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    EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • @Anonymous
    https://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/beware-of-hbd/

    "I think I’d rather be hated by a 250-pound beer-guzzling, pick-up-driving, Confederate flag-waving bubba than some socially-deprived STEM geek quant."

    by the way your hereditary studies even explicitly chalk some of their phenomenon up to environmental factors, which is funny because you have an instinctual need (and probably environmentally reinforced) to believe that isn't possible and yet you cited it.


    All the studies to a one you ever link are A.) outdated B.) dont say what you want them to say C.) you ban everyone that demonstrates this D.) rely on p-values which the scientific community is gradually abandoning

    by the way your hereditary studies even explicitly chalk some of their phenomenon up to environmental factors

    No.

    All the studies to a one you ever link are A.) outdated

    Nope, see above.

    B.) dont say what you want them to say

    To people who can’t read, sure.

    you ban everyone that demonstrates this

    I ban annoying dumbasses.

    rely on p-values which the scientific community is gradually abandoning

    Oh fuck’s sake! You have got to be kidding me.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    https://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/beware-of-hbd/

    “I think I’d rather be hated by a 250-pound beer-guzzling, pick-up-driving, Confederate flag-waving bubba than some socially-deprived STEM geek quant.”

    by the way your hereditary studies even explicitly chalk some of their phenomenon up to environmental factors, which is funny because you have an instinctual need (and probably environmentally reinforced) to believe that isn’t possible and yet you cited it.

    All the studies to a one you ever link are A.) outdated B.) dont say what you want them to say C.) you ban everyone that demonstrates this D.) rely on p-values which the scientific community is gradually abandoning

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan

    by the way your hereditary studies even explicitly chalk some of their phenomenon up to environmental factors
     
    No.

    All the studies to a one you ever link are A.) outdated
     
    Nope, see above.

    B.) dont say what you want them to say
     
    To people who can't read, sure.

    you ban everyone that demonstrates this
     
    I ban annoying dumbasses.

    rely on p-values which the scientific community is gradually abandoning
     
    Oh fuck's sake! You have got to be kidding me.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • To demonstrate a point that I have asserted at various points – a point that tends to be often indirectly hinted at in the blogosphere and only occasionally stately concretely, I again avail to maps to tell a tale. First, I'll start with a previously featured map of fertility rates across Europe: This is a...
  • That’s a good post.

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  • EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • […] about the human personality intelligence, extraversion, neuroticism, aggressiveness, and so on is heritable to some degree117, typically at around the fifty percent level. This suggests that the human personality, and the […]

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  • […] about the human personality—intelligence, extraversion, neuroticism, aggressiveness, and so on—is heritable to some degree, typically at around the fifty percent […]

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  • […] I begin, I want to be clear that it should be understood that all human behavioral traits are heritable, with “nurture” as its commonly thought of playing a minimal role to nonexistent […]

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  • […] Religion comes to the religious because that’s how their brains are wired. A believer cannot think any different … Believers literally have God/Earth spirits/Buddha on the brain. To such a person, their deities are as real as the Sun in the sky (since, after all, the believer’s brain is the only brain he’s got). Religiosity is highly heritable (as are all behavioral traits)… […]

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  • […] between the people who inhabit them Edit: [see the aforementioned preceding posts, and see my posts All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable, Environmental Hereditarianism, and The Son Becomes The Father; recapped in my 200th post, […]

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  • […] be more creative. This is certainly true and links back to the ideas discussed in Principle 1. But creativity, like every other human characteristic, is heritable to some extent. Children’s imaginations, whatever the variation between haves and have-nots, are […]

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  • […] hard work and conformity — are the same things that help you to earn a high income. And these traits have a genetic component as well. So, even in a world with perfect equality in terms of child-rearing, parents with high […]

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  • Continuing my inquiry into this matter, one question that hasn't been satisfactorily answered is why has the obesity rate shot up in the past few decades? As I've made plain in previous posts, variation in obesity between individuals within a group at any given time is largely heritable, as is a good portion of the...
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    : “It could go obesity -> consumption, or perhaps both are caused by some other factor(s) upstream.” Well that was Taubes’s point, no? That we are not getting fat because we’re eating more, but rather, we are eating more because we are getting fat. That the metabolic shift in adipose tissue handling comes first as a result of the food.

    On some of the discussion above: before deciding that people don’t care how they look which makes them more unconcerned about fat, observation of women suggests it’s more complex. Women who feel like their figure it ok tend to be far more focused on appearance. The moment that “how you look” appears to leave your sense of control over it, I think it causes a release across the board to some degree. Kind of like being a bit poor in school years, and one would rather look like a rebel who doesn’t care than look like they ‘tried’ to dress acceptably but couldn’t quite succeed. (And there are sub-culture issues with appearance as well. The upper east coast cities, it’s more rare women leave the house without feeling ‘prepared’ while on the lower west coast especially smaller cities, sandals and wet hair from the shower is fine.)

    I’ve spent many years reading research and discussion related to nutrition and obesity. The females in my family have — let’s see if I can phrase it properly — a genetically associated adipose disorder — called Lipedema (several spellings of this). While allegedly 11% of the female population it’s virtually unheard of at least to doctors, including those recommending the whole ‘eat less, move more, chop out your guts if that fails’ doctors in the west to women for whom none of those will actually touch the problem. Basically it seems to cover a few things including an ‘inflammation cascade’ that can cause ridiculous adipose gain and a surreal inability to ever get rid of the accruing adipose tissue in certain areas of the body (mostly hips to ankles, upper arms for some). It does not affect the hands, feet, head and neck, or trunk for most, which means the distribution is rather weird (tiny head on huge body, a waist and normal neck for a size that would normally have 6 chins).

    When I say inability to get rid of it, I mean nothing works – not even starvation level anorexic dieting that could kill you from gradual organ failure, not even exercise even to the extreme, not even gastric bypass (which really just amounts to the former at least initially). And of course, gradual adipose accumulation isn’t like luggage like used to be believed, it has significant effects body-wide including on storing more. Here’s the thing though. This is defined by the ‘symptom’ usually of ‘utterly resistant’ adipose tissue in the hips and thighs. It’s not defined by simply having utterly resistant adipose tissue. So men could have this too but have it in the torso where they naturally put on weight (just as women do in the hormonal areas most affected by lipedema) and nobody would ever know.

    Now, the diagnosis is based on visual evidence so let’s say a degree of overweight or obesity to begin with. But if you take that 10-11% and map it to the actual overweight+ population (15-52 age or so) you get a number more like 40-odd percent of those are likely lipedemic. But if you backed out that number from the stats for women, it would look like far more men were overweight+ than women which I refuse to believe for now. So this suggests that it’s something under the radar affecting men as well. This was discovered in 1940 or so but has managed to stay carefully under the radar, outside medical training, outside any funding or research, for for ~75 years. I’m starting to become a conspiracy theorist about it I think.

    The numbers are huge enough to matter, even to population level stats. I just thought I would add that anomaly to your list of inexplicables.

    Speaking of the 40-odd percent number, this article on lead toxicity (there is *no* safe level, and look at the sources of stats they are conservative and legit) is enough to make you wonder if maybe we are not actually missing one of the key elements in this soup all along. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/lead-poisoning-why-lead-p_b_609383.html

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  • To demonstrate a point that I have asserted at various points – a point that tends to be often indirectly hinted at in the blogosphere and only occasionally stately concretely, I again avail to maps to tell a tale. First, I'll start with a previously featured map of fertility rates across Europe: This is a...
  • […] as we’ve previous seen, can strongly affect fertility – see Another Tale of Two Maps and A Tale of Three Maps) – while clearly being not as good as during the Baby Boom – were not particularly bad, nor […]

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  • EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • Reblogged this on Philosophies of a Disenchanted Scholar and commented:
    reference

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  • […] heritability of behavioral and personality characteristics. Which is a lot: JayMan has put together an excellent reference post, spelling it all out, with numerous […]

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  • […] heritability of behavioral and personality characteristics. Which is a lot: JayMan has put together an excellent reference post, spelling it all out, with numerous […]

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  • Continuing my inquiry into this matter, one question that hasn't been satisfactorily answered is why has the obesity rate shot up in the past few decades? As I've made plain in previous posts, variation in obesity between individuals within a group at any given time is largely heritable, as is a good portion of the...
  • @Charlie
    If the increase in obesity were due to the increase in calorie intake then we should expect a considerable lag between the eating and the increase. Looking at the first graph no lag is apparent. If anything the lag is the other way around. The increase in obesity started before the increase in calorie intake.

    You know, you may have spotted something quite significant. People assume (and at least in this post, I’ve speculated such, although I don’t necessarily claim this is correct) that the causation between the apparent relationship between consumption and obesity goes consumption -> obesity. It could go obesity -> consumption, or perhaps both are caused by some other factor(s) upstream.

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  • If the increase in obesity were due to the increase in calorie intake then we should expect a considerable lag between the eating and the increase. Looking at the first graph no lag is apparent. If anything the lag is the other way around. The increase in obesity started before the increase in calorie intake.

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    • Replies: @JayMan
    @Charlie:

    You know, you may have spotted something quite significant. People assume (and at least in this post, I've speculated such, although I don't necessarily claim this is correct) that the causation between the apparent relationship between consumption and obesity goes consumption -> obesity. It could go obesity -> consumption, or perhaps both are caused by some other factor(s) upstream.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • […] 4. All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable – With the First Law of behavioral genetics as the title, I talk about the fact that heredity impacts (to some extent) all aspects of human behavior and differences between individuals in that behavior. That is, genetic differences are involved in every aspect that makes any two individuals different from one another. From politics – to religion – to personality – to body weight – to intelligence – to income – genes play a role in each, and I talk about these. I discuss the evidence we have for this, coming from twin studies, adoption studies, as well as the newer direct genomic analyses of Peter Visshcher et al that confirm previous results. The non-effect of parenting and the impact for HBD is discussed. A key post that remains high on my list on intro posts. […]

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  • […] and child relative to the environment as a whole is completely due to shared genes. See my posts All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable and Taming the “Tiger Mom” and Tackling the Parenting Myth for more on the mechanics of […]

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  • […] for virtually every single behavioral trait ever documented among human beings is heritable. [see All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable] We know that two children who are reared by the same pair of parents can be strikingly different […]

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  • […] I’ve been thinking about digit ratio a lot lately, largely because it means a lot on an individual perspective. But I’ve recently come to the realization that it can mean more than that, much more. This is especially when it comes to the implications regarding someone’s mate selection and the character of the resulting offspring. You see, even though the current research on digit ratio has been stressing the intrauterine nature of the hormone exposure that results in a range of changes in the phenotype we know from a great deal of research on the subject that all human behavioral traits are heritable. […]

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  • To demonstrate a point that I have asserted at various points – a point that tends to be often indirectly hinted at in the blogosphere and only occasionally stately concretely, I again avail to maps to tell a tale. First, I'll start with a previously featured map of fertility rates across Europe: This is a...
  • […] вверху показывает, как распределяется неудовлетворённость жизнью по […]

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  • EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • […] Cochran references yours truly as he talks about the pervasiveness of heredity in all things (i.e., All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable), with illustrative anecdotes about twins. Notes the role that genes play in infectious diseases, […]

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  • @Jay
    what exactly do the racial differences have to say about IQ scores? I'm very curious..... because to think a person's "race" has anything to do with so called "IQ" is not very smart.

    what exactly do the racial differences have to say about IQ scores? I’m very curious

    Excellent! In that case, there you go:

    HBD Fundamentals

    because to think a person’s “race” has anything to do with so called “IQ” is not very smart.

    To make such claims when clearly ignorant of the evidence is definitely not very wise. Fortunately, that’s easily remedied.

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  • what exactly do the racial differences have to say about IQ scores? I’m very curious….. because to think a person’s “race” has anything to do with so called “IQ” is not very smart.

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    • Replies: @JayMan
    @Jay:

    what exactly do the racial differences have to say about IQ scores? I’m very curious
     
    Excellent! In that case, there you go:

    HBD Fundamentals


    because to think a person’s “race” has anything to do with so called “IQ” is not very smart.
     
    To make such claims when clearly ignorant of the evidence is definitely not very wise. Fortunately, that's easily remedied.
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  • Comedian/documentarian Tom Naughton recently made a highly intriguing post about the "Spanish Paradox"; that is, the low rate of cardiovascular illness among Spaniards despite their apparently poor markers of heart health. This post was made on the discussion site of Naughton's 2009 documentary Fat Head. This movie (which I have yet to see, but plan...
  • […] you know I’ve had a few things to say about that (for which those who are familiar with this might know where I’m going with […]

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  • EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • @Anonymous
    From a completely third person's point of view, Jayman is clearly being extremely disrespectful to Chris, and is determinedly defending his observations with the same rigidity and narrow mindedness that he's accusing Chris of. Jayman was threatening to pull Chris off the comment thread purely because he thought his comments were "intellectually dishonest" - or in other words, not backed by the evidence HE deems worthy. Shouldn't you be glad that you're getting a chance to dispel the "myths" - as you would like to call them - about heritability that the "general public" grapples with? Why were you being so defensive? "You don't say.." is hardly a mature response to a confession of narcissism on a post about heritability of personality traits.

    @Aishwarya:

    The evidence is clearly here and in the references given. They do not support what Chris was saying, and I’ve told him otherwise on numerous occasions.

    Look, the bottom line is that while we may be entitled to our own opinions, we are NOT entitled to our own facts. That is how things will proceed here. If you continue to insist otherwise YOU will face the same fate (moderation/possible banning).

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Chris Crawford
    Jayman, it's apparent that your frustration with our disagreement is interfering with your ability to calmly assess my claims; you have descended to spending more time questioning my intellect and education than addressing my points, and you rely on blanket denial rather than analysis. I'm disappointed by this, because I love sharp disagreements prosecuted with intellectual integrity; they are the best way to learn. I've learned a lot from this discussion, and a goodly amount of serious thought went into my comments, more so than is usually the case with blog discussions. But now it seems that you have crossed an emotional threshold that prevents the continuation of this discussion.

    This statement of yours exemplifies my point:

    "Chris, reread my post, read chapter 3 of The Blank Slate, or read either of Harris’s books. That is false, you’ve been repeatedly told that it is false, and you have been pointed to evidence that shows that it is false. If you continue with that assertion, I will assume that you are trolling and react accordingly."

    This is an emotional outburst, not a reasoned argument. I suggest that you are too emotionally attached to your beliefs to approach them with the necessary scientific detachment. You're obviously a bright and knowledgeable person, and this post and its ensuing discussion have served to alter some of my beliefs on the matter. In the fullness of time, after you've experienced more of the furnace of intellectual disagreement, I'm sure that you'll become less emotional, and I wish you well in that progression. Goodbye.

