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If The Microbiome Is As All Important As We’re Led To Believe Isn’t That’s All The More Reason Not To Mess With Yours?

Posted  January 27, 2020  by  Yoni Freedhoff

There’s no denying the hype around the microbiome with buzz suggesting that it’s integral to anything and everything – from our immune systems, to obesity, to dementia.

So let’s for a moment agree that it is.

Even if we do, it’s difficult to imagine there would be one universal “best” mircobiome makeup spanning age, sex, race, diet, geography, comorbidities, etc. Meaning even if we had thoughts about what a “healthy” microbiome was, what’s healthy for one person might not be healthy for another.

But back to us agreeing they’re hugely important and implicated in everything.

If that’s the case, should you really be purposefully trying to mess with yours given we basically haven’t even begun to study the impact of messing with them over time?


I’ll stick to the basics.

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Saturday Stories: Coping, Flu Shot Crusading, And Conspiracying

Posted  January 25, 2020  by  Yoni Freedhoff

Thomas Harding, in The Guardian, on surviving the loss of his teenage son.

Jason McBride, in Toronto Life, with a profile of the inimitable flu shot crusader Jill Promoli.

Jane Coaston, in Vox, on the conspiracy theories fuelling New York’s exploding antisemitism.

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Another poetry post

Posted  January 23, 2020  by  Anonymous

Darkest Hour was on, so I was able to watch this great scene again today:

Horatius  —Thomas Babington Macaulay

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods.”
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Great tweets of the day, animal edition

Posted  January 22, 2020  by  Anonymous

Here’s some tweets that I have been enjoying today:

An incorrectly assembled whippet.

— Jonathan Best (@jonnnybest) January 18, 2020

No matter the size, cats will be cats😂

— Akki (@akkitwts) January 16, 2020

— 41 Strange (@41Strange) January 17, 2020

There are 2 types of dogs…

— viralvideos (@BestVideosviral) January 22, 2020

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Should Statistically Significant But Clinically Meaningless Outcomes Still Be Reported As Significant?

Posted  January 22, 2020  by  Yoni Freedhoff

Rather than call out the specific paper that led to this blog post (I also don’t want to add to its Altmetrics), just a question.

If your systematic review findings demonstrate that a particular supplement/food/diet led to an average total weight loss of 0.7lbs is it appropriate to describe that effect as significant even if statistically you believe you’re able to make that claim?

Personally, I don’t think so.

Especially not when we’re discussing food, because as Kevin Klatt recently pointed out on his blog, there are no food placebos. and as John Ionnidis pointed out, we eat thousands of chemicals in millions of different daily combinations which markedly challenges our ability to conclusively opine about the impact of any one food.

Worse though, is the fact that the media (both traditional and social), won’t bother to qualify their enthusiasm when describing these findings and instead will report them as beneficial, significant, and important, as of course will PubMed warriors.

So how to fix this? Perhaps including a qualifying, “but not likely to have any clinical relevance” statement in the abstract might lead to more balanced media coverage (or less media coverage ) which in turn would be less likely to report significant but clinically meaningless outcomes as important, which ultimately would be good for science and scientific literacy.

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On The Existence of Street Pianos In Toronto Community Centers

Posted  January 18, 2020  by  bigcitylib

I used to be totally against them.  It was always some no-talent eight year old plinking out a ghastly version of Chopsticks and you can’t tell them they suck or STFU! because their parents will get upset and report you to the facility staff becau…

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Saturday Stories: Black Medical Academics, Brittany Ran A Marathon, And Body Positivity

Posted  January 18, 2020  by  Yoni Freedhoff

Ughé Blackstock, in STAT, on why black academic physicians like her are leaving their positions.

Sam Brennan, in Fit Is a Feminist Issue, on how she watched Brittany Runs a Marathon so you don’t have to.

Virginia Sole-Smith, in Elemental, asks whether the fitness industry and body positivity can co-exist?

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Product Reformulation Means Sugar Taxes Work Even If People Don’t Buy Less As A Consequence

Posted  January 15, 2020  by  Yoni Freedhoff

Taxes work to decrease purchasing, and the higher the tax, the greater their impact. Period.

Which is why it’s always struck me as odd when people question whether or not sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes would affect SSB purchases (and consequently consumption).

