Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Seth Roberts RIP

Sad news that Seth Roberts died on Saturday 26 April 2014.

Seth was a psychology lecturer in California and Beijing.  He pioneered work on self experimentation for improving health.  He wrote about his experiments in treating insomnia and depression.

He also wrote a book on weight loss based on the notion that we eat less if our appetite is not stimulated by strong smells and taste of food.  This was the 'Shangri-La Diet'.

I disagreed with lots of what Seth wrote.  I tried several ideas, some helped and others didn't.  I appreciated his view that people could take control of their own health and find solutions, where healthcare failed them.  Seth was also critical of academic bias, cheating and poor research findings.

One of my favourite Seth blog posts was the story of Morex and how he finally lost weight and regained health and confidence by drinking light olive oil, as recommended by Seth.

The best tribute to Seth Roberts would be if more people used themselves as test subjects and worked out ways to better health and fitness through self experimentation and observation.  Having more self confidence and openness to new ideas is the core of his legacy.

UPDATE:  Seth's mother posted a piece about his death on the blog.  There is no definitive cause identified to date (more information will arrive later this year).  However there is some suggestion that heart problems may have been triggered by mercury in fish and air pollution in Beijing.

I hadn't realised how much of a collaborator Seth was.  A number of people have written about his curiosity and generosity in discussing ideas and giving of his time and knowledge to help others.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Co-op Bank 'loses' Labour Party custom

Big news this week:  the Labour Party are in talks to move their loan from the Co-op Bank to the Unity Trust Bank (described as union-owned).  The Co-op Bank also has a large stake in Unity Trust Bank, so nothing much has changed, it seems.

When private equity funds took control of the Co-op Bank with its £1.5bn debt problem, attempts were made to bridge the gap by scalping investors and bondholders.  This was stopped and other means were negotiated through the best efforts of Euan Sutherland and Mark Taber.  There was talk of calling in the Labour Party loan and it was clear that Labour's funding was at risk.

The BBC and other news media make no mention of the Labour Party's links to the Co-operative Movement (funded by the Co-operative).

Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, received a donation to his office of £50,000 arranged by Paul Flowers, disgraced Co-op Bank Chair.  He seems to have helped Flowers into post during his time in the Treasury.  Eds Milliband and Balls have spoken approvingly of the Co-op and maintained a resolute silence during the troubles, when hard working pensioners were about to lose their savings to fill the funding gap.

It was Tory MPs who took up the challenge and questioned those involved closely during Treasury Select Committee hearings.  I've written before about the courteous style of Jesse Norman and how he managed to obtain much more information than his bullying and sarcastic colleagues.  I've also written about the life and accomplishments of Norman and his father, who have done much for the poor and disadvantaged both here and abroad.  Eton educated Jesse Norman spoke up on behalf of pensioners who were about to be scalped by the Co-op Bank.

I wrote to Eds Balls and Millibands repeatedly when the Co-op Bank crisis was at its height (as did many others who supported Mark Taber's unpaid efforts).


I wonder why?

Could it be that turkeys don't vote for Christmas and a Labour Party dependent on funding from the Co-operative Movement won't comment on their part in the £2.5bn loss just announced by the Co-op Group?

Here's a list of current Co-op funded Members of Parliament  and roles:

Without the Co-op funding we wouldn't have a shadow cabinet.

Working with Insomnia 5

I wrote in an earlier post about the negative effects of poor digestion on sleep.  In recent years people have become aware of the positive effects of probiotics on health.  Beneficial microorganisms improve digestion in the gut and bowel.

I'm NOT a fan of sugar based jollop in small plastic bottles, with questionable benefits to health and proven impact on waste pollution.

Paul Jaminet has written about the health improvements he experienced when adding fermented foods to his diet.  These are a significant component of his Perfect Health Diet along with 'Safe Starches'.

Our ancestors have eaten many foods that were available in different climates and terrains around the globe.  Tubers were one part of the diet, providing foods that could be stored and eaten in lean times.

I'm curious about how early humans preserved foods in the time before refrigeration.  Fermentation with air borne cultures has been developed for thousands of years.  Kefir grains were used to ferment milk.

Sourdough was developed as a way of fermenting grains to make bread.  Ancient Egypt and the North Caucasus mountains are both areas where this practice is claimed to have originated.  Milled grains and water are all that are needed to make very tasty bread (with a little salt).  This sounds authentic.  Resources would have been scarce and this phenomenon may easily have been discovered by accident.  I used to make sourdough bread, but now eat grains rarely.  I wanted another natural source of probiotics.

