I bookmarked a few news items recently, thinking they might be post-worthy. (I’ve accepted that “post-worthy” will never have quite the ring to it that “sponge-worthy” does, by the way.) None of them quite tickles my brain or my sense of righteous indignation enough to inspire a full post, so what the heck … I’ll make this post a collection of mini-posts.
Video-Gamers Are Fat And Depressed
According to this article on MSNBC.com, the average video-game enthusiast is 35, overweight and depressed. Yeah, okay … he probably also lives in a room in his parents’ basement and works for the post office. So what?
I guess the “so what” is extremely important, because this study included investigators from the Centers for Disease Control, Emory University and Andrews University. As the article explains:
The hypothesis was that video-game players have a higher body mass index – the measure of a person’s weight in relation to their height – and “a greater number of poor mental health days” versus nonplayers, said Dr. James B. Weaver III of the CDC’s National Center for Health Marketing. The hypothesis was correct, he said.
Well, that’s great. In an era of trillion-dollar deficits, I’m delighted to know my tax dollars are being spent to discover whether people whose primary goal in life is to steal cars and kill bad guys on a video screen are overweight and don’t socialize much.
Video-game players also reported lower extraversion, consistent with research on adolescents that linked video-game playing to a sedentary lifestyle and overweight status, and to mental-health concerns.
You know where they’re headed with this, right? They probably want to warn us that if kids spend too much time playing video games, they’ll turn into fat, depressed, socially-stunted adults. If so, they’ve got the causality backwards.
It’s just like the observation that active people tend to be thinner, therefore (as researchers like to believe), being active must make you thin. Nope. As I’ve pointed out before, active people aren’t thin because they’re active; they’re active because they’re thin. Their bodies don’t like to store calories as fat, so they feel an impulse to move and burn off all that excess fuel.
Playing video games doesn’t make kids or adults fat and depressed, but if you are fat and depressed, you will probably spend more time playing video games.
I spent much of my adolescence as a fat, clumsy kid. When deciding how to spend my after-school time, my thought process went something like this: Hmmm … I could go join that softball game the other guys in the neighborhood are getting together, get picked dead last, strike out every time I’m at bat, maybe get lucky and walk once, then get tagged out at second on the next hit because I’m too damned slow around the bases, then listen to some creative insults delivered by Brian “Stinky” Pinkerton … or I could sit in front of the television where nobody will bother me. Boy, tough choice …
Substitute “video game” for “television,” and you’d probably have an approximate read on the mind of the fat, depressed video-game players – even if they’re 35.
I wasn’t a fat kid because I didn’t play softball; I didn’t play softball because I was a fat kid.
While the study helps “illuminate the health consequences of video-game playing,” it is not conclusive, its researchers say, but rather serves to “reveal important patterns in health-related correlates of video-game playing and highlights avenues for future research.”
Ah yes, this is only the beginning for this fascinating field of research. Next, let’s study the mating habits of the 35-year-old video-game players. Perhaps the research could be funded by the makers of the RealDoll.
The Scientific Method
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least twice: correlation does not mean causation. You’d think trained scientists would understand that concept, but sadly, many don’t. The emphasis on a “link” between playing video games and being overweight and depressed is just one example.
When I was in college, my physics professor showed us this clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail as an example of how the scientific method can be mangled. It’s still funny, and Sir Bedivere’s logic is every bit as good as the logic behind the “fat raises cholesterol and causes heart attacks” theory.
American Heart Association Warns About Sugar
The American Heart Association is now warning that Americans consume too much sugar.
Let’s see, that would be the same American Heart Association that believes that if a steak weighs the same as a duck, and duck-hunters sometimes die of heart attacks, and ducks lay eggs, then eating steaks and eggs causes heart attacks. That would also be the same American Heart Association that puts its stamp of approval on high-sugar cereals like Cocoa Puffs because they’re low in fat. If the AHA now believes sugar is bad for your heart, they’ve got some explaining to do.
By the way, Ancel Keys, who popularized the Lipid Hypothesis with his bogus study showing an association between fat and heart disease, failed to either notice or mention that sugar consumption was even more strongly associated with heart disease. Keys also ended up on the board of the American Heart Association … and the rest is history.
“Resistant Starch” Reduces Insulin Resistance?
I saw this story about how “resistant starch” reduces insulin resistance and other symptoms of diabetes on several news sites. I ended up reading several versions of the story only because I was wondering how starch of any kind could reduce insulin levels, and I was trying to get an answer to a rather important question: compared to what, exactly?
I finally found the answer here. Some quotes:
While all dietary fibers decrease the glycemic and insulin response when they substitute for digestible carbohydrates, the fermentation effects distinguish resistant starch from other types of dietary fiber.
23 studies have shown beneficial effects of RS2 from high amylose corn on glucose and/or insulin response. When substituted for flour, it lowers the glycemic and/or insulin response of foods in a dose-dependent manner.
Exactly as I suspected … they’re comparing the effects of resistant starch to the effects of white flour. So let me explain this one more time:
If one group of ducks who aren’t made of wood smoke unfiltered cigarettes, and another group of ducks who aren’t made of wood smoke filtered cigarettes, and both groups of ducks weigh the same as a witch and float in water, the ducks who smoke the filtered cigarettes will end up with a lower rate of cancer.
That doesn’t mean filtered cigarettes “reduce” cancer. It simply means they’re less likely to cause cancer, as Sir Bedivere could tell you. And yet here’s a quote that appeared in most of the news stories:
“These improvements are actually bigger than you get with most blood glucose lowering drugs,” said lead researcher Dr. Denise Robertson.
Great … we’ve got a supposed scientists hawking the insulin-reducing benefits of a commercial food product, without bothering to compare the results of eating the stuff with the results of avoiding starch altogether. I bet Dr. Robertson weighs the same as a duck and could turn anyone who points out the flaws in this study into a newt.
Examiner Interview, Part Two