Archive for the “Random Musings” Category
While I’ve been busy trying to finish the book and make serious progress on the film (which I’m supposed to show on the low-carb cruise in just 10 weeks), my inbox been piling up. So here are some interesting items.
Why Arctic natives are getting fat
Here are some quotes from an article in the Siberian Times with the provocative title First-ever cases of obesity in Arctic peoples as noodles replace traditional diet:
Subtle changes in traditional lifestyle of native ethnic groups in the Yamalo-Nenets region have brought the first-ever cases of obesity. Until now, fatness has not existed in these population groups, but scientists say there has been a marked change.
Alexey Titovsky, regional director for science and innovation, said: ‘It never happened before that the small local indigenous peoples of the north suffered from obesity. It is a nonsensical modern problem. Now even a predisposition to obesity is being noticed.’
And what’s driving this unfortunate development?
Changes have seen the intake of venison and river fish cut by half, he said. ‘Over the past few years the diet has changed considerably, and people living in the tundra started eating so-called chemically processed products.’
Well, it sounds to me as if the natives are eating less red meat. According to the experts at various government health organizations, that means they’re getting healthier.
Researcher Dr Andrey Lobanov says nomadic herders nowadays often buy instant noodles in villages on their pasture routes and this has led to ‘dramatic changes to the rations of the people living in the tundra’.
Wait … are these whole-grain noodles? Because if they are, according to the experts at various government health organizations, that means the Arctic natives are getting healthier.
‘The problem is that carbohydrates do not contain the necessary micro elements which help survival in Arctic conditions,’ he said. ‘The seasonal diet has also changed – the periods when they do not eat traditional food and replace it with carbohydrates has become longer.’
No, no, no! Carbohydrates don’t make people fat. I’ve heard that from countless internet cowboys. If these people are getting fat for the first time in their culture’s history, it’s because they’ve become weak-willed and started eating too much. And they’re probably not exercising enough. Maybe some of them should become contestants on The Biggest Loser and learn how to stay healthy through long sessions of tortuous exercise.
Biggest Loser trainer has a heart attack
As I replied to The Older Brother when he sent me a link to this story, if I were still a Catholic, I’d have to go to confession because of my reaction. Here are some quotes from Yahoo news.
Fitness trainer and host of NBC’s “Biggest Loser” Bob Harper says he is recovering from a serious heart attack that left him unconscious for two days.
During which time he was on a very-low-calorie diet and lost some weight.
Harper tells TMZ he was working out in a gym in New York City this month when he collapsed. He says a doctor who also was in the gym performed CPR on him.
Jillian Michaels was spotted in the background saying, “I’m happy he had a heart attack. He doesn’t work hard enough.”
The 51-year-old Harper, whose mother died from a heart attack, says he spent eight days in a New York hospital and has not yet been cleared to fly home to Los Angeles.
Harper has been a fixture on all 17 seasons of “The Biggest Loser.” He served as a trainer on the show from 2004 to 2015. He took over as host of the reality weight loss program last year.
Perhaps because the public grew tired of watching Jillian Michaels say she was happy when she drove contestants into throwing up during exercise sessions.
How Breaking Bad star dropped the pounds
I admire Bryan Cranston because of his amazing range as an actor. Subtle humor in Seinfeld as Dr. Tim Whatley. Slapstick humor as the father in Malcolm in the Middle. And then … wow … the dramatic chops he put on display during six seasons of Breaking Bad.
Some years ago, Chareva and I attended a charity event featuring several big-name comedians … Robin Williams, Paula Poundstone and Jonathan Winters, to name a few. Cranston was the emcee, and he was a stitch. Very charming and very quick-witted.
Anyway, here are some quotes from an online article explaining how Cranston lost weight to make the chemotherapy treatments in Breaking Bad believable:
Howard Stern interviewed Bryan Cranston on March 4, 2014 and asked him how he lost weight so quickly for his role as Walter White on Breaking Bad.
HS: When you had chemo and was getting sick playing the part of Walter White, in order to go through rapid weight loss you deliberately didn’t eat for 10 days? True or false?
HS: How’d you lose all that weight?
BC: No carbohydrates. I just took out all the carbohydrates.
HS: How much weight did you drop?
BC: 16 pounds, in ten days.
BC: No. The first three days are really hard, ’cause your body’s changing and craving sugar and wants, you know, and then you deprive it of the sugar and it starts burning fat.
No, no, no. That can’t be right. People don’t lose weight by giving up carbohydrates. If Cranston lost weight, it just means he finally had the willpower to eat less and consume fewer calories than he burned.
Obesity blame and politics
Speaking of willpower, do Republicans and Democrats have different opinions on whether getting fat is about willpower? Apparently they do, at least to some degree. Here are some quotes from a EurekaAlert article:
People’s political leanings and their own weight shape opinions on obesity-related public policies, according to a new study by two University of Kansas researchers.
Actually, Republicans — no matter how much they weigh — believe eating and lifestyle habits cause obesity, the research found.
But among Democrats there is more of a dividing line, said Mark Joslyn, a KU professor of political science. Those who identify themselves as overweight are more likely to believe genetic factors cause obesity.
I’m not a Republican or a Democrat, so I guess I’m allowed to say it’s both.
Of course genetics figures into it. There’s a reason some people never gain or lose weight despite eating whatever and whenever they choose. That’s how their bodies are programmed. It’s genetics. But among those of us not so genetically blessed, it’s largely about what kinds of foods we eat. Genetics loads the gun, diet pulls the trigger.
Would you like actual chicken in your chicken sandwich?
When I order chicken at a fast-food restaurant, I kind of expect most of it to be made from chicken. That seems to be the case for many chains, but not for one. Here are some quotes from a CBC (Canada) article online:
A DNA analysis of the poultry in several popular grilled chicken sandwiches and wraps found at least one fast food restaurant isn’t serving up nearly as much of the key ingredient as people may think.
An unadulterated piece of chicken from the store should come in at 100 per cent chicken DNA. Seasoning, marinating or processing meat would bring that number down, so fast food samples seasoned for taste wouldn’t be expected to hit that 100 per cent target.
So researchers bought some fast food and tested the DNA of the chicken meals. Here are the typical results:
A&W Chicken Grill Deluxe averaged 89.4 per cent chicken DNA
McDonald’s Country Chicken – Grilled averaged 84.9 per cent chicken DNA
Tim Hortons Chipotle Chicken Grilled Wrap averaged 86.5 per cent chicken DNA
Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich averaged 88.5 per cent chicken DNA
And now for the big exception:
Subway’s results were such an outlier that the team decided to test them again, biopsying five new oven roasted chicken pieces, and five new orders of chicken strips.
Those results were averaged: the oven roasted chicken scored 53.6 per cent chicken DNA, and the chicken strips were found to have just 42.8 per cent chicken DNA.
So what the @#$% is taking the place of half the chicken in the chicken?
The majority of the remaining DNA? Soy.
Yummy. But at least their sandwiches are low in fat. And as we all know, that low-fat movement has done wonders for the nation’s health, especially among the younger generation …
More young people getting colorectal cancer
Obesity is on the rise among young people. Diabetes is on the rise among young people. And now there’s this startling development, as reported in The New York Times:
Cancers of the colon and rectum have been declining in older adults in recent decades and have always been considered rare in young people. But scientists are reporting a sharp rise in colorectal cancers in adults as young as their 20s and 30s, an ominous trend.
The vast majority of colorectal cancers are still found in older people, with nearly 90 percent of all cases diagnosed in people over 50. But a new study from the American Cancer Society that analyzed cancer incidence by birth year found that colorectal cancer rates, which had dropped steadily for people born between 1890 and 1950, have been increasing for every generation born since 1950. Experts aren’t sure why.
Well, maybe we can guess. Let’s see … every generation born since 1950. I was born in 1958. By the time I was 20, we were all being told saturated fat and cholesterol will kill us, while grains will make us healthy. Grain consumption rose sharply for the next 35 years or so and has only recently started declining. During the same period, food manufacturers added more sugar to foods to hide the fact that many low-fat foods taste like cardboard unless you make them sweeter.
Most colorectal cancers are considered a disease of aging, so any increase in young adults, especially when rates of the disease are on the wane in older people, is both baffling and worrisome, experts say.
By the way, red meat consumption dropped rather dramatically during the same period when colon cancer rose sharply among young people. Don’t the vegetrollians always tell us red meat causes colon cancer?
You can’t buy Kerrygold butter in Wisconsin
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least twice: when politicians rush in to “protect” the public from some supposed hazard, it’s rarely about protecting the public. It’s almost always about some protecting some established business or industry. Here’s an example from a Chicago Tribune article:
When Wisconsin resident Julie Rider shops for groceries, there’s one item she can’t legally buy at her local market — or at any stores in her state.
Because of a decades-old state law, Rider’s favorite butter — Kerrygold, imported from Ireland — isn’t allowed on Wisconsin store shelves.
The law, requiring butter sold in Wisconsin to be graded for taste, texture and color through a federal or state system, effectively bans butter produced outside the U.S., as well as many artisanal butters that also aren’t rated.
This means some residents of the Dairy State have to drive across the border into Illinois just to buy their favorite butter.
