Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Don't go the Paleo way

Because that may demonstrate to you what complete and utter crap the Dietitians Association of Australia has been spruiking for as long as they've existed.

Their latest press release - Dietitians are completely clueless, just ask us!

A quick nod to Pete Evans, who alerted me (not personally) to the latest brilliance from the DAA. Pete is one of the plague of celebrity chefs around these parts, but he's one of the few who isn't shy about acknowledging; fat = flavour = for fruck's sake, add some more. He shows guts where others bow to the pressure of expert dogma*.

Look, I don't eat "The Paleo Way" and I don't even know what that really means with any certainty - the paleo mob seem to change the rules whenever they feel like it. But I do know that it's a hell of a lot healthier and intelligent than anything shat out of your typical dietitian's mouth.

It's increasingly popular among the citizens and the experts in nutrition don't like it. How dare the unwashed ignore our advice!

Some sadly predictable quotes from the press release:

"According to the Dietitians Association of Australia’s CEO Claire Hewat, the scientific evidence to support eating like our Palaeolithic ancestors just doesn’t stack up. And she goes as far as to call the diet potentially dangerous."

That must be why the human race was on the verge of extinction thousands of years ago - surviving only from offspring of the few vegan non-conformists.

"rather than getting on the latest fad diet bandwagon, I urge Australians to become familiar with the Dietary Guidelines and to seek expert nutrition advice from an Accredited Practicing Dietitian"

Ms Hewat is quite the comedienne. The Guidelines...ha.

To translate the press release:  the paleo diet is a fad, it's dangerous, it's expensive and unrealistic. The DAA is trustworthy and they base all their advice on irrefutable research and facts.

*There's nothing quite as awkward as watching a chef on TV cook something rustic and traditional, only to swap a vital ingredient for something low fat. Jamie Oliver did this for a while and he's not alone in cutting back on the butter because he'll likely be shouted down by a bandwagon full of people who've made a profession out of being perpetually offended or outraged . So sad.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Apolipoprotein E concentration

I've been slack on the ApoE posts, so I'm hoping this one spurs me on to read the countless papers I have saved to my hard drive and make something out of them. It's just a brief comment on the observation that the concentration of apolipoprotein E flowing through your body is correlated with what type it is. 

Generally, plasma concentration of  ApoE has been observed as E2 > E3 > E4

That is to say, if you have an ApoE profile of E3/E4 or E4/E4, you are likely to have a lower concentration of ApoE than the people with profiles of E3/E3, E2/3. The very rare E2/E2 having veritable shitloads of the little buggers.

I don't get a lot of time for Pubmed trawling, so when I've spent many hours of running different bait through the search engine, having one paper jump out of the sea with clear and concise observations is rather satisfying. About six months ago I hooked one such paper - Apolipoprotein E serum concentration and polymorphism in six European countries: the ApoEurope Project by Schiele et al in 2000.

The ApoEurope Project being a study of humans from Finland, France, Greece, Northern Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

Which lead me to another - "The importance of plasma apolipoprotein E concentration in addition to its common polymorphism on inter-individual variation in lipid levels: results from Apo Europe" by Haddy et al in 2002.

I'd never heard of the ApoEurope Project, but according to the Schiele paper, the plan is/was to have three parts:

1. epidemiology of Apo E concentration (done)
2. role of Apo E in cardiovascular disease
3. role in Alzheimer's

That I couldn't find any reference at all to parts 2 or 3 in the 14 years since part 1 has me wondering whether they gave up, lost funding or just forgot about it all. 

Anyway, back to the point of part one - which is summarised nicely in table 6 of Scheile et al.

As you can see, although there aren't a lot of E2/E2 people to prod with needles, they can have up to around twice the concentration than those of the E4/E4 group.

Scheile's crew also found a relationship between Apo E concentration and age and gender. Concentration being significantly higher in men aged between 25 and 44. After 44, women's concentration increased at a greater rate than the men. Hormones playing silly buggers, I suppose.

The Haddy paper provides not much more except for a lot of rather hysterical comments about cholesterol being on par with cancer and that E4 people are basically screwed as a result.

But ignoring all the nonsense, and there certainly is plenty in the two papers, and Haddy et al did publish some interesting observations regarding triglycerides:

A lot of the papers on ApoE are conflicting or ambiguous regarding triglycerides. Although there didn't seem to be any difference between ApoE phenotypes in Haddy, when they adjusted for ApoE concentration there was:

Or in Haddy et al's words "differences in mean triglycerides between apoE genotypes were much more pronounced when the apoE concentration was considered (Figure 1b). In both sexes, additional correction for the apoE concentration resulted in a decrease in mean triglycerides levels in the presence of the e2 allele and an increase in e4 subjects."

