Tuesday, December 16, 2014

High-Protein Bars That Can Put a Chirp in Your Step

English: Heston Blumenthal at Taste Of London ...
English: Heston Blumenthal at Taste Of London Festival, June 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have tried the brown beetle before, and they 'taste like chicken', if I may say it. Cricket? Haven't. Would you?


How do you make ground-up crickets taste good?

The answer may be just a sprinkling of ginger and ras el hanout, a North African spice blend. And there’s chocolate.

Greg Sewitz, 22, and Gabi Lewis, 23, began making protein bars out of crickets when they were roommates at Brown University in Rhode Island. Mr. Lewis, a philosophy major who tried to follow a paleo diet (eating what our cave-man ancestor presumably ate and minimizing his sugary foods), couldn’t find a bar that fit his needs. “They were all like candy,” he said.

When Mr. Sewitz, a cognitive neuroscience major, attended a conference at which one of the speakers discussed insects as a sustainable food source, an idea was born.

According to the two men’s research, the insects are 69 percent protein by dry weight as compared with 31 percent for chicken breast and 29 percent for sirloin steak; they provide more iron than beef does and nearly as much calcium as milk. They produce one-eightieth the amount of methane that cattle do, and need one-twelfth their feed.

The roommates overcame the ick factor by freezing the crickets, roasting them and putting them in a blender. “There were cricket parts all over the place, and our roommates got a little weirded out,” Mr. Sewitz said.

Their reward was their first batch of cricket flour, a dusty brown substance that resembled brown sugar and didn’t taste like much. They combined it with almonds, dates for binding, honey for sweetness and raw cacao nibs for crunch.

After graduating in May 2013, the men, having by then moved to New York, decided to start a business called Exo (for exoskeleton). They turned to Kickstarter, to raise $20,000 in a month. They hit their goal in three days.

They then had to figure out how to make the snacks palatable to a wide audience. A mutual friend introduced them to Kyle Connaughton, 37, the former head of research and development for the Fat Duck in Bray, England, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world, known for pushing the culinary envelope. Mr. Connaughton and Heston Blumenthal, The Fat Duck’s owner, had once created a dish of fried mealworms and crickets injected with a mix of mayonnaise and onion gel.

Mr. Connaughton developed recipes that made sure each bar contained 10 grams of protein, the equivalent of about 40 crickets. Along with the original cacao nut flavor, the first line features peanut butter and jelly, and cashew ginger.

The two partners plan to sell the bars in natural-food stores and CrossFit-type gyms – places that attract the growing number of paleo lifestyle enthusiasts.

“At the end of the day, it’s a protein bar,” Mr.Sewitz said. “If it’s sustainable, that’s great, but it’s going in your body and you want to know that it’s good for you and tastes delicious.”

Taken from TODAY Saturday Edition, March 8, 2014

Would you starve yourself to be healthier?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cashing In on Health Consciousness

English: Fried gluten balls. Photo by ChildofM...
English: Fried gluten balls. Photo by ChildofMidnight. Attribution required. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Photograph of 4 gluten sources. Top: High-glut...
Photograph of 4 gluten sources. Top: High-gluten wheat flour. Right: European spelt. Bottom: Barley. Left: Rolled rye flakes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Businesses are finding new ways to cash in as Americans open their wallets to get healthy. Foods that are naturally gluten-free – like popcorn and nuts – now advertise that on their packaging. Although only about 6 percent of the population has gluten sensitivity, some 30 percent of the public hopes to decrease the gluten in their diets, the market research company NPD Group said.

In the United States, sales of gluten- free products were about $10.5 billion last year, and they could reach more than $15 billion in annual sales in 2016, The Times reported.

“There are truly people out there who need gluten-free foods for health reasons, but they are not the majority of consumers who are driving this market,” Virginia Morris, vice president for consumer strategy and insights at Daymon Worldwide, told the Times.

“The reason I do believe this has legs is that it ties into this whole naked and ‘free from’ trend,” Ms. Morris added.” I think we as a country and as a globe will continue to be concerned about what’s going into our food supply.”

For those who can afford classes like a $900-a-month stomach-toning workout with a broomstick, the website Well+Good updates its audience on how to live the healthy life in New York.

Its coverage includes articles like the recent one on a brand of chia seeds that costs four times more than apparently lower-end chia seeds. Gym classes featured on the site are quickly filled.

One fitness regimen gaining popularity is Piloxing: part Pilates, part boxing and a bit of dance. Created by a former jazz dancer, Piloxing is praised for its dynamic approach. But its interpretation of Joseph Pilate’s namesake routine is criticized by purists.

RESERVE for a healthier you!

“There’s no mind-body connection whatsoever,” Jennifer De Luca, owner of the Body Tonic Pilates studio in New York, told The Times.

“I’m sure what she’s doing creates really tight butts, and a lot of people want tight butts, but to call it Pilates is a stretch.”

