From The News …

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Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Why people hate vegans, part something or other.

I understand (sort of) when vegan militants protest outside a steakhouse. But I didn’t expect them to choose this target, as reported in the U.K. Guardian:

For a full week, a big black banner was posted from a sidewalk in Berkeley, California. “OCCUPY WHOLE FOODS”, it declared in large, white block letters.

Yup, they’re going after Whole Foods — a store that was founded by a vegan and carries a wide variety of vegan products. But of course, radical vegans aren’t satisfied with a store selling what they want. The store also has to STOP selling what the rest of us want. Fortunately, the occupation didn’t last long.

Just days before a weeklong protest scheduled for late September, in which the activists had planned to call attention to alleged animal welfare violations by suppliers to Whole Foods’ parent company, Amazon, the Berkeley store filed a restraining order.

“We are not allowed to even step foot in the parking lot right now,” said Cassie King, a DxE organizer. “We can’t go inside the store and ask our questions.”

Why, that’s an outrage! They can’t go into the store to ask questions?! How are they supposed to satisfy their curiosity? What if they want to know who won the Crimean War, and a passing customer happens to have the answer?  Although I suspect before being banned, they did more than just stand around and ask questions.

DxE’s in-store tactics range from chanting and singing about animal rights to more extreme tactics: splattering eggs with fake blood, acting out scenes of animal slaughter (with members representing the animals) and displaying graphic photos and videos in meat and dairy aisles.

Dear nut-jobs: you have a right to protest. You don’t have a right to protest on other people’s property and damage merchandise.

Whole Foods’ website describes rigorous welfare standards for all of its animal products, and the company has implemented a rating system to inform customers’ purchasing decisions.

But the DxE co-founder, Wayne Hsiung, claims his organization is being silenced for exposing violations of the company’s standards.

Dear nut-jobs: you have a right to protest. But if companies demand you protest somewhere other than on their property, you are not being “silenced.” Your right to free speech does not require other people to provide you with an audience or a forum. If people want to hear your message, they’ll find you. If they’re not interested, they won’t. That, of course, is why the vegans are upset.

When asked, a few different groups of people eating lunch outside the store didn’t seem to notice – or care – about what was happening beyond their parked cars. Without access to the inside of the store, it was harder for the demonstrators to get attention.

In other words, people were choosing to ignore them. Zealots can’t stand being ignored.

Why people hate vegans, part— no, wait. We like these people.

Here’s a nice case of vegans changing their minds, as reported in Forbes:

But, where certain choices work for some they may not work for others and could possibly even result in serious health complications. Katie Forrest and her husband Taylor Collins experienced the latter outcome firsthand.

After suffering a variety of unidentifiable health issues that baffled their doctors, this former vegan couple known for competing in endurance cycling races and triathlons, had a complete 360-degree revelation where they embarked on a high-protein paleo diet that miraculously resolved their health issues.

I wouldn’t call it a miracle. I’d call it biology at work. But anyway …

“Katie and I have always done things ‘all or nothing’ on our journey to optimal wellness. In college you learn that meat isn’t great for the environment and that was the public discourse at the moment. We opted into a vegetarian diet and Katie began getting very ill. Her body was disintegrating and she suffered from serious knee inflammation. She had exploratory knee surgery in her 20’s and all of the doctors were telling her she would need a knee replacement and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for the rest of her life. Can you imagine? We then decided to go raw vegan and things got worse. We had nothing to lose making the pivot to meat”.

So what happened after they starting eat meat again?

“We went in fully committed and our bodies recovered. We went through a lot of trial and error with finding what we liked. We boiled a steak and that wasn’t any good. Then we found bacon. Ultimately, the paleo diet was the prescription for healing my body. Within four days my stomach issues went away and in fourteen days my knee was healed”.

But wait, it gets even better.

Their collective epiphany and new found vitality led them to launch EPIC Provisions, an Austin-based meat snack company that specializes in making nutrient-dense whole food protein snacks from farmers that engage in regenerative farming practices, in 2013.

From vegans to owners of a company that sells meat snacks. There’s hope for the world.

Now that’s a dumb criminal, part one.

For reasons only he can explain, a man engaged in perhaps the most ridiculous heist ever, as reported in the New York Post:

A Georgia man is accused of stealing 150 pounds of waffle mix from a former employer and flipping it to a syrupy stream of buyers.

Peachtree City police spokeswoman Lt. Odilia Bergh told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday that 33-year-old Brandon Lee Nelson is charged with burglary.

I think they should slap on a charge of “malicious intent to induce diabetes.”

Police say Nelson drove to his former employer’s storage facility in August and stole five boxes of Golden Malted waffle batter. Bergh says Nelson then covertly sold it to buyers who contacted him about the stolen dough.

Dialog you’ll never hear on a TV detective show:  “Psst!  Are you the guy who can hook me up with the waffle dough?  How much?  Okay, but we need to test the purity first.  I got a waffle iron in the truck.”