But let’s leave that odd debate aside for a moment. If the goal of SSB taxes is to decrease added sugar consumption (which it explicitly is, while it is explicitly not about weight loss as societal obesity is not singularly caused by SSB consumption, and decreasing SSB consumption is healthy at every weight), it would appear that SSB taxes will decrease sugar consumption even if they don’t decreasing purchasing.


Because when SSB taxes are enacted, the beverage industry reformulates its products.

And at least according to this bulletin from the World Health Organization, they do so not insignificantly!

Of the 83 products they surveyed in both 2014 (before the SSB tax) and in 2018 (after the SSB tax), the mean sugar content decreased by 42% (from 9.1 g/100mL to 5.3 g/100m) while the mean energy content decreased by 40% (from 38 kcal/100mL to 23 kcal/100mL). Putting this into the context of a standard 355ml can – that would represent 2.45 fewer teaspoons of sugar and 53 fewer calories per can.

And this was in response to a fairly nominal tax. Presumably larger taxes would drive larger (or more expansive) reformulations which of course would also be coupled with decreased purchasing.

All this to say, this is yet another reason why if you’re living somewhere without an SSB tax, my bet is that it’s a matter of when, not if, you will be.

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I for one welcome our new Sussex Royal overlords

Posted  January 14, 2020  by  Anonymous

Many Canadians are giddy at the prospect that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle could be moving to Canada, injecting some razzle dazzle to the sprawling, bone-chillingly cold country.

— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) January 11, 2020

Well, I’m not exactly giddy, but I am excited.  I think it will be great if Harry and Meghan and little Archie moved to Canada.

Their webpage is beautiful, very well done, and explains their overall intentions.

Full Disclosure: I did meet the Queen once, when I was a reporter at a Victoria newspaper and I got to cover a Royal Visit there. And I attended a press reception on the Royal Yacht Britannia – which sort of dates me, doesn’t it, since the yacht has been decommissioned for 20 years.
Anyway, getting back to today’s news, I notice Canadian twitter is combining some pro-monarchy enthusiasm with some bitching about how expensive it would be for Canada to pay for RCMP protection.

For decades, if not a century+, Canada has provided protection for eminent persons visiting Canada. Ex-US Presidents, European royalty, etc. The political right either has amnesia or thinks Harry and Meghan are a great distraction from their boring leadership contest. #cdnpoli

— Diane Marie (@DianeMariePosts) January 13, 2020

Though actually, I think most of the “Canada is furious!” coverage is coming from the same British tabs that drove the Sussex Royals out in the first place, so they don’t have any credibility when they write about how angry we supposedly are.
My feeling is, we already pay for RCMP protection for a lot of other ceremonial positions — the Governor General and all the Lieutenant-Governors, not to mention the Canadian Senate – so what’s another Royal Highness or two between friends. I expect the Canadian government will work out a deal with the Brits sooner rather than later on this. Isn’t Mark Carney still running the Bank of England? Maybe he can cut us a cheque.
The thing that is really making me laugh is how angry the racist British tabloids are now about losing Megan as their target of bile — they’re already ramping up the criticism of William and Kate, but their hearts aren’t really in it. They really loved bashing every single thing that Meghan did or didn’t do. and they were salivating to start in on Archie as soon as they could start comparing him to angelic George and winsome Charlotte and adorable Louis.
Seeing how bad their Meghan-as-Monster coverage was, its no wonder Harry was furious – and the rest of the family should have spoken up in Meghan’s defense much louder and more vigorously – I suspect they other royals thought mere dignity would eventually deflect them (a mistake Trump opponents make all the time, too) or they were secretly relieved that she was the target rather than them. They could have demanded changes to that Royal Rota system years ago.
Now, the next time the Raptors are in the NBA finals, I suspect Harry will be joining Obama at the arena. Won’t that be fun?
But leave it to The Beaverton to have the last word:

— The Beaverton (@TheBeaverton) January 13, 2020

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Saturday Stories: Larry David, Elizabeth Wurtzel, And The Ebola Vaccine

Posted  January 11, 2020  by  Yoni Freedhoff

Brett Martin, in GQ, profiles the inimitable Larry David

Elizabeth Wurtzel, in Medium, discussing her life’s final year

Helen Branswell, in STAT, with the story of how scientists on 3 continents together produced an Ebola vaccine

Photo of Elizabeth Wurtzel by Blonde1967; this photo was taken with an iPhone SE by my mother, Lynne Winters – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

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Canadian Donut Chain Launches Donut Flavoured Cereal And People Are Angry. Why I Think There Are Better Things (And Worse Cereals) To Be Angry About.

Posted  January 9, 2020  by  Yoni Freedhoff

So last week saw the Canadian launch of timbits cereal and as evidenced by the number of people have sent press releases about it to me, not everyone is pleased.

Timbits, for readers who don’t know, are donut holes from Canadian donut chain giant Tim Hortons.

People are upset because apparently this sugary cereal is over the top and somehow extra wrong or extra awful.

But why?

Tim Horton’s certainly isn’t in the business of protecting or promoting public health. Nor is Post Foods. Nor should anyone expect either to be.

Presumably the sugar is a concern for people, and at 17g per cup (4.25 teaspoons), it’s definitely not an insignificant amount, but it’s not more than many other sugary cereals, and is in fact less than Post Raisin Bran which packs 24% more sugar at 21g (5.25 teaspoons) per cup.

All this to say, it’s difficult to get angry with Tim Horton’s or Post Foods for trying to sell food as selling food is literally their only job, and frankly this food isn’t any worse than comparable foods they’re already selling.

So what should the cereal aisle make people angry about?

How about laxity in advertising laws that allows for cartoon characters to be festooned on boxes of sugary cereals and prey on children? Or laxity in front-of-packaging laws that allow Froot Loops boxes to brag about their whole grain or vitamin D content? Or the failure of our government to create a front-of-package warning system like the one that was enacted in Chile.

What would life in Canadian cereal aisles look like if we followed Chile’s lead?

Here’s Frosted Flakes before and after Chile’s laws came into effect

Sure looks great to me.

(And for the grammar police, ‘donut’ is how Tim Horton’s spells doughnut)

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What would war with Iran be like?

Posted  January 6, 2020  by  Anonymous

We were talking yesterday about the possibility of a US-Iran war and how we are experiencing misty, water-coloured memories of the awful build-up to the invasion of Iraq way back in 2003, when related scare-mongering about Iran was also going on.One of…

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How Much Do You Like Your Diet? Given Adherence Likely Dependent On Enjoyment, Our Recent Paper Set Out To Quantify That

Posted  January 6, 2020  by  Yoni Freedhoff

Back in 2012, I wondered aloud about creating a scoring system for dietary enjoyment. I blogged about it a few times here and there, and happily, a wonderful team of researchers in New Zealand took notice. Now, thanks to the hard work of Michelle Jospé, along with Jillian Haszsard, and Rachel Taylor, the first step towards its formal use has been taken.

Our paper, A tool for assessing the satisfaction of a diet: Development and preliminary validation of the Diet Satisfaction Score, was published late last year and it details our Diet Satisfaction Score’s preliminary reliability and validity.

With the help of the 1,604 people (spanning 24 different countries!) who answered our survey questions, as well as 6 diverse experts (thanks to Melanie Dubyk, Kevin Hall, Scott Kahan, Silke Morrison, Marion Nestle, Sherry Pagoto, Arya Sharma and Ethan Weiss), we arrived on the following questions geared to address various aspects of dietary adherence and satisfaction

The simplest way to think of the Diet Satisfaction Score’s use is the higher the overall score (each question is answered on a 5 point Likert scale and the final DSS score is calculated by way of taking the mean of all available items yielding a total score between 1 and 5), the greater an individual’s satisfaction/enjoyment of that diet is. The hypothesis then would be higher scores correlating with better adherence and consequently better/sustained weight loss.

And that’s what our preliminary findings suggest whereby each 1-point higher Diet Satisfaction Score correlated with a 1.7 week longer diet duration. It was also found that compared with those who had abandoned their diets, those maintaining them reported larger losses.

The value of a simple and quick score like this to individuals would be as a means to assess how much (or how little) they were enjoying their diets taking into account more than just whether they like the foods they’re eating, but also the impact their chosen diet might be having on related aspects of life (socializing, time, cost, etc.). Those evaluating their new diets and finding their scores low, might explore means to tweak their diets, or to try new ones.

The DSS score’s value to clinicians would be as a quick means to screen their patients’ efforts and perhaps to use the tool to help trouble shoot, or to triage referrals to professional resources such as registered dietitians.

The value of the DSS score to researchers would be using this tool with shorter term studies as a means to predict whether or not their studied diets are likely to be sustainable (as who really cares how much weight a person might lose on a particular short term diet if few people would actually sustain it).

