QuickReaction, Tuesday-4

(Skip to the bottom for possibly the more interesting and definitely more personal part of this post)

Trees help with global warming, but not how you think. We’d expect trees to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it in their bulk, but in this case the article points to how trees release particulates that directly reduce global warming. So power to the big green leafy things and Happy Arbor Day – plant a tree to save the world.

Facebook tells us about health: The patterns of likes can be correlated to various health measures. Amazing that again “big data” can point to important trends without really having to collect specific data. Of course now that this is known Zuck will exploit it and violate more peoples’ privacy to make even more money.

Apple is insane! They are borrowing vast amounts of money just to then turn around and give that money to shareholders. That part is crazy enough, a company going into debt on behalf of shareholders, but Apple has massive amounts of cash. Why not just return that cash to shareholders? Well, most of that cash is overseas and slimy Apple doesn’t want to pay taxes on it. So they borrow money in the U.S., will pay interest (and get a tax deduction), just to avoid paying taxes on money they’ve already made. Sounds like typical incredibly stupid Wall Street machinations that serve no economic purpose but find cracks in the system to exploit. So Apple is just such a fine U.S. (in name only) company that mostly operates outside the U.S. but then exploits loopholes in U.S. tax code to shelter its earnings.

Excellent debunking of bogus nutrition study: This is a good example of how a completely bogus (bought and paid for by a vested interest) study is shown to be completely riddled with bad experimental technique and thus has no scientific value. The claim is for magical weight loss and health properties of green coffee. The study is then promoted by a known fraud (interestingly the article has a great expression about him, (‘crossed the woobicon’)). It’s too bad totally fraudulent claims like these don’t get these people thrown in jail, but the good part is that these really bad studies then serve to tarnish and discredit slightly less bad studies, like the fad love affair du jour with omega-3 fats (the facts are too complex for pop articles and involve lots of details of biochemistry) and gluten-free. Short of conspiracy theory nonsense and religious myths and political lies I think all nutrition info comes next in line for total lack of credibility.

A useful source: This appears to be a good starting point website for all manner of health and nutrition quackery. Its criteria are strict enough that only total quacks are presented so the more respective pseudo-science crowd (but still quacks, i.e. most “experts” on HuffPo) stays off its radar.

A quack anti-quack site: The URL (thus source) should be a clue but here’s a quackery site that is claiming to denounce quackery, amusing quack on quack attacks. A quick scan of this site and the previously mentioned site shows how to spot quack sites (lots of attention grabbing formatting, bold use of words, clear obvious stupid claims (“saturated fat is good for you”). Idiots like these (politically motivated, this is probably Sarah Palin’s favorite site) give skepticism a bad name. Skepticism is not just the other side of the issue (as this site is). Skepticism can’t turn around and make all the same mistakes as those it is criticizes (i.e. non factual claims). Skepticism is not politics; it doesn’t already have all the answers and is just advocacy for those. This site and some of its “information” is just as much woo as the foodist quacks.

Credible organization attacks metabolic syndrome: I’ve claimed, numerous times, that ‘metabolic syndrome’ is a fabrication of popular, not scientific press. It’s not that there is no truth, it’s just that overly broad and sweeping generalizations serve no purpose and are misleading. There are individual conditions within the umbrella of ‘metabolic syndrome’ and it is these that need to be addressed, specifically, not with name calling. I also think this is another political label, more full of attitude than facts as it is an attempt to blame almost all health issues on a single, easy-to-attack (the commercial food complex) factor. This is harmful because false (or too-broad to be meaningful) labels then prevent attention on the real issues. So it’s good to see ADA discrediting them (and makes me feel better about my recent contribution to them, that they’re not just a lobby group attempting to expand their turf) Here is more material on the debate over this term and ADA’s role (who appears to have gone from true believer to skeptic, good for them). And here is a good example of the overly broad definition, literally throwing together everything imagineable under a single heading and then declaring a huge number of people to be suffering from this made-up condition (to get attention, of course). This sounds like it is real but it’s just more sophisticated wording of woo. It’s not that any particular part is wrong, it is the web of interconnecting things that at most have statistical association and definitely not correlation or causation. You can’t just take the union of all conditions affecting a large number of people and then put some label on it, it’s bogus, dishonest, untrue, and most of all, unhelpful. And, here, from a source this is usually dubious to me, is a different restatement of what I’m saying, that creating an umbrella term for actually unrelated issues is misleading. And here is an even better article, a little more specific and focused. I like the term ‘manufactured illness’ because that is an apt description of ‘metabolic syndrome’ which hopefully is on the way out.

