Exposing Faulty Studies – On Causation vs. Correlation

correlation-causation-300x300

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

Always Tired? Let’s Attack This Naturally

energy_drink

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.

thCAJP9IY8

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…

111

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.

thCAHMC1YD

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.

thCAMLZWHA

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.

thCASXJ51T

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.

2/19 Good Reads

gI_99937_ps-pr-300x300-future

 

Google’s Ray Kurzweil predicts how the world will change

If you don’t know who Ray Kurzweil is, he is the director of engineering at Google. He’s known as a futurist and is a big advocate of life extension and singularity. He has successfully predicted many crazy things that have found their way into our social norm. I would trust this man over many, as he is actively shaping these futuristic technologies in the maybe the most innovative company in the world.

One prediction – By 2020, we will have click and print designer clothes at home with 3D printing…

There’s more.

Smarter Than Smart

Who’s smarter?

Smart Version 1: Know the answer to question X.

Smart Version 2: Know how to find the answer to question X.

In this post, you find out. It’s time to start questioning what “smart” means.

Intelligence is becoming more and more overrated.

These 11 Charts Show Everything That’s Wrong With The Modern Diet

Here is some good info that challenges how many people view a healthy diet.

My personal takeaway – eat less sugary foods.

We all knew this already, but consistent reminders are good.

Potential Tactics for Defeating Cancer — A Toolkit in 1,000 Words

A few of my thoughts:

  • We need to start looking into the effects of glucose and insulin reduction when it comes to growth of cancer cells.
  • We’ve known how to kill cancer cells for a long time now. The struggle is how to isolate killing the cancer cells and not good cells as well.
  • I believe chemo and radiation are not the most effective measures we know of in order to kill cancer cells. I think these treatments are the most effective ways to make money. However, if put in a situation to choose which route to go, I’m still not sure how I would handle it.
  • I’ve read recently that grape seed extract is effective at inhibiting growth of cancer cells. You know what else has been linked to slowing cancer growth, THC.