Friday, March 30, 2012

Hyperpalatable or Hypersalient?

I notice everyone (including myself) tossing around the term hyperpalatable when referring to addictive foods when what we really should be say is hypersalient.

Just to review, if we go back to Berridge, there are three components of reward:
  • Liking or hedonic impact, often referred to as palatability in food.
  • Wanting or incentive salience.
  • Learning.
Addictive foods aren't better tasting, as we all know, just the opposite. Fresh grilled fish tastes way better than potato chips, but once you've had your fill of grilled fish you are done, ready to step away from the table. But...there's always room for dessert. Is that because dessert tastes better? Is it the liking aspect of dessert that drives us to eat when we are full, or the wanting aspect? Actually dessert might be a bad example because I can think of a lot of desserts that actually do taste pretty awesome. That's sort of the whole point.

However when it comes to addictive processed foods like potato chips or Cheetos, those things don't really taste that good, certainly not as good as a filet mignon steak, they are simply addictive. So it would be a mistake to refer to Pringles as hyperpalatable, they are hypersalient.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Beef Bone Marrow Soup

I finally got my lazy ass to the butcher early enough to get me some BEEF BONES. Here's a short shameful confession I've never actually bought these things before. There, I said it, and I feel better for it.

It wasn't for lack of trying, mind you, they are just hard to get as all the Czechs buy them up for their dogs at 6 AM. Six in the morning for an old time Czech who worked during communism is like noon for us normal humans, these people used to spend weeks in a queue.

Finally given the chance I bought all of them. I was like Gary Oldman in Léon,

"How many do you want?"


"What do you mean everyone?"


After lugging home several hundred kilos of prime beef marrow bones it was time to dive in and make some bone marrow soup.

I put three of the smaller bones in the pressure cooker.

After about an hour and a half on super-low the marrow just falls out. Remove the bones, and give them a decent burial, or just toss them in the garbage.

At this point it looks a bit, uhm, unappetizing.  Although it already tasted pretty awesome.

I threw in plenty of green onions.

And a sweet potato--or a yam, I'm not really sure of the difference so I've adopted a Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.

Hit it with the immersion blender.

Et voilà:

Dobrou chut'!

A Brief History of Scientific Consensus

There's no such thing as scientific consensus!

Whew! Glad that's over with.

Also, there is no spoon. And don't talk about Fight Club.

Alright, that's something of an exaggeration. There IS a lot of scientific consensus with established things like general relativity or QED or the fact that missing socks actually travel to another dimension. The thing is, when it comes to real science, the specter of scientific consensus is much less often raised than it is in the realm of politically charged science.

For example, when Stanley Prusiner got the Nobel Prize for his research on prions, there was some controversy as many in the medical establishment did not accept the idea, or did not think prions were anything more than a byproduct of disease. In fact, some guy by the name of Gary Taubes was deeply skeptical of Prusiner and his being awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine. Nowadays, prions seem to be accepted by most of the medical establishment, but I think it is interesting that Taubes didn't use the c-word (consensus) once in his scathing critique of Pruisner.

So when I hear experts like Stephan Guyenet talk about scientific consensus, I tend to become very wary.

Let's keep in mind that the mainstream consensus in nutritional science today is still that saturated fats will clog your arteries. People like Stephan know that's bullshit, of course, but it still is the party line. It is still the official consensus, although it's not scientific.

So what is wrong with science these days? Or is there anything wrong at all? I think there is.

There's a lot of talk these days about the flawed process of peer review. One fix that's generally agreed upon is to allow open access, something promoted by people like anthropologist John Hawks.

But I think there's a much bigger factor in the bad science game, especially politically charged science and for that we need but follow the money.

I whipped out my mad photoshop skillz and made a little illustrative graphic I'm gonna call the Circle Jerk of Nutritional Science:

It would be pretty easy to whip up a similar graphic called the Circle Jerk of global cooling, anthropic global warming, ehrm, climate change, another heavily politicized scientific field where the word consensus is ubiquitous.