Yet Piloxing is taught by 7,000 instructors in 36 countries.Melisse Gelula, a founder of Well+Good, said fitness and wellness movements are becoming more accessible instead of available only at destination spas.

“Now all of this stuff – energy treatments, juice bar, spin – is part of your daily life, instead of something you go away to do,” Ms. Gelula told The Times.

Monitoring your activity can be routine as well, if you have $100 or so to spare. Activity trackers keep a record of calories burned and hours slept, and more expensive models can monitor heart rate and skin temperature.

“Makers of the devices have begun intensive campaigns aimed at convincing the large population of ‘worried well’ consumers to get wired and start recording their every move,” Albert Sun wrote in The Times after testing several of these activity trackers.

Activity trackers generated $290 million in 2013 sales, The Times reported, and sales could double in 2014.

The trackers might not be entirely accurate – Mr. Sun’s wrist-worn trackers did not recognize his leg tapping to music or his time on an exercise bicycle – but they offer other benefits.

Dr. Rajani Larocca, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, conducted a study last year examining lifestyle changes that encouraged healthful eating and exercise. Each participant wore a Fitbit Zip monitor, which provided extra motivation.

“Every single person increased their activity,” Dr. Larocca said.

“People felt more knowledgeable.”

Taken from TODAY Saturday Edition, March 29, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Next Intrusive Wave of Computing Comes in a Pill

Hugh D'Andrade's design to commemorate Electro...
Hugh D'Andrade's design to commemorate Electronic Frontier Foundation's 20th Birthday. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SAN FRANCISCO – They look like normal pills, oblong and a little smaller than a daily vitamin. And as society struggles with the privacy implications of Google Glass, they may represent the next, even more intrusive wave of computing: ingestible computers and sensors stuffed inside pills.

Some people are already swallowing them to monitor a range of health data and wirelessly share it with a doctor.

Inside the pills are tiny sensors and transmitters. Swallowed, the devices make their way to the stomach and stay intact as they travel through the intestinal tract.

“You will – voluntarily, I might add – take a pill, which you think of as a pill but is in fact a microscopic robot, which will monitor your systems,” Eric E. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, said last fall. “If it makes the difference between health and death, you’re going to want this thing.”

One pill, made by Proteus Digital Health, uses the body as its power source. Just as a potato can power a light bulb, Proteus has added magnesium and copper on each side of its tiny sensor, which generates just enough electricity from stomach acids. As a Proteus pill hits the bottom of the stomach, it sends information to a cellphone app through a patch worn on the body. It can track medication-taking behaviors and monitor how a patient’s body responds to medicine.

Executives at the company, which recently raised $62.5 million from investors, say they believe that the pills will help patients with physical and neurological problems. People with heart failure-related difficulties could monitor blood flow; those with central nervous system issues, including schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, could take the pills to monitor vital signs. The United States Food and Drug Administration approved the Proteus pill last year.

A pill made by HQ Inc. has a built-in battery and wirelessly transmits body temperature. Lee Carbonelli, HQ’s marketing director, said the company hoped to soon have a consumer version with a smartphone app.

Future generations of pills could be used for convenience.

At a conference in May, Regina Dugan of Motorola Mobility showed an example, along with wearable radio frequency identification tattoos that attach to the skin like a sticker.

Once that pill is in your body, “your entire body becomes your authentication token,” Ms. Dugan said. Sit in the car and it will start. Touch the handle to your home door and it will unlock.

But ingestible computing’s privacy implications are daunting.

“This is yet another one of these technologies where there are wonderful options and terrible options, simultaneously,” said John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy group. “The wonderful is that there are a great number of things you want to know about yourself on a continual basis, especially if you’re diabetic or suffer from another disease. The terrible is that health insurance companies could know about the inner workings of your body.”

There is one last question for this little pill. After it has done its job, what happens next?

“It passes naturally through the body in about 24 hours,” Ms.Carbonelli said, but since each pill costs $46, “some people choose to recover and recycle it.”

Taken from TODAY Saturday Edition, July 6, 2013

Natural brain cell regeneration?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Not Enough Work, Too Much Positivity

English: Worker assembling rebar for water tre...
English: Worker assembling rebar for water treatment plant in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico. Česky: Dělník pracuje na výstavbě čističky vody ve městě Mazatlán, v mexickém státě Sinaloa Français : Ouvrier assemblant l'armature d'une centrale de traitement des eaux. Photo prise à Mazatlán, dans l'état de Sinaloa (Mexique). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Is there a way to easily find the right balance? How to we strike the middle ground, and not be underloaded, nor overloaded?


The dangers of stress are well-documented – sleep loss, anxiety, depression, stomach problems, obesity, headaches. We have long been warned that stress could be killing us. But some of us may be at risk of the opposite: being bored to death.

Recent research shows that being underworked can be as unhealthy as being overworked, Alina Tugend reported in The Times.” In essence, boredom is stressful,” she wrote.

