May 2014 Blog with Durk and Sandy
by Jamie Riedeman on May 30, 2014
I am an advocate of paper money, but that paper money must represent what it professes on its face. I do not wish to hold in my hands the printed lies of government. He who controls the money supply of a nation controls the nation.
— James A. Garfield, twentieth U. S. President
If I owe you a pound, I have a problem; but if I owe you a million, the problem is yours.
— John Maynard Keynes
The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.
— Julia Child
Just taught my kids about taxes by eating 38% of their ice cream.
— Conan O’Brien
Treason doth never prosper, what’s the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it Treason.
— Sir John Harington, Epigrams (1603)
(with thanks to Eugene Kontorovich,
posted 15 Dec. 2013 in The Volokh Conspiracy)
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
— Robert Heinlein
And This Vitally Important News Item
Reported in the Yahoo News (12/15/13)
We have now learned why certain evil characters (such as Gollum, Smaug, and an orc) in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit were all losers in their battles with humans, elves, and dwarves: they had a severe vitamin deficiency! Yes, they were felled as a result of a vitamin D deficiency, thus answering a longstanding question concerning how such powerful evil characters could have been such overwhelming losers.
As reported in the Christmas edition of the Medical Journal Of Australia, Nicholas Hopkinson, a doctor at Imperial College London and his son Joseph studied the diet, living conditions, and habitat of the characters in The Hobbit and made the Earth-shaking discovery that the evil characters were all living in the dark, with poor diets and hence were deficient in vitamin D. Meanwhile, the hobbit diet was varied, with plenty of vitamin D, and although Bilbo lived in a hole, he liked sitting in a sunny window as well as gardening, getting plenty of exposure to the sun.
The lesson to be derived from this story, according to the doctor and his son, was that the triumph of good over evil could be explained to some extent by the evil characters’ poor diet and lack of exposure to sunlight. Ah, so now we know!!
New Record of –135.8 degrees F Set
For Coldest Temperature on Earth
This news of lowest temperature recorded was measured by satellite in Antarctica and reported by the Associated Press on Dec. 9, 2013. The AP news report explains that this temperature will not appear in the Guinness Book of World Recordsbecause it wasn’t measured by a thermometer at ground level. The AP reporter noted correctly that the occurrence of a single temperature wouldn’t be enough to either support or disprove global warming. However, it’s been cold for a while in Antarctica. According to the AP report, the old cold record was –128.6 set at Russia’s Vostok Station in Antarctica in 1983. Then a new record was set in August 2010 when it reached –135.8 at a new location. In July 31, 2013, the temperature was recorded as –135.3 at another location fairly close to the location of the temperature recorded in August 2010. And now we have another record, –135.8. See the map of Antarctica with the locations of the record cold temperatures at www.nbcnews.com/science/now-thats-c-c-c-cold-antarctica ...
REWARDS TRIGGER BIGGER LEARNING RESPONSE WITH GREEN TEA
Monetary Incentive-Induced Reward Learning Enhanced, Depressive Symptoms Decreased in Human Pilot Study
The results of a recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 74 human subjects suggest that it might be a good idea to offer your employees (if you have them) free green tea to enhance their response to incentives such as raises or bonuses. The study1 found that participants receiving green tea for 5 weeks had improved reward learning (decreasing the reaction time in a monetary incentive delay task) compared to those receiving a placebo. Plus, the subjects showed improved mood scores on a measure of depressive symptoms.
Impairment of reward learning is associated with depression. Receiving a raise or bonus or similar incentive is not going to provide a rewarding boost to mood when depression has reduced your ability to respond to rewards (a state called anhedonia). Thus, the results of this study might be of particular interest to entrepreneurs trying to find ways to increase the rewarding effect of monetary incentives. The incentive trials allowed participants to earn money or to avoid losing money by pressing a button during the presentation of a cue (shown for a period of 4.5 to 9.5 seconds). The reaction time (time to push the button following the presentation of the cue) was taken as a measure of depression when response time was retarded.
The results showed significantly enhanced reward learning (faster response to the cue indicating an available reward) in those receiving the green tea. The tea was administered as 400 mg of green tea powder dissolved in hot water three times a day (one serving 30 minutes after each of three meals) and contained 45.6% of polyphenols as EGCG.
In discussing the mechanisms that might be responsible for the improvement in reward learning, the authors note that dopamine deficiency has been proposed as an important cause of anhedonia, an individual’s loss of response to rewarding stimuli in depression. “The mesolimbic and nigrostriatal DA [dopamine] system appears to be related primarily to reward system function and responsiveness to the environment.”1 “It has been reported that the active component of green tea, EGCG, inhibited psychostimulants-induced hyperactivity in part by modulating dopaminergic transmission.”1 “A recent study showed that green tea extract treatment can reduce hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis hyperactivity in response to stress in mice.”1 (See “Would You Like To Enjoy Life More?” in the March 2014 issue of Life Enhancement.)
Effects of EGCG on Brain Activity and Mood
Another recent paper2 reports on potential benefits of the green tea polyphenol EGCG on brain activity and mood. They refer to an earlier study showing a modest but significant association between green tea consumption and lower psychological distress. Green tea, of course, contains considerable amounts of EGCG but also other components that could have effects on psychological distress, such as theanine and caffeine.
