Yearly Archives: 2011 - Page 2

Around the Web; Wise Traditions & CrossFit NYC Pre-Talk Edition

I’ll be speaking on Saturday Nov 12 at the Wise Traditions Conference in Dallas, doing the “Wellness Track” from 9:00 am until 12:15 am. The conference will be full of great speakers, so please consider attending:

Wise Traditions Conference ~ Dallas, TX ~ November 11-14 2010

I’ll also be speaking on Saturday Nov 19 at CrossFit NYC, at 25 W. 26th Street, 3rd floor (between Broadway and 6th Avenue). There will be a charge of $15 for a seminar plus question-and-answer session that will run from noon until about 2:30 pm. The talk will be in the 4th floor annex. Some information is also available through the Eating Paleo in NYC Meetup group.

In Dallas I’ll speak in two 90-minute sessions, the first on diet and nutrition and the second on healing and preventing disease. The second talk will include material that hasn’t yet appeared in our book or blog.

The CrossFit NYC talk will discuss evolutionary evidence for the optimal diet, factors that can impair health or sabotage fitness, and lifestyle and dietary steps to overcome those factors, with a special focus on a few bottlenecks to fitness that may commonly be overlooked by Paleo or CrossFit adherents.

I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in Dallas and New York!

Alas, due to a backlog of work, I probably won’t blog until I’m back from Dallas.

[1] Music to read by: Shirley Temple has animals in her stomach:

[2] Interesting posts this week:

Gorillas are dying from a common human respiratory virus, and an insect invasion is terrorizing Manhattan. Don’t worry, it’s the Upper West Side, CrossFit NYC is safe!

Stephan Guyenet refutes the insulin-is-to-fat-storage-as-a-car’s-gas-pedal-is-to-acceleration hypothesis of obesity by noting that genetic manipulations of various genes in the liver only generate high circulating insulin (4 to 10 times higher than normal) and yet these high insulin levels do not lead to an increased level of fat storage.

Wired magazine reports some explorations in food reward:

  • Music can change the taste of wine.
  • People prefer beer laced with balsamic vinegar (as long they don’t know it’s been added)
  • People prefer paté made from dog food.

So if you’re trying to make your food bland to lose weight, you might try playing music you dislike at dinner, keeping vinegar out of your beer, and removing dog food from your paté recipe.

A study finds that saturated fat increases BMI more than fat mass, which I take to mean that dairy fats promote muscle gain.

Kelly Starrett offers his most important MWOD ever.

Robb Wolf and Mr X discuss testosterone.

Seth Roberts reports “a stunning discovery”: it’s better to take vitamin D in the morning.

Ned Kock reveals the “mysterious factor X” in the China Study.

Don Matesz asks if antibiotics may cause obesity and cancer.

Touching on a topic raised here not long ago (Local Farming and The Fight for Quality Food, Oct 25, 2011), Melissa McEwen quotes Joel Salatin explaining why he raises an unnatural breed of chicken that can barely walk and sickens by age 10 weeks.

Also related to that post, Dr. Michael Greger offers some numbers on the health risks from unhealthy livestock.

Twenty thousand deaths a year from prescription drug overdose. Still waiting for the first case of Perfect Health Diet overdose.

The newest fashion: edible dresses. And the material is PHD compatible!

Happy blogiversary, Richard Nikoley!

Via Dr BG, “The Gut-Brain Connection: An Inside Look at Depression.”

Seth Roberts says that sunlight works “via nerve, not blood.”

Mrs. United States 2011 is Paleo and does CrossFit.

[3] Cute animal photo: The cute animals get all the love:

By Govardhan Gerhard Ziegler via Matthew Dalby on Facebook. Bonus red panda video, also from Matthew:

[4] Medical breakthrough! A California doctor has learned how to turn brown eyes blue:

Which calls for more music:

[5] Joshua Newman has your nerd humor:

Two chemists walk into a bar.

The first says, “I’d like to order some H20.”

The second says, “I’d like to order some H20, too.”

The second man dies.

