Reading For Fun and Profit

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.

― Jane Yolen

It’s not actually books I have to recommend to you today, but interesting news in the world of science and nutrition. I’ve been sick, you’ve been sick, we’re all busy. So when you have a few minutes to relax, have a look at these and see what analysis you come up with. I’ve given mine, naturally.

  • Ancient Greek athlete training diet. I found this particularly interesting, as modern trainers overwhelmingly assure us that it is “impossible” to be any kind of high-performance athlete without lots and lots and lots of carbohydrates. Apparently the Greeks didn’t think that at all and recommended abstaining from bread for six months prior to any serious competition. Interestingly, the Greeks also didn’t think it was normal for someone to be a sobbing, shaking, emotional mess by the end of a race, either: something we think perfectly normal.

  • Low blood sugar and marital aggression. Don’t get me started on what was done in this study, or whether it was a good idea to give a bunch of couples voodoo dolls, representing their spouses, to shove pins into. Or, even worse, get them to compete against each other, with the winner permitted to cause physical discomfort to the loser. I’m tempted….ARGH. Ok, I’ve got it under control. Let’s just talk about the findings. SHOCKINGLY, when you have low blood sugar you have a harder time controlling your temper. Idiotically, the conclusion they came to was this:

Sugar, or glucose, is used by the brain as fuel to help regulate self-control…If couples have a sensitive topic to discuss, it would be really smart to do it over dinner or better yet after dinner.

*Sigh. YOU DO NOT NEED TO EAT SUGAR TO FUEL YOUR BRAIN OR CONTROL YOURSELF. Yes, your brain needs some glucose. That’s why your body can easily make glucose, especially if you fuel it with all the fat it wants and needs. But your dietary need for glucose is precisely 0%. Ask any diabetic: Too much glucose=coma and death. Too little glucose=coma and death. What you need is a very steady supply of glucose. Your body, by the way, is excellent at self-regulating the amount of glucose your brain needs when you don’t abuse it. A high-carbohydrate diet, by the way, is abuse. Too much, too little, too much, too little, too much, too little is the constant cycle you get trapped in, leading to destruction.

What’s happening to the couples described in the study is that their blood sugar is dropping too low as a result of diet that is too high in carbohydrates. It’s not normal. It’s not right. It’s not what the body is made to do. And it’s seriously impeding their ability to control themselves.

The answer isn’t to avoid talking about anything serious till after everyone’s eaten. What kind of stupid, foolish advice is that? Since when does life wait for you? Anyone? Since when do your kids say, “Hey, Mom, I know you haven’t had lunch yet, so I’ll just sit here quietly and play by myself till your blood sugar is high again.” Or “Hey, Dad, what a stressful day you’ve had, and I’ll bet your blood sugar is really low after that sandwich and candy bar you had for lunch. Why don’t Sister and I put off our hair-pulling and screaming match till after you’ve had a chance to eat?” Since when does the phone have a glucometer attached that monitors your blood sugar levels and only allows stressful calls about bad news to come through after meals?

This is a band-aid suggestion for a wound that needs stitches and antibiotics. The answer is to stop eating, and stop feeding Sister, all those carbohydrates. Stop riding a blood sugar roller coaster all day long. No more spaghetti, garlic bread, pizza, oatmeal, and smoothies. Eat fat and meat and vegetables and a moderate amount of fruit, in that order, and let your body regulate your blood sugar–and your mood–all by itself. Make sure you get the fat, because your body desperately needs it to regulate and manufacture hormones, which is another key to balanced moods. Then you can work on controlling yourself and your emotions honestly, without a 100-pound sugar-shaped weight around your neck.

You know what else this means? It means that when you’re feeling sad/depressed/angry/frustrated/upset/bored the worst possible thing you can do is to go snarf down a doughnut to make yourself feel better. You’re only making it worse.

To test this theory Dr Ramagopalan has examined blood taken from the umbilical cords of 50 healthy babies born in November and 50 born in May when, after winter, levels of vitamin D are low. The May babies had a far higher frequency of newly generated white blood cells called T cells which are normally programmed to react against infection by an outside agent and to tolerate the body’s own tissues.

However certain types of T cells react against the body tissues and they may cause autoimmune disease later on if they persist. These unwanted T cells are normally removed from the body in the first year of life by a clever arrangement – they are deleted in the thymus gland, a process that requires vitamin D. So a low vitamin D level leaves the baby at risk.

I think the moms’ diets too high in carbohydrates, and grain in particular, is highly implicated in inflammation and immune disorders. BUT, if vitamin D is essential to clearing out the junk, then eating too many carbohydrates and also being low on vitamin D is a double whammy putting you at greater risk of disease. Kind of like first feeding your kid a sugar cereal for breakfast and then also denying him hormone-producing and regulating essential fats by giving him skim milk, and then punishing him for having a screaming fit 30 minutes later…


Plato says he’s hungry

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