Archive for the “News and Reviews” Category

Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Noakes found guilty! Or not.

As you probably know, Professor Tim Noakes has been on trial in South Africa for a tweet in which he advised a young mother (in response to her question) to wean her baby onto high-fat, real foods. Some idiot dietician was horrified that Noakes would suggest a high-fat diet for a baby (because as we all know, mother’s milk is fat-free!) and threatened to bring him up on charges – which she did. So Noakes was dragged before The Health Professions Council of South Africa on charges of unprofessional conduct. (We can safely assume “professional conduct” therefore means “giving out the lousy, low-fat advice officially sanctioned by governments around the world.”)

Apparently, the HPCSA was a wee bit overly anxious to declare victory:

The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) released a press release today saying it has found Prof Tim Noakes guilty of unprofessional conduct.

That’s not possible, of course, since the case against him has not concluded. The HPCSA’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) that is hearing the charge against Noakes, hasn’t even heard closing argument from lawyers on both sides yet. And it only intends issuing a ruling after that, on April 21, 2017. PCC chair Pretoria advocate Joan Adams has issued a tightly worded, clearly irate statement saying the HPCSA’s press release is “devoid of all truth”.

Well, I think it’s perfectly fitting for the HPCSA to issue a press release that’s devoid of all truth. After all, so are the changes against Noakes.

Noakes has been fortunate to have some impressive experts testify on his behalf, including Nina Teicholz and Zoe Harcombe. You can read about their testimony and other aspects of the kangaroo-court proceed—er, I mean government hearings here.

It’s an outrage that Noakes is being dragged through all this because of a tweet that annoyed an ignorant dietician, but perhaps this trial will become the South African version of the Annika Dahlqvist hearings in Sweden that led to a LCHF revolution there.

Baseball players are overweight

I’m still hoping and praying for a Cubs miracle. During my 15 years in Chicago, I lived within walking distance of Wrigley Field. I walked to a lot of games and staggered home from a few. Man, I loved watching the Cubs … but I don’t recall the players being overweight. I likewise haven’t noticed an obesity problem while watching the World Series. But according to a recent study, most baseball players are too heavy:

Major League Baseball players have become overwhelmingly overweight and obese during the last quarter century, say health researchers. They found that the athletes’ weight held steady for over 100 years, with the majority of them weighing in at what is considered “normal,” — i.e., with a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. However, around 1991 the average player’s BMI began to rise, and over the last 25 years nearly 80 percent of players fall into the overweight or obese category with a BMI above 25.

Sure, some power hitters are thick around the middle. But 80 percent of professional baseball players are overweight or obese, seriously? Have these researchers bothered watching any games?

I’m thinking that rise in BMI has a lot more to do with weight-training than with baseball players becoming too fat. Most of these guys are sporting some serious guns under those sleeves.

The USDA’s food-consumption data is nonsense

Back in this post, I wrote about a study of just how reliable those food questionnaires used in observational studies are – or more precisely, are not. Now the same researchers have produced another study pointing that the USDA’s per-capita food-consumption data is highly suspect. Here’s what lead author Edward Archer told me in a recent email:

In the study, we examined the USDA loss-adjusted food availability per-capita caloric consumption data. We found that if the US population actually consumed what the USDA was telling us we consumed, we would have lost ~12-36kg from 1971-1980 and gained ~42-98kg from 1988-2010. The actual changes from 1971-2010 were gains of 10kg and 9 kg in men and women, respectively.

Do you know anyone that lost over 80lbs and then gained well over 200lbs during that time-frame? Nevertheless, the USDA continues to publish these data as fact.

Well, I suppose somewhere in the world we can find a few people who gained 200 pounds from 1988 to 2010 … but they were probably infants in 1988. You can read the abstract of the study here.

NuVal is ByeVille

Back in 2010, I wrote about NuVal, a system for telling grocery-store shoppers which goods are good for them and which foods aren’t. It was the usual low-fat and anti-meat nonsense – such complete nonsense that on a scale of 100, a turkey breast received a “health” score of just 31, while a glass of chocolate soy milk received a score of 68, despite being loaded with sugar.

