We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Friday, August 23. 2019
Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors—to a striking extent—still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice? Dr. John Ioannidis has spent his career challenging his peers by exposing their bad science.
The press makes it all even worse, just to make a story. People of the press rarely have STEM degrees.
Friday, August 16. 2019
Sunday, August 4. 2019
Thursday, July 18. 2019
Thursday, July 11. 2019
State Regulators Punish Doctor for Cutting a Pain Patient's Opioid Dose and Dropping Him After He Became Suicidal. The decision by the New Hampshire Board of Medicine suggests state officials are beginning to recognize the harm caused by the crackdown on pain pills.
It is a difficult issue for physicians.
Friday, June 21. 2019
I still think it's a good idea to get your share of natural sunlight daily, and even more so if healing or recovering from something.
Still, much of the Vit D research was apparently wrong: Millions of Americans take vitamin D. Most should just stop. Outside of rare cases, rigorous studies of the supplement don’t find any health benefit.
Like many other stories, the moral of this one is that there is no settled science.
Tuesday, June 18. 2019
How to Measure Your Waist
Thursday, May 2. 2019
Until new non-opioid and promising pain meds are available, I am in favor of adequate dosing for pain when nothing else works. Chronic pain is a terribly disabling thing, mentally, spiritually, physically, etc.
The two best things medicine has provided mankind have been antibiotics, and anesthesia/analgesia.
Sunday, April 28. 2019
Celebrities are always touting the latest nutritional fads like "clean eating", veganism, etc. Now it's the Fasting Plan. Of course, these people know nothing. In fact, little is known about human nutritional needs but we do know some simple things to prevent starvation. For example, your nutrition requires fats.
There seem to be all sorts of variants of the Fasting Fad, but there may be something useful in it. For example, no adult without an all-day manual labor job (or a heavy lifter or a distance runner) needs three meals/day unless they are underweight. Three meals/day was designed for farmers, just like summer school vacation.
Furthermore, most hunger is what we have described as "false hunger" (meaning it represents no need for significant nutrition) for anybody even 5-10 lbs overweight. Our fat cells are a massive storage battery waiting to be used.
So what about fasting, whether it means just skipping one of the conventional meals or even taking a day or two off from food every week? Not as a weight-loss plan, but just as a plan. Many find it increases their energy.
When you think about it, during almost all of the 300-500,000 years (except the past few thousand agricultural years) of human life and evolution, food scarcity was the norm. Humans are designed for food scarcity rather than for today's abundance. That's why eating is fun rather than necessary.
This is interesting: MIT study: 24-hour fasting regenerates stem cells, doubles metabolism. This gives credence to the 5–2 diet, which has recently gained in popularity thanks to a large celebrity following.
Friday, April 26. 2019
Thank you, reader:
This month’s Harvard magazine has an article on just this topic. Scroll down to the section titled, ‘Eating to Excess: Metabolic Inflammation’.
“The metabolic stress that is a hallmark of modern life, the stress that the body has not evolved to handle, is constant eating, he continues. When people eat, energy and nutrients enter the body rapidly, are processed, produce in turn a lot of by-products, and then need to be reduced to “functional substances that are distributed throughout the body, and then disappear very quickly. Many cells and tissues actually undergo a huge amount of stress during this process,” he explains, “as they store appropriate nutrients and dispose of harmful intermediates.” Part of this process also involves mounting an immune response. “The pancreas, for example, must secrete four to five hundred milliliters of enzymes every day” to be able to manage the incoming energy load with every meal. “If you place these organs under constant stress, they start malfunctioning.” The consequence is that “right now, one out of every 10 individuals has diabetes. One out of every four individuals has fatty liver disease. And if you reach a certain age, one out of every three individuals will develop neurodegenerative disease.”
The metabolic stress that underlies these conditions comes from the daily imbalance between how much energy people consume and how much they need, and can process in a healthy manner. The long-term consequence of overconsumption, combined with lack of sufficient expenditure, is stored energy—the accumulation of fat...”
Also interesting in that article is a bit about the benefit of muscle inflammation due to stressful exercise. Muscle damage, of course, is how we build strength.
Tuesday, April 9. 2019
Where I live most of the time, females go around with a plastic bottle of water. In the car, in the gym, on the tennis court, at the supermarket, as if living in the Sahara. There are hardly enough public bathrooms for them all.
A few points:
Coffee is not dehydrating. Beer is hydrating. When you work out hard, especially in the heat, a little water is good. There seem to be extremes: people who are insensitive to their thirst, and people who drink too much. If confused about one's needs for liquid, the frequency of peeing, and the concentration of one's pee, are good indicators.
