Why Do We Eat Food That We Know We Shouldn’t?

Morgan Hines wrote . . . . . . . . .

I’m lactose intolerant and I know I should keep an eye on my cholesterol, but neither of these factors stop me from picking at a cheese board or ordering ice cream for dessert.

I’m aware while I am eating that my choices aren’t benefiting future me. I never feel good after, yet I keep repeating the cycle.

I don’t know why I keep doing it. I often swear that I’ll stop. “No more cheese,” I say to myself, or, “I’ll stay away from sugar.” But somehow, even with the restraints I put on myself, I still want what I “shouldn’t” have – sometimes even more.

I’m not the only one who struggles with this. When I shared my problems with this decision-making process on Twitter, several users replied with their own stories about foods they consume despite being better off staying away from them.

Zach Honig wrote that even though he knows he’s susceptible to gout, he still indulges in red wine, rich foods and beer. “I just deal with the gout attacks from time to time.”

Like me, Victoria M. Walker refuses to give up dairy. And @ACHolliday replied that they have cysts and aren’t supposed to drink coffee, but sometimes they still do because it provides “comfort”.

Sean Devlin added that food helps to get through the “slog” of the daily grind. Another user, @pablopaycheck, said they choose to eat foods that maybe they shouldn’t “Because yoloooooo”, meaning because you only live once.

Why do we keep choosing foods that we shouldn’t?

The answer isn’t clear cut. There are a variety of reasons we choose to eat what we eat that depend on the individual, their circumstances and other factors.

There’s a spectrum when it comes to healthfulness and food. All foods can fit into a healthy diet, says David Creel, a psychologist and registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute in the US.

But there are less healthy foods that we choose to consume even when we can foresee negative consequences like stomachaches or higher cholesterol levels, down the line.

“Some people actually think about it – they might [perform a mental] cost-benefit analysis … ‘What am I going to get from this? What does it cost me?’ and they make a decision based on that,” Creel says.

But that’s not how everyone’s brain works. For others, habit plays into the decisions they make. “A lot of people, they just kind of do what’s familiar to them, and they don’t do it with a lot of thought.”

What happens in the brain when we choose to eat something? Two areas are stimulated during the eating process.

“We know from people who do brain research that there tends to be two different drivers: liking food when we eat it – our brain responds and we can see that through imaging – and there’s also a ‘wanting’ piece,” Creel says.

Both are important. If someone is having a craving, that’s a “wanting” experience. It’s similar to when someone who smokes is asked if they like to smoke. They may not “like” to, but they do crave a cigarette. Certain emotional states may cause you to crave specific foods, too.

The “liking” experience comes after eating or experiencing a food. Sometimes, liking and wanting feed into each other, but they happen in different areas of the brain, Creel explains.

The physiology of how we decide what we want to eat is complex. It also varies based on who is making the choices.

So, what are some of the factors that play into the way we choose food if we aren’t actively assessing what the outcome of our eating decisions will be?

Foods that taste good and seem “fun” are appealing to us.

“The reason we consume those things that we shouldn’t for whatever reason is typically driven by taste or flavour,” says Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, in the UK.

“It’s hard to resist the temptation of the sugar, or the salt or the fat.”

And part of why foods taste good is based on the associations we make with those foods.

“I ask my patients a lot: ‘What would you describe as a fun food?’ And things like pizza, or ice cream or cake, they come up,” Creel says.

Another association might be how comfort foods are identified. Creel associates home-made buttermilk biscuits with his grandmother. Conditioning from our upbringing contributes to how we associate food and when we want it.

So, it might not even be the food’s flavour or taste that appeals to us as much as the association we make with the food, Creel says.

Spence says that, as humans, we tend to prioritise what happens in the present over anything likely to happen in the future. People “might be drawn more to the reward of those … typically great-tasting foods in the moment because we weigh that more heavily,” he explains.

How we choose what we consume also has to do with human history and evolution, according to Spence. The human brain, he says, will pay more attention to foods that are energy-dense, with extra attention to those high in fat.

We’re evolved, he supposes, to find those foods attractive because at one point they were essential to survival.

Long ago, perhaps people were struggling to find sufficient food. But now, many of us live in a “food-rich environment”, Spence continues, explaining that some of the foods are more energy-dense than we need now.

“The brain evolved for feeding, foraging and fornicating,” he says, noting we all find it hard to override what he calls “ancient urges”.

Creel says he often encourages patients he sees to pause before taking action and consider their choice – not to see anything as “forbidden” but as two options that could have different outcomes.

“If you tell yourself ‘I should have one thing’ and ‘I shouldn’t have another thing’, it kind of sets us up to not do well,” he explains.

