Ruminating vs. Problem-Solving

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

We may be training the next generation to be unhappy anti-Stoics, Lukanioff and Haidt argue, because the modern fashion for spotting microaggressions and demanding trigger warnings amounts to negative cognitive behavioral training.

Negative repetitive thinking is linked to depression, anxiety, substance abuse and eating disorders:

Rumination has been found to predict both the onset of depression as well as the continuation of it in a number of studies. In the lab, participants’ symptoms worsen when they are asked or taught to ruminate, according to Ed Watkins, a professor of experimental and applied clinical psychology at the University of Exeter, who has conducted some of the studies.

[...]

In addition, researchers have found that the more one dwells on problems in an unhelpful way, the more one gets locked into the pattern, until even small triggers can spark a cycle automatically.

[...]

Dr. Watkins and his team at the University of Exeter have found that there are helpful ways to dwell on difficulties, such as to think concretely about a situation and focus on sensory details, how it happened and how to do it differently next time. In contrast, people who engage in unhelpful, depressive or stressful rumination tend to focus on the issue more negatively, globally and abstractly. They often focus on “why” questions such as “Why does this always happen? Why do I always do this?”

In one study, Dr. Watkins trained ruminators and depressed people to think more concretely by giving them daily mental exercises that focused on solving the problem. After one week, they saw significant decreases in self-reported rumination and depression relative to the placebo control group. Later they found similar effects on patients with major depression.

[...]

Beyond cognitive retraining, two other techniques can be helpful, experts say — mindfulness, in which people learn to observe but not judge or evaluate themselves, and cognitive behavioral therapy. In the latter, people are taught to evaluate how likely it is that their worry will actually happen, and to reinterpret situations in a more positive way. They learn to problem-solve rather than ruminate, according to Nilly Mor, a professor in the school of education at Hebrew University who studies rumination.

Corn Wars

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

The Chinese are stealing American corn IP, which brings up the topic of modern hybrid seeds:

Until recently, farmers were their own seed providers. Lee told me his grandfather, a farmer in Iowa a century ago, would select ears from each harvest to provide the seed for planting the next year. He recorded the quality of his yield, slowly identifying a set of seed characteristics that seemed to produce the best crop. In those days, it was not unusual for family and friends to share seed stock. “Maybe a neighbor would say, ‘Hey, I really did good with this seed that I got from a cousin in eastern Iowa. You should try a little of this,’” Lee said. “But they were all open-pollinated populations, so those seeds were not genetically identical. In fact, probably every seed was genetically distinct.”

So much genetic variability meant that farmers like Lee’s grandfather would cross two varieties and get large, robust ears one year, only to find that the same two varieties produced scraggly cobs with missing kernels and dead tips the next. “So if you take a look at the historic yields of corn in Iowa and Nebraska during the teens, the twenties, the thirties — it’s flat,” he said.

That all changed with the arrival of Henry A. Wallace, the founder of Pioneer Hi-Bred Seeds, who Lee described as “the Bill Gates of the seed industry.” Wallace, the son of the longtime president of the Cornbelt Meat Producers, first encountered the problem of genetic variation while studying corn breeding at Iowa State Agricultural College. Rediscovering Gregor Mendel’s groundbreaking research on pea pods, Wallace had the key insight that the only solution to producing hearty corn hybrids was to first create genetically pure inbred varieties that could be used as “parents” year after year. Wallace initially worried that such an approach “was probably impractical because of the difficulty of doing the hand-pollinating work,” but he was won over by a paper published in 1918 by Donald Jones, a chemist at the Connecticut Agricultural Station’s experimental farm. Jones had successfully inbred two separate varieties of corn and then crossed them to produce a durable, high-performing hybrid. Wallace recognized that this was the key to creating seed corn with consistently higher yields, but the old problem remained: Producing these hybrids would be far too complex for the average farmer to undertake alone.

Wallace began to envision an organized way of breeding and distributing high-performing corn seed to farmers across the Midwest. A man of unusual commitment to the common good, he wrote a friend that he did not consider himself a corn breeder but rather “a searcher for methods of bringing the ‘inner light’ to outward manifestation.” So Wallace at first conceived of a nonprofit organization, potentially run with government cooperation and even public funding. In 1921, his father, Henry C. Wallace, was appointed secretary of agriculture and might have helped spearhead such an effort. But after his father died unexpectedly at age 58 and Calvin Coolidge settled into the laissez-faire years of his presidency, Wallace saw little chance of an ambitious national program gaining traction. He decided instead, in May 1926, to start the Hi-Bred Corn Company — the world’s first hybrid seed producer.

To interest farmers, Roswell Garst, Wallace’s lead salesman, who later became a major seed producer in his own right, went from one farm to the next, across 16 counties in western Iowa, giving away enough eight-pound sample bags of Hi-Bred seeds for farmers to plant half their fields. Whatever additional yield the hybrid corn produced, Pioneer would split fifty-fifty with the farmer. After several years, farmers realized that they would see greater profits by simply buying the bags of seeds, instead of sharing the surplus yield with the company.

Those shared harvests produced something even more valuable than profit for the young company: information about how the seeds performed under different growing conditions. Wallace directed a sizable chunk of his revenue back into research, hiring a team of new corn breeders to devise still more hybrids. In the early 1930s, Perry Collins, one of Wallace’s researchers, developed Hybrid 307 — the first corn specifically developed and marketed for drought-resistance, hitting seed dealerships just as the country spiraled into the Dust Bowl. And when Wallace was, like his father, appointed secretary of agriculture, by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, he finally had the resources to nationally evangelize for hybrid seed, which he believed had the potential to rescue the nation from the Great Depression.

The transformation that followed was staggering. When Wallace joined Roosevelt’s cabinet, less than 1 percent of America’s corn came from hybrid seeds. A decade later, more than three-quarters of all corn was grown from hybrids — nearly doubling the national per-acre yield over the next 20 years. To keep this record output from depressing corn prices, Wallace created the “ever-normal granary,” under which the federal government would establish a federal grain reserve. In years of high production, the Department of Agriculture would buy corn and store it to keep prices up. In years of crop loss, the government would release the reserve to keep prices down. Wallace’s plan was hugely popular, stabilizing American food prices — and winning him a spot as FDR’s running mate in 1940.

But Wallace’s remarkable Hi-Bred Corn had one significant drawback: It consumed far more nitrogen compounds from the soil than ordinary corn — more, in fact, than almost any other crop. During the war years, the government solved the problem by simply putting more acres into production, but after World War II, the Department of Agriculture found a different solution. Giant chemical manufacturers, like DuPont and Monsanto, had secured wartime defense contracts to produce ammonia nitrate and anhydrous ammonia to make bombs and other munitions. They had developed an herbicide known as 2,4-D as a potential destroyer of German crops and manufactured the insecticide DDT to prevent the spread of typhus-carrying lice among GIs. As soon as the war was over, DuPont turned to marketing those same chemicals for lawn and garden use as fertilizer, weed killer, and DuPont 5% DDT Insect Spray. Company advertisements from the period touted their products as “Better Things for Better Living … Through Chemistry.” But gardens were just the tip of the iceberg. DuPont, along with other giant chemical manufacturers like Dow and Monsanto, teamed up with the grain cartels, including Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, to lobby for congressional support for producing these compounds as large-scale agri-chemicals.

Modafinil is Safe and Effective

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

The Guardian sings the praises of modafinil (Provigil):

A new review of 24 of the most recent modafinil studies suggests that the drug has many positive effects in healthy people, including enhancing attention, improving learning and memory and increasing something called “fluid intelligence” — essentially our capacity to solve problems and think creatively. One study also showed that modafinil made tasks seem more pleasurable. The longer and more complex the task tested, the more consistently modafinil conferred cognitive benefits, the authors of the review said.

