Fat Science

Investigating the science of body weight regulation

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Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Statistics, Semantics and Parity

Posted by Miriam Gordon on March 19, 2012

I am by no means a statistician, but I’ve worked as a medical writer and editor for long enough to know that the results of clinical trials rely heavily on statistics for their interpretation. There have been countless books written on this matter, and here’s a gem of an article in the Atlantic that sums it up nicely. But since most of us are not statisticians, we must rely on the “experts” to interpret them for us. The problem is that they can be so easily misused and misleading.

If you recall, there was a famous study by Christakis and Fowler (NEJM 2007) on the spread of obesity through social networks that relied on statistical analysis. In 2008, a refutation of this article was published by Cohen-Cole and Fletcher in the Journal of Health Economics. In fact, I would bet you a pack of bubble gum that for every statistical analysis ever published, a refutation of that analysis is subsequently published. So what are the non-statisticians to do?

I say we all need to learn to take most studies with a grain of salt, and approach them skeptically. This is something that children should be learning in school – it is essential to the scientific process. If this concept were something that all of us learned in school, we wouldn’t be so quick to jump on the published results of any study even if they would prove our dearly held beliefs.

NB: In their blog “Retraction Watch,” Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus have touched on the problems caused by faulty statistical analysis in climate change research. I hope to see more of this in the future. I attended a conference 2 days ago entitled “Bioethics Bootcamp,” sponsored by the Hastings Center, Science Writers in New York, and the National Association of Science Writers. Ivan, the Executive Director of Reuters Health, said that he routinely tells his reporters to “always carry a statistician in your back pocket.” Easier said than done, but I hope this will get easier in the future.


Posted in body image, obesity, science, Sociology, statistics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Causation, Correlation, Dogma, Weight, and Health

Posted by Miriam Gordon on August 10, 2009

After acquiring the book almost a year ago, I (again) started reading Gary Taubes’ book entitled Good Calories, Bad Calories. Based on what I’ve read so far, and knowing Gary Taubes’ background, I believe it’s a very scholarly work, and very thoroughly researched. From the title, it’s obvious that this book considers the scientific evidence for specific types of diets and how they affect body weight regulation. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in biology, health, obesity, science | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Dr. Christakis’ Reply

Posted by Miriam Gordon on January 22, 2009

It has taken me several weeks to post this reply, which Dr. Christakis sent almost immediately after I sent him my email (see previous entry entitled “An Email to Dr. Nicholas Christakis”). During this time I’ve had the opportunity to learn and think more about Dr. Christakis’ work, and was not shocked to discover that my knee jerk response to his NEJM article on the spread of obesity through social networks was premature. However, I was far from alone in this reaction. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in biology, obesity, science, Sociology | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Here a SNP, There a SNP

Posted by Miriam Gordon on October 8, 2008

A “SNP” is a single nucleotide polymorphism. Within a genetically distinct population, i.e. people of a certain ethnicity, religion, or geographic region, there are several versions of the DNA sequence of any given gene that is almost identical, with the exception of one sequence unit at a specific site. This single nucleotide variation occurs in the population at observable frequencies. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in biology, obesity, science | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Diabetes or Diarrhea – Take Your Pick*

Posted by Miriam Gordon on September 18, 2008

Metformin, otherwise known as glucophage, is a medication that works to lower elevated blood sugar and help the body process the excess sugar more efficiently. However, if you have the unmitigated gall to eat sweets while taking this medication, you will be punished by having copious diarrhea. I found this out first hand. I guess this is the price I pay for feeding my addiction. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in biology, body image, health, Health at Every Size (HAES), obesity, science, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Twenty First Century Eugenics?*

Posted by Miriam Gordon on September 10, 2008

Last night I came across a blog entry by Matthew Brown (http://www.scientificblogging.com/scientific_notation/self_control_is_to_sudoku_can_you_end_addiction_with_analogies), which discussed data from the laboratory of Dr. Jeremy Gray and others on the inverse correlation of intelligence and self-control. Immediately, I thought wow, if I’m fat because of a lack of self control, does that mean I’m less intelligent than someone who is free of compulsive behaviors?* Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in biology, science, science writing | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Fat Cell Switcheroo*

Posted by Miriam Gordon on September 7, 2008

Humans, mice — indeed all mammals — have two types of fat cells in their bodies; white and brown. White fat cells store energy. In contrast, brown fat cells dissipate energy as heat, thus counteracting obesity. Much to the chagrin of humans living in industrialized societies, most fat cells in our (adult) bodies are white fat cells. While this trait served our kind well throughout our evolutionary history, we now face a vast abundance of inexpensive, easily accessible, high energy content foods. This, combined with our body’s tendency to want to store up energy for times when food is scarce, leads to obesity and its accompanying adverse health effects. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have more brown fat cells and less white fat cells?* Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in biology, science | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pity Thy Pancreas

Posted by Miriam Gordon on September 3, 2008

Today I had an appointment with Judith Townsend, the Physician’s Assistant who works with Dr. Louis Arrone, in New York City. Dr. Arrone is an expert in medications to treat obesity. I go there with the intention of trying medications to help me reduce my weight, which is an approach I haven’t yet tried. When I last had my blood tested (about 2 months ago), my glucose was a little high (114), Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in biology, science | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Searing Withdrawal

Posted by Miriam Gordon on August 29, 2008

In the 1995 film “The Basketball Diaries”, Leonardo DiCaprio brilliantly portrays Jim Caroll’s descent into heroin addiction. When I attempt to explain to people who do not suffer from obesity what complete, sudden withdrawal from refined carbohydrates is like, based on my own experience, I get a mental picture of what DiCaprio’s Jim Carroll goes through as he suffers the torture of withdrawal from heroin. Although this is an extreme example, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in biology, science | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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