One of the developers of NuVal, by the way, was Dr. David Katz – who got in hot water after reviewing his own novel under a fake name, comparing his own writing to the works of Charles Dickens and John Milton. After being busted, Katz explained that the fake review was no big deal because he was expressing his honest opinion. Hey, we all love an honest egomaniac.

Anyway, it looks as if sanity is taking hold at some grocery stores that had adopted the NuVal system – meaning they’re dropping it.

Tops Markets is getting rid of a controversial nutrition ratings system it has used to help customers make food purchasing decisions. The system rates brownie mix and ice cream as healthier than some canned fruits and vegetables.

And let’s not forget sugary soy milk being healthier than turkey.

The NuVal Nutrional Scoring System debuted at Tops in 2011. The system scores foods on a scale from 1 to 100–the more nutritious the food, the higher the number. The NuVal score is based on an algorithm developed by a team of scientists from schools such as Yale and Harvard.

The process behind the scoring has never been disclosed but the company has said it calculates a food’s good elements–such as protein, calcium and vitamins–against its bad elements–such as sugar, sodium and cholesterol. NuVal has said it does not share details about how it comes up with its scores because that information is proprietary.

Meaning we just made this @#$% up.

Two other grocery chains have dropped NuVal recently, including California-based Raley’s and Massachusetts-based Big Y, which told the Yale Daily News the system was “out of date.”

No kidding. I think we’re probably seeing the Wisdom of Crowds effect kicking in. Consumers are probably telling grocery-store managers what they think of the ratings, and the store managers are responding.

If this trend continues, perhaps Dr. Katz will retire from handing out lousy nutrition advice and turn his attention to writing more novels. I think he should compare himself to James Joyce next time … under an assumed name, of course.

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Last week, some local hospital sponsored a health fair where I work.  Employees who wanted the free cholesterol test were told to fast overnight.  At an early afternoon meeting later that day, one of my co-workers struggled to explain something, then apologized with “Sorry, I can’t think straight.  I haven’t eaten since last night, and I haven’t had time to grab lunch yet.”

Heh-heh … I hadn’t eaten since dinner the previous night either, and wasn’t planning to eat until 7:00 p.m. or so.  I wasn’t hungry, or tired, or mentally foggy.  That’s because I’m used to it.  Most Mondays and Thursdays, I don’t eat until dinner.  Those are my 24-hour intermittent fasts.

If you haven’t tried intermittent fasting, I’d recommend it.  I’d also recommend you educate yourself first by picking up a copy of The Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore.  (Why the heck this thing isn’t called Fasting Clarity is beyond me.  I’ll ask Jimmy when he visits us for Thanksgiving week.)

Dr. Fung wrote about the benefits of fasting at the end of his excellent book The Obesity Code.  This book is the extended version of those chapters, with an introduction by Jimmy, fasting success stories supplied by some of Dr. Fung’s patients, and commentary by health experts such as Mark Sisson, Abel James, Dr. Thomas Seyfried and Robb Wolf.

In his half of the introduction, Dr. Fung explains that he looked into fasting largely out of frustration.  He was treating type 2 diabetics the traditional way, and neither he nor his patients were happy with the results:

Instinctively, most patients knew what we were doing was wrong. They would say to me, “Doctor, you have always told me that weight loss is critical in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, yet you have prescribed me insulin, which has made me gain so much weight. How is that good for me?” I never had a good answer for this. Now I knew why. They were absolutely right; it wasn’t good for them.

As patients took insulin, they gained weight, and when they did, their type 2 diabetes got worse, demanding more insulin. And the cycle repeated: they took more insulin, they gained more weight, and as they gained more weight, they needed more insulin. It was a classic vicious cycle.