The main flaw in the system is that the money tree of nutritional research is mostly watered by taxes. This is less of a problem in fields like physics and chemistry. As far as I know, no government in the world officially supports string theory (or string hypothesis as I like to call it).  But most western governments have long since thrown their official weight behind the lipid hypothesis. Hell, the Danish government started taxing saturated fat.

It's easy to trash the peer review system, but what would we replace it with? To paraphrase Churchill, peer review is the worst system, except for all the others that have been tried. But can we really expect a nutrition research system funded by governments that explicitly endorse things like the lipid hypothesis to be objective? When Stephan Guyenet says thing like this:
We are approaching agreement on food reward in the research community because the evidence at this point is overwhelming, plain and simple. There is no conspiracy, no good old boys' club, no herd mentality, and I find those insinuations to be a rather lazy way of arguing against the idea. Again, recall that some of the people writing these reviews acknowledge the importance of food reward despite the fact that it potentially takes the spotlight off their own research. 
Isn't he being just a bit naive?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ohmigod, Is That a Beer?

Yes Clarice, and it was bloody wonderful.

That's an old friend from Sweden. He lost a ton of weight on Atkins more than a decade ago after buying Dr Atkins Diet Revolution on a trip to the US. My first reaction was, 'But that's *spluttering* unhealthy!'. So this guy first set me and my family on the eventual path of eating real food or paleo 3.0 or whatever label you want.

And here we are both drinking beer. Well, playing chess in a beer garden overlooking Prague, this is what 80/20 is all about. This is what life is all about. I could've got some cheap wine instead, but when in a beer garden...

How's that for an artsy-fartsy shot? That thing sticking up on the left is the rather infamous Prague TV Tower, which was has been voted the second ugliest building in the world. I think it is actually kind of cool, especially with the crawling babies. It's not obvious in that shot but the TV Tower really dominates the Prague skyline since it is by far the tallest structure.

And this is me hamming it up. I ended up losing this game, damnit. In retrospect, it probably wasn't a good idea to gambit my queen. I blame the beer.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Don Matesz Knocks One Out of The Park

I've wasted spent a lot of time recently arguing against intellectual fascism in the paleo/whatever sphere. Yeah, we all know red meat isn't bad for you and that the carb insulin hypothesis (CIH) is bullshit, wait (record scratch) do we really know that? I'm agnostic on the subject.

Sure, I've spent some time trashing Don for what I consider to be a huge helping of woo, but I still follow his blog and his latest post is full of awesome.

When you are right, you are right. And, in this case, Don is definitely right.

Regulate sugar, really Lustig? Go fuck yourself. That's all we need is another war on a noun. We've got the war on drugs, war on poverty, war on terror, war on intelligent discourse, do we really need to start a war on sugar?

Monday, March 19, 2012

I'm Jack Lord and I'm Here to Nail Your Wife

(Warning: lots of politics ahead)

I don't think there's anything that sums up America in its heyday more than the title sequence of Hawaii Five-O.

This was the America that the rest of world loved and loved to hate. Pure insouciant bastard. The music, the bold shots, if testosterone could be transmuted into film it would be that title sequence.

Sure it's just a TV show, a mythology, but mythologies matter. The Hellenic Greeks were vitalized by the Iliad and the Odyssey (as we are today), poems that probably originated from the people they conquered.

The Hawaii Five-O America was also the America that fought an idiotic war in Vietnam, and did plenty of other stupid things. But at least we fucked up with style in those days. Is there anything cool about being herded through rape scanners like sheep at the airport, just to eliminate the miniscule risk of terrorism?

It was also the America that managed to infect much of the world with the lipid hypothesis. Damnit, rest of the world, stop adopting the stupid stuff from America. I take heart in the fact that the Dutch invented reality television.

But I would sum up everything I hate about America these days in one word: fear. Fear of fat, fear of red meat, fear of terrorists, fear of drugs, blah, blah, blah.  It really boils down to a fear of thinking for oneself.
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration... [Frank Herbert, Dune]
Fear is a healthy response to danger and all animals have it in large quantities for a reason. But fear can also be debilitating when it's not balanced with boldness and curiosity. 

