"Islands -- I don't get them.
Surrounded by water, poor things."
Patrizia, in Antonioni's L'Adventura
The quote above is from the delightful 'Waterfront' by Phillip Lopate. The book is literary tour around Manhattan island, from the perspective of a social historian. I am a sucker for architectural history, especially of my beloved borough of Brooklyn ('Fourth Largest City in America'). About a year ago, I embarked on a project to determine the exact whereabouts of original Dutch settlement of New Utrecht, a neighborhood of Brooklyn close to where I grew up, and probably most famous for supplying the high school shots at the opening of the iconic TV show 'Welcome Back Kotter.'
From old landholding maps found on the internet, I could superimpose the old street drawings of New Utrecht as layers in Photoshop over the Mapquest diagrams of the modern area. To my surprise, the town center of New Utrecht lay within the parking lot of a ramshackle discount store where as a child I would get my school supplies, and whose owner in 1969 once tried to convince several very skeptical kids that a chunk of sidewalk in the display case under the checkout counter was actually a moon rock from Apollo 11.
To understand the apparent lack of purpose for that interaction, you must read some of Arthur Miller's remembrances of his childhood in Brooklyn .
The Internet site The Edge asked a few hundred deep thinkers "What's your law?"? I liked Eberhard Zangger's two laws.
Zangger's First Law
Most scientific breakthroughs are nothing else than the discovery of the obvious.
Zangger's Second Law
Truly great science is always ahead of its time.
As examples, he gives:
The Hungarian surgeon Ignaz Semmelweiss in 1847 reduced the death rate in his hospital from twelve to two percent, simply by washing hands between operations -- a concept that today would be advocated by a four year old child. When Semmelweiss urged his colleagues to introduce hygiene to the operating rooms, they had him committed to a mental hospital where he eventually died.
The German meteorologist Alfred Wegener discovered in 1913 what every ten year old looking at a globe will notice immediately: That the Atlantic coasts of the African and South American continents have matching contours and thus may have been locked together some time ago. The experts needed sixty more years to comprehend the concept.
Heinrich Schliemann's excavation of Bronze Age Mycenae and Tiryns in Greece was considered by English archaeologists in The Times' as the remains of some obscure barbarian tribe' from the Byzantine period. In particular, the so-called prehistoric palace in Tiryns was labelled "the most remarkable hallucination of an unscientific enthusiast that has ever appeared in literature."
The theories of the Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud were called "a case for the police" during a neurologists' congress in Hamburg in 1910.
Welcome to The Weekly Transfusion, 1.3 for the week of March 31, 2009.
I've slowly been coming around to the notion that it is not enough to simply shrug off ad hominem attacks on the links between blood groups, diet and health. Yes it is nice to combat ignorance with patience and understanding. But there are often other motivational factors at work besides simple ignorance. The food and diet industry is big business. Many pet theories and systems abound: For example, it would be unlikely that many vegans would be comfortable with my suggestions for blood type O, or that many low-carbers would be all that happy with those for blood type A. Add to that the fact that my naturopathic training often sets off alarms in skeptical circles and professions in direct competition for you nutritional eyes and dollars.
There is also the challenge to the dominant nutrition paradigms which is inherent in any personalized approach. If your company makes vitamin E, soy flakes or whole wheat bread you will not be all that happy to find out that I don't recommend your product for everyone.
Yet there is still a voice in my head which says, 'Why adopt a path of confrontation?' I mean wouldn't it be better to just try to stay above the fray? In reality it would. However, almost all media nowadays is pure spin, and because it is digital, it persists indefinitely. True, the path of enlightened patience such as that of a Gandhi would be most desirable. But these are different times. As Ho Chi Minh put it, had Gandhi been in French Indochina rather than in British India he would have ascended to heaven long before he eventually did.
Consequently I'm perceiving a change in my attitude towards those whose only goal is to disparage. I have no interest in becoming prosecutorial and finding de novo fault in others; we certainly don't need any more of that. Hopefully I'll also have the courage to change my own opinions when shown to be misguided or incorrect. However, I will now actively address and debate misrepresentations of my work and writings --hopefully in an even-handed manner that educates while it redresses.
