Category: Food

More excellent medical news — coffee drinkers’ division

The good news about the healthful effects of a certain delicious, refreshing, invigorating hot beverage just keeps piling up. (Previous instalments here and here.)

Researchers with the US National Institute of Health examined the association between coffee drinking and mortality among 400,000 men and women in a Diet and Health Study they conducted in association with the American Association of Retired People. Participants with pre-existing cancer, heart disease, and stroke were excluded.

During 5,148,760 person-years of follow-up between 1995 and 2008, a total of 33,731 men and 18,784 women died. In age-adjusted models, the risk of death was increased among coffee drinkers. However, coffee drinkers were also more likely to smoke, and, after adjustment for tobacco-smoking status and other potential confounders, there was a significant inverse association between coffee consumption and mortality… Inverse associations were observed for deaths due to heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections, but not for deaths due to cancer. Results were similar in subgroups, including persons who had never smoked and persons who reported very good to excellent health at baseline.

In this large prospective study, coffee consumption was inversely associated with total and cause-specific mortality. Whether this was a causal or associational finding cannot be determined from our data. (Funded by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.) Supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.

[Emphasis: Contrarian’s.]

[UPDATE] – Contrarian reader Mark Austin comments:

This is not peer-reviewed, but my research tells me that both heavy coffee drinkers and abstainers have a 100% risk of mortality.

A Cheezy solution to starting the wood stove

Contrarian reader Silas Barss Donham [Disclosure: Gee, that name seems familiar] can put up with most of the steps required to heat his Orangedale house with wood: the cutting, hauling, splitting (or paying someone to), the stacking outside to dry, tossing into the basement, re-stacking inside, carrying upstairs to the fireplace, and the constant sweeping of ashes, bark, and furch.

But he grows weary of making “the daily, just-so crumple of old newspaper to light the fire.”

Not being a daily newspaper reader, I have to go from store to store to collect enough expired papers (avoiding the new Globe and Mail with its fire-retarding glossy first pages) and then try not to make the crumple too tight, or too loose, or too whatever to catch properly and light the kindling.  When the fire finally does catch I have to wash my greasy black hands clean of newspaper ink.

Lighting a fire once in a while is a charmingly manly job; doing it every day gets to be a chore.

So Silas’s ears perked up when a recent radio piece about Cheezies mentioned that it’s possible to light them with a match.

I did a little experimenting and now I have a new method for lighting fires:  I shake about a cup of Cheezies (or Cheetos, or Cheese Puffs, or even potato chips) into a paper bag…

light the crumpled bag…

and stack my kindling as the flames spread.

No more crumpling, no more greasy black hands, just a slight aroma of roasted cheese powder as the fire lights.

And the thought that if something is greasy enough to light a fire, perhaps one shouldn’t eat it.


Here’s the Halifax I love

While puffed up pols and media toffs worked overtime this week to present Halifax at its snotty, hidebound worst, one local business demonstrated the city’s best spirit. During tonight’s Occupy Nova Scotia rally on the Parade Grounds, a carload of free pizza arrived from Freeman’s Little New York, together with a note:

And how did the Occupy Nova Scotia kids respond? They voted to donate one of the pizzas to the HRM cops. Now that is classy.

Photo: Bethany Horne; H/T: Chris Lambie

The hidden cost of farmed fish

As ocean stocks dwindle, humanity turns increasingly to farmed fish. But does this actually make matters worse? Graphic artist Nigel Upchurch thinks so:

[Video link]

It matters which farmed fish you’re eating, as some species consume more than others. Salmon is the worst, as this table, from a paper by Albert G.J. Tacon and Marc Metian of the University of Hawaii, demonstrates:

The red arcs represent wild fish inputs, the yellow arcs farmed fish output. The numbers inside the circles show the ratio between the two. Numbers greater than one mean more wild fish is consumed than farmed fish produced. Upchurch provides additional fine print.

H/T: Nathan Yau

A Halifax resident writes her councillor

JerryBlumenthal-150CContrarian has previously voiced astonishment that environmentalists — more accurately crackpots posing as environmentalists — would oppose a recycling project that transforms harmful municipal waste into a valuable organic fertilizer here and here. We’re also chagrinned the Halifax media’s gullibility and lack of interest in actual scientific information about the topic. Now, a North End resident has voiced similar incredulity in a letter to District 11 councillor Jerry Blumenthal:

Dear Mr. Blumenthal,

For a long time, I couldn’t understand why Haligonians keep comparing their city to tiny Moncton, but now I’m beginning to get it. And I’m not referring to Moncton’s apparently inexplicable ability to host major concerts.

Halifax has set aside $100,000 to study whether its own biosolids, produced according to a plan established at least five years ago, are safe. All of the hundreds of similar studies done in the past 80 or more years are evidently insufficient, no doubt because they didn’t benefit from the special scienctific perspective available only in HRM. And it seems there is no obligation for opponents to biosolids to produce any reputable science supporting their position. All this because staff made the mistake of mixing the material with wet compost and causing a stink in Clayton Park. We’re spending $100,000 to investigate a bad smell in Clayton Park that has come and gone.

Meanwhile, Moncton is selling its biosolids by the bag back to the citizens who generated it in the first place as a fertilizer branded “Gardner’s Gold.” Even better, they’re getting the equivalent of $40 a tonne for it, roughly four times what HRM gets from farmers still brave enough to buy its material.

