Ankle Sprains and Basketball Study – Braces work for “virgin ankles” as well as previously sprained ankles

A new study of ankle bracing suggests that you probably should be wearing one during active  sports like basketball or tennis even if you have NOT had an ankle injury:

The surprise finding was that the bracing did NOT increase knee injuries and DID help with “virgin” ankles – ones that have not been injured before.

I’ll hope to have a lot more information about ankle sprains and other sprains at the website  ““, but it’s not live yet….

Red Meat Study: Eat a burger, lose 37 minutes of life

A new study from Harvard links red meat consumption to health problems and higher mortality.  Although the negative health stuff has been known for some time, this study is more authoritative in terms of large sample and long study period.  Also it seems to quantify things in such a way that we can get a somewhat legitimate calculation for the life years lost cost of meat eating.  For red meat lovers the results are very discouraging.

WSJ source for red meat stats:

I extended  that to a per hamburger health cost and got 39 years x 365 burger days = 14,235 burgers cost you a year of life, or 8760 hours of life. Thus a single burger costs us 37 minutes of life.

Obviously this measure has a lot of technical flaws, but in general terms I think it should reflect a “real” measure of red meat risk, a risk I’m thinking I’ll be reducing starting right away.

Vaccinations WORK and are extremely safe. All informed “debate” is over, Vaccinate your children!

Whilst researching the status of polio in India I ran across a US website ranting about the (almost entirely imaginary) “dangers” associated with vaccines.

Sad to see so many in the USA still so persistent with their opposition to the obvious, while in India vaccine programs have run into some problems when poorly informed local leaders and traditional medicine practioners scare people away from the greatest medical innovations in all of human history – Vaccines.

[note – I’m not informed enough to talk about about the new  and politically controversial cervical cancer vaccine many believe should be mandatory for girls – here I’m talking about the old vaccines like DPT and Polio, tried and true, that have been used for decades]

Vaccinations have saved *hundreds of millions* of lives outright and spared *hundreds of millions* more from dramatic reductions in the quality of life.  Like any broadly applied remedy, Vaccine complications have caused a few deaths and a very tiny number of complications.   Only a narrow and irrational approach focuses ONLY on risks and ignores the massive benefits.

Vaccination math is overwhelmingly supportive of vaccines, yet ignored by the folks in the very vocal and active  anti-vaccine crowd, who simply refuse to do the math, choosing instead to point to imaginary or “one in a million” risks as if they these outweigh the 999,999 in a million benefits.

I wrote a comment over at the site I bumped into just now:

Sorry to see sites like this that discourage people from the “no brainer” that is vaccination of children.  Usually the misunderstandings come from the fact that you will have a very, very, very tiny number of complications with anything that touches billions of lives. This is NOT a reason to fear vaccines irrationally, as far too many do both in USA and developing world.  Leaving your children unvaccinated places them at hundreds of times the risk of a vaccinated person. You also put others at greater risks.  Ironically this would NOT be an issue if vaccines had not been such an incredible success because people would see the affects of polio, smallpox, and other diseases all around them. We don’t see that because we use vaccines.


One MINOR caveat here to the above.   There is a point in time when vaccination success may lead to a total regional eradication of a disease.  At that time the (tiny, tiny) risks of vaccinating can wind up being greater than the (nearly zero) risk of contracting the eradicated disease.   This happened with smallpox in the USA and it’s why we no longer vaccinate for smallpox.    This fact hardly undermines the importance of vaccines or supports the “anti vaccine” crowd’s imaginary complications  (e.g. autism), but it’s important to keep it in mind when doing vaccine math.

Rotator Cuff Exercises

After starting up Tennis again I’m already experiencing what I think is a rotator cuff irritation so it’s time to look for some rotator cuff exercises so hopefully I can play without injury or pain.   It’s hard getting old!

The Rotator cuff is a complex of thin muscles on your shoulders that allow the extensive motion you have in this area – motion that allows things like ball throwing and racket or club swinging, and more.   Irritation in this area is very common, especially with sports, and should be considered potentially serious.   Rotator cuff exercises help prevent injury to the shoulder.

Rotator cuff exercises:

Side-lying lateral raise.   Instructions from “FitBie”

Standing rows with free weights and tubing.  Not sure if this is what is meant by that or not:

Prone horizontal abuduction.

Wall pushups.

Internal and external rotation.

