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Another example of airbrushing women out of scientific discovery: The Hidden Heroines of Chaos

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Rose Franklin was famously pushed out of the history of the discovery of DNA, which is generally credited to the men who short-changed her: Crick and Watson. Here’s another example, reported in Quanta by Joshua Sokol:

little over half a century ago, chaos started spilling out of a famous experiment. It came not from a petri dish, a beaker or an astronomical observatory, but from the vacuum tubes and diodes of a Royal McBee LGP-30. This “desk” computer — it was the size of a desk — weighed some 800 pounds and sounded like a passing propeller plane. It was so loud that it even got its own office on the fifth floor in Building 24, a drab structure near the center of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Instructions for the computer came from down the hall, from the office of a meteorologist named Edward Norton Lorenz.

The story of chaos is usually told like this: Using the LGP-30, Lorenz made paradigm-wrecking discoveries. In 1961, having programmed a set of equations into the computer that would simulate future weather, he found that tiny differences in starting values could lead to drastically different outcomes. This sensitivity to initial conditions, later popularized as the butterfly effect, made predicting the far future a fool’s errand. But Lorenz also found that these unpredictable outcomes weren’t quite random, either. When visualized in a certain way, they seemed to prowl around a shape called a strange attractor.

About a decade later, chaos theory started to catch on in scientific circles. Scientists soon encountered other unpredictable natural systems that looked random even though they weren’t: the rings of Saturn, blooms of marine algae, Earth’s magnetic field, the number of salmon in a fishery. Then chaos went mainstream with the publication of James Gleick’s Chaos: Making a New Science in 1987. Before long, Jeff Goldblum, playing the chaos theorist Ian Malcolm, was pausing, stammering and charming his way through lines about the unpredictability of nature in Jurassic Park.

All told, it’s a neat narrative. Lorenz, “the father of chaos,” started a scientific revolution on the LGP-30. It is quite literally a textbook case for how the numerical experiments that modern science has come to rely on — in fields ranging from climate science to ecology to astrophysics — can uncover hidden truths about nature.

But in fact, Lorenz was not the one running the machine. There’s another story, one that has gone untold for half a century. A year and a half ago, an MIT scientist happened across a name he had never heard before and started to investigate. The trail he ended up following took him into the MIT archives, through the stacks of the Library of Congress, and across three states and five decades to find information about the women who, today, would have been listed as co-authors on that seminal paper. And that material, shared with Quanta, provides a fuller, fairer account of the birth of chaos.

The Birth of Chaos

In the fall of 2017, the geophysicist Daniel Rothman, co-director of MIT’s Lorenz Center, was preparing for an upcoming symposium. The meeting would honor Lorenz, who died in 2008, so Rothman revisited Lorenz’s epochal paper, a masterwork on chaos titled “Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow.” Published in 1963, it has since attracted thousands of citations, and Rothman, having taught this foundational material to class after class, knew it like an old friend. But this time he saw something he hadn’t noticed before. In the paper’s acknowledgments, Lorenz had written, “Special thanks are due to Miss Ellen Fetter for handling the many numerical computations.”

“Jesus … who is Ellen Fetter?” Rothman recalls thinking at the time. “It’s one of the most important papers in computational physics and, more broadly, in computational science,” he said. And yet he couldn’t find anything about this woman. “Of all the volumes that have been written about Lorenz, the great discovery — nothing.”

With further online searches, however, Rothman found a wedding announcement from 1963. Ellen Fetter had married John Gille, a physicist, and changed her name. A colleague of Rothman’s then remembered that a graduate student named Sarah Gille had studied at MIT in the 1990s in the very same department as Lorenz and Rothman. Rothman reached out to her, and it turned out that Sarah Gille, now a physical oceanographer at the University of California, San Diego, was Ellen and John’s daughter. Through this connection, Rothman was able to get Ellen Gille, née Fetter, on the phone. And that’s when he learned another name, the name of the woman who had preceded Fetter in the job of programming Lorenz’s first meetings with chaos: Margaret Hamilton.

