A Yoghurt Synthesis

Recipe time on Muscleguy’s blog. When I was back in NZ visiting my mother she served me some home made yoghurt with stewed plums. Not wishing to offend I had to have some, but I was most pleasantly surprised it was creamy, delicious and flavourful. I quizzed her on the method and was introduced to the EasyYo system which is very simple (and invented in NZ). You dissolve one of the starter sachets in water in one of their 1kg containers. Fit the red baffle in their big white thermos and fill to the top of the baffle with boiling water. Insert the yoghurt container, put the lid on then wait 8-9 hours and you have lovely yoghurt. There’s a variety of flavours and styles available too. Around here Holland&Barrett and an independent kitchenware shop sell them.

However there are two problems with it. The first is cost. Sachets cost around £2.70, they make a full 1kg of yoghurt which lasts 2 weeks in the fridge, but. The second is that as I’m lactose intolerant I found I only barely  tolerated it. Proper yoghurt should have very little lactose, the bacteria should have converted it to lactate (which is why yoghurt tastes sour, pleasantly so). Commercial yoghurts add milk powder to make them thicker but still be able to put just ‘milk’ on the ingredients list, especially the low fat ones but I suspect most of them. There’s a lot of milk powder needless to say in an EasyYo sachet. I needed a way to both cut the cost and lower the lactose.

In searching the web for online sources of the equipment I came across a website which detailed a way to start with milk and just use a proportion of the sachet as a starter culture, resealing the sachet for next time. Great I thought and proceeded to try it. The result was quite good, though not very well tolerated by me and not being in possession of a wide mouthed thermos, hard to get out of it. Not wanting to buy a 1 litre wide mouthed thermos and having the EasyYo gear and needing to lower the lactose all combined to a necessity which gave birth to invention. A synthesis of the two methods, and very low lactose to boot. Here it is: Continue reading

Can B Vitamins Help in Alzheimer’s?

Recent media reports on new research suggest taking B Vitamins (B6, B12, Folic Acid) can prevent the mental decline in Alzheimer’s. This piqued my interest so I decided to find out more. The original research is here (full text behind paywall). Reports in the popular media are here and here. But they are, unsurprisingly, a bit too upbeat and as we shall see the study does not look at the impact on Alzheimer’s. The excellent NHS Choices site has a much better report here and I would urge anyone wondering about a popular media health report to check NHS Choices. There are a couple of problems with that though.

So, what’s the story? 270 men and women over 70 with mild cognitive impairment were randomly split into two groups. One group got high dose B Vitamins (B6, B12, Folic Acid) while the other got a placebo. As NHS Choices says this is the best experimental design for this study. They took those B Vitamins or the placebo for 2 years and their brains were scanned at the start and end of the study. This is a secondary study, the first looked at whole brain shrinkage while this one used the same data to look at which brain regions were most affected. Brain shrinkage is associated with the mental decline seen in dementias and Alzheimer’s in particular. This study looked particularly at grey matter, cells rather than axon tracts (in electronic terms transistors not the wires that connect them). They found that the B Vitamin treated group had smaller shrinkages in brain regions associated with Alzheimer’s symptoms than the placebo group. It’s important to note that the vitamins did not stop the shrinkage, they just slowed it. They further found that patients with high homocysteine levels had the biggest effects in terms of shrinkage reduction. The brain regions the shrinkage was found in are those that shrink and are affected most in Alzheimer’s.  Continue reading

Not In My Name

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/25/woolwich-murder-attacks-on-muslims

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22664835

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/10080300/Woolwich-attack-provokes-anti-Muslim-backlash-across-UK.html

As the above links attest attacks on Mosques, other Muslim buildings and Muslims themselves have increased significantly since the Woolwich attacks. The people doing this are often trying to induce wider conflict between Muslims and everyone else. But they are not acting this atheist’s name. All communities and especially religious ones have extremists in them (and it is all too easy to dismiss people with the tag). If we let the extremists in the wider community goad us into conflict with ordinary Muslims then we all lose and only the extremists win.

I hold no candle for Islam or any other religion but that doesn’t mean I am against religious freedom. I cannot expect my freedom from religion to be maintained by trying to ban other people from following their religions. Education, reason and evidence and maintaining the secular space where all can meet and debate and atheists and humanists demonstrating they can live moral, contributory lives without religion are the ‘weapons’ we can and should use. With humour, generosity and humility (which comes hard to many atheists, but we must try. Where it’s warranted).

The Vicissitudes of Gout

Last year the penny dropped that my sore toe wasn’t a niggling running injury when the toe on the other foot began to hurt too. The GP confirmed my hunch and so to get rid of it and hopefully avoid a kidney stone I reformed my diet, again (I’m gluten and lactose intolerant, sadly). Things have been going well, the other toe is now pain free and the original one very much better.

I’ve recently had a bout of flu and was feverish for three days which made me dehydrated and that made my right kidney hurt and a new penny dropped. I couldn’t avoid a kidney stone because I already had one at diagnosis. In the latter stages of a long run I had felt my right lower back and thought it a muscle strain.

Diagnosis is like that, the most likely scenario is the one we naturally look to and there are good reasons for that too. As I’ve aged I’ve pulled more muscles and tendons in the last ten years than the previous 25.

In keeping with the realities of life as a middle aged runner I instituted some back strengthening exercises, largely latter planks. Which have done me no harm and probably something I should have been doing anyway. I’ve added it to the list of exercises I do to stave off pain and strengthen those muscles I used to be able to take for granted. All this knowledge of muscle anatomy has it’s uses.

So, I now must face the fact I have a kidney stone, it’s rumbling away right now so I shall have to drink something. I’m always drinking something. At least the GP took me seriously and I have been blood and urine sampled and had my kidneys and bladder x-rayed. The NHS here in Scotland can be efficient.

I know I’ve got off lightly and there are other horrors I could be enduring. But that doesn’t lessen my chagrin that the thing I had tried so hard to avoid had already snared me. I had better be on my best dietary behaviour then. It’s a good thing my wife likes chicken.

Intro

My wife and daughter reckon I should start to blog. Personally I don’t see that I have any more insight and contribution than many of the bloggers out there, but maybe they are right, so here goes.

This will be a blog about life, science and the news as well as running, gluten intolerance and gout. The latter two mean there may be recipes.

In case you are wondering, I’m the same Muscleguy that posts on CiF and various other places on the web. I like to stand behind my words, so if you want to take me up my words elsewhere I guess this is the place to do it (dons flameproof suit and checks the bunker door is secure).

So now I need to go away and think about what I should write about first.