Monday, November 28, 2016

Instant Pot pressure cookers on deep sale today

I've written twice before about the Instant Pot, an electronic pressure cooker that helps make healthy food in a time-efficient manner (1, 2).  At some point, I'll write another review of my Instant Pot, but the gist is that it still works flawlessly and looks sharp after more than four years of frequent use.  Here are a few of the reasons why I like it so much:
  • It increases my efficiency in the kitchen, especially with beans, beets, artichokes, and bone broth.  It's automatic, so you can do something else while it works.
  • It's durable.  The inner pot is stainless steel without a nonstick liner, and the gaskets are silicone.  The whole thing has a solid, quality feel.
  • It replaces multiple bulky kitchen items.  It isn't just a pressure cooker, but also a steamer, slow cooker, and rice maker.  The latest version is also a yogurt maker.
Today only, Amazon is offering the Instant Pot on deep discount.  If you're considering getting one, today is the day.  The older version (LUX50) is only $49, and the newer version (DUO60) is only $69.  That's an incredible value for what this thing does.  

If you purchase through the following links, you'll be benefiting my work at no additional cost to yourself:



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

This is your brain on pumpkin pie

Image credit: Evan Amos
Thanksgiving is a special time in the United States when we gather our loved ones and celebrate the abundance of fall with a rich palette of traditional foods.  Yet a new study suggests that the 6-week holiday period that spans Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve accounts for most of our country’s weight problem (1).  Understanding this fact, and why it happens, gives us powerful insights into why we gain weight, and what to do about it.

Elina Helander, a postdoctoral researcher at Tampere University of Technology in Finland, and her colleagues set out to answer a simple question: how does a person’s body weight change over the course of the year?  To find out, they used internet-connected scales to collect daily body weight data from nearly 3,000 volunteers in the United States, Germany, and Japan.  After crunching the data, a striking pattern emerged: no matter what you celebrate, at any time of year, the holidays are likely to be your period of greatest weight gain.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Did the US Dietary Guidelines Cause the Obesity Epidemic?

A popular argument holds that the US Dietary Guidelines caused our obesity epidemic by advising Americans to reduce fat intake.  Does the evidence support this idea, or is it simply a fantasy?

Introduction

Friday, September 30, 2016

Cars as a metaphor for understanding obesity

If we want to understand the accumulation of excess body fat, it's tempting to focus our attention on the location that defines the condition: adipose tissue.  Ultimately, the key question we want to answer is the following: why does fat enter adipose tissue faster than it exits?

It follows that if we want to understand why obesity occurs, we should seek to understand the dynamics of fat trafficking in adipose tissue, and the factors that influence it.  Right?

I don't think this is right, and here's a metaphor that explains why.

The speed of a car depends primarily on the force that its wheels exert on the asphalt below them.  If we want to understand why cars move quickly sometimes, and slowly at other times, we should seek to understand the dynamics of how force is transferred from the wheels to the asphalt, and the factors that influence it, right?

As you may have already surmised, that wouldn't be a very effective way of understanding car speed. To understand car speed, we have to move up the causal chain until we get to the system that actually regulates speed-- the person in the driver's seat.  Looking at the problem from the perspective of the wheels is not an effective way of understanding the person in the driver's seat.  Once we understand the driver, then we also understand why the wheels move how they do.

Similarly, in obesity, we have to move up the causal chain until we find the system that actually regulates body fatness.  The only known system in the human body that regulates body fatness is the brain.  Once we understand how the brain regulates body fatness, we'll understand why fat enters adipose tissue faster than it exits sometimes, eventually leading to obesity.

We already know a lot about how this process works, and that's why I focus my attention on the brain and behavior rather than the biochemical mechanics of adipose tissue.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Do Blood Glucose Levels Affect Hunger and Satiety?

You've heard the story before: when you eat carbohydrate-rich foods that digest quickly, it sends your blood sugar and insulin levels soaring, then your blood sugar level comes crashing back down and you feel hungry and cranky.  You reach for more carbohydrate, perpetuating the cycle of crashes, overeating, and fat gain.