When Margaret Hamilton arrived at MIT in the summer of 1959, with a freshly minted math degree from Earlham College, Lorenz had only recently bought and taught himself to use the LGP-30. Hamilton had no prior training in programming either. Then again, neither did anyone else at the time. “He loved that computer,” Hamilton said. “And he made me feel the same way about it.”

For Hamilton, these were formative years. She recalls being out at a party at three or four a.m., realizing that the LGP-30 wasn’t set to produce results by the next morning, and rushing over with a few friends to start it up. Another time, frustrated by all the things that had to be done to make another run after fixing an error, she devised a way to bypass the computer’s clunky debugging process. To Lorenz’s delight, Hamilton would take the paper tape that fed the machine, roll it out the length of the hallway, and edit the binary code with a sharp pencil. “I’d poke holes for ones, and I’d cover up with Scotch tape the others,” she said. “He just got a kick out of it.”

There were desks in the computer room, but because of the noise, Lorenz, his secretary, his programmer and his graduate students all shared the other office. The plan was to use the desk computer, then a total novelty, to test competing strategies of weather prediction in a way you couldn’t do with pencil and paper.

First, though, Lorenz’s team had to do the equivalent of catching the Earth’s atmosphere in a jar. Lorenz idealized the atmosphere in 12 equations that described the motion of gas in a rotating, stratified fluid. Then the team coded them in.

Sometimes the “weather” inside this simulation would simply repeat like clockwork. But Lorenz found a more interesting and more realistic set of solutions that generated weather that wasn’t periodic. The team set up the computer to slowly print out a graph of how one or two variables — say, the latitude of the strongest westerly winds — changed over time. They would gather around to watch this imaginary weather, even placing little bets on what the program would do next.

And then one day it did something really strange. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2019 at 2:25 pm

Interesting critical review of “How Not to Die”

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Denis Minger, author of Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health, has an interesting critical review of How Not to Die. I think it’s worth reading to avoid going overboard. For example, from her review:

Throughout How Not to Die, Greger distills a vast body of literature into a simple, black-and-white narrative — a feat only possible through cherry picking, one of the nutrition world’s most gainfully employed fallacies.

Cherry picking is the act of selectively choosing or suppressing evidence to fit a predefined framework. In Greger’s case, that means presenting research when it supports plant-based eating and ignoring it (or creatively spinning it) when it doesn’t.

In many cases, spotting Greger’s picked cherries is as simple as checking the book’s claims against their cited references. These foibles are small but frequent.

For example, as evidence that high-oxalate vegetables aren’t a problem for kidney stones (a bold claim, given the wide acceptance of foods like rhubarb and beets as risky for stone formers), Greger cites a paper that doesn’t actually look at the effects of high-oxalate vegetables — only total vegetable intake (pages 170-171).

Along with stating “there is some concern that greater intake of some vegetables … might increase the risk of stone formation as they are known to be rich in oxalate,” the researchers suggest the inclusion of high-oxalate veggies in participants’ diets could have diluted the positive results they found for vegetables as a whole: “It is also possible that some of the [subjects’] intake is in the form of high-oxalate containing foods which may offset some of the protective association demonstrated in this study” (1Trusted Source).

In other words, Greger selected a study that not only couldn’t support his claim, but where the researchers suggested the opposite.

Similarly, citing the EPIC-Oxford study as evidence that animal protein increases kidney stone risk, he states: “subjects who didn’t eat meat at all had a significantly lower risk of being hospitalized for kidney stones, and for those who did eat meat, the more they ate, the higher their associated risks” (page 170).

The study actually found that, while heavy meat eaters did have the highest risk of kidney stones, people who ate small amounts of meat fared better than those who ate none at all — a hazard ratio of 0.52 for low meat eaters versus 0.69 for vegetarians (2Trusted Source).

In other cases, Greger seems to redefine what “plant-based” means in order to collect more points for his dietary home team.

For instance, he credits a reversal of diabetic vision loss to two years of plant-based eating — but the program he cites is Walter Kempner’s Rice Diet, whose foundation of white rice, refined sugar, and fruit juice hardly supports the healing power of whole plants (page 119) (3).

