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… is a load of crap.

For those who don’t know, apparently people are actually taking this seriously and Queensland communities are starting to ban fluoridation in water. Here’s a picture I stole off a friend’s Facebook wall – one he took on a train:

Fluoride

I first heard of this on the Q&A episode where Lawrence Krauss appeared. He was awesome as usual but had a bit of difficulty trying not to offend people and trying to dumb down his scientific explanations (particularly in regards to nothingness, which I should make a separate post on). Anyway, one of the ministers of health was there too and she mentioned some politician in Queensland – a body builder – who claimed that he’d rather take banned substances for a year than drink fluoridated water. I find this hilarious because most body builders have some idea about nutrition and he obviously doesn’t.

For those of you even farther behind in the news, fluoride is added to tap water and was one of the biggest dental intervention movements in Australian history.

My first step in exposing the bullshit of all these fluoride conspirators should be the end game. Take a look at their credentials. I saw some anti-fluoride argument on a site called “Evolution-Kills” and smelled bullshit straight away. I also found some other dodgy sites with questionable sources. This reminds me of all the quack scientists that create their own publication labels to publish their “scientific” articles because no peer-reviewed article will accept them, and the ones who create their own universities to give themselves degrees. The more scientifically oblivious may have a difficult time sifting through all the bullshit so my first step is always to look at the source.

Here’s a few sources:

The National Academy of Science: http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/safety/nas.htm

This report identified fluoride as a mineral that can positively influence human health, and although earlier NRC reports were not conclusive in their opinions, this report concluded that fluoride was considered to be an element essential for human life based on its role in cellular functions involving metabolic or biochemical processes. The report further stated that fluoride in drinking water has two beneficial effects: preventing tooth decay (dental caries) and contributing to bone mineralization and bone matrix integrity.

World Health Organisation Report: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/fluoride_drinking_water_full.pdf

Fluoride has beneficial effects on teeth at low concentrations in drinking-water, but excessive exposure to fluoride in drinking-water, or in combination with exposure to fluoride from other sources, can give rise to a number of adverse effects. These range from mild dental fluorosis to crippling skeletal fluorosis as the level and period of exposure increases. Crippling skeletal fluorosis is a significant cause of morbidity in a number of regions of the world.

… The beneficial and the detrimental effects of fluoride naturally present in water were well established by the early 1940s. High levels of fluoride present in concentrations up to 10 mg l were associated with dental fluorosis (yellowish or brownish striations or mottling of the enamel) while low levels of fluoride, less than 0.1 mg/l, were associated with high levels of dental decay (Edmunds and Smedley, 1996), although poor nutritional status is also an important contributory factor.

Now these are balanced views. No real science is going to declare an absolute benefit with no side effects – and that’s something important to note. However, skeletal fluorosis doesn’t occur in areas where fluoride levels are within safe levels (Kaminsky et al, 1990). See what I did there? Provided a proper source.

In regards to the accusation of fluoride being a carcinogenic – that’s just another example of non-scientific people trying to make scientific claims. Here’s a quote:

Some fluoridation opponents have suggested that fluoride is carcinogenic; claims which have been criticized as being based on statistical bias and deliberate exaggeration. (Cook-Mozaffari 1996, Spencer 1998, Pollick 2006) A frequently cited study by fluoridation opponents is the US National Cancer Institutes Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program which reported a higher in cadence of osteosarcoma (bone cancer) among young males in two fluoridated areas of the United States . (Hoover et al 1991a) Further analysis of the time trends by Hoover et al (1991b) however found that the increased prevalence of osteosarcoma was not related to the time of fluoridation. Moreover, a similar study by Mahoney et al (1991) found no difference in the prevalence of osteosarcoma among any age group between fluoridated and non fluoridated cities in New York State .

But most of all, fluoride is in toothpaste and mouthwash. If these people truly believe that it’s poison or whatever, why don’t they just stop brushing their teeth and see what happens? Problem solved.

So I was bored at dinner and ended up watching a … documentary? Drama? Reality show? It was about the U.K.’s fattest man and the surgery he requires to save his life.

Now in this regard, I’m known by many to be quite ruthless and unrelenting. Yes, I understand there’s a psychological aspect that makes it difficult for people to “stop eating” or get into shape. Difficult, but not impossible. To me, it’s always an excuse. This morbidly (literally – he’s going to die) obese man lies there crying about how he hates himself and how he looks. Hmm. And then he says it’s not his fault he costs tax payers over 100,000 pounds a year in health care costs because “(he was) let down by the health system that allowed him to get so unhealthy”. Wow. Take some damn responsibility. This is why I’m particularly ruthless about health issues. People don’t want to take responsibility. Are you trying to say there aren’t people who have greater hardships than you? That you are the only person in the world who has any suffering, and therefore are excused for your actions? I was in constant pain from stomach cramps when I started cutting by eating only one small meal a day (and I was 98kg), but you don’t see me costing Australia $100,000 a year (or, to use the exchange rate, $151,807), nor crying about it on T.V., and least of all claiming that it’s somebody else’s fault.