We doctors had been treating type 2 diabetes exactly wrong. With the proper treatment, it is a curable disease. Type 2 diabetes, like obesity, is a disease of too much insulin. The treatment is to lower insulin, not raise it. We were making things worse. We were fighting the fire with gasoline. I needed to help my obesity and type 2 diabetes patients lower their insulin levels, but what was the best approach?

Certainly, there are no medications that do this. There are surgical options that help, such as bariatric surgery (commonly called “stomach stapling”), but they are highly invasive and have many irreversible side effects. The only feasible treatment left was dietary: reducing insulin levels by changing eating habits.

The change in eating habits included adding various fasting protocols to a better overall diet.  As Dr. Fung emphasizes in the book, intermittent fasting does not give us license to live on a junk diet on non-fasting days.

Jimmy’s half of the introduction describes his own experiences with fasting, ranging from his first attempts at intermittent fasting, all the way through his n=1 experiments with 21-days fasts.  He learned a few hard lessons along the way, such as don’t drink diet sodas while fasting, and don’t try to fast when you’re in a period of high stress.

The chapters in Part One describe what fasting is and why it’s good for your health.  Part of understanding what fasting is understanding what it isn’t:  it’s not starvation, and it’s not living on a permanent low-calorie diet.

Starving and fasting should never be confused with each other, and the terms should never be used interchangeably. Fasting and starving live on opposite sides of the world. It is the difference between recreational running and running because a lion is chasing you. Starvation is forced upon you by outside forces. Fasting, on the other hand, may be done for any period of time, from a few hours to months on end. You may begin a fast at any time of your choosing, and you may end a fast at will, too. You can start or stop a fast for any reason, or for no reason at all.

As later chapters explain more fully, low-calorie diets and fasting produce markedly different hormonal responses.  That’s why most low-calorie diets fail.  We’re eating less, but still eating.  The body still believes it’s supposed to store calories, but there are fewer of them.  So the body may respond by slowing the metabolism.  Fasting, on the other hand, produces hormones that tell the body it’s time to tap the reserves.

A decreased insulin level is one of the most consistent hormonal effects of fasting. All foods raise insulin to some degree. Refined carbohydrates tend to raise insulin the most and fatty foods the least, but insulin still goes up in both cases. Therefore, the most effective method of reducing insulin is to avoid all foods altogether. During the initial stages of fasting, insulin and blood glucose levels fall but remain in the normal range, maintained by the breakdown of glycogen as well as gluconeogenesis. After glycogen is used up, the body begins to switch over to burning fat for energy. Longer-duration fasts reduce insulin more dramatically. Regularly lowering insulin levels leads to improved insulin sensitivity—your body becomes more responsive to insulin.

And later in the book …

Most people expect that a period of fasting will leave them feeling tired and drained of energy. However, the vast majority of people experience the exact opposite: they feel energized and revitalized during fasting. Partly this is because the body is still being fueled—it’s just getting energy from burning fat rather than burning food. But it’s also because adrenaline is used to release stored glycogen and to facilitate fat-burning, even if blood sugar is high. The increased adrenaline levels invigorate us and stimulate the metabolism. In fact, studies show that after a four-day fast, resting energy expenditure increased by 12 percent. Rather than slowing the metabolism, fasting revs it up.

My hesitation about intermittent fasting (before I read more on the subject and tried it for myself) centered around the belief that I’d lose muscle mass.  In a chapter titled Busting The Myths of Fasting, the book explains why that belief is wrong.  Unlike low-calorie dieting, fasting actually encourages muscle growth by spurring production of growth hormone – which makes perfect sense if you think about it from a paleo perspective.  If an unsuccessful hunt left paleo man weak and slow, he’d be even less likely to bring down prey on the next attempt.  As the book explains:

The most potent natural stimulus to growth hormone secretion is fasting. In one study, over a five-day fasting period, growth hormone secretion more than doubled. During fasting, in addition to the usual early-morning spike of growth hormone (pulsatile), there is also regular secretion throughout the day (non-pulsatile). Both pulsatile and non-pulsatile release of growth hormone is increased during fasting. Interestingly, very low-calorie diets are not able to provoke the same growth hormone response.  A study of a religious forty-day fast found that baseline growth hormone levels increased from 0.73 ng/mL to peak at 9.86 ng/mL. That is a 1250 percent increase in growth hormone, all done without drugs. And a 1992 study showed a fivefold increase in growth hormone in response to a two-day fast.

