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: