The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it. ... In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Prosocialites vs neurotics


In my previous articles I wrote about a theory postulating that our human ancestors broke away from a "herd of apes" collectivistic lifestyle.  Escaping out of a jungle "paradise" where no work was necessary for acquiring food but social interplay and obedience to herd hierarchy and the group authority was paramount for survival  [Sapolsky 1 and 2 ], meant a change over from the collectivistic towards an individualistic nomadic lifestyle.  The lifestyle where one's survival depended more on the individual foraging, hunting and toolmaking skills, as well as one's ability to construct shelters and make warm clothing.    Human development meant shift from social herd animal to industrious self-reliant individual.  It does not mean shift from social life to a complete absence of social life but it does mean interacting with smaller and more mobile groups that is characterized by less rigidity, less formal hierarchy and exhibits flexible social interactions.

The following recent study has illustrated this surprisingly well:

According to a report summarizing years of research, the Big Five – which include openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness,   and   neuroticism – may be a culturally driven model that only really holds true for people in developed, western countries.
In his paper, UCSB anthropology professor Michael Gurven details how he and his team were unable to apply the Big Five model to the indigenous hunter-gatherer Tsimane people. Instead, they report, the personalities of the Tsimane appear to be characterized by a “Big Two” pair of traits – prosociality  and  industriousness. And while they report that these Big Two appear to combine certain elements of the Big Five that are used to describe Americans and Europeans, these two core personality traits seem to be a reflection of features that are specific to highly social, subsistence-based societies.

(Note: color highlights are mine)

The fact is, modern academic social science has blown up the pro-social (collectivistic) trait into multiple sub-categories, such as "openess", "consentiousness", "extrovertion" and "agreeableness".  Unsurprizingly, given who they are, the social scientists have shoved the entire multiverse of individualistic traits and skills into just one bin called "neuroticism"!  Why didn't they just call them "nerds" instead?

This study tells us that the social scientists and probably a majority of the society (4 out of 5 perhaps?) has devolved a "stuck in the past" mindset that considers collectivistic prosocial traits of more relevance than the "industriousnes" - pardon "neuroticism".   This is in stark contrast to the stone age people like the Tsimane tribe, whose "industrious" members are described with relevant word, while their pro-social members are bunched into one category rather than splitting them into different party-going monkey categories.

Stan (Heretic) aka Nerd

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Anti-oxidants may promote rather than fight cancer!


Hold off those berries and vitamins, suggests DNA discoverer James Watson, in today's article titled "DNA pioneer James Watson takes aim at 'cancer establishments'" article.

From wiki

On the $100 million U.S. project to determine the DNA changes that drive nine forms of cancer: It is "not likely to produce the truly breakthrough drugs that we now so desperately need," Watson argued. On the idea that antioxidants such as those in colorful berries fight cancer: "The time has come to seriously ask whether antioxidant use much more likely causes than prevents cancer."


That is why Watson advocates a different approach: targeting features that all cancer cells, especially those in metastatic cancers, have in common.

One such commonality is oxygen radicals. Those forms of oxygen rip apart other components of cells, such as DNA. That is why antioxidants, which have become near-ubiquitous additives in grocery foods from snack bars to soda, are thought to be healthful: they mop up damaging oxygen radicals.

That simple picture becomes more complicated, however, once cancer is present. Radiation therapy and many chemotherapies kill cancer cells by generating oxygen radicals, which trigger cell suicide. If a cancer patient is binging on berries and other antioxidants, it can actually keep therapies from working, Watson proposed.

"Everyone thought antioxidants were great," he said. "But I'm saying they can prevent us from killing cancer cells."

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Refined Grains & Desserts diet 50% worse than Fast Food diet!

50% more T2 diabetes in a group following the "Refined Grains and Desserts" dietary pattern (the highest carbohydrate consumption group) than in the followers of Fast Food dietary pattern (the highest fat consumption group) as showed in a new study on Lebanese. The latter group had in turn worse risk (four times as much) as the Traditional Lebanese dietary pattern, which had the lowest carbohydrate intake and medium fat intake (but the highest monounsaturated fat - olive oil, of all).

"Dietary patterns and odds of Type 2 diabetes in Beirut, Lebanon: a case-control study", Farah Naja et al., Nutrition & Metabolism 2012, 9:111

[added 6-Jan-2013]

Interestingly, when their correlation coefficients from Table 3 are plotted against the T2 diabetes odds ratio, it turns out that the only food related factor that has a positive strong linear trend with diabetes risk, is the dietary energy intake! See a blue line in the chart below. None of the macronutrients trended as strongly (if at all), with the T2 diabetes risk. There are only some weak non-significant trends with carbohydrates (positive, that is more carbs = more risk) and protein intake (negative, that is more protein = less risk). One can of course ask the question why exactly did the group with refined grains and desserts pattern tended also to overeat and whether that is caused by the diet itself, or is the propensity towards overeating the primary factor (caused by what?) while some particular dietary choice may be a response to that? I am not sure. I have to say, this results is somewhat surprising.

Another interesting conclusion one can draw, is that the study seems to support the mitochondrial damage hypothesis of T2 diabetes, since the energy overload is the primary trigger!

Click on this to view the spreadsheet.

The relatively low diabetes risk associated with the high meat (and eggs) and alcohol diet is also very revealing.  The Meat and Alcohol result does not really tell us what causes diabetes but it does tell us what does not cause it!


Wheat seems to be a toxic plant!  

I think this study (alongside many others, for example China Study ) implicates wheat as the primary cause of diabetes, stronger than all the other dietary factors!  It probably acts through appetite enhancing or satiety suppressing, leading to overeating.  If true, this is a very important conclusion!   Worth probably a trillion dollars of American GDP!