Odds and Ends from the news and reader emails:

The tube diet

Here’s a novel idea for losing weight rapidly:  drip some protein and fat into your stomach through a tube in your nose.  Apparently this is now popular among brides-to-be who want to walk down the aisle wearing a dress they’ll never fit into again.

The K-E diet, which boasts promises of shedding 20 pounds in 10 days, is an increasingly popular alternative to ordinary calorie-counting programs. The program has dieters inserting a feeding tube into their nose that runs to the stomach. They’re fed a constant slow drip of protein and fat, mixed with water, which contains zero carbohydrates and totals 800 calories a day. Body fat is burned off through a process called ketosis, which leaves muscle intact, Dr. Oliver Di Pietro of Bay Harbor Islands, Fla., said.

“It is a hunger-free, effective way of dieting,” Di Pietro said. “Within a few hours your hunger and appetite go away completely, so patients are actually not hungry at all for the whole 10 days. That’s what is so amazing about this diet.”

I have to admit, I’m curious as to why they’re not hungry on 800 calories per day.  Sure, a ketogenic diet can suppress appetite to an extent, but those are semi-starvation rations.  Is it because they don’t smell or taste the food?  Would they be hungrier if they consumed 800 calories of fried eggs instead?

Di Pietro says patients are under a doctor’s supervision, although they’re not hospitalized during the dieting process. Instead, they carry the food solution with them, in a bag, like a purse, keeping the tube in their nose for 10 days straight. Di Pietro says there are few side effects.

Maybe having a tube up your nose for 10 days is an appetite suppressant.  I’d try some self-experimentation with that, but people at work already think I’m odd because I eat sandwiches with no bread.

“The main side effects are bad breath; there is some constipation because there is no fiber in the food,” he said.

“William, do you take this malodorous, constipated woman to be your bride, to have and to hold her, to love and respect her, forsaking all others, until death do you part?”

“Uhhh …”

“William?  WILLIAM!”

Scientists are freakin’ liars

I occasionally receive emails from people who were offended by the “scientists are freakin’ liars” line in my Science For Smart People speech.  Those emails usually include some variation on Who are you to say scientists are liars?  Huh?  Huh?

I’m a guy who can read, that’s who.  Check out this article from the New York Times:

In the fall of 2010, Dr. Ferric C. Fang made an unsettling discovery. Dr. Fang, who is editor in chief of the journal Infection and Immunity, found that one of his authors had doctored several papers. It was a new experience for him. “Prior to that time,” he said in an interview, “Infection and Immunity had only retracted nine articles over a 40-year period.”

The journal wound up retracting six of the papers from the author, Naoki Mori of the University of the Ryukyus in Japan. And it soon became clear that Infection and Immunity was hardly the only victim of Dr. Mori’s misconduct. Since then, other scientific journals have retracted two dozen of his papers, according to the watchdog blog Retraction Watch.

Oh, well.  Probably just one bad apple.

Dr. Fang became curious how far the rot extended. To find out, he teamed up with a fellow editor at the journal, Dr. Arturo Casadevall of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. And before long they reached a troubling conclusion: not only that retractions were rising at an alarming rate, but that retractions were just a manifestation of a much more profound problem — “a symptom of a dysfunctional scientific climate,” as Dr. Fang put it.

Dr. Casadevall, now editor in chief of the journal mBio, said he feared that science had turned into a winner-take-all game with perverse incentives that lead scientists to cut corners and, in some cases, commit acts of misconduct.

In other words …

No one claims that science was ever free of misconduct or bad research … But critics like Dr. Fang and Dr. Casadevall argue that science has changed in some worrying ways in recent decades — especially biomedical research, which consumes a larger and larger share of government science spending.

In October 2011, for example, the journal Nature reported that published retractions had increased tenfold over the past decade, while the number of published papers had increased by just 44 percent. In 2010 The Journal of Medical Ethics published a study finding the new raft of recent retractions was a mix of misconduct and honest scientific mistakes.

Do we have more  bad scientists now than before?  I don’t think so.  The article gives a possible explanation for the 10-fold rise in retractions that I believe has rather a lot to do with it:

Several factors are at play here, scientists say. One may be that because journals are now online, bad papers are simply reaching a wider audience, making it more likely that errors will be spotted.

Indeed, it’s not just other scientists busting bad science anymore.  The so-called “pajamas media” has gotten involved as well.

But other forces are more pernicious. To survive professionally, scientists feel the need to publish as many papers as possible, and to get them into high-profile journals. And sometimes they cut corners or even commit misconduct to get there.

To measure this claim, Dr. Fang and Dr. Casadevall looked at the rate of retractions in 17 journals from 2001 to 2010 and compared it with the journals’ “impact factor,” a score based on how often their papers are cited by scientists. The higher a journal’s impact factor, the two editors found, the higher its retraction rate.

