Saturday, December 22, 2007

Trans Fats

When I was pregnant with Karston, I spent (too much) time in the waiting room for prenatal appointments. One of the articles I read while waiting, I think in Reader's Digest, said that a 2% reduction in dietary trans fat intake on a small sample of nurses correlated to a 54% reduction in heart disease risk! I was shocked, but ready to stop eating trans fats.

Note that trans fats are unsaturated. You know a product has trans fat if the ingredients list includes the word hydrogenated (partially or not). Hydrogenation increases shelf life, so it's popular. Unsaturated fat is easier to digest because enzymes can more easily get in to break the bonds where the fat molecule has a kink. What makes saturated fat saturated is that it has as many hydrogen atoms attached as possible (so it is saturated with hydrogen). That makes the saturated fat molecule fairly straight since the hydrogens on the outside repel each other slightly. So saturated fat is harder to break down in digestion since it doesn't have any kinks for enzymes to attack.

Anyway, it does seem odd that an unsaturated fat would be so bad. However, the trans configuration will be straighter than the cis configuration, so trans fats could be similar to saturated fats in digestion difficulty. Then I ran across Fear of margarine: The trans fat myth. This JunkScience site attacks scientific studies with poor statistics, but sometimes leaves out the important fact that the statistically-unsound study's conclusion was borne out by other studies with sound scientific methods and statistics. IOW, the identification of junk science is sound, but the targets are not always weak (just some of the studies). Now I'm unsure about trans fats ... I'll have to look for a study that was not done by the authors cited.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I have this rant fairly often so I thought I'd post my reasons that I will never buy an SUV. (Note that this doesn't apply to mini-vans, but personally I'm quite happy with my station wagon ... at least once it comes back from the body shop.)

  1. Safety: an SUV only has to pass truck safety standards. Those safety standards were designed for farm trucks that didn't drive on the interstate. IIRC, you don't have to survive a crash over 35 mph to pass SUV and farm truck safety standards. So those folks who think they are safer in an SUV, probably the ones who fly past me on the interstate, I bet they don't know that. A false sense of safety is very dangerous.
  2. Comfort: most SUVs use leaf springs. That's 1970's technology! Suspension has improved a lot since then. (But hey, leaf springs are cheap, and farm trucks still use them.) I consider a comfortable ride to be very important. I bought my first Mercedes (old even then, a 1983 300D) when I was 25, and after one week, the back pain I had had since I was 17 went away. I used to wake up at 7 am every morning with excruciating back pain. One night before exams in college, we all had a lot to drink, and I think I crawled on the couch about 4 am. When I woke up at 7 am in pain, the room was still spinning and everyone else was still asleep. I walked around patting the cat until my back eased up and I could go back to sleep. And wake up at noon with everyone else. So when I say that I always woke up in pain at 7 am, I really mean it. It was rotten. But after one week in a comfortable car, I've rarely had that level of back pain again. I've never even had a long commute, maybe 20 minutes each way tops, but I never thought I did enough driving for my car to be related to my back pain. But the timing sure was suspicious ... and my back hurts again if I drive a rental for more than a week ... Perhaps comfort is more important to me than to most people.
  3. Fuel Economy: there's just no technical reason that SUVs have to have such terrible fuel economy. Have you seen the bumper sticker, Osama loves your SUV? My 1987 diesel station wagon got 36 mpg on the interstate when I drove it home. My 2002 gas station wagon got 32 mpg on the interstate driving back from my grandmother's house while fully loaded (roof carrier even! worst case!). Both wagons are considered "full sized" and have a large amount of cargo capacity. I sure don't need an SUV for hauling stuff when I have all that open area in the back and a roof carrier. And I don't need an SUV to carry lots of people when my station wagon has seat belts for 7. So I can haul lots of stuff, seat many people, and have good fuel economy. Makes more sense than an SUV for me!
  4. Cost: even though SUV prices have dropped, they still have a healthier profit margin for the auto manufacturers than I feel like paying for something that is less safe, less comfortable, and terribly inefficient. I sure wouldn't pay premium prices for an SUV with poor safety, cheap old leaf springs, and bad fuel economy. SUVs have a huge profit margin, and I just don't see what's in it for me.

When I was in graduate school, one of the foreign grad students told me that he wanted to buy an SUV so that he would be safer. I don't know what he bought, but I did set him straight on safety. My Mercedes station wagon is heavier than smaller SUVs, and more survivable too.

Old cars have personality, and one time my 1983 300D showed that by not starting at the gas station. (It had a bad alternator that hadn't been charging the battery. I learned that the hard way at this gas station!) So I went inside and asked someone to give me a jump start. A good old boy (those guys are great when you have car trouble!) said "I'll help you little lady," and walked out to his SUV. Well, diesels have a very high compression ratio by virtue of being diesels, and he couldn't jump start me without revving his engine to get his alternator to kick out a lot more current. So that big tough SUV ... was really pretty wimpy and just barely sufficient for what I needed. (A car would have been the same, but without the attitude that the big SUV can take care of this little old sedan.)

