Archive for the ‘health’ tag

#  Back to Basics of Fitness →

June 24th, 2014 at 17:01 // In Worth Considering 

If you follow my sensible science skepticism tag, you’ll understand why on this I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise:

This raised a question: If all the latest cutting-edge scientific research says that outdated barbell movements have to be updated with core stability tricks and then integrated into super-short high-intensity muscle-confusion routines, how come none of that did much for me, while the same five lifts repeated for a year caused profound structural changes to my body?

The answer, it turns out, is that there are no cutting-edge scientific studies.

Also of note on this topic: I recently posted a little essay I consider quite relevant to this piece. It’s called “Simple But Not Easy”, give it a look.

#  The Wisdom of Science Writing →

May 20th, 2014 at 17:16 // In Worth Considering 

Another one for my sensible science skepticism pile, Virginia Hughes — a science writer — takes a little break from the daily work to ask how wise and useful all the reports about the latest science on X, Y, or in this case resveratrol are. She’s got no solution — so long as people feel like “science writing” is a thing that publications should do, they’ll report on new science publications that people will read too much meaning into — but it’s a good read:

The reason the stories contradict each other is because the studies contradict each other.

This happens in science all the time; it’s even supposed to happen. Think of all those models of the atom you learned in chemistry class: from Thomson’s plum pudding to Rutherford’s nucleus to Bohr’s energy orbits to Pauli’s electron spin. Two steps forward, one step back, science moves along.

But when it comes to writing health stories, it’s hard — really, really hard — to include that slow scientific progression in a way that a reader will absorb. And I think that’s because readers don’t seek out health stories to satisfy abstract intellectual curiosities. They want to glean some kind of practical knowledge. How can I avoid sickness / lose weight / feel better / live longer?

#  The Health Risks of Mud Races →

May 16th, 2014 at 10:40 // In Worth Knowing 

Outdoor races — especially ones that emphasize obstacles, toughness, and mud — have been a bit of trend in the US. And it’s also started to become a bit a public health issue:

Nowhere, though, does their pledge mention enduring infectious diarrhea. But it is a very real risk in this sort of event, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now says.

In response to these three cases, Nellis Public Health mobilized local and state officials in an investigation, the results of which were released yesterday by the CDC. The team ultimately identified 22 similar cases tied to that October 2012 Mudder, most likely caused by infection with the fecally transmitted bacteriumCampylobacter coli. 

As the CDC reported there was a statistically significant association with “inadvertent swallowing of muddy water while competing” and Campylobacter infection.

Because these races are usually built in farmers’ fields or other remote rural land containing feces, a lack of care from race organizers in assuring the cleanliness of their mud is understandable, but makes me even more hesitant to sign up for one.

(via Virgina Hughes’s Grey Matters newslettersignup!)

#  The Medieval Water Myth →

April 22nd, 2014 at 15:34 // In Worth Knowing 

People in pre-modern time had to drink wine and beer because their water was unsafe to drink.

I don’t know that this idea is as well established at this article suggests, but I’d definitely heard it and never doubted it very hard. But the point, being made, seems true to me:

There is no specific reason then to believe that people of the time drank proportionately less water than we do today; rather, since water was not typically sold, transported, taxed, etc., there simply would have been no reason to record its use. Did people in the time prefer alcoholic drinks? Probably, and for the same reason most people today drink liquids other than water: variety and flavor. A young man in a tenth century Saxon colloquy is asked what he drinks and answers: “Beer if I have it or water if I have no beer.” This is a clear expression of both being comfortable with water and preferring beer.

(via MetaFilter)

#  Chernobyl Shows Radiation’s Effects on Decompositon →

April 1st, 2014 at 10:46 // In Worth Considering 

I was interested by this. It’s one of those things that’s basically a “well, duh” after you’ve understood it, but the forests around Chernobyl are decomposing — turning “litter” to dirt — a lot slower than you’d expect, and the effect is directly correlated with the intensity of the contamination.

#  The Pseudoscience of Whole Foods →

February 28th, 2014 at 16:39 // In Worth Considering 

Nothing that will surprise anyone who’s ever stepped into the store with a critical eye, but a line like this made me feel I had to link to the piece:

If scientific accuracy in the public sphere is your jam, is there really that much of a difference between Creation Museum founder Ken Ham, who seems to have made a career marketing pseudoscience about the origins of the world, and John Mackey, a founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, who seems to have made a career, in part, out of marketing pseudoscience about health?

#  He Only Eats Pizza →

February 28th, 2014 at 10:31 // In Worth Distraction 

A text-interview isn’t the most compelling way I can imagine to convey this story, but it has a high novelty factory: a 38-year-old man who’s lived on pizza alone for 25 years. This bit of the prelude didn’t really surprise me, but some of his answers did:

Everyone who knows Dan wonders how he’s still alive. Beyond the fact that his diet is completely horrifying, he also has diabetes and frequently gets low blood sugar. When his blood sugar dips into the danger zone, it sometimes results in his blacking out on the kitchen floor in his underwear with frozen food scattered around him. There was that one time he bought a new car and then blacked out on the drive home. He swerved off the road and totaled the vehicle, but besides from that isolated incident, his pizza diet seems to be working out for him. I recently spoke to Dan to hear more about how he came to subsist on gluten, tomato sauce, and cheese alone.

(via NextDraft)

#  How to Change Cultures →

July 24th, 2013 at 15:46 // In Worth Reading 

The always-worth-reading Atul Gawande has a new piece in the New Yorker about his role in working to improve practices around childbirth world wide and what it (and some more historical anecdotes) have to tell us about how you really change the world. The whole piece is good, but this part felt most notable to me:

Besides, neither penalties nor incentives achieve what we’re really after: a system and a culture where X is what people do, day in and day out, even when no one is watching. “You must” rewards mere compliance. Getting to “X is what we do” means establishing X as the norm. And that’s what we want: for skin-to-skin warming, hand washing, and all the other lifesaving practices of childbirth to be, quite simply, the norm.

(via The Browser)

#  Do You Need to Know You Have Cancer →

October 12th, 2011 at 17:26 // In Worth Knowing 

Very interesting story about the questionable effectiveness of the prostate-specific antigen test which is very frequently given to men over 40.  These sentences provide a good summary of why it might not be all the useful to know whether or not you have prostate cancer:

The current thinking is that about 30 percent of men in their 40s have prostate cancer, 40 percent of men in their 50s and so on, right up to 70 percent of men in their 80s. Yet only 3 percent of all men die from the disease. In other words, far more men die with prostate cancer than from it, and only a tiny fraction of prostate cancers ever cause symptoms, much less death.

#  Is Sugar Toxic? →

April 14th, 2011 at 19:07 // In Worth Considering 

My reaction, upon seeing this question as a headline in the New York Times Magazine, was dismissive doubt. People have called sugar “a poison” for years with scant evidence and weak arguments. Upon giving the article a thorough hearing though, I think that there’s certainly reasonable evidence to at least give the idea some thought. Consider:

If you want to cause insulin resistance in laboratory rats, says Gerald Reaven, the Stanford University diabetologist who did much of the pioneering work on the subject, feeding them diets that are mostly fructose is an easy way to do it. It’s a “very obvious, very dramatic” effect, Reaven says.