The Pleasure Rationale

Barbara Ehrenreich has a new book, Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer. I haven’t read it. I think I would like it. While scanning through it on Amazon I saw this.

On page 207 Ehrenreich writes:

I pretty much eat what I want and indulge my vices, from butter to wine. Life is too short to forgo these pleasures, and would be far too long without them.

I hear this a lot. The pleasure rationale. Is life too short to forgo the pleasure of cigarettes with coffee? Of driving a motorcycle or car without a helmet or seat belt? Unprotected sex? A rave without pot and pills? Sugar Pops and whole milk for breakfast? Or maybe an Egg McMuffin? Bacon? Life’s too short!

Maybe this has an age component to it. Ehrenreich is 76. Should we be encouraging young people to indulge their vices?

I agree with her that life is too short not to experience pleasure. But as long as we are able to chose our pleasures, why not chose those that heal instead of those that harm?

Heritage Loaf

This is a 100% whole grain, no-knead bread that I adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe. The consistency is more crumbly, like a quick bread. It doesn’t rise much because the lower-gluten rye and corn flours, and all the bran and germ, get in the way of gluten formation. Not much oven spring. But a great-tasting, whole-grain loaf with a bit more character than whole wheat bread. No white flour, no oil. Great toasted.


2 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup whole rye flour
½ cup coarse cornmeal
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ water
2 tablespoons maple syrup


Combine flours, cornmeal, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Stir maple syrup and vinegar into water, add to flour mixture, stir until blended. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let rest about 4 hours at room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Nudge dough onto a lightly floured surface. With lightly floured hands and a pastry scraper, roll dough around a bit, or knead gently, until it forms a ball. This will happen very quickly, 4 or 5 kneads, don’t overdo it. Place ball onto a piece of parchment, drape with plastic wrap, let rest about 1 hour.

Before the hour is up, place a large, heavy, covered pot (dutch oven) into oven. Preheat oven and pot to 350 degrees. Score the bread. Gently lower bread into hot pot, holding it by the parchment (parchment cooks with bread in pot), and cover. Bake 45 minutes, remove lid, bake another 15 minutes. Remove bread from pot. After a few minutes gently peel away parchment. Cool on a rack.

Dietary Fat Contributes To Inflammation

Dietary fat, especially saturated fat found in foods such as cheese, butter, and red meat, induce an immediate and prolonged immune response. Chronic, low-level systemic inflammation is at the root of metabolic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and depression.

People are like, wait, what? Saturated fat causes inflammation? (Which I said on this post: The Link Between Inflammation And Depression.) It does. I learned about it several years ago, in relation to diabetes. You don’t have to have diabetes for dietary fat to cause inflammation, but if you do, it’s worse.

High Fat Intake Leads to Acute Postprandial Exposure to Circulating Endotoxin in Type 2 Diabetic Subjects, Diabetes Care, February 2012

One way dietary fat contributes to inflammation is by increasing absorption of endotoxins, to which we launch an inflammatory response. Endotoxins are bits of bacterial membrane that are absorbed along with the fat we eat, especially saturated fat to which endotoxins have an affinity. They’re thought to derive from bacteria (dead or alive) introduced to the intestines from food, primarily meat, eggs, dairy, or fermented food, all of which carry relatively higher levels of microorganisms. The bacteria that colonize our colon are  too far along the digestive tract for absorption to take place in any significant quantity.

These studies have highlighted that exposure to a high-fat meal elevates circulating endotoxin irrespective of metabolic state, as early as 1 h after a meal [up to 4 hours after a meal]. However, this increase is substantial in IGT* and type 2 diabetic subjects, suggesting that metabolic endotoxinemia is exacerbated after high-fat intake.

Endotoxin, which is considered a potential mediator of chronic low-grade inflammation, is considerably higher in the state of type 2 diabetes.

A person eating three high-SFA [saturated fat] meals each day may encounter endotoxin levels that remain perpetually high.

While the most obvious solution to metabolic endotoxinemia appears to be to reduce saturated fat intake, the Western diet is not conducive to this mode of action, and it is difficult for patients to comply with this request.

*IGT is impaired glucose tolerance, usually a prediabetes state.

People with diabetes typically have a constant low-grade inflammation and this study was trying to figure out why.