The review points out that negative effects — including one study that showed that people already classed as creative saw a small drop in creativity — were reported in a small number of tasks, but never consistently. It added that the drug exerts minimal effects on mood, and only causes minor side effects such as nausea, headaches and anxiety, although these were also reported by people who took a placebo drug.

Other proposed smart drugs, such as Ritalin, prescribed for ADHD, have many negative side effects, said Anna-Katharine Brem, co-author of the review, published today in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology. “Modafinil seems to be the first ‘smart drug’ that is reasonably safe for healthy people.”

I’m pretty sure caffeine has it beat by a few centuries.

JayMan on Unz.com

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

JayMan now has his own column on Unz.com:

The basic fact of the matter is that you’re being lied to – every day. Mainstream discourse, including the media (and a good part of the scientific establishment itself) spreads false information. Whether it be on IQ, race, heredity, parenting, diet, health, lifestyle, or homosexuality, complete rubbish rules the day. I intend to make a meager effect to remedy that in this column.

Girls Are Born With Weaker Backbones Than Boys

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Girls are born with weaker backbones than boys:

Researchers, writing in the August issue of The Journal of Pediatrics, did magnetic imaging studies that measured fat, muscle and bone in 70 healthy full-term newborns, 35 of them girls. Boys had slightly less fat and slightly more muscle than girls, but the difference was not statistically significant. Nor were there any significant differences between the sexes in weight, body length, head circumference, waist circumference or spinal length.

But the girls’ vertebrae were, on average, 10.6 percent smaller than the boys’, a difference independent of gestational age, birth weight and body length. There was no difference between sexes in the size of other bones.

As adults, women are up to four times as likely to suffer vertebral fractures as men, and the weakness depends more on the size of the vertebrae than on the density of the bone.

The senior author, Dr. Vicente Gilsanz, a radiologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said that a girl’s slender and bendable spine may be a mixed blessing. It provides flexibility to allow upright walking during pregnancy, when the weight of a fetus stretches and bends the spine. But it also increases the risk for vertebral fractures later in life.

10-20-30 Training

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

Interval training has its strengths and weaknesses:

Many studies have shown that even a few minutes of these intervals can substantially improve health and cardiovascular fitness.

But high-intensity interval workouts have a drawback that is seldom acknowledged. Many people don’t like them and soon abandon the program.

Jens Bangsbo, a professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and his team came up with a candidate routine and named it 10-20-30 training:

Run, ride or perhaps row on a rowing machine gently for 30 seconds, accelerate to a moderate pace for 20 seconds, then sprint as hard as you can for 10 seconds. (It should be called 30-20-10 training, obviously, but that is not as catchy.)

It worked:

After eight weeks, almost all of the runners in the 10-20-30 group were still following the program. And when they repeated their 5K runs, they had shaved an average of 38 seconds from their times. Most also had lower blood pressure and other markers of improved health.

There were no changes among the runners in the control group.

(Hat tip to Mangan.)

Future criminals can be spotted at nursery school

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

Children’s prosocial skills predict key adult outcomes, a new American Journal of Public Health study finds:

For the study, teachers rated 700 children on eight criteria, using a five-point scale assessing how each interacted socially with others.

[...]

For every one-point decrease in the child’s score, he or she had a 67 percent higher chance of having been arrested and an 82 percent higher chance of being in or on a waiting list for public housing at age 25.

Cascadia

Monday, August 10th, 2015

When the next full-margin rupture happens, the Pacific Northwest will suffer the worst natural disaster in the history of North America:

Roughly three thousand people died in San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake. Almost two thousand died in Hurricane Katrina. Almost three hundred died in Hurricane Sandy. FEMA projects that nearly thirteen thousand people will die in the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami. Another twenty-seven thousand will be injured, and the agency expects that it will need to provide shelter for a million displaced people, and food and water for another two and a half million.

[...]

Thirty years ago, no one knew that the Cascadia subduction zone had ever produced a major earthquake. Forty-five years ago, no one even knew it existed.

[...]

