Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Walkabout Wednesday: who funds nutrition research, and happy holidays!

My Health

A while back I wrote about why I gave up gluten, and a study that suggests it's not really gluten but actually FODMAPs that cause gastro-intestinal distress. That study is still echoing around the social media sphere. Dr. Perlmutter (author of Grain Brain) brought up some interesting points about the study:
I discovered that the funding for this research was provided by a company called George Weston Foods as you will see at the bottom of the report. ... There you will find that George Weston Foods is one of Australia’s and New Zealand’s largest purveyors of breads, pastas, cakes, and a host of other gluten containing foods.
Well damn. That explains a lot. Of course, if I apply Perlmutter's metrics to this paper on the effects of increasing carbohydrate on health I would throw it out too. Small sample size and funded by industry groups:
This work was funded by a grant from Dairy Research Institute, The Beef Checkoff, the Egg Nutrition Center, and the Robert C. And Veronica Atkins Foundation.
The problem is that research, especially careful, experimental research on humans, isn't cheap. Someone's got to foot the bill. The PlosOne article also says
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
which is great, but you can bet dollars to donuts (er, ... well, maybe steaks) that they won't keep funding someone that keeps finding that dairy, beef and eggs are bad for you. I guess we get the research we're willing to pay for via taxes.

Sweden recently reversed government guidelines on diet to focus on carbohydrate rather than fat. LCHF diets became popular there in the early 2000's and butter sales started to soar. So far, the experiment seems to be working, as Myocardial Infarction rates are continuing to decline despite Swedes eating more fat.

I've been taking a Vitamin D supplement since my mega-blood-work back in August indicated I was a bit low. I tend to avoid sunlight because of my (probably auto-immune) vitiligo means I burn easily. However, it turns out that the level of vitamin D considered "adequate" isn't well defined. I had a level of 24 ng/dl back in August, which is apparently well above what is considered deficient by everybody. So I needn't have worried. As of late october I'm up at 48 ng/dl, which is lots. Good!

Our Environment

You can thank the Bakken Shale in North Dakota for cheap gas at the pump these days. Just remember that it doesn't come cheap when all the costs are accounted for. That's a long story, but some amazing graphics. There's a second part to the article exploring political connections. I do like North Dakota's approach to fines for environmental violations though: if you pay 10% the remaining 90% is suspended as long as you have no further violations for a year. I wish governments would do that for traffic violations. The idea is that it encourages the company to "do better". Hmm. Based on the data it doesn't seem to be working.  

Whenever you declare that a species is in trouble, there's a chance you've got it wrong. According to Connors et al. (2014), that chance might be really high:
Based on the taxa we examined, at low classification thresholds (30% decline in abundance) and short observation windows (10 years), false alarms would be expected to occur, on average, about 40% of the time assuming density-independent dynamics, whereas false-negatives would be expected to occur about 60% of the time.
Of course you're even more likely to be wrong if you say they're doing fine. Longer time series, bigger thresholds for "trouble", and including density dependence reduce errors. Good thing Trevor Hefley included density dependence in his analysis of 20+ years of bobwhite data.

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