Exposing Faulty Studies – On Causation vs. Correlation

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I am always stumbling across new studies with these outlandish headings.

Let’s take for instance the following article:

Diets high in meat, eggs and dairy could be as harmful to health as smoking

Wow. That’s really making a claim! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone make a persuasive statement or share an article based on one of these types of studies – with only reading the headline. This frustrates me. And take a look at this subheading:

People under 65 who eat a lot of meat, eggs and dairy are four times as likely to die from cancer or diabetes, study suggests

Let’s break down what’s going on here.

Based on this headline, I expect tests with meat, eggs, and dairy being the only isolated variable in the controlled group of people. I want to know details about the group tested (age/health/history) and I want it to be a controlled study. I want to see detailed evidence on how the quantity and quality of these variables affect a human’s health. I expect conclusive evidence that people under 65 are more likely to die based on the animal proteins they are consuming. I also want to see the studies about smoking they have performed to make this comparison.

The test group:

  • 6,381 Adults all over the age of 50
  • Broken up into high protein group (over 20% of diet protein), moderate group (10-19%), and low group (less than 10%)

The claimed results:

  • High protein intake is linked to increased cancer, diabetes, and overall mortality
  • Higher protein consumption may be protective for older adults (over 65)
  • Plant-derived proteins are associated with lower mortality than animal-derived proteins

These results make me cringe. So the claim is that high protein is linked to these types of mortality. Out of this whole group of 6,381 people over an 18 year period, there were only 6 deaths. Of these 6 deaths, more came from the range of 50-65 than from over 65. This activated my bullshit detector almost as much as reading the headline of this article. It just doesn’t make sense. The study found that animal proteins (meat, eggs, and dairy) were associated with these deaths and not protein in general (it claims they used both animal proteins and other natural types of proteins in the study). Based on how I understood the study, I don’t see how they can truly link animal proteins in the association with these deaths.

Also, this study never explains the reasoning behind comparing animal proteins with smoking. It appears the creator of the study just added in smoking because people associate it with ill-health. There is no other reason I could find for this to be in the study, let alone the headline.

Here is a quote from the creator of the study:

“People need to switch to a diet where only around nine or ten percent of their calories come from protein, and the ideal sources are plant-based,” Longo told the Guardian. “We are not saying go and do some crazy diet we came up with. If we are wrong, there is no harm done, but if we are right you are looking at an incredible effect that in general is about as bad as smoking.”

This is an illogical recommendation, even based on his study’s findings. The study says that eating animal proteins over the age of 65 is good, but from the range of 50-65 is bad. The creator of the study is telling everyone to consume an amount of protein on the lower end of their test. This, again, makes absolutely no sense to me.

Let’s get into talking about the topic of a controlled study. This does not come across as a controlled study, but more of an observational study. A true controlled study would have all static variables and only change one variable and see the results. It is extremely difficult to perform this on humans with so many factors coming into play. This makes it difficult to trust almost any study on humans. Rats are much easier to control, which is one reason we see so many studies on these animals.

Most studies are either observational studies or controlled studies gone wrong.

Another factor is the age of the control group. Why are you testing only people over 50 years old? Why are you only focused on deaths instead of nutritional data? How are you not taking into effect the additional exposure older people have to sicknesses and other negative-effecting variables? Questionable.

My take-away:

I find this study to be extremely irresponsible. To me. the author is looking only for page-views with this title. This article could have easily been called ” There is no association between protein intake and mortality.” Instead, he chose this current title. Ultimately, my take-away is disregard everything in this article.

Let’s clear it up once and for all

Correlation shows relationships between 2 variables. Ex: how many bathrooms a house has vs. the price of the house. There will be a relationship here – maybe every extra bathroom the house has, the house is worth $4,000 more. However, this does not imply causation. If you add an extra bathroom, your house’s value will not jump $4,000.

Causation is much more difficult to prove in a study. There needs to be isolated variables in a controlled group. Causation is when (A) actually causes (B) to occur.

I’m breaking this down because I see too many people jump to the conclusion that a study proves causation. This is very often not the case. I want people to be wary the next time they see a similar headline.

I always try to check my sources, check the background of the study, and check the data. I also try to make sure the founders of the study have no vested interest in the outcome.