The Pacific Northwest sits squarely within the Ring of Fire. Off its coast, an oceanic plate is slipping beneath a continental one. Inland, the Cascade volcanoes mark the line where, far below, the Juan de Fuca plate is heating up and melting everything above it. In other words, the Cascadia subduction zone has, as Goldfinger put it, “all the right anatomical parts.” Yet not once in recorded history has it caused a major earthquake — or, for that matter, any quake to speak of. By contrast, other subduction zones produce major earthquakes occasionally and minor ones all the time: magnitude 5.0, magnitude 4.0, magnitude why are the neighbors moving their sofa at midnight. You can scarcely spend a week in Japan without feeling this sort of earthquake. You can spend a lifetime in many parts of the Northwest — several, in fact, if you had them to spend — and not feel so much as a quiver. The question facing geologists in the nineteen-seventies was whether the Cascadia subduction zone had ever broken its eerie silence.

In the late nineteen-eighties, Brian Atwater, a geologist with the United States Geological Survey, and a graduate student named David Yamaguchi found the answer, and another major clue in the Cascadia puzzle. Their discovery is best illustrated in a place called the ghost forest, a grove of western red cedars on the banks of the Copalis River, near the Washington coast. When I paddled out to it last summer, with Atwater and Yamaguchi, it was easy to see how it got its name. The cedars are spread out across a low salt marsh on a wide northern bend in the river, long dead but still standing. Leafless, branchless, barkless, they are reduced to their trunks and worn to a smooth silver-gray, as if they had always carried their own tombstones inside them.

What killed the trees in the ghost forest was saltwater. It had long been assumed that they died slowly, as the sea level around them gradually rose and submerged their roots. But, by 1987, Atwater, who had found in soil layers evidence of sudden land subsidence along the Washington coast, suspected that that was backward — that the trees had died quickly when the ground beneath them plummeted. To find out, he teamed up with Yamaguchi, a specialist in dendrochronology, the study of growth-ring patterns in trees. Yamaguchi took samples of the cedars and found that they had died simultaneously: in tree after tree, the final rings dated to the summer of 1699. Since trees do not grow in the winter, he and Atwater concluded that sometime between August of 1699 and May of 1700 an earthquake had caused the land to drop and killed the cedars. That time frame predated by more than a hundred years the written history of the Pacific Northwest — and so, by rights, the detective story should have ended there.

But it did not. If you travel five thousand miles due west from the ghost forest, you reach the northeast coast of Japan. As the events of 2011 made clear, that coast is vulnerable to tsunamis, and the Japanese have kept track of them since at least 599 A.D. In that fourteen-hundred-year history, one incident has long stood out for its strangeness. On the eighth day of the twelfth month of the twelfth year of the Genroku era, a six-hundred-mile-long wave struck the coast, levelling homes, breaching a castle moat, and causing an accident at sea. The Japanese understood that tsunamis were the result of earthquakes, yet no one felt the ground shake before the Genroku event. The wave had no discernible origin. When scientists began studying it, they called it an orphan tsunami.

Finally, in a 1996 article in Nature, a seismologist named Kenji Satake and three colleagues, drawing on the work of Atwater and Yamaguchi, matched that orphan to its parent — and thereby filled in the blanks in the Cascadia story with uncanny specificity. At approximately nine o’ clock at night on January 26, 1700, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck the Pacific Northwest, causing sudden land subsidence, drowning coastal forests, and, out in the ocean, lifting up a wave half the length of a continent. It took roughly fifteen minutes for the Eastern half of that wave to strike the Northwest coast. It took ten hours for the other half to cross the ocean. It reached Japan on January 27, 1700: by the local calendar, the eighth day of the twelfth month of the twelfth year of Genroku.

Once scientists had reconstructed the 1700 earthquake, certain previously overlooked accounts also came to seem like clues. In 1964, Chief Louis Nookmis, of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, in British Columbia, told a story, passed down through seven generations, about the eradication of Vancouver Island’s Pachena Bay people. “I think it was at nighttime that the land shook,” Nookmis recalled. According to another tribal history, “They sank at once, were all drowned; not one survived.” A hundred years earlier, Billy Balch, a leader of the Makah tribe, recounted a similar story. Before his own time, he said, all the water had receded from Washington State’s Neah Bay, then suddenly poured back in, inundating the entire region. Those who survived later found canoes hanging from the trees. In a 2005 study, Ruth Ludwin, then a seismologist at the University of Washington, together with nine colleagues, collected and analyzed Native American reports of earthquakes and saltwater floods. Some of those reports contained enough information to estimate a date range for the events they described. On average, the midpoint of that range was 1701.

Prescriptive Poverty

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

John Derbyshire has a suggestion to sociologists writing books for the general-interest public:

Drop the last chapter. You know, the chapter where, after 200 pages of describing some social problem or other, you offer solutions to the problem.

That thought occurred to him after finishing Robert Putnam’s Our Kids.

He offers some advice to readers, too:

There is now a good nucleus of human-science bloggers providing day-to-day commentary on the human sciences. Some of them, like Bruce Charlton and Greg Cochran, are accredited academics; others, like JayMan and HBD Chick, are thoughtful nonspecialists.

[...]

If the study of human nature interests you, spend a couple of hours reading JayMan’s recent rumination on empathy and universalism, or James Thompson’s on African intelligence. Chase down the links and watch the comment-thread jousting.

Genes influence academic ability across all subjects

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

A recent study finds that genes influence academic ability across all subjects — and The Guardian is willing to report this:

The researchers analysed genetic data and GCSE scores from 12,500 twins, about half of whom were identical.

Results in all subjects, including maths, science, art and humanities, were highly heritable, with genes explaining a bigger proportion of the differences between children (54-65%) than environmental factors, such as school and family combined (14-21%), which were shared by the twins.

[...]

When the scientists factored in IQ scores, they found that intelligence appeared to account for slightly less than half of the genetic component, suggesting that other heritable traits — curiosity, determination and memory, perhaps — play a significant role.

[...]

Plomin said that while talking about genetics and education was no longer the taboo that it was twenty years ago, education professionals were slow to adapt teaching methods in the face of new scientific findings. “It’s a problem with evidence,” he said. “Thirty years ago medicine wasn’t particularly evidence-based. I think education is fundamentally not based on evidence. What programme has been rolled out that has been based on evidence? We ought to hold educationalists to the same standards of evidence as medicine.”

You May Be Getting More Sleep Than You Think

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Many people are terrible judges of how much shut-eye they get, which reveals a striking fact about insomnia:

You can have insomnia and still get an adequate number of hours of sleep. New research is showing that insomnia is less about the amount you sleep and more about what your brain does during sleep.

About 30% of American adults have symptoms of insomnia each year, according to scientific studies. And about 10% of the population has chronic insomnia, which is generally defined as having difficulty sleeping at least three times a week for three months or more.

[...]

About half of those with insomnia sleep a normal amount, or at least six hours a night. In one study, about 42% of people with insomnia who slept a normal amount underestimated how much they slept on a particular night by more than an hour. Only about 18% of normal sleepers underestimated by that much. The study, published in 2011 in Psychosomatic Medicine, followed 142 people with insomnia and 724 controls.

By contrast, people who don’t sleep much overestimate how much they sleep.

[...]

While everyone wakes up during the night, “if you’re a good sleeper, it means you don’t remember wakefulness.”

[...]

Some studies suggest that worry is linked to a misperception of sleep.

Also, some research has revealed that people with insomnia have more high-frequency brain waves—ones that are usually associated with wakefulness—while they are sleeping.

“People seem like they are not wholly unconscious,” says Michael Perlis, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “There is more sensory processing, more information processing, more short- and long-term memory than you should have in an unconscious state.

Indeed, there’s new evidence that the brains of people with insomnia act differently during sleep than those of normal sleepers. Daniel J. Buysse, a professor of psychiatry and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has been using PET scans, which measure metabolic activity in the brain, to scan the brains of people with insomnia and normal sleepers.