Whether Wisconsin’s law was intended as market protection for the state’s dairy industry or is simply a means to ensure quality, Rider, for one, thinks it’s “crazy.”
Oh, I’m sure the law was passed to protect the public after thousands of cheese-heads became violently ill as the result of eating imported butter.
People might not have noticed if butter weren’t making such a comeback. But it is.
Though the rule has been on the books since the 1950s, it is churning new controversy at a time when butter consumption is on the rise in America as it’s increasingly thought to be healthier than margarine. Butter made from grass-fed cows, such as Kerrygold, is a staple in some diets and for the “bulletproof coffee” movement, where such butter is mixed with coffee and MCT oil for purported — but debated — weight-loss benefits.
A spokesman for the company that sells and markets Kerrygold in the U.S. and Canada, Evanston-based Ornua Foods North America, released a statement confirming it’s “currently working with the Wisconsin authorities on a solution.”
Well, thank goodness the government authorities are working on a solution. Perhaps they’ll nickname it something like “If you like your butter, you can keep your butter.”
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Hey Fat Heads,
Happy New Year!
Thought I’d sneak into the Big Chair for a couple of quick items.
The big news is that the Fat Head Kids book is getting close enough that Tom sent a script to The Middle Son and The Youngest Son so they can start prepping to help with voice work for the DVD version. He included a preview copy of the book so they can relate to what they’ll be voice acting.
Naturally, I had to sneak a peek and I can say that it’s more than worth the wait. Just terrific.
In my completely unbiased opinion, of course.
Next, this isn’t in the breaking news category, but I thought my fellow Fat Heads might enjoy it. We’ve got a good-natured banter going with The Youngest Son’s fiancée about what grandson 2 will be eating as he starts the move from formula to people food. (This guy:)
I keep saying he’s going to be eating only eggs, chicken livers and steak (with some lard and bacon fat) before he’s one; future DIL threatens to feed him tofu.
Anyway, after being impressed with Jason Fung’s Obesity Code and his follow up book (with Jimmy Moore) The Complete Guide to Fasting, I got interested in fasting, especially after my annual Thanksgiving through New Year’s gluttony. I’ve done a couple of 24-hour fasts, a 36-hour last week, and am 36 hours into a two-day (maybe 60 hours) fast right now.
So last night, I was putting a coffee mug in the microwave, prompting the following:
DIL: What’s that – are you having some tea?
Older Brother: No, I’m having a cup of beef broth.
Youngest Son (to DIL): See that? – even Dad’s water has meat in it!
The Older Brother
24 Comments »
In the previous three posts, we looked at why The Anointed aren’t big fans of free speech or the wide-open discussion and debate free speech enables:
1. They believe they are very, very smart.
2. They believe the rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are therefore easily fooled and led astray.
In comments, a reader posted a link to an excellent blog post by Charles Hugh Smith that makes the same point:
Perhaps what has failed here is the narrative that everything fails and falls apart if it isn’t centrally managed and curated, a narrative that inevitably leads to censorship under the guise of “protecting you, the easily confused sheep, from these nasty wolves.”
Censorship then enables another, much more well-organized and centralized pack of wolves (the ruling elites) to prey on the obedient sheep at their leisure, without fear of any disruptive dissenting narratives.
What the ruling political elites and their mainstream media shills fear is a wide-open, chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas.
I’ve got to start reading his blog. Sounds like my kinda guy.
Whether The Anointed like it or not, that chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas is happening. Thanks to the internet and social media, the information gatekeepers have lost control of the gates. The rest of us are now communicating directly with each other. The results haven’t been good for The Anointed, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb pointed out in his essay The Intellectual Yet Idiot (his term for The Anointed):
What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.
… With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.
My, my, my … with the great unwashed masses rebelling and trusting their own instincts, or their grandmothers, or each other, or bloggers and podcasters whose ideas and advice they’ve found useful, how are The Anointed supposed to protect people against their own stupidity? (As you may recall, The Anointed believe anyone who defies them must be stupid, or evil, or perhaps both.)
One way or another, The Anointed believe they must coerce people who disagree with them into shutting the hell up. As we saw in our last post, demanding retractions of critiques and opinions they don’t like is one favorite tactic.
Another favorite tactic is to personally attack the messenger, as opposed to arguing against what the messenger has to say. That’s where the “anyone who disagrees with us must be evil” attitude shows itself. Yelling “racist!” over disagreements that have nothing to do with race is certainly near the top of The Official Anointed Playbook. So are comments like this, uttered by our ol’ buddy Dr. David Katz while responding to the Nina Teicholz critique of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines:
The report does take into account sustainability, something that the committee noted was not traditionally in their purview. “Ms. Teicholz seems inclined to ignore that altogether; perhaps she does not care whether there is anything for the next generation to eat or drink, but I suspect most of us do,” Katz noted.