Bergh says Nelson later was identified on surveillance video of the theft and arrested this month.

If you’re stupid enough to 1) steal waffle mix and 2) not ask yourself if perhaps there’s a surveillance camera nearby, you deserve to go to The Big House. Or better yet, The Waffle House.

Now that’s a dumb criminal, part two.

WJLA News recently reported a crime that should make people re-think the health benefits of the Holy Plant-Based Diet:

A man accused of rubbing produce on his buttocks at a grocery store in Northern Virginia was arrested Saturday.

I’ve had some hard-to-reach itches in my day, but there are limits to what I consider acceptable scratching.

The Manassas City Police Department said the suspect pulled his pants down, grabbed a nearby item and rubbed his buttocks with the produce at the Giant grocery store at 10100 Dumfries Road. A loss prevention employee relayed what they had seen to authorities and subsequently destroyed multiple pallets of produce.

The store had to destroy multiple pallets of produce? I hope the vegan zealots don’t read this story. Next thing you know, they’ll be invading Whole Foods and rubbing pork chops on their butts.  Then they’ll ask questions.

Michael Dwayne Johnson, 27, of Manassas, told WJLA’s Tim Barber in an exclusive interview that he never actually rubbed any produce on his bottom. He also says he never pulled down his pants. Johnson claims it was just a practical joke for a YouTube video.

This guy needs to be punished … not so much for the crime, but for being stupid enough to think posting it on YouTube would be a good idea. It’s one level of stupid to be caught on a surveillance camera. It’s quite another to provide the footage yourself.

I know we don’t allow corporal punishment in this country, but I think he should be ordered to drop his pants and endure a hard spanking with a bunch of celery. And the punishment should be posted on YouTube.

Scientists are freakin’ liars.

I’ve had a few people accuse me of going over the top when I said “Scientists are freakin’ liars” in my Science For Smart People speech. An article in the New York Post suggests I wasn’t exaggerating:

A prominent Cornell University food researcher resigned after an investigation found he committed academic misconduct, including misreporting data, the school announced Thursday.

Brian Wansink has been removed from all teaching and research positions and will retire at the end of the school year next June, Cornell said in a statement.

Misrepresenting data? With that kind of cavalier attitude towards science, perhaps he should work on the U.S. Dietary guidelines.

Wansink had previously helped update the US dietary guidelines and is known for his research on consumer behavior, which has been widely cited including in articles by The Associated Press.

Oops. Too late.

Thursday’s announcement comes a day after six more of Wansink’s papers were retracted. The most recent retractions included a 2005 paper that said people eat more when served in large bowls and a 2013 article that said grocery shoppers buy food with more calories when they’re hungry.

Ahh, yes, the “people will eat less if they use smaller plates and bowls” idea. I remember that one. I also remember thinking it sounded like b.s.

Ivan Oransky, a co-founder of Retraction Watch who teaches medical journalism at New York University, says Wansink appears to have engaged in a practice in which researchers cherry-pick data points to get their work published.

In other words, scientists are freakin’ liars.

Scientists are freakin’ liars, and it’s hilarious when they do it on purpose to expose bad science.

Back in April, I wrote a post comparing the drivel produced in academic (ahem) “disciplines” such as feminist and gender studies to the universe of Dr. Who:

I follow @RealPeerReview on Twitter. Whoever he or she is (if he and she aren’t offensive labels), he or she has access to a gazillion academic papers and regularly posts abstracts to demonstrate what passes for scholarship in today’s universities. The most amusing examples are produced by (ahem) “scholars ” in sort-of-science departments like gender studies.

… The Dr. Who universe, despite all its richness, complexity, and internal logic, is fiction. It’s all been made up.

Same goes for the universe produced in the imaginations of gender-studies scholars. It’s a rich and complex universe with lots of terms and rules, but it’s all been made up. It’s fiction. Let’s call it the Dr. Hooey universe. The main difference is that when fans of Dr. Who write about the Dr. Who universe, they don’t usually come across like morons attempting to sound intelligent.

Turns out some scholars were also concerned about the nonsense that passes for scholarship in these fields … so they highlighted their concerns by getting some ridiculous (and completely fictional) papers published in peer-reviewed journals. You can read the long article here, but this YouTube video sums up the story nicely:

Here are few choice quotes from the article:

Something has gone wrong in the university—especially in certain fields within the humanities. Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields, and their scholars increasingly bully students, administrators, and other departments into adhering to their worldview. This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous.

While our papers are all outlandish or intentionally broken in significant ways, it is important to recognize that they blend in almost perfectly with others in the disciplines under our consideration.

No kidding. Gobbledygook tends to look very much like similar gobbledygook.

What we just described is not knowledge production; it’s sophistry. That is, it’s a forgery of knowledge that should not be mistaken for the real thing. The biggest difference between us and the scholarship we are studying by emulation is that we know we made things up.