  • Ex: A Coca-Cola study about how Aspartame (sugar substitute) is not harmful to our health.

It is often more dangerous to be misinformed than to not be knowledgeable about a certain topic.

The goal of this process is to at least briefly question information you come across and eliminate being easily fooled. Previously, I was greatly influenced by anything that came from a position of authority. After being proven wrong too many times, I decided to make a change. I have made an effort to self-experiment for a while now, finding my own results instead of relying these types of studies. I find this to be more effective, as everyone is different and there is more poor advice floating around with the recent rise of technology. However, the truth is being exposed as well…you just have to find it.

So even if you decide not to test things out yourself, be wary of the studies you come across.

A better system of evaluation will help you weed through the BS out there.

 “If you see fraud and don’t shout fraud, you are a fraud”. – Nassim Taleb

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Always Tired? Let’s Attack This Naturally

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This couldn’t have been written a year ago.

Growing up, I don’t remember ever having any issues with my energy levels. I was always running around doing different things, having recess at school, sleeping 10 hours a night. But while in college I started noticing I had some issues – well maybe I just consciously realized it.

I was staying active. I was getting enough sleep usually. I began eating a little healthier. But still no significant improvement.

So what was the issue? I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Well it took some time and a lot of trial and error, but I finally made some breakthroughs.

Some were surprising.

Over the past few months, my energy has been at an all-time high. The factors included a few small changes, and others that took some time to develop. I want to break variables down as I currently see them. Some may be common knowledge, but they are still important factors so I don’t want to discount them.

Here we go.

It starts with managing your energy levels. You have to pay attention to your body. Is your body giving you signs of fatigue and that it’s time for a break? Then take one. Don’t keep trying to push forward when you have a bad headache or are physically exhausted. It’s better to let you body repair itself now than try to run at 50% and make the recovery period longer. I was in a vicious cycle of making this mistake.

Along with this, you must also pay attention to your mental energy. Reducing the mental clutter and negative thoughts will bring about more physical energy. At times, I turn into a very compulsive thinker, so it is important that I channel this effectively and quite my mind at times throughout the day. We think way too much throughout the day. Take some time to slow it all down. An exhausted mind often equals and exhausted body.

If you are looking for a quick fix, look no further than the amount and type of fats you are consuming. I’ve covered this before, but I continue to run into people who are misinformed. We’ve been tricked. This ‘fats are bad’ thing has gone on long enough. First, not all fats are treated equal. I often hear people say avocados are healthy, but when they come across anything else high in fat, they are not convinced. Lets learn a little more…Not only do good fats provide some instant energy, but they also provide many long-term health benefits (heart/brain). Did you know our brains are made up of primarily water, fat, and cholesterol? Makes you re-think fat and cholesterol right? Eat some quality fats in the morning and notice the difference. You could start by eating 2 tablespoons of Coconut Oil or MCT Oil. Cook with some grass-fed butter. Even try snacking on some fats – bacon and eggs, peanut butter, nuts, avocados. I would estimate that my diet now consists of around 50-60% fats. This has provided not only more energy, but weight loss. Big factor.

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I also have reduced my carbohydrate intake. I try to limit the carbs I have at breakfast and lunch. I usually stick with sweet potatoes and other slow-carbs. I’ve also been working on reducing my sugar intake. Both carbohydrates and sugar break down into glucose. You don’t want too much of this if you want consistent energy…unless you enjoy that afternoon crash (Insert 5 hour energy here). This also goes for artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame. If you need a sweetener, Stevia appears to be the best option.

Another quick fix is some exercise. I have been in a good flow recently, doing strength/core training about 4-5 days a week. Maybe running/yoga/stretching works for you. You need to get that blood pumping! Any physical activity helps. Need proof? Check this out…

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I also take a few supplements to aid my energy levels among other things. I always try and get these vitamins and minerals through foods first. But these include 500 mg of Magnesium, B Complex, Vitamin C, and 1,000 I.U. of Vitamin D3 among others. Potassium is also important. If you have an indoor job, I recommend these – especially in the winter. Obviously, I’m not a doctor. But I do take advice from an M.D. focused on health – see Peter Attia.

Can’t forget caffeine – I have a few cups of coffee a day, as well as an afternoon green tea. Try to keep the sources natural with little sugar – coffee, tea, dark chocolate.

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Also, try to get 8 hours of sleep. This is simple, but it is one of the most crucial factors. Make it a quality sleep while you’re at it.

The occasional power nap also is beneficial. I’ve even tried caffeine naps (espresso/caffeine pill then set your alarm for 25 min) every once in a while and found them to be effective. Even a 5-10 minute nap can make a world of difference.

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These are all easy things you can incorporate into your life today. Many may show immediate results. However, they are not the only factors.

Let’s look into some other variables that have helped me get to this point. These take work and are far from perfect.

I noticed a significant difference when I decided to change my outlook. By just framing my approach towards my personal life and work differently, everything shifted for the better. I’m taking the little issues in life much less seriously. And I’m having more fun. Less stress is always a good thing

I have really paid attention to my self-talk. Here is a recent TED Talk  I watched that hits on what I’m talking about. If you consciously pay attention to what you are telling yourself, you may not like what you see. I’ve been making an effort stop the escalation of any negative talk. I am often just too hard on myself. A good exercise is to just ask yourself – would you say these things to another person? No? Then why make them part of your story. Instead turn to conscious positive talk. This change has resulted in less physical stress, a less-worried mind, and a better self-image. That’s 2 birds with 1 stone – more positivity, MORE ENERGY.

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This probably won’t happen overnight. But by adopting a few of these techniques, you may see some positive results.

I plan to test to keep testing these out. I hope you do as well.

Let me know how it goes.

New Age Business Lesson

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Looking back at my schooling, I now notice there were a decent amount of business classes that did not prepare me for the real world.

I was being prepared for a career in scantron test-taking.

A quality education will provide you with a strong base going forward. It may open some doors and set you on the right path. However, I continue to see people giving up on learning once they graduate.

This is a crucial mistake.

My education outside the classroom has taught me so much more than anything within those walls. Until you get your hands dirty with the workings of the real world, you will be on a difficult path to a successful career.

This is true learning.

This is how you make real money.

This is how you separate yourself from the crowd.

I have spent countless hours developing a go-to system for myself. I have studied many people smarter and accomplished than myself. I have experimented with existing platforms to learn first hand.

Reading and studying will start you on a good path, but there comes a point when you need to dive in.

So anyway, I have my Masters in Accounting. Hypothetically, I could go teach business classes.

This got me thinking. What would be a quality assignment for students – that is both useful and relative to the times – that I would assign if I were a teacher right now in a general business class.

Most homework is straight from the book. I rarely had any assignments in class that utilized some of the most powerful tools we currently use online.

This needs to change. Here’s what I would propose.

Assignment for the day

There are 2 parts to this.

Find 5 people of influence in a certain field you are interested in. Make sure this person has a blog or some sort of platform (Facebook/Twitter/etc). This could be a CEO, a popular marketer, a member of a startup…you get the point.

Part 1: Evaluate the pros and cons of their online presence. Are their messages coming across effectively? Are they providing actionable advice? Have they differentiated themselves? Are they responding back to their audience consistently? Do they have a legit following? Are they spammy? Are they talking too much?

It’s important to be able to detect BS in this new world of social media and technology. This trend will not stop anytime soon. There will be more and more information coming out every day. There was a study in 2013 that 90% of the World’s data that was generated over the previous 2 years. I think you understand the importance.

Part 2: Choose 2 of these individuals (preferably ones you find the most value from) and reach out to them via Twitter/Facebook/Blog. When reaching out, spend a little time trying to provide value for them. This will increase your chance of being noticed and receiving a response.

The purpose of this assignment is to stress the importance of consistently providing value to others, finding quality sources of information, and eliminating the fear of reaching out to more experienced people in a field you’re interested in.

The state of communication, business, and influence is changing by the day. You can now reach out to some of the top people in their fields living across the country. This is an opportunity you can capitalize on.

It’s time to dive into the existing system right now while you can or else you will be spending all of your time catching up.

Don’t let that happen to you.

Give this a shot.

Step Into The Ring

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I really enjoy thinking of things in terms of metaphors. This outside the box thinking can be quite helpful. It often aids in helping me change my approach towards the many challenges in life.