Weight and lifespan / longetivity

This really interesting summary just popped up in some research of the effect of weight on lifespan.  In the very interesting advocacy documentary film “Fathead”  (which I’ll review at length later), it’s suggested that fat people tend to live longer.   This is not consistent with any other information I’ve heard and I think it’s probably just based on a silly interpretation of the challenges faced in hospitals by low weight folks who are stressed by illness.   In some specific cases like that it may help to have extra body fat, but the general findings of many studies are of course consistent with the studies noted in this 1992 paper, summarized below:

<cite>The study was conducted to evaluate one aspect of the entropy theory of aging, which hypothesizes that aging is the result of increasing disorder within the body, and which predicts that increasing mass lowers life span. The first evaluation of the impact of human size on longevity or life span in 1978, which was based on data for decreased groups of athletes and famous people in the USA, suggested that shorter, lighter men live longer than their taller, heavier counterparts. In 1990, a study of 1679 decreased men and women from the general American population supported these findings. In the present study data on the height, weight, and age at death of 373 men were obtained from records at the Veterans Administration Medical Center, San Diego, CA, USA. Men of height 175.3 cm or less lived an average of 4.95 years longer than those of height over 175.3 cm, while men of height 170.2 cm or less lived 7.46 years longer than those of at least 182.9 cm. An analysis by weight difference revealed a 7.72-year greater longevity for men of weight 63.6 kg or less compared with those of 90.9 kg or more. This corroborates earlier evidence and contradicts the popular notion that taller people are healthier. While short stature due to malnutrition or illness is undesirable, our study suggests that feeding children for maximum growth and physical development may not add to and may indeed be harmful to their long-term health and longevity.</cite>


Day 180 of the Davies’ Happy Meal Project

Day 180, 2010 Sally Davies Happy Meal Project

Originally uploaded by sally davies photo

Sally Davies took pictures of a MacDonald’s burger and fries for 6 months. Most viewing these, and I’m guessing Sally, would suggest this shows something about the unhealthiness of MacDonald’s food.

The problem with that “logic” is that the same approach using, say, a Big Mac and a Coke – a far less healthy meal than this reasonable meat and potato meal – would be a nasty mess.

Michael Pollan, crusader against fast food for both reasonable and silly reasons, has suggested that rotting food is a good sign of healthy food, and I think this test may have been inspired by that somewhat twisted logic.

A natural foods challenge that is not discussed nearly enough is that while unprocessed, unpreserved foods often offer the nutritional benefits of complexity, protein balancing, and more, they also
generally carry a greater risk of spoilage and in that case can harbor some very nasty bacteria.

Moderation, in all things …

Changing the world, one PR firm at a time

The CES 2010 pitches are coming in strong now as John and I get ready to cover the year’s biggest technology event over at  Technology Report.

I was so happy today to see one of them signing off saying they were a proud supporter of the Room to Read Project, which is a major effort to work towards world wide literacy and education.   Readers of this blog know I’m a huge fan of that kind of project, and one of the reasons I’m very optimistic about the world’s future is that for I think the first time in history it’s become very, very “fashionable” to support global poverty reduction efforts in even the strongest bastions of capitalism (e.g. big time PR firms).

Now, cynics will suggest – correctly to some extent – that part of the motivation when capitalists support charity is to benefit from the positive buzz.    However I’m fine with that, and furthermore I’m *glad*  to see potential win-win economic relationships develop around charities like this.

Hot Air and the CO2 Problem

A few years ago I felt compelled to learn a lot more about global climate change because I kept hearing about all the pending climate caused catastrophes looming just over the horizon. Hearing this not just from poorly informed journalists and TV news looking to stir the pot to increase viewers and thus ad revenue. I was increasingly hearing these alarms from the very scientists I felt would be responsible, objective, unbiased voices on the topic.

Like Joe Friday on the ancient crime series DRAGNET, I figured NASA, USA, UK scientists would take a “Just the facts please” approach and give me the objective information I needed to make informed decisions about how much economic well-being we should sacrifice to appease the climate change god who was threatening us with rising seas, monster storms, and killer heat waves. Something just wasn’t adding up here. I know science and I know how stable large systems tend to be and I know a catastrophe when I see one, and climate just wasn’t looking catastrophic to me. A lot more research would be needed.