    From a completely third person’s point of view, Jayman is clearly being extremely disrespectful to Chris, and is determinedly defending his observations with the same rigidity and narrow mindedness that he’s accusing Chris of. Jayman was threatening to pull Chris off the comment thread purely because he thought his comments were “intellectually dishonest” – or in other words, not backed by the evidence HE deems worthy. Shouldn’t you be glad that you’re getting a chance to dispel the “myths” – as you would like to call them – about heritability that the “general public” grapples with? Why were you being so defensive? “You don’t say..” is hardly a mature response to a confession of narcissism on a post about heritability of personality traits.

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    • Replies: @JayMan
    @Aishwarya:

    The evidence is clearly here and in the references given. They do not support what Chris was saying, and I've told him otherwise on numerous occasions.

    Look, the bottom line is that while we may be entitled to our own opinions, we are NOT entitled to our own facts. That is how things will proceed here. If you continue to insist otherwise YOU will face the same fate (moderation/possible banning).

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  • […] we have seen with this blog, political orientation, as with all things, is largely heritable. Indeed, a recent meta-analysis of behavioral genetic (class twin) studies by […]

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  • […] All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable […]

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  • Reblogged this on Overexcitable.

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  • […] brings us to one thing we do know about heart disease: it is (like all things) heavily influenced by genetics. Indeed, a recent GCTA (Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis) study […]

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  • @laofmoonster
    "First Law. All human behavioral traits are heritable."

    A corollary to this is, "All human behavioral traits are selectable"

    .
    Indeed.

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  • “First Law. All human behavioral traits are heritable.”

    A corollary to this is, “All human behavioral traits are selectable”

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    • Replies: @JayMan
    @laofmoonster.
    Indeed.
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  • […] You can’t make causal determinations from standard family studies. Even with heterosexual parents, finding associations between parents and their biological children tells you nothing about whether anything about the parents’ rearing of the children had anything to do with what you find, not for the least reason being heredity. Just as finding that substance abusing parents have children that go on to do the same, heredity confounds you at every turn. This is because, as readers should know by now, all human behavioral traits are heritable. […]

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  • To demonstrate a point that I have asserted at various points – a point that tends to be often indirectly hinted at in the blogosphere and only occasionally stately concretely, I again avail to maps to tell a tale. First, I'll start with a previously featured map of fertility rates across Europe: This is a...
  • […] Let’s take a look at something from some of my earlier […]

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  • EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • […] People who follow me know that I stress the three laws of behavioral genetics, starting with the all-important First Law, all human behavioral traits are heritable. […]

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  • I really liked the reference to Asimov

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  • […] As we might recall, all human behavioral traits are heritable: […]

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  • To demonstrate a point that I have asserted at various points – a point that tends to be often indirectly hinted at in the blogosphere and only occasionally stately concretely, I again avail to maps to tell a tale. First, I'll start with a previously featured map of fertility rates across Europe: This is a...
  • @vimothy
    JayMan,

    Caught a bit of a conversation on Twitter, in which you stated that the most "traditional" states in Europe have the lowest fertility.

    A moment's Googling turned up this from the Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2204800/British-birth-rate-soared-highest-Europe-thanks-increase-migrants.html

    It claims that the country with the highest TFR is... Ireland. The next highest is... France. So it seems that it's not really the case that the most traditional states have the lowest fertility, unless the Mail has its facts wrong, or you want to argue that Ireland and France are not traditional.

    In fact, looking at the top ten, the only really incongruous presence is that of Scandinavian countries and the UK. But the white British TFR hasn't moved at all in recent years and would still be resolutely mid table, absent the effect of immigration, or so the Mail's journalist claims.

    I don't know much about trends in Scandinavia, but I would guess that their high rates also reflect the high fertility of their booming immigrant populations.

    (Would it be possible to make a chart of Euro TFR, controlling for immigration?)

    So my reading would be that the evidence is somewhat more mixed than you made out.

    JayMan,

    A pleasure, sir, and thank you for the links.

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  • @vimothy
    JayMan,

    Caught a bit of a conversation on Twitter, in which you stated that the most "traditional" states in Europe have the lowest fertility.

    A moment's Googling turned up this from the Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2204800/British-birth-rate-soared-highest-Europe-thanks-increase-migrants.html

    It claims that the country with the highest TFR is... Ireland. The next highest is... France. So it seems that it's not really the case that the most traditional states have the lowest fertility, unless the Mail has its facts wrong, or you want to argue that Ireland and France are not traditional.

    In fact, looking at the top ten, the only really incongruous presence is that of Scandinavian countries and the UK. But the white British TFR hasn't moved at all in recent years and would still be resolutely mid table, absent the effect of immigration, or so the Mail's journalist claims.

    I don't know much about trends in Scandinavia, but I would guess that their high rates also reflect the high fertility of their booming immigrant populations.

    (Would it be possible to make a chart of Euro TFR, controlling for immigration?)

    So my reading would be that the evidence is somewhat more mixed than you made out.

    First of all, welcome!

    Considering France to be “traditional” seems to be equivocating on the meaning of the word. Perhaps Ireland would count, but the reality is that, in general, the Northwest European countries – those with the highest levels of gender “equality” – have the highest fertility rates.

    This isn’t just due to immigrants. The fertility rates of the native populations are high (by First World standard) across the board:

    UK: 1.89 (very similar to the White TFR in the U.S.)
    France: ~1.7
    The Netherlands: 1.72
    Norway: 1.8
    Denmark: 1.93

    Still sub-replacement, but concerns over sub-replacement fertility – at least in the West – is misplaced. The real issue is dysgenic fertility and population replacement (by immigrants).

    Also see my follow-up post to this one, Fertility and Happiness: A Global Perspective.

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  • JayMan,

    Caught a bit of a conversation on Twitter, in which you stated that the most “traditional” states in Europe have the lowest fertility.

    A moment’s Googling turned up this from the Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2204800/British-birth-rate-soared-highest-Europe-thanks-increase-migrants.html

    It claims that the country with the highest TFR is… Ireland. The next highest is… France. So it seems that it’s not really the case that the most traditional states have the lowest fertility, unless the Mail has its facts wrong, or you want to argue that Ireland and France are not traditional.

    In fact, looking at the top ten, the only really incongruous presence is that of Scandinavian countries and the UK. But the white British TFR hasn’t moved at all in recent years and would still be resolutely mid table, absent the effect of immigration, or so the Mail’s journalist claims.

    I don’t know much about trends in Scandinavia, but I would guess that their high rates also reflect the high fertility of their booming immigrant populations.

    (Would it be possible to make a chart of Euro TFR, controlling for immigration?)

    So my reading would be that the evidence is somewhat more mixed than you made out.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan
    @vimothy:

    First of all, welcome!

    Considering France to be "traditional" seems to be equivocating on the meaning of the word. Perhaps Ireland would count, but the reality is that, in general, the Northwest European countries – those with the highest levels of gender "equality" – have the highest fertility rates.

    This isn't just due to immigrants. The fertility rates of the native populations are high (by First World standard) across the board:

    UK: 1.89 (very similar to the White TFR in the U.S.)
    France: ~1.7
    The Netherlands: 1.72
    Norway: 1.8
    Denmark: 1.93

    Still sub-replacement, but concerns over sub-replacement fertility – at least in the West – is misplaced. The real issue is dysgenic fertility and population replacement (by immigrants).

    Also see my follow-up post to this one, Fertility and Happiness: A Global Perspective.

    , @vimothy
    JayMan,

    A pleasure, sir, and thank you for the links.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • […] Religiosity is highly heritable (as are all behavioral traits)… […]

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Continuing my inquiry into this matter, one question that hasn't been satisfactorily answered is why has the obesity rate shot up in the past few decades? As I've made plain in previous posts, variation in obesity between individuals within a group at any given time is largely heritable, as is a good portion of the...
  • @Anonymous
    I'm wondering where the good old Skinnerian notion of operant conditioning is hiding in this discussion?

    Whenever we get into some version of the 'genetics versus the environment' eternal recurrence, it's invariably characterised by the absence of attention given to operant conditioning. If you look at behaviour simply and directly as Skinner does, the dichotomy effectively dissolves, as behaviour emanates from contingencies of reinforcement that are supplied by the environment's intercourse with the organism.

    Then, all we need to do is to sort out how to extinguish conditioning that leads to overeating behaviours via removal of cues/removal of rewards, and simultaneously reward behaviours that lead to desired eating behaviours. Of course, this is the wicked part of the problem...and unlikely to resolve while the socio-cultural-economic-political environment favours the continuation of overeating behaviours. Relatively simply on an individual level for people fortunate enough to have the know-how.

    Am enjoying your blog, by the way. Thank you.

    Cheers.

    Am enjoying your blog, by the way. Thank you.

    Thank you!

    Then, all we need to do is to sort out how to extinguish conditioning that leads to overeating behaviours via removal of cues/removal of rewards, and simultaneously reward behaviours that lead to desired eating behaviours. Of course, this is the wicked part of the problem…and unlikely to resolve while the socio-cultural-economic-political environment favours the continuation of overeating behaviours. Relatively simply on an individual level for people fortunate enough to have the know-how.

    All we need to do! Yes, if only it were so easy. :)

    Whenever we get into some version of the ‘genetics versus the environment’ eternal recurrence, it’s invariably characterised by the absence of attention given to operant conditioning. If you look at behaviour simply and directly as Skinner does, the dichotomy effectively dissolves, as behaviour emanates from contingencies of reinforcement that are supplied by the environment’s intercourse with the organism.

    Similar arguments were made elsewhere – that a lot of the results of heredity stem from gene-environment correlations (people who seek out certain environments, thanks to their genes, which lead them to certain end states). If we could interfere with this process, we could, in principle, get different results. But as you note, that’s not easy…

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    I’m wondering where the good old Skinnerian notion of operant conditioning is hiding in this discussion?

    Whenever we get into some version of the ‘genetics versus the environment’ eternal recurrence, it’s invariably characterised by the absence of attention given to operant conditioning. If you look at behaviour simply and directly as Skinner does, the dichotomy effectively dissolves, as behaviour emanates from contingencies of reinforcement that are supplied by the environment’s intercourse with the organism.

    Then, all we need to do is to sort out how to extinguish conditioning that leads to overeating behaviours via removal of cues/removal of rewards, and simultaneously reward behaviours that lead to desired eating behaviours. Of course, this is the wicked part of the problem…and unlikely to resolve while the socio-cultural-economic-political environment favours the continuation of overeating behaviours. Relatively simply on an individual level for people fortunate enough to have the know-how.

    Am enjoying your blog, by the way. Thank you.

    Cheers.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan

    Am enjoying your blog, by the way. Thank you.
     
    Thank you!

    Then, all we need to do is to sort out how to extinguish conditioning that leads to overeating behaviours via removal of cues/removal of rewards, and simultaneously reward behaviours that lead to desired eating behaviours. Of course, this is the wicked part of the problem…and unlikely to resolve while the socio-cultural-economic-political environment favours the continuation of overeating behaviours. Relatively simply on an individual level for people fortunate enough to have the know-how.
     
    All we need to do! Yes, if only it were so easy. :)

    Whenever we get into some version of the ‘genetics versus the environment’ eternal recurrence, it’s invariably characterised by the absence of attention given to operant conditioning. If you look at behaviour simply and directly as Skinner does, the dichotomy effectively dissolves, as behaviour emanates from contingencies of reinforcement that are supplied by the environment’s intercourse with the organism.
     
    Similar arguments were made elsewhere – that a lot of the results of heredity stem from gene-environment correlations (people who seek out certain environments, thanks to their genes, which lead them to certain end states). If we could interfere with this process, we could, in principle, get different results. But as you note, that's not easy...
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • @Anonymous
    So...is cheating heritable? I think to a certain point it is as i have been wondering.. I know my parents both stand-up citizens taught me well and have been a good example as parents, but I know I'm a pretty fucked up individual, I've cheated multiple times and have been an abusive person. I grew up in a fairly peaceful environment and I have good parents, maybe i missing something. Then I recently discovered about my grandfather's (father side) dark past that my parents kept secret, he passed away. He has kids from different "partners" and was also abusive, my parents also used to tell me that I was his favorite grandson. I know i have a choice to certain things right but the desire to do the things my own way is like a force beyond me.

    So…is cheating heritable?

    Yup. Also here.

    I’ve cheated multiple times and have been an abusive person. I grew up in a fairly peaceful environment and I have good parents, maybe i missing something. hen I recently discovered about my grandfather’s (father side) dark past that my parents kept secret, he passed away. He has kids from different “partners” and was also abusive, my parents also used to tell me that I was his favorite grandson.

    Indeed. Heredity is amazing…

    I know i have a choice to certain things right but the desire to do the things my own way is like a force beyond me.

    You always have a choice. But the choices you will end up making can be somewhat predicted beforehand. Interesting apparent paradox, yes?

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    So…is cheating heritable? I think to a certain point it is as i have been wondering.. I know my parents both stand-up citizens taught me well and have been a good example as parents, but I know I’m a pretty fucked up individual, I’ve cheated multiple times and have been an abusive person. I grew up in a fairly peaceful environment and I have good parents, maybe i missing something. Then I recently discovered about my grandfather’s (father side) dark past that my parents kept secret, he passed away. He has kids from different “partners” and was also abusive, my parents also used to tell me that I was his favorite grandson. I know i have a choice to certain things right but the desire to do the things my own way is like a force beyond me.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan

    So…is cheating heritable?
     
    Yup. Also here.

    I’ve cheated multiple times and have been an abusive person. I grew up in a fairly peaceful environment and I have good parents, maybe i missing something. hen I recently discovered about my grandfather’s (father side) dark past that my parents kept secret, he passed away. He has kids from different “partners” and was also abusive, my parents also used to tell me that I was his favorite grandson.

     

    Indeed. Heredity is amazing...

    I know i have a choice to certain things right but the desire to do the things my own way is like a force beyond me.
     
    You always have a choice. But the choices you will end up making can be somewhat predicted beforehand. Interesting apparent paradox, yes?
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Continuing my inquiry into this matter, one question that hasn't been satisfactorily answered is why has the obesity rate shot up in the past few decades? As I've made plain in previous posts, variation in obesity between individuals within a group at any given time is largely heritable, as is a good portion of the...
  • […] know what, exactly, changed from the past environment (though there are some guesses, like my own: Fun Facts About Obesity, though what, exactly, is the problem is still very much far from clear), and even if we did, we […]

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  • Comedian/documentarian Tom Naughton recently made a highly intriguing post about the "Spanish Paradox"; that is, the low rate of cardiovascular illness among Spaniards despite their apparently poor markers of heart health. This post was made on the discussion site of Naughton's 2009 documentary Fat Head. This movie (which I have yet to see, but plan...
  • […] of ancestral relationship. It seemed obvious to me that a partial genetic explanation was likely (A Fat Problem With Heart Health Wisdom). This pattern could not be fitted to exercise habits (Exercise, weight loss, and keeping you alive […]

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  • To demonstrate a point that I have asserted at various points – a point that tends to be often indirectly hinted at in the blogosphere and only occasionally stately concretely, I again avail to maps to tell a tale. First, I'll start with a previously featured map of fertility rates across Europe: This is a...
  • […] I detailed in my post A Tale of Three Maps, in Europe there is a distinct positive association between reported happiness levels and fertility […]

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • One thing I have noticed is that handwriting is highly heritable. The specific loops, slants, and proportion specific to each handwriting is passed on from parent to child. I have noticed this at school, at work, and anywhere else I had to handle parent/child documents.

