Why You Should Eat Popcorn with Chopsticks

Robert W. Smith and Ed O’Brien wrote . . . . . . . . .

It happens fast. You crack open a bottle of your favorite drink and put it to your lips. The delicious flavor is nearly overwhelming. But a minute later, you’re barely noticing the taste as you drink it.

Or you buy a new car and think it will make you smile every time you drive it for years. But a month later, that sensation is gone. Now it’s just a car.

This satiation, known as hedonic adaptation, occurs for nearly everything that makes us happy. Look around and think of how much you initially enjoyed the things that surround you. Then think about how much you enjoy them today.

Wouldn’t it be great to get some of that initial enjoyment back?

In a series of studies soon to be published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, we found that consuming things in unconventional ways enhances enjoyment of them.

This is where chopsticks come in.

The art of paying attention

In one study, we asked 68 participants to eat some popcorn. While half were told to eat the normal way, one kernel at a time, the rest used chopsticks. We found that those who ate with chopsticks enjoyed the popcorn a lot more than the others, even though both groups were told to eat at the same slow pace.

This is because of something well-known to psychologists: When something seems new, people pay more attention to it. And when people pay more attention to something enjoyable, they tend to enjoy it more.

This is why many people seek so much variety in what they consume. We buy something and use it for a while until it becomes familiar and mundane, then we buy something else thinking it will make us happy. Unfortunately, this replacement is costly, and, in cases such as houses and spouses, sometimes a very extreme option in response to unavoidable familiarity.

Our research suggests another option: Instead of replacing something once you get sick of it, try consuming it or interacting with it in unconventional ways.

Make each sip count

In another experiment, we studied 300 people as they consumed water.

First, we asked participants to come up with their own unconventional ways to consume water. Their responses ranged from drinking out of a martini glass or travel mug to lapping it up like a cat. One even suggested drinking water out of a shipping envelope.

They were then told to take five sips of water and rate their enjoyment after each drink. A third did so in the normal way, another third sipped using one of their own randomly chosen unconventional methods over and over and the rest used a different unconventional method for each sip.

We found that people who drank water in a different way every time enjoyed their water the most – with even bigger boosts toward the end of the taste test. In other words, their enjoyment did not decline over time. While everyone else enjoyed the water less for each sip, those who drank it in different ways did not show this usual pattern of declining enjoyment.

This presents a rare solution to the nearly universal phenomenon of satiation, or the declining enjoyment that comes with familiarity. As long as you can find new and interesting ways to interact with something, you may never grow tired of it.

Business opportunities

This idea isn’t entirely novel, of course. Many companies are already taking advantage of this concept to provide more enjoyable experiences for customers.

Restaurants exist where diners eat while lying in beds, while hovering in the sky and off of naked models. There is even a restaurant where diners eat naked.

The Reddit page WeWantPlates presents a rich catalog of the many creative and confusing ways that restaurants serve their customers food, from nachos in a sink to ravioli on a washing line.

While there is no limit to the different ways to present the same old thing, at some point the novelty usually wears off. Our research suggests this is a missed opportunity for businesses to offer more variety in how a single food is consumed.

For example, when people eat a few slices of pizza at a restaurant, they typically consume them all in the same way. It’s a problem if people enjoy their last slice less because of satiation, because our memory for experiences is shaped heavily by what happened at the end.

Rather than turning off all the lights to make dining more enjoyable, as in the dark-dining trend, pizza parlors could encourage their customers to eat each slice in a different way, such as normally, folded in half, backwards, with a fork and knife, with chopsticks or while blindfolded. If they did, we believe they would likely find that their customers enjoy their last slice as much as the first.

The bottom line is that variety is the spice of life, not just in what we do but also how we do it. Knowing this can help both businesses and customers maximize enjoyment.

Source : The Conversation

Spanish-style Hearty Soup


1 lb gammon, in one piece
2 bay leaves
2 onions, sliced
2 tsp paprika
1-1/2 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
8 oz spring greens
15 oz can haricot or
cannellini beans, drained
salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Soak the gammon overnight in cold water. Drain and put into a large saucepan with the bay leaves and onions. Pour over 6-1/4 cups fresh cold water.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer very gently for about 1-1/2 hours, until the meat is tender. Keep an eye on the pan to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
  3. Drain the meat, reserving the cooking liquid, and cool slightly. Discard the skin and any excess fat from the meat and cut into chunks.
  4. Return to the pan with the reserved cooking liquid, the paprika and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  5. Cut away the cores from the greens. Roll up the leaves and cut into thin shreds. Add to the pan with the beans and simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: The Best of Spain

Italy’s Osteria Francescana Crowned World’s Best Restaurant Again

Italy’s Osteria Francescana was crowned the world’s best restaurant for the second time on Tuesday at an awards ceremony put on by British trade magazine Restaurant, beating out top eateries in Spain and France.