Enter the controversial author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg. A statistician, teacher, and environmentalist, Lomborg’s initial enthusiasm for the “Green” movement led him to skepticism as he “did the math” on a variety of environmental issues and concluded there was more than a little fuzzy math being used to support many well accepted talking points about pending environmental collapse.

Lomborg’s analyses made him both famous and infamous in science circles where, in a series of articles in Scientific American, Lomborg was attacked as if he was an enemy of reason itself – accused of using the same data “cherry picking” tactics he’d suggested often lie at the heart of many environmental concerns, but more often than not simply attacked as an enemy of good science. This struck me as odd because Lomborg was easy to read and to understand and it appeared to me he was generally starting with a common sense question and looking for the answers in the math rather than using the math to support his contentions. Ironically this approach seemed very unlike the scientists who in the same Scientific American series had been attacking Lomborg almost exclusively on personal grounds rather than by carefully addressing his many reasonable points about how alarmism appeared to be trumping reason even within the scientific community.

This in turn led me to a very interesting private exchange with the editor of Scientific American who seemed overly alarmed I’d been “taken in” by Lomborg’s misleading math. He encouraged
me to spend more time studying the issues. Armed with my reasonably robust background in the sciences (BS Botany & Psychology, MS Social Sciences) I started to review the IPCC reports, participate actively at and – the two most intelligent Climate Blogs, and more.

RealClimate is written by several of the top climate researchers in the world so it was conspicuous to me how often they seemed to be waxing very philosophically about climate catastrophes and defending even the most flagrant propaganda points in the film “An Inconvenient Truth” and in the papers by James Hansen, NASA’s top climate spokesperson and an often cited proponent of pending climate catastrophes. Comments at RealClimate are even worse – personal abuse and reckless pseudo-science are tolerated when they support the case for catastrophic warming while reasoned questions are often moderated or attacked irrationally if they challenge the prevailing groupthink. In the blogOspheric chatterbox that kind of intolerance is nothing new, but RealClimate pretends to take a higher road and be a watering hole for intelligent climate debate. Unfotunately that is only a pretense, and this realization has led me to question how much personal bias has infected climate science itself.
Preliminary conclusion: Personal biases of climate scientists affect their generalizations a lot. So much so that the studies are always at risk for opportunistic data analysis( “cherry picking” ), influences from grant money (studies that “find” warming are much more likely to get headlines / additional funding) and perhaps most importantly a bias that insulates skeptical research from funding. Skepticism lies at the heart of good science and the newfound tendency of otherwise respectable scientists to disparage global warming skeptics as “corporate shills”, “deniers”, and worse is simply dispicable and outrageous. Just the facts please, and if you don’t agree address the idea, not the person. Of course the *reason* for this approach is that the science behind global warming hysteria is much weaker than advertised – a concern I’d actually rejected until recently.

I don’t think the weakness of the human caused warming hypothesis is enough to throw the basic warming hypothesis into serious doubt, but enough to want more support for human caused warming than we’ve seen so far from heretofore unreliable and non-falsifiable computer modelling and the fact that – since 1998 – the global surface temperature trend is DOWN. This fact is discarded out of hand by climate alarmists but it is important for the very reasons you won’t see discussed at RealClimate. CO2 is going up while temperatures are going down. The models did not anticipate this and there appears to be no good explanation other than the natural variability that is (quite reasonably) invoked to explain a lot of climate fluctuations. But if nature routinely swamps out the effects of human caused CO2 then why are so many suggesting we should forego trillions in GDP to stem the CO2 tide? Why are people deluding themselves into thinking the developing world will go along with our CO2 efforts even as their people clamor for more development?

The answer is simple: They are thinking politically, hysterically, irrationally. OR they aren’t looking at the data. Usually it’s both.

Another preliminary conclusion is that Lomborg’s analyses are spot on.

There is global warming and it’s probably mostly caused by humans but the significance is exaggerated and – most importantly – it is totally unreasonable to assume we’ll be able to do enough reduction of CO2
to make enough of a difference to matter much. Far better to focus on the *existing catastrophic conditions* in much of the developing world than a massive, expensive, quixotic CO2 fight we are going to lose anyway. This is not to suggest we should do *nothing*, rather that we should seek cheap ways to mitigate CO2 while spending the big money on mitigating dead children in the developing world, noting that raising standards in poor countries leads to lower birth rates so even the most Machiavellian or population obsessed among us should support expansion of food and health aid to developing world as long as it reaches the needy.

