Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year's Eve

It’s New Year’s Eve and all through the house,
The music that’s playing is by Johann Strauss.
No stocking still hangs from the mantle with care,
Unwise to go ‘round with a foot that is bare.

It’s hard to believe a whole year is past,
Including events that left one aghast.
Thick smoke in the air from fiery fog,
Made going outside one bad travelogue.

For some it was truly an up-and-down year—
Some creative work will never appear.
But there were also things that left one awed,
And good experiences to applaud.

Tomorrow the New Year will be observed,
With family-of-choice and a dinner served.
The dishes of carefully chosen fare,
Will provide such wonderful smells in the air.

Take time to pause, reflect, and renew.
It’s a brand new year for the you-who-is-you!
Be thankful for getting another chance—
Your health and longevity to enhance.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

My Present

May you have a rewarding and happy time—today and during the remainder of 2018. My present to me this year is spending a week of precious time with family members and family-of-choice, free of writing anything (smile). I’ll see you in 2019!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Glucose, Fructose, and the Brain

Kathleen Page and colleagues at the University of Southern California, studied the effects of glucose and fructose on the hypothalamus—the appetite control center, which responds to hormones such as Leptin that tell the brain you are full. When study participants consumed a drink containing only glucose, blood flow and activity in the hypothalamus decreased and they reported feeling full. When the same participants were fed a fructose drink, the hypothalamus remained active and they did not report feeling full. The brain still thought the body was hungry. Some studies suggest that the average person may gain between 1-3 pounds during a holiday season. Often people do not lose this weight after the holiday season has passed, which some believe is responsible for the slow,insidious, almost imperceptible weight gain as years go by—until one day the person realizes they are definitely overweight if not obese. The problem is that for most people it is much harder to lose the weight than it was to gain it. My strategy is to avoid sweets and deserts and if I REALLY want a special taste, I will take two bites only and eat them slowly. After that, my brain is only eating from memory anyway.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Glucose and the Brain

Glucose is the major source of energy for the brain, nervous system, muscles, and many other body’s processes. (Note: the body can get glucose from carbs, proteins, and fats—brain neurons appear to prefer and use almost exclusively glucose from carbs—so eating healthier carbs is essential). Too much glucose can be extremely problematic for individuals with diabetes. When glucose levels are low, decision-making, critical thinking, willpower, and self-control can be impaired. Go easy on simple carbs (especially white sugar, flour, rice, and processed foods made from them) in favor of healthier complex carbs, the preferred source. They can help you maintain your weight in an optimum range as you need smaller amounts to feel satisfied and feel full longer, as compared to foods containing simple sugars and high-fructose corn syrup). Foods that are healthier sources of glucose include whole ancient grains, legumes, and some vegetables. Examples of high-starch veggies include corn, zucchini, and squash. Low-starch veggies include tomatoes and onions, asparagus and celery, mushrooms, cauliflower, green beans, cabbage, cucumbers, and red and green peppers, etc.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Fructose and HFCS

Fructose is sometimes called called fruit sugar because of its presence in fruit. Fructose is a monosaccharide, meaning it is a single sugar molecule consisting of six carbon atoms, six oxygen atoms and 12 hydrogen atoms. It can be absorbed quite quickly into the blood stream from your small intestines. Absorption from whole fruits is less rapid because of the presence of fiber and other phytonutrients in fruit. In addition to fruit, fructose may be present in your menu as honey or syrup or as the food additive high-fructose corn syrup (found in many beverages, salad dressings, and so on). Fructose absorption can be very rapid if the source is high-fructose corn syrup. If you have been reading labels you may have noticed how many refined and processed foods contain this product. Food companies love it because it is a low-cost sweetener: in drinks, processed and refined food such as baked goods and sweets—often eaten to excess during holiday periods. There is ongoing controversy about the level of damage this product can cause because reportedly is it associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, overweight and obesity, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Glucose vs Fructose