Run by chef Massimo Bottura, the restaurant in Modena, Italy pipped last year’s winner, New York’s “Eleven Madison Park,” in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, after first taking the honour in 2016. It is the only Italian establishment to have won the annual accolade.

“This is amazing, this is something we built all together,” Bottura told the awards ceremony held in Bilbao in Spain’s northern Basque Country, famous for its avant-garde haute cuisine.

“I am going to use this spotlight to show that chefs in 2018 are much more than the sum of their recipes.”

The top restaurants list’s organisers praised “Bottura’s contemporary cuisine, which challenges and reinvents Italian culinary tradition while make use of the finest produce from the Emilia-Romagna region.”

His father wanted him to become a lawyer but when he was 23-years-old Bottura, who was famous for rustling up culinary delights for his friends, dropped his law studies to open a Trattoria in Campazzo, in the countryside around Modena in the Po River Valley.

On his days off, he would study with French chef Georges Cogny, who had a restaurant two hours away.

“He said to me: ‘always follow your palate, because you have a great palate which will make Modena known around the world’,” Bottura said during an interview with AFP in 2016.

He opened Osteria Francescana in 1995 after spending time in New York and Monaco.

Two Peruvians in top 10

Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca, which took the top honour in 2013 and 2015, came in second while third place went to Mirazur in southern France.

Restaurant magazine, owned by William Reed Media, launched the awards in 2002 and they are now as coveted by restaurants as Michelin stars, although the methodology used to select the best restaurants has faced criticism, especially from several French chefs who say it remains unclear.

There are no criteria for putting a restaurant on the list, which is based on an anonymous poll of more than 1,000 chefs, restaurant owners, food critics and other industry insiders from around the world.

Each member gets 10 votes and at least four of those votes have to go to restaurants outside their region.

The top 10 included two Peruvian restaurants, “Central” which slipped to number six from fifth place last year, and “Maido” which climbed to number seven from eighth place.

The only Asian restaurant in the top 10 was Bangkok’s “Gaggan”, whose owner-chef Gaggan Anand has won praise for his modern spin on his native Indian cuisine.

Half in Europe

Spain continued to dominate the line-up with three restaurants in the top 10, including El Celler de Can Roca, while France had two including Mirazur.

The 2018 list of 50 best restaurants included eateries in 22 countries — but over half were in Europe. Six are in the United States, six in Latin America and six in Asia.

Tuesday’s ceremony also handed out individual chef awards.

Britain’s Clare Smyth, who catered the dinner at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last month, was named best female chef and France’s Cedric Grolet best pastry chef.

Peru’s celebrity chef Gaston Acurio, who is known for combining classic European techniques with typical ingredients from the Andean country, was given a lifetime achievement award.

The top restaurant award has gone to Spain seven times, the most of any country. In addition to El Celler de Can Roca’s two wins, ground-breaking Spanish chef Ferran Adria’s El Bulli, which he closed in 2011, took the prize a record five times.

This year was the first time the ceremony was held in Spain. The event has been held before in London, New York and Melbourne.

Source: NDTV

That Huge Mediterranean Diet Study Was Flawed and Re-analysed

Gina Kolata wrote . . . . . . .

The study was a landmark, one of the few attempts to rigorously evaluate a particular diet. And the results were striking: A Mediterranean diet, with abundant vegetables and fruit, can slash the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

But now that trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013, has come under fire. The authors retracted their original paper on Wednesday and published an unusual “re-analysis” of their data in the same journal.

Despite serious problems in the way the study was conducted, their conclusions are the same: A Mediterranean diet can cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by about 30 percent in those at high risk.

Not everyone is convinced. “Nothing they have done in this re-analyzed paper makes me more confident,” said Dr. Barnett Kramer, director of the division of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute.

For decades, researchers have noted that people living in some Mediterranean countries have lower rates of heart disease and cancer. Scientists have long suspected that the regional diet — rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil, with moderate levels of fat — played a protective role.

But the idea has been hard to prove. It is very difficult to test any diet in a clinical trial. Participants may be reluctant to stick to the prescribed meal plan, for instance, and it can be difficult to monitor them over months or years.

The original study was conducted in Spain by Dr. Miguel A. Martínez-González of the University of Navarra and his colleagues. The trial enrolled 7,447 participants aged 55 to 80 who were assigned one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet with at least four tablespoons a day of extra virgin olive oil; the same diet with an ounce of mixed nuts; or a traditional low-fat diet.

The participants were followed for a median of nearly five years. Dr. Martínez-González and his colleagues reported that there were fewer cardiovascular events in the groups consuming olive oil and nuts.

But last year Dr. Martínez-González found his study on a list of clinical trials whose data seemed suspect, compiled by Dr. John Carlisle of Torbay Hospital in England.

“That was the first hint that there could have been some imperfection,” Dr. Martínez-González said in an interview.

A statistician at the New England Journal of Medicine suggested the researchers look at the methods at each center that recruited participants.

