Assorted Links

  • Super-old Ashkenazi Jews. Did they live to be more than a hundred “in spite of” their “bad habits” (eating steak & pork chops, smoking, refusal of Lipitor) or because of those habits? Small amounts of smoking could easily be beneficial due to (or illustrating) hormesis.
  • Does Hollywood have a sense of humor? In the new movie about  noted anti-Communist J. Edgar Hoover, Hoover’s love interest is played by Armie Hammer, grandson of Armand Hammer, who worked for the Soviet Union as a money launderer. Edward Jay Epstein writes about Hammer and the Soviet Union in this excellent Kindle book.
  • An advantage of ebooks, not yet realized, is easy updates. When the book is improved — for example, mistakes fixed — you get a new copy. In an even better Kindle book, Epstein writes about the diamond industry. The vast difference between the purchase price of a diamond and its resale value may be the advertising industry’s greatest achievement. Recent events caused Epstein to add a new chapter. The book was easy for Epstein to update but unfortunately earlier purchasers did not get the new version.
  • Michel Cabanac, who did some of the research behind the Shangri-La Diet, has written a book about his life’s work: how we self-regulate via pleasure. During a meal, for example, exactly the same food becomes less pleasant. When it becomes unpleasant, we stop eating. When we are hot, cold water is more pleasant than when we are cold. The secret to weight loss, Cabanac realized, is making exactly the same food less pleasant — an insight few weight-loss writers understand.

12 Replies to “Assorted Links”

  1. You’ve no idea on smoking. It goes far, far beyond hormesis. Google for the anonymous author “Nightlight”. He posts on lots of forums, including and longecity.

    I started smoking – *handrolled* cigarettes only – based on his arguments.

    Industrially processed cigs are about like eating McDonald’s. Yes, meat is good for you. No, McDonald’s patties aren’t.

    1. “It goes far beyond hormesis”? What do you mean? Hormesis can be powerful.

      Nightlight goes off the rails when he blames “big pharma” for anti-smoking science. Ernest Wynder, one of the pioneers, was a medical student. But yeah, there is plenty of reason to think a modest amount of smoking is good for you.

  2. Seth, when it comes to pathologically compulsive binge eaters, I think there is a fatal flaw in this statement from your post above:
    “During a meal, for example, exactly the same food becomes less pleasant.”

    For a sometimes binge eater like me, there’s no loss of pleasure at any point while I’m eating a massive meal of one of my favorite binge foods, whether the food is dozens of Krispy Kreme donuts or dozens of deep-fried chicken wings.

    Many years ago, my binge eating was so bad that there were a few times when I ate until my stomach was full, and yet I continued eating while the food starting filling up my esophagus, and I would quit only when the very next bite of food would have blocked my airway and killed me. Literally.

    Fortunately, I finally figured out that I just can’t do that any more, but only because another problem started to develop even before airway obstruction: a few years ago, huge meals started giving me terrible chest pains that made me go to emergency rooms for what I thought were heart attacks.

    According to EKGs in the emergency rooms,those episodes were not heart attacks, but perhaps something more like a hiatal hernia.Those chest pains finally made me stop eating massive meals. As a result, my weight has been dropping, and several of my health problems have improved.

    And, actually, I think that it’s not all bad to continue to enjoy the same food, as long as the food is healthful.

    If only I could just keep enjoying a big meal of nothing but lettuce and celery…

    I am moving in that direction. I have been taking your advice to self-experiment and to monitor and record what I eat, and how my blood sugar responds ( I’m finding that some of my favorite foods actually seem to sharply lower my diabetic blood sugars.

    Maybe I’m just re-discovering the Atkins Diet. I was startled several years ago that a week on a very strict Atkins or low-carb diet would lower my blood pressure, my blood sugar, my LDL cholesterol, my pulse, and my weight.

  3. Thanks for the heads-up on Cabanac. My own weight-loss discovery was making “safe”/filling (lots of shredded raw or steamed vegetables) foods *more* pleasurable, by mixing them with teaspoon-quantities of highly flavored rich desirable food. Thus, via satiety, “unsafe” foods became less appealing at the point of choice. The Follow-Your-Pleasure approach, when the pleasure has been tweaked for effectiveness, has been the great practical discovery of my life, along with a related tactic of gentle-but-relentless minutely-incremental change of behaviors with no drama around occasional minor regression.

    Cabanac’s insights also help account for the folly of deciding prematurely what one wants, since in many realms the needs and wants in the moment are more pertinent, and may be more wholesome, than the mind’s reach into the future. One diet writer talks about the hazards of the thought, “I’m-a gonna want some-a that [for dessert].” The semi-abstract pursuit of pleasure, while undervaluing its immediacy as a feedback principle, IMO occurs at some peril to our well-being.

  4. If you’ve read Nightlight, you know everything I’m getting at.

    By beyond hormesis, I mean that it has positive first order effects through biological pathways that aren’t related to poisons.

  5. My wife recently conducted an unintended self-experiment on less pleasant food. I eat gluten-free, and we recently found that our six-year old daughter is also gluten intolerant. As a result, my wife, who is above her desired weight, decided to cook gluten-free meals for the whole family. She found that when she used rice noodles in lasagna and mac and cheese, two of her favorite meals, she could only eat about half of her former portion size and then the food became unappealing, bordering on repellant. The effect has also been noticeable with other meals, such as spaghetti made with rice noodles and pizza baked with a gluten-free crust.

  6. The idea that very light smoking is healthy because of hormesis is plausible, if unproven, but the problem with light smoking is that virtually all smokers end up smoking 10-30 or so cigarettes/day within several years. In my entire life I’ve known hundreds of smokers, and only two people who managed to consistently smoke just a few cigarettes/day for extended periods of time. There are lots of ways to get hormesis that aren’t addictive and don’t end up titrating themselves to harmful levels.

    I came across nightlight on a forum several years ago. I can’t remember the details, but I do recall that he argued that evidence against smoking is worthless because it’s epidemiological, and then he argued in favor of smoking based on epidemiological evidence. Bozo bit set to TRUE.

  7. Fifth infouence book ordered. Thanks. Waiting.

    I have evidence that stoping to smoke can damage the lungs and cause lung cancer. It is only the formidable load of writing a “paper” that proibits me from making my case formal…..,

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