It sounds pretty reasonable-- in fact, so reasonable that it's commonly stated as fact in popular media and in casual conversation.  This idea is so deeply ingrained in the popular psyche that people often say "I have low blood sugar" instead of "I'm hungry" or "I'm tired".  But this hypothesis has a big problem: despite extensive research, it hasn't been clearly supported.  I've written about this issue before (1).

A new study offers a straightforward test of the hypothesis, and once again finds it lacking.

The study

Friday, July 22, 2016

The most slimming tortillas in the world

It's no secret that I'm an avid food gardener.  In the last two years, I've moved from exclusively growing vegetables to growing large quantities of staple calorie crops, such as potatoes, flour corn, and long-storing winter squash.

Why do I put so much effort into growing my own food, when I could buy it easily and cheaply at the grocery store?  There are a few reasons.  First and foremost, I enjoy it.  Second, it allows me to grow the healthiest and best-tasting ingredients possible (although I think you can compose a very healthy diet from grocery store foods).  Third, it saves a bit of money.  And fourth, it gives me a window into the world of my ancestors.

The fourth point is an important one for me, and it's why I can justify making tortillas the hard way.  What's the hard way, you ask?  Well, first you plant corn.  Then you water and weed it for several months.  Then you harvest the corn, shuck it and dry it on the cob.

Painted Mountain corn from my garden.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Hungry Brain: Book Update

In January of this year, I handed in a complete manuscript draft of my first book, The Hungry Brain, to my editor at Flatiron Books.  This book represents more than two full-time years of my life, and I can't wait for it to hit shelves.  It's markedly different from any other book in its category, and believe it has the potential to substantially change the public conversation on eating behavior and obesity.

In the process of writing The Hungry Brain, I read countless papers and interviewed 36 leading researchers in the fields of neuroscience, obesity research, and anthropology.  I had my brain scanned in an fMRI machine while looking at junk food.  I commissioned and compiled 47 illustrations, schematics, and graphs, mostly by a skilled medical illustrator named Shizuka Aoki.  Yet the book will be accessible to anyone who loves science.

This book is not about me or my world views.  It's not a conspiracy story about how everything we've been told is actually wrong, nor is it a critique of existing ideas about eating behavior and obesity-- although I do correct some misconceptions along the way.  It's about the incredible and rapidly evolving world of research that has so much to teach us about ourselves, but rarely trickles down into the public sphere in a useful form.

In interviews this year, I said I thought the book would be out around September 2016.  That was based on a rough estimate my agent gave me last year.  Sadly, it won't be out until first quarter 2017-- the gears turn slowly in the publishing industry.  But the good news is that Flatiron Books is using this time to do a great job of copyediting, interior design, cover design, and marketing, to make sure this book is as good as it can be, and gets into as many hands as possible.  I'll provide a better date estimate when I have one.

In the meantime, enjoy this short description of the book:

From an obesity and neuroscience researcher with a knack for storytelling, The Hungry Brain uses cutting-edge science to answer the questions: why do we overeat, and what can we do about it?

No one wants to overeat. And certainly no one wants to overeat for years, become overweight, and end up with a high risk of diabetes or heart disease--yet two thirds of Americans do precisely that.  Even though we know better, we often eat too much. Why does our behavior betray our own intentions to be lean and healthy? The problem, argues obesity and neuroscience researcher Stephan J. Guyenet, is not necessarily a lack of willpower or an incorrect understanding of what to eat. Rather, our appetites and food choices are led astray by ancient, instinctive brain circuits that play by the rules of a survival game that no longer exists. And these circuits don’t care about how you look in a bathing suit next summer.

To make the case, The Hungry Brain takes readers on an eye-opening journey through cutting-edge neuroscience that has never before been available to a general audience. The Hungry Brain delivers profound insights into why the brain undermines our weight goals and transforms these insights into practical guidelines for eating well and staying slim. Along the way, it explores how the human brain works, revealing how this mysterious organ makes us who we are.