Archive for the “News and Reviews” Category

We finally got everything for the book uploaded to the printer.  We were pleased to see that its already showing up on Amazon in pre-order status.  Here’s the Amazon USA link.

It’s also showing up on Amazon UK and Amazon Europe.

 

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I spent a good chunk of the afternoon sleeping. That’s because last night I made the mistake of going to bed at 9:00 PM and trying to convince my brain it was actually 10:00 PM because some idiots in government say so. Just what a natural night-owl’s brain with insomniac tendencies needs: a reason to lie in bed awake. So, as seems to happen every year when @#$%ing Daylight Saving Time kicks in, I couldn’t sleep and gave up. I finally managed to get in a few hours this afternoon.

The good news is that when I woke up, Chareva told me some interesting reading material had arrived.

Yup, that’s our preview copy of the book. Actually, it’s the second preview copy. In the first copy, the left and right pages were swapped. That might not sound like a big deal, but Chareva spent an extraordinary amount of time designing two-page spreads that cover a concept. Often a cartoon on the left continues onto the right-side page.

So we now have exactly one copy with the left/right mixup. Maybe it will be like one of those mis-stamped coins and become worth an extra buck or two because it’s rare.

Anyway, we have to give the copy that arrived today one more careful look before calling it final. I expect to be able to announce the release date very, very soon.

In the meantime, I’ve got a @#$%load of work to do on the film, and not many weeks left to do it.

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While I’ve been busy trying to finish the book and make serious progress on the film (which I’m supposed to show on the low-carb cruise in just 10 weeks), my inbox been piling up.  So here are some interesting items.

Why Arctic natives are getting fat

Here are some quotes from an article in the Siberian Times with the provocative title First-ever cases of obesity in Arctic peoples as noodles replace traditional diet:

Subtle changes in traditional lifestyle of native ethnic groups in the Yamalo-Nenets region have brought the first-ever cases of obesity. Until now, fatness has not existed in these population groups, but scientists say there has been a marked change.

Alexey Titovsky, regional director for science and innovation, said: ‘It never happened before that the small local indigenous peoples of the north suffered from obesity. It is a nonsensical modern problem. Now even a predisposition to obesity is being noticed.’

And what’s driving this unfortunate development?

Changes have seen the intake of venison and river fish cut by half, he said. ‘Over the past few years the diet has changed considerably, and people living in the tundra started eating so-called chemically processed products.’

Well, it sounds to me as if the natives are eating less red meat.  According to the experts at various government health organizations, that means they’re getting healthier.

Researcher Dr Andrey Lobanov says nomadic herders nowadays often buy instant noodles in villages on their pasture routes and this has led to  ‘dramatic changes to the rations of the people living in the tundra’.

Wait … are these whole-grain noodles?  Because if they are, according to the experts at various government health organizations, that means the Arctic natives are getting healthier.

‘The problem is that carbohydrates do not contain the necessary micro elements which help survival in Arctic conditions,’ he said. ‘The seasonal diet has also changed – the periods when they do not eat traditional food and replace it with carbohydrates has become longer.’

No, no, no!  Carbohydrates don’t make people fat.  I’ve heard that from countless internet cowboys.  If these people are getting fat for the first time in their culture’s history, it’s because they’ve become weak-willed and started eating too much. And they’re probably not exercising enough.  Maybe some of them should become contestants on The Biggest Loser and learn how to stay healthy through long sessions of tortuous exercise.

Biggest Loser trainer has a heart attack

As I replied to The Older Brother when he sent me a link to this story, if I were still a Catholic, I’d have to go to confession because of my reaction.  Here are some quotes from Yahoo news.

Fitness trainer and host of NBC’s “Biggest Loser” Bob Harper says he is recovering from a serious heart attack that left him unconscious for two days.

During which time he was on a very-low-calorie diet and lost some weight.

Harper tells TMZ he was working out in a gym in New York City this month when he collapsed. He says a doctor who also was in the gym performed CPR on him.

Jillian Michaels was spotted in the background saying, “I’m happy he had a heart attack.  He doesn’t work hard enough.”

