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Psychological techniques that encourage gambling

Casino gambling

I visited Atlantic City during the Labor Day holiday. The weather was perfect and it was very pleasant to walk along the beach wading in the warm water. However, Atlantic City is also known for its casinos. Atlantic City is the Las Vegas of the East Coast.

The casinos are dimly lit, the atmosphere is always filled with cigarette smoke even though there are separate smoking and non-smoking areas, and there is the constant din of the slot machines 24 hours per day. I risked $20 Dollars in a 25-cent slot machine, and cashed out when the total went up to $50 Dollars after several plays -- a $30-Dollar profit. Other people around me were not so lucky. I saw several who started with $50 or $100 Dollars and had nothing 30 minutes later. In the $5-Dollar machines, the money goes even faster. One pull with a bet of 3 credits costs $15 Dollars. You can lose $100 Dollars with seven pulls of the handle in less than one minute. No wonder that the casinos are so rich. New Orleans is still a disaster zone full of rubble two years after hurricane Katrina destroyed the city in 2005, but the casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi which were also wiped out, were reconstructed in record time. There is no financial incentive for rebuilding New Orleans, but the casinos would have lost billions of Dollars if they had not been rebuilt promptly.

During my stay in Atlantic City, I paid attention to the players. I tried to figure out why they kept putting coins in the slot machines even though they kept losing. I risked another $20 Dollars, and this time I got nothing. I quit while I was $10 Dollars ahead for my two-day stay. It seems that humans are no more intelligent than fish who go after a shiny lure, get hooked, and become a meal for a fisherman. Casinos have refined the art of taking our money using techniques that take advantage of our greed and our lack of discipline.
Read more about Psychological Aspects of Gambling

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Calorie Restriction can reduce bone mass

Calorie Restriction (CR) is being promoted as a way of extending human life span based on experiments that show that CR increases longevity of monkeys, dogs, mice, and even worms. Americans, who are now the world's fattest people, are aware that being overweight leads to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but they seldom take steps to control their weight. Instead, doctors help Americans live longer by treating the symptoms of their indulgent life style with statins like Lipitor to lower cholesterol, oral glucophage tablets to help control high blood sugar levels, and thiazide diuretics to reduce high blood pressure.

Some people hear the message that CR extends lifespan by eliminating the diseases associated with obesity, and embrace the concept with great intensity. They go on severe diets, lose weight, and feel great until one day they discover that their bone density tests show bone loss and increased risk of fractures. How could this have happened?

Many nutrients are required to maintain bone mass. Bones require more than calcium. The glue that holds the bone minerals together is collagen, a protein. In order to preserve healthy bones while losing weight, it is necessary to practice Optimum Nutrition. You cannot simply stay on the Standard American Diet while cutting calories. The Standard American Diet, which is the basis for the USDA Reference Values, consists of 15% protein, 30% fat, and 55% carbohydrates. This provides only 75 grams of protein per day for a 2000-Calorie diet. If you reduce your intake by 300 Calories to try to lose approximately 2 pounds per month, the remaining 1700 Calories of American Standard diet will only provide 63 grams of protein per day which will put your bones at risk.

Lower calorie diets require proportionally higher percentages of protein such as those of the Zone diet which has 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbohydrates. A 1700-Calorie diet with this proportion of nutrients will provide 127 grams of protein which will keep muscles and bones healthy while you lose weight. Of course, make sure that you also have adequate levels of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, Vitamin D, and trace elements that help to maintain healthy bones -- and don't forget your weight-bearing exercises.

Comments »

Robin said,
2007-09-11 @ 10:49:07

Thanks for all the info. From what you've written, I would guess I haven't been eating enough protein. However, I do have one question: if I really start consuming 127 grams of protein every day, won't I risk going into ketosis? Just wondering.

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Brazil nuts - a variable source of selenium

Brazil nuts

Selenium is a chemical element that has received substantial attention as an antioxidant which plays a role in preventing cell damage and may help prevent certain cancers. Selenium is necessary in trace amounts in the diet because it is a component of certain enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase, but excess selenium can be toxic. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set the Daily Value for selenium at 70 micrograms (mcg). The tolerable upper level of selenium is 400 mcg/day for adults based on the prevention of hair and nail brittleness and early signs of chronic selenium toxicity. Toxic effects have occurred when blood selenium concentrations reach a level corresponding to an intake of 850 mcg/day.

Brazil nuts are high in selenium content relative to other human foods. Since the limits between meeting human selenium dietary requirements and toxicity are narrow, it is important to know the variation in selenium content of individual nuts. Analysis of Brazil nuts has shown that the average selenium content is approximately 14.7 ppm with a range of 0.2 to 253.[1] The amount of selenium in the nuts depends on the selenium content of the soil where the trees grow.

It is significant that some Brazil nuts have almost no selenium, whereas others have very high values. This means that it may be very difficult to regulate the amount of selenium in the diet by eating Brazil nuts. Two Brazil nuts weigh about 10 grams, so two Brazil nuts with the average concentration of 14.7 ppm contain 147 mcg of selenium. However, two Brazil nuts containing 253 ppm of selenium will contain a whopping 2,530 mcg or 2.5 mg of selenium. This is substantially in excess of the tolerable upper level and already in the toxic range.

It is important not to overeat Brazil nuts.

[1] Carol L. Secor, Donald J. Lisk (1989), Variation in the selenium content of individual brazil nuts, Journal of Food Safety, 9(4), 279-281 (1989).

Comments »

Shirley Crawley said,
2008-02-17 @ 10:03:04

1. How can I tell the difference in the selenium content when I buy brazil nuts? 2. Why do brazil nuts have less selenium if we buy them already shelled (25 mcg as opposed to 100 mcg).

Administrator said,
2008-02-17 @ 14:58:22


Unless a batch of Brazil nuts is sampled and tested for selenium content, it is not possible to know how much selenium is present. This is the reason why it is important to eat Brazil nuts in moderation.

I don't know where you got your information about shelled vs. unshelled Brazil nuts, but it does not make sense. Brazil nuts are always eaten unshelled. If the shells contain selenium, the nut with the shell would have a greater quantity of selenium, but this is irrelevant since the shells are always discarded.


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Vladimir Putin flexes his muscles

Vladimir Putin fishing Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin went on vacation in the Siberian mountains. He created a lot of commotion when he took off his shirt for the cameras while fishing in the Yenisey River on Monday, Aug. 13, 2007. The bare-chested photographs were received with criticism and admiration after they were posted on the presidential web site. Politicians were awed and speculated that Putin is trying to gain popularity to stay in power beyond the legal limits of his second term. Female admirers sent complimentary and congratulatory messages.

This is not the first time that a national leader tries to show off for the cameras to gain popularity. On July 16, 1966, 73 year-old Mao Zedong swam in the Yangtze River to show his fitness. Things turned out badly for Jimmy Carter in 1979, when he had to be carried away after he collapsed while participating in a jogging marathon. George W. Bush had to stop running and had to have knee surgery after the cartilage of his knees was damaged from many years of high-impact exercise.

Exercise can help you to stay fit, but only if it is done regularly and in moderation. The best way of maintaining a good figure is through diet. You have to eat nutritious food. You cannot have a good body if you eat junk food.
Learn about Fitness and Nutrition

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Synesthesia - Interweaving the Senses


Synesthesia is a rare neurological condition in which two or more senses intertwine. For people with this condition, ordinary black digits on a white background may elicit highly specific color experiences, or specific tastes may elicit unusual tactile sensations. Some people not only see colors, but they can also feel, taste, hear, or smell them. One person out of about 1000 has synesthesia of some sort. Behavioral neuroscientists are discovering the neurological basis of synesthesia using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).[1]

The prevalent theories about the causes of synesthesia share the basic idea that neural connections within the brain link areas of the brain that are normally not interconnected. The theories differ on whether these interconnections arise before birth or during brain development after birth.

There are different types of synesthesia. Among the people who associate letters and numbers with color, there are "projector" synesthetes where the color can fill the printed letter or it can appear directly in front of their eyes as if projected on a screen, whereas "associate" synesthetes see the colors in their mind rather than outside their bodies. For "Perceptual" synesthetes the phenomenon is triggered by sensory stimuli like sights and sounds, while "conceptual" synesthetes respond to abstract concepts like time.