In case you didn’t watch the video, here’s a description of the kinds of “research” the pranksters managed to slip past those oh-so-scientific peer reviewers:

Many papers advocated highly dubious ethics including training men like dogs (“Dog Park”), punishing white male college students for historical slavery by asking them to sit in silence in the floor in chains during class and to be expected to learn from the discomfort (“Progressive Stack”), celebrating morbid obesity as a healthy life-choice (“Fat Bodybuilding”), treating privately conducted masturbation as a form of sexual violence against women (“Masturbation”), and programming superintelligent AI with irrational and ideological nonsense before letting it rule the world (“Feminist AI”).

There was also considerable silliness including claiming to have tactfully inspected the genitals of slightly fewer than 10,000 dogs whilst interrogating owners as to their sexuality (“Dog Park”), becoming seemingly mystified about why heterosexual men are attracted to women (“Hooters”), insisting there is something to be learned about feminism by having four guys watch thousands of hours of hardcore pornography over the course of a year while repeatedly taking the Gender and Science Implicit Associations Test (“Porn”), expressing confusion over why people are more concerned about the genitalia others have when considering having sex with them (“CisNorm”), and recommending men anally self-penetrate in order to become less transphobic, more feminist, and more concerned about the horrors of rape culture (“Dildos”). None of this, except that Helen Wilson recorded one “dog rape per hour” at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon, raised so much as a single reviewer eyebrow, so far as their reports show.

None of the silly papers they got published have anything to do with nutrition, so I’ll explain why I wanted to highlight what these brilliant pranksters pulled off: supposed scientists in universities shouldn’t be allowed to just make up what science means. But that’s exactly what many of them are doing:

For grievance studies scholars, science itself and the scientific method are deeply problematic, if not outright racist and sexist, and need to be remade to forward grievance-based identitarian politics over the impartial pursuit of truth. These same issues are also extended to the “Western” philosophical tradition which they find problematic because it favors reason to emotion, rigor to solipsism, and logic to revelation.

As a result, radical constructivists tend to believe science and reason must be dismantled to let “other ways of knowing” have equal validation as knowledge-producing enterprises.

If I’ve said once, I’ve said it at least twice. An objectivist thinks like this: if it’s true, I’ll believe it. A subjectivist thinks like this: if I believe it, it’s true. The “scholars” these pranksters set out to bust are the worst kinds of subjectivists. If they want 5 + 5 to equal 11 and you point out that math says otherwise, they’ll just decide that math is a white-male-colonial-privileged-part-of-the-patriarchy-social-construct or whatever and go on with their “other ways of knowing.”

In other words, they don’t the rules of science applied to their supposed sciences. If we allow that kind of loony-tunes thinking to go unchecked in universities, good luck producing college graduates who can actually think critically.

I mentioned before that I follow @RealPeerReview on Twitter because he or she highlights nonsense that passes for scholarly work. Unfortunately, not knowing it was all a prank intended to highlight shoddy scholarship, @RealPeerReview busted the pranksters on one of their papers. That cut the prank short. They had intended to try to publish 20 ridiculous papers, but had to stop at seven.  Well, it was fun while it lasted.

 

 

 

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Dr. Fettke Cleared … Oh No, Is Common Sense Breaking Out?

The persecution of Dr. Tim Noakes drew worldwide attention, as it should have. I’m not sure quite as many people followed the similar persecution of Dr. Gary Fettke in Australia. Dr. Fettke is an orthopaedic surgeon who began recommending a low-carb diet because he was appalled by the number of amputations he had to perform on diabetics. I’ve written about his case before, but let’s quickly recap with some quotes from an article published by ABC Australia nearly two years ago:

Doctor Fettke started pushing for changes to the food in the Launceston General Hospital where he worked and then criticised the hospital for a lack of action.

If you’ve seen what dietitian-approved menus look like in hospitals, you know why Dr. Fettke was pushing for changes. As I demonstrated in a post, the “heart-healthy” menus and even the menus for diabetics include awesomely healthy foods like pancakes with syrup (but no butter!), bagels, Honey-Nut Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, Captain Crunch and Frosted Mini-Wheats. Your highly trained, professional dietitians at work, ladies and gentlemen. Anyway …

According to Dr Fettke, an anonymous complaint from a dietician at the hospital sparked an investigation by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

Of course the complaint came from a dietitian.

Two and a half years later the watchdog found he was working outside his scope of practise and was not qualified to give specific nutritional advice, and he was ordered to stop speaking about the low carbohydrate, high fat diet.

“The committee does not accept that your medicine studies of themselves provide sufficient education or training to justify you providing specific advice or recommendations to patients or the public about nutrition and diet, such as the LCHF lifestyle concept,” it read.

So that’s where we were two years ago. The news this week was better. Here are some quotes from an article in The Examiner:

Launceston orthopedic surgeon Gary Fettke’s name has been cleared, two years after Australia’s medical watchdog cautioned him against providing nutritional information to patients.

On Friday, Dr Fettke announced that the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency had dropped all charges and formally apologised for errors made in dealing with claims against him.