Meat intake and mortality
Red and processed meat intakes were associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular disease mortality. During 10 years of follow-up, there were 47,976 male deaths and 23,276 female deaths. In general, those in the highest quintile of red meat intake tended to consume a slightly lower amount of white meat but a higher amount of processed meat compared with those in the lowest quintile. Subjects who consumed more red meat tended to be married, more likely of non-Hispanic white ethnicity, more likely a current smoker, have a higher body mass index, and have a higher daily intake of energy, total fat, and saturated fat, and they tended to have lower education and physical activity levels and lower fruit, vegetable, fiber, and vitamin supplement intakes
No rational person would debate that when making generalized assertions about a heterogeneous population as a whole, diets very high in red meat and processed meats are not very healthy. However this behavior often comes with its own baggage. The fact that the study participants exhibited unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, lack of physical activity, and maintaining a higher body mass index pretty much mix things up, since all of these are known to cause chronic disease. Another confounder is the sad fact that people who eat lots of processed meats just don't take as good care of themselves as those who avoid them. We could probably draw similar conclusions about heavy meat eaters and fatalities from automobile accidents, since people who avoid processed red meat probably buckle also their seat beats more frequently as well.
More tellingly, this study failed to look at individual markers of variation. Blood group A subjects would have been expected to have the typical negative reactions to red meat, since most biomarkers 'down-side associated' with red meat consumption/malabsorption (von Willebrand Factor, E selectin, intestinal alkaline phosphatase, blood viscosity) are associated with type A. Scan at the literature for the last 50 years and you'll see that virtually every study that looked at coronary artery disease, ischemic heart disease or myocardial infarct show a prevalence of type A.
Also a similar specificity of resuts would probably have occurred had the looked at secretor status as gene also has a major effect on intestinal alkaline phosphatase levels. Allowing for individual variation, use of grass-fed meats, non-inclusion of subjects who used processed meats, and a look towards the composition of the 'whole diet' would have probably yielded quite different results.
Vegetarians have fewer cancers but higher risk of colorectal cancer
The overall cancer incidence rates of both the vegetarians and the nonvegetarians in this study are low compared with national rates. Within the study, the incidence of all cancers combined was lower among vegetarians than among meat eaters, but the incidence of colorectal cancer was higher in vegetarians than in meat eaters.
Compared with meat eaters in the cohort, and after adjusting for age, sex and smoking status, the vegetarians in the cohort showed an 11 per cent lower incidence rate of all cancers. However, vegetarians showed a 39 per cent higher incidence rate compared with meat eaters, which almost seemed counterintuitive. However I have noticed that colon cancer does seem to have its fair share of vegetarians, especially those who are type O.
Theodor Hahn is credited as being the first of the pioneers of the naturopathic/ water cure movement to integrate vegetarian dietetic principles. He was convinced that a meat-free diet would prolong life. In fact he was so convinced of the value of a vegetarian diet that he spent a great deal of his professional life writing books and pamphlets on the subject and was the editor of a magazine called The Vegetarian. He died of colon cancer at the age of 59. One of my most vociferous critics in years past was a type O vegetarian naturopath who recently also passed away from colon cancer in his early 50's.
Perhaps they would have died at an even younger age had they not been vegetarian. Ultimately there is no answer, but it is ironic that the people responsible for integrating vegetarian diets into naturopathic medicine died so young of colon cancer.
I doubt that it is anything in the meat that would offer vegetarians any chance of avoiding colon cancer. More likely their vegetarian diet was rich in plant and legume lectins which were just not right for their type. Many lectins can have hyper-proliferative effects on the intestinal tract, especially the lectin from peanuts [link 1], [link 2] which is not a good food choice for type Os.
The Science Thing: CBO says less than 50% of all medical care is based on adequate evidence.
Drugs and medical devices must be certified as safe and effective before they can be marketed, but with limited exceptions the regulatory process for approving those products does not evaluate them relative to alternatives. Meanwhile, medical procedures—which account for a much larger share of total health care spending—can be in widespread use without a systematic review of their impact. Appraisals of the current situation vary widely, but some experts believe that less than half of all medical care is based on adequate evidence about its effectiveness—a gap that may never close entirely but that remains troubling.
So, the pot does call the kettle black or as they say in Hungary 'Bagoly mondja verébnek, hogy nagyfejű ("The owl tells the sparrow that it has a big head.") Many conventional medical authorities and skeptics are quick to brand alternative health practices 'unproven' or 'unscientific'? Yet the dirty little secret is contained right in the statements of Douglas W. Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office.