The 51-year-old Harper, whose mother died from a heart attack, says he spent eight days in a New York hospital and has not yet been cleared to fly home to Los Angeles.

Harper has been a fixture on all 17 seasons of “The Biggest Loser.” He served as a trainer on the show from 2004 to 2015. He took over as host of the reality weight loss program last year.

Perhaps because the public grew tired of watching Jillian Michaels say she was happy when she drove contestants into throwing up during exercise sessions.

How Breaking Bad star dropped the pounds

I admire Bryan Cranston because of his amazing range as an actor.  Subtle humor in Seinfeld as Dr. Tim Whatley.  Slapstick humor as the father in Malcolm in the Middle.  And then … wow … the dramatic chops he put on display during six seasons of Breaking Bad.

Some years ago, Chareva and I attended a charity event featuring several big-name comedians … Robin Williams, Paula Poundstone and Jonathan Winters, to name a few.  Cranston was the emcee, and he was a stitch.  Very charming and very quick-witted.

Anyway, here are some quotes from an online article explaining how Cranston lost weight to make the chemotherapy treatments in Breaking Bad believable:

Howard Stern interviewed Bryan Cranston on March 4, 2014 and asked him how he lost weight so quickly for his role as Walter White on Breaking Bad.

HS: When you had chemo and was getting sick playing the part of Walter White, in order to go through rapid weight loss you deliberately didn’t eat for 10 days? True or false?

BC: False.

HS: How’d you lose all that weight?

BC: No carbohydrates. I just took out all the carbohydrates.

HS: How much weight did you drop?

BC: 16 pounds, in ten days.

HS: Painful?

BC: No. The first three days are really hard, ’cause your body’s changing and craving sugar and wants, you know, and then you deprive it of the sugar and it starts burning fat.

No, no, no.  That can’t be right.  People don’t lose weight by giving up carbohydrates.  If Cranston lost weight, it just means he finally had the willpower to eat less and consume fewer calories than he burned.

Obesity blame and politics

Speaking of willpower, do Republicans and Democrats have different opinions on whether getting fat is about willpower?  Apparently they do, at least to some degree.  Here are some quotes from a EurekaAlert article:

People’s political leanings and their own weight shape opinions on obesity-related public policies, according to a new study by two University of Kansas researchers.

Actually, Republicans — no matter how much they weigh — believe eating and lifestyle habits cause obesity, the research found.

But among Democrats there is more of a dividing line, said Mark Joslyn, a KU professor of political science. Those who identify themselves as overweight are more likely to believe genetic factors cause obesity.

I’m not a Republican or a Democrat, so I guess I’m allowed to say it’s both.

Of course genetics figures into it.  There’s a reason some people never gain or lose weight despite eating whatever and whenever they choose.  That’s how their bodies are programmed.  It’s genetics.  But among those of us not so genetically blessed, it’s largely about what kinds of foods we eat.  Genetics loads the gun, diet pulls the trigger.

Would you like actual chicken in your chicken sandwich?

When I order chicken at a fast-food restaurant, I kind of expect most of it to be made from chicken.  That seems to be the case for many chains, but not for one.  Here are some quotes from a CBC (Canada) article online:

A DNA analysis of the poultry in several popular grilled chicken sandwiches and wraps found at least one fast food restaurant isn’t serving up nearly as much of the key ingredient as people may think.

An unadulterated piece of chicken from the store should come in at 100 per cent chicken DNA.  Seasoning, marinating or processing meat would bring that number down, so fast food samples seasoned for taste wouldn’t be expected to hit that 100 per cent target.

So researchers bought some fast food and tested the DNA of the chicken meals.  Here are the typical results:

    A&W Chicken Grill Deluxe averaged 89.4 per cent chicken DNA
    McDonald’s Country Chicken – Grilled averaged 84.9 per cent chicken DNA
    Tim Hortons Chipotle Chicken Grilled Wrap averaged 86.5 per cent chicken DNA
    Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich averaged 88.5 per cent chicken DNA

And now for the big exception:

Subway’s results were such an outlier that the team decided to test them again, biopsying five new oven roasted chicken pieces, and five new orders of chicken strips.