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  • To demonstrate a point that I have asserted at various points – a point that tends to be often indirectly hinted at in the blogosphere and only occasionally stately concretely, I again avail to maps to tell a tale. First, I'll start with a previously featured map of fertility rates across Europe: This is a...
  • […] JayMan on what makes people happy: children, space, and money. Here. […]

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Continuing my inquiry into this matter, one question that hasn't been satisfactorily answered is why has the obesity rate shot up in the past few decades? As I've made plain in previous posts, variation in obesity between individuals within a group at any given time is largely heritable, as is a good portion of the...
  • JayMan says: • Website
    @Ballomar
    "No kidding. But not only were the genetic inputs different to begin with, they have had 1,500 years of separate evolution. And they are genetically distinct today. Similar is not identical."

    Nah, that doesn't wash either. To say that the English and French have had 1500 years of separate evolution is quite wrong. First let's start with the Norman i.e. French invasion in 1066. That cuts it to less than 1000. Then there's the dominion of the Anglo-French kings over large parts of modern day France, including Calais, Normandy and a huge chunk of South-West France. This is helped a lot of trade between Bordeaux and the southern English ports. There's a reason that the English think 'normal' red wine is Bordeaux.

    Look at eastern England. There has been constant flow of people across the North Sea beween England, the low countries and Denmark - there's a reason that the architecture of cities around the North Sea and the Baltic is eerily similar. Some of this is documented, such as the large number of Flemish who settled in Britain and brought proper beer brewing with them.

    But that's only one side of the equation, consider the other side. The average Englishman from, say Kent, has a lot more in common with a Flemish Belgian than a Yorkshireman with his mainly Viking ancestry or from Highland Scots who may be more closely related to the Portuguese due to trade and migration across the sea. But then do an experiment yourself. Go to Edinburgh and then go to Oban on the West coast of Scotland - you may be surprised at how different the people look.

    The mix of populations throughout Europe is far more complex than you're trying to make out and to lump the Anglo-Celts into some giant obesity blob, doesn't stand up to any sort of scrutiny.

    I had this exact same argument with Tom Naughton. Look, there is no question that there has been gene flow between Britain and France, nor is there any doubt that they had some of the same genetic precursors. But, at the end of the day, they are genetically distinct today. The are separable into distinct genetic clusters. You could argue that the genetic differences between them is too small to account for the phenotypic differences we see (foolishly so), but that Ron Unzian logic wouldn’t hold. Small differences in genes can lead to large differences in phenotypes.

    It’s worth noting that there appear to be considerable differences between the French in France and the Quebecois with regard to heart health and obesity, as I’ve noted. This suggests that genetic differences aren’t wholly responsible for the differences we see (though the Quebecois aren’t genetically representative of the French). That would have been a more helpful point for your case.

    Your argument about the British and the French however would only hold water if the British and the French were genetically indistinguishable. Since they’re clearly not, it doesn’t. And I’ve had enough of it, so please no more on this unless you have something sensible to add.

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  • @ballomar
    Some discussion above saying that Ango-Celts and the 'French' are genetically different enough to produce different obesity outcomes. This doesn't wash. France has a large gaulish, i.e. celtic substrate. The country was also invaded by the Franks (who are ethnic/linguistic Germans) and then by the Norsemen, who were also Germanic. These then went to invade England. The Franks and Anglo-Saxons are of similar Germanic origin. Some say that the inhabitants of South-East England and those of Netherlands/Belgium and northern France are very similar.

    So the argument that the 'French' are so different, genetically, just doesn't wash.

    The cultural arguments about slovenliness and lack of care of appearance, though, accord with my experience.

    “No kidding. But not only were the genetic inputs different to begin with, they have had 1,500 years of separate evolution. And they are genetically distinct today. Similar is not identical.”

    Nah, that doesn’t wash either. To say that the English and French have had 1500 years of separate evolution is quite wrong. First let’s start with the Norman i.e. French invasion in 1066. That cuts it to less than 1000. Then there’s the dominion of the Anglo-French kings over large parts of modern day France, including Calais, Normandy and a huge chunk of South-West France. This is helped a lot of trade between Bordeaux and the southern English ports. There’s a reason that the English think ‘normal’ red wine is Bordeaux.

    Look at eastern England. There has been constant flow of people across the North Sea beween England, the low countries and Denmark – there’s a reason that the architecture of cities around the North Sea and the Baltic is eerily similar. Some of this is documented, such as the large number of Flemish who settled in Britain and brought proper beer brewing with them.

    But that’s only one side of the equation, consider the other side. The average Englishman from, say Kent, has a lot more in common with a Flemish Belgian than a Yorkshireman with his mainly Viking ancestry or from Highland Scots who may be more closely related to the Portuguese due to trade and migration across the sea. But then do an experiment yourself. Go to Edinburgh and then go to Oban on the West coast of Scotland – you may be surprised at how different the people look.

    The mix of populations throughout Europe is far more complex than you’re trying to make out and to lump the Anglo-Celts into some giant obesity blob, doesn’t stand up to any sort of scrutiny.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan
    I had this exact same argument with Tom Naughton. Look, there is no question that there has been gene flow between Britain and France, nor is there any doubt that they had some of the same genetic precursors. But, at the end of the day, they are genetically distinct today. The are separable into distinct genetic clusters. You could argue that the genetic differences between them is too small to account for the phenotypic differences we see (foolishly so), but that Ron Unzian logic wouldn't hold. Small differences in genes can lead to large differences in phenotypes.

    It's worth noting that there appear to be considerable differences between the French in France and the Quebecois with regard to heart health and obesity, as I've noted. This suggests that genetic differences aren't wholly responsible for the differences we see (though the Quebecois aren't genetically representative of the French). That would have been a more helpful point for your case.

    Your argument about the British and the French however would only hold water if the British and the French were genetically indistinguishable. Since they're clearly not, it doesn't. And I've had enough of it, so please no more on this unless you have something sensible to add.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • JayMan says: • Website
    @ballomar
    Some discussion above saying that Ango-Celts and the 'French' are genetically different enough to produce different obesity outcomes. This doesn't wash. France has a large gaulish, i.e. celtic substrate. The country was also invaded by the Franks (who are ethnic/linguistic Germans) and then by the Norsemen, who were also Germanic. These then went to invade England. The Franks and Anglo-Saxons are of similar Germanic origin. Some say that the inhabitants of South-East England and those of Netherlands/Belgium and northern France are very similar.

    So the argument that the 'French' are so different, genetically, just doesn't wash.

    The cultural arguments about slovenliness and lack of care of appearance, though, accord with my experience.

    Some discussion above saying that Ango-Celts and the ‘French’ are genetically different enough to produce different obesity outcomes. This doesn’t wash. France has a large gaulish, i.e. celtic substrate.

    No kidding. But not only were the genetic inputs different to begin with, they have had 1,500 years of separate evolution. And they are genetically distinct today. Similar is not identical.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Some discussion above saying that Ango-Celts and the ‘French’ are genetically different enough to produce different obesity outcomes. This doesn’t wash. France has a large gaulish, i.e. celtic substrate. The country was also invaded by the Franks (who are ethnic/linguistic Germans) and then by the Norsemen, who were also Germanic. These then went to invade England. The Franks and Anglo-Saxons are of similar Germanic origin. Some say that the inhabitants of South-East England and those of Netherlands/Belgium and northern France are very similar.

    So the argument that the ‘French’ are so different, genetically, just doesn’t wash.

    The cultural arguments about slovenliness and lack of care of appearance, though, accord with my experience.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan

    Some discussion above saying that Ango-Celts and the ‘French’ are genetically different enough to produce different obesity outcomes. This doesn’t wash. France has a large gaulish, i.e. celtic substrate.
     
    No kidding. But not only were the genetic inputs different to begin with, they have had 1,500 years of separate evolution. And they are genetically distinct today. Similar is not identical.
    , @Ballomar
    "No kidding. But not only were the genetic inputs different to begin with, they have had 1,500 years of separate evolution. And they are genetically distinct today. Similar is not identical."

    Nah, that doesn't wash either. To say that the English and French have had 1500 years of separate evolution is quite wrong. First let's start with the Norman i.e. French invasion in 1066. That cuts it to less than 1000. Then there's the dominion of the Anglo-French kings over large parts of modern day France, including Calais, Normandy and a huge chunk of South-West France. This is helped a lot of trade between Bordeaux and the southern English ports. There's a reason that the English think 'normal' red wine is Bordeaux.

    Look at eastern England. There has been constant flow of people across the North Sea beween England, the low countries and Denmark - there's a reason that the architecture of cities around the North Sea and the Baltic is eerily similar. Some of this is documented, such as the large number of Flemish who settled in Britain and brought proper beer brewing with them.

    But that's only one side of the equation, consider the other side. The average Englishman from, say Kent, has a lot more in common with a Flemish Belgian than a Yorkshireman with his mainly Viking ancestry or from Highland Scots who may be more closely related to the Portuguese due to trade and migration across the sea. But then do an experiment yourself. Go to Edinburgh and then go to Oban on the West coast of Scotland - you may be surprised at how different the people look.

    The mix of populations throughout Europe is far more complex than you're trying to make out and to lump the Anglo-Celts into some giant obesity blob, doesn't stand up to any sort of scrutiny.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Martin
    All the hyper-rewarding foods Guyenet point to are full of sugar/carbs. Sugar+fat or sugar+sugar, it all comes down to sugar because sugar is anti-satiety.

    A big juicy steak is tasty and rewarding and energy-dense and all that but you have to force yourself to eat three of them in a row. On the other hand eating a whole bag of energy-dense 2000+ calories potato chips in half an hour is easy.

    Guyenet chose to ignore the obvious. He wants his Food Reward model to displace the Taubes/Carbodydrates/Sugar model popularized in Good Calories Bad Calories. He needs to try harder.

    I don’t really see the two things as being mutually exclusive. And Guyenet’s writing really illustrates why it’s so hard to lick: the stuff really is addictive in nature.

    Of course, it may still be not this simple, though this is where my money is for now.

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  • All the hyper-rewarding foods Guyenet point to are full of sugar/carbs. Sugar+fat or sugar+sugar, it all comes down to sugar because sugar is anti-satiety.

    A big juicy steak is tasty and rewarding and energy-dense and all that but you have to force yourself to eat three of them in a row. On the other hand eating a whole bag of energy-dense 2000+ calories potato chips in half an hour is easy.

    Guyenet chose to ignore the obvious. He wants his Food Reward model to displace the Taubes/Carbodydrates/Sugar model popularized in Good Calories Bad Calories. He needs to try harder.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan
    I don't really see the two things as being mutually exclusive. And Guyenet's writing really illustrates why it's so hard to lick: the stuff really is addictive in nature.

    Of course, it may still be not this simple, though this is where my money is for now.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • [...] orientation (as with all things) is largely under genetic influence, with overall political orientation being at least 60% [...]

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  • Continuing my inquiry into this matter, one question that hasn't been satisfactorily answered is why has the obesity rate shot up in the past few decades? As I've made plain in previous posts, variation in obesity between individuals within a group at any given time is largely heritable, as is a good portion of the...
  • @John
    The problem with this analysis is that the countries which are thinnest also eat the most palatable food, and are known for delicious cuisines. The obvious examples are the French, the Italians, as well as Japan, Thailand, etc. The French in particular are famous for cooking with tons of butter and fat. I very much doubt if junk food is more palatable than French food or even Thai food, whih uses lots and lots of fatty oils, sugar, and fatty coconut milk. In fact, in my experience, modern American junk food just isn't very good, it's kinda good but just about fails to hit the spot, leaving you craving more and more. The Anglo/Germanic countries are known for bland diets, and are the fattest. What gives?

    So it would seem that the facts are directly opposed to your analysis. Highly palatable/rewarding cuisines seem to produce thin people, while countries with long traditions of bland food, and a modern tradition of junk food that is only mildly palatable without really "hitting the spot", produce fat people, which is the exact opposite of your analysis. In my personal anecdotal experience, I have known multiple thin people who eat a combination of junk food and traditional highly palatable fatty foods, as well as some thin health freaks who ate mostly veggies and fruits. Their diets were completely opposed yet both were thin, leaving me unable to find any pattern in the kinds of foods that lead to thinness from examples in my personal life.

    As for the concept of "cultural shaming", it is a striking fact that countries where physical appearance matter the least - where style, fashion, and elegance matter the least - such as the Anglo countries, are the fattest. It is astonishing that nearly ALL the thin countries are full of well dressed, fashionable people, whereas nearly ALL the fat countries are full of people who dress terribly. Why should there be such a convergence on this? I have never ever been to a country where I noticed the people were thin and badly dressed and style disregarded. In France, Italy, Japan, Thailand, style and personal appearance are notoriously a hugely important thing in daily life. Then you have a place like Sweden, with low rates of fatness, but who are Germanic, who however prize personal appearance and fashion.

    Maybe Eastern Europeans are thinner because they smoke so much more than Westerners…

    Greeks are fat, and they smoke even more than average East Europeans.

    I’m not even sure how the relationship would work. I don’t smoke, but at the times I’ve tried it, I felt hunger pangs afterwards.

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  • @Anonymous
    oh and by the way, the self-restraint thing does not hold, especially for thais: They will never refrain from eating what they want when they want. In fact, they will get really angry if u try to tell them to eat 3 times a day (the traditional french way), especially when you are not choosing your food yourself but eat whatever is proposed (the traditional way for most french, at least until recently).

    Calling someone fat is not considered an insult in Thailand. Rather, it is considered an acceptable form of criticism. The Thais do not believe that all criticism is an insult, like we do. PC does not reign there. The common Western inference that since Thais consider calling someone fat acceptable, they must not see fat as negative, is a naive Western failure to understand that many (healthy) cultures permit criticism without considering it an insult.

    I have extensive experience of Thai social habits. Fat is indeed a stigma, especially for women, and women talk openly and frankly about the need to restrict their food intake, as do many men. Further, being well groomed and well dressed is of huge importance to Thais, and it is obvious how this creates pressure to stay thin. Thai thinness is quite deliberate. Let no one imagine otherwise.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Anonymous
    oh and by the way, the self-restraint thing does not hold, especially for thais: They will never refrain from eating what they want when they want. In fact, they will get really angry if u try to tell them to eat 3 times a day (the traditional french way), especially when you are not choosing your food yourself but eat whatever is proposed (the traditional way for most french, at least until recently).

