Saturday, March 29, 2014

"The plural of anecdote is not data"

Tonight's dinner: lamb tandoori meatballs, brown rice, brussel sprouts with lemon & garlic and a dollop of tomato sauce a la Marcella Hazan

Hey, I'm still here! Things might be perking up here again, now that my MOOC is finally ending (provided I don't tank the final test). It was an EdX course from McGill University on Food Chemistry, as done by their Office of Science and Society.

I took this course for a few reasons. First and foremost, I'm a firm believer in continuing education. It's important to be a lifelong learner, be it a new language or creative technique, or taking on an entirely new topic. Not surprising coming from a librarian, I suppose. After all, it was one of Mevil Dewey's big passions, as well.

And, seeing as I have been so immersed with food and health and weight, I thought this course would be interesting. I also thought it would be a little less daunting and time consuming than the MIT Solid State Chemistry course I MOOC'd last year. (Averaging 3 hours a night on differential equations and molecular modeling was invigorating, but a little too much of a time suck).

So, this course seemed like a just right slice of healthy dessert. I think it also helped that the professors giving the course were of the same mind set and belief as mine in regards to food and weight maintenance: you should look to the research, but it's not that all the answers have yet been found.

I really enjoyed how they would delve into results of various intervention studies, case control groups and meta-analyses to show how results can be skewed or varied depending on who is marketing the results.

And they had a healthy skepticism for most of the media-based nutrition gurus out there. The title of this blog post is a quote from one of the professors in regards to some of the "natural miracle weight loss miracles" we see.

And it was nice to see that studies they referenced were the sorts of things that I was uncovering in my own searches.

That's not to say that I didn't learn a lot. I actually learned quite a few things about epidemiology, agriculture and fertilizer, molecular reactions and the like. Learning about things you already know is sort of like re-reading a good book. Adding new things into the mix is like finding out there's more volumes in to the series.

What do I have to show for this course, aside from a nice certificate if I don't tank next week's final? 

A renewed respect for my own journey and my continued search for research. I admit that it wasn't just the stress, weather and workload that was affecting my maintenance. It's the amount of crap you have to mine though when you connect into the health movement. But this MOOC helped me see that you CAN find the actual facts and data underneath the anecdotes. 

The Streamlined part of my persona has always been one of constant work. The Libarian part doesn't really get to rest on this topic either. 

The Ska part never worries.


Dewey, Melvil. "Adult Education" from Journal of Social Science: Containing the Transactions of the American Association, 266-268: 42, American Social Science Association, Leypoldt & Holt, 1904, pp. 152-156.

Johansson, Kari, Martin Neovius, and Erik Hemmingsson. “Effects of Anti-Obesity Drugs, Diet, and Exercise on Weight-Loss Maintenance after a Very-Low-Calorie Diet or Low-Calorie Diet: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 99, no. 1 (January 1, 2014): 14–23. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.070052.

Pittler, Max H., and Edzard Ernst. “Dietary Supplements for Body-Weight Reduction: A Systematic Review.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 79, no. 4 (April 1, 2004): 529–36.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When bad nuts happen to good people

Time is passing by and I refuse to be another blog death statistic. But other obligations happen. It's one thing to miss most of Purim, but I also missed National Registered Dietitian Day! Apologies to my "grass is greener" fellow service profession! Happy Day to you all, you men and women who make a difference in our health and wellness.

The Dietitian (center) with fellow staff members from the Utah State Insane Asylum, 1914 from the Utah Valley University Archives via the Digital Public Library of America.

Hey look, separated at birth!

"Jacob Edwards Librarian with cat in Southbridge Massachusetts" from the Jacob Edwards Library via DPLA
Maybe during the upcoming National Library Week, we'll invite some RDs over for petticoat bleaching and cat tricks.

I have still been reading and saving research for suitable blog topics, even when more "light" news makes its way into my feeds. Hey, look, my home borough is now considered the most obese in NYC! (At least according to it's borough president). I will say that Staten Island is probably the least walkable part of NYC, in relations to commuting and day-to-day errands. That's the sacrifice you make for having trees and wetlands (and the former city landfill).