[6] Comment of the week: Scotlyn on calorie restriction for longevity:

Regarding caloric restriction, I once had a short correspondence with Dr Speakman, a well-known caloric restriction researcher at Aberdeen university and one of the authors of this and this.

I was asking if there was any way to measure the overall well-being of calorically restricted rats, as one of the main considerations when extending lifespan is whether it is possible to extend the quality of life as well, or if the result instead would only be a “thin” extension of existence “like too little butter scraped on too much bread” (Bilbo in Lord of the Rings).

I also asked if there were lessons to be drawn from the Ancel Keys starvation studies, which showed that caloric restriction in humans led to constant hunger, cold, lack of energy or libido, and total fixation on food and other mental and physical health derangements.

This was his fascinating (and faultlessly generous to an unsolicited query) reply:

The Keys study is very revealing but differs from modern CR protocols in three ways. First the extent of restriction was much greater. Second they were also malnourished in some vitamin components. However, their experiences are all exaggerations of the experience of many modern people who do CR. The third difference is they were under involuntary restriction and have very different motivations to modern CR proponents who believe they will benefit directly from what they are doing. This cost benefit difference is very important to one’s psychological reaction to the treatment. I have no doubt many CR adherents are able to suppress much of the negative effects of deprivation. Lab mice are also not volunteers and I suspect if we could measure it they would be miserable.

Does this mean you would be miserable on CR? From your message I guess the answer is yes. Does this mean all CR people are miserable? Absolutely not.

It isn’t a life I would choose for a few extra months in the nursing home but for some people it clearly is. Its all down to personal choices I guess…

His last point is in reference to his own finding that lab rats who commence caloric restriction in adulthood gain only small increments in lifespan.

[7] Moving up the career ladder: Spanish neurologist invents “neurogastronomy” and becomes a New York City chef:

[8] Shou-Ching’s Photo Art:

[9] Video of the week: Two 20-foot tallwide, 1500 year old Giant Sequoias fall. German tourists capture the last moments on video:

Around the Web; Snowy Halloween Edition

A storm today is supposed to turn to snow tonight – one of the earliest snowstorms in memory. Luckily trick-or-treating weather Monday should be perfect.

A few events are coming up. First, I’ll be speaking on Saturday Nov 12 at the Wise Traditions Conference in Dallas, doing the “Wellness Track” from 9:00 am until 12:15 am. The conference will be full of great speakers, including Sally Fallon, Chris Masterjohn, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Natasha Campbell-McBride, Denise Minger, Stephanie Seneff, Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, Harvey Ussery (Harvey’s wife Ellen is one of our most frequent commenters), and many others. Please consider attending:

Wise Traditions Conference ~ Dallas, TX ~ November 11-14 2010

The following Saturday, Nov 19, I’ll be speaking at CrossFit NYC. I’ll have details about that next week.

Finally, on Sunday, December 4 at 3 pm I’ll be giving a talk and book signing at Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton, MA.

[1] The “Safe Starch Symposium” continues:

Jimmy Moore is graciously continuing the conversation about safe starches on his blog, with the latest installment coming from Dr. Ron Rosedale. For those keeping score, here’s how the discussion has gone:

On Tuesday I’ll explain why Dr Rosedale almost persuaded me to eat a high-carb diet.

Due to personal health considerations, Jimmy won’t be trying an n=1 experiment with safe starches. However, we’ll still develop a 7-day meal plan for those who want to give our diet a try, and Jimmy will invite his readers to try it and share their experiences. That will happen in December, and Shou-Ching and I are looking forward to it.

[2] Music to read by:

[3] Interesting posts this week:

Is radioactive cobalt improving the health of the Japanese?

Stephan Guyenet discusses the brain’s ability to regulate peripheral glucose utilization and lipolysis from fat cells. It makes sense that this would be the case: Apart from the brain’s advantage as a coordinating organ due to its access to signals from nerves, it is also the highest priority destination for glucose, and so the organ best informed about when glucose utilization should be suppressed elsewhere.

Dr Oz has a “Prehistoric Diet Plan”. I think of it as Loren Cordain merged with T. Colin Campbell, and then acquired by the US Department of Agriculture.

Dr Steve Parker reports that intentional weight loss doesn’t reduce risk of death … but it does prevent progression to type 2 diabetes.

Eating a fatty meal causes pythons to grow bigger hearts. Even more interesting, giving mice a transfusion of fed-python blood causes them to grow bigger hearts. Will Tour de France riders be adopting pet pythons?

Another mummy gets diagnosed with prostate cancer. The cancer has to have metastasized to bone to be visible in skeletal evidence. I have not heard of any Paleolithic skeletons containing metastases, but a paleopathologist states that bone cancer has been found in Paleolithic skeletons.

Can going Paleo strain a marriage? It did for Peggy the Primal Parent.

Aaron Blaisdell is teaching UCLA students to eat primally. What’s that illustration on the table?

CarbSane has been chipping in to the safe starches debate (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday).

Melissa McEwen says, “The no-starch camp is in its death throes” … I prefer to think of it as “the pro-starch camp is in its prime of life”.

Lucas Tafur gives us a reason to put vinegar in our foods: gut bacteria can convert acetate to butyrate.

Chris Kresser warns of the dangers of estrogens in plastic containers.

Emily Deans considers whether ketogenic diets may help bipolar disorder. By the way, Emily is visiting Harvard Law School on Halloween. No word yet on her costume.

Danny Roddy defends fructose against charges it is emaciating.

Do you have heightened formation of fear memories? Randall Parker says you may be hypothyroid.

Bats are being decimated by a fungal infection: millions have died, and “mortality rates are staggering.” Bat physicians, however, insist the fatalities cannot be happening, because their patients do not have compromised immune systems.

We are Heroes, They are Villains”: a must-read tribute to his students from Seth Roberts. Also, Seth tells us that bees make more honey with kombucha. I wonder how much they would make if given other fermented beverages?

NPR invites a vegetarian to critique the Paleo diet, and Paleo dieters dominate the comment thread.

Australian researchers published an interesting study on the lasting hormonal changes that occur in obesity, even if weight is lost. Weight loss in the obese triggered an immediate 2/3 drop in leptin levels, and a full year after weight loss leptin levels were still depressed by 1/3.

Richard Nikoley … rods … cat o’ nine tails … and a temptress who should have been named “Eve.”

Paul Halliday enters the Mesolithic.

[4] Cute animal photo:

From Oak0y via Meredith Harbour Yetter.

[5] Ah, romance:

[6] The Waterfall of Gulfoss:

Alone at the Raging Waterfall of Gulfoss

[7] Is this a CrossFit exercise?:

[8] Shou-Ching’s Photo-Art:

[9] Weekly video: A new font for dyslexics:

Via Tom Smith.

Around the Web; Green Meadows Farm Edition

We had a delightful tour today at Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton, Massachusetts; I’ll write more about it tomorrow. Thanks to Andrew and Diana Rodgers for showing us around.

Also on Sunday October 23, Paul will be on Cary Nosler’s Wide World of Health radio show at 4 pm Eastern / 1 pm Pacific. It’s possible to listen live on the Talk 650 KSTE web site.

[1] Perfect Ego-Gratifying Book Review: Over at Health Correlator, Ned Kock has reviewed our book. Ned is one of the smartest and most interesting bloggers in the Paleosphere, so we were delighted that he liked our book. In his first paragraph, he links “Perfect Health Diet” to “Facebook”, and later he speaks of Shou-Ching and me in the same breath with well-known scientists:

Their main PhD disciplines are somewhat similar to Einstein’s and Curie’s; which is an interesting coincidence. What the Jaminets have written about nutrition is probably analogous, in broad terms, to what Einstein and Curie would have written about nutrition if they were alive today.

If they were alive today, they’d be 132 and 144 years old respectively, and everyone would be intensely interested in their nutitional tips!  So we take that as high praise indeed.

Ned’s wasn’t the only pleasing review we got this week; Dr. Srdjan Andrei Ostric wrote a generous endorsement of our book. I was also pleased that one of Dr Ostric’s readers did NOT directly compare me to her emotionally abusive ex.