    Compared to America, maybe…But not to France. I have food them to be quite similar in the quantities eaten. In fact, multiple times I have been surprised on how much they ate (more than me!) while still being slim. But of course on average they probably ate less because they keep slim with a smaller body, and as Jayman mentioned, gaining/loosing weight is in fact extremely simply and almost entirely driven by the daily caloric intake. It was probably because I was at the start of my stay, when the change in weather make me loose weight, while they were stable. A few weeks after, I am eating (slightly) more indeed. But still, they do not consciently restrain themselves. They even often over-order (cultural thing, ordering too much is a sign u are wealthy and they do not have much taboo about throwing excessive food – something that is difficult for an European (even when much more wealthy !!!). Probably linked to history, typical food availaibiliy different and strong seasonal effect in Europe. This may also be part of the explanation, now that I think of it.

    Now that’s true than when in America, I was often shocked at the amount of food you get in restaurant, or the typical portion people take in buffet (and still go for a second or third round 8-O ). So I understand why our impression differ.

    Regarding being called Fat, it’s true, but probably because Thai do not consider this as a strong insult. More like a jest, even if it depend on context of course. In France it is usually a true insult, and in America given the Political correctness, it is probably even worse. But besides that, the self image and social pressure on appearance is not much stronger than in France, probably at the same level.
    Competition between girls is stronger though (not much security net provided by the state, if your husband leave u are on your own), so there I agree with you. In France the situation is intermediate compared to Thialand and the US, where once u are married, u get access to half your husband resources, whatever happen, from what I understand…Again a difference, at least for women above 30.

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  • @Anonymous
    oh and by the way, the self-restraint thing does not hold, especially for thais: They will never refrain from eating what they want when they want. In fact, they will get really angry if u try to tell them to eat 3 times a day (the traditional french way), especially when you are not choosing your food yourself but eat whatever is proposed (the traditional way for most french, at least until recently).

    I have spent extensive time in Thailand, and this is not true. It’s true that Thais eat throughout the day, but they are careful to eat extremely small portions, and are extremely conscious of their weight, especially the women. If you gain even a few pounds you will be called fat. I have seen this firsthand. All Thai people are extremely conscious of their appearance and weight and are very self-restrained in their food intake, quite deliberately.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    oh and by the way, the self-restraint thing does not hold, especially for thais: They will never refrain from eating what they want when they want. In fact, they will get really angry if u try to tell them to eat 3 times a day (the traditional french way), especially when you are not choosing your food yourself but eat whatever is proposed (the traditional way for most french, at least until recently).

    Read More
    • Replies: @John
    I have spent extensive time in Thailand, and this is not true. It's true that Thais eat throughout the day, but they are careful to eat extremely small portions, and are extremely conscious of their weight, especially the women. If you gain even a few pounds you will be called fat. I have seen this firsthand. All Thai people are extremely conscious of their appearance and weight and are very self-restrained in their food intake, quite deliberately.
    , @Anonymous
    Compared to America, maybe...But not to France. I have food them to be quite similar in the quantities eaten. In fact, multiple times I have been surprised on how much they ate (more than me!) while still being slim. But of course on average they probably ate less because they keep slim with a smaller body, and as Jayman mentioned, gaining/loosing weight is in fact extremely simply and almost entirely driven by the daily caloric intake. It was probably because I was at the start of my stay, when the change in weather make me loose weight, while they were stable. A few weeks after, I am eating (slightly) more indeed. But still, they do not consciently restrain themselves. They even often over-order (cultural thing, ordering too much is a sign u are wealthy and they do not have much taboo about throwing excessive food - something that is difficult for an European (even when much more wealthy !!!). Probably linked to history, typical food availaibiliy different and strong seasonal effect in Europe. This may also be part of the explanation, now that I think of it.

    Now that's true than when in America, I was often shocked at the amount of food you get in restaurant, or the typical portion people take in buffet (and still go for a second or third round 8-O ). So I understand why our impression differ.

    Regarding being called Fat, it's true, but probably because Thai do not consider this as a strong insult. More like a jest, even if it depend on context of course. In France it is usually a true insult, and in America given the Political correctness, it is probably even worse. But besides that, the self image and social pressure on appearance is not much stronger than in France, probably at the same level.
    Competition between girls is stronger though (not much security net provided by the state, if your husband leave u are on your own), so there I agree with you. In France the situation is intermediate compared to Thialand and the US, where once u are married, u get access to half your husband resources, whatever happen, from what I understand...Again a difference, at least for women above 30.

    , @John
    Calling someone fat is not considered an insult in Thailand. Rather, it is considered an acceptable form of criticism. The Thais do not believe that all criticism is an insult, like we do. PC does not reign there. The common Western inference that since Thais consider calling someone fat acceptable, they must not see fat as negative, is a naive Western failure to understand that many (healthy) cultures permit criticism without considering it an insult.

    I have extensive experience of Thai social habits. Fat is indeed a stigma, especially for women, and women talk openly and frankly about the need to restrict their food intake, as do many men. Further, being well groomed and well dressed is of huge importance to Thais, and it is obvious how this creates pressure to stay thin. Thai thinness is quite deliberate. Let no one imagine otherwise.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Hum, I guess I could add my own feeliings regarding my home place, northern france (a little bit more overweight than south of france, but nowhere near the american situation) and a place I know quite well: Thailand (mostly extremely thin but less so for some of the new generation).

    The two cuisine differ quite a lot: French have sweet pastries (fat+sugar) and fatty sauce, and bread, or the mediteranean stuff(much more in line to what health freaks love), Thai is extremely spicy, quite salty by modern standards, and they love fat more than sugar (no real pastries nor dessert, sugar is used like a sort of spice). Seems not too healthy, but on the other hand they eat fruits as snacks and almost never touch chocolate…
    French stands by 3 regular meal per day, Thai will eat when they are hungry, usually very often.

    Both have highly evolved foods and culture attach a lot of importance to food (measured by the amount of time per day people are ready to spend on food preparation/consumption). I think that this allows to resist the junk food quite well, if we assume that junk food is engineered to appeal to natural cravings so that most people eat as much of it. Both the French and Thai cuisine is so important culturally that they have moved slightly away from base natural tastes, so the junk food , while probably optimal for natural tastes, miss the culturally-influenced targets. But it hit the mark better with some of new generation, which sometimes did not learn the cultural food but was exposed to junk food from early age.

    Still, there are obvious genetic factors too. Body types are not the same, and you can get fit people of extremely different bmi but proably similar body fat percentage. Another thing that is strange is that Thai seems to have quite a lot of diabete, even being thin and apparently eating much less refined sugar.

    Another factor is simply the weather, which imho is a huge factor: I loose weight very quickly in hot countries, except with some rather extreme diets like oriental pastries. hunger is lowered in warmer situations, while you drink more….as long as u stay aways from sodas, you automatically loose weight even without thinking of it, and quite fast….while when cold, hunger is terrible and fatty foods become more attractive. This is to be expected (the Bergmann’s rule), and should be factored out imho before comparing bmi between different populations…Especially as this had time to influence both local cuisine and local genetics…

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  • @Matt_
    Sensory-specific satiety also became a guiding principle for the processed-food industry. The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola or Doritos — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating

    On the back of this, an interesting HBD angle might be that this kind of small target might be sensitive to even small differences in population sensitivity in taste. Optimizations (a la Howard Moskowitz) to maximize intake work less well in some populations than others (for instance, looking as TASR, Europeans tend to have a higher sensitivity to sugar and less to bitter flavors), so some foods may be less effectively addict for some populations than others.

    Another interesting outcome of this is that in this context, evolutionarily novel drugs such as nicotine and caffeine (which are more or less equally new to all populations, even with all the tea in China) might serve as a more optimum index of a populations propensity to addiction.

    Precisely. Blacks for example tend to be highly sensitive to bitter (and I’d imagine sour) flavors. There is no way you’re going to get me to eat a grapefruit.

    Another interesting outcome of this is that in this context, evolutionarily novel drugs such as nicotine and caffeine (which are more or less equally new to all populations, even with all the tea in China) might serve as a more optimum index of a populations propensity to addiction.

    Excellent point. Maybe Eastern Europeans are thinner because they smoke so much more than Westerners…

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Matt_
    Guyenet sometimes oddly presents his argument, to the extent that foods with a complex, strong, pleasurable flavor are always more rewarding and people want to eat them in higher quantities. I heard him once claim that people in the past were more slender because a lack of "sauteed onions" and more "plain food".

    This isn't how flavorists approach the topic. Complex, strongly pleasurable foods are not automatically foods which encourage people to eat a lot of them.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    "The military has long been in a peculiar bind when it comes to food: how to get soldiers to eat more rations when they are in the field. They know that over time, soldiers would gradually find their meals-ready-to-eat so boring that they would toss them away, half-eaten, and not get all the calories they needed. But what was causing this M.R.E.-fatigue was a mystery. “So I started asking soldiers how frequently they would like to eat this or that, trying to figure out which products they would find boring,” Moskowitz said. The answers he got were inconsistent. “They liked flavorful foods like turkey tetrazzini, but only at first; they quickly grew tired of them. On the other hand, mundane foods like white bread would never get them too excited, but they could eat lots and lots of it without feeling they’d had enough.

    This contradiction is known as “sensory-specific satiety.” In lay terms, it is the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm the brain, which responds by depressing your desire to have more. Sensory-specific satiety also became a guiding principle for the processed-food industry. The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola or Doritos — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating.”

    Strong, complex flavors are not "rewarding" in the sense that either maximizes total food intake or maximizes intake of the specific foodstuff. A prescription to eat blander food (unseasoned baked potatoes) is a madness (well, it might be saner than a Doritos diet, but its far from sane).

    Makes sense. I think Guyenet should rebrand the effect he describes not one of “palatability”, since that’s confusing in this context, but the “Lays patato chip effect”: too good to eat just one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRzcjw9l6xo

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  • @John
    The problem with this analysis is that the countries which are thinnest also eat the most palatable food, and are known for delicious cuisines. The obvious examples are the French, the Italians, as well as Japan, Thailand, etc. The French in particular are famous for cooking with tons of butter and fat. I very much doubt if junk food is more palatable than French food or even Thai food, whih uses lots and lots of fatty oils, sugar, and fatty coconut milk. In fact, in my experience, modern American junk food just isn't very good, it's kinda good but just about fails to hit the spot, leaving you craving more and more. The Anglo/Germanic countries are known for bland diets, and are the fattest. What gives?

    So it would seem that the facts are directly opposed to your analysis. Highly palatable/rewarding cuisines seem to produce thin people, while countries with long traditions of bland food, and a modern tradition of junk food that is only mildly palatable without really "hitting the spot", produce fat people, which is the exact opposite of your analysis. In my personal anecdotal experience, I have known multiple thin people who eat a combination of junk food and traditional highly palatable fatty foods, as well as some thin health freaks who ate mostly veggies and fruits. Their diets were completely opposed yet both were thin, leaving me unable to find any pattern in the kinds of foods that lead to thinness from examples in my personal life.

    As for the concept of "cultural shaming", it is a striking fact that countries where physical appearance matter the least - where style, fashion, and elegance matter the least - such as the Anglo countries, are the fattest. It is astonishing that nearly ALL the thin countries are full of well dressed, fashionable people, whereas nearly ALL the fat countries are full of people who dress terribly. Why should there be such a convergence on this? I have never ever been to a country where I noticed the people were thin and badly dressed and style disregarded. In France, Italy, Japan, Thailand, style and personal appearance are notoriously a hugely important thing in daily life. Then you have a place like Sweden, with low rates of fatness, but who are Germanic, who however prize personal appearance and fashion.

    Sensory-specific satiety also became a guiding principle for the processed-food industry. The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola or Doritos — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating

    On the back of this, an interesting HBD angle might be that this kind of small target might be sensitive to even small differences in population sensitivity in taste. Optimizations (a la Howard Moskowitz) to maximize intake work less well in some populations than others (for instance, looking as TASR, Europeans tend to have a higher sensitivity to sugar and less to bitter flavors), so some foods may be less effectively addict for some populations than others.

    Another interesting outcome of this is that in this context, evolutionarily novel drugs such as nicotine and caffeine (which are more or less equally new to all populations, even with all the tea in China) might serve as a more optimum index of a populations propensity to addiction.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan
    Precisely. Blacks for example tend to be highly sensitive to bitter (and I'd imagine sour) flavors. There is no way you're going to get me to eat a grapefruit.

    Another interesting outcome of this is that in this context, evolutionarily novel drugs such as nicotine and caffeine (which are more or less equally new to all populations, even with all the tea in China) might serve as a more optimum index of a populations propensity to addiction.
     
    Excellent point. Maybe Eastern Europeans are thinner because they smoke so much more than Westerners...
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @John
    The problem with this analysis is that the countries which are thinnest also eat the most palatable food, and are known for delicious cuisines. The obvious examples are the French, the Italians, as well as Japan, Thailand, etc. The French in particular are famous for cooking with tons of butter and fat. I very much doubt if junk food is more palatable than French food or even Thai food, whih uses lots and lots of fatty oils, sugar, and fatty coconut milk. In fact, in my experience, modern American junk food just isn't very good, it's kinda good but just about fails to hit the spot, leaving you craving more and more. The Anglo/Germanic countries are known for bland diets, and are the fattest. What gives?

    So it would seem that the facts are directly opposed to your analysis. Highly palatable/rewarding cuisines seem to produce thin people, while countries with long traditions of bland food, and a modern tradition of junk food that is only mildly palatable without really "hitting the spot", produce fat people, which is the exact opposite of your analysis. In my personal anecdotal experience, I have known multiple thin people who eat a combination of junk food and traditional highly palatable fatty foods, as well as some thin health freaks who ate mostly veggies and fruits. Their diets were completely opposed yet both were thin, leaving me unable to find any pattern in the kinds of foods that lead to thinness from examples in my personal life.

    As for the concept of "cultural shaming", it is a striking fact that countries where physical appearance matter the least - where style, fashion, and elegance matter the least - such as the Anglo countries, are the fattest. It is astonishing that nearly ALL the thin countries are full of well dressed, fashionable people, whereas nearly ALL the fat countries are full of people who dress terribly. Why should there be such a convergence on this? I have never ever been to a country where I noticed the people were thin and badly dressed and style disregarded. In France, Italy, Japan, Thailand, style and personal appearance are notoriously a hugely important thing in daily life. Then you have a place like Sweden, with low rates of fatness, but who are Germanic, who however prize personal appearance and fashion.

    Guyenet sometimes oddly presents his argument, to the extent that foods with a complex, strong, pleasurable flavor are always more rewarding and people want to eat them in higher quantities. I heard him once claim that people in the past were more slender because a lack of “sauteed onions” and more “plain food”.