Here’s another study that links dietary fat, specifically saturated fat, to inflammation, and it has nothing to do with endotoxins:

Acute And Chronic Saturated Fatty Acid Treatment As A Key Instigator Of The TLR-mediated Inflammatory Response In Human Adipose Tissue, Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, January 2012

They exposed adipose cells (fat cells) to saturated fat and it invoked an immune response in the fat cell. The fat cell, they said, has its own immune response.

The identification of innate immune receptors- toll-like receptors (TLRs) — on human and murine adipocytes — and their activation by bacterial and fungal pathogens supports the theory that adipocytes have an innate immune capacity.

Studies have also observed that free fatty acids have the potential to activate the innate immune signalling pathways, indicating a causative role for both glucose and saturated fatty acids (SFAs) in the pathogenesis of T2DM [type 2 diabetes], via the initiation of these inflammatory processes [9–11].

They found that fat in the diet was worse than glucose:

[Our] data highlights the potential risk of a continued high fat diet on inducing an inflammatory response, as it appears to be more pronounced than the glucose induced response. This would also appear to align with clinical studies that suggest hyperlipidaemia may impact more significantly over time than hyperglycaemia in the pathogenesis of metabolic disease [e.g. diabetes].

This study implicates elevated SFAs [saturated fatty acids] as a key instigator of the inflammatory response in both adipose tissue and adipocytes”

Saturated fat, found mostly in animal food, is the most problematic type of fat.

These studies have been out for years and I’ve posted them. But for some reason, “butter is back.” I’m afraid the social psyche has been irreparably damaged.

In Order To Prove How The Illness Was Caused, A Scientist Purposely Gave Himself?

In order to prove how the illness was caused, a scientist purposely gave himself?

1. Measles
2. Bladder cancer
3. HIV
4. Stomach ulcers

From How-To Geek:

For the longest time, the standing theory about peptic ulcers (more commonly called stomach ulcers) was that they were caused by stress and spicy food. Patients stricken with ulcers were commonly urged to engage in calming activities and even switch away from high stress occupations.

In the early 1980s, two Australian doctors, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, began exploring a completely different hypothesis: that ulcers were caused by bacteria. Their interest in the matter, research, and eventual hypothesis that ulcers were caused by the spiral bacteria H. pylori were widely mocked in the greater scientific and medical communities since it was believed that no bacteria could survive the harsh conditions of the stomach.

Eventually, after numerous frustrations in their research (H. pylori grows slowly and the first 30 out of 100 early samples were ruined when lab assistants disposed of the culture samples too soon) and poor reception of their work in scientific journals, Barry Marshall took matters into his own hands. In 1984, Marshall had his stomach cultured via endoscopy to establish that he was free from H. pylori, then he drank a broth laced with a culture of the bacteria. He anticipated that he would fall ill with an ulcer within a year or more of ingesting the broth, but was shocked to find out that within a matter of days, he was symptomatic. Eight days after ingesting the laced broth, he had another endoscopy which revealed that his stomach was severely inflamed and the bacteria had completely colonized it, and after a course of antibiotics starting on the fourteenth day, he was cured.

Today, as a result of the research carried out by the duo and by Marshall’s willingness to be a guinea pig, we now know that H. pylori is one of the major causative factors of stomach ulcers (NSAID pain relievers like ibuprofen are the major causative factor of non-bacterial cases). In the end though, a few weeks of stomach problems aside, Marshall had the last laugh. Not only was their research immediately validated, both eventually won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work.

So, stomach ulcers were once thought to be caused by stress or certain foods. It ended up being a microorganism. Do you think this may shine a light on the cause of irritable bowel?

Depression Is No More Prevalent Today Than In The Past

In answer to Dr. Gibson’s question, “Why is there such a dramatic rise in anxiety and depression in the United States?” Dr. Frances replied:

Allen Frances literally wrote the manual used to diagnose mental illness in this country. He’s top of his field and a force to be reckoned with:

Frances was the founding editor of two well-known journals: the Journal of Personality Disorders and the Journal of Psychiatric Practice.

Frances chaired the task force that produced the fourth revision of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) and became critical of the current version, DSM-5. He warned that the expanding boundary of psychiatry is causing a diagnostic inflation that is swallowing up normality and that the over-treatment of the “worried well” is distracting attention from the core mission of treating the more severely ill.

One of his recent books, “Saving Normal”, I covered here. He says that drugs prevent us from experiencing our “natural resiliency”.