To Eat or Not to Eat, THAT is the question

I’m trying to attain a BMI of 24.9 so I can rest a little easier knowing I’m at less risk for the various unhappy consequences of being overweight.    The doctor didn’t seem concerned last time I talked to him about this, and now I’m only about 13 pounds from the goal.

This calorie counter at is answering some of the questions I’ve wondered about for some time such as how many calories you need just to maintain your current weight = basal metabolic rate.   For me it’s about 2000 per day, more with more  exercise.

Although that article recommends eating 500 calories less to lose weight I DO NOT agree and think people generally fall off of diets because they are making them too painful.     If, for example, you shave off 100 calories a day from your basal metabolic burn (or exercise another 10 minutes or so), you’ll lose weight over time.  It’ll obviously take longer at 100 calorie deficit per day, but the point is that you are probably a lot more likely to stick to an “easy” diet than a hard one.   More importantly if you can’t shave off a measly 100 calories a day you really need to question what you expect out a harsher diet, which is only going to work if you KEEP OFF THE WEIGHT which means invoke long term lifestyle changes.  100 calories is simply forsaking ONE Tablespoon of oil, a couple pats of butter, a single slice of bread).

Everybody is different but I think a good approach is to start by experimenting with long term lifestyle changes in terms of diet and excersize while keeping track of your weight on a daily basis (yes it’ll fluctuate but it’s good to have a lot of data!).     Your first goal is to find out comfortable ways for you to maintain your weight or lose slightly – sort of a benchmark of the life you’ll be living for the long haul.   When you find that comfortable balance of excersize and enjoyable eating simply shave off 100 calories per day until you hit your desired weight.  If you are inspired to go for more do that, but just focus on the long term healthy lifestyle and not the weight loss part.  DO FOCUS on weight gain, which means you probably miscalculated what you can afford to eat.    I’ve even toyed with the idea of weighing myself every morning when I get up and if I weight MORE than the day before I cannot eat more than 1000 calories that day.    Sticking to that plan will guarantee weight loss, but it’s more severe than I think I need as I’m making progress now with modest reduction in calories and increase in exercise.

Eating healthy can be more enjoyable if you  savor things, eat smaller portions, add fruits and vegetables rather than sweets and carbs)   You do NOT  need to make radical changes but you do need to stick to your guns.    A couple friends of mine have knocked off substantial weight and both did it mostly by simply sticking to their plans which were to limit calorie intake and get modest exercise.    Fancy gimmicks are not your answer – calories and exercise define the whole show so figure out what’s up with your metabolism…. and go baby go !

Got Happy? Harvard Study suggests seven factors that predict personal happiness and well being

From the Atlantic – thanks to Tommo for pointing it out!

What allows people to work, and love, as they grow old? By the time the Grant Study men had entered retirement, Vaillant, who had then been following them for a quarter century, had identified seven major factors that predict healthy aging, both physically and psychologically. Employing mature adaptations was one. The others were education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight. Of the 106 Harvard men who had five or six of these factors in their favor at age 50, half ended up at 80 as what Vaillant called “happy-well” and only 7.5 percent as “sad-sick.” Meanwhile, of the men who had three or fewer of the health factors at age 50, none ended up “happy-well” at 80. Even if they had been in adequate physical shape at 50, the men who had three or fewer protective factors were three times as likely to be dead at 80 as those with four or more factors. What factors don’t matter? Vaillant identified some surprises. Cholesterol levels at age 50 have nothing to do with health in old age. While social ease correlates highly with good psychosocial adjustment in college and early adulthood, its significance diminishes over time. The predictive importance of childhood temperament also diminishes over time: shy, anxious kids tend to do poorly in young adulthood, but by age 70, are just as likely as the outgoing kids to be “happy-well.” Vaillant sums up: “If you follow lives long enough, the risk factors for healthy life adjustment change. There is an age to watch your cholesterol and an age to ignore it.” The study has yielded some additional subtle surprises. Regular exercise in college predicted late-life mental health better than it did physical health. And depression turned out to be a major drain on physical health: of the men who were diagnosed with depression by age 50, more than 70 percent had died or were chronically ill by 63. More broadly, pessimists seemed to suffer physically in comparison with optimists, perhaps because they’re less likely to connect with others or care for themselves.