A country in apogee, like America in the 50s and 60s, is arrogant and cocksure, even while being afraid and building bomb shelters. But America at its height was also open to new ideas and the least of cultural fascists. America these days is just swimming in fear.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Goose Carcass Soup

The local supermarket cuts off the flesh from geese and sells it separately, then it sells the carcass for 14 kč which is like 50¢. I'm not sure how that can even turn a profit with the packaging and labor expense but it is pretty awesome for us because goose carcass makes the BEST SOUP EVER!!!

This is so much better than chicken carcass soup I can't even describe the difference.

I didn't take a picture of the raw goose carcass because I wasn't planning to post this and I'm a lazy bastard, mostly the latter. However it was quite big. In order to fit it into a soup pot you are going to need some of these:

Whatever you do, though, don't buy this brand (F*neline) because they really suck. Or better yet, just use a circular saw. Seriously, raw goose spine is a non-trivial thing to tear apart.

Once the goose carcass is sufficiently chopped up to fit into the pot, or better yet pressure cooker, cover with water and cook. I cooked mine for about 1 1/2 hours on super low heat in the pressure cooker. Then run through a colander:

As a final touch I added about four stalks of celery and cooked for about 20 minutes, plus some salt, then hit it with the immersion blender. The final result looked like this.

This seriously might be the tastiest soup I've ever made, and I've been attempting to make soups for years and years. Thanks to the goose fat (yum, goose fat) it's also quite hardy, sticks to your ribs as the old-timers used to say, despite the fact that there's nothing in it but salt, celery and extractoralized goose carcass. All for less than $1 for a family sized pot. Yeah, paleo is so damn expensive.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

ADHD And the Orchid Hypothesis

As a kid who infuriated a lot of elementary school teachers, I'm pretty sure I would've been labeled ADHD if the diagnosis existed at the time (probably not surprising for regular readers). I remember that my mother was shocked by the bitter vitriol my third grade teacher used to describe me, "HE ALWAYS HAS TO BE FIRST IN LINE," my teacher burst out between clenched teeth to my mother during a parent-teacher conference. As I remember it, there was a group of us boys who liked to compete about everything, it was probably annoying as hell for the teacher, who loved to spend her time discussing Little House on the Prairie with the female students, a very popular TV show at the time. But I think it was pretty normal behavior.

The fact that my annoyingly competitive 9-year-old behavior would likely be labeled as ADHD these days is something I find disturbing. Would I have been put on Ritalin for wanting to be first in line?

This brings me to the orchid hypothesis of ADHD as elucidated in this Atlantic article:
Though this hypothesis is new to modern biological psychiatry, it can be found in folk wisdom, as the University of Arizona developmental psychologist Bruce Ellis and the University of British Columbia developmental pediatrician W. Thomas Boyce pointed out last year in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science. The Swedes, Ellis and Boyce noted in an essay titled “Biological Sensitivity to Context,” have long spoken of “dandelion” children. These dandelion children—equivalent to our “normal” or “healthy” children, with “resilient” genes—do pretty well almost anywhere, whether raised in the equivalent of a sidewalk crack or a well-tended garden. Ellis and Boyce offer that there are also “orchid” children, who will wilt if ignored or maltreated but bloom spectacularly with greenhouse care.

At first glance, this idea, which I’ll call the orchid hypothesis, may seem a simple amendment to the vulnerability hypothesis. It merely adds that environment and experience can steer a person up instead of down. Yet it’s actually a completely new way to think about genetics and human behavior. Risk becomes possibility; vulnerability becomes plasticity and responsiveness. It’s one of those simple ideas with big, spreading implications. Gene variants generally considered misfortunes (poor Jim, he got the “bad” gene) can instead now be understood as highly leveraged evolutionary bets, with both high risks and high potential rewards: gambles that help create a diversified-portfolio approach to survival, with selection favoring parents who happen to invest in both dandelions and orchids. 
My kid is obsessed with Batman and Owlman (Batman's evil twin from a parallel Earth), to the point where we had to purchase two Batman masks and paint one grey (actually silver, don't say anything).

