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Science News: “A good diet for you may be bad for me”

Science news reports:

Eating the same foods can lead to different blood sugar spikes in different people

People’s blood sugar rises or falls differently even when they eat the exact same fruit, bread, deserts, pizza and many other foods, researchers in Israel report November 19 in Cell. That suggests that diets should be tailored to individuals’ personal characteristics.


Mixes of microbes living in people’s guts, known as the gut microbiome, also changed with the good and bad diets. Bacteria help break down food and have been implicated in causing obesity and diabetes. This study can’t distinguish whether the microbiome is causing differences in blood sugar responses or being influenced by how a person responds to certain foods, says Peter Turnbaugh, a microbiome researcher at the University of California, San Francisco

WIND: more and more evidence suggests that gut biome has a huge impact on overall health and weight.

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Sleep Affects Many Aspects of Physiology

The October 2015 Scientific American has a fascinating article on sleep: Beyond Memory: The Benefits of Sleep.

  • Sleep is an unconditional necessity.
  • College students given an immunization that had normal sleep had a 97% higher antibody response than subjects kept awake all night the following night (one night only!). In another study, antibody protection increased 56% for each additional hour of sleep! With less than six hours of sleep, vaccinations were ineffective (no clinically significant immune response) (Hepatitis B).
  • When sleep deprived, negative memories are formed more strongly than positive ones, and cognitive decline occurs more strongly with positive associations; negative associations are least affected.
  • Poor sleep can lead to major depression and may contribute to other psychiatric disorders; the use of CPAP (to address sleep apnea) shows a 26% reduction in depression symptoms in one study.
  • Five nights of restricted sleep with a dozen men showed that the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin increased by 28%. Amounts of leptin (decreases hunger) decline by 18%. The men reported a 23% increase in hunger. In other words, sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain (an idea supported by 50 other studies).
  • Children from 6 to 9 years old getting less than 10 hours of sleep were 1.5X to 2.5X likely to be obese. Studies in adults suggest a 50% increase in obesity with less than 6 hours of sleep (average) and an associate with Type II diabetes is also seen.

Blood exerts a powerful influence on the brain

I’ve long held the theory that the more consistently I excercise (60-90 minutes per day), the better I feel and the better everything works. I based this idea on a simple theory: increased blood flow to the body helps all sorts of systems flush toxins, repair and oxygenate tissues, deliver nutrients, etc. Along with the benefits of excercise in general.

Might my theory have a solid basis in scientific fact? If blood flow exerts the powerful effects now being discussed, then the hugely increased blood flow while vigorously excercising surely exerts side affects from pumping large amounds of blood over thousands of hours over the course of a year.

Blood exerts a powerful influence on the brain

The brain's nerve cells have a call-and-response relationship with the blood that sustains them

Blood tells a story about the body it inhabits. As it pumps through vessels, delivering nutrients and oxygen, the ruby red liquid picks up information. Hormones carried by blood can hint at how hungry a person is, or how scared, or how sleepy. Other messages in the blood can warn of heart disease or announce a pregnancy. Immune molecules can reveal an infection. When it comes to the brain, blood also seems to be more than a traveling storyteller. In some cases, the blood may be writing the script.

This line of research is expanding scientists’ view of what makes the brain tick, and the implications for human health are enormous. Diabetes, multiple sclerosis and hypertension— diseases that harm blood vessels elsewhere in the body — may afflict the brain too. What’s more, common drugs that tinker with blood flow, including statins, anti-inflammatories and even Viagra, may affect how the brain operates.

... Vast networks of endothelial cells may carry messages lightning-quick from neurons that need fuel to distant large arteries that can supply it

.. Beyond keeping neurons well fed, blood may actually tell neurons when to fire. Kind of like gasoline oozing out of a car’s gas tank and taking the wheel.

... A slight dilation or constriction of vessels reliably changes the behavior of nearby neurons.

... Abnormal blood flow in the brain is present in the five major forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies

... Other disorders, such as diabetes, might harm the brain by damaging blood vessels. Many scientists attribute the mental fuzziness that can accompany diabetes to neuron damage from excess glucose. But maybe faulty lines between unresponsive blood vessels and neurons are to blame...

... Common drugs that influence blood flow may also have unanticipated effects on the brain. In addition to statins, drugs such as Viagra, blood pressure drugs and even anti-inflammatories may unintentionally change how the brain operates. These drugs may be dampening the brain’s ability to call for blood when it needs it...

Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics Can Cause Peripheral Neuropathy, Ruptured Tendons, Cardiovascular Disease (and Flagyl/Metronidazole)

I wrote about my nasty experience with nerve damage from Flagyl (Metronidazole), and how when I asked “any risks”, my doctor lied to me with a resounding “NO”.

Fortunately, I have mostly recovered over a period of 11 months (usual prognosis for recovery is 12-18 months so that’s good), but I still suffer pain in my left arm regularly, as well as some lingering effects in my toes.

But now it turns out that my “head in the sand” theory about medical doctor ignorance has solid basis in fact—devastating side effects are in fact possible with a wide variety of antibiotics, and this has long been a blind spot with the medical profession, conveniently not reported and thus ignored.

The issues are not just with Flagyl, but with another entire class of antibiotics causing nerve damage, tendon damage, cardiovascular damage, etc. I would say this: use an antibiotic only when absolutely necessary.

FDA Panel Seeks Tougher Antibiotic Labels

Mounting evidence of previously unknown, and sometimes permanent, side effects prompted review

Food and Drug Administration advisory panel overwhelmingly called for heightened label warnings on widely prescribed antibiotics called fluoroquinolones because of unusual but sometimes devastating side effects.


Most fluoroquinolones now are sold as generic drugs, but the well-known brand names include Bayer AG’s Cipro, generically called ciprofloxacin; and Johnson & Johnson’s Levaquin, or levofloxacin. This class of powerful antibiotics has been available for nearly three decades.


These cases included weakness, numbness, pain, discomfort, burning and tingling. That office also reported the case of a man who had a hypersensitivity reaction while taking Levaquin. After getting a second treatment with the drug, he was admitted to the intensive care unit and died within two weeks, according to FDA documents.


In a more recent review, FDA staff reported that this class of drugs carries a risk of cardiovascular disease, and of tendon rupture and peripheral neuropathy.

“Over the life-cycle of these drugs, several adverse reactions have been reported and most of them were not evident in the preapproval safety databases,” the FDA reviewers wrote.

WIND: note the “previously unknown” phrase, which translates to “we are incompetent and once in a while we finally fix things that hurt people”.

My own experience with metronidazone suggests to me that doctors learn about a drug in medical school, hard code the “known” issues into their brains, and then lock down their knowledge (what exactly would cause them to do otherwise?!). Combine that with a touch of arrogance (“another hypochondriac patient imagining things”), decreasing remuneration and so on. Bad combination. How else to explain my doctor emphatically answering “NO” to my “any risks” question? A google search turns up all sort of issues with Flagyl/metronidazole. How the hell does a doctor prescribe double the usual dose for double the usual time and get away with being so ignorant?

Why Every GPS Overestimates Distance Traveled

Accurate distance: I calibrate my SRM Power Control head unit by measuring distance along a long measuring tape using at least five revolutions at a specific tire pressure while my weight is on the bike as I would ride. I then divide to get a circumference good to a millimeter or so (should be ~0.05% error or so). This delivers accuracy down to 1/1000 of a mile (5 feet) using the SRM. If I ride the same course over and over, I get the same figure every time to 0.001 mile. If I change tire size (different wheel), I can immediately see the error in distance over the same course (unless I recalibrate).

I do not use GPS for any of my cycling, having found it highly inaccurate in both distance and a bad joke as far as altitude (losing 1000' all of a sudden, reading descent while ascending steeply, etc). GPS such as the Garmin Edge 500 produces garbage data under the conditions I would most need it (mountain biking with tree cover and switchbacks, but also road biking under tree cover).

Some folks ride flat open roads, and there GPS is presumably not too bad. But all those KOM things... well now IEEE Spectrum reports on GPS inaccuracy in Why Every GPS Overestimates Distance Traveled.

Runners, mariners, airmen, and wilderness trekkers beware: Your global positioning system (GPS) is flattering you, telling you that you have run, sailed, flown, or walked significantly farther than you actually have. And it’s not the GPS’s fault, or yours.

Blame the statistics of measurement. Researchers at the University of Salzburg (UoS), Salzburg Forschungsgesellchaft (SFG), and the Delft University of Technology have done the math to prove that the distance measured by GPS over a straight line will, on average, exceed the actual distance traveled.