    This isn’t how flavorists approach the topic. Complex, strongly pleasurable foods are not automatically foods which encourage people to eat a lot of them.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    “The military has long been in a peculiar bind when it comes to food: how to get soldiers to eat more rations when they are in the field. They know that over time, soldiers would gradually find their meals-ready-to-eat so boring that they would toss them away, half-eaten, and not get all the calories they needed. But what was causing this M.R.E.-fatigue was a mystery. “So I started asking soldiers how frequently they would like to eat this or that, trying to figure out which products they would find boring,” Moskowitz said. The answers he got were inconsistent. “They liked flavorful foods like turkey tetrazzini, but only at first; they quickly grew tired of them. On the other hand, mundane foods like white bread would never get them too excited, but they could eat lots and lots of it without feeling they’d had enough.

    This contradiction is known as “sensory-specific satiety.” In lay terms, it is the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm the brain, which responds by depressing your desire to have more. Sensory-specific satiety also became a guiding principle for the processed-food industry. The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola or Doritos — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating.”

    Strong, complex flavors are not “rewarding” in the sense that either maximizes total food intake or maximizes intake of the specific foodstuff. A prescription to eat blander food (unseasoned baked potatoes) is a madness (well, it might be saner than a Doritos diet, but its far from sane).

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan
    Makes sense. I think Guyenet should rebrand the effect he describes not one of "palatability", since that's confusing in this context, but the "Lays patato chip effect": too good to eat just one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRzcjw9l6xo

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @John
    Or maybe there is no solution, thanks to genetic differences between Anglo-Celts and the French or the Japanese.

    That doesn't follow. The solution is simply to return to an older way of eating and voluntarily relinquish the quest for maximum palatability. That this CAN be done is obvious. Given the current culture, however, that this WILL be done seems highly unlikely. But if American culture ever rediscovers that the principle of self-restraint and moderation is necessary for happiness, as I think it will sooner or later (probably later), then such a voluntary renunciation of taste and flavor might well happen.

    Since the French, say, DON'T eat for maximum taste and flavor, I don't see how we can conclude that they are evolved to handle greater palatability. The French have retained their traditional diet of medium palatability. The Anglos have not. If the French were to abandon their traditional restraints, all the evidence suggests they would fare as badly as Americans.

    Or maybe there is no solution, thanks to genetic differences between Anglo-Celts and the French or the Japanese.

    That doesn’t follow. The solution is simply to return to an older way of eating and voluntarily relinquish the quest for maximum palatability.

    Good luck with that.

    That this CAN be done is obvious.

    Far from it.

    Given the current culture, however, that this WILL be done seems highly unlikely.

    Precisely.

    Since the French, say, DON’T eat for maximum taste and flavor, I don’t see how we can conclude that they are evolved to handle greater palatability. The French have retained their traditional diet of medium palatability. The Anglos have not. If the French were to abandon their traditional restraints, all the evidence suggests they would fare as badly as Americans.

    I don’t think that’s what the evidence says. The closest we have to an example of that are the Quebecois, and they seem to be doing better than Anglos on that front, if not quite as good as the old French.

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  • @John
    Re fast food; but your original point was that fast food is addictive because it is so delicious. My suggestion is that fast food is addictive because it is somewhat delicious but not quite delicious enough, leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Big difference.

    Re palatable food in France, etc; that's an interesting idea, but it has problems. First, French and Italian cuisines only became great around 500 years ago, which isn't enough time for evolution to select for people better able to handle such a diet. Second, it is not at all clear what selective pressures would operate here - I can't really imagine any scenario where people who could not handle this delicious cuisine would be weeded out in large numbers. Presumably, most people couldn't afford to be gluttons even if they found the food irresistible, so that alone would prevent the weeding out of those who would succumb in an environment of food abundance. I wonder if the ordinary French person even ate more fat and butter than the ordinary Englishman - the difference might well have been just in haute cuisine. Third, and perhaps most damning, is the fact that when French or Chinese people come to America for longer periods they gain lots of weight, showing that it is not the case that they have evolved to handle a diet that Anglos can't handle. When exposed to the same diet, they succumb as much as Anglos. The author of that famous book about how French women stay thin starts her book by explaining how she got fat living for one year in America, and still overate when she returned to France, remaining fat until she adopted French eating habits once again. In other words, it was not mere exposure to French food that did the trick, but a conscious process of re-acculturation to French eating habits, which she describes in detail. The cultural factor was key, not the kind of food she was exposed to. For a while she was just overeating baguettes and eclairs. There are lots of websites out there about Chinese and other foreigners gaining lots of weight in America and what they need to do to lose it once they get back. - it's always re-adopting certain cultural habits of eating.

    You say the only thing that changed is more junk food, but the culture changed tremendously in that time as well. Tradition broke down, including the traditional standards about physical appearance and grooming - slovenly and ungroomed became the fashion - and traditional notions of restraint and appropriate portion size disappeared.

    I should add that the thin people I have known who ate junk food, they ate little - for some reason, they didn't have cravings. So it's not an issue of metabolism here. Both the veggie freaks and the junk food guys ate very little, that being the common factor.

    Or maybe there is no solution, thanks to genetic differences between Anglo-Celts and the French or the Japanese.

    That doesn’t follow. The solution is simply to return to an older way of eating and voluntarily relinquish the quest for maximum palatability. That this CAN be done is obvious. Given the current culture, however, that this WILL be done seems highly unlikely. But if American culture ever rediscovers that the principle of self-restraint and moderation is necessary for happiness, as I think it will sooner or later (probably later), then such a voluntary renunciation of taste and flavor might well happen.

    Since the French, say, DON’T eat for maximum taste and flavor, I don’t see how we can conclude that they are evolved to handle greater palatability. The French have retained their traditional diet of medium palatability. The Anglos have not. If the French were to abandon their traditional restraints, all the evidence suggests they would fare as badly as Americans.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan

    Or maybe there is no solution, thanks to genetic differences between Anglo-Celts and the French or the Japanese.

    That doesn’t follow. The solution is simply to return to an older way of eating and voluntarily relinquish the quest for maximum palatability.
     

    Good luck with that.

    That this CAN be done is obvious.
     
    Far from it.

    Given the current culture, however, that this WILL be done seems highly unlikely.

     

    Precisely.

    Since the French, say, DON’T eat for maximum taste and flavor, I don’t see how we can conclude that they are evolved to handle greater palatability. The French have retained their traditional diet of medium palatability. The Anglos have not. If the French were to abandon their traditional restraints, all the evidence suggests they would fare as badly as Americans.

     

    I don't think that's what the evidence says. The closest we have to an example of that are the Quebecois, and they seem to be doing better than Anglos on that front, if not quite as good as the old French.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @John
    I just read the Stepehn Guyenet post and interestingly, he discusses exactly my point. I am still unsure but I am beginning to find the palatability argument more and more convincing. It may be that in countries like Japan and France most food is at a medium level of palatability with extremely palatable food being eaten only occasionally as a treat. In other words such cultures have a good balance between the paltable and the regular. Interestingly, dieting in America is specifically about non-palatable food, yet diets famously don't work and people crash - maybe because such diets are TOO unpalatable? Maybe the golden mean needs to be achieved, and places like France and Japan have done so, while we are on extreme of palatability. Here is Guyenet:

    "Some people have brought up the examples of France and India as challenges to the food reward hypothesis, stating that both have a tradition of delicious food. That, of course, is true. However, it's important to remember that most people traditionally didn't eat foie gras and fatty spiced curries every day, and food that you eat in a restaurant or as a tourist doesn't necessarily represent peoples' day-to-day food choices. In France, which I can speak for because I spent a significant chunk of my life there, most meals are composed of relatively simple, fresh, home-cooked food. This is particularly true for the older generations. The food is not low in fat, or low in animal fat. It tastes good, but it isn't extravagant. Traditionally, people rarely ate at restaurants, which were expensive and considered a special treat. As the food system has industrialized, and commercial food has increasingly replaced home cooking, the prevalence of obesity has increased."

    It may be that in countries like Japan and France most food is at a medium level of palatability with extremely palatable food being eaten only occasionally as a treat. In other words such cultures have a good balance between the paltable and the regular.

    Indeed.

    Interestingly, dieting in America is specifically about non-palatable food, yet diets famously don’t work and people crash – maybe because such diets are TOO unpalatable?

    Pretty much. For Anglos at least, the good stuff is hard (or indeed impossible for many) to give up.

    Maybe the golden mean needs to be achieved, and places like France and Japan have done so, while we are on extreme of palatability.

    Or maybe there is no solution, thanks to genetic differences between Anglo-Celts and the French or the Japanese.

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @John
    Re fast food; but your original point was that fast food is addictive because it is so delicious. My suggestion is that fast food is addictive because it is somewhat delicious but not quite delicious enough, leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Big difference.

    Re palatable food in France, etc; that's an interesting idea, but it has problems. First, French and Italian cuisines only became great around 500 years ago, which isn't enough time for evolution to select for people better able to handle such a diet. Second, it is not at all clear what selective pressures would operate here - I can't really imagine any scenario where people who could not handle this delicious cuisine would be weeded out in large numbers. Presumably, most people couldn't afford to be gluttons even if they found the food irresistible, so that alone would prevent the weeding out of those who would succumb in an environment of food abundance. I wonder if the ordinary French person even ate more fat and butter than the ordinary Englishman - the difference might well have been just in haute cuisine. Third, and perhaps most damning, is the fact that when French or Chinese people come to America for longer periods they gain lots of weight, showing that it is not the case that they have evolved to handle a diet that Anglos can't handle. When exposed to the same diet, they succumb as much as Anglos. The author of that famous book about how French women stay thin starts her book by explaining how she got fat living for one year in America, and still overate when she returned to France, remaining fat until she adopted French eating habits once again. In other words, it was not mere exposure to French food that did the trick, but a conscious process of re-acculturation to French eating habits, which she describes in detail. The cultural factor was key, not the kind of food she was exposed to. For a while she was just overeating baguettes and eclairs. There are lots of websites out there about Chinese and other foreigners gaining lots of weight in America and what they need to do to lose it once they get back. - it's always re-adopting certain cultural habits of eating.

    You say the only thing that changed is more junk food, but the culture changed tremendously in that time as well. Tradition broke down, including the traditional standards about physical appearance and grooming - slovenly and ungroomed became the fashion - and traditional notions of restraint and appropriate portion size disappeared.

    I should add that the thin people I have known who ate junk food, they ate little - for some reason, they didn't have cravings. So it's not an issue of metabolism here. Both the veggie freaks and the junk food guys ate very little, that being the common factor.

    I just read the Stepehn Guyenet post and interestingly, he discusses exactly my point. I am still unsure but I am beginning to find the palatability argument more and more convincing. It may be that in countries like Japan and France most food is at a medium level of palatability with extremely palatable food being eaten only occasionally as a treat. In other words such cultures have a good balance between the paltable and the regular. Interestingly, dieting in America is specifically about non-palatable food, yet diets famously don’t work and people crash – maybe because such diets are TOO unpalatable? Maybe the golden mean needs to be achieved, and places like France and Japan have done so, while we are on extreme of palatability. Here is Guyenet:

    “Some people have brought up the examples of France and India as challenges to the food reward hypothesis, stating that both have a tradition of delicious food. That, of course, is true. However, it’s important to remember that most people traditionally didn’t eat foie gras and fatty spiced curries every day, and food that you eat in a restaurant or as a tourist doesn’t necessarily represent peoples’ day-to-day food choices. In France, which I can speak for because I spent a significant chunk of my life there, most meals are composed of relatively simple, fresh, home-cooked food. This is particularly true for the older generations. The food is not low in fat, or low in animal fat. It tastes good, but it isn’t extravagant. Traditionally, people rarely ate at restaurants, which were expensive and considered a special treat. As the food system has industrialized, and commercial food has increasingly replaced home cooking, the prevalence of obesity has increased.”

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan

    It may be that in countries like Japan and France most food is at a medium level of palatability with extremely palatable food being eaten only occasionally as a treat. In other words such cultures have a good balance between the paltable and the regular.
     
    Indeed.

    Interestingly, dieting in America is specifically about non-palatable food, yet diets famously don’t work and people crash – maybe because such diets are TOO unpalatable?
     
    Pretty much. For Anglos at least, the good stuff is hard (or indeed impossible for many) to give up.

    Maybe the golden mean needs to be achieved, and places like France and Japan have done so, while we are on extreme of palatability.
     
    Or maybe there is no solution, thanks to genetic differences between Anglo-Celts and the French or the Japanese.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Misophile
    I like to blame my own thinness on the delicious ethnic food I grew up on. Nothing compares -- no no high-end restaurant and certainly no fast-food chain. It's actually given me a visceral disdain for the culture surrounding high-end restaurants. "You think THIS is good? You think this is food?! This?!" Especially when I hear the meal complimented for its visual appeal ("Oh, it's gorgeous!"), and then especially when it's arranged in some silly geometric pattern. It could only be severe childhood culinary neglect that could turn a simple appreciation of good food into this status-obsessed parody. Or so I'd like to believe. That said, a sober look at my family suggests there is nothing I could do to make myself fat, not for another 15 years minimum.

    That said, a sober look at my family suggests there is nothing I could do to make myself fat, not for another 15 years minimum.

    That’s the kicker…

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @John
    The problem with this analysis is that the countries which are thinnest also eat the most palatable food, and are known for delicious cuisines. The obvious examples are the French, the Italians, as well as Japan, Thailand, etc. The French in particular are famous for cooking with tons of butter and fat. I very much doubt if junk food is more palatable than French food or even Thai food, whih uses lots and lots of fatty oils, sugar, and fatty coconut milk. In fact, in my experience, modern American junk food just isn't very good, it's kinda good but just about fails to hit the spot, leaving you craving more and more. The Anglo/Germanic countries are known for bland diets, and are the fattest. What gives?

    So it would seem that the facts are directly opposed to your analysis. Highly palatable/rewarding cuisines seem to produce thin people, while countries with long traditions of bland food, and a modern tradition of junk food that is only mildly palatable without really "hitting the spot", produce fat people, which is the exact opposite of your analysis. In my personal anecdotal experience, I have known multiple thin people who eat a combination of junk food and traditional highly palatable fatty foods, as well as some thin health freaks who ate mostly veggies and fruits. Their diets were completely opposed yet both were thin, leaving me unable to find any pattern in the kinds of foods that lead to thinness from examples in my personal life.

    As for the concept of "cultural shaming", it is a striking fact that countries where physical appearance matter the least - where style, fashion, and elegance matter the least - such as the Anglo countries, are the fattest. It is astonishing that nearly ALL the thin countries are full of well dressed, fashionable people, whereas nearly ALL the fat countries are full of people who dress terribly. Why should there be such a convergence on this? I have never ever been to a country where I noticed the people were thin and badly dressed and style disregarded. In France, Italy, Japan, Thailand, style and personal appearance are notoriously a hugely important thing in daily life. Then you have a place like Sweden, with low rates of fatness, but who are Germanic, who however prize personal appearance and fashion.