Of course, as many of us have learned from experience, fasting is much easier if your daily diet is a good one.  That means real food with real fats.  The book takes some well-deserved shots at the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which turned us into a nation of carbivores who are hungry six times per day.  But Dr. Fung (I’m assuming this came from him) doesn’t push a strict low-carb diet either:

Relying on macronutrient-based guidelines or calorie limits makes eating far more complicated than it should be. We do not eat a specific percentage of fats, protein, and carbohydrates. We eat foods. Certain foods are more fattening than others. Therefore, the best advice focuses on eating or not eating specific foods, not specific nutrients.

There is nothing inherently unhealthy about carbohydrate-containing foods. The problem arises when we start changing these foods from their natural state and then consuming them in large amounts. The same also applies to processed fats. Processing transforms relatively innocuous vegetable oils into fats that contain trans fats, toxins whose dangers have now been well recognized.

Chapter four summarizes the many advantages of fasting: it’s convenient, it’s free and it’s flexible – you can add fasting to your lifestyle whether you’re a vegan or a confirmed carnivore.  Fasting also allows many people to free themselves of fearing every little treat:

Now, I am not saying that you should eat dessert every single day. However, fasting restores the ability to occasionally enjoy that dessert by balancing out the feast. It is, after all, the cycle of life. Feasts follow fasts. Fasts follow feasts. This is how we have always lived. Birthdays, weddings, holidays, and other special occasions have always, throughout human history, been celebrated with feasts. But those feasts should be followed by fasts.

Even if you do live on a low-carb diet, fasting provides additional benefits:

The very low carb diet does remarkably well, providing you 71 percent of the benefits of fasting, without actual fasting. But sometimes low-carb just isn’t enough. I’ve had many patients who limited their carbohydrates but still had elevated blood sugars. How do you get more power? Fasting. Insulin is the main driver of obesity and diabetes. A very low carb diet can reduce insulin by more than 50 percent, but you can go another 50 percent by fasting. That’s power.

The next several chapters go into more detail about using fasting for specific benefits: to treat type 2 diabetes, to slow the aging process, to boost heart health.

Part Two is the how-to section of the book.  I know, I know: how much how-to information do we need to learn how not eat for awhile?  Well, there’s more to it than you might think.  There’s good advice in here on how to avoid common effects like headaches (salty broths help), who shouldn’t fast (kids, pregnant or nursing women, underweight and malnourished people), and various fasting protocols.

There’s no single protocol that’s best for everyone.  Some people may find they do best with a four-hour eating window, some may prefer alternate-day fasting, some may prefer the 5:2 plan popularized by Dr. Michael Mosley in the U.K, and some may want go to for extended fasts lasting several days or longer.  The book explains each protocol and describes the advantages.

My protocol, in case you’re curious, is to mix Mosley’s 5:2 with 24-hour fasts.  In other words, twice per week I don’t eat for 24 hours, then eat one meal of around 600 calories for dinner.  I haven’t noticed a shift in weight, but I view the fasting as a health regimen.  After seeing Chareva’s father hobbling around our house because of his stroke, I’m more determined than ever to keep the biological machinery from breaking down.

Part Three is the resources section.  There are suggested schedules for various fasting protocols, recipes for broths and teas that make fasting more pleasant, and lots of real-food recipes for meals on non-fasting days.

Like The Obesity Code and Jimmy’s Clarity series, The Complete Guide to Fasting is an easy-to-read, consumer-friendly book that passes my Aunt Martha test.  The science nerds will also be happy to see that each chapter ends with a list of references to studies.

When the book was released, Amazon ran out of stock within days.  There’s a good reason for that: it’s an excellent resource, and word got around quickly.  You may have to wait for a copy, but I believe you’ll be glad you added The Complete Guide to Fasting to your library.

