Caffeine - Dual Edge

    7 Worrisome Facts About Caffeine

    Plenty of good sides to caffeine,  but taking a weekly break may be advisable.

    The Report: Statins

    Radio 4's 'The Report' looks at statins:
    • The vast majority of men in their 50s, and more than half of women over 60, could soon be offered statins - cholesterol-lowering drugs - to reduce the risk of heart disease. That would mean that a 59 year old man who doesn't smoke, has no history of heart disease and has healthy weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels could find himself taking a statin a day for life. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence proposes that up to twelve million people - one in four adults - should take the medication.

      Critics argue against such mass medication and claim that there is a high incidence of side effects including muscle aches, sleep problems and diabetes. They also question the drugs' effectiveness in reducing the number of heart attacks.

      But the defenders of statins say that this is scaremongering and risks unnecessary deaths.

      Tom Esslemont investigates how the UK has become the so called 'statins capital' of Europe and explores the arguments for and against.
    The debate is very interesting.

    Available to listen online.

    Saturday, 12 April 2014

    Songbirds in Decline

    From The Guardian: Songbirds in decline – a tragedy for Britain's culture, as well as its environment:

    "...intensive farming methods, especially on arable fields, which have drastically reduced their available food supply of weed seeds;"

    The Vegetarian Diet - pushing the killing to where it can't be seen.

    Wednesday, 9 April 2014

    Time to Pay Attention to Sleep

    It’s Time to Pay Attention to Sleep, the New Health Frontier from Time:
    • Your doctor could soon be prescribing crucial shuteye as treatment for everything from obesity to ADHD to mental health as experts say carving out time for sleep is just as important as diet and exercise.
    Interesting and something that has long been championed on this site.  Remember, as well as the fact that you are probably not getting enough sleep, you may well need different amounts depending on season.  Furthermore, contrary to modern advice, sleep does not have to be a contiguous event.

    Tuesday, 8 April 2014

    ONS Graphic

    An interesting infographic from the ONS:

    Running and Dying

    • Running is undoubtedly great for your health, but some research suggests that when it comes to pounding the pavement, too much of a good thing might actually have the opposite effect.
    Ok, so that is no surprise.  Like most things to do with diet and exercise, there seems to be a U-shaped curve that we need to be careful to stay within. 

    It should be easy to stay within these limits but when we fetishise diet and exercise (ultramarathons and heavily engineered foods), it is unsurprising that not only do we push beyond evolved limits, but we continue to do so and are encouraged to do so.

    However, the money-shot in this article comes with this quote (my emphasis),
    • He added, however, that adopting a more moderate running regimen might be the key when it comes to reaping all the possible health benefits. He recommends running no more than 2 or 3 hours a week; but as a 2013 Boston Globe report on this topic points out, researchers are divided on what "moderate" really means.

    Ain't that the truth.  If there are two words to throw in bin when it comes to diet and/exercise, for me, 'moderate' and 'balanced' would be right up there!

    Raw Milk

    BBC Radio 4 have an excellent series called the Food Program which I've mentioned on here a few times before.  The latest episode was on raw milk and is well worth listening to:
    • With a Food Standards Agency consultation underway, Sheila Dillon and guests discuss the controversial subject of raw milk. Banned in Scotland in 1983, the current system in England allows raw unpasteurised milk to be sold directly from the farmer. Raw milk producers are subject to stringent and regular laboratory tests and their products have to carry a warning on the label that the milk may contain properties that are harmful. But there is a growing demand for raw milk in the UK and means of supply are testing the current rules ; The FSA recently threatened prosecution over the presence of a vending machine selling raw milk in Selfridges. Advocates argue that raw milk has many positive health benefits that are lost with pasteurisation. The debate for some is about the right of the individual to choose what risks they take. Balancing that demand with the need to protect public health is the challenge the Food Standards Agency faces. In America, the libertarian argument is even more polarised. With the prices paid for pasteurised milk being on a seemingly downward trajectory in the UK, and with internet shopping making a mockery of distribution rules, Sheila will get the views of all the interested parties. The passion this subject stirs, and the big questions it raises will make for a lively and engaging listen to everyone - raw milk and non raw milk drinkers alike.
    It is available on iPlayer and download now.

    Thursday, 3 April 2014

    Get Your Greens. (Sound Familiar? )

    Check out @bbcscitech's Tweet:

    Saturday, 29 March 2014

    How Wolves Change Rivers

    H/T Angelo @ Latest in Paleo.