As an example of “lab testing blinders”, the researchers (mathematicians) quoted in the article seem to be clueless about far larger errors in the real world! Their findings are laughable in the face of actual real-world errors in the opposite direction of error (too short in distance)—real world issues that relegate their findings to a rounding error!

It’s a classic case of not seeing the forest for a few sticks of wood. Their “test” consisted of having subjects walk a 10 X 10 meter square. While this validates the mathematical model (apparently), how is that realistic for anyone anywhere using a GPS to track distance? Do you walk in a 10 X 10 square, or have you ever?! Science like this which uses a context bearing no relation to actual usage conditions is devoid of knowledge.

So here is some knowledge of actual GPS performance based on real-world usage. The errors cited here dwarf the researchers mathematical masturbation, at least if the goal is relevance to the real world.

Coverage errors

First, consider GPS ridden under tree cover, or in a canyon. The GPS signal can get spotty coverage, leading to gross errors of at least 10%. This is as real-world as it gets, and these are huge errors and I have observed them firsthand.

Altitude/slope errors

Consider riding a 10% to 15% grade (or even 18% for miles)—consumer GPS cannot gauge altitude with any accuracy, so it will report a shorter distance than actually traveled (because the travel is on the hypotenuse, not the shorter “leg”).

Or consider a course consisting of frequent undulating dips in the road, rising and falling 5 to 50 feet: GPS will measure that as straight-line distance (especially downhill where the descent lasts only a few second). So the distance will again be grossly in error, with greater error the steeper the slope.


Consider a step trail consisting of tight switchbacks: what are the chance that switchbacks of, say, 20-50 feet back and forth will be measured properly (and also the altitude factor, above). Particularly if the sampling frequency is too low for the time taken to negotiate the switchbacks. When hiking or bouldering where the route is constantly wavering and wandering constantly, the same sort of thing applies.


Someone should strap a GPS to Alex Honnold and see how much distance it is from the bottom of El Capitan to the top!


Long term: Veloflex Vlaanderen Tubular 700 X 27C

See my review of the Veloflex Vlaanderen Tubular Tire as well as other blog posts on it.

I’ve grown to adore the Veloflex Vlaanderen: ride quality and handling are unmatched by any other tire in the line, and then there is durability.

My 55cm Vamoots RSL will not allow the Veloflex Vlaanderen on the rear (clearance is at its least with the 55cm frame size), so I use Veloflex Roubaix or Veloflex Sprinter on the rear mainly.


I glued on the Veloflex Vlaanderen onto a front Lightweight Obermayer way back in June, riding it almost exclusively. It shows mild wear but here in late September it has performed like a champ and never needed replacement. Yet I’ve run over plenty of glass and other nasty stuff. And its ride quality and handling are unbeatable.

Either I’ve been exceptionally lucky (unprecedented in 9 years or so), or the Vlaanderen has an unusual ability to shrug off materials that would normally puncture a tire. Perhaps because of its volume and running it at 100 PSI vs my usual 120 PSI for a front tire it shrugs off punctures better?

There was one slow pinhole leak (probably a tiny wire), but Stan’s No Tubes sealed that up and it never troubled me again. I love this tire. It is now my #1 choice for a front tire. If I could run it on the rear, I would.

UPDATE 08 Nov 2015: the Vlaanderen is still going strong. Amazing!

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire

Coffee: New Research Shows Huge Promise for Health Benefits for Liver, Diabetes

Science News has a lengthy article on the health benefits of coffee. As always, research over time is what counts in proving out such things, but here is the link and some selected excerpts.

Coffee reveals itself as an unlikely elixir: From liver disease to diabetes, coffee compounds protect against an array of health conditions

Selected excerpts—be sure to read the entire article. Not also:

In earlier work, van Dam sought to establish safe upper limits for coffee intake. He and others found no added mortality risk among people who drink six cups a day.

Despite the flood of positive findings, some researchers can’t help but remain cautious. Klatsky offers an example, regarding the studies showing no link between atrial fibrillation and coffee, caffeinated or not. “People who get symptoms from coffee tend to stop drinking it,” he says. So the only coffee drinkers in some studies would be those who don’t feel any bad effects, a self-selected group. Other studies often failed to note the kind of coffee people drank, the degree of roasting or other details that can matter.

I used to drink coffee, and I am considering restarting that. My favorite coffee was Kona Coffee (web site temporarily down).