In this human study, there were 31 volunteers (mean age 27.74 years, SD (standard deviation) 9.28, with 12 males and 19 females). This was, therefore, a small study but the researchers measured a number of interesting parameters that are not generally included in studies of mood, specifically EEG data that included theta, alpha, and beta activity. The treatment (with placebo controls) consisted of 300 mg of Teavigo,® a caffeine-free purified and refined extract of Camelia sinensis (tea) that consisted of approximately 94% EGCG and 6% vitamin C (in the form of ascorbyl palmitate). The researchers note that the results of testing for cognitive and cardiovascular functioning was to be published elsewhere, while this paper reports on mood and resting state EEG.
The EGCG treatment was reported to significantly increase calmness and reduce stress as assessed by the Bond-Lader mood scale. More interestingly, compared with placebo, “EGCG administration was associated with a significant overall increase in alpha, beta, and theta activity (data not shown) more dominant in midline frontal and central regions.”2 The data were summarized in Figure 1b of the paper.
The researchers state that: “Previously an increase in both alpha and theta activity has been observed during non-directed meditation …” and they speculate that, “the changes in these same waveforms in the EGCG condition may reflect a relaxed yet attentive state due to the intervention.” (Keep in mind that this is speculative. Moreover, the EGCG was combined with ascorbyl palmitate and it has been reported that vitamin C increases the bioavailability of EGCG.3)
EGCG INHIBITS AMYLOID BETA-INDUCED COGNITIVE DYSFUNCTION
Mechanisms Identified for Protective Effect of EGCG Against Cognitive Dysfunction Resulting from Amyloid Beta Buildup As Occurs in Alzheimer’s
A recent study of a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease4 reports that mice pretreated with EGCG for three weeks before receiving intracerebroventricular administration of amyloid beta had reduced toxic effects as compared to animals receiving the amyloid beta but not being pretreated with EGCG. The authors suggest, on the basis of their data, that, “EGCG may be a beneficial agent in the prevention of development or progression of AD [Alzheimer’s disease].”4
The mice receiving EGCG were given doses of 1.5 or 3 mg/kg body weight in their drinking water.
One of the measures of cognition used by the authors was the Morris water maze test, where treatment with amyloid beta resulted in significantly slower arrival times at the platform location (where the mice escaped the need to continually tread water), whereas pretreatment with EGCG (either dose) significantly inhibited the effects of amyloid beta on escape latencies.
The apoptotic death of neurons induced by amyloid beta was reported to be prevented by pretreatment with EGCG. The researchers explain that activation of MAP kinase and NFkappaB as well as the activation of alpha, beta, and gamma-secretase are implicated as causes of amyloid beta-induced neuronal cell apoptosis and that pretreatment with EGCG significantly inhibited the expression of these molecules. Other mechanisms were discussed in the paper.
EGCG Suppresses Gluconeogenesis in Liver Cells, Protecting Against Major Pathway Leading to Excess Blood Sugar in Type 2 Diabetes
Failure of feedback mechanisms to inhibit gluconeogenesis in the liver (eating is supposed to shut down gluconeogenesis, as glucose derived from food acts as a negative feedback signal) is a major reason for excess blood sugar in type 2 diabetics. The release of GLP-1 (glucagon like peptide 1) is a molecule involved in the feedback inhibition of eating to tell liver cells to stop gluconeogenesis. In a fairly recent paper,5researchers were able to show in mouse liver cells that EGCG suppressed gluconeogenesis by activating 5’-AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an important regulator of energy metabolism that responds to eating by (for one thing) suppressing gluconeogenesis. (The authors point out that the activation of AMPK is associated with EGCG-induced apoptosis in cancer cells, but that is another story.)
The results of this study suggest that EGCG could, as the authors note in their summary (last paragraph in the paper), point to a new therapeutic approach for the management of diabetes.5
- Zhang et al. Effect of green tea on reward learning in healthy individuals: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. Nutr J. 12:84 (2013).
- Scholey et al. Acute neurocognitive effects of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Appetite. 58:767-70 (2012).
- Green et al. Common tea formulations modulate in vitro digestive recovery of green tea catechins. Mol Nutr Food Res. 51:1152-62 (2007).
- Lee et al. Green tea (-)-Epigallocatechin-3-gallate inhibits beta-amyloid-induced cognitive dysfunction through modification of secretase activity via inhibition of ERK and NFkappaB pathways in mice. J Nutr. 139:1987-93 (2009).
- Collins et al. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a green tea polyphenol, suppresses hepatic gluconeogenesis through 5’-AMP-activated protein kinase. J Biol Chem. 282(41):30143-9 (2007).