    I like to blame my own thinness on the delicious ethnic food I grew up on. Nothing compares — no no high-end restaurant and certainly no fast-food chain. It’s actually given me a visceral disdain for the culture surrounding high-end restaurants. “You think THIS is good? You think this is food?! This?!” Especially when I hear the meal complimented for its visual appeal (“Oh, it’s gorgeous!”), and then especially when it’s arranged in some silly geometric pattern. It could only be severe childhood culinary neglect that could turn a simple appreciation of good food into this status-obsessed parody. Or so I’d like to believe. That said, a sober look at my family suggests there is nothing I could do to make myself fat, not for another 15 years minimum.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan

    That said, a sober look at my family suggests there is nothing I could do to make myself fat, not for another 15 years minimum.
     
    That's the kicker...
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @John
    Self-control is no doubt partly heritable, but does it make sense to suggest that Anglo people's are historically lacking in this quality? Unless Anglo people underwent some huge genetic in the space of time it took for the obesity epidemic to arise, it makes more sense to finger culture, especially since Anglo people's DID go through a huge cultural shift in that same time frame.

    Now you’re confused a bit on the topic. Self-control clearly varies between groups, but if it is a factor, it is only on among many. Obviously, it’s not responsible for the change over time. It’s clear than an environmental factor is to blame for the change, and the main point of my post was that this factor was the arrival of junk food (and possibly the decline of smoking).

    Self-control with respect to food can be quite a different thing from self-control in general.

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @John
    Re fast food; but your original point was that fast food is addictive because it is so delicious. My suggestion is that fast food is addictive because it is somewhat delicious but not quite delicious enough, leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Big difference.

    Re palatable food in France, etc; that's an interesting idea, but it has problems. First, French and Italian cuisines only became great around 500 years ago, which isn't enough time for evolution to select for people better able to handle such a diet. Second, it is not at all clear what selective pressures would operate here - I can't really imagine any scenario where people who could not handle this delicious cuisine would be weeded out in large numbers. Presumably, most people couldn't afford to be gluttons even if they found the food irresistible, so that alone would prevent the weeding out of those who would succumb in an environment of food abundance. I wonder if the ordinary French person even ate more fat and butter than the ordinary Englishman - the difference might well have been just in haute cuisine. Third, and perhaps most damning, is the fact that when French or Chinese people come to America for longer periods they gain lots of weight, showing that it is not the case that they have evolved to handle a diet that Anglos can't handle. When exposed to the same diet, they succumb as much as Anglos. The author of that famous book about how French women stay thin starts her book by explaining how she got fat living for one year in America, and still overate when she returned to France, remaining fat until she adopted French eating habits once again. In other words, it was not mere exposure to French food that did the trick, but a conscious process of re-acculturation to French eating habits, which she describes in detail. The cultural factor was key, not the kind of food she was exposed to. For a while she was just overeating baguettes and eclairs. There are lots of websites out there about Chinese and other foreigners gaining lots of weight in America and what they need to do to lose it once they get back. - it's always re-adopting certain cultural habits of eating.

    You say the only thing that changed is more junk food, but the culture changed tremendously in that time as well. Tradition broke down, including the traditional standards about physical appearance and grooming - slovenly and ungroomed became the fashion - and traditional notions of restraint and appropriate portion size disappeared.

    I should add that the thin people I have known who ate junk food, they ate little - for some reason, they didn't have cravings. So it's not an issue of metabolism here. Both the veggie freaks and the junk food guys ate very little, that being the common factor.

    Self-control is no doubt partly heritable, but does it make sense to suggest that Anglo people’s are historically lacking in this quality? Unless Anglo people underwent some huge genetic in the space of time it took for the obesity epidemic to arise, it makes more sense to finger culture, especially since Anglo people’s DID go through a huge cultural shift in that same time frame.

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    • Replies: @JayMan
    Now you're confused a bit on the topic. Self-control clearly varies between groups, but if it is a factor, it is only on among many. Obviously, it's not responsible for the change over time. It's clear than an environmental factor is to blame for the change, and the main point of my post was that this factor was the arrival of junk food (and possibly the decline of smoking).

    Self-control with respect to food can be quite a different thing from self-control in general.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @John
    Re fast food; but your original point was that fast food is addictive because it is so delicious. My suggestion is that fast food is addictive because it is somewhat delicious but not quite delicious enough, leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Big difference.

    Re palatable food in France, etc; that's an interesting idea, but it has problems. First, French and Italian cuisines only became great around 500 years ago, which isn't enough time for evolution to select for people better able to handle such a diet. Second, it is not at all clear what selective pressures would operate here - I can't really imagine any scenario where people who could not handle this delicious cuisine would be weeded out in large numbers. Presumably, most people couldn't afford to be gluttons even if they found the food irresistible, so that alone would prevent the weeding out of those who would succumb in an environment of food abundance. I wonder if the ordinary French person even ate more fat and butter than the ordinary Englishman - the difference might well have been just in haute cuisine. Third, and perhaps most damning, is the fact that when French or Chinese people come to America for longer periods they gain lots of weight, showing that it is not the case that they have evolved to handle a diet that Anglos can't handle. When exposed to the same diet, they succumb as much as Anglos. The author of that famous book about how French women stay thin starts her book by explaining how she got fat living for one year in America, and still overate when she returned to France, remaining fat until she adopted French eating habits once again. In other words, it was not mere exposure to French food that did the trick, but a conscious process of re-acculturation to French eating habits, which she describes in detail. The cultural factor was key, not the kind of food she was exposed to. For a while she was just overeating baguettes and eclairs. There are lots of websites out there about Chinese and other foreigners gaining lots of weight in America and what they need to do to lose it once they get back. - it's always re-adopting certain cultural habits of eating.

    You say the only thing that changed is more junk food, but the culture changed tremendously in that time as well. Tradition broke down, including the traditional standards about physical appearance and grooming - slovenly and ungroomed became the fashion - and traditional notions of restraint and appropriate portion size disappeared.

    I should add that the thin people I have known who ate junk food, they ate little - for some reason, they didn't have cravings. So it's not an issue of metabolism here. Both the veggie freaks and the junk food guys ate very little, that being the common factor.

    It’s called scientism, not science :) Indeed, a true empiricism includes culture. But the modern version – what I call crude empiricism – has a fetish for numbers and for the crude physical fact. Nearly everyone explains obesity through the composition of food. It’s striking how the cultural or psychological factor gets such little attention. Yet it is likely the biggest culprit. It is interesting how this focus on the crude fact has so far has yielded so little of value in dealing with the problem, yet most people continue ploughing the same narrow furrow.

    There is no such thing as absolutely free will without impingement from genetics or the environment, but it is an observable phenomenon in daily life that we can exercise some level of control on our actions, and that we can strengthen or weaken our ability to do so through habit.

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  • @John
    Also, Asian people in America stay thin to the proportion they remain rooted in their Asian culture. The more "American" an Asian is, the fatter they become, often just as fat as regular Americans. And the intermediate Asians, with a foot in both camps, are thin only in comparison with Americans - compared to Asians they are fat. To anyone who has not been to Asia, it is hard to understand the extremely high standards for thinness that prevail there, that makes even most Asians in America seem overweight. It's a level of perfectionism that would be inconceivable to most Americans. And if you talk to Asians (or read Asian blogs online), you will find that this level of perfectionism when it comes to body fat is the result of a culture of strict fat shaming and rigid social policing. As crazy as it sounds, parents will mercilessly mock their children for gaining even a few pounds, an amount that would seem utterly trivial to Americans. Friends do the same thing. Asian thinness is the furthest thing from effortless and spontaneous as is possible. It requires a huge effort of the will. The difference is Asians have their entire society and network of family/friends behind them for reinforcement, and they grow up in a culture that trains their capacity for will power since childhood.

    Also, Asian people in America stay thin to the proportion they remain rooted in their Asian culture. The more “American” an Asian is, the fatter they become, often just as fat as regular Americans. And the intermediate Asians, with a foot in both camps, are thin only in comparison with Americans – compared to Asians they are fat. To anyone who has not been to Asia, it is hard to understand the extremely high standards for thinness that prevail there, that makes even most Asians in America seem overweight.

    This is certainly worth researching.

    To anyone who has not been to Asia, it is hard to understand the extremely high standards for thinness that prevail there, that makes even most Asians in America seem overweight.

    Well, East Asians are naturally more slightly built than most other peoples.

    And if you talk to Asians (or read Asian blogs online), you will find that this level of perfectionism when it comes to body fat is the result of a culture of strict fat shaming and rigid social policing. As crazy as it sounds, parents will mercilessly mock their children for gaining even a few pounds, an amount that would seem utterly trivial to Americans. Friends do the same thing. Asian thinness is the furthest thing from effortless and spontaneous as is possible. It requires a huge effort of the will.

    Don’t doubt that that culture exists. Self-control could certainly be one of the (heritable) behavioral traits that differ between ethnic groups that contributes to the varying prevalence of obesity between those groups.

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @John
    Well, as far as I understand you, you are saying that some people, like the French perhaps, evolved to handle a highly palatable diet, while others, like the Anglos perhaps, did not. Thus when the Anglos moved away from their traditional diet towards a highly palatable one, they could not resist the urge to overeat. This adds a nuance to what seemed to be your original contention that highly palatable food causes overeating for everyone.

    It's an interesting theory but for the reasons I already mentioned, it seems highly unlikely. To add a little more to what was already said, it is common for Americans who move to France to lose weight on very palatable French food, so it seems that food palatability in itself is not the problem for Anglos. Of course, all this is anecdotal, but it has some value. I lost weight in Asia, eating food that was in many cases as full of sugar and fat and palatability as anything in America. Another anecdote, but not without value.

    There is a very strong modern tendency to explain everything in terms of a kind of crude empiricism. If people are obese, the explanation is sought in physical factors, not "insubstantial" factors like culture. To many people this seems more "scientific". I am not against empiricism, but a true empiricism would admit the existence of things like the will, even if it cannot be measured or quantified.

    You ask which came first, the cultural decline or obesity, but I think it is clear that the cultural decline, which began seriously in the 60s, came first. Nor does it make sense to see obesity as an isolated thing. It is surely part of a cluster of modern social dysfunctions that spreads out across our entire culture and that traces its roots to the dis-establishment of traditional controls and restraints that began in the 60s.

    One important thing is thing is that we are no longer educated to build up our will-power. We know from studies that will-power is something that you can build up and that takes constant practice to maintain. We used to live in a culture that educated us constantly for the use and strengthening of that capacity, but we no longer do. To think that this won't breed a generation of adults with a reduced capacity for will power seems naive. The entire element of self-restraint and self-control has been taken out of the culture to be replaced by powerful messages towards excessive consumption and self-indulgence. Combined with a reduced capacity for the exercise of will-power and the modern food abundance, the elimination from the culture of the urge towards self-control might well render most people incapable of resisting the urge to overeat, especially when another cultural element is added to this witches brew, democratic egalitarianism, which makes of the desire to appear stylish or look very good a kind of sinful attempt to distinguish oneself. There are also strong cultural messages that see a concern with appearance as either gay or superficial, in stark contrast with the Latin nations, who have always been artistic. No doubt there are some counter messages as well that work towards being thin, but they are clearly not the dominant ones. It's interesting that the thinner nations are 1) more traditional (have a culture of self-control) 2) celebrate appearance and don't think a concern with it is "artificial" 3) More elitist (aristocratic) in temperament and don't think distinction in persona appearance is a sinful attempt to raise oneself above one's fellows

    It’s an interesting theory but for the reasons I already mentioned, it seems highly unlikely. To add a little more to what was already said, it is common for Americans who move to France to lose weight on very palatable French food, so it seems that food palatability in itself is not the problem for Anglos.

    Perhaps. We need hard numbers. Even still, there is the limitation that immigrants, especially between developed countries are self-selected, limiting the conclusions we could draw from data on them.

    Of course, all this is anecdotal, but it has some value. I lost weight in Asia, eating food that was in many cases as full of sugar and fat and palatability as anything in America. Another anecdote, but not without value.

    Not at all without value, but still limited in how informative it is. For the record, I know of someone (Mexican who moved to Singapore) who lost a lot of weight there.

    There is a very strong modern tendency to explain everything in terms of a kind of crude empiricism. If people are obese, the explanation is sought in physical factors, not “insubstantial” factors like culture.

    It’s called scienceTM. Culture is included in what is “empirical”.

    I am not against empiricism, but a true empiricism would admit the existence of things like the will, even if it cannot be measured or quantified.

    Haha, nope.

    We know from studies that will-power is something that you can build up and that takes constant practice to maintain.

    What studies are those?

    It’s interesting that the thinner nations are 1) more traditional (have a culture of self-control) 2) celebrate appearance and don’t think a concern with it is “artificial” 3) More elitist (aristocratic) in temperament and don’t think distinction in persona appearance is a sinful attempt to raise oneself above one’s fellows.

    I think that there’s a case to made for the East Asian nations in terms of individual restraint. It would be a very interesting cross-cultural project to measure this behavioral trait across the world (well, and all behavioral traits).

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  • Dang…my man, you have done your homework. I maintained my ideal weight, 180lbs, 6ft1during my 20 plus years in the Army..Once I retired, bam, I put on 45 lbs. life style change? Yes. I gave up on P.T. I’ve got to pull myself together and hit the pavement again. ;)

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  • @John
    Re fast food; but your original point was that fast food is addictive because it is so delicious. My suggestion is that fast food is addictive because it is somewhat delicious but not quite delicious enough, leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Big difference.

    Re palatable food in France, etc; that's an interesting idea, but it has problems. First, French and Italian cuisines only became great around 500 years ago, which isn't enough time for evolution to select for people better able to handle such a diet. Second, it is not at all clear what selective pressures would operate here - I can't really imagine any scenario where people who could not handle this delicious cuisine would be weeded out in large numbers. Presumably, most people couldn't afford to be gluttons even if they found the food irresistible, so that alone would prevent the weeding out of those who would succumb in an environment of food abundance. I wonder if the ordinary French person even ate more fat and butter than the ordinary Englishman - the difference might well have been just in haute cuisine. Third, and perhaps most damning, is the fact that when French or Chinese people come to America for longer periods they gain lots of weight, showing that it is not the case that they have evolved to handle a diet that Anglos can't handle. When exposed to the same diet, they succumb as much as Anglos. The author of that famous book about how French women stay thin starts her book by explaining how she got fat living for one year in America, and still overate when she returned to France, remaining fat until she adopted French eating habits once again. In other words, it was not mere exposure to French food that did the trick, but a conscious process of re-acculturation to French eating habits, which she describes in detail. The cultural factor was key, not the kind of food she was exposed to. For a while she was just overeating baguettes and eclairs. There are lots of websites out there about Chinese and other foreigners gaining lots of weight in America and what they need to do to lose it once they get back. - it's always re-adopting certain cultural habits of eating.

