Crash-Dieting Can Lead to Serious Weight-Gain Repercussions

According to the latest research, the only way to lose weight and keep it off is to do it slowly by permanently changing your eating habits.

In other words, don’t crash-diet.

Otherwise, you’ll only put it all back on again—probably with interest—and likely slow your metabolism and deplete your hunger-stopping hormones for years to come.

If that happens, you’ll find it impossible to lose weight again just by cutting calories. Then, the only way for you to keep the fat at bay will be to live a life of always being hungry.

The tea that costs more than 30 times its weight in gold

It’s incredible what some tea drinkers are prepared to pay for a pot of their favorite beverage:

“In 2002, a wealthy purchaser paid 180,000 yuan — almost $28,000 — for just 20g of China’s legendary Da Hong Pao tea. Even in a culture that’s valued tea drinking as an art form for around 1,500 years (and has a system of tea classification that makes French wine look simple), the price was astonishing.”

Astonishing, is putting it mildly. “Original Da Hong Pao doesn’t just cost its weight in gold — it costs more than 30 times its weight in gold: almost $1,400 for a single gram, or well over $10,000 for a pot. It’s one of the most expensive teas in the world.”

You absolutely wouldn’t want to knock the teapot over.

Speed-reading isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

How fast is it humanly possible to read? According to an article in the Mail Online, it’s possible to read a novel in 25 minutes and still be able to recall all the plot simply by practicing and mastering an ingenious technique.

But then again, a more recent article in the Mail Online contradicts the premise of the earlier one:

In a world of email and social media, speed reading could be the answer to the always on generation’s prayers.

However, researchers studying the techniques and apps available say they don’t work.

They looked at decades of research—and concluded speed readers don’t remember what they read.

‘Examining decades’ worth of research on the science of reading, a team of psychological scientists finds little evidence to support speed reading as a shortcut to understanding and remembering large volumes of written content in a short period of time,’ they said.

I once got taken in by the claimed benefits of speed-reading and decided to give it a go. I practiced reading ‘groups of words as a whole unit rather than individually,’ as prescribed according to the dogmata.

Several vicious eye-strain-induced headaches later, I gave it up as a bad job.

Reading at my normal speed, I usually get lost in a story; books provide me with hours of unsullied pleasure that can seem as fleeting as minutes.

But when I practiced speed-reading, the reverse was the case; minutes seemed as drawn out as hours, and the intense concentration required was sheer agony.

Nevertheless, if mastering speed-reading could have saved me time while also enhancing my ability to absorb and remember the written material, I might have persevered. But the fact was that speed-reading both wasted my time and hindered my ability to absorb and remember more than just the gist of what the written material was about.

Of course, the proponents of speed-reading continue to extol the purported benefits to be derived by mastering the technique, but their assertions run contrary to scientific opinion—which is that speed-reading simply doesn’t work, that the argument ‘that speed-reading training helps you absorb more information in a single glance than you typically do’ doesn’t hold water.

According to researchers, the speed at which we are able to process text is directly related to our ‘capacity to recognize words and understand text.’ And ‘how many words our eyes take in at a time’ has nothing to do with it.

I heartily concur. In fact, it’s in keeping with the best advice I ever got on how to process text effectively. It came from a book by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, entitled Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health that I happened to read about 35 years ago (By the way, I’m not—nor ever have been—a member of the Church of Scientology.):

In reading this book, be certain you never go past a word you do not fully understand.

The only reason a person gives up a study or becomes confused or unable to learn is because he or she has gone past a word that was not fully understood.

So much for speed-reading.

Good and bad news for coffee drinkers

Probably coffee won’t kill you. That’s according to Dr. Greg Marcus, a professor at the University of California-San Francisco who specializes in the treatment of arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, “the fast, sluggish, or off-kilter rhythms that can trigger sudden cardiac arrest.”

That’s the good news for coffee drinkers.

But then again, he “cautions that the heart risks of caffeine may depend on the individual and that more work needs to be done to unpack the role of a patient’s unique genetics and environmental exposures.”

That’s the bad news for coffee drinkers.

What Dr. Marcus is saying, essentially, is that probably coffee won’t kill you, but you never know, it just might kill you.

Is that supposed to be reassuring to coffee drinkers?

Motherly love — warthog style

The last thing a hungry leopard expected, after grabbing a warthog piglet by the neck, was the furious reaction of the mother warthog.

‘When I pushed the shutter of my camera I heard a noise and thought it was the piglets fighting with one other.

‘But it was a leopard who had appeared from nowhere and caught one of the warthog piglets.

‘The leopard was trying to pin her potential kill to the ground and the piglet was screaming and kicking to try and get away from the leopard.

‘The next moment the mother came running back from behind my vehicle at full speed dropping her head and hit the leopard in the ribcage.’

And the end result of the encounter was that the leopard came off third-best.

Some nasty tricks Mother Nature has up her sleeve

Once upon a time in Western Africa, some hunters killed and ate a chimpanzee.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about that. The flesh of primates has always been a delicacy in the region.

Trouble was, this chimpanzee was different.

It had the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) lurking in its bloodstream, waiting to pass from primate to human.