Got that? If Teicholz argues that the guidelines aren’t based on good science, well then by gosh, it means she doesn’t care if our kids and grandkids end up starving and dying of thirst – a looming disaster the U.S. Dietary Guidelines would of course prevent. Gee, she must be a terrible, terrible person. Best not listen to anything she has to say.
When demands for retractions and personal attacks fail, there’s always the final option: bring the rebellious naysayer up on charges. Initiate some kind of prosecution, preferably one with the threat of real punishment attached.
As you probably recall, a state board threatened to prosecute blogger Steve Cooksey for promoting a low-carb, paleo diet for diabetics on his Diabetes Warrior blog. Here are some quotes from a Carolina Journal article about that incident:
The North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition is threatening to send a blogger to jail for recounting publicly his battle against diabetes and encouraging others to follow his lifestyle.
Chapter 90, Article 25 of the North Carolina General Statutes makes it a misdemeanor to “practice dietetics or nutrition” without a license. According to the law, “practicing” nutrition includes “assessing the nutritional needs of individuals and groups” and “providing nutrition counseling.”
Hmmm, certainly sounds like a case of The Anointed feeling threatened by a wide-open, chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas. After all, there are plenty of bloggers and health professionals in the world promoting the low-fat diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association. Are they afraid people will try Cooksey’s advice and discover it actually works? Yes, I think that’s part of it.
In South Africa, The Health Professions Council of SA brought Professor Tim Noakes up on charges for a tweet – that’s right, A TWEET! — in which he advised a young mother (in response to her question) to wean her baby onto high-fat, real foods. The sane response there would have been to send out tweets and press releases explaining why HPCSA disagrees with Noakes. But we can’t expect The Anointed to behave sanely when there’s a risk ordinary people might come to believe their advice is wrong.
Meanwhile, in the land down under, The Anointed initiated another prosecution. Here are some quotes from ABC in Australia:
Gary Fettke is an orthopaedic surgeon and an advocate of a low carbohydrate diet.
He said he became passionate about nutrition after amputating limbs of diabetic patients whose diets were a big part of the problem.
“What I’ve been advocating for some years is cutting sugar down, particularly all the refined sugars in the diet,” he said.
“Over time that’s evolved, and it’s evolved to what I call low carb, healthy fat.
“It’s just eating lots of vegetables, pasture-fed meat and the right amount of oil in the form of things like nuts, avocado, cheese, olive oil and fish.”
Geez, that sounds really, really dangerous. Humans never would have survived and evolved on a wacky diet like that.
According to Dr Fettke, an anonymous complaint from a dietician at the hospital sparked an investigation by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
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.
Now, stop and wrap your head around that last statement. Dr. Fettke isn’t qualified to give nutrition advice because he’s just a doctor? Have you EVER heard of a doctor who recommends a low-fat diet with lots of healthywholegrains! being prosecuted anywhere in the world? Of course not. Dr. Fettke summed it up nicely himself:
“You go to your cardiologist and he tells you what to eat, you go to a neurosurgeon and he tells you what to eat, gastroenterologist and all of them, by definition, don’t have a major training in nutrition and yet they’re all giving advice. You cannot push a way of eating onto a person. All I’ve ever done is told patients that there is a choice, that there is an option that’s out there.”
Ahh, but The Anointed don’t want the great unwashed masses to know about options. That could lead to a wide-open, chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas – which would of course be very, very bad. No, The Anointed much prefer something like this:
AHPRA has released a statement reaffirming that it expects medical practitioners to provide appropriate dietary advice to patients.
And “appropriate” means whatever The Anointed say it is.
That’s why we can never stop fighting these arrogant morons.
41 Comments »
In part one, we looked at why The Anointed don’t like wide-open discussion and debate:
1. They believe they are very, very smart.
2. They believe the rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are therefore easily fooled and led astray.
In part two, we quoted from an essay by Dr. David Katz that proves the points made in part one. Social media is endangering our health by allowing everyone to shout health advice into an echo chamber, ya see — and once the inferior brains of ordinary folks are filled with bad information, there’s no room left for good information.
Okay, that’s not exactly how Katz put it, but pretty close. Here’s the exact quote:
Misinformation is far more pernicious than ignorance. Ignorance is that proverbial empty vessel; a knowledgeable health professional can fill it. But it’s hard to fill a cup that already runneth over- and that’s the scenario that misinformation creates.