He and colleagues have found that in people with insomnia, parts of the brain known as the default mode network are more active during sleep, compared with normal sleepers. The default mode network is most engaged when peoples’ minds wander and when they’re being self-reflective.

“Insomnia is not the problem of too little sleep. It is the problem of too much brain activation,” Dr. Buysse says. “When patients tell us, ‘My mind is wandering, I’m thinking all night, I’m aware of everything that’s going on,’ it is entirely possible that their experience of sleep is exactly how they describe it.”

Noisome Odors

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Smells can bring back memories, including traumatic memories — so the military may want to inoculate the troops:

“Our goal was to test whether you could pre-expose or inoculate people with these odors, and subsequently prevent the negative memory from taking,” she recounted. “That’s exactly what we showed. You could take an odor that was initially unfamiliar, expose an individual to it in a neutral context, and then when you paired that same odor with a negative experience, it no longer had a strong associative power.”

Prior to Dalton’s findings, the military trained soldiers in mock villages that were accurate recreations of what soldiers might encounter in Afghanistan or Iraq, but only to a point: these mockups failed to mimic the olfactory environment of the Middle East. “They covered everything with visual cues, and sometimes there was smoke,” said Dalton. “But bodies rotting in the sun for days at a time? Food-smells of a very foreign culture? Those were the things that were likely to be present at the time soldiers were experiencing these extreme stressors, and those were the things that were becoming tightly bound to the negative emotional state and persisting well beyond the original experience.”

Adding the mixed stenches of sewage, burning garbage, and local spices might not seem like the most crucial component of building a mock Iraqi village, but the science behind pre-exposure prevention of PTSD was strong. The military and VA took the hint. “I know they are [now] actually doing training with realistic olfactory environments,” Dalton said.

Familiarizing the armed forces with the smells of war not only helps mitigate soldiers’ future memories of traumatic events, it also prepares newly deployed soldiers for the smells of a novel environment that might otherwise distract them from their duties. In 2006, the Army and the Marines began training some of their troops with virtual-reality devices that included high-tech collars designed to emit noisome odors like melting plastic, or rotting flesh, prior to deployment.

Don’t be a victim of muscle loss

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

The average muscle loss in men between the ages of 50 and 70 is 30 percent, Mangan notes, and from ages 70 to 80, another 20 to 30% of muscle is lost:

Add those figures and you’ve got the basis for the fact that most 80-year-old men will have lost 50% of their muscle mass.

It doesn’t have to be that way, if you keep active:

Muscle-Loss Cross-Sections

Blowing up a Balloon

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

Nutrition gets little attention or respect in medicine, but Dr. Malcolm Kendrick became side tracked by the very powerful and consistent association between heart disease and diabetes:

In short, if you added together what was clear about diabetes and insulin resistance, you got a model of type II diabetes which looked pretty much like this:

  • You eat too much food.
  • You put on weight.
  • As you put on weight you become more and more insulin resistant.
  • At first you will develop insulin resistance syndrome.
  • If you keep putting on weight you will become so insulin resistant that you will develop frank type II diabetes.

I call this the ‘blowing up a balloon’ theory of diabetes. As a balloon expands you have to blow harder and harder to overcome the resistance. As you get fatter and fatter you need more and more insulin to force fats into fat cells. As with many things in medicine this is a nice simple story. It is also very easy to understand, and it is tantalisingly close to being correct.

[...]

Beginning with the most obese group people on the planet earth, namely Sumo wrestlers. I wanted to know how many of them have diabetes, and it did not take long to discover that, whilst in training, none of them have diabetes.

I then searched for the opposite end of the spectrum. Were there people with no adipose tissue, and how many of them had diabetes? Surprisingly, there is one such group, the least obese people on earth. They are those with Beradinelli-Siep lipodystrophy. This is a genetic abnormality which means that these poor unfortunates have almost no fat cells. How many of them have type II diabetes? Well, all of them actually.