Later, he again references the Rice Diet as evidence that “plant-based diets have been successful in treating chronic kidney failure” — with no caveat that the highly processed, vegetable-free diet in question is a far cry from the one Greger recommends (page 168) (4Trusted Source).

In other instances, Greger cites anomalous studies whose only virtue, it seems, is that they vindicate his thesis.

These cherry-picks are hard to spot even for the most dutiful reference checker, since the disconnect isn’t between Greger’s summary and the studies, but between the studies and reality.

As one example: in discussing cardiovascular disease, Greger challenges the idea that omega-3 fats from fish offer disease protection, citing a 2012 meta-analysis of fish oil trials and studies advising people to load up on the ocean’s fattiest bounty (page 20) (5Trusted Source).

Greger writes that the researchers “found no protective benefit for overall mortality, heart disease mortality, sudden cardiac death, heart attack, or stroke” — effectively showing that fish oil is, perhaps, just snake oil (page 20).

The catch? This meta-analysis is one of the most heavily criticized publications in the omega-3 sea — and other researchers wasted no time calling out its errors.

In an editorial letter, one critic pointed out that among the studies included in the meta-analysis, the average omega-3 intake was 1.5 g per day — only half the amount recommended to reduce the risk of heart disease (6Trusted Source). Because so many studies used a clinically irrelevant dosage, the analysis might have missed the cardioprotective effects seen at higher omega-3 intakes.

Another respondent wrote that the results “should be interpreted with caution” due to the study’s numerous shortcomings — including the use of an unnecessarily stringent cutoff for statistical significance (P < 0.0063, instead of the more common P < 0.05) (7Trusted Source). At more widely used P-values, the study might have deemed some of its findings significant — including a 9% reduction in cardiac death, a 13% reduction in sudden death, and an 11% reduction in heart attack associated with fish oil from food or supplements.

And yet another critic noted that any benefit of omega-3 supplementation would be hard to demonstrate among people using statin drugs, which have pleiotropic effects that resemble — and possibly mask — the mechanisms involved with omega-3s (7Trusted Source). This is important, because in several of the no-benefit omega-3 trials, up to 85% of the patients were on statins (8Trusted Source).

In the spirit of accuracy, Greger could have cited a more recent omega-3 review that dodges the previous study’s errors and — quite intelligently — explains the inconsistent outcomes among omega-3 trials (8Trusted Source).

In fact, the authors of this paper encourage the consumption of two to three servings of oily fish per week — recommending that “physicians continue to recognize the benefits of omega-3 PUFAs to reduce cardiovascular risk in their high risk patients” (8Trusted Source).

Maybe that’s why Greger didn’t mention it!

Beyond misrepresenting individual studies (or accurately citing questionable ones), How Not to Die features pages-long slogs through the fallacious cherry orchard. In some cases, entire discussions of a topic are built on incomplete evidence.

Some of the most egregious examples include: . . .

Read the whole thing. And the review is not all criticism. For example, later in the review:

As we’ve seen, Greger’s references don’t always support his claims, and his claims don’t always match reality. But when they do, it’d be smart to listen up.

Throughout How Not to Die, Greger explores many oft-ignored and myth-shrouded issues in the nutrition world — and in most cases, fairly represents the science he draws from.

Amid mounting fears about sugar, Greger helps vindicate fruit — discussing the potential for low-dose fructose to benefit blood sugar, the lack of fruit-induced harm for diabetics, and even a study in which 17 volunteers ate twenty servings of fruit per day for several months, with “no overall adverse effects for body weight, blood pressure, insulin, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels” (pages 291-292) (60Trusted Source61Trusted Source).

He rescues phytates — antioxidant compounds that can bind to certain minerals — from the vast mythology about their harm, discussing the many ways they can protect against cancer (pages 66-67).

He casts doubt on fears surrounding legumes — sometimes maligned for their carbohydrate and antinutrient content — by exploring their clinical effects on weight maintenance, insulin, blood sugar control and cholesterol (page 109).

And, most importantly to omnivores, his penchant for cherry picking occasionally pauses long enough to make room for a legitimate concern about meat. Two examples:

1. Infections From Meat

Beyond the dead, ever-beaten horses of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, meat carries a legitimate risk that How Not to Die drags into the spotlight: human-transmissible viruses.