For example, if we say to ourselves “I should have an apple” and “I should not have cake”, you either eat the apple and feel like you missed out on the cake, or eat the cake and feel guilty because you didn’t eat the apple.

But if you look at these choices while weighing the outcomes, your actions will likely be different.

Changing “shoulds” to “coulds” gives you freedom to make the decision while removing any guilt, Creel says.

So, if you “could” have an apple or you “could” have cake, your decision might look more like this: you could choose to eat an apple that you think you will enjoy, or you could choose to enjoy the cake because it’s your favourite kind – and you don’t have guilt because you consciously came to the conclusion that eating the cake was worth it.

Making mindful decisions doesn’t just eliminate guilt. Creel says that it may also lead you to avoid less healthy choices.

Being mindful can enhance the enjoyment of all kinds of foods, he says.

“I think it can really help on both sides of the equation – it can be helpful to not over-consume unhealthy foods, and can help promote the consumption of healthier foods.”

Source : SCMP






How Gordon Ramsay’s Lamb Slaughter Joke Explains Our Confusing Relationship with Meat

Kenny Torrella wrote . . . . . . . . .

Several months ago, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay posted a TikTok video of himself climbing into a pen of lambs, saying, “I’m going to eat you!” He rubbed his hands together while saying “yummy, yum, yum, yum” and asked, “Which one’s going in the oven first?” He pointed at one lamb, said, “you,” and then exclaimed that it was “oven time.”

The cheeky video elicited plenty of laugh-cry emojis and comments from fans in on the joke (in 2006, Ramsay asked a contestant on his “Hell’s Kitchen” TV show for lamb sauce, which became a meme). But many commenters were also disturbed, saying the video was sad, that Ramsay had lost it, or that they had lost respect for Ramsay because of his seeming callousness toward cute little lambs.

The video and the reactions it sparked are a stark example of what psychologists have dubbed “the meat paradox”: the mental dissonance caused by our empathy for animals and our desire to eat them.

Australian psychologists Steve Loughnan, Nick Haslam, and Brock Bastian coined the term in 2010, defining it as the “psychological conflict between people’s dietary preference for meat and their moral response to animal suffering.” We empathize with animals — after all, we are animals ourselves — but we’re also hardwired to seek calorie-dense, energy-rich foods. And for most of human history, that meant meat.

Want to eat less meat but don’t know where to start? Sign up for Vox’s five-day newsletter full of practical tips — and food for thought — to incorporate more plant-based food into your diet.

When faced with that dissonance, we try to resolve it in a number of ways. We downplay animals’ sentience or make light of their slaughter (as Ramsay did), we misreport our eating habits (or dismiss personal responsibility altogether), or we judge others’ behavior so as to claim the moral high ground, as some of Ramsay’s commenters did (even if they likely eat meat themselves).

But the meat paradox doesn’t just flare up when it’s at play in pop culture; it’s a feature of our everyday lives, whether or not we pay any mind to it.

Almost one in four American adults tells pollsters they’re cutting back on their meat intake — while the country sets new records for per capita meat consumption. We abhor the treatment of animals on factory farms, where 99 percent of meat in the US is produced, yet we dislike vegans. And even those of us who say we’re vegetarian or vegan are often stretching the truth.

The meat paradox is also the subject and title of a recent book by Rob Percival, head of food policy at the Soil Association, a UK-based nonprofit that advocates for organic farming practices, higher animal welfare, and lower meat consumption.

I wanted to speak to Percival because he is a walking embodiment of the meat paradox. He spends his days campaigning against industrialized animal agriculture while insisting animals should still play a role in our farming and food system, albeit a much smaller and more humane one.

Percival is quite sympathetic to the vegan cause, going so far as to call animal slaughter “murder,” but isn’t a vegan himself and doesn’t hesitate to criticize the vegan movement’s eccentricities and exaggerations. And he’s gravely worried about what will happen to the world if humanity can’t figure out how to resolve the meat paradox. The West’s meat-heavy diet is a major accelerant to the climate crisis that shows little sign of slowing, and that diet is already being exported to the rest of the world.

So in an effort to unravel the meat paradox, Percival talked to farmers, anthropologists, psychologists, and activists to better understand humanity’s messy, complicated, and millennia-deep relationship to the animals we hunt and farm for food.

The meat paradox in ourselves

Percival found that the meat paradox isn’t just a product of modern-day industrialized animal farming, but a psychological struggle that goes back to our earliest ancestors. Those animal carvings and cave paintings made tens of thousands of years ago? They may be more than mere caveman doodles.

“It’s partly speculative, but the case has been made by various scholars that these provide evidence of a ritual response to animal consumption which may well have been rooted in those dissonant emotions, that conflicted ethical sense,” Percival said. “There’s a profound moral dilemma posed by the killing and consumption of animal persons.”