* Online, September 18. In print October 3, 2015 Science News as “The Beneficial Bean: Coffee reveals itself as an unlikely health elixir”.


Coffee drinkers who have hepatitis C, a viral infection that can lead to liver fibrosis and cancer, show similar benefits. Of 177 liver disease patients, most with hepatitis C, those who drank more than two cups of caffeinated coffee per day were less likely than scant drinkers to have their fibrosis become severe, according to a study in Hepatology in 2010. Curiously, other sources of caffeine, such as energy drinks, didn’t provide a benefit.

Fatty liver disease, which is rising in tandem with obesity rates, may be susceptible to coffee as well. U.S. scientists identified 306 overweight people who hadn’t been diagnosed with liver disease. Ultrasound images and biopsies revealed 180 who had fat deposits in the liver, early signs of fibrosis. Based on those tests, coffee abstainers were moving faster toward fibrosis than consumers. People who had advanced-stage fatty liver averaged less than a cup a day of caffeinated coffee, compared with nearly two cups for those who were still at an early stage of the disease, a 2012 report in Hepatology noted.

Coffee shows a stunning effect against liver cancer. Earlier this year, a European team reported that women who drank two and a half or more cups and men who drank three and a half or more daily were 72 percent less likely to develop liver cancer than people who drank less than about one-third cup a day. The study included roughly half a million healthy people monitored for 11 years. During the study, 201 people developed liver cancer. The findings remained robust even when adjusted to account for hepatitis, the scientists reported in the April 15 International Journal of Cancer.


Coffee’s protective effect against type 2 diabetes came to light in 2002. In a study of healthy people, van Dam and his Dutch colleague Edith Feskens found that those who averaged a whopping seven cups a day were half as likely to develop diabetes over several years as those who got by on two or fewer cups a day. In this study of people ages 30 to 60, protection seemed to start at three cups a day and rise with intake.

That report, published in the Lancet, triggered dozens of studies seeking to replicate it, and many have. An international review of 28 studies, published in Diabetes Care in 2014, included more than 1 million healthy people monitored for 10 months to 20 years. About 45,000 developed type 2 diabetes while in a study. The likelihood of a diabetes diagnosis was 21 percent lower in people drinking three cups a day versus none. For those drinking six cups daily, risk was 33 percent lower. Regular or decaf didn’t matter.

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Lupine Rotlicht 2-Watt Tail-Light

The Lupine Rotlicht (“red light”) is a diminutive go-anywhere tail-light with some nifty features. Made in Germany as with its headlight and headlamp siblings, it is a first class unit whose flexible strap allows it to be easily mounted to a bike frame or seat tube. The battery is integrated LiIon.

Read my review of the Lupine Rotlicht. I’ve been using it for about two months now. Highly recommended.

Elevation profile for Everest Challenge Stage 1
Lupine Rotlicht

Everest Challenge 2015: Not Happening as far as I can tell

Update August 28: see details below. EC *is* happening.

I am unable to contact Everest Challenge race organizer Steven Barnes by phone, email, or his apparent Facebook page or AntiGravityCycling blog. I am not the only one asking.

I can find no mention of an Everest Challenge 2015 anywhere on the race signup sites either. As far as I can tell, the Everest Challenge is no more.

Elevation profile for Everest Challenge Stage 1
Everest Challenge jersey

Everest Challenge 2015: NOT HAPPENING?!!!!

Fall is the most glorious time of year to be in the Eastern Sierra or White Mountains and the Everest Challenge has long been my favorite race. I’ve been training for it this year, having done (almost) seven double centuries.

Alas, it looks like the Everest Challenge for 2015 is not to be.

Well, I hope Steven Barnes is OK, because this is just weird.

Better late than never

Race flyer

Over from the Facebook page 26 Aug:

The EC flyer is still in somebody's INBOX over at USAC...I cannot post it until approved...but I will put up a "draft copy" tomorrow morning if it is not ready to go live by then.

Not quite as superlative as the traditional EC route, to be sure.
But the basics are the same. Two days (9/26-27, 2015) with checkin Friday night. Eastern Sierra and White/Inyo Mountains. 28540" of climbing, with 106 miles and 16440' on Stage 1 and then 128 miles with 12,100' for Stage 2.

With the additional choice to ride less either day and still get credited with finisher status (non-competitive and younger Juniors ONLY), and the usual festivities.
More tomorrow either way.


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