Liam was extremely happy to have an Owlman and Batman mask--his obsession was abated, but it makes me wonder how easily this obsessive energy could be channeled in the wrong direction or simply be dissipated in bad behavior. How much is there to the dandelion/orchid dichotomy?

I kind of hate to use the word orchid to describe my kid, who is anything but a hothouse flower but the idea that certain genes make one more vulnerable or more successful depending on one's upbringing is an interesting one. And I don't think any of this is antithetical to the notion that diet could play a huge factor in ADHD. Dandelions might also be better at thriving on crappy diets than orchids.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fixed That For Ya

First of all, I'd like to start off with an amazing music video by The Death Set. An Aussie punk band that now lives in the US. Crank up the volume:

(I believe this is going to be Nigel's new favorite karaoke song)

The video is, in the words of my five-year-old son, "The coolest thing ever!" Mostly because of this:

It's a perfect example of using talent and creativity to make a visually stunning video on a total shoestring budget. Meanwhile, that abomination known as Michael Bay spends $200 million to make stuff like this. Oh the humanity.

Anyway, on to what I want to bitch about:

Andreas Eenfeldt posted this yesterday and I really dislike the mentality behind it.

People aren't fed by the Food Industry. People feed themselves. And the Health industry pays plenty of attention to food, they just pay attention to the wrong kind of food.

People guzzle down Canola oil (rapeseed) because it is supposedly heart-healthy. They eat crap-in-a-box because it has "heart-healthy" whole grains. Why? Because governments have adopted the low-fat pro-grains dogma despite all evidence to the contrary. Because grant-whore government sponsored researchers like the AHA endorse Canola oil and promote the Food Pyramid.

The problem of Big Pharma and Big Farma is a problem of Big Government. And it's a problem of individual choice. Frankly, if you are stupid or lazy enough to get your health advice from Dr Oz or a vegan propagandist like T. Colon Campbell, then you deserve what you get. Don't start bitching about the food industry, because they just give folks what they want. I've yet to see anyone buying Twinkies because they had a gun pointing to their head.

Of course, we all know that McDonald's actually does force people to eat there.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Now We Have Food Reward In a Pill

Jonah Lehrer writes in the WSJ about a new pill approved by the FDA that is supposed to increase the good kind of food reward (FR), and decrease the bad kind of FR, hence help people eat less.
Last week, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted overwhelmingly to recommend approval of Qnexa. If officially approved later this spring, it will be the first new prescription weight-loss medication to appear on the market since 1999.

The drug itself is a novel combination of two older drugs, an appetite suppressant with amphetaminelike properties and an anticonvulsant shown to reduce cravings for binge-eaters. In theory, Qnexa works by both increasing the pleasure of food and also reducing the desire to keep on eating, thus making it a bit easier to stick to our diets.
Why do I get the feeling this is all going to end in tears? The two components of food reward are "liking", hedonic impact or palatability and "wanting", incentive salience. Paleo-ish FR theory is that real food is high in palatability but low in incentive salience (stuff you don't want to eat when full), and crap-in-a-box is just the opposite. So Lehrer seems to be saying that Qnexa will temper the response to crap-in-a-box while increasing its palatability, so that food is (for obese people) more like what they'd experience when eating real food.

This pill seems to be going about things in the wrong manner.

Lehrer goes on to talk about a study that recently was published which is supposed to show that overeaters have lower FR by having lower dopamine response to "energy-dense" food.
This raises the larger question: What makes us consume that last slice of pizza or chocolate cake, even when we're no longer hungry? One common answer is that obesity is a byproduct of gluttony: People can't stop eating because they love eating too much. In a puritanical world, this leads many to view obesity as a kind of character flaw.