    Food Quality

    Paleo has flirted with low carb and now seems comfortable alongside If It Fits Your Macros, but this article in WSJ suggests that we should never lose sight of the underlying principle of foog quality; something backed by a growing body of evidence.

    This article also adds weight to an ongoing idea that chronic cardio can lesd to health issues. The dose makes the poison.

    Monday, 17 February 2014

    Divided Sleep

    My recent brush with hypertension is pretty much under control now.  I still get spikes but when I go to bed or get up, the numbers are in the normal zone.  On awakening the other day I managed three readings taken five minutes apart as follows:
    • 114/64
    • 116/67
    • 115/65
    Not bad for someone that a year ago was considered hypertensive.  The link above gives some background on both my diagnosis and what I have done to address the issue.

    A LOT of caffeine through the day seems to have had an impact on my sleep.  I tried to get lots of sleep but dragging oneself off to bed before 2200hrs is difficult.  I only have one coffee a day now (if at all), and moderate my tea drinking (no more than four cups a day, and seldom after 1600hrs).  The big change though, has been with sleep.

    I work hard at getting to bed shortly after 2100hrs to read and then meditate.  I am strongly aware of the importance of sleep for several years and divided sleep in particular.  Sleep is doctor, counsellor, psychiatrist, physiotherapist, massively anabolic, and generally restorative at every level.  I hit the gym hard three times a week and know that this must be mirrored in terms of quality and quantity of sleep.

    All this stuff was thrown back in to perspective again today by the re-trending today of this story on the BBC site from 2012, The Myth of the Eight Hour Sleep.

    I typically awaken at 0230hrs each morning and will be awake for 30-60 minutes, but then sleep pretty solidly until around 0600 - 0630hrs.  As a coarse indicator of sleep hygiene, I'd say that this is spot on!

    Friday, 31 January 2014

    Wednesday, 22 January 2014

    Butter Wars

    It looks like butter has won the war with margarine (H/T Melissa McEwan):
    • “For the last 20 years or so, we have been too obsessed, overly obsessed on the fact that butter was opposed to margarine,” Antoine Bernard de Saint-Affrique, the head of Unilever’s Food division, told investors last month. “I’m happy to say that this time is over and we have changed. And we have changed in a very significant way.”
    My advice remains the same; "avoid any food that can change its nutritional stripes to reflect the dietary wisdom of the day."

    Monday, 20 January 2014

    The Minnesota Starvation Experiment

    The BBC magazine carried an article and podcast on this famous experiment:

    • During World War Two, conscientious objectors in the US and the UK were asked to volunteer for medical research. In one project in the US, young men were starved for six months to help experts decide how to treat victims of mass starvation in Europe.
      In 1944, 26-year-old Marshall Sutton was a young idealist who wanted to change the world for the better. As a conscientious objector and Quaker, he refused to fight in the war but he still craved the chance to help his country.
      "I wanted to identify with the suffering in the world at that time," he says. "I wanted to do something for society. I wanted to put myself in a little danger."

    The podcast is available here.

    Saturday, 18 January 2014

    David Harris

    The false dichotomy implicit in most discussions on HG and the ills of settled agriculture are neatly illustrated in the opening paragraphs of David Harris's obituary:
    • While travelling in a dugout canoe to a particularly remote part of the upper Orinoco, he was able to observe and record the sophisticated forest management practised by the Waika Indians.
      Root crops and fruit trees were inter-planted within clearings that merged with the forest ecosystem, in a way of life that integrated cropping, fishing and hunting with the use of the forest resources. That experience led David to question the conventional idea of a simple split between hunter-gatherers and farmers, and to challenge it in a series of publications.

    Saturday, 11 January 2014

    Processed Food: Behind the Advert

    Yoni Freedhoff does some sterling work here!

    You Are Never Alone

    The Gut Bacteria Living Inside You (INFOGRAPHIC)

    Thursday, 9 January 2014

    Fructose: The Bittersweet Sugar

    A very interesting discussion on fructose from BBC Radio 4's Inside Health:
    • If you believe the headlines fructose is "addictive as cocaine" , a "toxic additive" or a "metabolic danger". So how has a simple sugar in fruit got such a bad name and is there any evidence behind the accusations that it has caused the obesity epidemic? Meanwhile, a new health claim approved by the European Union promoting the benefits of fructose containing foods or drinks, comes into force in the New Year. So where does the truth lie? Dr Mark Porter talks to leading world experts to sift through the evidence.