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Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Everything causes cancer. Or prevents cancer.

But we already knew that, right? You can hardly open a newspaper without being told this-or-that is “linked” to a higher or lower rate of cancer. Some researchers with a sense of humor decided to randomly select ingredients from a cookbook and see how many of them have been associated with cancer in observational studies. Here are the opening paragraphs from the study:

Background: Nutritional epidemiology is a highly prolific field. Debates on associations of nutrients with disease risk are common in the literature and attract attention in public media.

Objective: We aimed to examine the conclusions, statistical significance, and reproducibility in the literature on associations between specific foods and cancer risk.

Design: We selected 50 common ingredients from random recipes in a cookbook. PubMed queries identified recent studies that evaluated the relation of each ingredient to cancer risk.

A “highly prolific field” … yeah, that’s one way to phrase it. Anyway, here’s what the researchers found:

At least one study was identified for 80% (n = 40) of the ingredients selected from random recipes that investigated the relation to cancer risk: veal, salt, pepper spice, flour, egg, bread, pork, butter, tomato, lemon, duck, onion, celery, carrot, parsley, mace, sherry, olive, mushroom, tripe, milk, cheese, coffee, bacon, sugar, lobster, potato, beef, lamb, mustard, nuts, wine, peas, corn, cinnamon, cayenne, orange, tea, rum, and raisin.

We found that 80% of ingredients from randomly selected recipes had been studied in relation to malignancy and the large majority of these studies were interpreted by their authors as offering evidence for increased or decreased risk of cancer.

So darned near everything causes or prevents cancer.

However, the vast majority of these claims were based on weak statistical evidence.

No kidding.  But I’ll bet most of them also led to big headlines.

At least okra doesn’t give me the munchies.

This is an old CNN story, but only came to my attention recently when a reader warned me that Chareva’s okra might lead to a raid by cops.

The grower was alarmed when the police helicopter swooped low over his property.

Soon, Bartow County, Georgia, deputies — “strapped to the gills” and with a drug dog in tow — converged on his doorstep. They had the grower dead to rights.

Except the plant that the chopper cops had spotted from the air was … okra.

The helicopter was combing the area in search of cannabis plants when it came across the five-leaflet okra plant, the station reported. Marijuana plants can have anywhere between one and 13 leaflets per leaf, depending on maturity and health, but they generally have seven or nine.

“It did have quite a number of characteristics that were similar to a cannabis plant,” Georgia State Patrol Capt. Kermit Stokes told WSB.

If you haven’t already heard Kermit the Frog in your head, explaining how okra looks a lot like marijuana, something went very, very wrong in your childhood.

“Here I am, at home and retired and you know I do the right thing,” Perry told the station. “Then they come to my house strapped with weapons for no reason. It ain’t right.”

Upon realizing that it had dispatched officers to confiscate a popular gumbo ingredient, the Georgia State Patrol, which operates the task force, issued an apology, both to Perry and publicly.

I’ll bet Mr. Perry was so annoyed with the cops, he gave them each a bag of okra.

How nutritionists deal with contrary evidence.

Yet another study recently declared butter not guilty of the crimes it’s been accused of, as reported in HealthDay online:

Spread the news: Butter may not be the unhealthy food many Americans believe it to be, new research suggests.

“Overall, our results suggest that butter should neither be demonized nor considered ‘back’ as a route to good health,” study senior author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston, said in a university news release.

The new study was funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Mozaffarian’s team reviewed data from nine studies that included more than 636,000 people living in 15 countries.

The findings showed that eating butter was only weakly associated with increased risk of premature death and not associated at all with heart disease. There was a slight association with protection against diabetes, the study found.

I’m sure those findings won’t surprise you. Unfortunately, this probably won’t surprise you either.

One nutritionist said her views on butter remain unchanged, however.