But let's look at the diet again. I was always a big nut fan, so incorporating more of those into my healthier food intake was not so big of a stretch. However, I did try to make an effort to stick to the plainest nut selections I could find. Unsalted or lightly salted and no added spicy-sweet-coated-extra stuff. Part of this was to acclimate my taste to more "natural" flavors. And sure enough, it sort of worked. I only buy peanut butter that has one ingredient: peanuts. And all other "normal" peanut butter now tastes like frosting to me. (Which can be dangerous, because we all know about my strange frosting binge addiction).

But I also try to shy away from the other flavored nut mixes, because, be they salty or sweet, they tend to make me crave more. And more. And even more. But plain nuts, while tasty, don't send me into a binge tailspin. Sometimes there might be bored mindless eating, but that's easier to control.

So I was interested in this recent study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on the effects on flavorings in regards to peanut consumption. The results showed that there wasn't much health difference between plain unsalted peanut ingestion compared to salted, spicy or honey-roasted flavors. In fact, the showed what one might imagine when you eat some peanuts on a daily basis: increase of "good cholesterol", decent maintenance of weight and not even a marked increase in glucose levels with the honey-roasted. The conclusion? Hey, peanuts aren't so bad no matter what. 

Of course the big difference here between the casual peanut muncher and the control groups is that the latter were given a pre-packaged 42g serving of nuts which came to about 240-255 calories, depending on type of peanut. So they are eating what most peanut companies show as the recommended serving size of peanuts (which is about 1 oz.). However, if we look at the Planters website, their dry roasted nuts come in 6 oz. bags, 12 oz. cans and 16 oz. jars.

That bag is almost 1,000 calories. The jar is over 2,500 calories. I know if a bag of salted or honey roasted peanuts comes my way, I'm going to eat that entire "wee" 6 oz. bag. And if there's a jar in the house, well... there's a lot of trips back to it. 

Because even their regularly salted peanuts have extra sugar and spices on them. And that's what I start craving.The tailspin begins!

So, this study, while possibly helping the peanut industry show that it doesn't hurt to add on the stuff to the nuts, doesn't hold water in real life situations. 

Yes, nuts are healthy and a better daily snack than say, cupcakes or deep fried mac 'n' cheese balls. But too much of anything is too much. And most of us don't control our snacking urges so well. So, if there's a jar of peanuts, I'd rather it was unsalted and easier to leave behind. 

So in belated honor of that Dietitian in the Insane Asylum (which sounds like a great name for band), I raise my proportionally correct portion of completely additive-free nuts to you. Hold the honey.


Jones, J. B., Provost, M., Keaver, L., Breen, C., Ludy, M.-J., & Mattes, R. D. (2014). A randomized trial on the effects of flavorings on the health benefits of daily peanut consumption. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 99(3), 490–496. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.069401
The Unhealthiest Borough: 75% of Staten Islanders Overweight, BP Says - St. George - New York. (n.d.). DNAinfo New York. Retrieved March 18, 2014, from

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Foodie Pen Pals Update and where is the Librarian stuff?

It's been a bit of a busy time. Work obligations, Rangers games, doing a Food Chemistry MOOC via McGill University, (not as time consuming as the Solid State Chemistry MOOC from MIT I did last year, but still a commitment) and some presentation prep, so I've been a bit lax on the blog front. I have been active on Twitter regarding librarianship, and I'm sure a lot of recent visitors might be a little confused.

The blog is about me, my body, food and research about those topics. And more posts are coming.

But first, more Foodie Pen Pal package finally arrived! Three weeks in the limbo of the US Postal Service, then sitting in my local PO Station while the notice card once again "accidentally" didn't get left.

But it arrived at last! And it was AWESOME!

And that's just the outside!
Natalia put a lot of work into the outside and the inside of the package:

And we haven't even got to the good stuff!

So what was in these hand crafted label packs?

Natalia sent me local (from California) items but also treated me to some of her favorite Puerto Rican favorites, including a package of coffee from her own private stash! Thanks, Natalia's mom!

There was also garlic salsa and hot sauce from Hot Licks, a few Rise Bars, a Chuao Maple Bacon Bar, and....a salted dulce de leche white chocolate bar from Eclipse Chocolates. All delicious. The hot sauce made it into dinner. The dulce de leche didn't stay closed much longer. And that coffee will be downed first thing at sunrise!

So, Thank you, Natalia for sending stuff that lasted all this time, but also answered my many desires.

A happy end to a busy time.

Next research-laden weight post soon...