If I’d begged The Anointed to please provide an example of how they believe they’re very, very smart and the rest of us aren’t, they couldn’t have provided a better one. I’m guessing Katz doesn’t limit his reading for fear his big ol’ brain will reach full capacity and become incapable of absorbing and evaluating new information. No, that’s only a risk for the rest of us.
He’s an egomaniac, but at least Katz plans to battle what he considers bad information with what he considers good information — provided by the usual gang of goofs who’ve been trying for decades to convince everyone that animal foods will kill us, while grains and soy will save us. He calls his gang of goofs The True Health Initiative, and apparently their mission is to rush out and fill inferior brains with advice Katz likes before advice he doesn’t like occupies all the available space.
Other members of The Anointed aren’t willing to risk having their advice bounce off a brain that already runneth over with advice they don’t like. The only way to prevent that disaster, of course, is to shut down people who argue that The Anointed are wrong. Let’s look at a recent example.
Back in September 2015, the British Medical Journal published a report titled The scientific report guiding the US dietary guidelines: is it scientific? The report was written by Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise. The upshot of the article: uh, no, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines aren’t based on good science. You can read the BMJ piece online, but here are some quotes from a Newsweek article on the report:
A new report published in BMJ on Wednesday suggests the latest U.S. dietary guidelines up for review are not based on sufficient and up-to-date scientific research of crucial topics, such as saturated fats and low-carbohydrate diets, and may even be fraught with industry biases.
The last time the committee members drew up guidelines—in 2010—they used the Nutrition Evidence Library that was established by the USDA, which provides systematic analyses of research on various nutrition subjects, such as sodium and sugar intake. But the committee that worked on the 2015 guidelines didn’t use that system for more than 70 percent of the topics, including some of the most controversial, according to Nina Teicholz, a New York City–based journalist and author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, who wrote the BMJ report.
In the report, the committee states that there is a “strong” association between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. However, Teicholz says, the review of the science behind saturated fat consumption didn’t include research from the last five years, including several notable papers that don’t demonstrate a link between high saturated fat consumption and increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
She says the committee’s review of different kinds of diets—including low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean-style, healthy vegetarian—is also deeply flawed. In the BMJ report, Teicholz says that in some instances, the committee based their conclusions on limited research or poorly designed studies, such as a single clinical trial of 180 people with metabolic syndrome, which found the Mediterranean diet was most effective for weight loss.
Okay, you get the idea. Teicholz pointed out what she considers several flaws how the Dietary Guidelines Committee came up with their recommendations. And since her report was published in the BMJ, it carries some weight. After all, doctors read the thing.
Naturally, The Anointed weren’t happy. Here’s what our buddy Dr. David Katz had to say, as quoted in MedPageToday online:
“The DGAC report is excellent, and represents both the weight of evidence, and global consensus among experts,” Katz wrote.
“The notion that the opinion of one journalist with a book to sell is any way a suitable counterpoint to the conclusions of a diverse, multidisciplinary, independent group of scientists who reviewed evidence for the better part of 2 years and relied upon knowledge and judgment cultivated over decades is nearly surreal,” Katz added. “It is a disservice to the readership in both cases.”
I’m almost starting to like Katz. Whenever I need an example of how The Anointed think, he delivers. Notice what his (ahem) “argument” boils down to: THE LITTLE PEOPLE AREN’T QUALIFIED TO QUESTION US, SO NOBODY SHOULD BE LISTENING TO THEM!
The BMJ report is just the “opinion” of one journalist, ya see. Weird thing is, I could have sworn Teicholz cited a whole lot of facts in her critique of the dietary guidelines, not just opinions. That’s why BMJ was persuaded to publish the report. And while The Anointed would love for us all to be swayed by impressive-sounding credentials (conferred by The Anointed themselves, of course), the truth of a statement does not depend on who utters it. Facts are facts – and that’s a fact.
But when facts – or even opinions – are embarrassing to The Anointed, some of them just can’t resist the urge to stifle the opposing voices. Enter the Center for Science in the Public Interest. (Those of you who’ve seen Fat Head are free to yell “This is a job for THE GUY FROM CSPI!”)
Soon after the Teicholz report appeared, CSPI demanded that BMJ retract it. Now, stop and think about that. Katz insisted Teicholz was expressing her opinion in the BMJ article. If that’s true, it means The Guy From CSPI was demanding the BMJ stifle an opinion. Well, that’s just awesome. We The Anointed hereby declare a ban on opinions we don’t like.
But if it’s not an opinion piece, then any dispute comes down to facts. If The Guy From CSPI believes the dietary guidelines are correct, he is of course free to argue in favor of them. If he believes Teicholz doesn’t have facts and logic behind her arguments, the proper response is to reply with facts and logic to dispute her arguments.