I then looked for the population with the highest rate of diabetes in the world. This happens to be the Pima Indians of North Mexico/Southern US. I have seen figures reporting that over 80% of adult males Pima Indians have type II diabetes. It may even be more. And yes, they are very obese.

However, there are two other very interesting facts about the Pima Indians. First, they have a very low rate of heart disease. Or they did last time I looked. Perhaps most importantly, in their youth, when they are not obese, they produce far more insulin in response to food than ‘normal’ populations. Or, to put this another way, they are hyper-insulinaemic before they are obese, and long before they become diabetic. So their excess insulin production is not a result of becoming fatter. The causal chain is the other way around.

I have found that if you speak to most doctors about these facts, a look of complete incomprehension passes over their faces. ‘That cannot be right.’ Of course if you believe in the ‘blowing up a balloon’ model of diabetes, then the Pima Indians, Sumo Wrestlers and those with Beradinalli-Siep lipodystrophy do not make any sense. However, in science, when observations do not fit your hypothesis, it is the hypothesis that needs to change, not the facts.

Just to summarize these ‘paradoxical’ facts:

  • You do not need any fat cells to develop diabetes/if you have no fat cells there is a 100% probability that you will be diabetic.
  • You can be very , very, obese and not have diabetes.
  • You can have increased insulin production long before you become obese (and/or insulin resistant). You become obese later.

[...]

However, luckily, there is another model that fits all the facts. One that I prepared earlier:

  • You produce too much insulin.
  • This forces your body to store fat.
  • You become obese.
  • At a certain point insulin resistance develops to block further weight gain.
  • This resistance becomes more and more severe until…
  • You become diabetic.

This model explains the Pima Indians. Can Sumo wrestlers be fitted into this model? Yes, with a couple of addendums. Sumo Wrestlers eat to become fat, because added mass provides a competitive advantage if you are trying to shove someone else out of a small ring, before they do it to you.

To achieve super-obesity, they wake up, train for two hours, then eat as much as they can of a high carbohydrate, low fat, broth. They then lie about for a few hours allowing the high insulin levels created by the high carbohydrate diet to convert excess sugars to fat, storing this in adipose tissue. Later on they train very hard again, then eat, then sleep. Rpt.

The reason why they do not become diabetic is on this regime is simply because they exercise very, very, hard. They burn up all the sugar/glycogen stores in the liver and muscle whilst exercising, which means that when they eat, the sugar(s) can – at least at first – be easily stored in muscle and liver (so there is no insulin resistance to overcome). However, once these guys stop training, things do not look so good. Diabetes lurks..

Those with Beradinelli-Siep lipodystrophy have the reverse problem to Sumo Wrestlers. Because they have no fat cells there is nowhere to store excess energy to go. If they eat carbohydrate/sugar, the first 1,500 calories can be stored as glycogen – after that there is nowhere left. If the liver converts sugar to fat, there is nowhere for that to go either. So, you get ‘back-pressure’ through the system. It doesn’t matter how high the insulin level gets, if you have nowhere to store energy you have nowhere to store energy. End of.

Whilst those with lipodystrophy cannot tell us much about diabetes and obesity in ‘normal’ people. This condition does make it very clear that diabetes – insulin resistance, high insulin and high sugar levels – is primarily an issue with energy storage and how the body goes about this storage, and the role that insulin plays. If there is somewhere for excess energy to go easily, insulin levels will not go up, and nor will blood sugar levels.

But what of ‘normal’ people. Can normal people be fitted into the updated model of type II diabetes? Well, of course, they can. But you need another step in the new model, the first step. Which means we have a new causal chain, and it looks something like this ‘You eat too much carbohydrate.’ Adding in this step gives us the new model:

  • You eat too much carbohydrate/sugar.
  • You produce too much insulin.
  • This forces your body to store fat.
  • You become obese.
  • At a certain point insulin resistance develops to block further weight gain.
  • This resistance becomes more and more severe until…
  • You become diabetic.