So it’s the journals most cited by other scientists that are most likely to publish bad science.  Or it could be that those journals, because they are more prestigious, feel the most pressure to issue a retraction.

Either way, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

They’re not fat because they don’t have access to vegetables

One of recommendations listed in the 2010 USDA’s Dietary Goals report was to make fresh fruits and vegetables more available in poor neighborhoods – in other words, they want politicians to take your money and use it to subsidize fresh produce and the people who sell it.  Because ya know, if only we could get more broccoli and carrots into poor neighborhoods, poor people wouldn’t have such high rates of obesity.

Recent studies disagree:

It has become an article of faith among some policy makers and advocates, including Michelle Obama, that poor urban neighborhoods are food deserts, bereft of fresh fruits and vegetables.

But two new studies have found something unexpected. Such neighborhoods not only have more fast food restaurants and convenience stores than more affluent ones, but more grocery stores, supermarkets and full-service restaurants, too. And there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity among its children and adolescents.

Even if we’re talking about neighborhoods where there truly aren’t as many vegetables being sold, people get the causality backwards.  The local residents aren’t fat because they don’t have access to vegetables.  The vegetables aren’t available because people don’t buy them.

Some experts say these new findings raise questions about the effectiveness of efforts to combat the obesity epidemic simply by improving access to healthy foods. Despite campaigns to get Americans to exercise more and eat healthier foods, obesity rates have not budged over the past decade, according to recently released federal data.

Duh.  That’s largely because the government’s definition of “healthy foods” is all screwed up.  Nothing wrong with fruits and vegetables, of course, but as long as they keep pushing low-fat diets based on breads, cereals and pasta, they can open a subsidized vegetable stand next to every poor person’s residence in the country and it won’t make any difference.

Advocates have long called for more supermarkets in poor neighborhoods and questioned the quality of the food that is available. And Mrs. Obama has made elimination of food deserts an element of her broader campaign against childhood obesity, Let’s Move, winning praise from Democrats and even some Republicans, and denunciations from conservative commentators and bloggers who have cited it as yet another example of the nanny state.

Speaking in October on the South Side of Chicago, she said that in too many neighborhoods “if people want to buy a head of lettuce or salad or some fruit for their kid’s lunch, they have to take two or three buses, maybe pay for a taxicab, in order to do it.”

Here’s what people like Mrs. Obama can’t seem to grasp:  if enough people in those neighborhoods wanted lettuce and fruit in their kids’ lunches, plenty of greedy capitalists would happily move in to sell them.  In a previous post, I wrote about a chain of stores that tried selling 15-cent bags of apple slices in a poor neighborhood.  The apple slices had to be thrown away because they didn’t sell.

Mrs. Obama has also advocated getting schools to serve healthier lunches and communities to build more playgrounds.

Her office referred questions about the food deserts issue to the Department of Agriculture. A spokesman there, Justin DeJong, said by e-mail that fighting obesity requires “a comprehensive response.”

No problem then.  The government’s on the job and planning a comprehensive response.  That of course means a really expensive and ultimately futile response.

Farm News:  Guineas Gone

Well, we knew we’d make a few mistakes when we took up farming.  The result of our first mistake is that our guinea fowl are all gone.

Once they’d grown considerably and seemed determined to fly around the basement, we decided to move them out to chicken coop.  The theory was they’d bond with the chickens for awhile and get to considering the area their home, then we’d let them free-range.

They free-ranged, all right.  On Sunday we took the girls to see a Sondheim musical at a theater in downtown Franklin.  When we returned home, seven of the guineas were already out and about.  The girls tried to chase them down, which of course merely inspired them to flee.  For a couple of days, they hung around our property, usually waddling around in a pack.  They seemed fond of the creek, so we hoped they’d stick around.

Nope.  We haven’t seen them in two days now.  The other three wandered off as well.  The coop has a fence around it and a big net covering the fence so hawks don’t swoop down and fly away with our chickens, but there are gaps large enough for a determined bird to get out.

We’ll try again after making the area more escape-proof.

The Ace

This has nothing to do with diets, health, fitness or farming, but I feel the need to report it anyway:  I finally got a hole-in-one on my frisbee golf course.  The disc sailed towards the basket about 200 feet away, looked as if it would miss high and to the right, then faded left, hit the chains, and dropped into the basket.  I let out a self-congratulatory war whoop.

Unfortunately, I was out there playing by myself.  You get a hole-in-one, you want a witness.  Since I didn’t have one, I’m telling all of you.

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58 Responses to “Odds and Ends”
  1. Marla says:

    My brother is a professor in the sciences and believe me the money is flowing into research. Imagine someone handing you a quarter to a million dollars every couple of years, for you to spend at your own discretion. All you have to do is publish a couple pages at the end. These people live like high income earners, flying around the world to conferences and meetings, buying all the latest high tech equipment and gadgets – all on the taxpayers. I’ve been hearing talk lately of the “university bubble” and this is just part of that. It’s much bigger than bad scientific results, it’s the same old lack of responsibility when spending other peoples money.