[2] Interesting posts this week:

Andrew Badenoch of Evolvify downgrades potatoes and rice to “sneaky untrustworthy bastards” and bok choy to “I’m not making out with you if you eat that.” This was in response to that interesting miRNA study I mentioned in a previous Around the Web. Richard Nikoley offered his thoughts.

One of Richard’s commenters hopes we’ll critique the study. It’s not an easy study to critique because it’s the first of its kind; everything about it is interesting, but very likely not all the results will be reproducible. Also, it’s premature to draw any conclusions about how it affects diet, since all plant and animal cells contain microRNA, and there’s nothing special about the miRNAs of rice or potato. If rice miRNAs can survive cooking and digestion and cross cellular membranes and affect gene expression, so will miRNAs from every other plant and animal food. That would imply that we evolved with a background level of dietary miRNAs in our cells. The implications for diet are hard to fathom, except that it probably strengthens the case for eating in an ancestral manner, since an ancestral diet would deliver a mix of miRNAs we evolved to handle.

Emily Deans summarized yesterday’s talks at TEDx Cambridge. A line that caught my eye:

Lustig seems to feel that fructose, MCTs, and BCAAs are damaging to the mitochondria and lead to insulin resistance (thus he is anti-corn fed beef, as corn-fed beef is higher in BCAAs than grassfed, apparently.)

I’m pro BCAAs. Is that a reason to favor corn-fed beef?

Two PaleoHackers, Kamal and Aravind, tried to reduce food reward and lost weight. Stephan Guyenet recounts their story.

J Stanton has another blockbuster exposition on food reward, which contains a challenge to Stephan’s recommendations for weight loss: eating food you like decreases quantity of food consumed more than eating bland food.

Lucas Tafur reports that some mouth bacteria can digest gluten, making wheat safer for their hosts.

Mike Gruber’s triglycerides went down after he added starches and supplements in line with Perfect Health Diet recommendations. Was it the starch, or the micronutrients?

Melissa McEwen compares overeating to porn addiction and discusses Paleomedicine.

Oetzi the Iceman had Lyme disease. Folks with Lyme infections are more likely to be diagnosed with psychiatric disease. Oetzi was discovered in a reclining posture. Coincidence?

Dr Steve Parker links to Vitruvius at The Sagacious Iconoclast, who explains how Paleolithic man might have made cheese: “transport milk in mammal stomach vessels containing natural rennet, in the heat, thousands of years ago, and voila: curds and whey.”

In the New York Times, a woman has survived a dangerous cancer by retreating to national parks. She’s not the only one; the combination of sunshine, exercise, and nature seems to have a strong anti-cancer effect.

Darrin Carlson wrote on The Five Failings of Paleo. You might have seen the piece reprinted at Free the Animal.

John Durant is manly, in a Jack Sparrow Dances with Wolves kind of way.

Jamie Scott says: Make your own antioxidants.

Mark Sisson says: For healthy mitochondria, eat fat.

Dr BG fostered a kitty, and reflects on human evolution.

Nourished Kitchen has tips for a healthier Halloween.

Let’s see, there was the Permian-Triassic Extinction, the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction – the 1883 Extinction?

[3] Cute animal photo:

Via Yves Smith.

[4] A mini-debate on protein and longevity:  In the comment thread to Ned Kock’s review of our book, Ned has an excellent counterargument about protein and longevity:

Here is another counterpoint to the notion that increased protein intake leads to decreased longevity. A BMI of 25 is generally associated with the lowest mortality:

Now, we know that as people age they generally tend to lose body mass (contrary to popular opinion), primarily due to loss of lean body mass, which seems to outpace body fat gain.

Increased protein consumption seems to counter that, and this appears to be related to both bone and muscle retention, contributing to a higher BMI.

So it is not unreasonable to conclude that the relatively high BMI of 25 is associated with retention of lean body mass with age, even as body fat gradually increases as well, leading to the perception that the fat are the ones living the longest.