Phew, for a second there I thought being E4/E4 wasn't so bad after all. If I was still eating shedloads of sugar and starches, my 'adjusted triglycerides' would probably be something to behold.

If we remember that E2 isn't that great at binding to LDL receptors, whereas E4 has it down pat, I suppose there's a chance that E4 people are perhaps synthesising as many as they require and no more. E2's have them spewing out because their ApoE appear to have attention deficit and get distracted by all the pretty red stuff floating around. 

Or...given that one of the known roles of ApoE is lipid metabolism and also transport of fat soluble vitamins through the body, perhaps the E4 people are sometimes having problems because they don't have as many ApoE to perform this function.

Thinking aloud aside, although our picture of ApoE's role is embarrassingly incomplete, the above relationship does add to the jig-saw puzzle that is being put together. 

If you were into making things really simple, you could ignore all the pieces and simply conclude it is cholesterol that is the problem and that lowering it would improve your chances of a healthy brain and heart in retirement. Not as much cholesterol, the ApoE that you have don't need to work as hard. 

All those smart people who say E4s should eat a low fat diet seem to follow this logic. 

I think they're very wrong, but that's just me.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

This should have you spitting chips

And if it doesn't, you're not really paying attention.

Let's say you go to your doctor complaining of a migraine. The doctor gives you a prescription for some drug that you've never heard of. The Dr says it is the latest migraine cure on the market, Foolmeonce, invented by the biggest pharmaceutical company in the world (Profit$ Inc). Unbeknownst to you, your Dr is being paid by Profit$ to prescribe Foolmeonce to their patients. You trust that your Dr knows what is best and you take the drug, and your migraine does go away but all of sudden you have pins and needles in your feet and you lose sight in one eye. You go back to the Doc, tell them what has happened and they say it was probably just a coincidence, but just in case, to take a different drug Foolmetwice. Your blindness and pins and needles are now complicated by the fact that your hair has fallen out and you are paralysed from the waist down. You complain to the Medical board who tell you that they'll look into it, just as soon as the new case manager is hired because the last one has just taken a high paying job with Profit$ Inc. The new case manager, young and fresh from University, finds no relationship between your medical condition and the drugs you were prescribed and you're told to go on your merry way.

Now - you've stopped taking the drugs and despite your hair growing back, your sight returning and you learning to walk again - you wake up one day, six months later, with a migraine. What do you do?

No normal person would trust any advice given to them by their doctor or take any drugs they didn't know were safe. But translate that scenario to the world of finance and you find most people returning to the same doctor, or at least one of the many who take kickbacks from Profit$ Inc, they agree to take more drugs that they don't understand and they get slightly different, but still catastrophic, results. This time, their legs turn blue and fall off completely and they lose their ability to speak, see or hear.

With great difficulty, they make a complaint to the Medical Board and the new case manager (the last one they dealt with has taken a job with guess who) who finds that...well, you know the rest.

It doesn't make sense in regard to your personal health so I have no idea why it makes sense to your finances. You are losing, very rich and corrupt people are winning, the authorities are clueless or implicit in the corruption and you still trust that someone will look out for you.

Your knowledge or interest in stock markets is irrelevant - if you have any desire for fairness and transparency in the way your retirement savings, share holdings, pension fund, superannuation or 401K is managed (and assuming you are not insane), then this should make you angry. The 15 minutes you spend watching the video linked to at Vanity Fair below will not be wasted, even if you don't understand the finer details of it.

Remember the name Brad Katsuyama. If he is what he seems to be, a beacon of righteousness among an ocean of scumbaggery, then maybe there is a glimmer of hope for the finance world. Maybe. Hope spring's eternal.

Brad Katsuyama
I posted briefly about this a while ago, so it's not exactly breaking news, but I've had the chance to read the book and I devoured it in a couple of days - Michael Lewis' Flash Boys. I had trouble turning off my e-reader at night, and for someone who loves their sleep as much as I do, that's a pretty big endorsement.

The deeper I got into the story, the wider my eyes got and the more I kept saying to myself "this is so fucked up". It was a similar feeling when I read Lewis' The Big Short, that detailed the background story to the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. 

For those of you who have no interest in finance, Flash Boys can (sort of) be summarised as - Stock markets all over the world are operating in a way that provides billions of dollars of profits to people with very smart computer programmers, while simultaneously skimming profits from the people who are trying to trade on the same stock markets, but with slower technology. Whether that is you or the people who are managing your money - you are being screwed. It's perfectly legal and there is stuff all the authorities will do about it any meaningful way because they don't really have a clue how the system is being rigged to start with.