But this explanation turns out to be exactly backward. According to a new study from Kyle Burger and Eric Stice at the Oregon Research Institute, those who overeat may actually get less pleasure from food. So they're forced to consume larger quantities (and added calories) to achieve an equivalent reward.

The researchers began by asking 151 adolescents about eating habits and food cravings. Then, they stuck the teens in a brain scanner while showing them a picture of a milkshake followed by a few sips of the real thing. They were particularly interested in looking at the response of the dopamine reward pathway in the brain, a cortical network responsible for generating the pleasurable emotions triggered by pleasurable things.

By comparing the response of the reward pathway to the eating habits of the adolescents, the scientists were able to show that those who ate the most ice cream showed the least activation in their reward areas when consuming the milkshake. This suggests that they were eating more in desperate compensation, trying to make up for their indifferent dopamine neurons. People crave pleasure, and they don't stop until they get their fill, even if means consuming the entire pint of Häagen-Dazs.
Meh. The best thing I see there is that Lehrer correctly uses "this raises the question" rather than the oft misused "this begs the question". So fat people eat more ice cream because it has a lower marginal rate of pleasure? Or do we all have to reach a magical dopamine level, but fat people have a harder time reaching that level?

Okay let's look at the actual Oregon Research Institute study:
Background: Weight gain leads to reduced reward-region responsivity to energy-dense food receipt, and consumption of an energy-dense diet compared with an isocaloric, low-energy-density diet leads to reduced dopamine receptors. Furthermore, phasic dopamine signaling to palatable food receipt decreases after repeated intake of that food, which collectively suggests that frequent intake of an energy-dense food may reduce striatal response to receipt of that food. 
Hmm, my spidey sense is already tingling. What do they mean by energy dense food? The experiment is done with a milkshake, do they mean sugar in this case? As J Stanton pointed out it is indeed true that processed food has the highest energy density by weight, because they don't contain any water:
I’ll handicap the comparison by choosing an extra-fatty USDA Prime grade of prime rib, which contains 367 calories per 100 grams, or about 3.7 calories per gram. (Link.)

In contrast, rice cakes contain 392 calories per 100 grams, or almost 4 calories per gram. (Link.) That’s right: rice cakes are a denser source of calories than prime rib!
That’s because rice cakes, like all shelf-stable foods, have most of the water removed in order to preserve them and retard bacterial growth. As a rule, anything you’ll find in a box on the shelf will be dehydrated—and, in consequence, extremely calorie-dense.
I doubt that's what the authors of this study meant, though. Obviously it is the quality and content of the food that is important, not the energy density.

A milk shake has 112 calories per 100 grams. Something like a third as much as prime rib. And not even close to the energy density of a rice cake. Even ice cream only seems to average around 200 calories per gram, still much less energy dense than prime rib. Again from the study:
Results: Milkshake receipt robustly activated the striatal regions, yet frequent ice cream consumption was associated with a reduced response to milkshake receipt in these reward-related brain regions. Percentage body fat, total energy intake, percentage of energy from fat and sugar, and intake of other energy-dense foods were not related to the neural response to milkshake receipt. 
So the people who ate a lot of ice cream had an apparently reduced pleasure response. What this tells me is that sugar addicts have a higher tolerance to sugar, just as any other addict has to their drug of choice. What it does NOT tell me is that a pill that increases the reward of crap (and especially sugar) is going to magically cure obesity. Although it is possible that Qnexa could help sugar/wheat junkies break their addiction.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Disney Stops Persecuting Fat Kids For Eating Crap and Watching TV

Disney will close down an evil exhibit:
Habit Heroes featured animated fitness superheroes ‘Will Power’ and ‘Callie Stenics’ and super-sized villains ‘Snacker’ and ‘Lead Bottom’, who eat junk food and watch too much television. Critics said these characters are insensitive and reinforce stereotypes that obese children are lazy and have poor eating habits. Obesity can sometimes be attributed to genetics and certain medications, and food can be used as a coping mechanism, doctors say. (Source)
Actually fat kids ARE lazy and have poor eating habits. Lazy is as lazy does and they are most likely lazy because of their poor eating habits. Hard to be motivated when your body is struggling to use crap as its main fuel source.