I have had outdoor adventures when my fatigue was entirely due to a touch of dehydration, when I perked up like a wilted plant with a bottle of water.
A healthy body alerts us to dehydration by making us feel thirsty. How much water should you drink a day Whether you’ve had fatigue or even dry skin, you’ve probably been told to drink more water as a cure. But this advice comes from decades-old guidance… and may have no scientific basis.
Wednesday, April 3. 2019
A friend recently went vegetarian just for kicks, as an experiment. In 6 weeks, the friend lost the 8 lbs that no amount of exercise could burn off without quitting dinnertime wine. (This friend is an athletic sort, a strength and fitness buff but not a fanatic.) She asked me how that could happen since she goes light on carbs.
It turned out that the answer was easy: Too much protein.
That sounds crazy, doesn't it? It's not crazy because any excess protein (protein in excess of what you body needs to maintain or repair muscle) is converted into and stored as fat. Many people are not aware that most of their steak ends up as body fat.
So whether you are sedentary (less than 6 hrs/week of fairly intense exercise/wk, not including walking) or not, your protein needs might be less than you imagine because you can only use about 20 gms of protein every 4-6 hours.
That's why people who restrict carbs, and replace the food volume with protein, have trouble losing body fat.
People who pursue daily strength-building (weights) or daily endurance training (ie triathlete types) can need more than the basic 45 gm/day for women or 55 gm/day for men - maybe up to 100-150 gms/day. That's why they tend to go for 4-5 smaller balanced (carbs, protein, fats/oils) meals/day.
Nutrition and fitness go hand-in-hand, and it takes a little bit of thoughtfulness. A few simple recommendations:
If you do barbells/powerlifts 3+ times/week, eat a lot of everything. If in daily endurance race training, eat a lot of everything. Until "stuffed". If a regular daily exerciser (some wts, some calis, some cardio, some endurance), 45-60 gms/day is plenty in divided doses. For weight loss, cut the volume dramatically. If overweight, you do not really need hardly any food at all other than some protein and vitamins and minerals. Overweight people have no caloric needs.
Grams protein conversion to lbs for all sorts of foods are easily found online. For one example, a regular chicken breast contains around 55 gms of protein. So if you eat one in a meal, about 30 gms of that protein goes to body fat and some in excretion. Sliced into thirds or quarters over the course of a day, that breast would be plenty for a full-grown male who works out.
So, again, volume management matters for weight-lifters, and for the overweight. It's a "First World Problem." And do not imagine that protein does not become body fat. It does.
Tuesday, March 5. 2019
We've all had it. It only lasts about 24 hours, but it is miserable and not treatable.
It's not treatable because the Staph bacterium (Staphlococcus aureus) produces a toxin which causes the physical reaction. The toxin is the problem, not the Staph. Staph is everywhere.
Food poisoning is avoidable by proper food management. Specifically, don't leave susceptible foods out of refrigeration for more than 2-3 hours. Yes, I know, we all do sometimes but it's not "best practices."
My last food poisoning incident was from a shrimp dish.
Thursday, January 31. 2019
Historic life expectancy data can be highly misleading. In fact, life expectancies in the western world have not increased dramatically since Victorian times - if you delete infectious diseases of childhood and young adulthood.
So when there was once a bimodal distribution of mortality - infancy and youth, and then old age, now there is only one. All of those deaths in youth skew average or median statistics to the point of meaninglessness. Antibiotics and immunization have made a huge difference.
For adult women, perhaps the main improvement was the work of Semmelweiss and his approach to childbirth.
Regarding infant mortality, it is difficult to compare the rates across countries because it depends on at what point the medical system declares an infant viable. In the US, where almost every infant is viewed as possibly viable, many more infancy deaths are named as such than in other places. It's the same phenomenon that rates Sloan-Kettering (cancer) hospital the worst hospital in the US. Many of their patients do not survive, obviously, despite possibly being the best cancer center in the world.
After the huge effect of public health, immunization, and antibiotics, medical advances have accomplished remarkable things in improving the function and independence of the elder cohort even though I have seen no stats to measure and compare this. In some ways, this is more valuable than life span alone. A generation or two ago you never saw people in their 80s playing tennis, skiing, or hiking up Mt. Washington. Now, it's common in the US (not so much in Europe).
The blessing we all have now, whether we are the half who live past the mid-late 70s, or the half who do not, is the opportunity to live what we're given with as much richness and independence as possible.
Wednesday, January 16. 2019
Your internist might give you a Cardiac Stress Test every few years to check your cardiopulmonary function, but other than that never a physical fitness evaluation beyond, maybe, a body fat composition. A very thorough physical exam might include an SF-36. This is not used often enough. (It is used in $5-10,000 "Executive Physicals," but that is often because companies take insurance on the functioning of their essential execs.)
