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Two Americas, One Pseudoscience

21 Jul

A fascinating piece in Quartz comparing pseudoscience health claims on websites oriented to Red or Blue Americans.

We at Quartz have created a compendium, from Ashwagandha to zizyphus, of the magical healing ingredients both sides of the political spectrum are buying, and how they are presented to each. We looked at the ingredients used in products sold on the Infowars store, and compared them to products on the wellness shops Moon Juice and Goop. All make similar claims about the health benefits of these ingredients, but what gets called “Super Male Vitality” by Infowars is branded as “Sex Dust” by Moon Juice.

A self-experiment with isometric exercise

28 Jun

When I was kid, isometric exercise was very popular and I have wondered why they fell out of popularity.

Here Justin Timmer describes his self-experiment with isometrics.

What did you do?
For four week, I was “squeezing” (isometric contractions) my muscles four times a day. I trained my right leg, abdominals, and right chest and arm.

How did you do it?
During every quiet moment during the day I contracted my muscles as long and hard as possible. I quantified my progress by completing maximum repetitions on a fitness machine every week.

What did I learn?
I learned that in four weeks I almost doubled my force on the right side of my body. But I also learned that this training was going too fast, I got a lot of issues with little unexplained pains in my legs, and rising fluids whenever I contracted my abdominals. Overall I learnt this was a very effective training that was very easy to implement in my daily life.

New findings on body weight and mortality

7 Apr

In recent years, people have drawn comfort from the notion of the possibility of being both healthy and overweight. Several well publicized studies suggested that moderate excess body weight may have been exaggerated as a health threat.

A recent study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, now raises doubts about the earlier claims.  NPR published a good overview of the findings:

New research published Monday adds fuel to an ongoing debate in the public health community over whether a few extra pounds are good, or bad, for you.

Earlier research found that being somewhat overweight, but not obese, may result in a longer life.

But today’s study in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that being slightly overweight may actually decrease a person’s life span, which is more in line with conventional wisdom about weight.

One of the problem with earlier studies is that people tend to lose weight after they become ill.  Thus, to gauge the actual effects of weight on mortality one needs to look at the history of an individual’s weight over a longer period of time. The new study looked at a 16 year weight history.

Can rosemary improve cognition?

3 Apr

Perhaps, but only at very low doses. Dr. Greger explains. Note that the study suggests that too much rosemary might interfere with cognition.

I did find the results about aromatherapy interesting. I had always assumed that the idea was implausible. But Dr. Greger points to a study that shows that the volatile compounds used can actually be measured in the blood. This doesn’t mean that aromatherapy works, only that it’s plausible.

The Effects of Toxins on the Developing Brain

27 Mar

(Hat tip to Monitor on Psychology)

“Prevention may prove the best way to manage the dementia epidemic”

20 Mar

So argues this important piece in Scientific American (sorry, it’s behind a paywall). So far drugs that target Alzheimer’s have been disappointing. Our best evidence suggests that lifestyle interventions (exercise, improvements in diet, and cognitive engagement) really do help.

Improvement at any age

15 Mar

This interesting piece in The New York Times argues:

When athletes train consistently, recover smartly and get a little lucky, there’s no physiological reason their bodies should fall off a cliff in their 30s.

(…)

From following physiology literature and spending time around late-career elite athletes, I was already well aware that old dogs can both learn new tricks and slow the rate at which they lose old ones.

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