But then, we’re talking about CSPI here – the organization that threatened to boycott a nutrition conference unless Teicholz was disinvited. So obviously The Guy From CSPI isn’t a fan of defending his arguments in a debate. He’d rather just prevent people who disagree with him from being heard. So he demanded a retraction of the BMJ report, and attempted to apply pressure by having 100 members of The Anointed sign a petition.
Now for the good news, in case you haven’t already heard: After weighing the evidence (including reports by two independent reviewers), BMJ announced that it stands by the Teicholz report and will not retract it. Here’s part of the announcement by the editor of BMJ:
We stand by Teicholz’s article with its important critique of the advisory committee’s processes for reviewing the evidence, and we echo her conclusion: ‘Given the ever increasing toll of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and the failure of existing strategies to make inroads in fighting these diseases, there is an urgent need to provide nutritional advice based on sound science.’
Neither Teicholz nor The BMJ are new to criticism. Healthcare is rife with controversy and the field of nutrition more so than many, characterised as it is by much weak science, polarised opinion, and powerful commercial interests.
Weak science? You betcha. Polarized opinion? Of course. When so-called experts promote nonsense based on weak science, opinions should become polarized. That’s why The Anointed are so big on creating consensus: if opinions are polarized, it means people are daring to question them and (egads!) perhaps even insisting they’re wrong. They want those people to shut up.
More on that in the next post.
A reader pointed out that Dr. David Katz was among the 180 anti-fat warriors (not 100) who signed the CSPI demand for a retraction, which means he’s an even bigger jackass than I thought — and that’s saying something. Remember, he described the Teicholz report in BMJ as “the opinion of one journalist with a book to sell.” That means he, along with The Guy From CSPI and the other anti-fat warriors, was demanding BMJ retract an opinion.
So here’s what this boils down to: Teicholz wrote a report saying U.S. dietary guidelines — which still promote anti-saturated-fat hysteria — aren’t based on rigorous science. Then the same group of goofs who’ve been pushing anti-saturated-fat hysteria decades demanded BMJ pull her critique. This isn’t about protecting public health. It’s about protecting their own reputations and interests.
And speaking of having something to sell, Dr. Katz has written several books promoting a low-fat diet (I don’t if he compared his writing in those books to Dickens or Milton), and of course he has a financial interest in NuVal, a system for ranking the healthiness of foods according to his own opinions. So the Teicholz piece was a threat to his own bottom line.
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In our previous episode, we looked at why 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.
Let’s look at a perfect example of what I’m talking about: a recent Huffington Post essay by Dr. David Katz, the guy who developed the NuVal system for ranking the healthiness of foods – a system recently dropped by some big grocery-store chains. Here are some quotes from Katz:
Misinformation is very much in season. Disclosures since the presidential election about massively disseminated misinformation, some of it inadvertent, some of it willfully manipulative, have come fast and furious. In fact, in the aftermath of the recent revelations about fake news, we are being invited to add “post-truth” to our lexicon.
So Dr. Katz is very upset about fake news. That’s pretty danged funny, considering he was caught writing reviews of his own novel under a fake name and comparing himself to John Milton and Charles Dickens. Apparently his definition of fake news is limited to “post-truth” he doesn’t like.
For the record, I think we can all agree we’d prefer not to be exposed to fake news. But of course, fake news isn’t new. In the years that I’ve been paying attention, “news” stories that turned out to be largely or completely fabricated have been printed or aired by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, CBS and NBC. The Washington Post even ran a piece recently titled Fake News? That’s A Very Old Story, which recounts how fake news has been around since the founding of the country.
But since the Katz essay is about health advice, I wondered why he opened with a complaint about fake news in the recent election cycle. Then it hit me: he’s trying to draw a parallel between health advice he doesn’t like and wacko stories claiming the Clintons were involved in child-sex rings. If one is bad, the other must be equally bad, ya see. Nice try, Doc.
I’ve written several posts and given a speech about how the internet enabled the Wisdom of Crowds to turn the tide against the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! and healthywholegrains! nonsense coming from the Axis of Incompetence: the USDA, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, etc. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart, partly because I remember the bad old days.
In the 1980s, I was a staff writer and editor for a small magazine called Family Safety & Health. Researching a health article was a process I called “round up the usual suspects.” Something about heart health? Get in touch with the American Heart Association. Diabetes? The American Diabetes Association is your go-to source. Cancer? Call the American Cancer Society. Anything else, start with government health agencies and go from there.
Information flowed from The Anointed at the top, through a handful of gatekeepers, then down to the rest of us. So I, like every other health writer in those days, wrote articles about the wonders of whole grains and the dangers of saturated fats and cholesterol. I didn’t know any better because I didn’t have access to contrary evidence and opinions. For The Anointed, those were the good old days.