There is certainly a bell curve to this, some kids really are just big-boned, those kids also tend to be more muscular.

The important thing is not to accept fat children with poor eating habits as the norm.
"We're appalled to learn that Disney, a traditional hallmark of childhood happiness and joy, has fallen under the shadow of negativity and discrimination," the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance said in a statement. (Source)
Oops, too late.

Tonight's Dinner Forecast: A 90% Chance of Awesome

An indulgent stop at the local Italian deli/importer (Prague 6 is getting so damn cosmopolitan). A half kilo of sushi quality tuna, 200g of prosciutto di Parma (this stuff literally melts in the mouth), and a very nice pomodoro cuore di bue a variety of beefsteak tomato, which was invented by an American, ha, take that you Italian food snobs.

At 700 Kč (~37 USD) this is definitely a big indulgence since it really is just a nice dinner for three people. Before we had a kid, my wife and I would probably just eat the tuna raw with some wasabi and soy sauce. Now I'll have to make some rice and probably cook some of this wonderful tuna and mix it with the rice (and tell the kid it's salmon since that's the only fish he officially likes other than fish fingers). Of course 37 bucks, or the equivalent in some other currency, isn't that much money when going to a sit down restaurant and one usually isn't going to get even close to the quality of food for that price. Your mileage may vary depending on where you live.

Thoughts On Psychology

Psychology can be an interesting subject, even if I've found most people with psychology degrees to have poor logic and reasoning skills, ie, it mostly tends to be an easy degree that doesn't require much mental discipline, up to the masters level.

Evolutionary psychology is the most interesting part for me and it obviously links up with evolutionary nutrition.

When I first came to Prague, I didn't have much to read, and there was no internet at the time, so I would tend to read what I had over and over again (I never acquired to skill or the fortitude to read books in Czech although I really did try a few times). One of these books was JM Roberts History of the World. Another one was an Introduction to Psychology textbook my wife had around.

I just want to touch on a couple of classic experiments that stuck with me from the psychology book.

The first one was the rat shock experiment: two rats are hooked up to electrodes in parallel which supply electric shocks. The first rat can stop the shock by pressing a bar, the second rat has no control, both rats receive the same amount of external stress (shock). The rat without control, not surprisingly, experiences more stress effects on their health as measure by CHD, hormone levels, etc (I believe, I'm too lazy too look up the experiment right now).

This is interesting to me, as one often hears that lower middle class people (or even just the poor) have much higher standards of living in Western Countries than the richest king in the Middle Ages had. The fact is, being in a low-status position in society is stressful in an of itself, since it usually indicates less control over ones life. Some people with relatively low incomes my be living on farms or small towns and not experience this, but it's probably true as a general rule for urban dwellers.

Being part of a community might be another factor that helps one feel more in control of one's life. I guess anything that lets one feel more in control of one's life is going to reduce stress even if it also increases stress in another aspect (say Tom Naughton getting a 'real' job in an office in order to buy and renovate a farmhouse).

The second thing that really stuck with me from that book were the experiments with babies and language acquisition, how infants zero in on phonemes in their own language. This is why exposing your baby to a bunch of languages without context actually retards their language acquisition. My reaction was, duh, of course evolution has selected for this phoneme winnowing for a reason, don't mess with it. I have a native speaking bilingual kid, but bilingual kids learn things in context, and they aren't exposed to seven languages at once on a TV screen. Again, this is why I have a low opinion of  "educational" television.

One last thing about evolutionary psychology. I once had an argument with a woman about the differences in sex drive and motivation between men and women. This was a long time ago, mid-90s, but she was a recent college graduate and the idea that egg-bearers and sperm-bearers might have different characteristics that had genetic origins was basically appalling to her. I don't think she had a problem with watching nature documentaries which might distinguish between male/female behavior in wolves, hyenas, lion, or even our cousins in the primate kingdom, but apparently this difference couldn't translate to our species. In fact, I don't recall much or any discussion of evolutionary factors in behavior in the intro to psychology book which was printed in the early 90s. I believe evolutionary psychology has gotten a lot more mainstream than then but there's still a PC backlash against it.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Hating Authority Makes You Crazy

Or maybe it's the opposite.

