Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Why Are You Even Living Here?"

Larry David not curbing your enthusiasm to vote.
Register to vote at if you're not.

Or why are you even living here?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Veggie Tacos

These veggie tacos are a simple, but pleasing meal. They consisted of:
  • corn tortillas
  • homemade refried beans (soaked pinto beans, garlic, onion, olive oil - cooked)
  • jasmine rice
  • homemade guacamole (avocado, lemon juice)
  • homemade salsa (garden tomatoes, green onion, celantro, garlic)

Lunch in China

There are a few more videos that I will post from my trip to Wuhan, China in June. This is a quick one from the canteen at our factory. Meals are provided to the workers as a part of their compensation. I ate all of my lunches at the canteen, and sometimes dinner depending on how long our day was at work. I must say that the food was delicious. We ate well. Not much calorie restriction occurred.

A few observations about my food experiences:
  • All of our meals were served family style. Everyone used their chopsticks to pick at the food from common plates and into their bowls. Luckily, I'm not a germ-o-phobe.
  • Rice is most definitely the staple food in China. No doubt.
  • Soda was not commonly served, but orange juice could be found at every meal.
  • At least in Wuhan, they like their food spicy. Plenty of red peppers could be found in most dishes.
  • If you are a visiting American, your food is "Americanized". This means that you are served an unusually large portion of meat with your meals. As I looked around at other tables, the Chinese workers had just a little bit of meat, as if it were a flavoring for the rice and vegetables. As I am trying to transition to a whole plant based diet, I only sampled dishes with meat in order to be polite to my hosts. But I would have much rather preferred to eat the un-Americanized food that the Chinese folks were eating.
  • When Chinese eat meat, it seems that any meat will do. One Chinese worker told me that they will eat anything that has legs, except for the dining table. The Chinese are not vegetarians, but maybe not too far from it. Having said that, I think as the Chinese middle class grows, more Chinese will be able to afford to eat more meat.
  • Watermelon is a common desert.
There are pros and cons to visiting China. The food was a huge pro for me.

Check out the video below from one of our lunches.

Yellow Crane Tower

Across the Yangtze river from my hotel in Wuhan there was one of the four great towers of China, The Yellow Crane Tower. It was only a 3 km walk, most of which was across the first Wuhan bridge over the Yangtze river. The mile long bridge was built in 1957 after the Chinese civil war. It was built as a memorial to the success of the new democratic revolution.

The current Yellow Crane tower was built in 1981. It was first built in 223 AD, but was destroyed and rebuilt several times by wars and fires.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mo Farrah, Galen Rupp Go 1,2 in the 2012 Olympic 10,000 m

Mo Farrah and Galen Rupp, the training partners under running coach Alberto Salazar from Portland, Oregon, take the gold and silver metals, respectively at the 2012 Olympic 10,000 meter. Listen to them describe their race and training together.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Nike Free 3.0 First Impression

I mentioned a few days ago that I was considering Nike Free 3.0 for my next running shoe. Well, I bought the shoes. What sold me on this shoe is how well they fit on my feet. The uppers conform to my foot like a sock. The entire upper is a continuous flexible material. The shoelace just provides a snugger fit. The sole is extremely flexible. It is cut into several deep grooves the length of the shoe and across it. Oh, and they aren't very heavy at 7.8 oz. Running in these shoes is like running...ah, it's like a barefoot shoe. Take a look.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Cholesterol: My View

An anonymous commenter on my post "Bill Clinton: A Sucker or Smart?" left a link to Robb Wolf's blog post "Cholesterol: We Are Dumb". My Clinton post was about his diet change to a plant-based diet to lower his cholesterol and reverse his heart disease. I also shared my concerns about my own cholesterol levels at the time. The commenter only left the link, so I can only assume by the context of the link that their intention was to reassure me that it's ok to have high cholesterol.