Those results were averaged: the oven roasted chicken scored 53.6 per cent chicken DNA, and the chicken strips were found to have just 42.8 per cent chicken DNA.

So what the @#$% is taking the place of half the chicken in the chicken?

The majority of the remaining DNA? Soy.

Yummy.  But at least their sandwiches are low in fat.  And as we all know, that low-fat movement has done wonders for the nation’s health, especially among the younger generation …

More young people getting colorectal cancer

Obesity is on the rise among young people.  Diabetes is on the rise among young people.  And now there’s this startling development, as reported in The New York Times:

Cancers of the colon and rectum have been declining in older adults in recent decades and have always been considered rare in young people. But scientists are reporting a sharp rise in colorectal cancers in adults as young as their 20s and 30s, an ominous trend.

The vast majority of colorectal cancers are still found in older people, with nearly 90 percent of all cases diagnosed in people over 50. But a new study from the American Cancer Society that analyzed cancer incidence by birth year found that colorectal cancer rates, which had dropped steadily for people born between 1890 and 1950, have been increasing for every generation born since 1950. Experts aren’t sure why.

Well, maybe we can guess.  Let’s see … every generation born since 1950.  I was born in 1958.  By the time I was 20, we were all being told saturated fat and cholesterol will kill us, while grains will make us healthy.  Grain consumption rose sharply for the next 35 years or so and has only recently started declining.  During the same period, food manufacturers added more sugar to foods to hide the fact that many low-fat foods taste like cardboard unless you make them sweeter.

Most colorectal cancers are considered a disease of aging, so any increase in young adults, especially when rates of the disease are on the wane in older people, is both baffling and worrisome, experts say.

By the way, red meat consumption dropped rather dramatically during the same period when colon cancer rose sharply among young people.  Don’t the vegetrollians always tell us red meat causes colon cancer?

You can’t buy Kerrygold butter in Wisconsin

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least twice:  when politicians rush in to “protect” the public from some supposed hazard, it’s rarely about protecting the public.  It’s almost always about some protecting some established business or industry.  Here’s an example from a Chicago Tribune article:

When Wisconsin resident Julie Rider shops for groceries, there’s one item she can’t legally buy at her local market — or at any stores in her state.

Because of a decades-old state law, Rider’s favorite butter — Kerrygold, imported from Ireland — isn’t allowed on Wisconsin store shelves.

The law, requiring butter sold in Wisconsin to be graded for taste, texture and color through a federal or state system, effectively bans butter produced outside the U.S., as well as many artisanal butters that also aren’t rated.

This means some residents of the Dairy State have to drive across the border into Illinois just to buy their favorite butter.

Whether Wisconsin’s law was intended as market protection for the state’s dairy industry or is simply a means to ensure quality, Rider, for one, thinks it’s “crazy.”

Oh, I’m sure the law was passed to protect the public after thousands of cheese-heads became violently ill as the result of eating imported butter.

People might not have noticed if butter weren’t making such a comeback.  But it is.

Though the rule has been on the books since the 1950s, it is churning new controversy at a time when butter consumption is on the rise in America as it’s increasingly thought to be healthier than margarine. Butter made from grass-fed cows, such as Kerrygold, is a staple in some diets and for the “bulletproof coffee” movement, where such butter is mixed with coffee and MCT oil for purported — but debated — weight-loss benefits.

A spokesman for the company that sells and markets Kerrygold in the U.S. and Canada, Evanston-based Ornua Foods North America, released a statement confirming it’s “currently working with the Wisconsin authorities on a solution.”

Well, thank goodness the government authorities are working on a solution.  Perhaps they’ll nickname it something like “If you like your butter, you can keep your butter.”

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Sorry (he said again) for the long absence. We’re in pedal-to-the-metal mode, trying to wrap up the book and make some serious headway on the film. After all, we’re supposed to premiere the film in late May. I believe we’ll get it done, but YOWZA, we’ve got a lot to do between now and then.