The reason doctors don't do it is because your physical fitness at any age is your problem, not his or hers. OK, they will advise "exercise," but they know you won't do much of it, or "watch your diet" but they know you will do no more watching than looking at what is on your plate.
Serious fitness evaluations are done by the military, police, fire departments, etc. For us civilians, the only people who will give us a serious fitness evaluation are skilled fitness trainers. Trainers tell me that 3/4 of their new clients are in terrible shape. That's why they are there. About 1/4 are in decent condition, but want to get to a higher level of fitness.
Fitness evaluations include basic measures of cardio function, endurance, strength, agility, and balance. The Mayo Clinic offers this do-it-at-home fitness evaluation.
Regardless of age or level of condition when you decide to get serious about conditioning, The Maggie's program of HIIT cardio, endurance cardio, calisthenics, and weights (plus proper nutrition for a svelte physique) addresses all of the areas of fitness.
Monday, January 14. 2019
Avoid sunburn, especially in youth. Problem is, youth don't avoid sunburn.
In any event, getting some unfiltered sunshine is healthy, about 20-30 minutes/day, and a nice tan seems fine if you have the right skin for it. One view: Is sunscreen the new margarine?
Pediatricians these days are complaining that the kids are sun-deprived, due to sun-phobia of parents.
Keto-style nutrition (ketogenic) is only for people whose habits and life-styles tend towards excess fat deposits. There is no reason to fuss with your nutritional habits if you are in good shape and good conditioning. Food is not medicine - but if you lift heavy 2-3 times weekly, keep the protein up for muscle repair.
All "keto" means is that you are burning fat. Burning fat is difficult, because your body wants to hang on to it and exercise does very little for that at ordinary intensities and durations.
Kruiser explains it here: Jillian Michaels Is Mad That Keto People Lose Weight Without Buying Her Products
An interesting side effect of ketosis is that appetite tends to be reduced and energy increased. For people who are serious about it, you can buy Keto-strips to check your urine. That will instantly tell you whether you are burning fat or not.
If overweight, you probably have some degree of insulin insensitivity, sometimes termed "pre-diabetic" at some point. A keto nutritional habit can correct that, but remember that if you have ever been fat, your body will want to restore it back to where you set your highest weight. Fat cells are as greedy as governments and they never forget.
Wednesday, January 9. 2019
Your basic physical architecture is a product of a genetic potential, a genotype. Your genetic potential (design) is effected to some extent by environmental influences: intrauterine nutrition, nutrition during growth, disease, physical activity during growth, and so forth. All the same, your genetic potential can not be exceeded because it is pre-programmed.
What do I mean by basic physical architecture? I mean things like basic body structure: height, bone lengths and widths, and number of muscle cells and their distribution (yes, you are born with all of the muscle cells you will ever have, and these vary a good deal between people).
As an adult over age 17- 21, your life-long basic physical foundation is complete. As with your IQ, personality strengths and weaknesses, athletic talents, what we do with our given physical architecture after that point is up to us. A good trainer, a physical therapist, or a sports physician can see through our appearance and phenotype and get an idea of our basic physical architecture and our potential for development of what we are.
Our naked physical appearance today may or may not tell us much about our basic architecture, because it might be hidden under layers of fat or simply unmanifested by lack of stressors and demands. In underweight people, it can be concealed by underdevelopment of potential.
It's common to talk about endomorphs, mesomorphs, and ectomorphs, but that is simplistic because everybody is built differently. The length of your femur, for just one important example.
Do these things matter in general fitness efforts? Not too much. Do they matter in physical training? Yes, because the architecture sets limits on, and offers opportunities for, what can be achieved. Do they matter in athletic potential? Certainly, but it depends on the level which is aspired to.
Tuesday, January 1. 2019
How Muscles Age, and How Exercise Can Slow It. Researchers untangle the multifarious nature of muscle aging. So far, the only reliable treatment is exercise.
As we have often pointed out, resistance exercise addresses bone aging too.
Re comment, unfortunately it is orthopedic surgeons who deal with joint problems.
Tuesday, November 20. 2018
Saturday, November 17. 2018
Thursday, November 15. 2018
Not only that, but we now know that dietary fat appears to have minimal to no correlation with cardiovascular disease in normal people. We do know that being even mildly overweight is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease (along with breast cancer, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer's, etc etc.).
Addendum: If you are working on body-building with heavy weights 4 days/wk (few if any of our readers are doing that), you need to eat a lot of everything you can get your hands on just to maintain your weight, and even more to build muscle mass.
Tuesday, November 13. 2018
Some reasons to prefer choice in medical care.
Saturday, October 20. 2018