    You say the only thing that changed is more junk food, but the culture changed tremendously in that time as well. Tradition broke down, including the traditional standards about physical appearance and grooming - slovenly and ungroomed became the fashion - and traditional notions of restraint and appropriate portion size disappeared.

    I should add that the thin people I have known who ate junk food, they ate little - for some reason, they didn't have cravings. So it's not an issue of metabolism here. Both the veggie freaks and the junk food guys ate very little, that being the common factor.

    Also, Asian people in America stay thin to the proportion they remain rooted in their Asian culture. The more “American” an Asian is, the fatter they become, often just as fat as regular Americans. And the intermediate Asians, with a foot in both camps, are thin only in comparison with Americans – compared to Asians they are fat. To anyone who has not been to Asia, it is hard to understand the extremely high standards for thinness that prevail there, that makes even most Asians in America seem overweight. It’s a level of perfectionism that would be inconceivable to most Americans. And if you talk to Asians (or read Asian blogs online), you will find that this level of perfectionism when it comes to body fat is the result of a culture of strict fat shaming and rigid social policing. As crazy as it sounds, parents will mercilessly mock their children for gaining even a few pounds, an amount that would seem utterly trivial to Americans. Friends do the same thing. Asian thinness is the furthest thing from effortless and spontaneous as is possible. It requires a huge effort of the will. The difference is Asians have their entire society and network of family/friends behind them for reinforcement, and they grow up in a culture that trains their capacity for will power since childhood.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan

    Also, Asian people in America stay thin to the proportion they remain rooted in their Asian culture. The more “American” an Asian is, the fatter they become, often just as fat as regular Americans. And the intermediate Asians, with a foot in both camps, are thin only in comparison with Americans – compared to Asians they are fat. To anyone who has not been to Asia, it is hard to understand the extremely high standards for thinness that prevail there, that makes even most Asians in America seem overweight.
     
    This is certainly worth researching.

    To anyone who has not been to Asia, it is hard to understand the extremely high standards for thinness that prevail there, that makes even most Asians in America seem overweight.
     
    Well, East Asians are naturally more slightly built than most other peoples.

    And if you talk to Asians (or read Asian blogs online), you will find that this level of perfectionism when it comes to body fat is the result of a culture of strict fat shaming and rigid social policing. As crazy as it sounds, parents will mercilessly mock their children for gaining even a few pounds, an amount that would seem utterly trivial to Americans. Friends do the same thing. Asian thinness is the furthest thing from effortless and spontaneous as is possible. It requires a huge effort of the will.

     

    Don't doubt that that culture exists. Self-control could certainly be one of the (heritable) behavioral traits that differ between ethnic groups that contributes to the varying prevalence of obesity between those groups.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @John
    Re fast food; but your original point was that fast food is addictive because it is so delicious. My suggestion is that fast food is addictive because it is somewhat delicious but not quite delicious enough, leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Big difference.

    Re palatable food in France, etc; that's an interesting idea, but it has problems. First, French and Italian cuisines only became great around 500 years ago, which isn't enough time for evolution to select for people better able to handle such a diet. Second, it is not at all clear what selective pressures would operate here - I can't really imagine any scenario where people who could not handle this delicious cuisine would be weeded out in large numbers. Presumably, most people couldn't afford to be gluttons even if they found the food irresistible, so that alone would prevent the weeding out of those who would succumb in an environment of food abundance. I wonder if the ordinary French person even ate more fat and butter than the ordinary Englishman - the difference might well have been just in haute cuisine. Third, and perhaps most damning, is the fact that when French or Chinese people come to America for longer periods they gain lots of weight, showing that it is not the case that they have evolved to handle a diet that Anglos can't handle. When exposed to the same diet, they succumb as much as Anglos. The author of that famous book about how French women stay thin starts her book by explaining how she got fat living for one year in America, and still overate when she returned to France, remaining fat until she adopted French eating habits once again. In other words, it was not mere exposure to French food that did the trick, but a conscious process of re-acculturation to French eating habits, which she describes in detail. The cultural factor was key, not the kind of food she was exposed to. For a while she was just overeating baguettes and eclairs. There are lots of websites out there about Chinese and other foreigners gaining lots of weight in America and what they need to do to lose it once they get back. - it's always re-adopting certain cultural habits of eating.

    You say the only thing that changed is more junk food, but the culture changed tremendously in that time as well. Tradition broke down, including the traditional standards about physical appearance and grooming - slovenly and ungroomed became the fashion - and traditional notions of restraint and appropriate portion size disappeared.

    I should add that the thin people I have known who ate junk food, they ate little - for some reason, they didn't have cravings. So it's not an issue of metabolism here. Both the veggie freaks and the junk food guys ate very little, that being the common factor.

    Well, as far as I understand you, you are saying that some people, like the French perhaps, evolved to handle a highly palatable diet, while others, like the Anglos perhaps, did not. Thus when the Anglos moved away from their traditional diet towards a highly palatable one, they could not resist the urge to overeat. This adds a nuance to what seemed to be your original contention that highly palatable food causes overeating for everyone.

    It’s an interesting theory but for the reasons I already mentioned, it seems highly unlikely. To add a little more to what was already said, it is common for Americans who move to France to lose weight on very palatable French food, so it seems that food palatability in itself is not the problem for Anglos. Of course, all this is anecdotal, but it has some value. I lost weight in Asia, eating food that was in many cases as full of sugar and fat and palatability as anything in America. Another anecdote, but not without value.

    There is a very strong modern tendency to explain everything in terms of a kind of crude empiricism. If people are obese, the explanation is sought in physical factors, not “insubstantial” factors like culture. To many people this seems more “scientific”. I am not against empiricism, but a true empiricism would admit the existence of things like the will, even if it cannot be measured or quantified.

    You ask which came first, the cultural decline or obesity, but I think it is clear that the cultural decline, which began seriously in the 60s, came first. Nor does it make sense to see obesity as an isolated thing. It is surely part of a cluster of modern social dysfunctions that spreads out across our entire culture and that traces its roots to the dis-establishment of traditional controls and restraints that began in the 60s.

    One important thing is thing is that we are no longer educated to build up our will-power. We know from studies that will-power is something that you can build up and that takes constant practice to maintain. We used to live in a culture that educated us constantly for the use and strengthening of that capacity, but we no longer do. To think that this won’t breed a generation of adults with a reduced capacity for will power seems naive. The entire element of self-restraint and self-control has been taken out of the culture to be replaced by powerful messages towards excessive consumption and self-indulgence. Combined with a reduced capacity for the exercise of will-power and the modern food abundance, the elimination from the culture of the urge towards self-control might well render most people incapable of resisting the urge to overeat, especially when another cultural element is added to this witches brew, democratic egalitarianism, which makes of the desire to appear stylish or look very good a kind of sinful attempt to distinguish oneself. There are also strong cultural messages that see a concern with appearance as either gay or superficial, in stark contrast with the Latin nations, who have always been artistic. No doubt there are some counter messages as well that work towards being thin, but they are clearly not the dominant ones. It’s interesting that the thinner nations are 1) more traditional (have a culture of self-control) 2) celebrate appearance and don’t think a concern with it is “artificial” 3) More elitist (aristocratic) in temperament and don’t think distinction in persona appearance is a sinful attempt to raise oneself above one’s fellows

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan

    It’s an interesting theory but for the reasons I already mentioned, it seems highly unlikely. To add a little more to what was already said, it is common for Americans who move to France to lose weight on very palatable French food, so it seems that food palatability in itself is not the problem for Anglos.
     
    Perhaps. We need hard numbers. Even still, there is the limitation that immigrants, especially between developed countries are self-selected, limiting the conclusions we could draw from data on them.

    Of course, all this is anecdotal, but it has some value. I lost weight in Asia, eating food that was in many cases as full of sugar and fat and palatability as anything in America. Another anecdote, but not without value.
     
    Not at all without value, but still limited in how informative it is. For the record, I know of someone (Mexican who moved to Singapore) who lost a lot of weight there.

    There is a very strong modern tendency to explain everything in terms of a kind of crude empiricism. If people are obese, the explanation is sought in physical factors, not “insubstantial” factors like culture.

     

    It's called scienceTM. Culture is included in what is "empirical".

    I am not against empiricism, but a true empiricism would admit the existence of things like the will, even if it cannot be measured or quantified.

     

    Haha, nope.

    We know from studies that will-power is something that you can build up and that takes constant practice to maintain.

     

    What studies are those?

    It’s interesting that the thinner nations are 1) more traditional (have a culture of self-control) 2) celebrate appearance and don’t think a concern with it is “artificial” 3) More elitist (aristocratic) in temperament and don’t think distinction in persona appearance is a sinful attempt to raise oneself above one’s fellows.

     

    I think that there's a case to made for the East Asian nations in terms of individual restraint. It would be a very interesting cross-cultural project to measure this behavioral trait across the world (well, and all behavioral traits).
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @chrisdavies09
    Great article, very in-depth and I agree with all the main points you raised. I wonder what else has caused obesity to sky-rocket since 1980, besides the main factors you highlight. Maybe stress rates have increased in society? There is anecdotal evidence that in previous post-war generations, rates of stress may have been lower. I don't have data. But we know that stress causes a spike in cortisol levels, which can cause over-eating and cravings for fatty, sugary foods etc. Poor sleep also causes a spike in cortisol. With people working longer hours, greater job insecurity caused by globalisation, job outsourcing, rounds of down-sizing, etc., also higher household debts, more working women, etc. maybe it is plausible that people are more stressed and eat more junk food and drink more booze in order to cope, increasing obesity. Maybe widespread use of hormonal contraception is to blame also. And far fewer men work manual jobs where lots of calories are burned, but far more work desk jobs with limited physical activity.

    Thanks! About stress, oddly, the fertility rate can be used as a rough gauge of societal stress. Less affordable family formation should = greater stress.

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Great article, very in-depth and I agree with all the main points you raised. I wonder what else has caused obesity to sky-rocket since 1980, besides the main factors you highlight. Maybe stress rates have increased in society? There is anecdotal evidence that in previous post-war generations, rates of stress may have been lower. I don’t have data. But we know that stress causes a spike in cortisol levels, which can cause over-eating and cravings for fatty, sugary foods etc. Poor sleep also causes a spike in cortisol. With people working longer hours, greater job insecurity caused by globalisation, job outsourcing, rounds of down-sizing, etc., also higher household debts, more working women, etc. maybe it is plausible that people are more stressed and eat more junk food and drink more booze in order to cope, increasing obesity. Maybe widespread use of hormonal contraception is to blame also. And far fewer men work manual jobs where lots of calories are burned, but far more work desk jobs with limited physical activity.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan
    Thanks! About stress, oddly, the fertility rate can be used as a rough gauge of societal stress. Less affordable family formation should = greater stress.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Anonymous
    Mendelian randomization studies have shown the high density lipoproteins are not causative to coronary artery disease, though they do correlate. However, for BMI, it actually does hold up. See: http://eurheartj.oxfordjournals.org/content/29/20/2552.short .

    Good, but we don’t know if that translates into increased risk of death from CVD. But even if it does, how much higher is the risk (data from the U.S. says not that much higher)? And then, what’s the causal force, weight, or shared genetic architecture? This study was done on Finns, who seem to be at significantly elevated risk for CVD. Not sure how that translates to other groups.

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  • @John
    Re fast food; but your original point was that fast food is addictive because it is so delicious. My suggestion is that fast food is addictive because it is somewhat delicious but not quite delicious enough, leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Big difference.

    Re palatable food in France, etc; that's an interesting idea, but it has problems. First, French and Italian cuisines only became great around 500 years ago, which isn't enough time for evolution to select for people better able to handle such a diet. Second, it is not at all clear what selective pressures would operate here - I can't really imagine any scenario where people who could not handle this delicious cuisine would be weeded out in large numbers. Presumably, most people couldn't afford to be gluttons even if they found the food irresistible, so that alone would prevent the weeding out of those who would succumb in an environment of food abundance. I wonder if the ordinary French person even ate more fat and butter than the ordinary Englishman - the difference might well have been just in haute cuisine. Third, and perhaps most damning, is the fact that when French or Chinese people come to America for longer periods they gain lots of weight, showing that it is not the case that they have evolved to handle a diet that Anglos can't handle. When exposed to the same diet, they succumb as much as Anglos. The author of that famous book about how French women stay thin starts her book by explaining how she got fat living for one year in America, and still overate when she returned to France, remaining fat until she adopted French eating habits once again. In other words, it was not mere exposure to French food that did the trick, but a conscious process of re-acculturation to French eating habits, which she describes in detail. The cultural factor was key, not the kind of food she was exposed to. For a while she was just overeating baguettes and eclairs. There are lots of websites out there about Chinese and other foreigners gaining lots of weight in America and what they need to do to lose it once they get back. - it's always re-adopting certain cultural habits of eating.

    You say the only thing that changed is more junk food, but the culture changed tremendously in that time as well. Tradition broke down, including the traditional standards about physical appearance and grooming - slovenly and ungroomed became the fashion - and traditional notions of restraint and appropriate portion size disappeared.

    I should add that the thin people I have known who ate junk food, they ate little - for some reason, they didn't have cravings. So it's not an issue of metabolism here. Both the veggie freaks and the junk food guys ate very little, that being the common factor.

    Re fast food; but your original point was that fast food is addictive because it is so delicious. My suggestion is that fast food is addictive because it is somewhat delicious but not quite delicious enough, leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Big difference.

    Correct, that is a big difference. I still stand by my version. Addiction implies that you overeat; if it’s delicious but doesn’t encourage you to come back for more, then that’s not the effect we’re going for here.

    Re palatable food in France, etc; that’s an interesting idea, but it has problems. First, French and Italian cuisines only became great around 500 years ago, which isn’t enough time for evolution to select for people better able to handle such a diet. Second, it is not at all clear what selective pressures would operate here – I can’t really imagine any scenario where people who could not handle this delicious cuisine would be weeded out in large numbers.

    It’s enough time. The real point is, as you mention, if there was a strong enough selective pressure to cause the change in that time. Perhaps then the key is that the relevant selective pressures operated over longer periods of time. Temperature, food insecurity, meat vs grain consumption, all these things could have been heavily at play.

    It is however also worth noting that most modern Europeans are heavily descended from the bourgeois, ala Gregory Clark. Whatever selective pressures that operated on the middle-to-upper class would have shaped the entire modern population.

    That said, the relevant evolutionary forces are far from clear at this point, so we are still only speculating.