The book is (we think) in its final form. Now we have to upload it to the printer and have a printed copy sent back to us.

Meanwhile, we’ve been spending a lot of time doing this.

The fancy voice-over booth in the pictures is a closet in my office. When I was recording my narration, I had to hire a junior audio engineer to operate the controls in Adobe Audition.

I’ve got pretty much the whole family doing voices. We drove to Illinois over the recent three-day weekend so I could record The Older Brother’s Younger Sons as three of the main characters – again, in a closet. I even got The Older Brother to step in and do a few lines for other characters.

Chareva drew around 200 cartoons for the book. After a breather lasting approximately 15 minutes, she had to get drawing again for the film. In a book, you can pick and choose which bits of text to support with an illustration. In a film, there’s no picking and choosing. You can’t just toss up a title that says WE CHOSE NOT TO ILLUSTRATE THIS SECTION. Something has to be on screen every second.

So while I’ve been pounding through Adobe After Effects tutorials and learning to animate, Chareva’s been busy drawing cartoons that aren’t in the book.  She’s also been redrawing her book characters in the style required for animation. Each character has to be drawn as body parts that can be linked at the joints and rotated. Characters who talk need seven mouth shapes. Characters who do things with their hands need several different hand shapes.

That’s Marty Metabolism, one of the main characters, on Chareva’s screen below. She has to draw him from five different angles, with different head positions in some of those angles.

And here’s Marty again at his control panel. The control panel had to be drawn — from three different angles — with parts that can be moved in the animation software.

It’s a ton of work, but I hope it will all be worth it.

I’ll post when I can.

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Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Let’s not rush in to regulate sugar.

I was already a fan of Nina Teicholz because of her book The Big Fat Surprise and her critique of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines that appeared in the British Medical Journal (which upset The Anointed very, very much).  I gained even more respect for her after reading a recent piece in The Atlantic titled The Limits of Sugar Guidelines: Is there a danger in governments offering too-specific advice on sugar consumption?

I’d recommend reading the entire article, but here’s the gist of it: Yes, many of us now believe sugar is the main driver of obesity and other metabolic diseases.  But let’s not jump the gun on imposing new guidelines and regulations.  We’ve made that mistake before.

Here are some quotes:

While the evidence to date shows zero benefit from sugar and a clear signal of harm, there hasn’t been enough time to fund and conduct definitive trials. Meanwhile, governments naturally feel they can’t wait. Facing panic over the continued, relentless climb in obesity and diabetes rates with no solution in sight, they’ve gone ahead and passed sugar guidelines pinned to exact thresholds, of 10 percent or 5 percent of calories. This advice is clearly well-intentioned. Yet if, as the Annals paper concludes, experts are skirting scientific norms by passing guidelines based on weak evidence, the whole process of guideline-making is effectively watered down.

Government officials, of course, are driven by a belief that no problem will ever be solved unless they by gosh DO SOMETHING!  It’s the old problem of when you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Government’s hammer is regulation.  More government officials should heed the advice Lee Marvin’s first acting teacher gave him: don’t just do something, stand there.

As Americans well know, there have been many reversals in our guidelines in recent years—on dietary cholesterol, on total fat, on whether to eat breakfast to maintain a healthy weight. These were all official guidelines based on weak evidence that, when actually tested in clinical trials, were found to be unjustified. It turned out that people had been avoiding egg yolks, lobster, and fat, generally, to no avail, and that skipping breakfast altogether might actually be the best option for weight loss.

Instances of flip-flopping on nutritional advice not only erode the public trust, but make people think that the basic science itself is flawed—which, for the most part, it’s not. Instead, the central problem has been that experts and policy makers have passed judgment before that good science was done. And once a judgment is codified as policy, it’s hard to repeal. This was the case, for instance, with the low-fat diet, which although adopted as a U.S. guideline in 1980, wasn’t actually studied in trials for another decade-plus. This kind of mistake, at its very worst, is potentially deadly: Indeed, the low-fat advice, by shifting consumption to carbohydrates such as grains and sugar, is now regarded as a probable cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemics.