As Greger explains, many of humanity’s most loathed infections originated from animals — ranging from goat-given tuberculosis to measles from cattle (page 79). But a growing body of evidence suggests humans can acquire diseases not just from living in close proximity to farm animals, but also from eating them.

For many years, urinary tract infections (UTIs) were believed to originate from our own renegade E. coli strains finding their way from the gut to the urethra. Now, some researchers suspect UTIs are a form of zoonosis — that is, an animal-to-human disease.

Greger points to a recently discovered clonal link between E. coli in chicken and E. coli in human UTIs, suggesting that at least one source of infection is chicken meat that we handle or eat — not our resident bacteria (page 94) (62Trusted Source).

Worse yet, chicken-derived E. coli appears resistant to most antibiotics, making its infections particularly hard to treat (page 95) (63Trusted Source).

Pork, too, can serve as a source of multiple human illnesses. Yersinia poisoning — linked almost universally to contaminated pork — brings more than a brief fling with digestive distress: Greger notes that within one year of infection, Yersinia victims have a 47-times higher risk of developing autoimmune arthritis, and may also be more likely to develop Graves’ disease (page 96) (6465Trusted Source).

Recently, pork has come under fire for another health hazard as well: hepatitis E. Now considered potentially zoonotic, hepatitis E infection is routinely traced to pig liver and other pork products, with about one in ten pig livers from American grocery stores testing positive for the virus (page 148) (66Trusted Source67Trusted Source).

Although most viruses (hepatitis E included) are deactivated by heat, Greger warns that hepatitis E can survive the temperatures reached in rare-cooked meat — making pink pork a no-go (page 148) (68Trusted Source).

And when the virus survives, it means business. Areas with high pork consumption have consistently elevated rates of liver disease, and while that can’t prove cause and effect, Greger notes that the relationship between pork consumption and death from liver disease “correlates as tightly as per capita alcohol consumption and liver fatalities” (page 148) (69Trusted Source). In a statistical sense, each devoured pork chop raises the risk of dying from liver cancer as much as drinking two cans of beer (page 148) (70Trusted Source).

All that said, animal-derived infections are far from a strike against omnivory, per sePlant foodsoffer plenty of transmissible illnesses of their own (71). And the animals at highest risk of transmitting pathogens are — in nearly every case — raised in overcrowded, unhygienic, poorly ventilated commercial operations that serve as cesspools for pathogens (72).

Although How Not to Die remains tight-lipped on any benefits of humanely raised livestock, this is one area where quality can be a lifesaver.

2. Cooked Meat and Carcinogens

Meat and heat make a flavorful duo, but as Greger points out, high-temperature cooking poses some unique risks for animal foods.

In particular, he cites what the Harvard Health Letter called a meat-preparation paradox: “Cooking meat thoroughly reduces the risk of contracting foodborne infections, but cooking meat too thoroughly may increase the risk of foodborne carcinogens” (page 184).

A number of these foodborne carcinogens exist, but the ones exclusive to animal foods are called heterocyclic amines (HCAs).

HCAs form when muscle meat — whether from creatures of the land, the sea, or the sky — is exposed to high temperatures, roughly 125-300 degrees C or 275-572 degrees F. Because a critical component of HCA development, creatine, is found only in muscle tissue, even the most woefully overcooked veggies won’t form HCAs (73Trusted Source).

As Greger explains, HCAs were quite whimsically discovered in 1939 by a researcher who gave mice breast cancer by “painting their heads with extracts of roasted horse muscle” (page 184) (74Trusted Source).

In the decades since, HCAs have proven to be a legitimate hazard for omnivores who like their meat high up on the “done” spectrum.

Greger provides a solid list of studies — decently conducted, equitably described — showing a link between high-temperature-cooked meat and breast cancer, colon cancer, esophageal cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer (page 184) (75Trusted Source). In fact, cooking method appears to be a major mediator for the association between meat and various cancers that pop up in epidemiological studies — with grilled, fried, and well-done meat boosting risk significantly (76).

And the link is far from just observational. PhIP, a well-studied type of HCA, has been shown to spur breast cancer growth almost as potently as estrogen — while also acting as a “complete” carcinogen that can initiate, promote, and spread cancer within the body (page 185) (77Trusted Source).

The solution for meat eaters? A cooking method revamp. Greger explains that roasting, pan frying, grilling, and baking are all common HCA makers, and the longer a food hangs out in the heat, the more HCAs emerge (page 185). Low-temperature cooking, on the other hand, appears dramatically safer.

In what might be the closest thing to an animal food endorsement he ever offers, Greger writes, “Eating boiled meat is probably the safest” (page 184). . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2019 at 12:13 pm

Finding pleasure in the discomfort of learning new skills

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I often recommend Mindset, by Carol Dweck. It’s an entertaining read and it informative in describing well the phenomenon of learning resistance. For some people, learning something new is the opposite of a pleasure: new ideas may contradict old notions with which they’ve become comfortable—so comfortable, in fact, that they see them as part of who they are, their identity. The new idea can seem like a direct personal attack.

And that’s just new ideas: new skills are even worse since the initial stages of learning a skill make us feel awkward and embarrassed by our struggles. This seems true even when we are young: those who have raised young children will have observed how out of temper—frustrated, irritable, and angry—a very young child is just as s/he embarks upon learning to walk. The old way is no good, the new way is too hard, and tears and tantrums are frequent during the transition from crawling to toddling.

Of course, the very young have little choice in the matter: they must learn to sit up, to crawl, to walk, to talk, to feed themselves, to go to potty, to dress themselves. Each step is for a while a separate struggle, but you’ve probably noticed that those same skills, now mastered, no longer arouse strong emotions.

And indeed, adults—who in general have a choice in what they do—spend most of their time in practicing skills long since mastered. (One exception I’ve noticed in business is that lower-ranking adults often do not have a choice in learning a skill: a clerk is simply required to master the intricacies of the new copier or the new phone system. I once observed a company president who wanted to transfer a call on the new phone system somewhat piteously call out to his secretary to please come in and do it for him.)

The result of spending virtually all of their time in exercising skills already required is that adult who  are beginners in a new skill are often terrible students: they know clearly what they want to do, and they are acutely aware of what they see as failures (rather than as practice trials) as they try to learn to play the piano, or to speak a foreign language, or to cook a meal (for those adults who just learning to cook), and so on. That awkwardness and embarrassment and uncertainty seems almost toxic to them if they have become unaccustomed to the early stages of learning. They view their experience in those early stages of learning as a struggle rather than an exploration. New ventures are traditionally viewed as hazardous, and novelty in one’s own routines is often initially distasteful. (Those who have enjoyed Patrick O’Brian’s series of novels about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin will be familiar with the benediction upon parting, “Que no haya novedad”—May no new thing arise.)

The key, as is so often the case, is an adjustment of attitude, described well in Dweck’s book: to accept eagerly that awkwardness as the harbinger of a new skill, and initially focus your attention on your progress (which in the first stages of learning is remarkable) rather than on your results (which in the first stages of learning is best viewed only to measure progress).

If you have continued to learn new things, these difficulties are not such an issue, since they are (a) familiar and (b) you have, through practice, learned how to learn. But those who have successfully avoided learning new things, will have lost the skill (and the familiarity) of learning, so that for them the feelings aroused by the initial stages of learning become almost detestable because they so unfamiliar and uncomfortable: they are unable to detect the implicit promise. They are acutely aware of the irritating grain of sand and don’t realize that the final result is a pearl of great value: a skill whose exercise has become a source of great enjoyment (cf. traditional shaving and the Guide displayed at the right).

I’ve just embarked upon learning how to follow a plant-based diet, and I am finding the usual (and now familiar) awkwardness. I continue to be careful in my intake of net carbs and to avoid simple carbs, so that is familiar, but I’m having to learn a new pattern. When my diet was omnivorous diet, I had a (mostly unconscious) repertoire of meal patterns: I could throw together a decent meal with little thought. I knew the drill.