Anyway, hate me or agree with me on that part. That’s my little rant. I’m not completely apathetic – I’ve helped a few people get into shape, improve their body image and boost their confidence. I enjoyed doing it because these people took responsibility for their lifestyles and had the motivation to change.

Rant aside, the show itself raised a few things about nutrition that are downright wrong, leading me to believe part of the obesity problem is not just overeating, it’s the fact that nobody knows enough about nutrition.

Now, a lot of this info I’ve said before in previous posts but this is a nice little list to summarise it.

1. Mr. Obese’s caretaker makes him three meals a day of anything he wants to eat. She says “it’s very healthy, hardly any fat in it at all”. Let me get one thing straight: fat is not bad. Saturated fat is bad, yes, but fat usually comes with both saturated and unsaturated fat components. You need unsaturated fat to improve your cholesterol levels.

Let me lay some academia on you. I’ll quote the first line of a Harvard study for you:

It’s time to end the low-fat myth.

Plain and simple.

2. Carbs (especially simple carbs) are your enemy. The full article (mentioned above), which I can no longer find but I used in an assignment for university, put up some interesting statistics. Some time ago (exactly how many decades I cannot remember) the US was consuming a much higher amount of fat but had a very low diabetes and obesity problem. The the whole “low fat” craze kicked in and a lot of fat was removed from the US diet, to be replaced by carbs. Simple carbs. Those of you who have read my other nutrition posts should know by now – simple carbs are practically the worst thing you can eat besides pure trans/saturated fat. Lo and behold, with a decrease in fat intake and an increase in carbs, the US now sits at a significant amount of type 2 diabetes and obesity cases. Why? Because fat isn’t bad. Simple carbs are, and too many calories are. Yes, fat has 9 calories per gram as opposed to 4 from carbs and protein, but you don’t eat as much fat as you eat carbs.

Plus there’s glycemic index to think of and the insulin response. Carbs are particularly responsible for diabetes because of the insulin response. I’ve mentioned this in more detail in another post if you’re interested in reading.

3. This one actually came out of the mouth of the doctor who was meant to operate on Mr. Obese. I don’t know if he was being melodramatic for the camera or genuinely ignorant (let’s hope not the latter – he is, after all, a doctor). Basically, he said that when someone got to Mr. Obese’s size, they couldn’t lose weight because “he can’t get out of bed so he can’t burn any calories and therefore anything he eats will already be too much”.

Let’s get this straight: you are always burning calories. Even when you’re sleeping, you burn calories. In fact, studies have shown that you burn more calories sleeping than you do when being sedentary (such as watching T.V.). I’ve heard people adamantly reject the idea that you can burn calories while just lying still, to which I yell “idiot” and direct them to a basic physics book explaining thermodynamics. Think of it this way, unless you stop every single organ in your body from functioning, they will require energy to operate. Your brain, in fact, consumes about 20-25% of your calories, and some have claimed that “thinking really hard” can increase the amount of calories your brain burns (though only by a little). It is interesting though because there aren’t that many overweight professors compared to skinny ones.

Anyway, to be more technical, the bare minimum calories you need to keep your organs operational and stay alive is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). A larger person will have a larger BMR. Therefore, Mr. Obese could lose weight by eating below his BMR, which is likely to be very high anyway. Apparently, he was consuming over 20,000 calories a day (I find that amazing because I was struggling to eat over 3,500 for my bulk). Not only is it annoying that I can’t even afford to eat the kind of food he was eating (for which the government paid whereas I have to work), but the simple medical fact is that if you wired his mouth shut and gave him only water, he would lose weight. Now that’s a bit extreme but the point remains, Mr. Doctor was wrong to say that it was impossible for him to lose weight and that the only possible option was a 50/50 surgery.

Then again, considering Mr. Obese’s personality and aversion to responsibility, it probably would have been very difficult to put him on a diet, especially considering he failed many diets in the past. I mean, it’s probably very difficult to stop a bed-ridden man from eating, right? He can only really reach whatever you lay in front of his face, but, you know.

Sigh.

 

First of all, my apologies for the long time between posts now. I’m a bit busy lately and have been preoccupied with other things. Also, I haven’t come across anything particularly interesting lately that feels like I can do a relatively short post on it.

I was reminded of this one by a post on ScienceAlert. As I am lazy right now, I’ll just sum up the point. I’m sure most of my readers now trust me enough to not need references. If you must have references before believing me, feel free to Google them.