I’d bet dollars to donuts (and you can keep the donuts) Teicholz believes sugar is driving obesity and diabetes.  So it takes integrity to urge waiting for solid proof before taking action.

Of course, taking action doesn’t always work so well anyway …

Soda Taxes failing to reduce consumption.

Here are some quotes from a Reason magazine online article:

If 15 major cities adopt a sugary drink tax of just 1 cent per ounce, diabetes could be slashed, more than 100,000 cases of obesity prevented and 3,683 deaths averted according to a new report from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The report claims extraordinary health benefits for close to zero cost except that of administering the tax. So just how do the eminent researchers at Harvard find so many health-related benefits from just a 1 cent per ounce tax?

The answer is what Healthy Food America, who asked the researchers to conduct the study, call an “evidence-based, peer-reviewed computer model.” Unfortunately for soda tax advocates, the model collides head-on with the cold hard reality that there is not yet a single real world example of a soda or sugar tax reducing obesity.

Mexico, which was hailed by public health activists and the editorial pages of The New York Times as an example to follow, has so far proved a huge disappointment to anti-obesity campaigners.

Mexico slapped a 1 peso per liter tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in 2013, with health benefits promised to follow. The tax took effect in 2014 and after an initial decline in the average purchases of taxed sugary beverages of six percent, sales are on now on the up again.

The article goes on to cite examples of the same cycle: a tax on sugar is imposed, consumption dips for a bit, then goes back up.  According to classical economic theory, we’d expect a higher price to mean lower sales.  So why doesn’t it work that way with sugar?

Because as books like Predictably Irrational explain, classical economic theory assumes people are rational — and they usually are when making decisions like which insurance policy or TV to buy.  But when it comes to things that tickle our reward centers — sex, drugs, and perhaps rock ‘n’ roll – dopamine overrides rational thinking.  People feed their addictions even when it makes no economic sense.  That means the people who are most likely to overindulge are also the least likely to be discouraged by sin taxes.

Not only did the tax have close to zero impact on calorie consumption, but those homes with an obese head of the household were actually the least likely to cut back on soda.

I suspect many of The Anointed in government know soda taxes don’t actually change behavior.  But I suspect they also know this:

The one area the tax has achieved its goal is in the area of revenue. The Mexican government raked in more than $2 billion in soda taxes from January 2014. But since soda taxes hit those with the lowest incomes hardest, one would think this is hardly something to celebrate.

“There is no real world evidence that they have the slightest effect on calorie consumption, let alone obesity. They are stealth taxes which allow governments to pick the pockets of the poor,” says Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

But sometimes the taxes aren’t so stealthy.  Case in point …

Philly mayor outraged by basic laws of economics.

Some quotes from another Reason magazine article online:

After driving up the cost of soda and other sugary drinks with a new tax, the mayor of Philadelphia is now trying to blame businesses for charging higher prices (and for the outrage those prices have generated).

Mayor Jim Kenney, who proposed the soda tax and championed its passage through city council last year, told reporters on Tuesday it’s not the new 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax that’s making it more expensive to buy a can of Coke in Philly. No, according to the mayor, those higher prices are caused by city businesses price gouging their customers in order to stir up opposition to the tax.

Note to Mayor Kenney: buy a book on basic economics and read it.  Or perhaps just be honest with the public.  I know it’s popular among politicians to promise people goodies and insist those bad old business will pay the bill, but that’s not how it works in the real world.  Businesses pass the bill along to their customers in the form of higher prices.  Here’s why:

Newswork’s Katie Colaneri visited Carbonator Rental Services in Philadelphia to break down the math.

The distributors sells five-gallon boxes of syrup that can be used in soda fountains, and each box costs a retailer about $60. Thanks to the city’s new tax, though, retailers have to pay $57.60 in taxes for each of those boxes of syrup.

“We’re not talking about a couple of bucks on a $60 item,” Andy Pincus, who owns Carbonator Rental Services, told Newsworks. “We’re talking about $57.60 on a $60 item. It’s too big not to pass on.”