I'm just not tempted.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Weight Loss and Refined Carbs

If you dig behind this HealthDay article, the bottom line is that insulin-resistant people lose more weight on a diet that's low in refined carbohydrates (no white flour and sugar!) than on a diet that's low in fat. It's not just about calories in and calories burned, but about eating the right food! Complex carbohydrates (whole grains) are still important. During the weight loss phase, complex carbohydrates provide fiber for that full feeling, and afterwards healthy carbohydrates are a major part of long-term weight maintenance (not regaining weight after loss).

This points to a low glycemic diet (not sure between glycemic index and glycemic load), but I suspect it really boils down to the usual answer to use common sense.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm Fine

I'm really and truly completely fine, but I was in a car accident on the way home. No airbags deployed, and I didn't even hit the steering wheel. I couldn't quite stop in time (but tantalizingly close! argh), and the other driver really should have stayed at the stop sign. So tomorrow afternoon, I will need to arrange to transfer my car from the lot where banged-up-after-hours cars go to the dealer for body work and repairs. I'd much rather be at work!

For as much damage as was done to my station wagon, I can't believe I didn't feel more impact. My headlight clipped her bumper, and since there's not much directly behind a headlight or in a trunk, it was squishy as car accidents go. I'm just hoping the insurance company doesn't decide to declare my car totaled (definition of totaled: cost to repair = value of car) because it was hard to find a wagon that new, in that good condition, with that low miles, and even in a pretty color. I haven't even had it 7 months. I want to keep it longer than that! I don't want it to be totaled! OK, I'm glad we're fine most of all, but I'd like to keep my nice station wagon too.

The body damage is really going to add up. The quarter panel with the headlight (and the whole headlight assembly isn't cheap), the bumper (pressed into the tire making pulling off the road tricky), the hood (just the corner by the headlight), and the driver's door (so I couldn't get out on my side, and I'm baby-big enough that climbing over the console was awkward). Before I turned off the car, the dashboard display told me first that I had a headlight out, and then that I had a steering fluid leak that needed to go to the shop right away. So there are more repairs than just the body work. Since my absolute favorite mechanic doesn't do body work, I guess my wagon goes to the dealer. By the time I pulled off the road, I could really smell the burning rubber from my brakes. I tried really hard to stop in time, to avoid this accident. Stinky!

Of course I had my seat belt on, and this big baby belly made sure that it was low over my hips just as recommended. Since I didn't even hit the steering wheel, the baby is fine. Nothing hit me or him, just the car. I don't even think I'll have any neck pain or any whiplash! No scratches, bumps, or bruises.
And I'm glad it happened by the railroad tracks at Blackwood Station. I'd been going a little faster several miles back when I got on the highway because the truck behind me was blinding me with those $%@#! high beams, but I slowed down in the curvy area (and that truck had to slow down a lot more), and I was even just coasting up to the train tracks for the bump ... and then there was the thought is that car going to pull out in front me? so my foot was hovering over the brakes. I slammed on the brakes, surprisingly did not tee-bone her, but still my headlight bumped the corner of her trunk. No one hurt, just rattled nerves. Slow: good speed for an accident.

Just one of those "a freaky thing happened on my way home" things.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Diaper Review, size 3

We started using size 3 diapers last year on April 27th, and we've gone through thousands. (Really! At least 3,000. Mind boggling!) I thought Karston might wear size 3 until he potty trained! After all, size 3 diapers run from 16 to 28 pounds; he gains weight so slowly that I could imagine him being 3 years old and under 28 pounds. But he won't be wearing size 3 next year after all.

Of the several kinds we tried, we were happiest with Pampers Cruisers. Although we had two bags of Pampers that didn't have enough filling in the front (we had some night-time diaper leaks until we started checking how high the front filling went for night changes), overall the Pampers were the ones that didn't have overnight problems.

Speaking of diaper leaks, that's how I knew it was time to look at size 4 diapers! I read online that an increase in diaper leaks means that it's time to consider the next size. We had two weeks of frequent nighttime diaper leaks, so I bought a pack of size 4 because if it worked, it was an easy solution ... and it turns out that size 4 diapers start at 22 pounds! Karston finally crossed that mark, so it really is time to move up to the next size. In fact, we started some diaper sizes two pounds early. However, we're still going to finish that case of size 3 over the next many days while wearing size 4 at night.

So it's the end of a 20-month era, winding down for size 3 diapers and the calendar year.


I read this article on caffeine and I'm glad that I stopped drinking tea several years ago. I don't need a stress amplifier that raises blood pressure and increases insulin resistance! I was at the worldwide Spectrum users conference in New Hampshire September 2003, and they didn't have my then-favorite drink of iced tea at the breaks, but they did have water bottles. Hot tea takes too long to drink (have to wait for it to cool before sipping!), cola is too sweet and causes burps, and I just don't like to drink milk. So that leaves water, and I started to enjoy it. Since water's good for you, I decided to stick with it. I sometimes drink green tea now, but it's decaf ...