Not that anyone on alternative medicine, should crow. All right, maybe we can crow a little. However, the record in Alternative, Integrative and Complementary medicine (all monikers I detest, even though I'm responsible for one of them) is even worse. Efforts are now underway to close down the NIH Office of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Frankly, I think this is a good idea. The avowed purpose of the office from the start was to 'prove' alternative medicine. You can't really be non-subjective if you set out to 'prove' something. Add to that the fact that they study some of the strangest stuff you could imagine - due to the fact that, like any bureaucracy, pride of place goes to those with the sharpest elbows.
Why most published research findings are false.
Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.
And the author doesn't even discuss the most common reason you need to be careful in evaluating science information. Someone, somewhere most likely stands to make a buck out of the result (your humble author included).
William Hogarth had a great quote along similar lines:
The problem with the ancients was that they tried to make medicine an art and failed. The problem with the moderns is that they tried to make it a business and succeeded.
As if I needed further convinced that epigenetics (the control of gene expression through nutrition) is the great wave of the future, a pre-publication results of a study released to members of The Epigenetic Society should satisfy for quite a while.
In a study soon to be published in the Journal Biological Psychiatry, researchers looked at the epigenetic effects of childhood maltreatment and early trauma. Using laboratory rats (whose epigenetic mechanisms are very similar to humans) the researchers exposed infant rats to stressed caretakers who predominately displayed abusive behaviors.
They found that early maltreatment produced persistent changes in the methylation of a gene called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) that is responsible for the developmental health of the cerebral cortex.
In addition, they observed disturbed BDNF methylation in the offspring of females that had previously experienced the maltreatment regimen, indicating that the epigenetic effects of abuse, trauma and neglect were carried from one generation to the next.
The GenoType Diet carries the promise of a genetic redemption of sorts, since as in the words of one researcher “Unlike defective genes, which are damaged for life, methylated genes can be demethylated. And, methyl tags that are knocked off can be regained via nutrients, drugs, and enriching experiences.” (2)
- Tania L. Roth TL, Farah D. Lubin FD, Adam J. Funk and J. David Sweatt. Lasting Epigenetic Influence of Early-life Adversity on the BDNF Gene. Biological Psychiatry, In Press
- Asim K. Duttaroy Evolution, Epigenetics, and Maternal Nutrition 2006 Darwin Day Celebration.
New research shows that sugar deposits may be the major cause of skin aging.
Skin science appears to have caught up with the humble sugar molecule. Wrinkles, sagging skin, and pigment deposits may stem less from the sun and more from one-way sugar molecules that we make as part of the aging process but cannot remove. With no small amount of serendipity, scientists call these wrong-way sugars ‘AGE molecules’ (the AGE stands for 'Advanced Glycation End-products').
AGE molecules are all around us, and often taste pretty good: Any time we brown an onion or caramelize sugar we are making AGE molecules. However, when you make these molecules under your skin, you’ll probably find much less to like about them.
Unlike most other complex sugars, AGE molecules are not easily removed from the body (Just think back to a time you tried to clean burnt sugar off of a piece of crockery!) And because they stay in place for years, the immune system can react to tissues they deposit in, causing inflammation, damage, and aging.
AGE molecules: Good on marshmallows, bad on people.
NAP recently released the next three D’Adamo Genoma Skin products, which now expands the line to four products:
The Day Light Face Crème is the original formula. We’ve has virtually 100% customer satisfaction with the product, including unsolicited comments from three users that it was the only product that worked on their facial rosacea.
To this base formula, I’ve added an AGE (Glycation inhibiting) toner, a rich night crème and a tissue cleanser that uses a few very interesting botanicals.
For the rest of the month, at my request, NAP is offering the complete set of four products at a savings of 50%. I asked that they try to do this so that as many people as possible can try the line. If you are looking for a great skin care line at an unbelievable price, either as a holiday gift for someone or even yourself, you might want to look into these products.
However, do it before December 31, 2008.
Melissa's forays into Tae Kwan Do made me a bit nostalgic about my days spent training in the martial arts.
Recently I was importing some old photos into iPhoto and came upon two photos of the board break from my test for Ee Dan (Second Degree Black Belt) taken Spring 2007. It is a jump double straddle kick.
You have to break two boards with each foot simultaneously. The trick is to get you knees up high and move your head forward of your body. Landing is the hard part. You can very easily land on your butt, which from this sort of altitude is not pleasant.
I wasn't good at a whole lot of other things in the martial arts; but paradoxically, this kick (which everyone else seems to have trouble with) was not only easy, but rather enjoyable. The bottom picture actually shows me coming down; the boards are already broken.