Of course I am not talking about 600 g/d of protein. These seniors seem to have done quite well in terms of bone retention at around 85-90 g/d:

In another comment Ned mentions receiving from O Primitivo a link to a paper that looks fascinating.

[5] The End of Human Progress: Via Joshua Newman, an aphorism from Ben Franklin:

I have always thought that one man of tolerable abilities may work great changes, and accomplish great affairs among mankind, if he first forms a good plan, and, cutting off all amusements or other employments that would divert his attention, make the execution of that same plan his sole study and business.

A corollary from Paul Jaminet:

Humanity will stagnate until the Internet becomes boring.

[6] Autism Updates:

Weston A Price might have something to say about possible nutritional factors behind this finding: Autistic children have an altered facial structure, characterized by wider eyes, a broader upper face, wider mouth and philtrum, but shorter middle region of the face including cheeks and nose.

There seems to be a connection between maternal gestational diabetes and autism. A Rice University professor discusses the link:

[7] Not the Weekly Video: Why Paleolithic man didn’t bicycle:

[8] Shou-Ching’s Photo Art:

[9] Weekly video: Never trust an animal that wears a tuxedo!

Via Bix.

Around the Web; The Case of the Killer Vitamins

I’d like to thank Patrick Timpone for a very enjoyable interview on The Morning Show at One Radio Network. Here is the MP3; I’m on for the second half of the show. You can find a zip file at the archive for October 13. Patrick’s producer Sharon tells me that she’s already benefited from our book:

I was following The Primal Diet and since I read the book, I’ve been allowing myself potatoes and rice and doing very very well on them among doing some other things you recommend.

Also, I’d like to thank Jimmy Moore once more for hosting his highly entertaining “safe starch” symposium (Jimmy’s original post; my response, here and at Jimmy’s). It was great to get the opportunity to explain ourselves to so many people in the low-carb and Paleo movements.

Jimmy is planning to try our diet for a week in November, which will be a good occasion for us to publish a 7-day meal plan. We’ll invite anyone who’s curious to try the diet along with Jimmy, and compare notes.

[1] Interesting posts this week:

Angelo Coppola on Latest in Paleo wonders if Denmark’s saturated fat tax will apply to mother’s milk. If so, it’s bad news for unemployed infants! (He also discusses the “safe starch” debate.)

I once knew a French astronomer who died from snorting cocaine while observing at 14,500 feet. Emily Deans makes me wonder:  Did he have Crisco for dinner?

Stan the Heretic offers his mitochondrial dysfunction theory of diabetes. Peter Dobromylskyj and JS Stanton are also developing ideas along this line. Speaking of JS, his post this week has some great photos of Sierra wildflowers and reflections on the state of the Paleo community.

CarbSane partially confirms Dr. Ron Rosedale: eating carbs does raise leptin levels compared to eating fat, but it is a mild rise over an extended period of time, not a “spike.”

Beth Mazur explains why her bathroom door is always closed.

Chris Kresser discusses why chronic illness often generates a form of hypothyroidism, low T3 syndrome.

Joshua Newman knows how to flatter.

How solid is the case against Andrew Wakefield? Autism is certainly characterized by intestinal dysfunction, and Age of Autism notes that distinguished scientists are citing Wakefield’s work.

Richard Nikoley claims he doesn’t know the words to “Kumbayah.”

Seth Roberts points out that the Specific Carbohydrate Diet has been curing Crohn’s for 80 years, but still no clinical trial.

Jamie Scott, That Paleo Horse Doctor, asks: Why do horses get laminitis?

We’ve quoted vegetarian Dr. Michael Greger’s concerns about arsenic in eggs. I’m more concerned about soy protein in eggs.

Following Steve Jobs’s death, Tim asked for an opinion about the unconventional cancer therapies of Dr Mercola’s friend Nicholas Gonzalez. David Gorski, toward the end of a detailed examination of Jobs’s medical condition and treatment, links to his own claim that the Gonzalez protocol is “worse than useless.”

