Wednesday, July 20, 2016
In the process of writing The Hungry Brain, I read countless papers and interviewed 36 leading researchers in the fields of neuroscience, obesity research, and anthropology. I had my brain scanned in an fMRI machine while looking at junk food. I commissioned and compiled 47 illustrations, schematics, and graphs, mostly by a skilled medical illustrator named Shizuka Aoki. Yet the book will be accessible to anyone who loves science.
This book is not about me or my world views. It's not a conspiracy story about how everything we've been told is actually wrong, nor is it a critique of existing ideas about eating behavior and obesity-- although I do correct some misconceptions along the way. It's about the incredible and rapidly evolving world of research that has so much to teach us about ourselves, but rarely trickles down into the public sphere in a useful form.
In interviews this year, I said I thought the book would be out around September 2016. That was based on a rough estimate my agent gave me last year. Sadly, it won't be out until first quarter 2017-- the gears turn slowly in the publishing industry. But the good news is that Flatiron Books is using this time to do a great job of copyediting, interior design, cover design, and marketing, to make sure this book is as good as it can be, and gets into as many hands as possible. I'll provide a better date estimate when I have one.
In the meantime, enjoy this short description of the book:
From an obesity and neuroscience researcher with a knack for storytelling, The Hungry Brain uses cutting-edge science to answer the questions: why do we overeat, and what can we do about it?
No one wants to overeat. And certainly no one wants to overeat for years, become overweight, and end up with a high risk of diabetes or heart disease--yet two thirds of Americans do precisely that. Even though we know better, we often eat too much. Why does our behavior betray our own intentions to be lean and healthy? The problem, argues obesity and neuroscience researcher Stephan J. Guyenet, is not necessarily a lack of willpower or an incorrect understanding of what to eat. Rather, our appetites and food choices are led astray by ancient, instinctive brain circuits that play by the rules of a survival game that no longer exists. And these circuits don’t care about how you look in a bathing suit next summer.
To make the case, The Hungry Brain takes readers on an eye-opening journey through cutting-edge neuroscience that has never before been available to a general audience. The Hungry Brain delivers profound insights into why the brain undermines our weight goals and transforms these insights into practical guidelines for eating well and staying slim. Along the way, it explores how the human brain works, revealing how this mysterious organ makes us who we are.
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This recipe is part of my partnership with Grapes from California. It’s definitely a winning summer salad, and I hope you enjoy it!
Now that the warm weather is here and grape season is in full swing (Grapes from California are available May through January and are always ripe and ready-to-eat), it’s never been easier to add these vibrant little orbs to your life, especially when it comes to summer entertaining. Grapes can truly transform meals from ordinary to extraordinary, and their delicate flavor cozies up and enhances everything from salty and spicy to creamy and crunchy recipes, which is why I wanted to create a crowd-pleasing salad with Grapes from California.
Grapes are an ideal healthy mix-in to salads because they add a boost of flavor, texture and nutrition (a serving is an excellent source of vitamin K, contains 7% of the recommended daily intake of potassium and is a natural source of antioxidants and other polyphenols), along with juiciness, brilliant color, and taste. I always love to contribute something to a party spread. It’s fun for me to make a dish, and I know the host appreciates the gesture. I actually brought this Summer Brussels Sprout Salad with Red Grapes, Bacon & Walnuts to my nephew’s recent birthday party and it was gone before I knew it. Everyone loved it!
Additional grape ideas for summer entertaining:
- Mix red grapes with mango, papaya, jalapeño and lime juice to create a super salsa topping for grilled fish.
- Create an Asian chicken salad by tossing grapes with chunks of teriyaki chicken and rings of mini sweet peppers and rice wine vinaigrette.
- Turn up the color and flavor of your favorite tuna salad by adding grapes.
- Add vibrant red grapes to curried chicken salad wraps.
- Try white or dark chocolate-dipped grapes instead of strawberries for a sweet treat.
- Instead of sorbet or ice cream, serve frozen grapes for a lower-calorie option. Simply rinse, pat dry, then pop them into the freezer for two hours.
- Skewer a mix of marinated veggies and beef or chicken and grill. Sub pineapple chunks, peaches, and grapes in place of the vegetables.
- Toss whole grapes (frozen work great, too!) into the blender with yogurt, banana, a handful of spinach, a splash of fruit juice for a stellar smoothie.
Ok, it’s recipe time! This Summer Brussels Sprout Salad with Red Grapes, Bacon & Walnuts combines both sweet and tangy flavors to create a well-balanced side dish. Salty bacon and walnuts enhance the natural juiciness of the grapes while complementing the simple yet tangy vinaigrette made with garlic, honey mustard, oil, and red wine vinegar. The combination of flavors and textures is guaranteed to be a hit at your next summer get-together!
