Around the Web, Spring Arrives in Boston Edition

Here’s what caught my eye this week:

[1] Interesting posts this week: Do people biangulate? Chris Highcock gives us more reason to use a standing desk. A question I never would have seen before reading PaleoHacks:  “Do you brush your teeth with bacon?” Peter notes mice that become obese on a “high-fat diet” can lose weight rapidly if their diet gets even fattier.

Dr. John Briffa discusses the link between HbA1c and mortality (also discussed in our book) and the vast scale of publication bias in medical journals. The issue of publication bias has a counterpart among the public which we might call readership bias. Once people become convinced something is good, they are reluctant to credit evidence that it may be bad. So, for example, the genuinely good evidence in favor of omega-3s can retard acceptance of evidence for harmful effects in some contexts.

Emily has a great post on the links between diet and violence . Mark’s Daily Apple has a nice overview of some things I’ll be talking about in the months to come – traditional cooking herbs.

Via O Primitivo, a Mediterranean diet reduces risk of cancer by 4%. I think we can do better than that.

Last week, when Gary Taubes reported his cholesterol, he also reported his diet:

I do indeed eat three eggs with cheese, bacon and sausage for breakfast every morning, typically a couple of cheeseburgers (no bun) or a roast chicken for lunch, and more often than not, a ribeye or New York steak (grass fed) for dinner, usually in the neighborhood of a pound of meat. I cook with butter and, occasionally, olive oil (the sausages). My snacks run to cheese and almonds.

This week, Anthony Colpo disapprovestwice.

Via Craig Newmark, pro surfer Laird Hamilton has a health tip:

One of my favorite things to do in the morning is to stand on golf balls and roll them along my arches. You have seventy-four hundred nerve endings on your feet, so you stimulate your whole metabolism when you do that.

[2] Is the DHA-cancer connection drug-driven?: Via Dennis Mangan, I’m informed of a helpful comment on the Brasky study by commenter Karl at FuturePundit. Key points: Half of the subjects in the study were on the drug finasteride (Propecia, Proscar). The finasteride arm had 78% more high-grade cancers than the placebo arm.

While tissue DHA levels were strongly associated with high-grade cancer, EPA levels weren’t. On the one hand this is consistent with our idea that high tissue DHA drives cancer via the DHA-angiogenesis mechanism we’ve been discussing: only DHA, not EPA, produces high-grade cancer.

However, normally tissue DHA and EPA are obtained from food and levels go up or down together. Few people in the study supplemented DHA alone; so DHA and EPA levels should have been high or lower together and both should have shown the association.

A plausible explanation would be that the drug was raising DHA levels artificially, and triggering high-grade cancers.

Unfortunately the study doesn’t report the level-response relationship between DHA and high-grade cancers separately in the finasteride and placebo arms – only in the two groups combined. I see this as a failure of the reviewers and an embarrassment to the authors.

Taking Propecia for an enlarged prostate may be much more dangerous than eating salmon.

This plausible hypothesis makes me more comfortable maintaining our recommendation to eat a pound of cold-water marine fish per week.

[3] Vanishing symbol of love: Will the turtle dove disappear?

[4] At least we’ll still have kittens:

Via Yves Smith.

[5] Heh, heh: Denise Minger says we “make DHA seem a little fishy.”

[6] Stabby hearts Denise!: They’d make a cute couple. I can see them 20 years from now:

[7] Because the purpose of government is to harass the citizenry: Feds sting Amish farmer for selling raw milk locally. Via Liberation Wellness.

[8] Carbs for weight loss: Barbra is worried that adding carbs to her very low-carb diet to fix her dry eyes might prevent weight loss. The experience of NourishedEm at Mark’s Daily Apple forum may reassure her:

I find it really interesting that a lot of us who’ve been at this for 6 months or more are finding that we do better with more starch.

When I started PB, I was all about the sub 30g of carbs as my main aim was to lose weight. Well, 7 months of that saw me lose precisely nothing. In the last 6 weeks (after having read PHD), I have added potatoes, rice, taro and sweet potatoes to my diet; in addition I have started eating in a 6 hour eating window. I’ve been losing 2-3lbs a week ever since, it’s like a magic formula for me!

The best part is no longer having to think so hard about what to eat. A lot of ‘normal’ foods have made their way back into the roster with the addition of more starch. I use rice noodles as pasta and can have carbonara and bolognaise again, a baked potato stuffed with chilli and cheese is a great, quick meal, asian stir fries, sushi, risotto, etc….

(Related: Perfect Health Diet: Weight Loss Version, Feb 1, 2011.)

[9] Kate did the wrong diet!: She ate the Dukan Diet before her wedding.

