Monday, July 20, 2009

IQ over education?

This is a nice controversial piece. Bruce Charlton argues that IQ and psychometric tests could be used to a much greater degree in the education system. This would cut out a lot of inefficiencies and shorten the amount of time we spent studying.

He argues that IQ is 80% hereditary, and that personality is 50%. So the basic make up of a person's intellect and inclinations is essentially a given from birth. A lot of what the education system does is determine which students are the most conscientious, and then give them a piece of paper so that employers know who to employ. This could be done much more efficiently by simply measuring IQ and doing psychometric tests in order to work out who would be the best fit for an employer. (Apparently the US Army already does this internally.)

Further, he argues that the way in which we think is essentially hard-wired - if someone isn't good at maths, then in the long-term, they are never going to learn to be much good at it. Much better, he says, to work out what people are good at, and then teach them that sort of stuff. He proposes that everyone learn a basic common curriculum, including literacy and numeracy. When they reach 16, they are sent into the world with their IQ and personality having being measured. These would be used to determine what career they should take. Further education would be completely content-focussed, rather than teaching how to think.

Definitely worth a read! Fat chance of it every happening, though.

Good Calories, Bad Calories

"Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes is held up to be something of a bible by those on the low-carb diet bandwagon. From what I've read about it, it:
  • attempts to destroy the conventional wisdom that low-fat diets are good for you
  • explains how not all calories are created equally, due to the different ways carbs, fats and protein get metabolised
  • explains how carbohydrates cause havoc with insulin and blood sugar, and how this leads to appetite problems
  • explains how carbs cause heart disease
How solid is the science? The book seems to be painstakingly detailed - unusually so for a mainstream diet book. And it has certainly gotten a mixed response, with many lay-folk latching on to it with enthusiasm, and those in the research community pooh-poohing it. I won't link to all the various critiques and discussions that are out there, but a good starting point is here. It seems to at least mark a turning point in our understanding of nutrition.

Taubes' position is that obesity is caused by consumption of carbs, whereas the conventional view is that is is an energy balance problem. From what I've read, it sounds like no diet has been shown to be particularly effective in the long term, and that any diet can provide short-term weight loss.

But I'm not particularly interested in weight loss. It is the other health effects of carbohydrates that interest me more. There appears to be less argument over the way carbs cause heart disease - but perhaps I wasn't looking hard enough. Carbs are also a cause of inflammation, which some hold to be a source of many diseases. But this seems to be more hypothetical.

I'm going to have a crack at this low-carb malarky and see how my body responds. The only experiment that counts is the self-experiment!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Here is a handy little page that gives some simple pointers on what sort of blood sugar levels to aim for. In short, your fasting level should be below 5.5 mmol/L, one hour after eating 7.8 mmol/L, and two hours after eating 6.6 mmol/L.

And here is a great post looking at how ancient cultures used to eat grains and legumes. They soaked, sprouted and fermented them, in order to remove the natural toxins and anti-nutrients such as phytins, lectins and tannins.

Here is a terrifying account of an extreme case of ME/CFS. Extraordinarily, he found a doctor who understood what was going on and saved him.

Dr Art Ayers talks
about a link between Celiac Disease and Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. This is interesting to me because my mum has Hashimoto's, and has had issues with wheat in the past.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


I ordered a bunch of supplements from the US. As far as I can determine, the industry is more regulated here in Australia than in the US, so the trade off is lower prices, but less assurances that I'm getting what I expect.

Basically I am trying to ensure a good dietary basis for my health, as well as target some particular CFS-related areas.

As I've mentioned previously, magnesium is a common deficiency in CFS sufferers, and indeed, more generally. I'm aiming for up to 750mg/day. An initial analysis of my diet indicates that I get about 400mg/day from my diet, so I'll take 300mg/day via supplement.

I've got a magnesium chelate, which has calcium in it as well. 83 days worth, at $0.15/day.