The idea of a randomized trial is to assign treatments — in this case, diets — to participants with the statistical equivalent of a coin toss. That way, the groups being compared should be equivalent, with no group healthier or sicker, or older or younger, than another on average.

If subjects are not assigned at random, the investigators cannot be sure that the effects they see result from the treatment. And attempts to correct statistically after the fact are fraught with difficulty.

On re-evaluating their data, the scientists running the Mediterranean diet study soon found what Dr. Martínez-González said were “small problems affecting 10 percent of participants.”

Some investigators would assign one person in a household — the wife, for example — to one arm of the study — say, to the group consuming olive oil. Then they would ask other members of the household to share that diet, including them as though they had been randomly assigned to it.

“We realized we had never reported that,” Dr. Martínez-González said.

An omission like that erodes the randomized nature of the trial. Family members are likely to share more than just a diet: If a husband and wife both dodge heart disease, it’s difficult to say that their diet is the only reason.

In their re-analysis, the investigators statistically adjusted data on 390 people who happened to be household members but whose diets were not randomly assigned.

Then the investigators discovered another problem.

A researcher at one of the 11 clinical centers in the trial worked in small villages. Participants there complained that some neighbors were receiving free olive oil, while they got only nuts or inexpensive gifts.

So the investigator decided to give everyone in each village the same diet. He never told the leaders of the study what he had done.

“He did not think it was important,” Dr. Martínez-González said.

But the decision meant that participants were not truly randomized and forced Dr. Martínez-González and his colleagues to make another statistical adjustment to data on 652 people in the trial.

The investigators spent a year working on the re-analysis in collaboration with Dr. Miguel Hernan of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In the end, they concluded that the original findings were still accurate.

“You cannot imagine what it has been like,” Dr. Martínez-González said, adding that he and his team worked through vacations and weekends — and swallowed considerable professional embarrassment.

Randomized trials are difficult, other experts agreed, and randomized diet studies so perilous they are seldom attempted.

“These people were naïve,” said Donald Berry, a statistician at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “They were sloppy and didn’t know they were being sloppy.”

Dr. Berry said he wants to believe the results. He loves nuts and has taken to cooking with extra virgin olive oil.

But he remains unconvinced, because the re-analysis did not solve the study’s problems, he said.

Dr. Bradley Efron, a statistics professor at Stanford University, also was skeptical. The revamped results “wouldn’t convince me to be on a Mediterranean diet,” he said.

But Dr. Steven Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, is persuaded and plans to continue advising patients to go on the Mediterranean diet.

When the initial paper was published, he said, “I was thrilled to see what seemed to be an impeccable trial.”

Although it was “sobering” to learn of the errors, “I was reassured that the conclusions are correct,” he said.

Source: The New York Times

Reduce Weight, Reduce the Arthritic Knee Pain

Many aging Americans are both overweight and burdened by arthritis of the knees.

New research shows that shedding those excess pounds can mean shedding joint pain, too.

“This study adds to the evidence that weight loss is one of the few truly effective nonsurgical measures to reduce pain and improve function in overweight patients with knee osteoarthritis,” noted Dr. Matthew Hepinstall, a joint specialist who wasn’t involved in the new research.

“As an orthopedic surgeon treating several hundred patients per year with knee osteoarthritis, I see the detrimental effects of excess body weight on a daily basis,” said Hepinstall, associate director of the Center for Joint Preservation & Reconstruction at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

It’s estimated that more than 250 million adults worldwide have knee osteoarthritis, a gradual deterioration of the joint. The new study was led by Stephen Messier of Wake Forest University and published June 18 in Arthritis Care & Research.

In earlier research, Messier’s team found that weight loss of 10 percent or more over 18 months led to a 50 percent reduction in pain and significant improvements in mobility for people with arthritic knees.

The new study found greater weight loss led to better outcomes for those overweight or obese patients with knee osteoarthritis. In analyzing the data on 240 such patients, the researchers report that a weight loss of 20 percent or more led to an additional 25 percent reduction in pain. The patients also had continued improvements in physical function, compared to people who dropped only 10 percent of their weight over the study period.

The more weight the person lost, the better they fared in terms of discomfort, overall function, the distance they were able to walk in six minutes, and their physical and mental health-related quality of life. Two measurements of knee health — joint compression force and levels of an inflammatory marker called IL-6 — also improved as patients shed excess pounds.

“A 10 percent weight loss is the established target recommended by the National Institutes of Health as an initial weight loss for overweight and obese adults,” Messier noted in a journal news release. “The importance of our study is that a weight loss of 20 percent or greater — double the previous standard — results in better clinical outcomes, and is achievable without surgical or pharmacologic intervention.”

Hepinstall acknowledged that “weight loss is easy for physicians to recommend but hard for patients to accomplish.”

He added, “This study reinforces the message that the typical results of weight loss are beneficial enough to justify the effort required in patients with knee osteoarthritis.”

HealthDay . . . . .

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