As it happens, I had a correspondent who got very sick on the Dukan Diet; it seems to have re-activated a dormant infection. I rather agree with this nutritionist:

[10] McDonald’s diet produces big baby: What strikes me about this Daily Mail story is that their measure of a baby’s health is its size:

When Suzanne Franklin fell pregnant, she was at a loss as to how she would eat for two.

The 23-year-old had suffered from extreme food allergies for years from eggs to dairy and fruit and vegetables.

Burger baby: Suzanne Franklin and baby son Harry with a Big Mac, which helped sustain both of them during Suzanne’s pregnancy

Doctors warned her that pregnancy would make the symptoms worse but that antihistamines could harm her baby.

But Ms Franklin knew she wasn’t allergic to McDonald’s burgers – so she ate a Big Mac burger everyday throughout her pregnancy.

Any worries about her unusual diet affecting her baby’s growth were unfounded – as she has given birth to her own 10 lb 2 oz whopper.

Miss Franklin said: ‘All those burgers definitely didn’t do him any harm. It was the only thing I could eat safely during my pregnancy, so I just lived on them….

Baby Harry is now three months old – and he has shown signs of inheriting Miss Franklin’s allergies too. He is already allergic to seven different types of milk.

Via John J. Ray.

[11] Has science degenerated?: Bruce Charlton, former editor of Medical Hypotheses, reflects on the negative consequences of the professionalization of science:

There is a dark side to science … in the sense that science is done for reasons of power rather than love.

There was a time when science really was done – mostly – for love; by people who loved knowledge, and were not intending to *use* it….

[O]riginally even medical science was done for love, by doctors and other clinicians, as an overflow from their practice: they wanted to understand, not to control.

As a by-product, in practice, the old medical scientists actually made more frequent, more useful, more powerful discoveries than we do nowadays …

[12] He doesn’t even need 30 bananas: This guy hasn’t stopped bicycling all day:

Via Zero Hedge.

[13] Money does buy happiness!: According to a new review in the Lancet by Bill Easterly.

[14] Another reason not to eat at the Road Kill Café:  The New York Times reports that Armadillos Can Transmit Leprosy to Humans, Federal Researchers Confirm:

Armadillos have never been among the cuddly creatures routinely included in petting zoos, but on Wednesday federal researchers offered a compelling reason to avoid contact with the armored animals altogether: They are a source of leprosy infections in humans.

Using genetic sequencing machines, researchers were able to confirm that about a third of the leprosy cases that arise each year in the United States almost certainly result from contact with infected armadillos. The cases are concentrated in Louisiana and Texas, where some people hunt, skin and eat armadillos.

[15] Ella Fitzgerald: Born on April 25, she deserves a listen:

[16] Celiacs do react to oats: This came up long ago in a comment thread. It turns out that some varieties of oats do trigger gluten autoantibodies.

[17] Shou-Ching’s photo-aphorism project: Shou-Ching likes photography and her latest art project is to combine her photograph with an apposite aphorism. Here’s one – click to enlarge:

[18] Weekly video: The Aurora by Terje Sorgjerd.

The Aurora from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

Leave a comment ?


  1. Ha! You’re too funny.

    The Dukan diet is so silly. Lose 5 pounds for your wedding, lose your libido for the your wedding night, sheesh.

    I like Shou-ching’s art. That tree looks like it tried the Dukan diet.

    And the videos and pics are sweet, of course.


  2. I think the storry about the whopper is so incredible. My father is an anesthesiologist, and he was just telling me the other day about a boy who was hospitalized for years because of all of the autoimmune disorders. He was underweight and mal nourished and lethargic, etc. Then, one day his friends came to visit and they were eating burgers and fries from mcdonalds. He had some, and then each day they all dined together on McDonalds burgers and fries. 10 days later he went home after being in the hospital for 2 years.

  3. Hah having seen way too much hospital food in my life I well believe it!

  4. Paul,

    I have begun taking NAC in the past few days because I read it helps with the bromide acne with Iodine. Definitely helps, I have been taking 1 Iosol drop all week and no new spots, skin actually looks very nice and hydrated. I also did salt loading for 2 days in a row and plan do again in another couple of days. In the last two days I have gotten a bit congested and today I feel quite weak and tired. Now, I am working on fixing my sleep pattern, so this could play a role as well, but I couldnt help and think of the dreaded “NAC flu” for chronic infections. How accurate is it as a diagnosis?


  5. Nice artwork! When I was on Jimmy’s Moore’s “Low Carb Conversations” podcast, we discussed Dukan Diet. I think it’s pretty dangerous.

    I’m gluten intolerant and I haven’t had oats since my diagnosis. Even though some companies have certified gluten-free oats, I’m too afraid to eat them. Glad you linked that article. The only grain I can safely eat once in a while is white rice.