- 2 cups California seedless red grapes
- 20 ounces shredded Brussels sprouts
- 6 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (for sauteing Brussels sprouts)
- vinaigrette (recipe below)
- 2 tsp honey mustard
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 red wine vinegar
- pinch of salt
In a large saute pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil and Brussels sprouts for about 5 minutes until bright green, stirring frequently. Tip: Do not overcook the Brussels sprouts. You want them to be a little crunchy, but not totally raw.
Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, combine ingredients for the vinaigrette.
When Brussels sprouts are bright green and crunchy, transfer them to a large mixing bowl and then add grapes, bacon, walnuts, and vinaigrette.
Combine ingredients and fully coat with the vinaigrette.
Chill salad in the refrigerator until it’s time to serve.
Recipe makes approximately 12 half cup servings.
More healthy and delicious summer grape salads that might be of interest:
- Make-Ahead Grape Tabbouleh Salad
- Cool Cucumber Grape Salad
- Grape and Honey Dew Green Salad with Mint Splash
- Spinach Salad with Grapes and Pancetta
- Chicken Salad with Pecans and Grapes
Question of the Day
What’s your favorite summer recipe that includes grapes?
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One major downside to having these big prominent heads stuffed with consciousness-spawning brain matter is that they sometimes ache. Nobody likes a headache. You can find fetishists who enjoy pinching, slapping, biting, burning and any matter of objectively painful stimuli. But there aren’t “headache fetishists.” No one’s chugging a 32 ounce Slurpee in search of brain freeze, or getting drunk for the hangover.
The difficult thing about headaches is figuring out why they’re occurring. Pain in other areas is different. You can look at your hand if it’s hurting and figure out why. You can see the cut on your knee and know what’s going on. But you are your head, and the headache is inside. Your consciousness sits behind your eyes observing reality and directing your role in it. It’s all a big mystery. Or so it feels.
That doesn’t mean we’re helpless. There are many effective ways to manage, treat, and even blunt the painful effects of headaches.
There are different types of headaches. To fix them, you’ll need to first understand which type of headache currently affects you.
The three main ones are migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches.
These guys are serious business. I’ve been lucky enough not to suffer from them, but I have several friends who do.
Some migraines come with “auras.” In aura migraines, sufferers are struck with alterations to consciousness that serve as a “warning” of the impending migraine: an odd smell in the air, swirling colors, bright lights, confusing thought patterns. Auras can occur a few seconds to a couple hours in advance. They usually but not always subside once the actual migraine hits.
Migraines affect more boys than girls, and more women than men. They also run in families, suggesting a hereditary component.
- Vitamin B12: B12 deficiency is more common than many people think and may play a large role in migraine vulnerability.
- Folate: In women migraine sufferers, increasing dietary folate reduces the severity of the attacks. Higher doses may be better; 1 mg folate was ineffective, while 2 mg folate was an effective prophylactic.
- Riboflavin: Riboflavin deficiency is common among migraine patients, and researchers have spent a considerable amount of time exploring its supplementation for migraine prevention. A 2004 study found that giving riboflavin to migraine patients reduced their frequency and resulted in fewer uses of anti-migraine abortive meds. Riboflavin decreased migraines in kids and teens in one study, but others have had mixed results. All in all, it appears safe and effective for adults, and perhaps worth a shot in kids (just don’t get your hopes up).
Magnesium: The evidence is quite clear in 2016. Magnesium matters for (many) migraine sufferers.
- Migraine patients have lower magnesium levels than controls. Same goes for red blood cell magnesium levels. In juveniles, magnesium levels actually drop after a migraine.
- Low magnesium levels are a significant and independent predictor of one’s migraine risk. In the “acute attack phase,” a migraine patient’s odds of having a migraine go up by 35 times if magnesium levels drop below recommended bottom limits. In migraine patients not in the acute phase, their odds go up by 6.5 times if magnesium levels are low.
- Oral magnesium trials are mixed, but there’s some effect. Magnesium appears to be effective as migraine prophylaxis—as a preventive measure. You probably can’t take magnesium once a migraine hits and expect an effect. In that same study, L-carnitine and L-carnitine combined with magnesium also worked better than placebo. Magnesium citrate (600 mg/day) was very helpful for non-aura migraines and may be a better choice than magnesium oxide, the type used in most other migraine studies.
Red meat: Red meat is the best source of both L-carnitine, riboflavin, and vitamin B12. Throw some sauteéd spinach in there and you’ve got a big dose of L-carnitine, riboflavin, and magnesium. Make it beef heart and you’ll get some CoQ10 as well. Make it liver and you’ve got yourself some folate.