Immune, itself, to the effects of the virus, the chimp nonetheless was a carrier, and one or more of the hunters became infected through contact with the blood of the animal.

The rest is history.

Out of such an innocuous event, those hunters in an African forest unwittingly played host to a hitherto unknown submicroscopic particle that would bring about sickness and death across the globe and threaten the very existence of humankind.

Had it not been for the intervention of antiretroviral therapy, the scourge of HIV would have killed many times the number of people it has up until now.

Think about it for a moment. If an affliction like HIV could pop up seemingly out of nowhere, and cause millions of deaths worldwide, what other threats to human existence might be lurking, waiting to pounce?

Let’s take a look at some of the nasty things we know of that nature can, has, and does unleash on humankind and other life forms.

One such is a parasitic fly, aptly dubbed the zombie fly, which goes around infecting bees, turning them into zombies in an insect version of the fictional “zombie apocalypse” syndrome where undead flesh-hungry corpses roam the world infecting whomever they bite, the victims of which themselves turn into zombies a day or so later, exponentially creating more zombies until they outnumber the living.

What the flies do is home in on unsuspecting bees going about their daily forage and inject their larvae into the bees’ abdomen midair. In due course, the larvae hatch into maggots which then feed on the bees from the inside out, causing a slow and excruciatingly painful death.

Before they die, the bees begin to exhibit zombie-like tendencies such as flying at night, which bees almost never do, and behaving erratically until they drop dead. The maggots then turn into flies and the cycle begins all over again.

Some parasites play the game differently, choosing not to kill their hosts, but rather to manipulate their hosts’ behavior in ways beneficial to themselves.

A parasite known as Dicrocoelium dentriticum, for example, begins its cycle inside a snail, which duly excretes the worm to be eaten by an ant. At this point, the worm makes its way to the ant’s brain where it somehow rewires the neurons. This turns the ant into a willing zombie, which, at the worm’s command, climbs to the top of a blade of grass where it waits for a grazing sheep to come along and consume it.

Safely inside the sheep’s stomach the worm lays its eggs, which then leave the sheep via its excrement, a ready-made meal for snails. Finally, to complete the cycle, the eggs exit the snails mixed in their excrement for more unfortunate ants to feed upon.

Then there are those delightful parasitoid wasps which lay their eggs inside spiders. When the eggs hatch, the offspring slowly devour their way out. But not before they modify their hosts’ brain so they spin webs designed to support the cocoons when they pupate.

Apart from HIV, which isn’t actually a parasite, the above nasties target only nonhuman life forms. But there are parasites that will go for anything that’s on offer, humans included.

Toxoplasma gondii (Toxo for short) is such a parasite. And this little moocher loves cats. In fact the survival of its species depends upon cats. That’s because it can only reproduce in a cat’s gut. So Toxo likes to take good care of its feline host by providing it with an easily accessible food supply.

The way Toxo does this is really ingenious.

What the parasite does is take a sojourn into the outside world when the cat defecates. It then gets picked up from the soil by scavenging animals, including its intended target: rats.

Once inside the gut of a rat, Toxo makes its way to the animals brain. The parasite then gets to work modifying the rat’s behavior to make it attracted to the odor of cat’s urine, and also to make it less afraid of cats.

In this way Toxo provides cats with the means to easily catch rats to feed upon, while at the same time providing itself with the means to get back into a cat’s gut.

Trouble is, humans are also exposed to infection by the Toxo parasite, particularly from contact with cat litter boxes; and from the food they eat, such as fresh raw salads, under-cooked meat, and even from drinking water contaminated with cats’ faces.

As in the case of rats, when Toxo parasites gets into a human host they lodge in the brain (and other tissues) and get straight to work making behavioral modifications which can cause schizophrenia and suicidal tendencies.

Parasites are cunning and ruthless and care nothing for their hosts. In those cases where they appear to be serving their hosts’ needs, it’s only because they are actually serving themselves in the long run.

And it’s anyone’s guess what especially nasty parasites might be lurking out there, just waiting for the opportunity to strike.

Thanks to Einstein, colonizing space may be possible

It stands to reason that planet Earth’s life-sustaining resources are not infinite. The fact is, they are slowly but surely being depleted. Eventually, there won’t be enough resources left to sustain human life.

Long before that point is reached, we’ll have to think about colonizing space. One big barrier to doing so is the colossal distance we’d have to travel to reach the nearest habitable planet. Such a planet could be thousands, even millions of light-years away. And as we all know, nothing can go faster than the speed of light.

So does that mean inevitable, eventual extinction for humankind?

Well maybe not.

Einstein’s theory of relativity could offer a ray of hope. Those of us who have watched Star Trek are familiar with a thing called warp speed. And it may not be science fiction fantasy. Some scientists believe it’s not only possible, but that we will have the technology to make it happen in about a hundred years or so, leaving plenty of time before planet Earth runs out of life-sustaining resources.

But first they have to figure out a way to harness ‘dark energy,’ a repulsive force that can be used by futuristic spacecraft to surf something scientists call a spacetime wave which shrinks the space between our spacecraft and the target planet thus effectively bypassing the speed of light. Once they achieve that, they can go about actually building such a spacecraft.

Sounds cool. For the sake of our descendants, let’s hope they get it right.