(Hat tip to Mangan.)

Is The Fish Kick the Fastest Swim Stroke Yet?

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

The fish kick may be the fastest swimming stroke yet:

Until recently, competitive swimming has focused almost entirely on what happens at the surface of the water. In early 19th-century England—which many consider to be the birthplace of the modern sport—swimmers raced using the breaststroke. A few decades later, Europeans learned a faster stroke when two Native Americans visiting London demonstrated a way of swimming they had learned growing up: the front crawl. One observer wrote, “they lash the water violently with their arms, like the sails of a windmill, and beat downwards with their feet, blowing with force, and forming grotesque antics.” The Brits eventually got over their shock. The backstroke came next, followed in the early 20th century by the butterfly stroke, which overcame the drag of the underwater recovery required by the breaststroke. The butterfly became the second fastest stroke after the front crawl.

All swimming at the surface shares the same speed restriction. “You’re always limited by your hull speed,” says Ryan Atkison, a sport biomechanist at the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario. It’s a nautical principle that also applies to swimmers. The theory goes that a swimmer on the surface cannot go faster than the bow wave that he or she creates. The bow wave increases with swim speed until, in theory, it stretches along the whole length of the swimmer’s body. Atkison says that the maximum speed is one body-length per second, which is about 1.9 to 2.6 meters per second for a swimmer about 2 meters (6 feet, 5 inches) tall.

“You can’t go any faster than that unless you climb up over top of that wave,” says Atkison. “Some animals can, like dolphins can porpoise and jump over top of that bow wave, but humans can’t physically climb out of that trough,” he says. “The only real way to get faster is to be better under water, where we don’t really have those upper limits on speed.”

Coaches began to take advantage of this fact in the 1980s, when Harvard University coach Joe Bernal realized that some of his swimmers were faster if they stayed underwater and dolphin kicked. This is essentially identical to the fish kick, except that the swimmer is flat on his stomach, rather than turned on his side. Some especially strong underwater swimmers stayed submerged almost the entire length of the pool, since there was no rule against it. That all changed in 1998, when FINA, the world governing body of competitive swimming, ruled that swimmers performing the backstroke had to surface after 15 meters.

Hyman came of age as a world-class swimmer during the underwater revolution. “I was 13 when I started staying under water longer than is typical,” she says, explaining she could go 30 meters without breathing. “I found I could be faster under water than at the surface.” Most swimmers were using the dolphin kick to propel themselves underwater, but Hyman’s coach, Bob Gillet, wanted to experiment. In 1995 he came across a study in Scientific American about how tuna were able to swim at almost 50 mph, where dolphins top out around 25 mph. The study found that the flick of a fish tail generated more efficient thrust than that of a marine mammal tail. Gillet wondered whether the dolphin kick might be more powerful on its side, so the undulations were horizontal, like those of a fish.

One cool December day in Phoenix in 1995, Gillet put it to the test. Hyman showed up for practice at Gillet’s outdoor pool, and he asked her to try it. “In the most respectful way, I called him a mad scientist,” she says. Her first attempts were awkward, and she ended up three lanes over from where she started. But she got better, and soon she was cutting through the water like an eel. She was going faster than she did with the dolphin kick. Faster than she had ever swum before. This gave Gillet another idea.

They went to the local country club pool, where the lighting was brighter and Gillet could walk out to the edge of a diving board to capture video. They took a long, thin rubber tube, fastened it to Hyman’s wrist, ran it down the length of one side of her body, and fastened the other end to her ankle. Then they filled the tube with store-bought food dye, and Hyman corked the tube with her thumb. She jumped into the pool, released her thumb, and took off as Gillet filmed. What they saw in the footage afterward astonished them. The dye swirled out to reveal huge vortices after each of her horizontal kicks. Gillet suspected that these miniature whirlpools, reaching 4 feet in diameter, propelled her forward. He also thought it was possible that when Hyman did the dolphin kick facedown, the bottom of the pool and the surface of the water interfered with these vortices and slowed her down.