“Despite the findings of this study, I am not about to make a huge shift in the recommendations I make about consumption,” said Dana White. She is a dietitian and professor of sports medicine at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

“Butter remains a very high-calorie and high-fat food with little nutrient density to offer, and therefore still needs to be consumed in strict moderation,” White said.

In other words: I’ve been telling people to strictly limit their butter intake for years, and I’m going to keep on doing it, no matter what the evidence says.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

The FDA plans to poops all over poop transplants.

If you’re a regular reader, you know I think our government’s regulations are often full of poop. So it seems rather appropriate that a branch of the government wants to regulate poop, as reported by BuzzFeed.

Gastroenterologist Colleen Kelly performed her first poop transplant eight years ago, on a young woman with a life-threatening gut infection who had run out of options. The bacterium Clostridium difficile had invaded the woman’s gut, bringing her constant diarrhea and pain, and antibiotics weren’t working.

Kelly’s patient persuaded her to try a fecal transplant, in which poop from a healthy person is put into a sick person’s colon in the hope of resetting the mix of microbes there. The patient’s boyfriend provided fresh stool, and Kelly introduced half a cup of it into her patient via a colonoscopy. To Kelly’s surprise, it worked — by the next day, the woman’s symptoms began to wane.

Kelly, an assistant professor of medicine at Brown University, has since performed some 300 fecal transplants for C. diff infections. These days, she usually buys healthy stool samples from OpenBiome, a nonprofit “stool bank” in Somerville, Massachusetts that launched in 2013. “It’s really unlike any therapy to date,” she told BuzzFeed News.

So this spring, when the FDA announced that it intended to tighten its rules on the procedure, known as fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), making it harder for doctors to buy stool from banks, Kelly was among the commenters who wrote back, opposing the proposal.

It’s the typical pattern. People working in a profession find something that works. Businesses spring up to provide that something at a reasonable price. Then the feds, seeing something successful happening that they don’t control, step in to regulate.

“If the FDA makes it prohibitively difficult for clinicians to work with stool banks, I believe this will actually make the procedure less safe, and of course, less accessible,” wrote Sarah McGill, a gastroenterologist at the University of North Carolina Medical School who has performed about 30 fecal transplants on C. diff patients in the last two years.

Yes, of course that’s how it will play out. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said at least twice: most of the “protect the public” regulations that come along are backed by businesses who want to leverage the coercive power of government to stifle their competition. Public safety is merely the excuse. The BuzzFeed writer, unlike most media writers, actually understands that.

But one company, at least, welcomes more government regulation of stool. Rebiotix, a startup based in Minnesota that is developing an enema treatment of bacteria extracted from poop, told the FDA to shut down the stool banks and adopt the strictest regulation possible in dictating how samples are procured. The company contends that this is for the patients’ own good, as stool banks may not be fully screening their samples for diseases.

And now for the real reason …

Rebiotix is also worried about its bottom line. If the company’s poop-like drug for C. diff makes it through the rigorous clinical trial process before anybody else, it would win the rights to be an exclusive seller of the product for seven years, gaining a huge lead in a market expected to be worth $1.5 billion by 2024.

Anyone who tells you the FDA is imposing this limit on patient choice to protect the public is full of unregulated poop.

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Dang, I love this time of year. The daytime high temperatures have dropped into the 70s. The leaves are just starting to wear their fall-fashion colors. There are plenty of good pro and college football games to record and watch at night. The ticks and chiggers are retiring to their winter quarters and won’t return until spring. Soon it will be Chareva’s birthday, then Halloween, then Sara’s birthday, then my birthday, then Thanksgiving.

I slept like a stone on Friday night, then woke up Saturday with an urge to go out and work myself into a state of Dog-Tired Satisfied. So I did.

When we moved to the farm and Chareva took up gardening, we created a fenced-in area in the front pasture. Here are some shots from that project in 2012:

Eventually, Chareva decided she wanted the big garden out back, behind the house. Then she decided she wanted the chickens behind the house. Then came the Big Spring Project of 2015, when we created a single fenced-in area for the chickens and the gardens.