Of course now what’s required is the repeated use of the Diet Satisfaction score in a long-term prospective trial. The good news is that because the tool, like me, is diet agnostic, it can be administered with any and all dietary strategies. Should you be interested in using the Diet Satisfaction Score in your trial Dr. Jospe is the person to contact and her contact information is just this one click away.

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It’s Twelfth Night!

Posted  January 6, 2020  by  Anonymous

Today is Twelfth Night AKA Epiphany Eve.Here is one classic version:   And another much earlier classic too: The director, Wendy Toye, was one of the few female film directors in the 1950s (or in any decade, for that matter).

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Its the Year of the Optometrist!

Posted  January 1, 2020  by  Anonymous
People around the world are celebrating 2020 – which my husband calls The Year of the Optometrist.
Singapore, with 500 performing drones
New Year’s Eve - Singapore
Photos from the New York Times.
And from Twitter:
Couldn’t resist this tweet:

“I’m going to learn the flute and write my novel this year”

dude if we aren’t bartering dried beans and ammo with the last person who remembers how to make antibiotics in a year let’s call it a win

— Mass for Shut-ins (is a podcast) (@edburmila) December 31, 2019

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Canadian scene

Posted  December 31, 2019  by  Anonymous
A few Canadian tweets to finish out the year:

Only in Canada eh

— Raging🇨🇦Granny/ Resistor & Team Trudeau (@RagingLibNana) December 30, 2019

Exactly five years ago today, I moved from Nigeria to Canada and my life changed forever. That’s it. That’s the tweet.

— ufuoma (@theufuoma) December 31, 2019

Happy Birthday to The Guess Who singer songwriter, keyboardist and guitarist Burton Cummings, born on this day in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1947. 🎉🎂🎶🇨🇦

— Purple Beacon (@BeaconPurple) December 31, 2019

Crime is getting out of hand!

— Meanwhile in Canada (@MeanwhileinCana) December 31, 2019

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Posted  December 24, 2019  by  Anonymous

My favorite passages from A Christmas Carol are the descriptions of Christmas in Victorian London:Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened so, that people ran about with flaring links, proffering their services to go before horses in carriages, and con…

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Happy Festivus!

Posted  December 23, 2019  by  Anonymous
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A note on conservative human relations

Posted  December 19, 2019  by  Anonymous

Some time ago, I lost my life partner to cancer. Two prominent right-wing bloggers, with whom I had crossed swords many a time, expressed what I believed were sincere commiserations, a genuine reaching across the aisle. It was much…

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This Be The Verse

Posted  December 19, 2019  by  Anonymous

I find myself reading a number of the advice columnists these days. And as I read about all the problems people have with their families, I often think of this great poem:

This Be The Verseby Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

Someday I will share this with my own adult children, if I ever have the courage.

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Great tweets of the day, animal edition

Posted  December 17, 2019  by  Anonymous

Here are some good animal tweets:

— Steve Stewart-Williams (@SteveStuWill) December 15, 2019

— Right Wing, Shoots Left 🍷🐓🏒🥅🌈 (@HILITINGHOCKEY) December 14, 2019

I can’t stop watching this. You really need the sound on. A perfect elixir to get Trump out of your head before bed!

— Mystery Solvent (@MysterySolvent) December 10, 2019

Any hope of getting my prowl on today is #BuriedUnderTheSnow. #CatsOfTwitter

— 🐾Beware of Dogma🐾 (@ellelljaytoo) November 16, 2019

ok its time again for this pup who was asked to ‘sit’ but was not asked to ‘stay’ and is just doing fine this pup is doing just fine if u ask me


— darth™ (@darth) July 30, 2018

And one political one, of course:

an adult with the mental capacity of a child, wearing ill-fitting clothes and repeatedly making terrible choices, is put in a situation where global disaster occurs if he screws up

im talking about the movie Elf but makes u think kinda, right

— ho ho holesome content (@SortaBad) December 14, 2019

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Can someone tell me what is going on in Alberta?

Posted  December 10, 2019  by  Anonymous

I don’t really follow Alberta news, but the constant “cut, cut, cut” and “whine, whine, whine” I am hearing from there recently is getting chaotic.

Does the Alberta UCP government have any idea what it is doing?