Now the gatekeepers have been swept aside. I consider that a net positive. Dr. Katz, as a member of The Anointed, of course disagrees:
The social media that served as the currents in which false and misleading election-related news were swept far and wide pose three particular threats to health related information.
The first is that very problem, the unfettered promulgation of information that is just plain wrong. The second is that misinformation is far more pernicious than ignorance. Ignorance is that proverbial empty vessel; a knowledgeable health professional can fill it. But it’s hard to fill a cup that already runneth over- and that’s the scenario that misinformation creates.
And lastly, the third is the very problem we’ve had since the radio was first invented: static. At some level of background noise, the worthiest signal is indiscernible as such. Our ability to deliver a message, any message, depends now, as ever, on the signal to noise ratio.
Let me interpret that: @#$%!! All those @#$%ing bloggers and podcasters are somehow drawing big audiences and convincing millions of people that saturated fat isn’t bad and grains aren’t good! People no longer just accept what The Anointed tell them! This is very, very bad!
Cyberspace is the ultimate, ecumenical echo chamber. Everyone can shout into it, and every shout has the same chance to echo from the megaphones of the sympathetic.
Well, that’s true to an extent. Social media has created a vastly wider and more diverse Marketplace of Ideas. Are some of those ideas garbage? You bet. For all I know, there may be more lousy dietary advice pinging around cyberspace than good advice.
That’s not the point. The point is that good advice – advice that actually works — is now accessible to people who never would have seen it in the pre-internet days. That’s where The Anointed and fans of the Marketplace of Ideas disagree. The Anointed believe if everyone can shout into an echo chamber, everyone will have equal influence. That’s nonsense. It’s like believing everyone who produces a product will have an equal share of the market. Despite what The Anointed think, people aren’t stupid. They gravitate to the products and the advice that prove beneficial.
You may recall the story of my co-worker whose wife suffered from migraines for years. Doctor after doctor failed to prescribe the magic-pill cure. But then a friend-of-a-friend suggested she try giving up grains – because he’d read on the internet that grains can trigger migraines. So she tried giving up grains and voila! – no more migraines. She found relief because of knowledge shared on the internet.
Now, given what the internet is, I suppose someone else might have suggested she rub her eyeballs with orange caterpillars. That would have been junk advice. But here’s the thing: she would have recognized it as junk advice based on the results. That is, after all, largely what the Wisdom of Crowds is about: knowledge gained from experience and then shared with that big ol’ crowd.
The Anointed, by contrast, put far more faith in little groups of experts – with expertise defined by them, of course, and largely consisting of earning degrees by attending classes taught by other members of The Anointed. This is nothing new, by the way. Eric Hoffer, author of the terrific book The True Believer, wrote this in the 1950s:
The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated.
Back to Katz on people shouting into that darned echo chamber:
This is an enemy not only to medicine, but to everything in any way related to science, for science demands the filter of genuine understanding, actual expertise, and evidence.
Once again, that’s pretty danged funny, considering it’s coming from a guy whose NuVal system ranks sugar-laden chocolate soy milk as a far healthier option than a turkey breast. I’d like to see the evidence supporting that ranking. Unfortunately, NuVal refuses to explain its scoring system because the information is “proprietary.” In other words, we just made this @#$% up because it’s what we believe.
Having defined the problem – too darned many voices yelling health advice into that social-media echo chamber – Katz then lays out his solution:
In my particular purview- lifestyle medicine- I have felt compelled to develop a new method to confront this New Age challenge. If the noise is irrevocably greater than ever before, so, too, must be the signal. The True Health Initiative pools the voices, currently, of well over 300 leading experts from over 30 countries to make the case that we are not clueless about the basic care and feeding of Homo sapiens; that the fundamentals of a health-promoting diet and lifestyle are the stuff of decisive evidence, and global consensus.
Sorry, Doc, but I’m going to have to disagree. When you tell people eggs will kill them and sugar-laden soy milk is a healthier option than a turkey breast, I’m pretty sure you are clueless about the basic care and feeding of Home sapiens – none of whom enjoyed a nice, sweet glass of chocolate-flavored Silk Soy Milk until modern industry made such garbage possible.
I looked up the members of those (ahem) “experts” Katz is putting together to combat the social-media echo chamber. I didn’t recognize most of them, but here are some we all know:
Keith Thomas Ayoob … whom I’ve referred to as “Ayoob the Boob” because he thinks the saturated fat in coconut oil will kill people.
Dr. Neil Barnard … yup, the vegan nut-job whose group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine puts up billboards warning people that consuming animal products will kill them.
