What I’m Reading: September 2017

If you’ve been seeing talk about the PURE study that recently was being reported under headlines like “Huge new study casts doubt on conventional wisdom about fat and carbs“? The study found that those with low fat diets were more likely to die by the end of the study than those with higher fat diets. However, Carbsane took a look and noticed some interesting things. First, the US wasn’t included, so we may need to be careful about generalizing the results there. They also included some countries that were suffering other health crises at the time, like Zimbabwe. Finally, the group they looked at was adults age 35 to 70, but they excluded anyone who had any pre-existing heart problems. This was the only disease they excluded, and it makes some of the “no correlation with heart disease”  conclusions a little harder to generalize. To draw an equivalency, it’s like trying to figure out if smoking leads to lung cancer by excluding everyone in your sample who has lung problems already. What you really want to see is both groups, together and separately.

For my language oriented friends: this article about how cultures without words for numbers get by was really interesting. They make the assumption that counting distinct quantities is an inherently an unnatural thing to do, but I have to wonder about that. Some people do seem more numbers oriented than others, so what happens to those folks? Do people who are good at numbers and quantities just get really depressed in these cultures? Do they find another outlet? As someone who starts counting things to deal with all kinds of emotions (boredom, stress, etc), I feel like not having words for numbers would have a serious impact on my well being.

There’s a lot of herbs and supplements out there being marketed with dubious health claims, but exactly how those claims are worded depends on who you are. This article on how the same products are marketed on InfoWars and Goop is an interesting read, and a good reminder about how much information we get can be colored by marketing spin.

On a political note, this Economist article about the concept of anti-trust laws in the data age was food for thought. 

Finally, I decided to do my capstone project for my degree on a topic I’ve become a little bit obsessed with: dietary variability. Specifically, I’m looking at those who identify that they are food-insecure (defined as not having the resources to obtain enough food to eat in the last 30 days) , and comparing their health habits to those who have enough. While I already have the data set, I’ve been looking for interesting context articles like this one, which explores the “food-insecurity paradox”. Apparently in the US, women who are food insecure are actually more likely to be obese than those who aren’t. Interesting stuff.

One thought on “What I’m Reading: September 2017

  1. I was intrigued by the anumerate societies article, because I had recently learned something about them and written about it in my anti-Chomsky screed two months ago: https://assistantvillageidiot.blogspot.com/2017/07/chomsky-in-ruins.html
    I didn’t check the name of the author until he wrote “child of missionaries,” grew up among them on the Amazon…Caleb Everett is the son of the guy who wrote “Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes,” which was central to my essay. Sooo…apparently numeracy and math ability is also not factory-installed either. How then are some just better at it, right out of the gate? Is it simply an application of g-factor? Doesn’t seem likely, but we have nothing better just yet.

    I loved the differences in ads between the two publications. Very revealing.


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