Meanwhile, the abandoned garden in the front pasture became a jungle. We removed some of the fencing and t-posts earlier in the summer, then removed the rest a few weeks ago. But the jungle remained:

This would normally be a job for The Beast, which would tear right through all that mess. Unfortunately, after all my bragging about The Beast’s toughness and reliability, it decided to give me a headache. The headache looks like this:

Darned thing won’t start. When I pull the cord, it comes all the way out and stays all the way out. I can wind it back up – and did several times – but the same thing happens every time. The engine sputters for a second without starting, and the cord just sits there. I opened up the top and fussed with everything that looked fuss-worthy, but nothing made a difference. So I guess it’s time to take The Beast to a repair shop … despite the threat to my status as a Born-Again Tool Guy.

With The Beast out of commission, I whacked down the jungle in the former garden with the brush-cutter attachment on my Weed-Whacker. That certainly provided a better workout than pushing The Beast around. With that step completed, the former garden looked like this:

I didn’t want all those vines just sitting there rotting all winter, so for step two, I ran over the whole mess with the new Cub Cadet mower, a.k.a. The Bear. That reduced the mess to this:

Next on the agenda was the old chicken yard. We’ve tilled it and mowed it, but of course the jungle keeps trying to grow back. So I took the Weed-Whacker in there as well. (I neglected to take an “after” picture, but trust me, the jungle has been whacked.)

Before the Big Spring Project of 2015, we fenced in the new garden out back as a stand-alone project. Now that it’s enclosed within the Big Project, with chicken moats and all, Chareva decided the inner fence isn’t necessary. Any deer or other garden-munching critters that manage to breach the outer fence and nets won’t be deterred by the inner fence. So she took it down. Then she harvested the remaining bounty, which looked like this:

We’ll be eating a lot of peppers in the next few weeks.

The other garden out back is pretty well played out too. Even the okra has stopped growing. If I appear to smiling in the picture below, it’s only to mask the pain of knowing our dinners will longer feature fried okra, baked okra, roasted okra, okra stew or okra surprise.

With the inner fence gone, Chareva asked me to run the tiller over the entire garden to prepare it for cool-weather crops.

I manhandled the bucking-bronco contraption back and forth a few times and dug up plenty of large rocks, along with plenty of weeds.

The roots of those weeds would make good ropes. Chareva was on de-roping duty.

When we were done, the garden was ready for those cool-weather crops — which Chareva and Sara planted on Monday while I was sitting in an office writing software code.

There was one more Saturday chore to tackle. The area in the photo below has been home to goats in one year and hogs in another. Both species did us the favor of keeping the jungle trimmed.

We don’t have any plant-eating tenants living there now, so the jungle has been growing back. After tilling the garden, I took the Weed-Whacker in there and whacked the jungle. (And once again, I neglected to take an “after” picture.)

It was a long day of manual labor, the kind guaranteed to produce a state of Dog-Tired Satisfied. With the weekend work done, we took Alana to Red Lobster so could amaze us, as always, with her appetite for crab legs. (Sara was out of town on a class trip.)

Chareva’s parents joined us as well, since they had something to celebrate: after weeks of looking, they found a house in Franklin that’s perfect for their needs and bought it. They’ll be just a few miles down the road from us, with a view of a pasture. Quite a change from suburban Chicago.

Speaking of houses and such, you may have noticed Sara’s cabin has migrated to an area near the garden. During the long stretch when she doing extra chores to earn “cabin cash,” she had a vision of sitting on the porch, reading a book and drinking iced tea with the dogs curled up at her feet. It was a good vision.

Unfortunately, the dogs didn’t share the vision. They’d much rather bang around inside the cabin, jump on Sara as she’s walking to the cabin, etc. They’re Rottweilers, after all. So after discussing the matter with Chareva, Sara decided she’d enjoy the cabin more if was located near the garden – meaning where the dogs can’t get to it.

The same people who delivered the cabin came by last week to move it.