  6. Hi Stabby – What a shame it would be if Kate started her marriage with a headache!

    Hi Nelson – Great story!

    Sometimes the best place to start is just start living like other people.

    Hi Emily – Hospitals know how to keep the insurance money coming!

    Hi Bill – That’s cool, I haven’t heard of NAC curing acne before.

    I think it’s hard to diagnose a chronic infection based on 2 days of a cold, especially when you’ve just done unusual things like salt loading. Adding NAC can reverse a glutathione deficiency which can increase immune function and start it fighting some minor sinus infection.

    If you do have a chronic infection, NAC will give you symptoms for a long time, so I’d just try to carry on without attempting too many things at once. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

    Hi Suzan, I think you’re right, rice is safe and oats not. Shou-Ching appreciates your appreciation!

    Best, Paul

  7. I’d never heard of the Dukan Diet, so I checked it out. I noticed that the diet was compared to Atkins, but if it’s only lean meat, bran and water, it looks more like that Kimkins fiasco — basically just a starvation diet.

  8. The Dukan diet is like a more restricted version of a body builder’s diet when getting lean for competition. Lean protein, oatmeal at breakfast, and a handful of broccoli at other meals, and virtually no fat.

  9. The Bruce Charlton quote was interesting. I had to read it a few times before I decided I totally disagreed with it 😉

    I’m wondering when this Golden Age of non-professional medical science and all its amazing advances took place. Was it before or after Semelweis and the (very) reluctant acceptance of germ theory?

    It certainly was easier to make “more powerful” advances at a time when the bodily humors hypothesis was dominant, but I don’t think it had much to do with medical professionalism.

    The more interesting question might be: how did all these amateur medical scientists get it so wrong for so long?

  10. Hi Sean,

    Elsewhere he’s written of a time when “the discovery of effective new treatments – obvious, in-your-face breakthroughs like antibiotics, steroids, hormone treatment – got slower, then stopped.” ( So I assume he would date it c. 1970.

    I also think there has been a period of reduced productivity in terms of medical treatment development, in which people have worked in a pharmaceutical model that is unsound.

    But I think medicine may be on the verge of huge breakthroughs, as molecular methods lead to deeper understandings of disease and effective antimicrobial therapies.

    However, there will be a lot of institutional barriers to break in order for this new era of discovery to flourish.

  11. Paul, quite interesting, I will definitely be reading more of that blog, thanks for the link.

    While I agree (as an ignorant outsider) that there are some real institutional problems currently, I think medicine more than other sciences had the advantage of developing so much in the last century or so by being further behind. It was able to pick a lot of (what seems in retrospect, at least) low-hanging fruit.

    There does seem to be a growing institutional inertia in all the sciences including physics where string theory seems to have become entrenched in academia (speaking as someone mostly ignorant of modern physics).

  12. Barbra, I couldn’t agree more with this statement as quoted above: The best part is no longer having to think so hard about what to eat.

    The PHD really makes things simple and it ties in with the way I felt when I stopped smoking. Nothing was easier. Stopping cold turkey relieved me of the anxiety of making sure I never ran out of butts. I had them stashed all over the place. When I stopped, all that was over.

    Of course, I gained 50 lbs, but that’s a story for another day.

    Paul, another brilliant assortment for a Saturday afternoon’s pleasurable perusing.

  13. Hi Paul:
    Any thoughts on Taubes’ diet? Doesn’t seem to include any starch at all or veggies for that matter.


  14. Hi steve,

    It does verge on zero-carb. I’ve pretty much said what I think of that in our zero-carb dangers series and other posts: it’s suboptimal and has dangers that may take years or decades to show up.

    Taubes has done a great service in promoting low-carb and refuting unjustified criticisms of saturated fat. But I’d consider him more “Paleo/low-carb 1.0” than “Paleo 2.0” in Kurt Harris’s term.

  15. how long can someone do a restrictive diet that enables fast fat loss without any health risks? restrictive diet like Dukan or just low calorie dieting?

  16. Hi Sue,

    You can do a mildly calorie-restricted diet as long as you have some excess fat to supply the missing calories; but it has to be well-nourishing.

    The problem with the Dukan Diet is not so much the calorie restriction as that it’s radically malnourishing. As the dietitian said in the video, it’s not a “diet for life.” Any diet which would cause starvation and disease if continued long enough is not a healthy diet.

    Since being well-nourished is part of healing, and obesity is really driven by ill health, malnourishing “diets” tend to aggravate the problem rather than cure it.

  17. I didn’t know very much about the Dukan Diet, and found Zoe’s site explaining what it’s all about:

    Hmmm, eating protein without fat is not tasty to me. I need the fat!

    Thank you, your Around the Web is always enjoyable to read.

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