Sunday, August 27, 2006

Oatmeal vs Eggs, or the Volumetric Myth

Eager proponents of oatmeal argue that eating it for breakfast keeps the hunger away well into afternoon. I have always been skeptical about this, because the same effect could also be caused by one's habitual daily eating rhythm - if you choose to eat a late lunch for a few days, then the body (brains, that is) adapts to this and you won't get hungry until afternoon regardless of what you ate in the morning. Typical food satiation tests will not discern this, as they mostly follow how much a person eats before feeling satiated, not so much how long he remains satiated or what their eating rhythm is.

So I decided to do what Morgan Spurlock tought us: eat nothing but oatmeal for thirty days. Well, in my case I settled for three days. Except for allowing my caffeine-addicted metabolism two hefty cups of coffee with a little cream each day, my diet will consist of water and a portion of oatmeal made in water whenever I feel hungry. Not even butter, sugar, berries, jam, or anything of caloric value in the oatmeal. I allow only sugar-free spices, chewing gum, and vitamin pills to compensate for the one-sided diet.

Day 1: I'm not accustomed to having anything but coffee for breakfast, so I don't get hungry until 9 am. Betaglucan, here I come! After a plateful of microware-prepared porridge I feel satiated and pieceful, but suddenly at 10 am I'm hungry again. A lingering hunger disturbs my work and makes me take subsequent portions at 11 am, 1 pm, 2:30 pm, 5 pm, 8 pm, 8:30 pm, 10:30 pm, and 12 pm. It is really annoying to merely burp after dining and feel ready to eat again. Fortunately I have learned to spice up the oatmeal with for example sugarfree juice concentrates.

Day 2: Portions at 9:30 am, 10:30 am, 1 pm, 3 pm, 5:30 pm, 8 pm, 9:30 pm, 12 pm. I have tried various ground spices, such as peppers, cinnamon, and bitter orange. I also feel a little constipated. This is a little surprizing considering the amount of oh-so-healthy fibers I'm eating. Perhaps constipation is more a function of a change in diet instead of the diet itself.

Day 3: The constipation eases. I shall save you descriptions of my stool, let it only be noted that I felt very bureaucratic as the paperwork lasted much longer than production. Portions at 9 am, 11 am, 12:30 pm, 3:30 pm, 5 pm, 6:30 pm, 8 pm, 11 pm, and after a late night hack, at 2 am. I fall asleep counting mutton steaks.

Instead of eating properly and become satisfied for a good while, eating has turned into constant slow nibbling, just like one would eat chips or pop-corn in a movie. Even if I had set as a standard that I would never feel hungry, I did so on several occasions during the experiment. Of course I could have willed the hunger away, but that would have defeated the purpose of the experiment. After an average of nine portions of oatmeal per day, I can safely conclude that the myth that oatmeal keeps hunger away is definitely busted.

But for comparison I felt compelled to repeat the experiment with eggs. Two eggs contains almost the same amount of energy as a portion of oatmeal, but in a rich combination of proteins, fats, vitamins, and other micronutrients. The high cholesterol content of the egg yolk does not worry me - contrary to some nutritional urban myths, science has long known that dietary intake of cholesterol has little if any effect on the total blood cholesterol level. After a purge period of four days the second part of my experiment begins.

Day 1: One cooked egg at 9:30 am, two at 11 am, one at 1 pm, two at 3 pm, three at 5:30 pm, four at 8 pm. Felt very satiated. At 11:30 pm I poached two eggs with vinegar, spices, and a little artificial sweetener to give a slight sweet-and-sour taste - quite delicious!

Day 2: Three cooked eggs at 11 am, two at 3 pm, two at 5:30 pm, two at 8 pm, and two at 11:30 pm. I notice my susceptibility of hunger is declining, probably because my body is moving to ketosis where at least I begin to lose appetite.

Day 3: Three cooked eggs at 10:30 am and two at 2 pm. A sequence of meetings prevented to prompty quench my hunger until devouring four eggs at 6:30 pm. At midnight I concluded the day with two eggs deviled with hot spices and a teaspoon of cream fraiche. Ok, the cream fraiche was cheating, but insignificant in the sense of total energy value.

All in all I ate 12 and a third egg per day, and a nod of cream fraiche. Compared to the nine portions of oatmeal per day, I ate only 70% of the calories on the egg diet.

Conclusion: Volumetrics, the assumption that a person consumes less calories if he eats foods with low enery content per weight or volume, doesn't work, at least not for me on oatmeal versus eggs. Cement might work, but that I'm not going to try without the helping hand of a bunch of anarchovegans.

Note that I'm not saying oatmeal wouldn't be a healthy way to start a day - surely healthier than a slice of white toast and marmalade - nor am I suggesting anyone should eat eggs like Cool Hand Luke. This inhumane experiment was conducted in such extreme only to test the naive idea of volumetrics.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Buddhabrot Aerobics

I'm suffering from an incurable illness called nomipsnofunia, a serious disability to have fun without involving a lot of heavy computations. For example, when I read about Buddhabrots I compulsively needed to compute ones myself too. But I also decided to study what happens when we generalize the magic constant "2" in the Mandelbrot iteration formula z=z^2+c. In the animated gif below, which I baptized to Aerobics Buddhabrot, the exponent rotates around a circle with center at 2 and radius of 0.2 on the complex plane.

I also computed a three-minute PAL-resolution mpg movie (17 MB of MPEG-4 encoded video in AVI) where the exponent rotates around a cirle of radius 2 centered at the origo. A colleague described the visual effect as "the Buddha throwing his guts out, rotating them around him through infinity, and assembling himself back again on the other side." I employed some thirty workstations to compute the frames during the last few weeks.