Those patterns naturally involved using animal protein (meat, seafood, eggs, and/or cheese), which often functioned as the pivot point of the meal, and without those, my old patterns fall apart and I find I’m somewhat at a loss. It’s like the old knock knock joke that begins, “I have a new knock-knock joke. You start.” and when the other automatically says, “Knock, knock” and your respond “Who’s there?”, there’s the baffled full stop—who is there? The vacuum in the meal patter does feel awkward. But already I’m finding/creating new patterns, and meals are becoming easier to create. The transition for me is well underway.

It takes a little time to sort out, but I started this less than one week ago with reading How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease. I’ve had six days of preparing plant-based meals for myself and already I’m beginning to find my footing—getting my sea legs, as it were (I do love O’Brian’s novels) as I embark in a new direction. For me this process is pleasurable: I love the experience of things start to come together and make sense, and in fact make a new sort of sense. I’m almost bubbling with happiness as I dream up new combination to try and as I taste new dishes. A couple of days ago I wrote about my new standard breakfast, but I now realize I can improve it even more by adding a pinch herbs and spices to it.

I’m excited. It’s not every day that one has the chance to go in a new direction, and the fact that it’s healthful makes it all the better. 🙂

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2019 at 9:58 am

The Generic Drugs You’re Taking May Not Be As Safe Or Effective As You Think

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Since the four medications I take are all generic (and thus are inexpensive: a 3-month supply of all four drugs totals US$1.80). I dislike the idea that they are not well vetted. I notice that the GOP has consistently stripped of resources the agencies most important to protecting the public and funding the government: FDA, FAA, IRS, EPA, OSHA, CFPB, FTC, and so on. Republicans seem to be on a mission to destroy the US.

Dave Davies reports at NPR:

As the cost of prescription medication soars, consumers are increasingly taking generic drugs: low-cost alternatives to brand-name medicines. Often health insurance plans require patients to switch to generics as a way of controlling costs. But journalist Katherine Eban warns that some of these medications might not be as safe, or effective, as we think.

Eban has covered the pharmaceutical industry for more than 10 years. She notes that most of the generic medicines being sold in the U.S. are manufactured overseas, mostly in India and China. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that it holds foreign plants to the same standards as U.S. drugmakers, but Eban’s new book, Bottle of Lies, challenges that notion. She writes that the FDA often announces its overseas inspections weeks in advance, which allows plants where generic drugs are made the chance to fabricate data and results.

“These plants know that [the FDA inspectors are] coming,” Eban says. “I discovered [some overseas drug companies] would actually … alter documents, shred them, invent them, in some cases even steaming them overnight to make them look old.”

(In a statement to NPR, the FDA said that Americans “can be confident in the quality of the products the FDA approves” and notes it has “conducted a number of unannounced inspections” at foreign plants over the past several years.)

As a result, Eban says, generic drugs sometimes go to market in the U.S. without proper vetting. She describes the FDA as “overwhelmed and underresourced” in its efforts to ensure the safety of overseas drug production.

Eban advises consumers to research who manufactures their generics and look up any problems that regulators have found out about them. But some consumers may find they are not allowed by their health plan to switch to alternatives, because of cost.


Interview Highlights

On why many drug companies moved production overseas

There were a couple of reasons for this surge in globalization in the drug industry. One was environmental regulations. … How are you going to safely dispose of all the chemicals and solvents that you’re using? And … there was less environmental regulation overseas. But another one is: If you move your manufacturing plant to India, you’re going to save a huge amount on labor costs and supplies — ingredients — overnight.

And so what you saw was a huge migration, both of manufacturing to Indian-owned companies, Chinese-owned companies, but also Western- and U.S.-based companies, buying up manufacturing plants overseas and moving their manufacturing there.

On how the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act changed the generic-drug industry

What it created was a pathway at the FDA, a distinct application process for generics, because prior to Hatch-Waxman, basically the generic companies had to do the same set of tests [and] clinical studies that the brand did, and Hatch-Waxman said, you know what? We’re gonna give you an abbreviated application. You can do the clinical studies on many fewer patients, because we’ve already proven safety and efficacy of this molecule in the human body.