An advocate for a low carbohydrate diet, Dr Fettke was officially cautioned by the AHPRA in 2016 after an anonymous notifier reported him for recommending patients to reduce their sugar intake.

I’m happy for Dr. Fettke, who never should have been put through this nonsense. And yet, as I read the article, I was troubled by the realization that I ought to be happier. I should be delighted, in fact.

Dude, what’s wrong with you? I asked myself. Besides referring to yourself as ‘Dude,’ I mean.

I re-read the article and found the source of my hesitation to be totally happy. It’s this quote from Dr. Fettke:

Dr Fettke said the “common sense” outcome from AHPRA was what he had always hoped for.

There it is. The AHPRA finally exhibited common sense. When Tim Noakes was exonerated, the HPCSA in South Africa finally exhibited common sense. That’s great …seriously … uh … yeah, I mean it, it’s great.

But what if this is just the beginning? What if common sense starts breaking out all over the place? What will I do with myself?

That’s the thought preventing me from totally enjoying the moment.

For those of you who have never heard me tell the story, Fat Head didn’t start out as a documentary. I’d been doing standup comedy for years and loved being on stage.  But when my girls came along, I knew it was time to say goodbye to a career that required so much travel. Being gone for weeks at a time wasn’t good for them or me. I had to put my creative energy into a project that would allow me to stay home.

After kicking around some ideas, I decided I’d like to pitch a series titled In Defense of Common Sense. Regular guy with a sense of humor looks at issues of the day and applies some common sense. You may recall that common sense is a frequently heard term in Fat Head, which began as what I thought would be a demo episode. Then the thing grew into a documentary as I kept researching diets and health and realized much of what we’ve been told is a load of baloney.

So I never developed or pitched the series. But I still like writing humor, and I depend on people who have no common sense to provide material. I especially depend on academic types and officials in governments and regulatory agencies. Granted, they’re not the only people who lack common sense. But as Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Thomas Sowell have both pointed out, people with meaningful jobs who show a lack of common sense tend to get fired. Among university intellectuals and government regulators, a lack of common sense is often interpreted as “is full of bold new ideas.”

But now it appears that common sense may be spreading among the academic/regulatory class. Sure, we’re talking about a mere two examples so far, but I’m seeing a trend. As a humorist, I’m a bit worried. I’m imagining decisions that would normally lead to great comedic material taking a turn for the worse:

“Moving on, this part of the pamphlet describes the diet we recommend for diabetics. Any comments from the committee?”

“Excuse me, Dr. Higginbotham, but you’re saying our dietary guidelines recommend six to ten servings of starch per day?”

“That’s right.”

“To diabetics?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, Doctor, remember that section earlier in the pamphlet where we explain that carbohydrates raise blood sugar, and the more carbohydrates you consume, the higher your blood sugar will be?”

“Of course.”

“So we tell diabetics that carbohydrates will raise their blood sugar. Then we tell them to get most of their calories from carbohydrates. That makes no freakin’ sense.”

“Well, uh … goodness, now that you mention it… Hello, Jenkins? Higginbotham here. Call the printer and halt production on that pamphlet.”

Or imagine this conversation at the USDA:

“Wait … we’re telling people to avoid which foods, exactly?”

“Red meat, butter and eggs.”

“And we’re telling them to eat what instead?”

“Soy protein, margarine and cholesterol-free egg substitutes.”

“Because …?”

“We want them to avoid heart disease, cancer and diabetes.”

“In other words, we’re telling them that ancient foods cause the diseases of modern civilization, while foods that only exist because of industrial processing are the cure.”

“Correct. Oh … well, when you put it that way …”

Yup, an outbreak of common sense would make it tougher to keep the blog going.  But I’ll deal with it if I must.

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The Anointed And Free Speech, Part Five

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Back in 2016, I wrote a four-part series of posts (this was the first) on why The Anointed aren’t big fans of free speech. Allow me to provide a mix-and-match quote:

The Anointed aren’t big fans of freedom of speech or of concepts like The Marketplace of Ideas or The Wisdom of Crowds. Two of their most dearly-held beliefs are:

1. They are very, very smart.
2. The rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are often quite stupid.

Consequently, The Anointed don’t view wide-open debate and discussion as opportunities for the best ideas to be discovered and bubble up to the top. They view them as opportunities for the great unwashed masses with their inferior intellects to be fooled and led astray.

One way or another, The Anointed believe they must coerce people who disagree with them into shutting the hell up.

Public Health England recently provided another shining example of The Anointed in action. But first, a little background:

As you may have heard, a British politician recently made headlines by losing nearly 100 pounds. Here are some quotes from a BBC article online:

“Ashamed, guilty and embarrassed” – these are just some of the words Labour deputy leader Tom Watson used to describe himself when he hit 22 stone.

From that point, Tom – who suffers from type two diabetes – has dropped seven stone (44.5kg) after starting a new exercise regime last summer.

Combining healthy eating and taking part in sports such as cycling and boxing, he says his lifestyle change has even “reversed” his condition.

