QuickReaction, Friday-3

Yet another misrepresented nutrition association: Since I’m really struggling to try to find the truth I am just amazed at how poor (and often just plain wrong) popular press accounts are about nutrition. The most common thing is the mistake of labeling association as causes. I am firmly convinced that fast food is not somehow evil and that saying home and eating whole grains isn’t going to solve your problem. We Americas want easy answers and silver bullets. So blame an evil, claim a savior, and problem solved. Sorry, folks, it isn’t that simple. Calories are calories and fast food calories are no worse than any other calories. The problem is simply that there are more of them. Fast food is cheap and you get lots of calories with little cost and effort – that’s the problem. Make the same quantity of food at home and you’ll get just as fat. It’s not what you eat, it’s how much you eat and the only evil of fast food is that it’s easy to eat lots of it. Putting out all this wrong information (or interpretation) is unhelpful because there is some much vastly contradictory, plus so much obviously “political” (at least stern scoldings), that the public is ignoring most of this information which means the public doesn’t solve the problem. Pointing the blame finger at the wrong evil is just making excuses – look in the mirror, America, your problem is not MickeyD’s, it’s you!

HuffPo is copying my QuickReaction type posts: I started doing these posts as a way to actually say something quickly and get it done rather than pile up a list of unfinished/todo posts. But HuffPo has this explanation of why they’re doing it: “Science has determined that people need to know 7.5 things per day, on average, about the world of business. You can’t argue with science. Lucky for you, The Huffington Post has an email newsletter, delivered first thing every weekday morning, boiling down the day’s biggest business news into the 7.5 things you absolutely need to know. And we’re giving it away free, because we love you, and also science.” Since I’m not limiting my reactions to just business I won’t have to comply with the 7.5 rule. I wonder where they found this “rule” in science.

China gets it done: Amazing how China can swing 180 degrees and do things they previously denounced. Yep, China will now tax carbon. No fuss, no muss, just get it done. Naturally here with our total gridlock due to Repug obstructionism on everything and anything we can’t get up it the morning, much less do something rational like set up carbon tax, which would, of course, instantly solve the imaginary debt problem the Repugs constantly freak out about. Amazing how the most obvious solution and best solution and solution with best side-effects isn’t on the table. But China can get it when we don’t. One more indication of how we’re falling behind the modern world.

Orrin Hatch is a mindreader, among other weird things he does. It’s amazing how a mere U.S. Senator has the ability to read what’s in the mind of the President (as well as most Democrats) on a hypothetical issue that has never been raised. Senator Dingbat should actually discover that Obama is very focused on what can really happen and doesn’t waste time on hypotheticals. Of course it never hurts to make accusations about what people might do since you can never be proven wrong and it’s a standard tactic, borrowed from their rightwingnuts religious base to use fear to generate contributions and support since fear is the standard sales technique that has worked so well for centuries.

Continued Benghazi push is about impeachment: Lindsey Graham’s stealth campaign to get to repeat try impeachment again (he led against Clinton and failed) is baffling to the other Repugs who don’t get it. Lindsey should just come out and say it, then the Repugs would jump on board. Otherwise we’ll hear more and more from the Repugs to get over it since no one but conspiracy nuts see any there there. But Orly Taitz is still selling her birther scam so don’t expect another nut like Lindsey to give up on the best scam he’s got going.

Amusing how nutrition stories get reported: Here’s an association they don’t mention in pop articles. Americans are eating less but there is no change in obesity. I guess the nutrifanatics don’t want to report negative results. OTOH, they’ll hype the results they want to preach about so I guess it’s no surprise they are mute when the data don’t support their crusade. Of course these kinds of data don’t really prove anything anyway, whether they are for or against the nutrifanatics’ case. This article even tries to rationalize away the no-association by the bogus claim that despite calorie consumption drop, well it’s still the wrong kind of calories, completely ignoring biochemistry of the metabolic cycle. I guess the Repug make-up-your-own-facts mentality can affect anyone.

Russians have the Repug crazy disease: It turns a substantial portion of the Russian public doesn’t believe it was a meteor that impacted last week, instead choosing to believe all sorts of conspiracy explanations, naturally including that the U.S. did it (and you thought we had the monopoly on crazy here). No surprise it’s an ultra rightwingnut there proclaiming the conspiracy theory. The explanation is that the Russians are used to being lied to by their press, like FauxNews here, and therefore don’t believe “official” explanations that were wrong in the commie days.