But the meat paradox has intensified in the modern age. One of the founding studies of the meat paradox literature, Percival told me, was the one published by the psychologists Loughnan, Haslam, and Bastian in 2010. They gave questionnaires to two groups, and while the subjects filled in answers, one group was given cashews to snack on while the other group was given beef jerky. The surveys asked participants to rate the sentience and intelligence of cows and their moral concern for a variety of animals, such as dogs, chickens, and chimpanzees.

The participants who ate the beef jerky rated cows less sentient and less mindful — and extended their circle of moral concern to fewer animals — than the group that ate the cashews.

“The act of thinking about a cow’s mental capabilities while eating a cow had created these dissonant emotions beneath the surface, which had skewed their perception in really important ways,” Percival said.

Even exposure to strict vegetarians or vegans can elicit a “heightened commitment to pro-meat justifications,” Percival says about one study. This might explain why we see per capita meat consumption rise in tandem with rates of veganism and vegetarianism.

One of the funnier and more telling passages of the book details a meeting Percival had with Charles Way, the head of food quality assurance for KFC in the UK and Ireland. After Way tells Percival how proud he is of KFC’s animal welfare standards, Percival asks Way, “If you knew that you were going to be reborn as a chicken, would you really prefer to be born onto a farm in KFC’s supply chain, more than on any other farm in the UK?”

Way asserts the company’s standards are above the industry norm (which isn’t saying much), but then says it wouldn’t make a difference, “so no.” Percival tries again: “If you knew that you were going to be reborn as a chicken, do you think you would eat less chicken?”

By Percival’s telling, Way simply doesn’t reply.

When confronted with these dissonant emotions through reports on the harsh reality of factory farming, we try to deny them, dissociating the meat on our plate from the animal that produced it, and in doing so, denying animals of their sentience and intelligence.

We make myths to justify our relationship with animals, too. One of the more popular ones is the “ancient contract,” which goes something like this: Animals give us their meat, and in exchange, we give them domestication and thus an opportunity to evolutionarily succeed. This concept was coined by science writer Stephen Budiansky in 1989 and has been touted by food writers Michael Pollan and Barry Estabrook, as well as iconic animal welfare scientist Temple Grandin.

Pollan and Estabrook don’t condone modern-day industrial animal farming, and Estabrook says it’s a violation of this ancient contract. However, “there is a glaring deceit at the heart of our ancient contract,” Percival writes: “No individual animal has consented to the terms of the deal.”

We also use language to obscure; one study found that replacing “slaughtering” or “killing” with “harvesting” reduced dissonance, and that replacing “beef” and “pork” on restaurant menus with “cow” and “pig” generated more empathy for animals. Adding a photo of an animal next to the dish further elevated empathy, while also making vegetarian dishes more appealing to study participants.

Percival says the meat paradox can be found across cultures and time periods, and that “there is no culture in which plant foods are problematic in the same way.”

The meat paradox in our institutions

The meat paradox is just as active in our institutions as in ourselves.

Percival’s book opens with a tour of the Natural History Museum of London, where exhibits tell the story of animals’ habitat loss and the effects of climate change on wildlife. But then when you visit the museum’s restaurant, “you might be served food which directly contributed to all those crises,” Percival said. (Meat production is a leading cause of habitat loss, as large swaths of forest are cleared to grow soy and other crops to feed farmed animals.)

Eventually, the museum changed up its menu — offering plant-based dishes, higher-welfare meat, and organic foods — after a pressure campaign from Percival.

That story had a happy ending, but I worry the meat paradox will only harden in ourselves and in our institutions as meat becomes more grist for the culture war, as when some Republicans freaked out over a made-up story that the Green New Deal would result in a “burger ban.” To overcome that, Percival argues, we need to stake out a middle ground in the meat debate.

“We need progressive farmers and omnivores to be trying to defuse the tensions with vegans and animal activists, and we need the vegans who say, ‘Okay, step one is let’s phase out the industrial systems and focus on higher animal welfare,’” he told me. “And if you can get a large enough demographic to claim that middle ground, then we might see some progress.”

The middle ground is a hard place to be in an increasingly polarized world. But there are signs of progress: Whenever voters are given the choice to ban cages for hens or pigs, they vote yes, and plant-based meat has gone mainstream in recent years.

And since more bold regulation, like a meat tax, would be politically toxic right now, the change has to start with us.

“I’m not of the view that individuals can fix all this on their own or that it’s the sole responsibility of consumers to fix the food system,” Percival said. “But at the same time, I am of the view that our own choices are influential. They help set social norms. And you need that sort of mass mobilization before political change becomes viable, before you can force businesses to change.”