Basically, there’s an old myth that you shouldn’t go swimming until 30 minutes after eating. This has been a pretty persistent myth despite no health organisations actually backing it (The Royal Lifesaving Association, Academy of Pediatrics, US Consumer Product Safety Commission and American Red Cross say nothing about swimming after eating). Nevertheless, the power of ignorance to propagate is astounding and many people stick to this one as if it were fact.

But let’s take a look deeper, shall we? Why shouldn’t we swim until at least 30 minutes after? Well, here’s where opinions begin to differ (one tell-tale sign of an unscientific “fact”). Some claim that it causes vomiting, others that it can cause cramps, and more still that the stomach’s act of digesting food redirects blood flow from your limbs, potentially causing you to drown. The truth? None of these are on the mark, though like all good myths they have a tiny kernel of truth. Yes, digestion does redirect blood flow, but not nearly enough to cause the kind of paralysis that would lead to drowning. Imagine if that were true. And this can contribute to cramps, but there are many other factors that are a much stronger factor on cramps, such as muscle fatigue.

Now some of you might be going “But I do vomit when I swim after eating! Therefore you, sir, are incorrect!” Let me remind you that an argument from personal experience is an anecdotal fallacy. It is, quite simply, wrong to argue with it. I should add though, if you’re susceptible to vomiting after eating, you probably ate too much in one go. Those that have read my nutrition posts or know anything about the glycemic index and/or insulin response mechanism by your body to food should know that it’s bad for you to eat large amounts in one sitting (with some exceptions).

 

The empty home and blackened skies

Do not beckon until she dies.

Her conscious mind and wayward heart

Have but one thought – her song, her art.

Is it passion or is it fate?

Or an obsession that won’t abate?

She seeks her muse across land and sea

For that one perfect, thorny tree.

With promises laden on every spine

Of a song that will truly, truly shine,

She throws herself at the largest thorn,

And the dazzling sky begins to mourn.

Her empty nest is on her mind,

As her eyes fail and she goes blind.

The glaring sun fades to blackened skies,

Taunting, beckoning, but she can no longer fly.

As the bittersweet pain spreads like fire,

She blinks back tears to hold her head higher,

And in her death she finds the greatest beauty,

She sings a haunting song of mercy and cruelty.

All love and warmth and glory pales,

All joy and sadness and emotion fails,

For this song’s beauty holds the world in thrall,

And all time freezes except her call;

The final song ever heard,

From the beautiful, dying, lost Thorn Bird.

—————————————————————————————–

Again, I’m not much of a poet, but I didn’t feel like writing a long piece so I went for the shortest option. I recently heard of the Celtic legend of the “Thorn Bird”, and I really couldn’t just get it off my mind without writing something. There is truly something artistic in its sad beauty, so I felt a need to respond creatively to it.

For those of you who don’t know, the Thorn Bird sang only once in its life. Upon leaving its nest, would search endlessly for a thorn tree, and after finding it, would impale itself on the largest thorn and sing the most beautiful song in the world. The greatest things in life come from hardship and pain.

I found the idea hauntingly beautiful. What do you guys feel?

P.S. Thorn Bird (Celtic legend) not to be confused with Thorn Bird (Phacellodomus; a real bird).

“What lies at the heart of every living thing is not a fire, not warm breath, not a ‘spark of life’. It is information, words, instruction.”

– Richard Dawkins, 1986.

Many of you have heard the term “meme” due to the recent popularity of internet memes. However, the word “meme” has existed long before the advent of funny pictures with poorly written English emblazoned on it. Interestingly, it was Richard Dawkins who invented the word in 1976 from Greek influences. He shortened it to “meme” because he wanted the word to be a monosyllable that sounded similar to “gene”. On a related note, that means it’s pronounced “meem” similar to “gene”, not as some people say “me-me” or the French word “meme” meaning same (I can’t do accents on my keyboard, but there’s one over the first “e”).

So what is a meme? This quote from the Smithsonian is pretty good to help build an initial understanding:

Our world is a place where information can behave like human genes and ideas can replicate, mutate and evolve.

Essentially, a meme is an idea or concept that is spread from generation to generation through means that are non-genetic (transmitted via writing, visual representation, speech, gestures or any other imitable phenomena). The importance of the word meme resembling the word gene is that memes are theorised to evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to biological evolution – basically, a meme is like a gene for information. Here’s one more good quote:

A meme is an idea that behaves like a virus – that moves through a population, taking hold in each person it infects

– Malcolm Gladwell

Memes are powerful language tools because they can convey a vast array of inherent information with very few words (or actions/images depending on the meme). Dawkins defined a meme as a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation and replication. Internet memes are the most commonly known these days, and just think of the amount of information we can get out of a few words or an image.

This badly drawn picture by itself is enough to evoke a wide range of information. It means someone who is always unsuccessful at finding companionship and is used by the victim to demonstrate his/her emotions regarding their situation. There’s a huge list of internet memes; I’m not going to go through every one of them. Internet memes are plentiful though, which dilutes their potency a bit. Here’s a stronger example: Olympics. With that one word alone, I can make you think of competitions, athletes, races, medals and an overarching theme of unity and celebration.