And the best debunking of metabolic syndrome: Even though this is the same topic as above I bumped into this article later on in my searches and don’t feel like restructuring the previous commentary, but wanted to provide particular emphasis to this article. This is comments by a pro, but along all the same lines I had been promoting (not my ideas per se, just the ones that jumped out at me reading other peoples’ articles). While the article title is not very “scientific” this article has far more credibility than the other side and points out all the flaws in their argument. Again the point is not that risk factors don’t exist or CVD disease doesn’t exist, but just that this label, ‘metabolic syndrome’ is a fraud and completely unhelpful to anyone who has any of these risk factors. It might as well be ‘bad person’ or ‘western fat slob’ syndrome for all the precision it has.

If you’re wondering, btw, why I’m freaking out so much over a term it is because the term was applied to me. I rejected it when I heard it and did some reading. Yet, at the same time, I’ve also obviously completely responded to the message, doing significant weight loss, now having such low BP I’ve cut my own med intake (unwisely, without my doc’s input, but that’s partly my switch to Medicare where I can only do one visit a year, which I’m hoarding). I don’t have the blood glucose yet (nor cholesterol) but I’m hoping to go med free. So one might say, well, a claim of metabolic syndrome helped you. No it didn’t. My resistance to that label led me to mostly ignore all the medical stuff, attempt to sort through the minefield of bogus health claims, and then develop my own program, which thus far has been far more successful than most people get. So by ignoring most of the establishment “advice” I may actually have done a far better job of addressing “Western disease” than those people who actually buy into its existence. Skepticism is not negativity and Repug mentality of just-say-no; it is an attempt to filter out signal from noise (thank you Nate Silver) and then do the right things, not the fad things.

‘Nuff said.

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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, Tuesday-4

  1. Nona says:

    does anyone take in consideration that metabolic syndrome may be simply caused by over use of medications. Once a doctor puts me on a med, they never take me off. I frequently volunteer the information that I have or will stop a certain med because the condition that caused the original prescription no longer exists. I pay for med that I take longer than necessary. Other than my rejection medications, I question everything as I feel side effects from meds presents an unclear view of my actual health.

    • dmill96 says:

      I think that is an excellent point. And one I’ll soon get to test when I finally visit my doc.

      When I first moved here, still in my intensive working-life lifestyle, my doc, who is very down-to-earth and practical (plus a bit older and wiser and definitely less dogmatic), gave me the choice – meds or lifestyle changes, which he viewed as equally effective. But he gave the warning, that meds are easy and lifestyle is hard, so if I really couldn’t do it “right”, take the meds, which is what I’ve been doing.

      I didn’t like the idea of taking meds, for the rest of my life, 15 years ago, but it wasn’t until ‘metabolic syndrome’ reared its ugly head, that the med path seemed wrong (plus being retired now lifestyle change was more feasible). We’ll see if my doc now agrees (esp. with my somewhat dangerous choice to stop a med without his input). I’m only stopping BP meds, since my numbers are now great (all the exercise and weight loss) and I can monitor this myself. I’m still doing statins since I can’t measure that myself, but I hope to eliminate those too. And he agreed with (gave me permission) to do diet instead of diabetes meds, but I have yet to confirm, clinically, whether that has worked.

      I moved to Omaha to help my parents, esp. my dad. I watched him live, in poor health, for many years, suffering the whole time. I gained the sense that today’s techie medical system could keep him alive (constant adjusting of meds) but not really cure him. A century ago he would have died, but in late 20th century he was never “cured”, just kept on artificial life-support means. Since my body is so similar to his I figure I’m likely to have the same fate, BUT, I was lucky to learn other approaches.

      He grew up with hard farming work and lousy diet, but the hard work partially compensated. When he migrated from physical labor of farm to an office now the lifestyle issues didn’t keep up with diet and so he had degenerative conditions. For him “exercise” was a ridiculous waste of time, since any muscle energy had to go into work, not pumping an exercise machine. But starting my life with the benefits his professional life provided I did have the “luxury” of learning to do athletics and exercise and now I can use that.

      Meds are better than pre-technology days of no meds, but “natural” health is better than meds, if you can do it and afford it. It’s probably a good thing too, now having to pay the bills myself (rather than adequate health insurance) because it’s a lot cheaper to avoid meds and limit food. I just hope it’s not too late.

      I do accept the ideas of evolution and natural selection, in particular that nature could care less about us being old. Nature wants us to live fast, breed a lot, and die young in order to perpetuate our species. So being old is an “unnatural” condition. So it’s up to us to figure out how best to deal with the ravages of time that our genetic basis doesn’t help us with much. I did get some longevity genes, but not necessarily good health genes, so I figure I should take advantage of the blessings I got from my parents and now do my part to have better old age and try to outwit evolution as best I can.

      But my real problem with metabolic syndrome and diet fads and nutritionism is that it is the “easy answer”. The advocates roll up too much under their dogma. And it’s not just that they’re wrong, their advice (and dogma) are actually harmful, both to individuals and to society at large. So I’ll continue to try to separate fact from attitude and use the parts that seem to be correct.

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