And to get there, we first need to reflect upon the meat paradox within ourselves, which would allow us, he said, to “see our sort of complicity and entanglements in all this and understand what it might mean to begin to disentangle ourselves.”

Changing how we eat is one of the most effective actions we can take for the climate, but it’s also one of the most personal, as evidenced by the deep-seated influence of the meat paradox. But freeing ourselves from its dissonance really could help us claw our way out of some of the crises we find ourselves in — if we’re willing to confront it.

Source: Vox





COVID-19 Vaccination — Becoming Part of the New Normal

Peter Marks, Janet Woodcock, and Robert Califf wrote . . . . . . . . .

As the US emerges from the recent Omicron surge of the COVID-19 pandemic following close to a million deaths in the country attributable to COVID-19, many people are hoping that the worst is over. Widespread vaccine- and infection-induced immunity, combined with the availability of effective therapeutics, could blunt the effects of future outbreaks. Nonetheless, it is time to accept that the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is the new normal. It will likely circulate globally for the foreseeable future, taking its place alongside other common respiratory viruses such as influenza. And it likely will require similar annual consideration for vaccine composition updates in consultation with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC). A recent meeting of the VRBPAC on April 6, 2022, resulted in a lively discussion and agreement on many considerations for planning for upcoming approaches to COVID-19 vaccine strain composition decision-making, development, and recommendations.

COVID-19 vaccines, developed and deployed in record time based on foundational scientific and clinical research conducted over the preceding decade, have conservatively saved tens of thousands of lives in the US and many more across the globe. Although data show that third doses of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines provide more durable protection against the severe outcomes of hospitalization and death, only 45% of the US population has received a third vaccine dose, including only about 68% of those older than 65 years—the individuals at greatest risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19. Because fourth doses of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were only recently authorized for those older than 50 years, it is too early to assess their effects on protection against serious outcomes of COVID-19 in the US. However, robust observational data from Israel with a large sample size showed additional protection against hospitalization and death in that population.

During this coming fall-to-winter period, 3 factors may come together to place the country’s population at risk of COVID-19, particularly those who are unvaccinated or who are not up-to-date with vaccination. These factors include (1) waning immunity from prior vaccine or prior infection, (2) further evolution of SARS-CoV-2, and (3) seasonality of respiratory virus infection, waves of which are generally more severe in the fall to winter months when individuals move their activities indoors.

By summer, decisions will need to be made for the 2022-2023 season about who should be eligible for vaccination with additional boosters and regarding vaccine composition. Administering additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to appropriate individuals this fall around the time of the usual influenza vaccine campaign has the potential to protect susceptible individuals against hospitalization and death, and therefore will be a topic for FDA consideration.

Those at greatest risk who might benefit most from vaccination include immunocompromised individuals and people older than 50 years, given the prevalence of comorbidities that increase the risk of severe disease and death in this latter group. Additional groups that might benefit include those who are unvaccinated (including children) or not up-to-date with vaccination (eg, those who have received only 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or have not received a booster dose). The benefit of giving additional COVID-19 booster vaccines to otherwise healthy individuals 18 to 50 years of age who have already received primary vaccination and a first booster dose is not likely to have as marked an effect on hospitalization or death as in the other populations at higher risk (noted above). However, booster vaccinations could be associated with a reduction in health care utilization (eg, emergency department or urgent care center visits).

Around the same time that a decision is made regarding who should be eligible for vaccination, a decision will also need to be made on the COVID-19 vaccine composition. To provide maximal benefit across the entire age spectrum, careful consideration will need to be given to the choice of the SARS-CoV-2 variant(s) to cover in the COVID-19 vaccines for the fall and winter of the 2022-2023 season. This is because the variant(s) covered by the vaccine may have an important influence on both the extent and duration of protection against a future SARS-CoV-2 variant(s) that may circulate. Better alignment between the variant(s) covered by the vaccine and circulating variant(s) of SARS-CoV-2 might be expected to prevent a broader spectrum of disease, potentially for a longer time. In the event of a major fall or winter wave, a vaccine with optimal variant coverage might facilitate significant reductions in lost productivity and health care utilization from both acute and chronic complications of COVID-19, including postacute COVID-19 syndrome. Of note, in the past, such an overall public health benefit in an otherwise healthy younger population has been considered during the annual influenza vaccine campaign.

In terms of practical considerations, at the recent meeting of the VRBPAC, there was relatively uniform agreement that a single vaccine composition used by all manufacturers was desirable and that data would be needed to inform and drive the selection of a monovalent, bivalent, or multivalent COVID-19 vaccine.8 There was also general agreement that, should a new vaccine composition be recommended based on the totality of the available clinical and epidemiologic evidence, optimally it could be used for both primary vaccination as well as booster administration.

The timeframe to determine the composition of the COVID-19 vaccine for the 2022-2023 season, to use alongside the seasonal influenza vaccine for administration in the Northern Hemisphere beginning in about October, is compressed because of the time required for manufacturing the necessary doses. A decision on composition will need to be made in the US by June 2022. Because of this timing, the FDA, in consultation with the VRBPAC, will need to arrive at a recommendation for the future composition of the US COVID-19 vaccines for 2022-2023 based on the available evidence and predictive modeling, with the understanding that there will be some inherent residual uncertainty about the further evolution of SARS-CoV-2. To date, the original, or prototype, vaccine composition deployed has been reasonably good at protecting against severe outcomes from COVID-19. However, a greater depth and duration of protection might be achieved with a vaccine covering currently circulating variants.

As plans are being developed for the coming fall and winter, it is critical that patients and caregivers understand the profound benefit of a booster dose of the mRNA vaccines or a second vaccine dose of any kind after the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine and that this understanding leads to action now in the face of a current uptick in infection rates. Clinicians should not be susceptible to inertia and should continue to recommend that patients get their COVID-19 vaccination status up to date, meaning primary vaccination and relevant booster(s). There is no evidence that getting vaccinated now will have adverse effects or toxicity that would preempt the administration of an additional vaccine dose in the fall months if there is evidence of waning of immunity, a new variant, or an adverse seasonal pattern.

Vaccines, as public health interventions, have been responsible over the past century for reducing an unimaginable amount of morbidity and for saving millions of lives. The eradication of smallpox and near elimination of several other infectious diseases are an unambiguous triumph of modern medicine. During the 2022-2023 COVID-19 vaccine planning and selection process, it is important to recognize that the fall season will present a major opportunity to improve COVID-19 vaccination coverage with the goal of minimizing future societal disruption and saving lives. With the plan for implementation of this year’s vaccine selection process, society is moving toward a new normal that may well include annual COVID-19 vaccination alongside seasonal influenza vaccination.

Source : JAMA Network

Opinion: Mixing Intermittent Fasting and Exercise

Jelena Damjanovic wrote . . . . . . . . .

Matthew Lees and Eric Williamson, both of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, have studied the effects of intermittent fasting on muscle health in the general population and older adults. Lees, a postdoctoral researcher, and Williamson a PhD student and registered dietician, conducted the research with Associate Professor Daniel Moore.

“Finding ways to lose weight that are as simple as skipping a meal is very difficult because many people find it hard to manage their hunger while being in a caloric deficit,” Williamson says. “But, if they find that their hunger is well managed with intermittent fasting and they plan to exercise at the same time, then it can be an effective tool for losing fat.”

We spoke to Lees and Willamson about the benefits of complementing intermittent fasting with exercise.

What is intermittent fasting?

Eric Williamson: Intermittent fasting means going without food for an intentional period of time. There’s no real strict definition of how long that time has to be, but for the most part, it’s at least 12 hours. Most people will practice intermittent fasting with the intention of losing weight. The thinking behind this is that intermittent fasting will keep your insulin levels lower and by lowering insulin, which is known as the fat-storing hormone, you will lose body fat.

What does the science say about it?

EW: Research in this area provides ample evidence that the majority of people who practice intermittent fasting will typically lose weight, but not for the purported reason of lowering insulin levels. Rather, evidence shows that skipping meals does not typically lead to compensatory eating. So, if you skip breakfast, you will typically eat a little bit more at lunch, but you won’t eat as much as if you had eaten breakfast. That ends up putting you into a caloric deficit and, by the laws of physics, it is what leads to the loss of mass overtime.

What’s the appeal of intermittent fasting?

EW: Finding ways to lose weight that are as simple as skipping a meal is very difficult because many people find it hard to manage their hunger while being in a caloric deficit. But, if they find that their hunger is well managed with intermittent fasting and they plan to exercise at the same time, then it can be an effective tool for losing fat.

What’s the benefit of combining intermittent fasting and exercise?

EW: Research indicates that if you are going to practice intermittent fasting, you should combine it with exercise – in particular resistance training. The reason for that has to do primarily with protein metabolism. We know that having our protein intake in multiple feedings throughout the day is better for our lean mass and for lean mass retention over time. Muscle is a significant component of lean mass, so if you are fasting, you are skipping these opportunities for the effects of a protein intake on your muscle metabolism and risking muscle atrophy.

Put simply, when people practice intermittent fasting without exercising, they are losing weight, but much of it often comes from the muscle in the lean mass. If they are exercising, then that shifts from a loss of muscle mass to a loss fat mass, so that’s a large benefit.

Are certain types of exercises better paired with intermittent fasting than others?