The Link Between Inflammation And Depression

Having the flu, allergies, or eating a diet high in saturated fat can result in depression, via its link to inflammation.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about the link between inflammation and depression:

There is evidence for a link between inflammation and depression.[68] Inflammatory processes can be triggered by negative cognitions or their consequences, such as stress, violence, or deprivation. Thus, negative cognitions can cause inflammation that can, in turn, lead to depression.[69][70]

In addition there is increasing evidence that inflammation can cause depression because of the increase of cytokines, setting the brain into a “sickness mode”.[71] Classical symptoms of being physically sick like lethargy show a large overlap in behaviors that characterize depression. Levels of cytokines tend to increase sharply during depressive episodes in manics and drop off during remission.[72]

Furthermore, it has been shown in clinical trials that anti-inflammatory medicines taken in addition to antidepressants not only significantly improves symptoms but also increases the proportion of subjects positively responding to treatment.[73]

Inflammations that lead to serious depression could be caused by common infections such as those caused by a virus, bacteria or even parasites.[74]

There does appear to be a link.

Mind And Body: Scientists Identify Immune System Link To Mental Illness, University of Cambridge, Research, 2014

When we are exposed to an infection, for example influenza or a stomach bug, our immune system fights back to control and remove the infection. During this process, immune cells flood the blood stream with proteins such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), a tell-tale marker of infection. However, even when we are healthy, our bodies carry trace levels of these proteins – known as ‘inflammatory markers’ – which rise exponentially in response to infection.

Professor Peter Jones, Head of the Department of Psychiatry and senior author of the study, says: “Inflammation may be a common mechanism that influences both our physical and mental health. It is possible that early life adversity and stress lead to persistent increase in levels of IL-6 and other inflammatory markers in our body, which, in turn, increase the risk of a number of chronic physical and mental illness.”

This potential common mechanism could help explain why physical exercise and diet, classic ways of reducing risk of heart disease, for example, are also thought to improve mood and help depression.

Is Depression A Kind Of Allergic Reaction? A Growing Number Of Scientists Are Suggesting That Depression Is A Result Of Inflammation Caused By The Body’s Immune System, The Guardian, January 2015

Add this to the fact that stress, particularly the kind that follows social rejection or loneliness, also causes inflammation, and it starts to look as if depression is a kind of allergy to modern life – which might explain its spiralling prevalence all over the world as we increasingly eat, sloth and isolate ourselves into a state of chronic inflammation.

I wouldn’t say that social rejection, loneliness, or sloth are unique to modern life. So maybe depression isn’t unique to modern life either, we just medicate it more. In its non-extreme from, depression may be beneficial. There has to be a reason why we continued to select for it as we evolved.

What follows from this, and what excites pharmaceutical companies, is that if you can reduce inflammation, you may be able to treat depression.

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs ‘Could Fight Depression’, The Guardian, December 2014

“Obviously if you get a disease – like rheumatoid arthritis – that causes inflammation, you are likely to get depressed,” he added. “However, recent research shows the link is actually causal.” One piece of evidence is provided by studies of patients with hepatitis. They are often treated with interferon. The drug triggers an inflammatory response that drives out the hepatitis virus. The treatment is very effective – with one major drawback: 30-40% of patients become very depressed.

The link [between inflammation and depression] strongly suggests that it might possible to adapt current drugs that tackle inflammation so that they could help those affected by depression.

Depression has many flavors.

Sadness is only one small part of depression and some people with depression may not feel sadness at all. Different people have different symptoms. Some symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, or being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability, anger
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Not just depression, but anxiety, irritability, body aches, insomnia, irritable bowel … any of these may have a link to inflammation.

Old Film Of New York City In The Year 1911

Old film of New York City in the year 1911. Print has survived in mint condition. Slowed down footage to a natural rate and added in sound for ambiance. This film was taken by the Swedish company Svenska Biografteatern on a trip to America.

What do you see?

Some things I saw:

    • It’s a bit hard to tell but there doesn’t seem to be the problem with obesity that we have today. And I thought people walked with better posture.
    • Most people walking around are men. Where are the women?
    • Almost everyone is wearing a hat.
    • Lots of pollution, from everything. The air doesn’t even look breathable in places.
    • Very formal dressing. Even the young boys (no girls?) running around are wearing suit coats.
    • People walk in the street as they do the sidewalk. Well, things don’t move in the street very quickly anyway. People are literally walking out in front of cars, in a relaxed manner.
    • The street has to accommodate horse and buggy, buses, trolleys, and cars all at once.
    • The structures are incredible … ferries, elevated trains, tall buildings. The human labor involved in all of that, compared to today, must have been enormous.