As the holiday season approaches, it might be time for a reminder of how to be more likely to stay “well” and healthy for the rest of the year. For example, there is some confusion about the difference between glucose and fructose. Both have the same caloric value but the difference is in their chemical structure and how they are metabolized in the body. While fructose and glucose have the same calorific value, the two sugars are metabolized differently in the body. Fructose is a simple sugar commonly found in fruits and some vegetables. It registers lower on the Glycemic Index but higher on the Glycemic Load indexes (as compared with glucose). It is said to bind much faster to cellular proteins and releases high amounts of oxygen radicals (e.g., hydrogen peroxide). An excess of fructose can trigger health problems such as insultin resistance and liver disease. It is said to cause seven times as much cell damage as does glucose, because it binds to cellular proteins seven times faster; and it releases 100 times the number of oxygen radicals (such as hydrogen peroxide, which kills everything in sight). More tomorrow

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Brain and Seven Virtues, 2

Three theological (so called) virtues make up the Seven Virtues. These are:

·       Faith ¾ the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen; belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.

·       Hope ¾ an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large; an expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

·       Charity ¾ kindness and tolerance in judging others; voluntary giving of help to those in need, as a humanitarian gesture.

Periodically I find it helpful to review these seven virtues and evaluate their place in my life and whether I need to course-correct.

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Brain and Seven Virtues

Just for fun I decided to view these seven virtues against the back-drop of current world events. Each brain has its own perspective of these seven virtues.

·        Prudence from prudentia meaning "seeing ahead, sagacity") is the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason. 

·        Justice is the virtue which regulates humans in their dealings with others. Connected to justice are the virtues of gratitutde, piety, and religion. 

·       Fortitude that Thomas Aquinas ranks third after prudence and justice and equates with brave endurance. Patience and perseverance are qualities (or virtues) related to fortitude.

·        Temperance is the virtue which moderates in accordance with reason the desires and pleasures of the sensuous appetite. Related to temperance are the virtues of continence, humility, and meekness.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Brain and “Virtue”, 3

According to Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato, the four most desirable character traits in a human being were: temperance, wisdom, justice, and courage (or fortitude). “Many the time when my eight-year-old self would become a slight bit impatient about the length of a visit to the sick or the length of time it was taking to memorize a new piece of music, my father would solemnly quote, “Patience is a virtue.” I was reminded of that while reading about the Science of Generosity, defined as the “virtue” of giving good things to others freely and abundantly. I even recall going to the public library and looking up the words patience and virtue and didn’t seem to find they were particularly connected. I did discover that some theologies took temperance, wisdom, justice, and courage and added to them faith, hope, and charity—making seven virtues. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Brain and “Virtue”, 2

Excellence has been defined as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good in doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. But who or what decides what is right and what is wrong? Which “brain” determines the criteria? Therein lies the conundrum. Children grow up consciously or subconsciously absorbing what the “big people” in their life “DO” in terms of behaviors and what their role-models “DO” has far more impact on a child’s perception than what the parents, grandparents, teachers, or care-providers say. This means that the definition of “excellence” along with “Virtue,” is very subjective and depends in large part on what a child was exposed to growing up. The good news is that a human brain can evaluate what it learned it childhood and decide whether or not it wants to continue down that road or take another road. You may recall the poem by Robert Frost that ends with these lines:  Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Brain and “Virtue”

One doesn’t hear much about “virtue” these days. Growing up, I certainly heard more about it than in recent years. I was taught that the word itself referred to behavior showing high moral standards; a quality considered morally good or desirable in an individual and something to be practiced whether the person was alone—with no one watching—or when with others. Indeed the Latin words virtus and the Ancient Greek ρετή "arete" refer to moral excellence. So what is “moral excellence? The term moral was defined in several dictionaries as “the quality of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong.” The word excellence was defined as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. Combining them the definition could be the quality of being outstanding or extremely good in doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. More tomorrow.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Science of Generosity