That’s quite a turnaround. So how did he accomplish it?

One of the most essential ingredients in the weight-loss recipe is nutrition. But how does someone go from all that fast food and beer to a strict, healthy regime?

Simple… get rid.

“To prepare for day one of my new life I cleaned out all the cupboards,” says Tom. “No more biscuits, no more cakes and no more pasta.

“I restocked on nuts, which I could snack on instead, and bought lots of tuna and mackerel along with some healthier oils.”

No more biscuits, cakes or pasta. The BBC doesn’t call it a low-carb diet, but an article in the U.K. Express does:

His “lifestyle change” consisted of following the Pioppi Diet, a diet designed to reverse obesity and type two diabetes – reversing Tom’s diabetes.

The diet advocates a low-carb regime, and allows three meals a day with the one rule “only eat until you feel full”.

Fascinating … a British politician lost nearly 100 pounds by ignoring the advice offered by his own government. As you’ll recall from this post, the head of nutrition science at Public Health England recently wrote an essay explaining that Britain has an obesity problem because people aren’t following “well-founded government advice.”

Here’s what that “well-founded government advice” looks like, as I discovered by visiting Public Health England’s Eat Well page:

The Eatwell Guide shows that to have a healthy, balanced diet, people should try to:

* eat 5 A Day
* base meals on starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
* have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
* eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
* choose unsaturated oils and spreads, eaten in small amounts
* drink plenty of fluids

And here’s a helpful graphic from the site, showing people what the base of a healthy diet looks like:

Yum-yum! Cereals, bread, biscuits, bagels and pasta! Yup, that’s healthy eating, all right.

And here’s the helpful graphic teaching us which fats we should consume:

Vegetable oils and low-fat spreads. Yessir, nothing improves your health like consuming oils and spreads that only exist because of industrial processing.

So we have the “well-founded government advice” from Public Health England, and we have the low-carb Pioppi Diet that enabled Mr. Watson to lose nearly 100 pounds and reverse the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. People who believe in the marketplace of ideas would say let’s put them both out there and see which diet wins.  Perhaps some other politician will lose 100 pounds and reverse diabetes symptoms, then chalk up his success to following the Eat Well guidelines.

But of course, The Anointed aren’t fans of the marketplace of ideas. They’re fans of stifling dissent. As if we needed more proof, here are some quotes from an essay by Dr. Aseem Malhotra published in the U.K. Times:

In an effort to combat the epidemic of health misinformation I co-wrote a book, The Pioppi Diet, which brings together the evidence on what individuals and policy-makers can do to rapidly improve health and reverse the twin epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes. I was pleasantly surprised when the deputy leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, contacted me a few months ago to let me know he had “relatively easily” lost 94lb and improved his health by specifically following the diet.

For inexplicable reasons, according to one prominent healthcare leader (who has asked not to be identified), Public Health England tried to “sabotage” the launch and press coverage of the book last year. I was told by one eminent doctor that he had been contacted by a senior official from the body and warned from attending the launch in London, to be held at the headquarters of Penguin Random House. To his credit, he did attend.

Another health leader, who heads a national charity, did not attend, and said he had been “poisoned” against the book. Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester and a former health secretary, endorsed the book and attended a launch in Manchester. His office also received a call from Public Health England, warning him against showing public support of the diet.

Public Health England makes different dietary recommendations to the Pioppi diet. It recommends placing starchy carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes, at the base of the diet, and to reduce consumption of saturated fats. I have published evidence reviews showing no association between consumption of saturated fat and a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and death, but Public Health England doesn’t want to debate the issues.

Of course Public Health England doesn’t want to debate. They’re afraid they’d get their public health asses kicked in public. They’d much rather try to intimidate people into silence. We’ve seen this pattern over and over, from the persecution of Tim Noakes, to the forced silencing of Gary Fettke, to members of the USDA’s dietary guidelines committee demanding that Nina Teicholz be disinvited from a conference on national food policy.

Back in my naïve youth, I thought to have governments go after you, you’d have to do something truly threatening … you know, like steal nuclear secrets, or expose covert operations, or read the 10th amendment to the Constitution.

Nope. Turns out all you have to do is tell people they’re better off without grains and industrial vegetable oils. Do that, and The Anointed will try to shut you up or shout you down.

Eat your grains and obey your rulers. Or not.

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If Sugar Consumption Goes Down But Obesity Goes Up, Does That Prove Sugar Doesn’t Cause Obesity? Nope.

I’ve seen an argument about sugar and obesity going around the internet lately. The argument goes like this:

Sugar can’t be the main driver of obesity, because rates of obesity have continued to rise while sugar consumption has been going down.

That statement is based on data showing that our sugar consumption has dropped by around 15% over the last decade or two, depending on whose figures you use. Meanwhile, rates of obesity have continued to climb.

For the record, I don’t believe sugar is the only driver of obesity. I believe crappy oils have a lot to do with it, as Dr. Eades proposed in an excellent speech. I also believe refined grains share a chunk of the blame.