[2] Music to read by:

[3] Cute animal photo:

[4] Notable comments this week:

PeterC’s dad, who has diabetes, is doing well on our diet. Daniel’s stepdad had a similar experience.

Helen informs us that sweet potato intolerance may be due to raffinose.

Mario Iwakura gives us his infectious theory of diabetes. I think a lot of the cases of disrupted glucose regulation, where people get frequent hyperglycemic and hypoglycemic episodes, may be due to occult infections.

Dr Jacquie Kidd (who blogs at has gotten some great advice from Jamie Scott.

Ellen tells us of cases of iodine supplementation controlling diabetes.

Ned is looking for grass-fed cowbells.

[5] Do Vitamins Kill?: An analysis of the Iowa Women’s Health Study came out this week, and it purported to show that nearly all supplements except calcium and vitamin D increased mortality, with iron being the worst. Oskar asked us to look into it, so we did.

The study followed a large number of women in Iowa, and queried them several times about supplement use. In 1986, the baseline, the women had an average age of 62 (range of 55 to 69) and 66% were taking supplements. By 2004, the surviving women had an average age of 82 and 85% were taking supplements.

Here is the data on overall mortality vs supplement use:

“Cases” are instances of someone dying. “HR” or hazard ratio is the likelihood of dying if you supplement divided by the likelihood of dying if you don’t. Note that all the hazard ratio estimates are “adjusted.”

Unadjusted Hazard Ratios

The left columns of the table give us death statistics and allow us to calculate raw hazard ratios, with no adjustment whatsoever. Seven of the supplements have unadjusted HRs below 1.00, eight have unadjusted HRs above 1.00. The 15 HRs average to 1.01. Without copper, which has an unadjusted HR of 1.17, they average to 0.998. In short, death rates among supplementers were almost identical to death rates among non-supplementers.

This is interesting because supplement usage rose rapidly with age. It was 66% at age 62 and 85% at age 82. Supplement users were, on average, older than non-supplement users. But mortality rises rapidly with age. So there should have been a lot more deaths among the supplement users, just because of their more advanced age.

The paper should have, but didn’t, report age-adjusted hazard ratios. Adjusting for age is very important, since mortality depends strongly on age, and so does supplement use. However, it’s obvious what the result of age-only adjustment would have been. Supplement usage would have shown a substantial reduction in the risk of dying.

Hazard Ratios Adjusted for Age and Energy Intake

The least-adjusted hazard ratios reported in the paper are adjusted for age and energy intake.

The energy intake adjustment is disappointing, because energy intake is affected by health: healthier people are more active and eat more, and obese people also eat more. Including indices of health as independent variables in a regression analysis will tend to mask the impact of the supplements on health, creating misleading results.

However, let’s go with what we have. Based on “Age and Energy Adjusted” hazard ratios, supplements generally decrease mortality. Nine of the fifteen supplements decreased mortality, five increased mortality. At the 95% confidence interval, five supplements decreased mortality, only one increased mortality.

Looking at the specific supplements, results are mostly consistent with our book analysis. Let’s start with the five that showed harm:

  • Folic acid and iron – two nutrients we regard as dangerous and recommend not supplementing – both elevate mortality, as we would expect. Iron is particularly harmful, and should generally be avoided by women once they have stopped menstruating.
  • Multivitamins slightly increase mortality, a result that has been found before and that we acknowledge in the book. This is probably due to (a) an excess of folic acid, (b) an excess of iron (if the women are taking iron-containing multis after menopause), (c) an excess of vitamin A (this is no longer the case – multi manufacturers have reduced the A content of vitamins in response to data – but in 1986-2004 most multis contained substantial amounts of A) which is harmful in women with vitamin D and/or K2 deficiencies (both extremely common, and D deficiency in this cohort is supported by the benefits of D and calcium in the study and the northerly latitude of Iowa) or (d) imbalances in other nutrients; for reasons of bulk multis tend to lack certain minerals, notably magnesium and calcium.
  • Vitamin B6 is an anomaly, as we wouldn’t expect B6 to be harmful in moderation. I’m guessing B6 would have been taken to reduce high homocysteine and for this purpose would often have been taken along with folic acid, a harmful supplement. Also, B6 should be balanced by vitamin B12 and biotin, and may not have been. Perhaps people with cancer were unaware that B6 promotes tumor growth; (UPDATE: See comments; I was misremembering studies, B12 and folic acid can promote tumor growth, but in other studies B6 looks protective against cancer) indeed, in the breakdown by cause of death in Table 3, B6 increases cancer mortality by 6%, but CVD mortality by only 1%. (Folic acid and vitamin A were other cancer-promoting supplements.) The harm from B6 was not statistically significant and I wouldn’t read much into it.
  • Copper is another anomalous result, but this was the least popular supplement, taken by only 229 women or 0.59%. Copper’s hazard ratios were dramatically affected by adjustment: in the raw data, mortality is only 17% higher among copper supplementers, but after age and energy adjustment it is 31% higher, and multivariable adjustment increases it substantially again. Clearly the effect of copper is highly sensitive to adjustment factors, indicating that copper was being taken by an unusual population. I think the hazard ratio for copper is impossible to interpret without knowing why these women were supplementing copper. If we knew their situation, there would probably be an appropriate adjustment that would make a huge difference in mortality. I would say the numbers are too small, the population too skewed, and the information too limited to draw any conclusion here.

Overall, I would interpret the nine that showed benefits as being highly supportive of micronutrient supplementation. The fact that vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc all reduced mortality suggests that a well-formulated multivitamin would likely have reduced mortality.

Hazard Ratios After Multivariable Adjustment

Now, what about the “Multivariable Adjusted” results, which were responsible for the headlines?

We have to keep in mind a famous aphorism from the mathematician John von Neumann:

With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.

The multivariable adjustments use 11 parameters and 16 parameters respectively. Using so many parameters lets the investigators generate whatever results they want.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both multivariable adjustments substantially increased the hazard ratio of every single one of the 15 supplements. The 11-variable adjustment increased hazard ratios by an average of 7%, the 16-variable adjustment by an average of 8.2%.

Rest assured, it would have been easy enough to find multivariable adjustments that would have decreased hazard ratios for every single one of the 15 supplements.

I believe it verges on the unethical that the variables chosen include dangerous health conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. These three health conditions just happen to be conditions that are often improved by supplementation.

Anyone familiar with how regression analyses work will immediately recognize the problem. The adjustment variables serve as competing explanations for changes in mortality. If supplementation decreases diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, and through these changes decreases mortality, the supplements will not get credit for the mortality reduction; rather the decreased diabetes, blood pressure, and obesity will get the credit.

Imagine we had a magic pill that completely eliminated diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, and reduced mortality by 20%, with no negative health effects under any circumstances. But if regression analysis showed that non-diabetic, non-obese, and non-hypertensive people had 25% less mortality, then a multivariable adjusted analysis would show that the magic pill increased mortality. Why? Because the elimination of diabetes, obesity, and hypertension should have decreased mortality by 25% (the regression analysis predicts), but mortality was only decreased 20%, so adjusted for diabetes, obesity, and hypertension the magic pill must be credited with the additional 5% dead. The multivariable adjusted HR for the magic pill becomes 0.8/0.75 = 1.067.

Of course, what ordinary people want to know is: Will this magic pill improve my health? The answer to that would be yes.

What (too many) scientists want to know is: Which methodology for analyzing this magic pill data will get me grant money? That depends on whether the funding authorities are positively or negatively disposed toward the magic pill industry. Once you know that, you search for the 16-variable multivariable regression that generates the hazard ratios the authorities would like to see.

My take? Judging by the data in Table 2 plus corroborating evidence from clinical trials reviewed in our book, I would say that a well-formulated supplement program, begun at age 62, may increase the odds of survival to age 82 by something on the order of 5% to 10%. Perhaps not a magic pill; but worthwhile.

[6] Not the weekly video: An exceptional magic show:

[7] Shou-Ching’s Photo Art:

[8] Weekly video: A new tool for stroke recovery: