What I Am Reading

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“What are we doing to our children? We fret, we helicopter, we listen to the wrong people. We pore over transcripts of two-year-olds chattering and turn ourselves into amateur statisticians. But, ultimately, many of the outcomes aren’t in our control. And that’s a problem that all the data in the world won’t fix.”

And with that, we begin a deep dive into parenting by millennials and the other spawn of Baby Boomers. Emily Oster, an economist by training and mother by free will has written Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool. She attempts to debunk a lot of the pseudoscience surrounding parenting, like whether to let them cry or how much screen time is OK. In the end, she finds that noted pediatrician Yogi Berra summarized the situation best, “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.” 

I’m a big fan of allowing your children to get dirty, my wife not so much. But neither of us believes that disinfecting the kitchen counter beyond soap and water is beneficial. So this article caught my attention. 

“Modern medicine does not often bother to ask why. …Modern medicine asks what and how: what conditions do you have, and how do we treat them? …I started out in biomedical research asking what and how, but after stumbling into some inexplicable questions that cannot be addressed by the what and the how, I started asking why. Our Western diet is certainly a factor. And our stressful lifestyle. But we and others are coming to a fascinating conclusion: intestinal worms are almost certainly involved. But it’s not the presence of the worms that is hurting us. To the contrary, the almost complete loss of intestinal worms in modern society is, surprisingly, a very significant problem.”

The difficulty with finding a treatment for Alzheimer’s is that we do not understand its cause. We see the tangled fibrils and the treatments targeted at removing them have been unsuccessful. A new theory is that Alzheimer’s represents a failure of the brains own immune system. It is an extension of the thinking of the immune system and cancer; as we age the ability of our immune system to suppress mutations, weakens, and cancer gains a foothold. 

“A sharp reduction in nerve cell connections, decreased blood flow to the brain resulting in reduced levels of oxygen and glucose, and a gradual degrading of the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells are among other factors that are part of the downward spiral to dementia. Other types of cells that normally produce nutrients for the brain begin releasing toxins instead. These “insults on the nerve cells” would normally be contained, repaired, or mitigated if the brain’s immune system were healthy…”