EW: Yes, the effects of resistance exercise in particular are so potent that you would likely still be able to preserve muscle, or at least not lose it as quickly, if you’re practicing intermittent fasting at the same time. On the other hand, if somebody was looking to gain as much muscle and strength as possible, like a powerlifter or bodybuilder, they may want to avoid intermittent fasting, because they’ll need both the stimulus of resistance training and protein feedings throughout the day. Some may find they still gain muscle while practicing intermittent fasting, but it likely won’t be as quickly as with regular meals and snacks.

Athletes who are trying to maximize performance should also be cautioned as they have very high energy needs; meaning, they’ll need a lot of food. If they’re practicing intermittent fasting, they’re limiting their opportunities to gain that energy. By missing protein feedings, they may not be at as high of a risk of atrophy, but they are risking maximizing their potential. Athletes who are eating more regularly throughout the day are going to be more likely to meet their energy needs, recover better and adapt to their training better.

Does it matter what time of day you choose to fast?

EW: There are potential benefits to practising intermittent fasting later in the day. Most people skip breakfast because it’s easy – you’re in a rush, you’re not that hungry because our appetites decrease as we sleep. But, from a metabolic perspective, you’re better off skipping your evening snack or dinner rather than breakfast.

There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that we’re more metabolically primed in the morning, not necessarily for protein intake, but for other nutrients. We tend to metabolize nutrients better in the morning. Secondly, nighttime is usually when the junk foods come out. So, if somebody says I’m not going to eat after eight, for example, they’re probably eliminating some of these calorically dense, low nutrient foods.

How does age factor in?

Matthew Lees: As we get older, we’re at an even higher risk of muscle atrophy. The body becomes less efficient at using the protein that we consume in the diet and that process, known as anabolic resistance, is made worse by being sedentary.

You see it happen with people after a hip fracture, for example. Even short periods of bed rest tend to lead to anabolic resistance. If you’re also truncating all of your meals within, say, an eight-hour timeframe within the day, you have long periods when you’re not feeding. There’s no anabolism occurring during that period, because there’s no feeding and without exercise that’s made even worse.

So, would you advise against intermittent fasting in older adults?

ML: From the perspective of muscle health, it’s just not ideal for an older person to engage in the practice of intermittent fasting, because it’s counterintuitive towards what’s best for muscle in an aging population. They need regular stimulation of the processes that build muscle and that’s what feeding and exercise do. Having a long period where you don’t consume any dietary protein is just not conducive to skeletal muscle health in an older population.

If your main goal is weight loss, then it can be a useful tool in younger populations if it fits into their lifestyle. But, for older people, weight loss is not always the principal goal and oftentimes it can be counterproductive. There are studies showing that a little bit of extra weight in older people is actually beneficial.

Is there anything else people should know about intermittent fasting?

EW: Intermittent fasting can be a useful tool for younger populations, who have a lower risk of atrophy. But, no matter the tool, I always recommend speaking with a professional before attempting to lose weight. There are some minor physical risks to weight loss, but the mental health concerns can be great. There’s mounting evidence to suggest that food relationship issues can present for some individuals who intentionally skip meals. For the reason of maintaining a positive relationship with food and body as well as to preserve or enhance physical health, I suggest that nobody attempt weight loss without speaking to a professional.

Source: University of Toronto

If You Thought COVID Was Over . . . . Congratulations, You’re an Idiot

Umair Haque wrote . . . . . . . . .

Uh oh. It’s ba-a-ack. Covid’s surging again, around the globe. In Hong Kong, the line is almost vertical — and this time, we’re talking about deaths. Britain, Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland, China, South Korea, the Netherlands, — all countries where Covid’s spiking, yet again. Finland has 85% more cases than last week. Austria has more cases now than at any point in the pandemic.

The WHO says all this is just “the tip of the iceberg.”

What happened here?

Let me try to say it politely. If you thought Covid was over, you’re an idiot. Sorry. I don’t mean to be rude, but people who bought this foolish notion, that “Covid is over,” need to get real, or we’ll be trapped in this Covid cycle for the foreseeable future. Let me explain the sad story of how we got here.

As the Omicron surge faded, on the one side, there were politicians, pundits, and public officials, who all converged on a certain story. A narrative. Covid was “evolving to become the flu.” And since Omicron was relatively mild, as soon its surge began to wane, “Covid was over.” This narrative spread across the West, especially — and soon enough, it was on the lips of Prime Ministers and pundits and Heads of Public Health Agencies. We were going to “live with Covid,” because now “the pandemic was ending.”

Life was going to go back to “normal” again.