The Global Financial Crisis of 2007 to (arguably) 2014, and the Tech Wreck of 2000 should have been two massive wake up calls but is seems, sadly, they weren't. The average individual maintains their steadfast belief that politicians, central banks, investment banks and stockbrokers are working to fix the problems inherent in the financial system. Unfortunately it is not apparent to the average Jo/e that these same players are the ones who fucked it up in the first place and have very little interest in making those responsible pay for it.

Just like my fantastical Profit$ story, employees of the American Security Exchange Commission (SEC), who's job it is to regulate and police the finance industry, have a tendency to quit their jobs after a while and take up positions in one of the large investment banks. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but that sounds as dodgy as hell. Some people have no shame.

I thought Lewis' Flash Boys book would just make me angry and I wouldn't enjoy it at all. However I found myself relaxing toward the end, because it includes the stories of people who know the system is broken and are prepared to forgo jobs paying millions each year, just so they can make a difference and help fix it.

I'm still spittin' chips, but at least I'm not the only one.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Off the grid, surrounded by zombies

Spending the last two weeks traipsing around the land of Queens, days so full and busy with new cities to navigate and GPS voices to interpret, it became clear to me (after returning to normality) that time without the noise of the internet and TV is revitalising. 

In day to day life, there are certain things I can't help but digest; animal fat, caffeine and digital noise are my daily staples, only one of which I feel any guilt over - usually after wasting my time on the comment section of a mainstream article.

I'm well aware that no-one stumbling on to this post will give a rat's sphincter what I did on my time off, but it's necessary to tell a couple of stories to set the context of my thoughts. It was a fun-type of busy and I didn't miss the internet at all.

For those of you not in the know, Queensland is looked upon by other states* as the drunk and unashamedly bigoted and corrupt uncle of Australia. Nonetheless it is strikingly beautiful - clean beaches, an awe-inspiring, albeit slowly dying wonder of the world and much more to offer the millions of tourists it attracts each year. We were suitably entertained. 

One our way to clap and cheer the sad, enslaved animals at Sea World, we were stuck on a bridge, the city traffic strangled by an event that made no sense to me whatsoever. Half of the roads had been reserved on that day for a strange, shuffling mob of zombie-like creatures with numbers on their stomachs. 

Dude, have these people not seen Happy Feet?
There are many things that make no sense to me, marathon running is just one of them. Stuck in a driver's seat, with nothing else to look at, it struck me that these people who were either walking, limping or jogging past did not look like they were enjoying themselves at all. I could drag out the ol' 'marathon runners do not look like healthy human beings' stereotype, but that is besides my point. If you're going to put your joints, ligaments and muscles through 42 kilometres of bitumen-pounding stress, I would think that you'd either be having great fun or at least have a very good reason for punishing yourself, like raising money for sick kiddies. 

I certainly have some mild admiration for the super-humans that ran the distance in a little over 2 hours, but I still don't get why they'd put their bodies through such punishment for chance at a piffling $15,000 first prize. Strange.

I'll put it down to something that will continue to bemuse and baffle me - the list is getting quite long, which is probably a sign of age.

A few days after Sea World, we took the kids to see the animals' happy, blissfully ignorant relatives/comrades in the wild.
cute little humpback, chillin'

This is whale for "thanks for not impaling and flaying me for scientific research" 

The contrast was striking, even after taking into consideration the sea sickness. 

After enjoying much that QLD has to offer, we piled into the car and drove the 3,300 km (2,050 miles) home. Four long days of driving at speeds of 110-130 km per hour is unavoidably draining, but having stable blood sugar levels definitely helps. 

It is amusing when people claim diets of any description will provide benefits ranging from cancer cure to x-ray vision, but my ability to concentrate and lack of fatigue was impressive. I hazard a guess it would not have been that way if I'd broken my fast on a bowl of cornflakes and orange juice. 

Maybe there's room for an e-book targeted at truckies entitled "improving your long-haul stamina, without amphetamines".

Or maybe I could have driven in the dark without headlights if I'd eaten a no-fat vegan-tofu smoothie. Unfortunately that type of research is poorly funded and my house lacks willing participants.
Free trivia - ducks love steak and salami
* I willfully admit that my part of the country is considered the intellectually disabled cousin who everyone tries to ignore but finds a way to gate-crash the party, get shitfaced and wiggle his nob at the hostess.