food and nutrition

An ounce of prevention

The general belief is that prevention is more successful than subsequent treatment. The difficulty smokers have with quitting testifies to the truth of that idea. Public health officials increasingly have focused on preventing the young from beginning to smoke, especially by banning the use of flavors, a “gateway” to nicotine dependence. There is a similar push now on to ban menthol in cigarettes to nudge adult smokers. 

In 2018, San Francisco voters approved a ban on all flavored tobacco products, combustibles, and vaping products. A new study in JAMA Pediatrics provides some preliminary outcomes. 


I found this a plausible study, but we should consider it speculative rather than accepted. First, the research is based on cell cultures. Second, the nuances of cell culture are frankly outside my ability to discern good from bad in technique. Third, it is not a peer-reviewed paper at this point. You can find the paper here, and you are welcome to apply belief or disbelief as you feel necessary. 

If you need a refresher on the adverse clotting events, you can find a review here. These adverse clotting events involve the two COVID-19 vaccines that are "vector-based" - hopping a ride within a specially constructed adenovirus...

If there's one thing everyone should know about science, it's this: what the evidence shows about a topic and what the public is told the evidence shows are often very different things.

Consider local food as an example. The internet teems with listicles extolling the virtues of buying food from local producers: 7 Fantastic Benefits of Eating Local; 8 Reasons to Eat Local Foods; The Top 11 Benefits of Locally Grown Food! “Eating local doesn’t just benefit your health and the farmers in your community,”...

“Cotton’s statements did not get any immediate coverage, but several days later David Choi at Business Insider wrote them up with the headline “Republican senator suggests ‘worse than Chernobyl’ coronavirus could've come from Chinese ‘superlaboratory.’”

Choi’s piece is one of those things that happens on the internet when the story is totally accurate but also doing a lot of sensationalization for clicks. What Cotton said at the hearing is that the Chinese government’s official story about the seafood market was wrong, which was something that was at the time also being floated in Vox and The New York Times and Science and the Lancet. Where Cotton differed from the consensus is that he...

In the mood to read about an element this morning? Probably not. But since you know this is going to be incredibly fascinating, mind-altering, and most likely in poor taste, thousands of you are going to read it anyhow (1). Don't fight it.

Iodine is an unusual and fascinating element. Some of its functions include:

  • Antiseptic
  • Cloud seeding
  • Protection against radiation poisoning
  • Blowing stuff up

Iodine itself is not found in nature

Elemental iodine, also called molecular iodine (2) is too reactive to be found in nature. But it does exist in spectacular minerals, the most common is called iodagyrite, which is composed of silver iodide. This is not a coincidence...

The "boots on the ground" when it comes to surveillance are the state health departments that, in turn, rely on the reporting of local health departments. The CDC aggregates the information and investigates the cases. Let’s start with a definition. A breakthrough infection occurs when COVID-19 is detected based upon RNA or antigens in the “respiratory specimen” (a more polite way to describe phlegm) in a person who has completed their immunization at least 14 days previously.

What they found

As of April 30th,

  • 101 million individuals have been fully vaccinated in the US
  • As evidenced by the...

Here is a graphic of vaccine’s economic value. It has a huge multiplier for the most concrete of benefits, reducing the number of individuals that require treatment - $16 saved for each $1 spent. We can quibble about those indirect savings; they are a bit softer; after all, what is the price of suffering, especially when it is far away and not seen. 

Globally, we have a long way to go – especially if you think you might want to travel again.


Sources: The infographic on the value of vaccination comes from ...

A growing body of evidence gathered over the last 15 years has shown that using an electronic cigarette ("vaping") is probably far safer than smoking and likely to help smokers quit their deadly habit forever. Certain segments of the public health establishment have reacted oddly to these results—they've ignored them and treated vaping as a serious threat. The American Heart Association, for example, has even called for e-cigarettes to be taxed and regulated as stringently as tobacco products are. [1]

Fortunately, this...

Research published in Science Advances first examined reproducibility in psychology, economics, and articles in Nature/Science. Many would argue that psychology is too soft a science, and economics is too dismal (?), but can we agree that the last category should routinely report reproducible research? I will focus on those findings when possible. Papers in Nature and Science were the most frequently reproducible; 62% of 21 studies, although the effect size was reduced by about 25%, the results were still in the “right direction.”

To determine the fate of those papers, the current researchers looked at how often and where these papers were cited – how often were these studies forming the foundation of thought for other exploration? Were they built on solid or shaky ground?


GWAS and Polygenic Risk Scores (PGS)

Genome-Wide Associations Studies (GWAS) employ statistical means of describing the genome. They can be used to calculate polygenic risk scores or polygenic scores (they go by both names), which can tell you how your genetic constitution compares to others. It also can predict traits, including the risk of diseases caused by multiple genetic combinations. (Here’s more on GWAS and PGS).

But while your PGS can tell you that you may be at a higher risk of, say, coronary heart disease – it won’t tell you whenyou might get sick – or even if you will get sick at all. The most your PGS can tell you is your ...