But what Hatch-Waxman did that really ignited the generic-drug revolution is it gave the companies an incentive: The incentive was called “first to file,” and it said if you are the first company to submit your application — and literally first by the minute or the second — and you get approved, you’re going to get six months of exclusivity on the market to be the lead and only generic, and you’re probably going to be able to sell your drugs at about 80 percent of the brand-name price. And that “first to file” really became the difference between making a fortune and making a living.

On how some plants that make generics prevent FDA inspectors from doing thorough inspections

In several instances I documented, the investigators were poisoned in the course of their inspections with tainted water from the tap, which you can’t drink in India. They felt sick during inspections. I mean, this was a way of running out the clock. They were followed. In one instance, an investigator had his hotel room bugged. In some cases that I had heard about, [the plants] were trying to scan passenger lists in airports to try to determine exactly who was coming when. So there were elaborate measures that the plants took to try to protect against bad inspections.

On how the quality of generic drugs can vary depending on where the drugs are being sold . . .

Continue reading.

You can hear the interview at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2019 at 8:45 am

Regarding cardio exercise and brain function

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Also from How Not to Die, by Michael Greger MD:

In a 2010 study published in the Archives of Neurology, researchers took a group of people with mild cognitive impairment—those who are starting to forget things, for example, or regularly repeating themselves—and had them engage in aerobic exercise for forty-five to sixty minutes a day, four days a week, for six months. The control group was instructed to simply stretch for the same time periods.

Memory tests were performed before and after the study. Researchers found that in the control (stretching) group, cognitive function continued to decline. But the exercising group not only didn’t get worse, they got better. The exercisers got more test answers correct after six months, indicating their memory had improved.

Subsequent studies using MRI scans found that aerobic exercise can actually reverse age-related shrinkage in the memory centers of the brain. No such effect was found in the stretching and toning control groups or a nonaerobic strength-training group. Aerobic exercise can help improve cerebral blood flow, improve memory performance, and help preserve brain tissue.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 May 2019 at 2:32 pm

Interesting book: “How Not to Die,” by Michael Greger M.D.

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How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease, by Michael Greger M.D., is essentially a very readable collection of research findings on nutrition, the gist of which that a plant-based diet is much more healthful than a diet that includes animal-derived foods (meat, fish, dairy, eggs). Greger also has a website, NutritionFacts.org, which contains a large library of brief (typically 5 minutes) videos on a wide range of nutrition facts. Here’s a list of topics.

I’m convinced enough to switch my diet while still maintaining some of my own restrictions:

a. I don’t eat any foods that contain refined sugar, and I don’t use sweeteners (because I deliberately developed a taste for savory in preference to sweet), and I avoid simple carbs that are quickly digested (because I have type 2 diabetes).

b. I favor foods low in net carbs (total carbs minus dietary fiber). Thus I favor fruit low in net carbs (berries, for example). For foods high in carbs (e.g., grains), I buy them in a form and prepare them in a way that I minimize minimize the impact of the carbs. For example, I eat whole-kernel grains (oat groats, hulled barley, wheat berries), and I chill those after I cook them, which makes the starch resistant so that it is not digested so quickly. (When I eat them, I take a 1/2 cup serving and reheat it.) I don’t eat corn or rice or white potatoes, which are high in starch, though I do eat sweet potatoes occasionally. I do eat beans, which are high in fiber, but those also I refrigerate after cooking before I eat them, and if I eat them on a salad I don’t reheat.

c. I use WW Freestyle online (no meetings) to assist in portion control, tracking points. A great many foods (200 or more) are zero points, so this is not burdensome, particularly since I quickly learn the point value of foods I frequently eat (cf. how supermarket checkout clerks learn the product codes for fruits and vegetables).

I find the effort interesting and actually enjoy figuring out meals that are satisfying, healthful, and meet my criteria. It’s early days yet, so I am still figuring out a working menu, but it’s no more problematic than learning to play chess.

To facilitate meal preparation, I prep and cook foods ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. Right now I have greens (kale and red chard), Lima beans, hulled barley, and oat groats.