The view is certainly better from up there. Sara may yet sit on the porch, drinking iced tea and reading a book. Chareva plans to join her while taking a break from gardening and feeding the chickens.

And I’ve already been informed that the next project is to finish and decorate the inside of the cabin.

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I had another topic in mind for tonight’s post, but I would be remiss if I didn’t post a farewell to Dr. Duane Graveline, who I consider a modern medical hero.

I don’t remember exactly how I ended up coming across SpaceDoc.com, a site he created to educate people about the side-effects of statins.  I know it was during the research phase for Fat Head.  I was pretty well convinced by then that cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease, which of course means statins are nearly worthless.  It was only after reading articles by Dr. Graveline that I began to see that statins are worse than worthless.  They cause actual damage to millions of unsuspecting people who are merely following doctor’s orders.

For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Graveline was an M.D., a flight surgeon in the Air Force, and a researcher for NASA.  In other words, the man knew his medical science.  So when he began experiencing strange side-effects after being prescribed Lipitor for his “high” cholesterol, he approached it as science problem.  He went on and off Lipitor a few times and tracked his symptoms.

Those symptoms weren’t pretty.  On two different occasions, his spent entire days in a state of profound confusion, unable to remember, say, anything since before medical school.  Then his memory would return.  The condition is known as global transient amnesia, and as Dr. Graveline discovered when he began investigating, it’s hardly an unknown experience among people on high-dose statins.

It was while reading those accounts that I had a major head-slapping, if-only-I-had-a-time-machine moment.  When my dad was in his late 50s (in other words, around my current age), he had two similar experiences.  He became confused and babbled nonsense.  He couldn’t remember my sister’s name as she talked to him and tried to figure out what the hell was happening to him.  On both occasions he was taken to a hospital … and on both occasions, doctors ran tests and told my mom they couldn’t find anything actually wrong with him.  Then the confusion cleared and his memory came back – exactly what Dr. Graveline experienced.

Naturally, it didn’t occur to any of the doctors examining my dad to ask if he was on Lipitor … which he was, and a high dose at that.  Although I can’t prove it, I’m convinced the Lipitor either triggered or accelerated my dad’s Alzheimer’s.   So instead of spending his well-deserved retirement playing golf, he spent most of it in a home for Alzheimer’s patients.

When my mom was on statins, she experienced nasty muscle and joint pains – which of course her doctor didn’t attribute to the statins.  But I did, thanks to the work of people like Dr. Graveline and Dr. Malcolm Kendrick.  Dr. Graveline, in fact, ended up with permanently damaged muscles as a parting gift from the makers of Lipitor.

The SpaceDoc site is chock-full of research on statins in particular and heart health in general.  I doubt many people in the Fat Head audience need convincing about the dangers of statins, but it’s worth visiting the site anyway just to see how much information Dr. Graveline gathered over the years in his one-man battle to educate an unsuspecting public.

Many of you have emailed or left comments to thank me for sounding the alarm about statins.  Don’t thank me.  Thank Dr. Graveline, who continued fighting the good fight all the way to age 85.  It’s largely because of his fight that some of us respond to “Your cholesterol is high.  We should put you on a statin” with “Doctor, I wouldn’t take a statin unless you held a gun to my head and I was convinced you’d pull the trigger.”

Godspeed, SpaceDoc.

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I was the guest recently on the 2 Keto Dudes Podcast show.  You can listen to the episode here.  I enjoyed talking to the hosts, Carl Franklin and Richard Morris, very much.  They’re both fellow programmers and both have a great sense of humor.  Among other topics of conversation, they had me take an impromptu trivia quiz about McDonald’s.  Turns out there’s lots of McDonald’s trivia I don’t know.

I’ll get back to posting later this week.  We spent much of last week getting preparing to temporarily double the size of the Fat Head household.  Chareva’s parents finally sold their big ol’ property on the outskirts of Chicago and arrived here on Wednesday, along with her brother and sister-in-law.  They’re living with us while searching for their next home somewhere in Franklin.

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