HYDROGEN POWER UPDATE:
HYDROGEN DOSE-RESPONSE RELATIONSHIP
Gastric mucosal damage induced by aspirin or other NSAIDS (non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen) is a frequent side effect of these pain killers. Using the aspirin gastric mucosal injury as a model in rats of these effects in humans to study how hydrogen is able to provide protection was reported in a new study.1 At the same time, the researchers investigated whether there is a dose-response relationship for hydrogen in its protective effects against gastric mucosal injury and why a dose-response relationship has not been observed in other studies of hydrogen’s protective effects, as seen in cerebral infarction (stroke), ischemia/reperfusion, metabolic syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and other human diseases and disease models.1
With respect to the dose-response relationship, the scientists observed such a relationship in the stomach, but not in the serum which suggests, they believe, that “a dose response effect exists when hydrogen interacts directly with the tissue, but a high dose of hydrogen may not increase the beneficial effects in target organs via blood transportation.” Apparently, the hydrogen reaches the stomach at a certain concentration but that after leaving the stomach, it is diffused through the body’s tissues and also excreted rapidly, thus the concentration available to other tissues is much lower than in the stomach. The amount of hydrogen was adequate, however, to alkalize the water which inhibited increased urinary excretion of minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
The scientists observed that hydrogen protected against aspirin-induced gastric mucosal injury in a dose-dependent manner.
- Xue et al. Dose-dependent inhibition of gastric injury by hydrogen in alkaline electrolyzed drinking water. BMC Complement Altern Med. 14:81 (2014).
DO BIRDS LOOK AT THE FUTURE WITH ROSE-COLORED GLASSES?
A Recent Study Cleverly Shows How Excessive Optimism Bias Works in Birds
The recognition that people are prone to an optimism bias, expecting more positive outcomes than what objective data would suggest, resulted in a fascinating study of certain birds that was described in The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain by Tali Sharot (a scientist who has done considerable original research in this field), Pantheon Books, 2011.
In this experiment,1 the researchers wanted to see whether birds would have an optimism bias like people often do. Naturally it required a cleverly designed experiment since they couldn’t just ASK the birds. They got the information by this ingenious approach: They trained birds to press a blue lever whenever they heard a short tone (2 seconds) and the birds would receive an immediate food reward after pressing the blue lever. They also trained the birds to press a red lever when they heard a long tone (10 seconds), which would result in a food reward following a delay. The birds were not happy waiting for the food during the delay and associated the long tone with a negative outcome.
The birds had to get their response right. If they pressed the wrong lever, they didn’t get any food. The big question was how the birds would respond to a tone that was neither short nor long but ambiguously somewhere in the middle. The researchers wondered whether they would be “optimistic” by pressing the blue lever or “pessimistic” by pressing the red lever. In fact, the ambiguous tone tended to result in the birds pressing the blue lever, in the absence of anything that would tell them what the outcome would be. And, the real eye opener was that only birds living in the larger, cleaner cages with toys and continuous reliable access to food, water, and baths were “optimistic.” Birds living in smaller, less clean cages with unreliable access to these comforts tended to be more “realistic” and to have more accurate expectations. The researchers interpreted this as a “depressive realism” derived from living in more difficult conditions
The experiment very skillfully permitted the researchers to perceive the birds’ future expectations and how remarkably similar to the human optimism bias it was. We can extrapolate from that to the unrealistically optimistic view of government programs that we so frequently see inexplicably (it would seem) from those with higher incomes and educational attainment. The larger houses with the enriched environments that such people live in appears to have a similar effect (excessively optimistic bias) to that of the birds living in the larger, more enriched cages.
- pp. 37 & 38, book cited above. Original study: Matheson, Asher, and Bateson. Larger, enriched cages are associated with ‘optimistic’ response biases in captive European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Appl Anim Behav Sci. 109:374-83 (2008).
LATEST TASTY/EASY TO MAKE
NUTRITIOUS MEAL FROM SANDY’S KITCHEN.
TUNA AND CHERRY TOMATO FRITTATA
This is a really tasty, REALLY easy/fast to make meal, great for lunch or dinner. Add mushrooms, cheese, or pine nuts (for example) for fun variations.
- A largish skillet
- 5 eggs
- 1½ tbsp. mustard, your choice of styles
- 2 tbsp cream
- A little salt to taste
- 1 tbsp butter/olive oil combination for cooking
- 2 cans of 5 oz. tuna each (dark tuna has higher content of healthful omega-3 fatty acids), drained
- About ½ pound of cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
- 6 tbsp sliced or chopped green olives
- 5 scallions, cut into rings
- 2 tbsp. capers
Beat eggs, mustard, and cream together; add a little salt.
Melt the butter/olive oil combo in your skillet and set the heat level on low. Pour in the egg mixture and cover with the sliced cherry tomatoes. Cook uncovered on low for about 25 minutes until the top has set.
About 12 minutes from the end of the cooking period, spread the tuna over the top, along with the olives, scallion rings, capers, and any other toppings.
Cover the skillet and cook over low for the remaining 12 minutes. Remove and eat at once! CAUTION: You may find that you have made too little! This makes a great party food.)
This recipe is based on one Sandy found in My Favourite Ingredient: TUNA by Thea Spierings, Miller Books, 2008. Sadly, she didn’t find any others that sounded nearly as good or as easy to make but it was worth getting the cookbook for that one recipe alone as we will be having it frequently.