Just don’t forget the dual nature of red meat. Red meat may help your migraine, improve your body composition, boost your performance in the gym, increase bone mineral density, and help your grandma’s brain work better, but it’s going to kill you!
Triggers: Every migraine sufferer I know has a food, smell, or chemical compound that triggers them. For some, it’s bad Chinese food (maybe the MSG?). For others, it’s red wine, or aged cheeses, dairy in general, gluten, fast food, or even red meat (in which case disregard the previous section). According to Chris Kresser, the most common triggers are foods containing histamine, tyramine, or arginine. They’re not all foods and drinks, either. They can be common household chemicals and perfumes. Some people report EMF as a trigger. Even particularly powerful emotions, stressful situations, and other non-corporeal phenomena can be triggers for some people.
Supplementation: It is a must-try. The previously-mentioned are all important nutrients with a high safety profile; there’s no reason not to give them a shot, and they’ll probably help. A recent study gave a proprietary magnesium, riboflavin, and CoQ10 supplement to migraine sufferers. The supplement was a huge success, reducing symptom severity and duration.
Meditation: Mindfulness meditation seems to work.
Cluster headaches are probably the most painful type of headache, but they don’t last as long as a typical migraine. They hit one side of the head, usually centralized around the eye, and come in waves or “clusters.”
Cluster headaches affect more men than women.
Cluster Headache Treatments
Psychedelics: Although rigorous trials are lacking. a number of surveys and case studies indicate that the classical psychedelics psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) and LSD (AKA acid) may alleviate and reduce the severity of cluster headaches. In one, authors interviewed people who had treated their own cluster headaches with either LSD or psilocybin, finding the vast majority had derived major benefits from their experimentation. In a more recent survey of cluster headache sufferers, psilocybin, LSD, and LSA (a close relative of LSD with similar effects and mechanisms) appeared to be just as efficacious as conventional medicines, and often more so. That said, going on a trip (of the non-plane, train or automobile variety) to cure cluster headaches probably isn’t for most folks. So read on.
Sex hormone replacement: Cluster headaches frequently appear in people with low testosterone levels. When you give testosterone to male cluster headache sufferers with low testosterone, symptoms improve. Half experience total remission.
Circadian hygiene: For decades, researchers have found many examples of circadian misalignment in patients suffering from cluster headaches.
- Headaches in general have a consistent relationship to sleep problems.
- In non-sufferers, melatonin and cortisol secretion are synchronized; as one goes up, the other goes down. In cluster headache patients, there is no synchronization. Almost half show no evidence of melatonin or cortisol rhythm at all.
- People with cluster headaches are more likely to sleep poorly. Headache frequency correlates with daylight hours, increasing during winter and late autumn and decreasing during spring, summer, and early fall.
Tension headaches are the most common type and have many different causes, some physical, some psychological. Women are more likely than men to get tension headaches.
Tension Headache Treatments
Vitamin D/Sun: There’s a fairly consistent relationship between latitude and headache occurrence. The further away you are from the equator, the less sun and the more headache. This probably holds true for migraine as well.
Massage: Effective massage for headaches can be as simple as rubbing your own temples until the headache diminishes. It can be more complicated, employing trigger point therapy. Maybe it’s Thai massage. Maybe it’s just your significant other rubbing your neck and head while you watch Netflix together. Perhaps the most reliable way to alleviate a tension headache with massage is to focus on the suboccipital muscles along the base of your skull.
You don’t necessarily need a massage therapist every time. Touch heals, and healers needn’t be experts.
Chiropractic: Spinal manipulation may help some tension headaches, particularly combined with massage. It improves range of motion along the cervical spine, which should also help prevent future headaches.
Exercise: Getting your neck stronger can reduce headaches.
Address posture: People with chronic tension headaches tend to show more forward head posture and have more active (read: painful/tender) trigger points along the neck and upper shoulders. Avoid text neck. Break up sitting time and especially staring-at-a-device time.
Trigger point therapy: Mentioned earlier, tension headache sufferers tend to have tender trigger points along the trapezius (“shrugging muscles”), sternocleidomastoid (muscles running from the breastbone past the collarbone to the back of your head; controls head turning), and temporalis (big muscles alongside the head that control chewing) muscles.
Relax: Whatever relaxes you, go do it; stress is a consistent factor in the development of tension headaches. Fight it. Rethink it. Redirect it.
That’s all I’ve got, folks. What about you? How do you deal with headaches? What’s worked? What hasn’t?
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