“We tend to think of stress in the original engineering way, that too much weight on a bridge causes it to collapse,” Paul E. Spector, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida, told the Times. “It’s more complicated.”

Professor Spector and other researchers say too little work (called underload), can cause problems associated with stress: muscles tension, stomachaches and headaches.

A study published this year in the journal Experimental Brain Research found that subjects watching a boring movie – men hanging laundry – showed greater signs of stress than those watching a sad movie.

James Danckert, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and a co-author of that paper, said boredom is not so much laziness as the profound inability to engage with the environment. “It’s aggressively dissatisfying,” he told The Times.

Professor Spector and his colleagues say that the stress of boredom at work can lead to calling in sick, taking long breaks, spending time on the Internet, gossiping about colleagues, playing practical jokes or even stealing. Most workers engage in those activities, but those who are bored do it more often.

So the trick is to manage stress, and it seems that women are better at that than men, at least in some situations.

“Neuroscientists have uncovered evidence suggesting that, when the pressure is on, women bring unique strengths to decision making.” Therese Huston, a cognitive psychologist at Seattle University, wrote in The Times.

Researchers set up a variety of situation in which subjects were forced to gamble, and came up with similar findings: Men took more risks when stressed, trying to score big wins, even when they were costly and less likely.

Ruud van den Bos, a neurobiologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and his colleagues discovered that risk-taking under pressure is stronger in men who experience a larger spike in cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, Professor Huston reported. But a slight increase in cortisol seemed to help women with decision-making.

In a 2007 study in which men and women were both exposed to a stressful event, Stephanie Preston, a
 Cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Michigan, found that women tended to look for smaller, surer wins as time grew shorter. For men, their decision-making became more questionable as the deadline approached, and they were less aware that they had pursued a risky strategy.

Too much positive thinking can be risky strategy as well, at least according to Gabriele Oettingen, professor of psychology at New York University and the University of Hamburg.

Professor Oettingen and her colleagues have performed numerous studies showing that people who fantasized about happy results were less likely to realize their dreams. Dreaming about the future helps people calm down and reduces systolic blood pressure – in essence, lowering stress levels – but means they have less energy to achieve their goals.

“Positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal,” she cautioned, “slackening our readiness to pursue it.”

Taken from TODAY Saturday Edition, November 1, 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Right Pose Influences More Than the Eye Sees

Judgment Day: My Years with Ayn Rand
Judgment Day: My Years with Ayn Rand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
At Last (Lynda Carter album)
At Last (Lynda Carter album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Watch celebrities on the red carpet, or models on a runaway, and you’ll undoubtedly see the classic stop-for-the-flashing-cameras stance: chest open, legs apart, head level, usually with a hand on the hip.

It turns out that this pose not only best shows off what they are wearing, but it also might send reassuring signals to their brains that they are capable and competent.

Social-science research over the last three years indicates such expansive postures release a flood of hormones that makes a person feel more positive and at ease, even if they were full of self-doubt beforehand.

The idea that posture is indicative of mental state is not new. Philosophers from Descartes to Ayn Rand wrote about the interplay between psychological and physical bearing. But the latest research suggests posture may precipitate, rather than just reflect, emotions.

Or, the studies found that how people carry themselves can actually change their mood, which greatly affects how they approach situations and solve problems, as well as how attractive they appear to others.

“Poses are powerful,” said Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and an associate professor at Harvard Business School. With colleagues, she has, through a series of controlled experiments, shown that assuming an expansive pose (think Wonder Woman with legs planted apart and hands on her hips) for two minutes will increase testosterone and lower cortisol in the bloodstream.

Fighting premature aging?

Her research builds on other studies published since 2010. One showed recovering alcoholics were less likely to relapse if they had an expansive versus a slouched posture. Another showed that subjects made to assume erect, open postures were more likely to take the initiative or risks in tasks compared with others who were forced into closed and constricted postures. An expansive stance was also shown to increase pain tolerance.

So how long do the effects of a power pose last? Researchers say that the hormonal changes persist for at least 15 to 20 minutes. But Dana Carney, a social psychologist who studies power dynamics and posture at the University of California, Berkeley, said, “It could start a physiological cascade that lasts all day.”

This is a good thing, because there are situations where the pose is not welcome. “Like a job interview where puffing your chest wouldn’t be appropriate, you can stretch expansively beforehand – on the train, in the elevator, in the waiting room,” Dr. Carney said.

To look and perform your best, academic and image experts recommend a two-minute power pose before any stressful situation. During the event, keep an expansive posture with your chest open, but not puffed, and keep your head level or slightly raised. Don’t slouch or otherwise fold into yourself or make yourself smaller. Avoid touching your neck, crossing your arms over your chest or grasping the elbow of your opposite arm hanging at your side.

“It’s about becoming so comfortable and feeling you have so much control over how you present yourself that you become more your authentic self,” said Dr. Cuddy. “It’s about quieting all those voices that say ‘I don’t belong.’”

Taken from TODAY Saturday Edition, July 6, 2013