At this point, convention requires me to make a bitter reference to the Great Cat Bylaw Debate, or HRM’s inability to join the rest of the province in mandating clear garbage bags, but I’m just too tired.

Lindsay Brown

Tamworth outpost

Oblivious to their fate, five Tamworth pigs, a scarce heritage breed, peer out from their pen at a certain unconventional restaurant somewhere in Nova Scotia.


More on this another time.

What slim looked like in 1940 – ctd.

Contrarian reader Stan Jones offers further evidence of 21st Century North America’s altered perception of weight: Footage of the Benny Goodman Orchestra playing Sing, Sing, Sing in 1937. Those are some skinny musicians. Note especially Harry James, whose solo begins 38 seconds into the tune:

(That is, of course, Gene Krupa on drums, and Goodman himself on clarinet.)

As a former TV host, Glennie Langille has first hand experience with society’s social expectations around weight. She offers a skeptical view of the notion that skinny equals healthful:

My first observation is that the original photo of Kennedy makes him appear to have an enormous head. This is a look normally associated with especially thin tv actresses creating the “lollipop” effect. As a former tv host, I am aware this is also the look preferred for that profession. But it strikes me the real reason the boy was thin was because he smoked and he was young.  Those two things make for a slim appearance. It should not be confused with a healthy person.

Greg Beaulieu also wonders about the role of that other health policy priority, smoking cessation:

As Scott [Logan] states, it is a hugely complex issue, but fundamentally it comes down to what you eat and how much physical activity you perform. Over the generations both of those variables have changed dramatically. While this generation has made a mega-industry out of the exercise/fitness segment, it also consumes things that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers would find astounding. To use just one example, I am old enough to remember when hamburgers and french fires were a rare treat, and not a lunch staple as they are for some these days.

I found one aspect of Scott’s comments thought-provoking. He noted the changes made in society’s attitudes towards smoking. While smoking is undeniably a filthy, deadly habit, I wonder if I am the only one who has noticed that as the smoking rate goes down, the obesity rate goes up? It is not surprising given the well-known connection between quitting smoking and gaining weight. But I wonder if the success our governments and public health agencies have had in demonizing smoking has inadvertently led to the increase in obesity? Are these unintended consequences that are their fault? Is the fat, so to speak, on their hands? And if so, what does it mean for other attempts by such agencies to affect the behavior of the population as a whole?

Since we will all die eventually, perhaps some enterprising economic analyst could delve into the cost-benefit quotient of spending public funds on attempting to keep people from killing themselves. Just a thought.

There’s little doubt that people who quit smoking often put on weight, but so do plenty of people who never smoked. Blaming the entire change, or much of it, on those pesky policy-makers who nagged us to quit smoking seems a tad convenient.

What ‘slim’ looked like in 1940 – feedback

Scott Logan, who formerly served as Nova Scotia’s Assistant Deputy Minister of Health Promotions, responds to our observation that John F. Kennedy would seem skinny today:

This piece and the previous on “Your Lying Pants” speak so graphically to socializedKennedy norms. When the majority of people smoked it was “cool.” When—for various reasons—the tipping point was reached where the majority were non-smokers, the efforts to reduce tobacco’s harmful impact on society gained great momentum.  In tobacco, the strategy was based on “re-normalizing” society’s previous normal view of smoking. In other words the “new cool” was re-cast in a non-smoking image.

The health of the population is based on numerous factors, not the least of which are recognized determinants of health. However, with the majority of citizens in numerous North American jurisdictions overweight or obese it is difficult to re-normalize the perspective on healthy body weight, or to gain any sort of broad-scale momentum on health promotion efforts to reverse the tide.

It is a hugely complex issue, and so it is likely that until something fundamentally sociological changes our psyche on what’s a normal body weight and until we look at the agri-food industry with the same scrutiny tobacco companies now face,  it would seem that false waist sizing will continue to be a new norm all its own.

Contrarian has been trying to lose weight himself, a project that got underway last summer when my avoirdupois crept into the obese zone – 50 pounds above the upper limit of the normal range for my height (according to those BMI calculators).

I made good progress, shedding 30 pounds in a few months. Then something totally unexpected happened: a good friend demanded I stop dieting. He said I was starting to look unhealthily thin. In fact, I was (and am) still 20 pounds over the normal zone—20 pounds overweight, in other words, and 70 pounds above Kennedy’s weight, despite our shared height of six feet.

Losing 20 more pounds* will put me just inside the upper limit of the so-called normal range. Kennedy’s 150 pounds put him well above the lower limit of normal. As Logan points out, today’s social standards make that normal zone seem anything but.

*Readers are welcome to give me a deadline.

What ‘slim’ looked like in 1940

The John F. Kennedy Library in Boston has released a huge trove of digitized images and recordings of the late president. Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic’s tech blogger, has published a selection. Here’s what struck me:


As a young naval officer, Kennedy was certainly slim, but no one would have thought him gaunt or emaciated.

055020_NavyIDcard Kennedy-550

Yet Kennedy’s Navy ID card reveals that he was six feet tall and weighed just 150 pounds. Six feet, 150 pounds! How our standards of girth have changed (as previously noted).

Top banana… sticker



Chiquita Brands International, successor to the United Fruit Company, a cartel whose imperialist policies in Latin America gave life to the term banana republic (coined by O. Henry), has revealed the winners in its contest to replace the company’s iconic fruit sticker.

Here are Contrarian’s favorites:




Chiciquita - chestChicquita moonChicquita - musclesChiciquita - dotsChicquita-zipperChicquita - wifi

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