One of my favorite metaphors I got from The Fighter’s Mind by Sam Sheridan (highly recommended by the way).

I will paraphrase in the way I tell myself:

Be confident as fuck in the ring. Be equally as humble outside of it.

I love this mentality.

This is how a Warriors thinks. I want to be a Warrior…

Think of the ring as whatever is in front of you – a big project, your at-bat , a speech, meeting an important deadline – any time when you are in the middle of achieving something. It is best you seek out these times instead of letting them come to you.

Let’s start with humbleness.

Out of The Ring

This period is just as crucial – if not more – than when you are in the heat of the battle. You’ve heard practice makes perfect. I believe in this 100%. The situations when I have been extremely nervous were often a result of a lack of preparation. I did not plan my attack correctly. I was overlooking some important information/data/sign/hint – whatever it may be. What I find fascinating is that not many people want to put in work in this part of the game because it includes more tedious work and many hours. In our ADD world, time and attention to details are precious. Many of us have become soft.

We all need reminders every once and a while. We need to put in the necessary work.

This is the time when you should be working your ass off.

You need to be hungry.

Learning.

Studying.

Practicing.

Reflecting.

Seeing things from an outside perspective.

Taking new angles.

Doubt will be in play when you’re out of the ring. You can use this as fuel.

In The Ring

There will be times when you find yourself in the ring when the event is planned. You obviously have the most control over these types of situations. You can plan your attack. You can scope out your competition. You can evaluate your environment. Hopefully you will increase your chance of success by your Out of The Ring preparation.

However, there are times when you will find yourself in the heat of the battle unexpectedly. These situations can be common – whether it be a random confrontation, a call into the bosses office, or an unanticipated attack by a stranger. Times like these are when your true training comes out. What have you been studying? Have you prepared for this situation? How developed are you? Many of these questions will likely be answered quickly.

This also brings up a good point – you need to be able to shift from Out of The Ring mode to In The Ring mode as effortlessly as possible. I think of this as being in the zone. This more effortless and timely this shift is will put you in a state that will increase your chance of success.

Lets get back to what needs to be done In The Ring:

This is when you should be out of your head.

This is when you should have total confidence in your training. There is no use for doubt now.

100% attention on what is in front of you.

You’re going to win – at least that’s what you need to tell yourself

I obviously apply this differently than how others would. There has never been a day where I physically stepped in a ring and was ready to throw down. This day may come sometime…

Despite not having the physical punches thrown at me, I – like everyone else – still have many everyday obstacles in my way. Even if you run from these, life will continue to throw more your way until you learn how to handle them. I find this mentality as a great way to overcome these difficulties.

The genius of the ring metaphor is there is a feedback loop. You start by preparation. You are gearing up for this big event. You work to overcome all the possible obstacles that may be thrown your way when the time comes. Then you find yourself in the moment. This is when you have to put your training aside and trust that it has prepared you for this moment. You then go all-in with supreme confidence.

You may win or you may lose, but if you treat it correctly you will always come out a winner.

If you win, you can move forward with similar practices and prepare for your next fight. But don’t become overconfident. You must treat your success as a one-time thing. These previous successes will not guarantee success in the future. Remember this.

If you lose, you must reflect and learn some lessons. There is a reason you lost. You may not have prepared enough. You may have miscalculated the opposition. Maybe you’re just not good enough right now. But you will be better next time. No matter how good you think you are, eventually someone will come along and knock you off your course. This is needed for your growth. Embrace it and invest in your failures.

Humbleness -> Confidence -> Humbleness

Preparation -> In the fight -> More Preparation

This is your feedback loop.

The more you test yourself early, the better – as long as you are learning lessons. Don’t fall for the same trick twice. Don’t let Einstein call you insane…

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So next time you step in the ring, go in with all you have. Make the adjustments in the ring and remember to learn those lessons afterwards.

Adapt to what is in front of you and stay humble. Learn from those better than you and apply it to your life. Experiment with new ideas. Test new approaches.

This mix of confidence and humbleness will eventually bring you the results you seek.

See Mike Tyson’s approach.

Understand life in general is your ring. You’re already all-in. Continue to discover your personal direction and show this world what’s up.

I wanted to wish you luck with your future battles, but you don’t need luck. You just need to step in the ring…