The terms "musical color" or "musical coloration" which combine visual and auditory terminology may seem perplexing to many people, but for people with synesthesia these terms may represent reality. Some interesting books have been written about synesthesia, including "The Man Who Tasted Shapes-".
Learn about the Human Sense Organs

[1] Daniel Smilek & Mike J. Dixon,
Towards a Synergistic Understanding of Synaesthesia
Combining Current Experimental Findings With Synaesthetes' Subjective Descriptions

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Splenda sweetener - the delusion of low calories

Splenda Sweetener

Millions of Americans use artificial "no calorie" sweeteners in their eagerness to get rid of their bulging waistlines or control diabetes. Unfortunately, FDA regulations make it possible for manufacturers to claim that a product has no calories by reducing the serving size and then rounding to zero the calories of any ingredients which weigh less than 0.5 gram per serving. The trade names of the products, which are not regulated, also mislead the public. The average consumer would expect a product such as "SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener" to contain no calories, but this is simply a trade name and does not reflect the actual caloric content of the product. Here is how Splenda is promoted:[1]
SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener contains sucralose (SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener), the no calorie sweetener made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar, with no unpleasant aftertaste. SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener can be used virtually anywhere sugar is used. It can also be used in cooking and baking in a variety of recipes. Like many no and low calorie sweeteners, each serving of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener contains a very small amount of common food ingredients, e.g., dextrose and/or maltodextrin, for volume. Because the amount of these ingredients is so small, SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener still has an insignificant calorie value per serving and meets FDA's standards for "no calorie" sweeteners.

SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener comes in two forms for consumers, granular and packet. The granular form of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener measures and pours just like sugar. SPLENDA® Packets provide a convenient way to add sweetness without guilt!

It is certainly true that sucralose, the artificial sweetener in Splenda, is free of calories, but Splenda is a mixture of dextrose, maltodextrin, and sucralose. The calories from Splenda come from the dextrose and maltodextrin both of which are carbohydrates.

The USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference shows that 10 grams, i.e., ten individual packets, of Splenda (NDB No: 19868) have 33 Calories. Ten grams of Splenda contain 9.00 g of carbohydrates consisting of 8.03 g of sugars (dextrose) and 0.96 grams of starch (maltodextrin).

For comparison, 10 grams of granulated sugar (NDB No: 19335) have 39 Calories. This is only 6 calories more than the equivalent weight of Splenda. Anybody who uses Splenda instead of sugar is saving an insignificant number of calories.
Learn more about Serving Sizes

When I commented on the Calorie Restriction Society list about this, Michael Rae replied:
> Artificial sweeteners such as Splenda are mixtures of dextrose,
> maltodextrin, and sucralose. The carbohydrates in ten grams of Splenda
> have 33 Calories compared to 39 Calories for an equal weight of sugar.
> The manufacturers reduce the serving size so that the calories can be
> rounded to zero. You can check this using CRON-o-meter by typing
> "splenda" (USDA 19868) and specifying 10 grams.

These numbers here aren't quite right on a couple of fronts. First off,
as regards soft drinks, the manufacturers don't use Splenda mix, which
is bulked up as you describe for consumer use, but pure sucralose, which
contains exceedingly close to zero metabolizable energy, so it doesn't
apply to them (or to other premanufactured foods).

As to Splenda proper: the error here is that you're assuming that one
substitutes the stuff for sugar on a gram-for-gram basis, which for the
packets you don't: as the USDA entry notes, a packet is only 1 g, but it
replaces 1 tsp (4.2 g) of table sugar. So you're replacing 16.3 Calories
with 3.3 Calories -- a substantial savings. Cf the manufacturer's
information: www.splendaprofessional.com

... pp. 13-14, where they round UP a bit, indicating that a packet has 1
g carb and 4 Calories. (SPLENDA® Sugar Blend and Granulated are
higher-Calorie as they contain a lot more sugar, for the bulking
properties required to substitute in baking and other projects, but
still contain a lot fewer Calories than pure sucrose).


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Windows Briefcase synchronization problems with Vista

Windows Briefcase

The Briefcase feature in Windows helps you keep your files updated by automatically synchronizing multiple copies of individual files. If you use a desktop computer at the office, and you use a portable laptop computer when you are on the road, Briefcase synchronizes and updates the files on your desktop computer to the modified versions when you reconnect your portable computer to the desktop computer.[1]

The added security layers in Windows Vista create a peculiar problem for synchronizing .ZIP files, .PDF files, .DOC files created by MS Word, and .PCH files created by the C compiler of the MS Development Studio. The problem with the .PDF and .DOC files seems limited to cases when the files are downloaded from an e-mail attachment and stored in a folder that needs to be synchronized.