Another junk nutrition study: At least they use the word ‘might’ in their claim, “we might just be seeing it’s the fruits and vegetables that are important.” Hello, DUH! These researchers compared a more recent study to an older study, but guess what – one study was of people in Netherlands vs the older study was people in Italy. Since the people in Italy study consumed more fruits and vegetables, voila, there is the source of their conclusion. Hello, DUH! You’re using stroke as the measure of benefits of anti-oxidants. So tell me, what were the relative levels of salt intake, calorie intake, which fats were consumed, and so forth. You’re looking at the eating patterns of southern vs northern Europeans (I doubt all those Dutch changed their food preferences just for this study). There can be hundreds of variables in this study and these dingalings chose to interpret just one as the association. Well, I’ll claim, with the same amount of evidence they used (none) that it was olive oil that was the silver bullet. Over and over again I see these junk studies where dozens or hundreds of possible correlated or causative variables are not even measured. What people eat is complex, not just fruits and vegetables vs coffee and tea (isn’t coffee, or at least the caffeine a stroke risk all by itself, independent of any anti-oxidant properties). Where is the peer review on this stuff?  Where are the actual analytical measurements? What about cholesterol? What about total lipids? What about exercise? What about stress in lifestyles? But since the nutrifanatics have already declared the answer, they just nicely demonstrated what is well known as ‘confirmation bias.’ Sheesh, the Repugs from the House Science Commitment could have written this paper.

Maybe this warning will do some good: A Repug constituency, business travelers, will suffer some of the consequences of sequestration (I hope the private jets of the CEOs get impacted as well so the rich have to feel a bit of what the 99.9% feel). The Repugs want to play games with the U.S. credit rating because their buds on Wall Street, the bond traders will make a fortune from that (plus the stupid and criminally negligent ratings agencies get to take their cheap shot). Since I’m not going anywhere on an airplane I hope LaHood is being optimistic and all those folks get stranded. Maybe LaHood can close the towers near Washington so all the worthies don’t get to fly home for their usual 4-day weekends.

Maybe this is science: Based on the headline alone I was about to rant about another stupid nutrition study but actually reading the article it looks like it might actually be science. Of course I can’t really tell because all the original articles are hidden behind paywalls and only these abstracts are available. So I’ll rant about that instead. If scientists want to do something about science ignorance in the public making their publications available would be a good place to start. I understand the need of the journals and organizations to make money from subscriptions, but providing articles to the public is possible without undermining that. Scientists need to read a lot of articles, the public only a few, so providing a free pass for a few articles could work (like the NYT does even though it irritates me when I hit my free limit and they nag me to subscribe). So charge the people who have budgets for this sort of thing and give the rest away (or, if needed, have a nominal fee subscription service). It’s the same notion as crowdsourcing, let the public in on the discussion. You’d be amazed at how much positive input the public, esp. anyone willing to read actual science, can contribute. But that probably gets to another flaw in science, the elitism. Since many of us don’t have PhD’s in the required fields naturally that means we’re too stupid to read journal articles – wrong! It’s not that hard, learn a little jargon and use some wisdom and analytical skills from other disciplines and it’s possible to extract a lot of the meat from journal articles. Maybe if people could get the original material, esp. on health or nutrition issues, then the public could better criticize the terrible reporting of nutrition studies and drive up the standards so people who write nutrition articles actually check facts and know something about what they’re writing about.

Another fact check: As an engineer or especially working with software in order to fix a problem one must first accurately determine what the problem is. Actually this is commonsense that most people would apply. Most people, that is except special interests with dogmatic views. Coal is seeing its economic glory days declining and naturally it wants to blame someone, so of course it blames Obama, a well-known friend of coal from his Illinois days. Now not only is this just wrong and politically inept, it actually interferes with solving the problem (get revenues back up for coal producers). If you blame the wrong cause, esp. one you really can’t do anything about anyway, you’re just making excuses and you certainly won’t fix anything. Of course this is the pattern of U.S. industry facing decline due to its own stupidity of failing to maintain competitiveness – blame some bystander who had nothing to do with it (like the U.S. steel industry blaming labor when in fact Japanese labor was actually paid more, but Japanese steel companies installed new technology instead of milking worn-out and obsolete technology (of course we helped a bit by blowing up a lot of old the obsolete Japanese technology, too bad we didn’t do that to Pittsburg, we might have saved it)).

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About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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2 Responses to QuickReaction, Friday-3

  1. In nutrition studies, there’s also the problem of what in the biz they call “recall bias” (ie, can you really remember what and how much you ate, and would you tell the truth if you could?). The truth about weight loss and maintenance is not exciting. Eat less, exercise more, everything in moderation. Tracking and accountability are essential, too.

    • dmill96 says:

      I hadn’t heard that term but had heard of the effect, so thanks for the heads-up. The recall bias is important not just in total quantity, but also what was actually consumed. So when a study claims nutrient X is wonderful, do the participants accurately tell you what kinds of foods they consumed. For instance, I suspect someone who actually likes quinoa wouldn’t be caught dead eating fries or even a burger. So the control (non-quinoa eater) might consume many other types of foods the test subject didn’t, so how can you say nutrient X is the causative agent. Food consumption is so complex for a particular person to report correctly but then magnify that across a large sample and the issues magnify (and don’t necessarily cancel as typically is assumed for large samples).

      I’ve been fairly diligently attempting tracking and find it hard, even though computer (and the recording app) are readily available within close proximity to any food, but sometimes you just eat something and then may or may not remember it accurately, but the big problem is in fact in a recipe with many ingredients, trying to score it to calories/gram and then measure quantity consumed. The error in that is usually much higher than whether I had 3 or was it 4 crackers. And I doubt the typical person in a study is a numbers freak as much as I am so it probably takes an incredibly OCD-ish person to get really accurate records.

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