  2. Susan says:

    @Megan

    First, congrats on your 45 pound loss and on breaking your sugar addiction. I’m taking a different tack.

    I’m in the middle of a Whole30 (http://whole9life.com/start/) 30-day challenge. Thirty days of no grains, dairy, legumes, sugars (real or artificial), or processed foods. Avoid alcohol and things such as MSG, sulfites, or other additives. Two weeks in and going strong. So far, I have no desire to eat any of the “forbidden foods.”

    I have no idea if I’ve lost any weight because weighing youself during the 30 days is discouraged. But I certainly feel good. I plan to stick it out at least until my upcoming physical. So far, my steadily upward creeping fasting glucose seems to be coming under control. Can’t wait to see what the effect is on my lipid panel.

    Last night for dinner I had a 1/4 pound burger patty (would have eaten more, but that was how much I had in the fridge), a large serving of mushrooms, peppers, and onions, sauteed in coconut oil with fresh basil and thyme, and a whole avocado. Somehow that just sounds a whole lot better to me than a diet of pre-prepared meals.

  3. Nowhereman says:

    Bigmyc, Foxnews is hardly the worst offender out there where this is concerned. At least Foxnews about 6 months or so ago reported on the first ever dedicated Paleo restaurant in the world when no one else did. Yahoo and MSNBC, however, rarely promote anything Paleo diet as positive. So there’s plenty of blame to spread around, especially since many news outlets, regardless of their political slant, are controlled by the same corporate sponsors who want nothing more than their food products to be promoted and not vilified.

  4. bigmyc says:

    Yes, like I mentioned, the conventional wisdom buffer is something that will be prevalent in all media agendas. I just pick on Fox News because their on screen personalities just seem so bloated, self righteous and over the top with their “convictions.” Of course, I suppose another could say the same about CNN and the like but Sheppard Smith?….c’mon.

    Anne Coulter? Now this John Stossel…

    yikes.

    But it’s good to know that they haven’t been completely bought out by Monsanto and Conagra et al. Don’t know if I could say the same for the other networks.

    Sheppard Smith? He never struck me as over the top.

  5. Walter B says:

    @Nowhereman

    That’s edible foodlike substances, there is no profit[1] in real food.

    [1] profit as defined in Econ 100 — A return on capital greater than normal for activities of the same risk.

  6. Mike C says:

    The nose drip concept is quite interesting. A couple years ago, I went on a medically supervised “fast” of just 800 cals per day (all liquid). Just to get an idea of my past, I am an ex College Football Offensive Lineman. My playing weight back in the early 90′s was ~280 lbs (mostly muscle). Time has not been great to me and I did go up 10 lbs from my playing days, unfortunately so did my waist size.

    I was on this diet for about 3.5 months and lost a little over 60 lbs. I did drop from a size 44 pants to size 36 but I also lost a TON of muscle mass. Over the past two years unfortunately like most, gained it all back. A week and a half ago I started low carbing and have dropped 15 lbs. I am eating less and am not hungry all the time. I have to say though the first 3 days were brutal.

    I guess my point is, at least for me, I need something I can LIVE with. Not a diet to quickly drop the weight quickly. The 800 cal diet was great for dropping the weight fast but the rebound was demoralizing.

    How much of the low carb weight loss would you say has to do with ketosis? Is it vital to rev up the fat loss?

    Thanks.

    I don’t think it’s ketosis per se. More that being in ketosis means the fat cells are open for business, so you can burn your own body fat for fuel instead of converting muscle protein to glucose.

  7. Woodey says:

    The “tube diet” is just gross and wrong, I would go so far as to say morally wrong and the Dr or any doctor should not be allowed to perform such a thing. This country is shallow, infatuated with youth and beauty, unfortunately skinny is tied to beauty. The media does a grave injustice by shoving their ideals down our throats and getting us to feel insecure about ourselves by peddling their products.

    The whole thing is backwards. The people take the blame for their predicament, but all we’ve done is follow the guidelines set forth by our government and buy the food to eat that is sold to us by big business. However, instead of attacking the real problem the finger gets pointed at society and we take the blame.

    If only people would tune out more from the boob tube I think most of these fad diets, unhealthy supplements, harmful medical procedures, and critical mindset towards others would go away or at least greatly diminish. I’m fat and will more than likely die with extra body fat on me. That’s just life and the less I pay attention to the media the better I feel about myself.

    I’m done with my soapbox.

    Soapboxes happily shared here.

    Cheers

  8. David N says:

    About the birds, we had turkeys when I was a kid and we had to clip their wings (just the tips of a few feathers as I recall) or they would fly up into the neighbor’s tree. An odd sight that… huge turkeys up in a tree.

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