T. Colin Campbell … author of The China Study, which attempted to prove (through cherry-picked associations) that eating meat is the main driver of disease.
You get the idea. Katz is assembling a team of the same old anti-fat, anti-cholesterol, anti-meat goofs who have been part of the problem for decades. Talk about an echo chamber.
To his credit, Katz is at least trying to combat what he considers bad information with what he considers good information. The members of The True Health Initiative will be shouting into the very echo chamber Katz dislikes. Since I believe the Marketplace of Ideas works, I predict the market won’t be kind to them. No amount of shouting from the usual suspects will convince people who’ve seen their health improve after going low-carb, gluten-free or paleo to take a giant step backwards.
Other members of The Anointed aren’t satisfied with shouting into the echo chamber. They’d rather prevent people who disagree with them from shouting in the first place … or writing, or tweeting, or whatever. We’ll pick up that subject in the next post.
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The Anointed aren’t big fans of free speech. Sure, they pay lip-service to the idea now and then, but when you watch them in action, it’s clear they don’t much like wide-open discussions and free-wheeling debates. You may recall, for example, what happened when Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, was invited to be part of a nutrition panel at the National Food Policy Conference: members of the Center For Science in the Public Interest and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee threatened to boycott unless she was disinvited … which she was.
I wrote at the time that the CSPI weenies were afraid Teicholz would kick their asses in a public debate. I still believe that’s part of the explanation, but recent events (which I’ll cover in later posts) got me thinking there’s more to it.
To explain, let’s start by quickly summarizing the Wisdom of Crowds concept: when ordinary people share their experiences, ideas and insights with each other, the right answers tend to eventually bubble up to the top. Notice that the Wisdom of Crowds doesn’t mean the majority is always correct, and it certainly doesn’t mean everyone’s ideas are good ideas. It simply means that when ideas and information are freely exchanged within that big ol’ crowd, the good ideas tend to take hold.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the U.S. are based on a similar concept. The Founders believed in what’s often called the Marketplace of Ideas. Thomas Jefferson, for example, wrote that it’s safe to tolerate error of opinion where reason is left free to combat it. Fredrick Siebert put it quite nicely in Four Theories of The Press:
Let all with something to say be free to express themselves. The true and sound will survive. The false and unsound will be vanquished. Government should keep out of the battle and not weigh the odds in favor of one side or the other.
Notice what both the Wisdom of Crowds and the Marketplace of Ideas have in common? That’s right … they’re based on faith in ordinary people. Given access to lots of information and competing ideas, most people will come to the correct conclusion most of the time. So people who believe in the Wisdom of Crowds view the prospect of debate and discussion with an attitude of Bring it on! I’ll make my case, you make yours, and we’ll see who wins.
The Anointed, by contrast, view wide-open debate and discussion as a threat. Why? I used to think it’s because they know their Grand Plans are based on flimsy or non-existent evidence. As Thomas Sowell points out in both The Vision of The Anointed and Intellectuals and Society, The Anointed tend to fall in love with bold, new, exciting ideas. They don’t like waiting for solid evidence to support their bold, new, exciting ideas, and are quite adept at ignoring or dismissing evidence that their bold, new, exciting ideas are wrong. So I figured they’re hostile to debate out of simple fear someone will prove them wrong.
But that doesn’t jibe with a fundamental trait of The Anointed: their extreme confidence in themselves and their ideas. So after noodling on it for awhile, I decided their hostility towards debate and discussion is rooted in two of their most dearly-held beliefs, which are:
1. They are very, very smart.
2. The rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are often quite stupid.
Therefore, The Anointed aren’t afraid they’ll be proven wrong – heck, they don’t believe it’s possible for them to be wrong. Rather, they’re afraid the rest of us are too stupid to discern how right they are. When we hear lots of contrary opinions, we (unlike The Anointed) don’t have the intelligence to weigh the evidence and come to the correct conclusions. So as far as The Anointed are concerned, an open debate is nothing more than an opportunity for the great unwashed masses with their inferior intellects to be led astray.
That’s why so many of them long for the good ol’ days when a relatively small number of information gatekeepers decided what most of us see and hear. That’s why so many of them are angry about the emergence of talk radio, social media, blogs, and other forms of what they derisively call the “pajamas media.” (I’m not wearing pajamas at the moment, in case you’re wondering.) The information gatekeepers have lost control of the gates, which means the Marketplace of Ideas is a vastly larger and more diverse marketplace than it once was.
That’s what allows the Wisdom of Crowds to flourish. But The Anointed don’t believe in the Wisdom of Crowds, so they consider all that debate and discussion a problem. We’ll look at how they (ahem) “solve” that problem in the next couple of posts.
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