Wolf made comments in his post like:
"most people who suffer a heart attack have...low cholesterol!"
and then in the next sentence, just to make his point:
"most heart attacks are in folks with...low cholesterol!"
Nowhere in his post does he describe what low cholesterol is? I'm a number's guy, so this bugs me. Wolf was referencing an article written by a UCLA newsroom which referenced an article in the American Heart Journal. The researchers measured lipid levels from about 137,000 (59%) people out 232,000 people hospitalized for coronary artery disease in over 500 hospitals from 2000 to 2006. They reported the following LDL cholesterol levels from those measurements.

from American Heart Journal January 2009
What were the cholesterol levels from the other 41% of the people hospitalized for coronary heart disease? Nearly half of the population wasn't measured for lipid levels. The researchers state that there is a potential for selection bias because not all patients were measured for lipid levels.Why would so many patients not have their blood lipids measured? Is it reasonable to assume that patients with higher cholesterol were resistant to getting their blood lipids tested?

Notice the shape of the LDL distribution of the population of patients that was measured. It's not a bell shaped curve. There is a tail on the high end of the curve. The results are skewed to higher cholesterol. This skewness of data can indicate that the sample of data (137,000 patients) doesn't accurately represent the total population of data (232,000 patients). It can also indicate that there is a natural limit for coronary artery disease at the low end of the distruibution (low cholesterol) that is not observed at the high end of the distribution (high cholesterol).

The results reported in this graph show that about half of the sampled population in the study had LDL cholesterol levels below 100 mg/dL which is considered optimal. Assuming there was no selection bias, the researchers concluded that these findings provide support for guideline revisions with even lower LDL goals. That's not what Wolf concluded, he stated:
"it completely calls into question the notion that we need to reduce cholesterol levels"
Wolf referenced a second article on statins. This study measured the effect of 20 mg daily of Crestor on people with LDL cholesterol below 130 mg/dL. In about 2 years, the participants lowered their LDL cholesterol by 50% and CRP levels by 37%. And compared to participants who took placebos, the statin users had half as many heart attacks, strokes and deaths from cardiovascular causes. Wolf suggested in his blog post that the decrease in heart attack rates was due to the lower CRP levels, and not the lower cholesterol levels.

Rather than dismissing cholesterol as a risk factor for heart disease as Wolf apparently does, I think cholesterol has to be considered as a relative risk factor. Nothing is absolute. In other words, multiple problems contribute to heart disease. Cholesterol is not a reliable predictor by itself. That doesn't mean cholesterol is meaningless.

At least this is how I interpret the guidelines presented by the NIH (National Institutes of Health) referred to as the ATP III Guidelines (Adult Treatment Panel). They present three risk categories for heart disease: low, intermediate and high. In addition to LDL, a person's risk category depends also on issues like smoking, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, family history of heart disease, diabetes, age and being overweight. The LDL goal for the low risk category is less than 160 mg/dL, for the intermediate risk category is less than 130 mg/dL and for the high risk group is less than 100 mg/dL, but consideration should be given for less than 70 mg/dL.

However, there are folks found on the internet like Wolf who don't see cholesterol this way. Cholesterol is necessary they say. OK. But how much is necessary? It seems to me that some of the most ardent supporters of cholesterol eat a diet consisting of a high portion of meat. Have you every heard someone eating a high carb plant based diet say that it was no big deal to have high cholesterol? It was a year ago that I was convinced to give up a low carb diet. I replaced a lot of that meat with carbs from fruits and veggies. Here's what has happened to my blood lipids since then.

Just so you don't think that I'm stuck on just getting low cholesterol numbers, let me share a few other improved risk factors with my diet change to more whole plant carbs. My blood pressure reduced from 130s over 80s to 110s over 60s. My body weight has dropped by about 25 lbs. And, my resting pulse has dropped from the 60s to the 50s.

Meat provides protein (plants provide enough too), but what else did I do to my body consuming so much meat? I'm not willing to continue that self experiment. Meat certainly did not help my risk factors for heart disease.