The problem becomes evident when you try to synchronize a Briefcase and a message appears saying that the file cannot be accessed for copying. Some files such as the .PCH files that can be regenerated by a compiler may simply be deleted from the source folder before the Briefcase is synchronized. However, for other files, the solution is to create a copy of the file, delete the original, and rename the copy to the original name. The reason for the problem seems to be that the files that cannot be copied do not have the "Authenticated Users" security attribute which is required to access a shared resource from another computer in the network. The following images show the attributes of the original which cannot be synchronized and the copy.

Attributes of a file that cannot be synchronized:
Attributes of a file that cannot be synchronized

The copy of the file has the "Authenticated Users" security attribute:
Attributes for copied file

[1] How To Use the Briefcase Feature in Windows XP

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Eating raw seafood can make you sick

raw oysters Raw oysters on the half shell

Many seafood restaurants feature "raw bars" that serve raw oysters on the half shell. Oysters are usually presented six to a plate and served with wedges of lemon and condiments such as hot sauce or shrimp cocktail sauce made from catsup, chili sauce, and horseradish. This dish is nutritious and delicious when the oysters are harvested from clean waters and maintained under refrigeration from the time that they are collected to the time that they are served.

People who eat raw seafood food, such as oysters, sushi, and ceviche risk being infected by tapeworms and roundworms. Raw oysters may also harbor protozoan parasites and bacteria. During the warm summer months the bacterial load of oysters may increase. The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning on August 10, 2007 after at least six people in California and Washington came down with an illness caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria. Symptoms of vibriosis include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. The symptoms generally occur within 24 hours of exposure and last about three days.

Raw seafood has some health risks that can be eliminated by cooking. You can learn more by visiting the web site of the Centers for Disease Control which has a database about the life cycle of parasites.
Life Cycle of Anisakis simplex

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Summer Skin Rash

Summer skin rashes may be due to a variety of conditions such as insect bites or irritation from poison ivy or other plants. However, most summer rashes are due to yeasts and fungi that live on the skin in hot and humid environments. These rashes generally occur where tight-fitting clothing such as bra straps and jockey shorts are in contact with the skin. Always consult a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis.

A light application of white vinegar once a day with a cotton ball or a spray bottle may eliminate the fungi that cause the rash and help to heal the skin. After the vinegar dries, use talcum powder so that the moisture on the skin can evaporate faster.

Change your underwear daily or whenever it gets wet from sweat. Add chlorine bleach to the washing machine when you wash your underwear, sheets, and towels. Bleach will kill fungi on textiles and prevent them from spreading. If you perspire at night, cover the sheet that you sleep on with a towel, change it at least every other day, and don't sleep in tight-fitting clothing.
Learn about Hygiene - Viruses, Bacteria, and Parasites

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Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

Vitamin D Metabolism
Vitamin D metabolism

The Daily Value recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Vitamin D for adults is 10 micrograms per day which is 400 International Units (IU) per day. The current recommendations from the Institute of Medicine call for 200 IU/day from birth through age 50, 400 IU for those aged 51 to 70, and 600 IU for those over 70 years. These recommendations were established by determining the level of Vitamin D that was enough to prevent bone demineralization or rickets. Recent studies have determined that these values may be too low.

Although Vitamin D occurs in some foods, Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because it is created from cholesterol in the skin through the action of ultraviolet rays from the sun. The fear of getting skin cancer by exposure to the sun, the widespread use of sunscreen lotions, and the migration of darkly complexioned people to northern latitudes have all combined to decrease the levels of Vitamin D in the blood of the general population, specially in the winter when the days are short. Deficiency in Vitamin D causes weaker bones which break more easily and accelerate the onset of osteoporosis.

Randomized trials using the currently recommended intakes of 400 IU of Vitamin D/day have shown no appreciable reduction in fracture risk. In contrast, trials using 700-800 IU Vitamin D/day found less fracture incidence, with and without supplemental calcium.[1] The safe tolerable upper intake level for Vitamin D is 10,000 IU/day. Adults should be consuming at least 1000 IU per day of Vitamin D to maintain blood serum levels that are effective for strengthening the bones.

[1] Reinhold Vieth, et al, The urgent need to recommend an intake of vitamin D that is effective, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 85, No. 3, 649-650, March 2007

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