Let’s take a few examples. The head of America’s CDC proclaimed, “I do anticipate that this is probably going to be a seasonal virus.” The head of the CDC’s Preparedness Center said he hopes this is “the last real large surge from SARS-CoV-2.” Top advisors to Biden urged him to “learn to live with the virus.” Advisors to PM Boris Johnson said Omicron was a “ray of light” towards Covid becoming like the common cold.

What happened as a result? Country after country dropped Covid precautions. All of them.

But they didn’t just drop distancing and mask mandates. Many countries, like the UK, dropped testing and surveillance of Covid too. So now, not only were people more likely to get it, governments can’t even track the spread.

At exactly the same time that a new variant was emerging. A “subvariant,” as the lingo goes at this point — Omcrion BA2, which is kind of like Turbo Omicron, because it’s 80% more infectious than Omicron, which itself was hyper infectious compared to Delta and Alpha. It’s almost as contagious as measles, and measles is the most contagious disease we know of.

On the other side, there were doctors and scientists. The good ones — not the few who parroted the line which is politically palatable. They warned, in unison, that lifting all precautions just as a new variant was emerging was going to be disastrous. It was idiotic. Anyone with a working knowledge of high school biology could, they warned, predict what was going to happen next. Covid would surge, all over again, fast.

Who was right? The pundits and politicians — or the scientists and experts? You probably don’t need me to tell you, unless, of course, again, you’re an idiot.

On Feb 17 2022, Denmark became the first country to drop all its Covid restrictions. All of them. No masks. No distancing. Nothing. Astonishingly, this policy was backed by the State Serum Institute, its public agency which was monitoring and evaluating the pandemic. What do you do when your government is making decisions like that? Never mind. What happened next? Deaths and hospitalisations exploded. The line surged vertically. And now? “About 1½ times more Danes are now hospitalized with COVID-19 than ever before during the pandemic.”

The next example’s so obvious to see it’s actually funny. Britain dropped Covid precautions on Feb 24th. Like Denmark, all of them. Masks, distancing, all of it. On Feb 27th, its Covid cases hit an inflection point — and began to surge, all over again. Just three days later.


There are three kinds of people when it comes to Covid. The idiots of the right wing we know all too well — they won’t take vaccines and deny science. The idiots of the center, though, are the ones who will debate the points above as if such basic realities need fine-grained statistical modelling replete with differential equations and multivariate analysis to explain them. They don’t. Any good doctor or scientist will tell you the same thing. It looks simple because it is simple.

Cases, hospitalizations, deaths literally exploding just days after countries lifted all Covid precautions? Just as a new variant emerging was emerging? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened here. It takes an idiot to deny it.

I use the word idiot in the classical Greek sense. For them, there was no figure lower than the idiot — the self-centred one, the narcissist, the selfish kind of person. The idiot was someone without virtue. Only private interests mattered to them — gain, profit, comfort, and so on. Greek life was built on virtue, and for the Greeks, nobody was more dangerous than the idiot, because they couldn’t contribute to the common good, and without the common good, there was no democracy or civilization.

Whom would the Greeks call idiots today? People who think wearing a mask is some kind of existential attack on their “freedom,” not a net gain of it, increasing public health for all. Freedom? That’s what the Ukrainians are fighting for. Wearing a mask is just common sense, because, yes, the science says it works. Or maybe people who want to believe the pandemic’s over, so life can “get back to normal” — having completely lost sight of the virtues of wisdom, compassion, fairness, and truth.

Remember the two sides? The Covid-is-over side, and the…science side? Who was right? It should be obvious by now. Remember the country that saw Covid cases explode all over again in a classic inflection point just three days after it lifted all precautions? LOL. You couldn’t have a more obvious examples of what’s true.

Covid was not over — just as the scientists and doctors said. Removing all precautions did indeed lead to disastrous outcomes. And yet, even now, the idiots of both sides, left and right will deny it. The right never wanted to fight Covid. But the centre and left gave up on it without much of a fight. Yes, really.

Let me put that in perspective for you. We’re two years into a global pandemic. Just two. And of those two years, we’ve only had fully working measures against the virus for one. Vaccines and masks and distancing. We’ve had just one year of really fighting the virus — and even that’s at the cost of hesitance and infighting and skepticism from, shockingly, even institutions like public health agencies. We have really only fought the virus for one year.

This is a global pandemic. One year of fighting it is not going to be enough. Especially knowing what we know now. Our vaccines fade in efficacy, fast. So do boosters — lasting maybe ten weeks or so, before they begin to lose potency. That leaves us with basic precautions like masking and social distancing.

If we don’t follow those precautions, then Covid will keep recurring. And no, it won’t be “the flu.” Covid is evolving, and will continue to evolve. There’s every chance — let me beat an old drum for a moment — that tomorrow’s variants will be deadlier. How deadly? We don’t know, but Covid could easily recombine with SARS or MERS and then we have a virus with Omicron’s infectiousness, but a mortality rate between 15 and 40%. (By the way, when I say that, I get piled on, harassed, and called names. So don’t take it from me. Listen to Dr. William Haseltine of Harvard Med, saying exactly that.)

And we are making that path of evolution — the deadly one — more likely right now. Why?

Well, think about what the policies of the last few months really did. They said to old people, young people, kids, the immunocompromised — “You’re on your own. Good luck! It’s your problem now. The rest of us” — meaning healthy working age people, basically — “are going to get back to ‘normal’. Covid’s over!! Ha-ha!!”

So we left all these groups at the mercy of the virus. That’s not just morally bankrupt, because of course the test of a civilized society is how it cares for its most vulnerable, and in this case, we just left them to die.

It’s scientifically incredibly dangerous, stupid, and reckless. Because it’s in immunocompromised bodies that Covid mutates out of control, and new variants emerge through recombination. It’s an immunocompromised person, for example, that variants can co-infect, and recombine, because they will stay sick for a long time. Now imagine an elderly one. Now imagine a world of them, just being left for dead.

We are giving Covid a perfect opportunity to become something worse. We’re handing it our world and civilisation on a silver platter — and daring it to feast. What do we do if Covid does recombine with SARS or MERS? Then we die. Or at least many of us do. No, that’s not a joke or an exaggeration. It is reality. Remember how bad Delta was? Even if we have some degree of immune protection now, it’s not going to make us invulnerable to worse strains of Covid, which will invariably kill and hospitalise scores of people. Yes, really.

That is already what’s happening all over again.

This wave hasn’t hit America yet. That is because waves always tend to hit America last. But when it does? It’s not going to be pretty. Less than half of Americans are boosted — and that’s a lower number than in plenty of countries where Covid’s surging all over again. The first two vaccines don’t give you as much protection against Omicron, especially BA2, as against the first variants — that is what waning efficacy means. America will be hit hard by this variant, yet again. And that was all eminently predictable. It’s incredible, given all that, that the CDC let this happen.

We are in the middle of a titanic, historic set of government failures. Truly incredible ones. How is it that Denmark’s public health agencies let this happen? America’s CDC? The list goes on and on. How is it even possible that the people tasked with protecting public health, safeguarding it, paid serious and significant sums to do it…don’t…by denying science and ignoring evidence…and instead cherry-picking facts and nitpicking over details?

We all know the answer to that. Because it’s what’s politically palatable. It’s what Presidents and Prime Ministers want. It’s what a certain segment of the population wants. They don’t care if grandma dies — they just want to go the gym in peace. Hey, no pain, no gain, amirite?! They don’t appear to know how to use the minds they appear not to have.

Our entire governments are pandering to this segment of people. Our entire governments. Public health agencies, governors, heads of state. They are letting them dictate terms, and ignoring the science, hoping that there won’t be political fallout. There’s just one tiny problem. These people are goddamned idiots.

Remember when I said the Greeks said idiots were people who weren’t concerned with virtue, because they were selfish and short-sighted and greedy? What virtue is all this centrally about?

Truth. It was true what the science said. Lifting precautions after just one year of really fighting a global pandemic — and just two years into it — was far too soon. Far too soon. Science predicted yet another wave — and here we are. It was true before it happened, because of course science gives us the power to know. And it’s true now.

But truth these days doesn’t seem to matter. The very centrists who attack the right for falling for Trump’s or Putin’s or whomever demagogues Big Lies…are the very ones…to believe in their own Big Lies. Especially about public health. The pandemic’s ending! Covid’s over! Life, go back to ‘normal’! Yay!! Never mind if it leaves literally every group in society other than healthy working age people abandoned, forgotten, and at profound, severe risk. A risk that then comes back to hit even those idiots who denied it, new variants emerging into a forever pandemic.

The only word people like this is idiots. Yes, we live in an age where truth is a contemptible thing, mocked and hated and scorned. But this? This will take history’s breath away. These people just…let a pandemic…go on and on? When they had vaccines, which they didn’t share with the world? And then they stopped wearing masks and distancing, even as those vaccines waned? While new variants were emerging? Leaving the old, young, ill, and sick to…just…get infected…and die…even if that was the surest way to produce even worse variants?

Whew. History will whistle, the way one is tempted to do, when confronted with idiocy of such staggering proportions that there’s nothing left to say, because words can’t possibly do justice to it. All that’s left it to shake your head in pity at the unutterable stupidity of it, make a sound like a cry, a mewl, and wonder.

What happens to make people into such hardened, relentless, mercilessly self-destructive idiots? What do you even do with them, except wave goodbye, as you watch them walk off the nearest cliff, telling you they’re going to fly?

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