But that’s not the point of this post. The point is that sugar can’t be the driver of obesity because sugar consumption is going down while obesity is going up isn’t as logical as it first appears. In fact, it reminds me of one of the concepts from the book How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, which I’ve mentioned in a few posts.

In a chapter titled There Is No Such Thing As Public Opinion, author Jordan Ellenberg explains that if you confuse individuals with the aggregate, what’s perfectly logical can appear to be illogical.  He gives an example something like this:

Suppose we’re all worried about the federal deficit. Now suppose one-third of the population believes the only acceptable cure is to massively raise taxes, another third believes the only acceptable cure is to massively cut defense spending, and the final third believes the only acceptable cure is to massively cut social programs like Medicare.  We’ll name these groups Raise Taxes, Cut Defense and Cut Social Programs.

So what happens if we start conducting polls? Based on the results, we’ll conclude that the voters are illogical doofuses. Ask “Should we cut federal spending?” and two-thirds (Cut Defense + Cut Social Programs) will answer yes.  Okay, got it.  Two-thirds of voters want us to tame the deficit through spending cuts.

So then we ask, “Should we cut defense spending?” Two-thirds of the voters (Raise Taxes + Cut Social Programs) will answer no. Next question: “Should we cut social programs?”  Again, two-thirds of the voters (Raise Taxes + Cut Defense) will answer no.

We shake our heads at the results and think, Geez, the voters are clueless.  Two-thirds of them want to cut spending, but they don’t want to cut defense or social programs. Are they just morons?

Uh, no. We’ve fallen into the mental trap of confusing individuals with the aggregate. As Ellenberg writes:

Each voter has a perfectly rational, coherent political stance. But in the aggregate, the position is nonsensical.

We have a similar problem with if sugar consumption is going down while obesity is going up, sugar can’t be the main driver of obesity. Yes, it seems like a logical conclusion at first glance. But if we dig a little deeper, we see it’s another case of confusing individuals with the aggregate.

To actually prove something conclusive about the cause of obesity, the 15% decline in sugar consumption would have to occur more or less evenly across the population. In other words, sugar consumption is down by 15% because damned near everyone is now eating 15% less sugar. If that were true, it would mean individuals are cutting back on sugar but getting fatter. Case closed.

But I’ll bet you dollars to donuts (and you can keep the donuts) that’s not what happened with sugar consumption. Do you know anyone who decided sugar is bad and responded by eating 15% less of the stuff? I sure don’t.

“Honey, I just read this great article by Dr. Robert Lustig on how sugar is a metabolic poison. Pour off a few sips of my Coca-Cola and cut away 15% of my donut before you bring it to me, will you?”

The people I know who concluded that sugar is a health hazard responded by giving up sugar completely. Well, okay, maybe a few cookies and a slice of pumpkin pie at Christmas, but other than that, they don’t touch the stuff.

In the aggregate, sugar consumption has declined by 15%. But among individuals, many people are continuing to eat their donuts and Frosted Flakes and Little Debbie Snack Cakes washed down with Coca-Cola, while a minority of others have gone almost sugar-free. That’s what I see among co-workers at the office, among parents and children at school functions, etc.

With that in mind, let’s demonstrate how a population of individuals could experience a sugar-fueled rise in obesity even as sugar consumption declines across the same population. To keep things simple, I’ve created population of eight men who are all 5’10”, which means the BMI scale will label them as obese when they reach 210 pounds. Here’s our population in 2008, when all eight men are consuming around 100 pounds of sugar per year.  (I’m horrified to say that’s about average.)

Goodness. We have an obesity rate of 50%. Now let’s jump ahead 10 years. John, Paul, George and Ringo have continued consuming around 100 pounds of sugar per year and have all gotten 10 pounds heavier. That’s not at all unusual. As I pointed out in Fat Head, the U.S. population gets a little older on average with each passing year, and people tend to gain weight over time if they don’t clean up their diets.

But during the same 10 years, Mick, Keith, Ron and Charlie heard about the health hazards of sugar and stopped eating the stuff. They all lost 10 pounds – nothing dramatic, but a nice change. Here’s what our population looks like in 2018:

Across our entire population, average sugar consumption went from 100 pounds per year to just 50 pounds per year – because Mick, Keith, Ron and Charlie stopped eating sugar. Wow! That’s a 50% decline in sugar consumption – way more than a paltry 15% drop.

So if sugar is the driver of obesity, the obesity rate also had to decline, right? Wrong. Check the graphic. Our population-wide obesity rate rose from 50% to 63% … even though the average weight of our population (209.5 lbs.) is exactly the same in 2008 and 2018.

How is that possible? It seems completely illogical. Yes, but only if you’re looking at the population in the aggregate instead of what happened to the individuals.

John and Paul gained 10 pounds and are now considered obese. Ron dropped 10 pounds and went from obese to not obese. Charlie is like a lot of people I know: his health improved and he lost weight after giving up sugar, but he’s still heavy enough to be considered obese.