Because I’m buying more from the bulk bins, I stopped by the hardware store and bought a dozen canning jars ($9). We’re a two-person family, so I got pint/500ml jars, but a family of four would find quart/1L jars more suitable. I like that they are clear glass (and not plastic). I strongly recommend also getting a canning funnel, a wide-mouth funnel that fits the jars perfectly. It makes filling them easier and less spill-prone.

Based on my reading, I have jars for quinoa, navy beans (highest in fiber), Lima beans (good source of iron), oat groats, wheat berries, hulled barley, pecans, walnuts, peanuts, pepitas, flaxseed, and chia seed, and I’m sure I’ll be finding other foods suitable for a jar.

UPDATE: A Quoran pointed out to me a very interesting critical review of Greger’s book and approach. See this post. In his enthusiasm for (and fervid support of) a non-animal diet (a term that seems better than “plant-based,” I think), Dr. Greger misstates the conclusions of some studies and flatly ignores others. I’m now also reading Minger’s book, nd I think I’lll be following a “plant-primary” diet that will not avoid all animal-derived foods. I’m still working out the details, and I do think having my diet have a higher proportion of greens, nuts and seeds, vegetables, fruit, and the like is good, but I don’t think I will go whole-hog (as it were).

Written by LeisureGuy

18 May 2019 at 11:18 am

Finding my way in a plant-based diet

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Today I worked out a meal plan, and I thought I’d present it with comments. I am doing this in the context of WW Freestyle, so I’ll note points, my daily allowance being 23 points. For each food that has points, points are noted. (Many foods on WW Freestyle are zero points.)

Breakfast – 7 points

I arise quite early, and I make a small pot (a pint) of tea, this morning Murchie’s No. 10, and pour it into my Temperfect mug to sip as I read the news. I also squeeze lemon into a glass, add 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice (2 points), ice, and white tea to fill. I generally drink that first, since the tea in the mug stays at drinking temperature for some hours. I drink pomegranate juice because it’s good for arterial health.

I made my standard breakfast, today with 1/2 cup cooked oat groats. I skipped the flaxseed, since I plan to have it for dinner. The extra-virgin olive oil was 3 points and the 1/2 cup of cooked oat groats 2 points.

Lunch – 5 points

I bought some salad greens and added 3 chopped scallions, 1/2 chopped yellow bell pepper, 5 or 6 sliced cherry tomatoes, some broccoli that I previously steamed, some broccoli sprouts, and 1/2 cup previously cooked Lima beans from the fridge.

For the dressing, I put into a little jar: 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (4 points), juice of a lemon, a pinch of salt, some freshly ground black pepper, and about 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika. I shook it well, poured it over the salad, and sprinkled the salad with a tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes (1 point) because of its B12 content. (That much nutritional yeast has enough B12 to more than satisfy the daily requirement.)

Snack – 1 point

Mid-afternoon, I stir 1 tablespoon of mugi miso (1 point) into a mug of hot water. Mugi miso is made from barley and soybeans. It’s tasty and a nice lift. Miso is a probiotic and has good health benefits.

Dinner – 10 points

I halved a kabocha squash, removed seed, cut it into chunks, tossed it with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, and put it on a lined baking sheet. I sprinkled it with Maldon salt, pepper, cinnamon, and grated orange peel and roasted it until it was tender. I figure about 1 teaspoon of olive oil was lost to the bowl and baking sheet, so each portion will have 1 teaspoon of olive oil consumed (2 points total). (I also think there will be some kabocha squash left over.)

I’ll heat a cup of previously cooked quinoa (6 points total) and 1/2 cup of previously cooked Lima beans (0 points), perhaps adding a dollop of water if needed, and add 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (4 points total), 1/4 cup ground flaxseeed (4 points total), 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (2 points total), and 4 teaspoons white sesame seed (2 points total). That makes 20 points total, so each of the two portions is 10 points.

Total: 23 points

I went shopping today and bought various things to cook and chill for use later: winter wheat (whole grain wheat berries), navy beans, broccoli (which I’ll steam). Also carrots (to roast), leeks, zucchini, and Melt, a vegetarian butter substitute that’s highly rated. Having things on hand makes it easy to throw together meals.

So far, so good.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 May 2019 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Recipes

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