They are supposedly going to reduce surgical wait times by paying for more private surgical facilities, but at the same time they are cutting back on primary care doctors and eliminating nursing positions.  
They cut taxes for corporations, at the same time as they are nickle-and-diming drug coverage for dependents of seniors – people who don’t have a lot of other health insurance choices – and forcing school boards to use maintenance funds to maintain teaching staff levels — a trade-off that isn’t going to work more than once.
Premier Kenney seems to be furious at PMJT because supposedly Alberta is paying more in equalization than he thinks is fair – except no provincial taxpayers “pay” for equalization, its a federal transfer program and anyway Canada is using the 2009 Harper formula which was apparently fine with Kenney until now.  Of course, Alberta is now losing jobs – 18,000 in November alone, the highest monthly job loss in Alberta history.
Why, if this keeps up, maybe they’ll be entitled to equalization payments too!  (Side note: I will never forget how upset and appalled the Toronto-centric media were when Ontario actually qualified for equalization because of the 2009 downturn – complaints heard again when Ontario stopped being entitled to the payments in 2018.)
Kenney doesn’t seem to have the capacity or the will to put together the kind of government stimulus and employment programs that have been used in the past to counter economic downturns and job losses — which don’t even yet include the companies that are not moving there because of the Wexit stupidity.

Jason Kenney is happy to stoke the flames of Wexit because he thinks it will help him win political points. But there are real economic consequences to Kenney promoting and indulging Alberta separatism – like a thousand jobs in downtown Calgary. #ableg

— Progress Alberta (@ProgressAlberta) December 9, 2019

But never mind — instead, lets everybody just trash WestJet – whose head office IS located in Calgary (at least, for now) — for insufficient loyalty to Dear Leader:

our premier just subtweeted the CEO of @WestJet over his comments on #wexitalberta in case you needed any more proof @Alberta_UCP has the same level of maturity and leadership skills as band of schoolyard bullies #cdnpoli #ableg #abpoli

— Bridget Casey (@BridgieCasey) December 10, 2019

If Alberta now needs more provincial revenue to support its government obligations, then first they need to implement a provincial sales tax, like every other province has done already, before they start demanding more money from the rest of Canada.

Public advised of aggressive panhandler from Alberta who will probably just spend money on corporate tax cuts #ableg #cdnpoli

— The Beaverton (@TheBeaverton) December 10, 2019

Whatever is going on in Alberta, I sure hope its not catching.

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Daughter Dearest

Posted  December 9, 2019  by  Anonymous

Hmmm — I’ve been saying for years that SOMEBODY in Trump’s inner circle is a Russian asset.  I am convinced that someone very close to him has been feeding him all the pro-Putin and pro-Russian stuff he has been parroting since 2016, convincing him that the Russian world-view is correct, leading him to say things like how unfair it is that Russia is out of the G7, etc.

Occasionally, Trump has actually done something anti-Russian, like announce new sanctions in retaliation for assassinations – maybe when the asset is out of town and isn’t whispering in his ear.  But then later Trump will almost always reverse himself and change his mind, indicating that the asset continues their subversion.

I have not been able to believe that Trump himself is the asset — he isn’t smart enough and his lies are often too self-delusional to be the kind of conscious falsehoods that a Russian asset would need to promote.

So now maybe we are finding out who the Russian asset might be: maybe its Ivanka.

Reaching out to someone like Steele and trying to develop/maintain a relationship w him is the kind of thing one might do if you were a Russian asset.

— Dana Houle (@DanaHoule) December 9, 2019

NEW via @thamburger @PostRoz: Ivanka Trump was personal friends with former British spy Christopher Steele, according to person familiar with the situation

— Matea Gold (@mateagold) December 9, 2019

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“Send us your money and everything will be just fine”

Posted  December 4, 2019  by  Anonymous

I’m very glad to see that Canadian authorities are taking these scams seriously: A Burnaby, B.C., man has been identified as a suspect in an RCMP investigation into organized crime groups;accused of scamming Canadians by posing as Canada Revenue Agency…

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TPL heebie-jeebies and the Fa’a Samoa

Posted  October 30, 2019  by  Anonymous

Let me be clear: when it comes to Meghan Murphy and her followers at the Toronto Public Library versus the protesters outside, I stand with the protesters. Now, let me be less clear. At this point, I’m beginning to…

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Wexit: The Moose In The Room

Posted  October 24, 2019  by  Balbulican

Just in time for Halloween, the recent Liberal expulsion from the West has injected new life into Western Separatism, one of Canada’s favourite political zombies, now lurching back to life under the catchy Brexit-inspired trademark “Wexit”. Because who can’t look…

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