At the individual level, the sugar-eaters gained weight and the sugar-avoiders lost weight – just 10 pounds in either direction over 10 years. Again, nothing dramatic. But those relatively small changes caused two people to go from not obese to obese, and one person to go from obese to not obese. The result is that despite a 50% drop in sugar consumption, our population became more obese in the aggregate.

Again, I’m not saying this proves sugar drives obesity. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t.  But sugar can’t drive obesity because obesity rates went up while sugar consumption went down isn’t the slam-dunk logical argument the people making it think it is. It could simply be that lots of people are still eating sugar and getting fatter as a result, while a much smaller group of people have dumped sugar completely and account for most of the decline in sugar consumption.  Keep in mind that many people who dumped sugar from their diets (Chareva being a perfect example) weren’t fat to begin with, which means they don’t affect the obesity figures either way.

We’re individuals, not aggregates. As Dr. Ellenberg knows, looking at aggregates can fool us into making the wrong conclusions.

 

 

 

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From The News …

      56 Comments on From The News …

Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Wedding Bells

Sorry if I was slow on my replies the past few days. I was out of town for a rather important event.

Remember this guy? The one with the abs? That’s my son Zack during a visit back when the girls were wee toddlers.  I used that photo in Fat Head.

I was nearly 42 when I finally got married. For years, I thought Zack was going to beat my record. Nope, he only made it to age 37. He married his longtime girlfriend Chelsy on Saturday.

Here he is with Alana, Sara and Chareva:

And with The Older Brother and me. I’m the one who has more head than hair:

The wedding was originally scheduled to take place near a scenic covered bridge. Pounding rains in Illinois put the kibosh on that location. We would have needed boats. So it was an indoor wedding, but we had a great time.

Facebook pushing veganism

Here’s another reason not to like Facebook, as reported on the Raise Vegan site:

Tech giant, Facebook has launched a new pilot program with vegan company, Raise Vegan, Inc. to bring the classroom to parents, in a push to encourage raising children on plant-based diets.

The new subscription-based groups that launched this week, are the virtual classrooms, run by experts in their fields of medical, nutrition and birth.

If Facebook is going to sponsor virtual classrooms, perhaps they can offer one that teaches reporters how to use a damned comma. Anyway …

The vegan company that started just a year ago, is an all female-led team based in New York, with offices in Ireland, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Seeing a much needed service for parents, they grew from just a few members, to millions of parents around the world in a matter of months.

Of course it’s an all-female team. Most vegans are women. And by the way, when you’re not chewing on sprouts or whatever, LEARN HOW TO USE A COMMA!

The introduction of their first virtual classroom led by vegan nutrition experts and registered dietitians, Dahlia Marin and James Marin, a husband and wife team who own the vegan company ‘Married to Health‘, describes how it will help parents be armed with expert information for raising vegan children, offer short masterclasses and provides daily interaction with experts to ask questions and gain knowledge.

Yeesh. I don’t know if there’s a correlation between a vegan diet and lousy grammar skills, but let’s not take a chance. Eat your meat and stay away from these Facebook groups.

Eat Your Grains And Obey Your Rulers, Part Two

Last week, the head of nutrition science at Public Health England pinpointed the reason so many people are overweight: it’s because those of us who disagree with government recommendations are confusing people, so they don’t follow government advice. Yup, I kid you not. Here’s part of the perfesser’s essay published in iNews:

Last week Dr Aseem Malhotra criticised an evidence-based paper published in the Lancet medical journal.

That “evidence-based paper” would be the piece-of-crap observational study that didn’t actually look at low-carb diets, but nonetheless concluded that low-carb diets shorten lifespan.

Dr Malhotra’s article fails to recognise the wider condemnation of low carb diets from across the mainstream scientific community, both when he launched his diet book and within the Lancet study.

Hmmm, let’s see if we can follow the (ahem) logic: Dr. Malhorta has to be wrong because the mainstream scientific community condemns low-carb diets. This would, of course, be the same mainstream scientific community that once told us the cholesterol in eggs will kill us, then backed off 35 years later with a simple statement that cholesterol is no longer a nutrient of concern.

The gains of short-term loss must not cloud the dangerous impact of excluding entire food groups or consuming diets that are implicated by longer-term conditions such as heart disease.

Excluding an entire food group is dangerous. Just hold onto that thought for now ….

We are facing an obesity crisis because, in part, people are increasingly confused about what is good for them, being fed inaccurate information and ultimately not following well-founded government advice.

Riiiight. It’s the confusion that’s the problem, ya see. Back when pretty much everyone was on board with that well-founded government advice, recommending heartheathlywholegrains! and scaring people away from arterycloggingsaturatedfat!, people just kept getting leaner and healthier, by gosh.

Then for some reason, people started looking for alternative advice. It’s almost as if that well-founded government advice didn’t work for them.