I experimented with kimchi years ago before I thought about health benefits.  I didn't enjoy it.  I've tasted sauerkraut, but found commercial varieties unappetising.  They may have been cooked or pasteurised, eliminating beneficial microbes.  Looking around the paleo and low carb community I was surprised to find such complicated recipes.  They included vinegar, water and other additions that didn't ring true to me.  When people described dealing with mould, I suspected that their recipes weren't authentic.

I found a couple of helpful videos including this one from a German guy, WoodlandGardener, living in Canada:

I used this informal approach with white cabbage successfully.  I adapted the recipe using kilner jars to store the sauerkraut.  I also used some of the outer leaves to cover the shreded cabbage and then covered them with non toxic cling film.  I've read about contamination by components of plastic in cling film and am not keen to have direct contact between the sauerkraut and the plastic.

The same method worked less well with red cabbage and mould developed quickly.  I increased the quantity of salt and found the results less palatable.

I talked to a Norwegian friend about Scandinavian versions of sauerkraut.  Kvalimad's video for surkål helped me in several areas.  First the guideline of 2% salt gave me a specific  guide to follow.  I was more fastidious about removing all mould or leaves with a little white dust on them (red cabbage).  I used a deeper bowl to crush the cabbage, using the end of a long rolling pin to pound the vegetable.  I pushed the cabbage down with my hands and noticed that all jars had a quantity of liquid.  I dispensed with the whole leaves and clingfilm and used the rubber sealed lid on each kilner jar to keep them airtight.

They sat in thick brown paper bags on the kitchen counter and the temperature was warm.  I checked them each day and opened the lids to release the gas from the fermenting cabbage.  After a few days the surkål was bubbling vigorously and I put the jars in the fridge.  Fermentation continues slowly, but the cold doesn't kill the microbes.  I noticed this effect when making sourdough starter years ago.  I could leave it for weeks and then revive it with some hot water and added flour.

I don't cut the cabbage very fine and some pieces can be large.  This doesn't affect fermentation or flavour.  The surkål is crunchy and nicely sour.

A dessert spoonful of red and white surkål with breakfast sets me up for the day.  I feel better and digestion works better with microbes and fibre.  The salt level is lower, so my blood pressure doesn't rise.  My sleep is improving.

Much has been written recently about Resistant Starches.  People in the low carb/paleo community have jumped on these as a better alternative to safe starches promoted by Paul Jaminet.  RS are said to resist digestion, but are processed in the colon to release beneficial nutrients for gut micro organisms.  Unfortunately the descriptions are enthusiastic, but don't provide much detail on the science and the foods involved.

Dr Robert Lustig talked about this process in January 2011.  He gave details of how it works in the last 5 minutes of a second interview with Jimmy Moore.  He also distinguishes between safe and unsafe starches, commenting that those that elevate blood sugars rapidly and do not activate leptin signals to the brain to help us recognise satiety, are not good for us.  Dr Lustig is not an advocate of long term low carb diets and does not refer to resistant starches.  He talks about the beneficial effects of FIBRE.

There is no magic bullet for treating insomnia, but gut health certainly contributes to better sleep.

Friday, 4 April 2014

"Don't go near doctors"

I have an allotment.  This brings me into contact with a wide range of people I wouldn't otherwise meet.

I've been talking about statins and what I understand about the science.

One woman told me her mum is on them, despite pleas from the family to stop.  Mum believes the medication gives her a 'get out of gaol free card' from health problems caused by smoking.  As far as I know, there is NO connection and statins don't work for women.

Another friend in his 80s is on statins.  He has started to feel low, keeps falling over and seems more tired and less able to cope than before.  Statins don't work for men over 65 and it sounds as if he is experiencing some of the familiar symptoms.  His doctor tells him to continue taking the meds.  The doctor receives financial incentives to prescribe statins, so he would say that, wouldn't he.

CORRECTION:  Research evidence strongly suggests that, in the elderly, a high cholesterol level is protective agains coronary heart disease (CHD).

Several people told me about another man on site.  He's a cheerful member of the community and always friendly.  He happens to be around 65 and suffers from diabetes.  He was prescribed statins and experienced a major change in personality, becoming very aggressive.  He stopped taking the medication and, last time I saw him,  was back to his cheerful self.

He concluded that you can't trust doctors.  After being on a large number of different drugs, he decided that he was better off avoiding doctors altogether.

I don't agree.  Doctors saved my life.  Experience teaches me that not all doctors are the same.  I make up my own mind about operations and medication offered to me, sometimes upsetting junior doctors from countries where patients are more respectful and compliant.

First find a GOOD doctor you can trust.  Avoid doctors who challenge your right to hold an opinion and act on it, especially if it differs from theirs.

Dr Briffa tells me that one cardiologist agrees with me.  Hallelujah!