I think we all like to consider ourselves rebels deep down. Certainly, anyone who's ever had a shitty wage-slave job (and I've had plenty) knows how much people love to bitch about their bosses.

Anyway, this is an interesting piece by a Bruce Levine, a psychologist, about anti-authoritarian people being overly diagnosed as crazy (to use the technical term).
I have found that most psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals are not only extraordinarily compliant with authorities but also unaware of the magnitude of their obedience. And it also has become clear to me that the anti-authoritarianism of their patients creates enormous anxiety for these professionals, and their anxiety fuels diagnoses and treatments.
There's certainly could be something to the idea that people who spend the first thirty years of their lives jumping through academic hoops might be self-selected to view anti-authoritarianism as aberrant behavior.

The author goes on to say that in his experience people with real symptoms of schizophrenia and other psychoses are never anti-authoritarian.
I have also spent a great deal of time with people who had at one time in their lives had thoughts and behavior that were so bizarre that they were extremely frightening for their families and even themselves; they were diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychoses, but have fully recovered and have been, for many years, leading productive lives. Among this population, I have not met one person whom I would not consider a major anti-authoritarian. Once recovered, they have learned to channel their anti-authoritarianism into more constructive political ends, including reforming mental health treatment.

Many anti-authoritarians who earlier in their lives were diagnosed with mental illness tell me that once they were labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis, they got caught in a dilemma. Authoritarians, by definition, demand unquestioning obedience, and so any resistance to their diagnosis and treatment created enormous anxiety for authoritarian mental health professionals; and professionals, feeling out of control, labeled them “noncompliant with treatment,” increased the severity of their diagnosis, and jacked up their medications. This was enraging for these anti-authoritarians, sometimes so much so that they reacted in ways that made them appear even more frightening to their families.
I think it's interesting that many of the people in the paleo-ish sphere also are libertarian which is a pretty anti-authoritarian political creed. There's certainly an anti-authoritarian aspect to dumping the conventional wisdom that is still so prevalent in the mainstream, ohmigod that stuff will clog your arteries!!!

I would go on a long rant about how people need to think for themselves but I would even bore myself with it. Some folks can manage it, the majority prefer to be sheep even if they think their boss is a jerk (and he or she probably is). Perhaps I'm conflating anti-authoritarianism with independent thinking.

Friday, March 02, 2012

"Hey, I Thought Batman Doesn't Eat Carbs!"

This is what my kid said when he saw Batman grab Flash's pretzel and eat it. Actually, I think Batman just likes to fuck with Flash.

In my son's five-year-old mind carbs are crap and crap is bad. Yes, I've managed to inculcate him into the LC religion*.

I'm in favor of safe starches, especially for people who are active and five-year-olds are pretty damn active. Kids are notorious for having a sweet tooth, and I doubt this is cultural or the result of advertisers peddling sweets on TV. My kid gets plenty of potatoes or rice along with the meat. Veggies are a problem but that's pretty typical also, I think.

My current take on carbs is basically Perfect Health Diet (which is moderate to low-carb from safe starches depending on how one defines such things). I think LC or even VLC is very therapeutic for people who are obese and/or are having their pancreas conking out.

So my son thinks carbs are things like bread and sugar and packaged crap, he probably picked that up from hearing my wife and I discussing food and diet. I think that's fine for a five-year-old, especially if it dissuades him from wanting to eat candy, ice cream, bread, etc. More nuanced stuff can wait. Right now I just want to stop him from eating crap and to develop healthy eating habits.

This brings me to the debate that is supposedly raging in the paleo/LC/ancestral/real food (man, I'm really getting sick of writing that) sphere concerning starch and insulin and low-carbs and diabetes, etc.