Christian Smith at the University of Notre Dame and colleagues, are studying the science of generosity, as they put it. They defined generosity as the virtue of giving good things to others freely and abundantly. They also pointed out that generosity also involves giving to others not simply anything in abundance but rather giving those things that are good for others. The goal of true generosity is to enhance the true wellbeing of those to whom it gives. Generosity can involve tangible and intangible gifts. Many automatically think of money and possessions. Some of the intangibles may even be more important in the long term, including personal time, attention, aid, encouragement, emotional availability, empathy, the sharing of information to help promote personal growth and high level of Emotional Intelligence, and so on. The researchers were also clear that generosity is not identical with pure altruism, since people can be authentically generous in part for reasons that serve their own interests as well as those of others. If indeed, generosity is a virtue, to practice it for the good of others also necessarily means that doing so achieves one’s own true, long-term good as well. Perhaps like all of the ‘virtues,’ true generosity is in people’s best enlightened self-interest to learn and to put into practice.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Personality Traits Linked with Intelligence, 2

The second study reported in the Journal of Research in Personality concluded that those who possess a dispositional tendency to value joint benefits more than their own, scored higher on an intelligence test. Researchers studied 301 people who played games that involved either donating to others or keeping things for themselves. They found that those who were more egotistical and who kept more for themselves tended to be less intelligent. While those who were more generous to others tended to be more intelligent (e.g., individuals with higher IQs were more concerned with the public good.) Comments by the authors concluded that the evidence presented supports the possibility that unconditional altruism may serve as a costly signal of general intelligence because altruism is costly and is reliably linked to the quality ‘general intelligence’. They also found that children’s intelligence predicts later socio-economic success better than attributes of their parents’ attributes, concluding that intelligence is an indicator of future resources. A person with high cognitive skills may be able to donate more in advance than someone with lower skills and perhaps can afford to be more generous because they have more to give.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Personality Traits Linked with Intelligence

A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality revealed some interesting information. It concluded that intelligent people are more likely to be generous and altruistic. While generosity is not something people usually associate with intelligence, this research clearly shows a link. In the study abstract, the researchers referred to “unconditional altruism” as an enduring puzzle and posited that the “costly signaling theory,” a well-established framework in biology and economics, may be useful to shed light on the individual differences in human unconditional altruism. Based on this theory, their research showed that unconditional altruistic behavior is related to general intelligence; that unconditional altruism can serve as an honest signal of intelligence. They believe that their findings imply that altruistic behavior can be distinguished from cooperative behavior.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Breakfast and Chronic Disease

Eric Rimm, senior author of a study related to breakfast and coronary heart disease and associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, said, “It’s a really simple message. Breakfast is an important meal.” And Leah Cahill, postdoctoral research fellow in HSPH’s Department of Nutrition, was quoted as saying: “Skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time.” This study corroborated other studies that have pointed to a link between breakfast and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other health problems seen as precursors to heart problems. As my favorite aunt would likely have put it: “Eat a good breakfast already!” I do.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Breakfast and Energy

Prevailing wisdom has been that a failure to eat breakfast can result in a 40 percent loss of energy by noon. That’s not all. In a study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), researchers found that men who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who ate a morning meal. Non-breakfast-eaters were generally hungrier later in the day and ate more food at night, perhaps contributing to metabolic changes and heart disease. The scientists analyzed food questionnaire data and health outcomes from 1992-2008 on 26,902 male health professionals, ages 45-82. During the study, 1,572 of the men had cardiac events. Even after accounting for diet, physical activity, smoking, and other lifestyle factors, the association between skipping breakfast and heart disease persisted.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Breakfast and Brain Function

I sometimes am asked questions about whether or not eating breakfast is important. Frequently asked that, actually. There are, of course, opinions on both sides of the question. My brain's opinion is that breakfast is critically important for your brain. Breaking the fast from sleeping (unless you get up and snack at night!) boots up the brain much like you boot up a computer. Bogy cells can generate energy from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates; not so with brain cells. Glucose from carbs is the preferred source (if not the only) of fuel that the brain cells can use. Due  to its rapidmetabolism, the brain requires minute-to-minute glucose. For example, glucose levels decline more during a period of intense cognitive processing. Studies in all types of people have shown improved mental ability following a carbohydrate meal. But what type of carbs? Healthier ones, of course, Carbs that are eaten in as natural state as possible and that are relatively low on the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load lists. Those recommended in a Longevity Lifestyle.

(Nedley, Neil, M.D. Proof Positive; Brand-Miller, Jennie, PhD, Thomas M. S. Wolever, MD, PhD, et al. The New Glucose Revolution)