Celebrity diets come and go but our advice remains consistent – eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day; base meals on higher fibre, starchy carbohydrates; eat some beans, pulses, eggs, fish, meat (or vegetarian alternatives) and dairy foods; choose unsaturated oils and spreads; and consume foods high in salt, saturated fat and sugars infrequently and in small amounts.

Yes, government advice has been remarkably consistent for the past 40 years. So has the growth in rates of obesity and diabetes.

By the way, perfesser, I noticed you’re okay with vegetarian alternatives to meat. Wouldn’t that be excluding an entire food group?

What have I been saying all along about The Anointed? When the Grand Plan fails, it’s never because the plan was a bad idea. Failure is always proof that 1) people didn’t actually follow the plan because they’re evil and/or stupid, or 2) the plan didn’t go far enough.

The perfesser wants us to do the same thing again, only bigger. No thanks.

Don’t go outside – they can spot obesity from space now

Okay, I admit it: when I saw the headline, I wondered if they were using AI to recognize large bodies walking down the street. Here are some quotes from Science Direct online:

Obesity is a complex health issue impacted by a range of factors, one of which is the physical, urban environment we live in. Now, scientists have used artificial intelligence (AI) and satellite images of US cities to map that link – in effect, detecting obesity from space.

The researchers, from the University of Washington, fed some 150,000 high-resolution satellite images sourced from Google Maps into a convolutional neural network (CNN) – a kind of AI that uses deep learning to independently analyse and identify patterns within the dataset.

The neural network the team used in this case was already pre-trained on approximately 1.2 million images – experience that helped it analyse the built environment across the cities, identifying features such as roads, buildings, trees, water, and land.

In addition, the researchers used estimates of obesity prevalence from the 500 Cities project to create a model that assessed the association between those features (plus points of interest like gas stations, shopping malls, parks, and pet stores) and obesity prevalence in the studied areas.

“Our approach consistently presents a strong association between obesity prevalence and the built environment indicator across all four regions, despite varying city and neighbourhood values,” the authors explain.

Good grief. After all that gobbledygook, what it gets down to is that there’s an association between living in a certain kind of neighborhood and obesity. Yeah, we knew that already. Before I even read the next paragraph, I knew they were going to blame obesity on the environment.

The research broadly supports a lot of what we already knew about the built environment’s impact on obesity: open, green spaces that enable physical activity are usually good for public health; densely packed neighbourhoods hemmed in by roads and lacking greenery are not.

Ah, it’s the lack of green spaces that make people obese. So plug this question into your artificial intelligence and see if you can get an answer: if a lack of green spaces make people fat, why are obesity rates higher in rural areas than in urban areas?

Just another side effect …

Boy, this almost makes the side effects of statins look tame by comparison. Here are some quotes from an article in Bloomberg online:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning doctors and patients that some widely used diabetes drugs may, in some rare cases, cause a flesh-eating bacterial infection of the genitals.

Seems as if half the commercials I see on TV these days are for drugs. The voice-over actor always prattles through a long list of side effects. I’d like to see them try to sneak that by.

Side effects may include headache, liver damage, dry mouth, insomnia, and a flesh-eating bacterial infection of the genitals.

The drugs covered by the warning include Johnson & Johnson’s Invokana, AstraZeneca Plc’s Farxiga and Eli Lilly & Co.’s Jardiance. Known as SGLT2 inhibitors, they were approved in 2013, 2013 and 2016, respectively. The drugs help the body lower blood-sugar levels via the kidneys, and excess sugar is excreted in a patient’s urine. Urinary tract infections are a known side effect.

All of the drugs in the class except Merck & Co.’s Steglujan, the most recently approved, have been linked to the condition. The manufacturers must add information about the risk to the prescribing information and medicine guides given to patients.

“I’m going to prescribe Farxiga to bring down your blood sugar.”

“Any side effects, Doctor?”

“Well, I’m required to warn you that you could end up becoming infected with bacteria that eat your penis.”

“I see. And wouldn’t that be highly traumatic?”

“No, I’ll prescribe high-dose Lipitor and you’ll forget it ever happened.”

I think I’ll skip the drugs and stick to a good diet instead.

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Speaking At The 2018 Wise Traditions Conference

I’ll be giving the keynote address at the 2018 Wise Traditions Conference put on by the Weston A. Price Foundation.  The conference takes place November 16-19 in at the Baltimore Hilton in (surprise) Baltimore.

As you know, Sally Fallon Morell, the president of WAP, appeared in Fat Head.  I was a novice filmmaker when I got in touch with her, and she didn’t know me from Adam.  But she and Dr. Mary Enig were very accommodating and spent an entire day talking to me on camera.

Sally recently wrote a nice review of Fat Head Kids, which is probably why she thought to invite me to speak.  Whatever the reason, I’m delighted.

I’ll be giving a new and improved version of my speech Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds.  After all, the Weston A. Price Foundation is all about the dietary wisdom that was gathered over the generations.

For information about the conference, you can visit their Facebook page or the official website.

 

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