Some people, such as Jason Geary have suggested that "high-brow" paleo folks need to get off their pedestals and present a united front of low-carb consensus for the masses. In other words, any hint of dissension, nuance or conflicting views might confuse the proles who ought to be treated like five-year-old children. AJR comments on Richard Nikoley's blog quoting Geary, and my opinion of such a consensus or united front is further down in the comments.

Geary apparently wrote this (I'm taking AJR's word for it, I've not seen the Mark's Daily Apple forum post):
It appears that Free The Animal, along with many other paleo blogs / authors are trying to turn paleo into a moderate to high carb plan these days based on new “evidence” they’ve supposedly found. And if you’re a low carb advocate, watch out for the gang attack.

Unfortunately, it’s confusing a hell of a lot of people and doing lasting damage to the Paleo movement. That’s why I like Primal. Paleo is different depending on who you ask and that’s bad marketing in terms of the big picture of getting people off SAD and getting them healthy again.

The paleo community needs to stop bickering back and forth and attacking the low-carb advocates. Low carb is proven and for the majority of overweight SAD people, it’s exactly what they need regardless of what high-brow paleo bloggers say otherwise.
I'm just going to expand a bit on the comment I made at FTA.

Diversity in thought is a good thing. For me, at least, paleo-type eating is about adding an evolutionary context to diet and being aware of the burgeoning science behind what's an optimal diet. So it's really all science. And what is science? Well science is just disciplined inquiry. Science is not something that is performed exclusively people with accredited degrees in science. There's all sorts of bloggers out there engaging in science without credentials, and quite a lot of people with credentials engaging in grantwhore bullshit.

Science is not about consensus. It's about being right.

It's about being right. Coming up with the right answer is mostly about banging one's head against the wrong answer and admitting that it's wrong, or at least partially flawed or incomplete.

Diversity in thought is a good thing. I'm not talking about the Orwellian doublespeak of "diversity" that pervades universities and politics in North America and much of Western Europe. Toe-the-line or else, conformity masquerading as diversity. I'm talking about the real thing.

I'm not saying one has to enjoy being disagreed with, or that there aren't tons of stupid or mendacious people that ought best to be ignored. 

I was debating this somewhat with Richard Nikoley about the inclusion of Matt Stone at the Paleo Summit. Personally, I think Stone is full of shit, but the fact that he took the opportunity to launch his anti-paleo book was actually rather clever. I think paleo/ancestral health/etc is better off allowing some contrarian bullshit artists equal time. Surely this is prefereable to shutting out people like Doug McGuff from AHS. Richard Nikoley asked if a creationist ought to be allowed to give a presentation at an astrophysics symposium. My response was that astrophysics sits on a huge mountain of experimental proof and scientific theory that paleo-type nutrition lacks so paleo needs to be more open to dissenting or even wildly diverging viewpoints. But now I'm thinking, why the hell not? As long as they were willing to field questions about their pseudoscience I think it would be popular with the astrophysicists to try and eviscerate a creationist. I've attended a few presentations where someone managed to mercilessly destroy a paper or thesis in the Q&A and it can get rather uncomfortable, but that's science for ya. Of course, creationism doesn't suffer from the weakness of allowing it's axioms to be questioned.

Science is about being right. It is probably more correct to say it is about the methodology of being right, which is really the methodology of not fooling oneself, to paraphrase Richard Feynman.

A less Darwinian sounding way to say this: science is about the pursuit of truth. But it's really the same thing. The "search for truth" brings up visions of selfless scientists toiling away in their labs. Saying that science is about being right gives lie to the idea that science is some sort of team-building exercise or selfless pursuit and the fact that paradigms are shifted by extremely brilliant thinkers such as Newton, Galileo, or Einstein.

What real science has never been about is consensus or providing a united front to the assumed idiot masses.

Or as Nigel put it so succinctly:
If we all come to a consensus, what the fuck will we have to blog about any more?

*Actually when he said that, I tried to explain that there were good carbs like potatoes and bad carbs like pretzels.