One Bowl to Rule them all…

Forged in the fires of a northern Chinese village, lovingly crafted by the hands of a true master, cast in the colour of a rising storm, true artistry beyond measure…

Behold, my new bowl. Who knew a bowl could be so engaging —subtle imperfections only add to the quality of this handmade piece of functional art.

…and yet Gold coast resident and ceramic commentator, Muky, called this post out as ‘pointless’ when informed of my plans to write it.

“It’s not even handmade” she said, “Anyone can see that, just look at the bottom of it. Handmade pottery doesn’t look like that”.

“Ha! This is more handmade than anything I’ve ever seen — its quality and craftsmanship blind me like the sun” I answered taking my bowl into the front room for more pictures.

Dear reader, please enjoy two further picture of this ceramic wonder and if you’re of a mind, feel free to weigh on the handmade debate in the comments:

Low-Carb Diets and The ‘Cheat Day’

Low-carb eating seems like the most reasonable approach to diet when you consider the overwhelming evidence against sugar.

For those on strict low-carbs diets, quite a few people (including the likes of Tim Ferris) introduce a ‘cheat day’ once a week. On a cheat day you eat anything you want, usually high carb meals

Well, it turns out this might not be a good idea after all, especially for those on a keto diet.

New research suggests that for people in a state of ketogenesis a single of 75 grams of glucose could possibly lead to damaged blood vessels.

“Our data suggests a ketogenic diet is not something you do for six days a week and take Saturday off.”

Durrer et al. Short-Term Low-Carbohydrate High-Fat Diet in Healthy Young Males Renders the Endothelium Susceptible to Hyperglycemia-Induced Damage, An Exploratory Analysis. Nutrients, 2019.

Once in while would no doubt be fine, but the accumulating possibility of weekly damage seems like an unacceptable risk for keto dieters and possibly low carb dieters as well. Hopefully this news reaches the armies of people on these types of diets around the place — it seems like genuinely useful information.

Cordis, Hong Kong: An Art Gallery in a Hotel

Last night we went and stayed at Cordis in Mongkok. It’s a beautiful hotel — well-appointed and luxurious but it’s the collection of art there that sets it apart.

Time magazine described it as an “…art gallery masquerading as a hotel’ and there’s about 1500 individual pieces of contemporary Chinese art on display through the hotel. The owner is an art lover and he really went to town.

The hotel will give you a free deck of art cards that describe the top 21 artworks on display with instructions to find them. I had a good walk round this afternoon and took a few pictures —not exactly award-winning photography but you get the idea.

If you’re in Hong Kong for a short trip, Cordis is the place to stay.

Book 28: The Case against Sugar – Gary Taubes

With a title like ‘The Case against Sugar’ you might expect a tabloid-style expose but instead what you get here is a balanced, careful analysis of everything we know about sugar.

Investigative journalist Gary Taubes details the cultural/political history of sugar, the ways it has become a central part of our diet and the numerous ways it may be killing us.

Taubes is a measured, thoughtful writer — he doesn’t rush to conclusions and even states early on that he is unable to conclusively prove his claims and in fact they may in some way be ‘unprovable’ — but the evidence and research he presents is overwhelming.

This is a highly persuasive book that may change the way you think about food. It will at least make you question what you have been taught about nutrition and perhaps rethink advice you’ve received regarding your own health and wellness.

I’ve written on The Sugar Association and the salt/hypertension hypothesis in the last few days, and I’ve found this topic deeply interesting. It’s remarkable to think how effectively the food industry has been subverted by sugar and how hard it is too avoid. More difficult to consider is the damage it’s surely causing us over time.

Taubes sets up his ‘if/then hypothesis’ half way through the book. It should seem logical to most readers:

So here’s the if/then hypothesis: If these Western diseases are associated with obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome, which many of them are, then whatever causes insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome is likely to be the necessary dietary trigger for the diseases, or at least a key player in the causal pathway. Because there is significant reason to believe that sugars—sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup in particular, the nearly fifty-fifty combinations of glucose and fructose—are the dietary trigger of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, it’s quite likely they are a primary cause of all these Western diseases, including, as we’ll discuss, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Without these sugars in the diet, these chronic diseases would be relatively rare, if not, in some cases, virtually nonexistent.

Gary Taubes ‘The Case against Sugar’ P.288

The consumption of added sugar in each of our diets has gone from a few pounds a year three hundred years ago to 156 pounds a year in the US — could it be a coincidence that a whole catalogue of previously uncommon ‘diseases of western civilisation’ have followed this same curve? Or could sugar be the main causal factor?