However, remember Gladwell’s definition. Memes mutate over time and can end up misrepresenting something, or becoming impervious to change. Folk etymology is an example of this (I’ve gone into this in my etymology posts), where people start believing that a certain idiom originated one way when in actual fact it was another (such as the “cold shoulder”). Other good examples can be found in urban myths, which persist even when scientifically proven wrong. My girlfriend’s anatomy lecturer told her that your heart stops beating when you sneeze. This has been proven false already, what’s an anatomy lecturer doing not knowing this?

Now that we understand that memes are ideas and information transmitted over time, we have to accept that memes are prone to mutation and cannot be considered fully reliable. Here’s the interesting thing though – religion is also a meme. We can see evidence of religion changing or “mutating” over time as the Church changes its public stance on certain issues (heliocentric solar system, evolution, etc.).

It’s interesting that memes are often subject to “survival of the fittest”. It is for that reason why we don’t practice human sacrifice, because that is a weak idea from an evolutionary point of view (it doesn’t promote growth). There’s a whole scientific side to memes that I didn’t get into (I was focusing more on its power as a language tool). For those of you interested in finding out more, this is a good article:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/What-Defines-a-Meme.html

No seriously, why are people still trying to argue against the existence of climate change? It’s amazing that during 2010, 48% (Rasmussen Energy Update) of Americans believed climate change to be exaggerated and by 2011 (Gallup Politics poll), 42% still didn’t believe it was an issue. I use America as an example here because the country is used as a standard for comparison, due mainly to its political influence and dominant economy in the past (I say this so people don’t think I’m picking on them, especially with what I’m about to say).

And why am I writing about this? Well, maybe a politician or CEO with a limited term in office will only think of their short term results but I would like to see something done to protect the lives and homes of over 7 billion humans, millions more animals, as well as our food supply and the future of life on this planet. But even if I didn’t care about all that, this one reason alone is enough for me:

 

I hate seeing shit like this. As if a polar bear’s life wasn’t hard enough, going weeks without food in the freezing cold (by the way, humans have also messed up fish populations, making these animals more desperate, which is why many go into human towns looking for food – and are sometimes shot for doing so). This animal’s entire life is spent looking for enough food to survive, and now it barely has any ice to rest on. Increasingly high amounts of polar bears have died from drowning because they simply can’t find any ice to rest on after going out hunting for food. They swim aimlessly looking for somewhere to lie down, and they keep swimming until their exhausted body fails and they just drown, fully conscious but unable to move. Such a sad and lonely death for such a majestic creature.

 

So, despite overwhelming scientific evidence and consensus within the scientific (and global) community, there are still people who don’t think climate change is real, many of whom live in the US. Well, what can I say? That I shouldn’t have expected so much from the country with the highest amount of adults that think angels are real, and who needed the government to release an official statement saying mermaids weren’t real? It’s funny that there is infinitely more academic evidence for the existence of climate change than there is for god, but somehow, 90% of Americans believe in god (Gallup poll). I’m not trying to turn this into a religious debate, I’m just pointing out the stupidity in having the capacity to believe in something with very little evidence, based on faith, yet reject solid evidence of something else when it’s presented to you. I mean, if you have the trust to believe in something obscure, wouldn’t that same trust make you even more susceptible to believing something with a great deal of evidence? I guess not, that’s silly of me to say.

Now, it will take too long for me to list every single logical fallacy and false “fact” that climate change sceptics use, and many people before me have already done that honour, so I’ll just make a statement of absolute fact here: climate change is as real as the earth beneath your feet. It is not the result of natural occurrence, it is not exaggerated in its impact, it is not lacking in any sort of evidence in any way, it is not due to the sun (in fact, the sun’s temperature has gone in the opposite direction to global temperatures; see links below). It is real.

Here’s 21 myths climate change sceptics use and a thorough debunking of them: http://www.scholarsandrogues.com/2007/07/23/anti-global-heating-claims-a-reasonably-thorough-debunking/

Here’s  another 173:
http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

Here’s an Australian Government report (you can easily find your own government’s reports):
http://www.climatechange.gov.au/en/government/international/global-action-facts-and-fiction/cc-action.aspx

Here’s 10 more facts from academic sources:
http://www.climatechange.com.au/facts-about-global-warming/

Here’s an article from the Scientific American politely saying how sceptics are stupid:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=is-global-warming-a-myth

So yeah, if you still don’t believe in climate change, you’re either a genius whose opinion transcends the academic opinions of the entire global scientific community, or arrogant enough to think that you are, ignorant, or just plain stupid. This is not a discussion, so stop trying to make it one. How are we going to do anything about it if idiots still say it’s not real?

 

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