Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Walkabout wednesday: are carbohydrates bad, improving representation in STEM, and DRONES!

Not necessarily, maybe or maybe not, and DRONES. Too cool for words.

My health

A population study in Finland has shown a link between statin use and an increased risk of developing Type II diabetes. They have a mechanism too; people on statins had a dose dependent increase in insulin resistance and insulin secretion. I'm curious because I started a statin in the mid-noughties, and was diagnosed as Type II diabetic a few years later. I'm also curious because I'm back on a statin now to try and control the ridiculously high LDL particle number I have. Maybe I'm reversing my good work on Diabetes control.

Jason Fung does great videos and informative blog posts, and his answer to the question "are carbohydrates good or bad" is similarly awesome. Neither, is the answer, because it totally depends on which carbohydrate and who is eating it. In his other posts and videos he very clearly articulates the case for Insulin as the primary bad boy, which is interesting in light of the study above on the effects of statins on insulin resistance and secretion.

Zoe Harcombe's latest post on the relationship between saturated fat consumption and CHD in Europe again challenges the paradigm. The relationship is negative. Of course, correlation isn't causation, and looking at the list of countries on the bad side vs. the good side I can see other potential confounding variables, like per capita GDP and maybe "modernness" for lack of a better term? Still. If the prevailing paradigm were correct, you'd expect the relationship to go the other way, or at least not decrease.

My beloved wife has insisted on stuffing me with Vitamin C tablets on a daily basis ever since we met. It turns out that may be stunting some of the benefits of intermittent exercise and fasting. Both exercise and intermittent fasting up-regulate genes involved in the stress response. Taking anti-oxidants reduces free radical production and in this small study appear to "switch off" the stress responses. That actually sounds good? Less stress? Isn't that good? Well, not if you need to exercise those stress response pathways too. I'm going to secretly stop taking Vitamin C and see if anything happens ... don't hold your breath. 

One of the things carbvocates say is that carbohydrates are necessary for maintaining performance with high intensity exercise. This is an interesting study on the effects of ketogenesis on the development of lean muscle in resistance training. They compared a very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet (5 % CHO, 75 % Fat, 20 % Pro) with a traditional western diet (55 % CHO, 25 % fat, 20 % pro) in a bunch of resistance trained college males. After 11 weeks of training 3 times a week the ketogenic group had nearly double the lean muscle mass gain and fat mass loss. That's a pretty impressive demonstration that Ketogenesis can work. But maybe there's a better macro mix out there than the "traditional western diet".

Your Education

The "Tapestry" project is a cool effort to increase the participation of women in computer science, by training high school teachers to make computer science more attractive. I was particularly struck by this comment:
... Cohoon works to encourage more young women to go into computer science, where jobs are plentiful and careers are lucrative and intellectually engaging.
Exactly. So should I try to encourage women and minorities to go into wildlife management, where jobs are few, often poorly remunerated, and intellectually engaging (I'll grant you the last one!)?

Our Environment

Without evidence of self-organization and persistence, not to mention of provision of ecosystem services, the novel-ecosystem label can serve as a Get Out of Jail Free card for companies or individuals trying to avoid investing in research, mitigation or restoration by claiming they are producing novel ecosystems that will provide ecosystem services.
This is really a much delayed push back against this article, where Richard Hobbs and others argued that maybe we shouldn't invest so much effort in trying to push ecosystems back to some pre-anthropogenic (or pre-european) state. I think this is really a debate about nothing. We should focus on what humans get from ecosystems (Hobbs et al point), and we should make sure that it is a complete list, including things like existence value of rare species. We should also not let anyone off the hook; meaningful enforcement of regulations is a pre-requisite to successful management. Simberloff et al. are pointing out that people will try to get around regulations, or prevent new ones from being imposed. Um. Yup. Not calling them novel ecosystems won't change that, IMHO.

I'm a closet gadget freak. I've learned to restrain myself, mostly, but this idea of coupling drones with predictive models of rhino and poacher behavior just has me salivating. Just wow. It pushes all my buttons, gadgets, computer code, statistics and saving the environment.

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