Vitamin D
I've touched on Vitamin D before as well. It turns out that at 88nmol/L my Vitamin D levels are just fine. But since I've already got the supplements, I will take 2000IU per day until the end of winter or so. 150 days worth, at $0.08/day.

It's very important to get your intake of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats in balance (I intend to write a post on this in the near future). I'll take 3600mg/day of Omega-3 EPA & DHA from fish oil, which gets me about a 1:4 ratio with my dietary Omega-6. 40 days worth, at $0.85/day.

Yay for gut flora! This is probably worth a post too - they've done some amazing experiments with gut flora. I've got a probiotic with 35 billion units of 15 different strains. Maybe when I'm done with those, I will try more specific strains that have been implicated in the recent H2S CFS discovery. 60 days worth, at $0.71/day.

I bought this on a bit of a whim. I came across a post that got me thinking, and realised that I have virtually no source of iodine in my diet. And at $4 for a little bottle, it's not a big expense! 240 days worth, at $0.02/day.

All up, it's costing me $1.80/day. Not cheap, but worth experimenting with for a few months. Combined with a shift to a paleo diet, and the Gupta Programme, perhaps I will see some improvements.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I found an article which summarises the work of an early researcher into paleolithic diets. It gives a short but sweet overview and is certainly worth a read.

And here is an awesome extensive rant against the food pyramid and carbohydrates.

I had a feeling soy was bad. This site gives a good rundown of the concerns. Not too many scientific references, though.

Hmmm, those last two are not the most reliable sources in the world. Read with scepticism!

Celiac Disease more common now than 50 years ago?

Celiac Disease seems to be increasingly prevalent, and it is now relatively easy to find cafes and restaurants to cater for a gluten-free diet. So is the rise in Celiac Disease due to increased awareness of the condition, or has is actually become more common?

The Mayo Clinic in the US has done a study with frozen blood samples from Air Force recruits in the 1950s. They discovered that Celiac Disease is about 4 times more common now than it was then. In addition, they found that those with undiagnosed Celiac Disease were four times more likely to die than those without. You can read the abstract of the study here.

A big caveat on this: they didn't compare the 1950s Air Force samples with contemporary Air Force samples. They compared them with the general public (although matched for age and sex). I would imagine that Air Force recruits would be in better health than the general populace, and so would be less likely to have Celiac Disease. Sigh, why is it so hard for studies to be done properly?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Vitamin D

It appears that Vitamin D is a surprisingly important vitamin. I'd always thought you just needed a little bit of sun exposure and you'd get enough. But maybe not. Deficiency seems to be surprisingly common. Evolutionarily it makes a certain amount of sense, as we evolved being outside all day wearing not very much. Now we huddle in offices and, particularly in winter, barely get any direct sunlight.

I first came across this idea thanks to a post by Dennis Mangan. Not long after, someone with CFS emailed OzME (an Australian ME/CFS email list) reporting that their doctor had tested their Vitamin D levels and that they were low. They recommended everybody get theirs checked, in case they were deficient, because it is involved in all sorts of body processes, especially immunity. Seems like the sort of thing that you don't want holding your immune system back, when it's got a hard job to do.

A good resource about all of this is the Vitamin D Council. They have some good articles on checking for deficiency, and how Vitamin D could be used to treat swine flu. There is lots more stuff on how Vitamin D is involved in depression, cancer and autism. Dennis Mangan has a bunch of interesting posts on the issue which give a good overview.

And here is an interesting article on how much money could be saved if everyone in Northern Europe got enough Vitamin D (quick answer: about 18% of total health expenditure!).

I saw my doctor the other day and she was quite happy to test my Vitamin D levels. She said she's doing more and more of it, and that a surprising number of young females are deficient. She said it should be up around 80ng/mL, but didn't suggest as big doses as the Vitamin D Council.

So in a few days I'll know if that is a factor in my CFS puzzle!

What I haven't worked out is if animals synthesise Vitamin D from sunlight, and if so, how do they manage it when they are covered in fur?