We may have to wait for some time for definitive answers to these questions. The time and money required to scientifically test these claims is almost prohibitive and Taubes doesn’t offer firm guidelines on how much sugar we should be eating in the meantime. He does however compare the idea of ‘eating sugar in moderation’ to ‘smoking cigarettes in moderation’ so it’s probably a case of ‘the less, the better’.

‘The Case against Sugar’ is a meticulously researched, clear-headed deep dive into sugar. It’s a book everyone should read — sooner rather than later.

Highly recommended.

The Cause of Hypertension: Salt or Sugar?

More people die of heart disease than anything else — and hypertension is the biggest contributing risk factor.

Hypertension is persistent high blood pressure (≥ 140/90 mm Hg) and since the 50s the blame has been squarely placed on excess salt (sodium). This was based on the idea that higher blood pressure is caused by the increased water retention required to balance the sodium concentration in the blood.

Gary Taubes points out in ‘The Case against Sugar’ that this salt/hypertension hypothesis has ‘resolutely resisted confirmation in clinical trials’ and he describes why salt is perhaps not the causal factor:

Systematic reviews of the evidence from these trials invariably conclude that reducing our average salt intake by half, for instance, which is difficult to accomplish in the real world, will decrease blood pressure by 4 to 5 mm Hg mercury, on average, in those with hypertension, and perhaps 2 mm Hg in those without. But even stage 1 hypertension, the less severe form of the condition, is defined by having a blood pressure elevated by at least 20 mm Hg over what’s considered healthy. Stage 2 is defined as blood pressure elevated by at least 40 mm Hg over healthy levels. Hence, the fact that halving our salt consumption will result in a decrease of only 4 to 5 mm Hg suggests that the salt we eat is not the primary dietary driver of this disorder.

Gary Taubes ‘The Case against Sugar’ P. 302

He goes on to point out that insulin (produced by the pancreas after taking in sugar) disrupts the electrolyte balance in the body and has a similar anti-diuretic effect to that of excess sodium. As well, elevated insulin has also been shown to over-stimulate the nervous system, increase heart rate, constrict blood vessels, and you guessed it, elevate blood pressure.

It takes a long time to undo commonly held beliefs and assumptions — especially ones that have been around for 70 years — but scientists are beginning to look into alternative explanations to the cause of such widespread hypertension and eventual heart disease.

Could the reason be sugar?

This study from the best website in the known universe seems to think so:

Found: The Best Website in the Known Universe

You can stop looking, I found it. The best website on Earth is sciencedaily.com

Even if you don’t consider yourself a ‘science person’ this is a site absolutely overflowing with genuine fascination and discovery, there’s so much here. Any area you’re interested in you’ll find it here. Cutting edge research is made comprehensible, distilled down to the essentials. The articles are an ideal length giving you all the information without the excruciating detail.

This site is a dream come true for people who enjoy learning new things and exploring new ideas.

Here’s what you need to do to get these stories delivered to your inbox.

  • Choose the topics and subtopics that interest most and subscribe
  • Let the good times roll

I just choose ‘All News’ which gives you a pretty daunting list of stories to check out so I’ll go back in and refine my selection. Might take a while though, there’s 400 different emails you can subscribe to —the choice is huge:

This site and email service is a wondrous thing. Having all this cutting edge research delivered to your digital doorstep without media spin or interference is something that would have been impossible not so long ago.

Enjoy!

Can the ‘Lindy Effect’ help us choose books?

Most of the things around us are ‘perishable’, they have a life expectancy that diminishes with age. Apples, cars and all living things are all perishable.

Ideas, information and technology can be thought of as ‘nonperishable’. The ‘Lindy Effect’ is the idea that a nonperishable’s ‘life expectancy’ increases relative to its age. In other words they age in reverse.

A book that has just been published today might stand the test of time, or it might not. Hard to say — but if it’s still in print 10 years down the road then as a 10-year old book, we can expect it to be in print for another 10 years. Robinson Crusoe was published 400 years ago, so (depending on whether Trump blows up the Earth) we can expect to be in print for another 400 years. That’s the ‘Lindy Effect’.

It’s a useful idea to think about when choosing books.

Books that have withstood the stress and pressure of time are potentially a better investment of your time than books that have not. Something to bear in mind when the next bestseller makes the rounds on social media.

The fabulous Farnam Street blog has more on this here.