Pincus says he can’t absorb the tax because he makes less than $20 in gross profit—the difference between how much he paid for the box of syrup and how much he sells it for—on each box. Out of that money, he has to pay all his employees, buy gas for delivery trucks, and cover all the other costs of doing business. So, he increased the price he charges to retailers buying syrup from his business. Those retailers, who are operating under similarly small margins, are doing the same thing and increasing prices charged to consumers.

This is why I hate observational studies.

Over the years, we’ve been told all kinds of foods might be the key to a longer life. Now chili peppers – yes, chili peppers – might join the list.  Here are some quotes from an article titled Eat hot peppers for a longer life?

Like spicy food? If so, you might live longer, say researchers at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, who found that consumption of hot red chili peppers is associated with a 13 percent reduction in total mortality — primarily in deaths due to heart disease or stroke — in a large prospective study.

If so, you might live longer, say researchersHead. Bang. On. Desk.

Did the researchers conduct a carefully controlled, long-term study in which eating chili peppers was the only variable?  Of course not.

Using National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III data collected from more than 16,000 Americans who were followed for up to 23 years, medical student Mustafa Chopan ’17 and Professor of Medicine Benjamin Littenberg, M.D., examined the baseline characteristics of the participants according to hot red chili pepper consumption. They found that consumers of hot red chili peppers tended to be “younger, male, white, Mexican-American, married, and to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and consume more vegetables and meats . . . had lower HDL-cholesterol, lower income, and less education,” in comparison to participants who did not consume red chili peppers. They examined data from a median follow-up of 18.9 years and observed the number of deaths and then analyzed specific causes of death.

“Although the mechanism by which peppers could delay mortality is far from certain, Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which are primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin (the principal component in chili peppers), may in part be responsible for the observed relationship,” say the study authors.

No, I’ll explain the mechanism:  First, highly unreliable data on what people eat was gathered.  Then it was compared to medical records.  Then, as chance would have it, the researchers found a meaningless association between chili peppers and mortality.  Then they high-fived each other and ran off to write up the study results.  Then they probably proposed doing further research.   In fact, I’m sure they did.

“Because our study adds to the generalizability of previous findings, chili pepper — or even spicy food — consumption may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials,” says Chopan.

I’m reminded of the tongue-in-cheek paper Dr. John Ioannidis wrote in which he demonstrated that 80% of the ingredients in a common recipe book have been linked to higher rates of cancer.  Or lower rates of cancer.  Or both.  It just depends on which observational study you dig up.

And that’s the state of nutrition science.

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Hey Fat Heads,

Happy New Year!

Thought I’d sneak into the Big Chair for a couple of quick items.

The big news is that the Fat Head Kids book is getting close enough that Tom sent a script to The Middle Son and The Youngest Son so they can start prepping to help with voice work for the DVD version. He included a preview copy of the book so they can relate to what they’ll be voice acting.

Naturally, I had to sneak a peek and I can say that it’s more than worth the wait. Just terrific.

In my completely unbiased opinion, of course.

Next, this isn’t in the breaking news category, but I thought my fellow Fat Heads might enjoy it. We’ve got a good-natured banter going with The Youngest Son’s fiancée about what grandson 2 will be eating as he starts the move from formula to people food. (This guy:)

I keep saying he’s going to be eating only eggs, chicken livers and steak (with some lard and bacon fat) before he’s one; future DIL threatens to feed him tofu.

Anyway, after being impressed with Jason Fung’s Obesity Code and his follow up book (with Jimmy Moore) The Complete Guide to Fasting, I got interested in fasting, especially after my annual Thanksgiving through New Year’s gluttony. I’ve done a couple of 24-hour fasts, a 36-hour last week, and am 36 hours into a two-day (maybe 60 hours) fast right now.

So last night, I was putting a coffee mug in the microwave, prompting the following:

DIL:   What’s that – are you having some tea?

Older Brother:   No, I’m having a cup of beef broth.

Youngest Son (to DIL):   See that? – even Dad’s water has meat in it!

Cheers!

The Older Brother

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