    Third, and perhaps most damning, is the fact that when French or Chinese people come to America for longer periods they gain lots of weight, showing that it is not the case that they have evolved to handle a diet that Anglos can’t handle. When exposed to the same diet, they succumb as much as Anglos. The author of that famous book about how French women stay thin starts her book by explaining how she got fat living for one year in America, and still overate when she returned to France, remaining fat until she adopted French eating habits once again. In other words, it was not mere exposure to French food that did the trick, but a conscious process of re-acculturation to French eating habits, which she describes in detail.

    Now if that isn’t a “manwho” (or in this case “womanwho”) statistic. :) It’s unclear how much strict cultural factors are at play. In the case of East Asians, they are notoriously thin even in Anglo countries. We need to see if we can get better statistics on the effects of individuals who immigrate to other societies. But even that is only of limited value thanks to self-selection.

    You say the only thing that changed is more junk food, but the culture changed tremendously in that time as well. Tradition broke down, including the traditional standards about physical appearance and grooming – slovenly and ungroomed became the fashion – and traditional notions of restraint and appropriate portion size disappeared.

    Even if this is true, which I’m not really convinced that it is, which came first? Did standards of appearance precede the rise in obesity or did standards of appearance change as more and more people because obese? This is heavily anecdotal, and may not be a worthwhile direction of study even if it turns out that there is something to it.

    I should add that the thin people I have known who ate junk food, they ate little – for some reason, they didn’t have cravings. So it’s not an issue of metabolism here. Both the veggie freaks and the junk food guys ate very little, that being the common factor.

    Metabolism and psychological traits all come into play. Just as the case with alcohol or drugs, not everyone who’s exposed to junk food will become addicted.

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  • Mendelian randomization studies have shown the high density lipoproteins are not causative to coronary artery disease, though they do correlate. However, for BMI, it actually does hold up. See: http://eurheartj.oxfordjournals.org/content/29/20/2552.short .

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    • Replies: @JayMan
    Good, but we don't know if that translates into increased risk of death from CVD. But even if it does, how much higher is the risk (data from the U.S. says not that much higher)? And then, what's the causal force, weight, or shared genetic architecture? This study was done on Finns, who seem to be at significantly elevated risk for CVD. Not sure how that translates to other groups.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Re fast food; but your original point was that fast food is addictive because it is so delicious. My suggestion is that fast food is addictive because it is somewhat delicious but not quite delicious enough, leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Big difference.

    Re palatable food in France, etc; that’s an interesting idea, but it has problems. First, French and Italian cuisines only became great around 500 years ago, which isn’t enough time for evolution to select for people better able to handle such a diet. Second, it is not at all clear what selective pressures would operate here – I can’t really imagine any scenario where people who could not handle this delicious cuisine would be weeded out in large numbers. Presumably, most people couldn’t afford to be gluttons even if they found the food irresistible, so that alone would prevent the weeding out of those who would succumb in an environment of food abundance. I wonder if the ordinary French person even ate more fat and butter than the ordinary Englishman – the difference might well have been just in haute cuisine. Third, and perhaps most damning, is the fact that when French or Chinese people come to America for longer periods they gain lots of weight, showing that it is not the case that they have evolved to handle a diet that Anglos can’t handle. When exposed to the same diet, they succumb as much as Anglos. The author of that famous book about how French women stay thin starts her book by explaining how she got fat living for one year in America, and still overate when she returned to France, remaining fat until she adopted French eating habits once again. In other words, it was not mere exposure to French food that did the trick, but a conscious process of re-acculturation to French eating habits, which she describes in detail. The cultural factor was key, not the kind of food she was exposed to. For a while she was just overeating baguettes and eclairs. There are lots of websites out there about Chinese and other foreigners gaining lots of weight in America and what they need to do to lose it once they get back. – it’s always re-adopting certain cultural habits of eating.

    You say the only thing that changed is more junk food, but the culture changed tremendously in that time as well. Tradition broke down, including the traditional standards about physical appearance and grooming – slovenly and ungroomed became the fashion – and traditional notions of restraint and appropriate portion size disappeared.

    I should add that the thin people I have known who ate junk food, they ate little – for some reason, they didn’t have cravings. So it’s not an issue of metabolism here. Both the veggie freaks and the junk food guys ate very little, that being the common factor.

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    • Replies: @JayMan

    Re fast food; but your original point was that fast food is addictive because it is so delicious. My suggestion is that fast food is addictive because it is somewhat delicious but not quite delicious enough, leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Big difference.
     
    Correct, that is a big difference. I still stand by my version. Addiction implies that you overeat; if it's delicious but doesn't encourage you to come back for more, then that's not the effect we're going for here.

    Re palatable food in France, etc; that’s an interesting idea, but it has problems. First, French and Italian cuisines only became great around 500 years ago, which isn’t enough time for evolution to select for people better able to handle such a diet. Second, it is not at all clear what selective pressures would operate here – I can’t really imagine any scenario where people who could not handle this delicious cuisine would be weeded out in large numbers.
     
    It's enough time. The real point is, as you mention, if there was a strong enough selective pressure to cause the change in that time. Perhaps then the key is that the relevant selective pressures operated over longer periods of time. Temperature, food insecurity, meat vs grain consumption, all these things could have been heavily at play.

    It is however also worth noting that most modern Europeans are heavily descended from the bourgeois, ala Gregory Clark. Whatever selective pressures that operated on the middle-to-upper class would have shaped the entire modern population.

    That said, the relevant evolutionary forces are far from clear at this point, so we are still only speculating.


    Third, and perhaps most damning, is the fact that when French or Chinese people come to America for longer periods they gain lots of weight, showing that it is not the case that they have evolved to handle a diet that Anglos can’t handle. When exposed to the same diet, they succumb as much as Anglos. The author of that famous book about how French women stay thin starts her book by explaining how she got fat living for one year in America, and still overate when she returned to France, remaining fat until she adopted French eating habits once again. In other words, it was not mere exposure to French food that did the trick, but a conscious process of re-acculturation to French eating habits, which she describes in detail.
     
    Now if that isn't a "manwho" (or in this case "womanwho") statistic. :) It's unclear how much strict cultural factors are at play. In the case of East Asians, they are notoriously thin even in Anglo countries. We need to see if we can get better statistics on the effects of individuals who immigrate to other societies. But even that is only of limited value thanks to self-selection.

    You say the only thing that changed is more junk food, but the culture changed tremendously in that time as well. Tradition broke down, including the traditional standards about physical appearance and grooming – slovenly and ungroomed became the fashion – and traditional notions of restraint and appropriate portion size disappeared.
     
    Even if this is true, which I'm not really convinced that it is, which came first? Did standards of appearance precede the rise in obesity or did standards of appearance change as more and more people because obese? This is heavily anecdotal, and may not be a worthwhile direction of study even if it turns out that there is something to it.

    I should add that the thin people I have known who ate junk food, they ate little – for some reason, they didn’t have cravings. So it’s not an issue of metabolism here. Both the veggie freaks and the junk food guys ate very little, that being the common factor.
     
    Metabolism and psychological traits all come into play. Just as the case with alcohol or drugs, not everyone who's exposed to junk food will become addicted.
    , @John
    Well, as far as I understand you, you are saying that some people, like the French perhaps, evolved to handle a highly palatable diet, while others, like the Anglos perhaps, did not. Thus when the Anglos moved away from their traditional diet towards a highly palatable one, they could not resist the urge to overeat. This adds a nuance to what seemed to be your original contention that highly palatable food causes overeating for everyone.

    It's an interesting theory but for the reasons I already mentioned, it seems highly unlikely. To add a little more to what was already said, it is common for Americans who move to France to lose weight on very palatable French food, so it seems that food palatability in itself is not the problem for Anglos. Of course, all this is anecdotal, but it has some value. I lost weight in Asia, eating food that was in many cases as full of sugar and fat and palatability as anything in America. Another anecdote, but not without value.

    There is a very strong modern tendency to explain everything in terms of a kind of crude empiricism. If people are obese, the explanation is sought in physical factors, not "insubstantial" factors like culture. To many people this seems more "scientific". I am not against empiricism, but a true empiricism would admit the existence of things like the will, even if it cannot be measured or quantified.

    You ask which came first, the cultural decline or obesity, but I think it is clear that the cultural decline, which began seriously in the 60s, came first. Nor does it make sense to see obesity as an isolated thing. It is surely part of a cluster of modern social dysfunctions that spreads out across our entire culture and that traces its roots to the dis-establishment of traditional controls and restraints that began in the 60s.

    One important thing is thing is that we are no longer educated to build up our will-power. We know from studies that will-power is something that you can build up and that takes constant practice to maintain. We used to live in a culture that educated us constantly for the use and strengthening of that capacity, but we no longer do. To think that this won't breed a generation of adults with a reduced capacity for will power seems naive. The entire element of self-restraint and self-control has been taken out of the culture to be replaced by powerful messages towards excessive consumption and self-indulgence. Combined with a reduced capacity for the exercise of will-power and the modern food abundance, the elimination from the culture of the urge towards self-control might well render most people incapable of resisting the urge to overeat, especially when another cultural element is added to this witches brew, democratic egalitarianism, which makes of the desire to appear stylish or look very good a kind of sinful attempt to distinguish oneself. There are also strong cultural messages that see a concern with appearance as either gay or superficial, in stark contrast with the Latin nations, who have always been artistic. No doubt there are some counter messages as well that work towards being thin, but they are clearly not the dominant ones. It's interesting that the thinner nations are 1) more traditional (have a culture of self-control) 2) celebrate appearance and don't think a concern with it is "artificial" 3) More elitist (aristocratic) in temperament and don't think distinction in persona appearance is a sinful attempt to raise oneself above one's fellows

    , @John
    Also, Asian people in America stay thin to the proportion they remain rooted in their Asian culture. The more "American" an Asian is, the fatter they become, often just as fat as regular Americans. And the intermediate Asians, with a foot in both camps, are thin only in comparison with Americans - compared to Asians they are fat. To anyone who has not been to Asia, it is hard to understand the extremely high standards for thinness that prevail there, that makes even most Asians in America seem overweight. It's a level of perfectionism that would be inconceivable to most Americans. And if you talk to Asians (or read Asian blogs online), you will find that this level of perfectionism when it comes to body fat is the result of a culture of strict fat shaming and rigid social policing. As crazy as it sounds, parents will mercilessly mock their children for gaining even a few pounds, an amount that would seem utterly trivial to Americans. Friends do the same thing. Asian thinness is the furthest thing from effortless and spontaneous as is possible. It requires a huge effort of the will. The difference is Asians have their entire society and network of family/friends behind them for reinforcement, and they grow up in a culture that trains their capacity for will power since childhood.
    , @John
    It's called scientism, not science :) Indeed, a true empiricism includes culture. But the modern version - what I call crude empiricism - has a fetish for numbers and for the crude physical fact. Nearly everyone explains obesity through the composition of food. It's striking how the cultural or psychological factor gets such little attention. Yet it is likely the biggest culprit. It is interesting how this focus on the crude fact has so far has yielded so little of value in dealing with the problem, yet most people continue ploughing the same narrow furrow.

    There is no such thing as absolutely free will without impingement from genetics or the environment, but it is an observable phenomenon in daily life that we can exercise some level of control on our actions, and that we can strengthen or weaken our ability to do so through habit.

    , @John
    Self-control is no doubt partly heritable, but does it make sense to suggest that Anglo people's are historically lacking in this quality? Unless Anglo people underwent some huge genetic in the space of time it took for the obesity epidemic to arise, it makes more sense to finger culture, especially since Anglo people's DID go through a huge cultural shift in that same time frame.
    , @John
    I just read the Stepehn Guyenet post and interestingly, he discusses exactly my point. I am still unsure but I am beginning to find the palatability argument more and more convincing. It may be that in countries like Japan and France most food is at a medium level of palatability with extremely palatable food being eaten only occasionally as a treat. In other words such cultures have a good balance between the paltable and the regular. Interestingly, dieting in America is specifically about non-palatable food, yet diets famously don't work and people crash - maybe because such diets are TOO unpalatable? Maybe the golden mean needs to be achieved, and places like France and Japan have done so, while we are on extreme of palatability. Here is Guyenet:

    "Some people have brought up the examples of France and India as challenges to the food reward hypothesis, stating that both have a tradition of delicious food. That, of course, is true. However, it's important to remember that most people traditionally didn't eat foie gras and fatty spiced curries every day, and food that you eat in a restaurant or as a tourist doesn't necessarily represent peoples' day-to-day food choices. In France, which I can speak for because I spent a significant chunk of my life there, most meals are composed of relatively simple, fresh, home-cooked food. This is particularly true for the older generations. The food is not low in fat, or low in animal fat. It tastes good, but it isn't extravagant. Traditionally, people rarely ate at restaurants, which were expensive and considered a special treat. As the food system has industrialized, and commercial food has increasingly replaced home cooking, the prevalence of obesity has increased."

    , @John
    Or maybe there is no solution, thanks to genetic differences between Anglo-Celts and the French or the Japanese.

    That doesn't follow. The solution is simply to return to an older way of eating and voluntarily relinquish the quest for maximum palatability. That this CAN be done is obvious. Given the current culture, however, that this WILL be done seems highly unlikely. But if American culture ever rediscovers that the principle of self-restraint and moderation is necessary for happiness, as I think it will sooner or later (probably later), then such a voluntary renunciation of taste and flavor might well happen.

    Since the French, say, DON'T eat for maximum taste and flavor, I don't see how we can conclude that they are evolved to handle greater palatability. The French have retained their traditional diet of medium palatability. The Anglos have not. If the French were to abandon their traditional restraints, all the evidence suggests they would fare as badly as Americans.

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  • @John
    The problem with this analysis is that the countries which are thinnest also eat the most palatable food, and are known for delicious cuisines. The obvious examples are the French, the Italians, as well as Japan, Thailand, etc. The French in particular are famous for cooking with tons of butter and fat. I very much doubt if junk food is more palatable than French food or even Thai food, whih uses lots and lots of fatty oils, sugar, and fatty coconut milk. In fact, in my experience, modern American junk food just isn't very good, it's kinda good but just about fails to hit the spot, leaving you craving more and more. The Anglo/Germanic countries are known for bland diets, and are the fattest. What gives?

    So it would seem that the facts are directly opposed to your analysis. Highly palatable/rewarding cuisines seem to produce thin people, while countries with long traditions of bland food, and a modern tradition of junk food that is only mildly palatable without really "hitting the spot", produce fat people, which is the exact opposite of your analysis. In my personal anecdotal experience, I have known multiple thin people who eat a combination of junk food and traditional highly palatable fatty foods, as well as some thin health freaks who ate mostly veggies and fruits. Their diets were completely opposed yet both were thin, leaving me unable to find any pattern in the kinds of foods that lead to thinness from examples in my personal life.

    As for the concept of "cultural shaming", it is a striking fact that countries where physical appearance matter the least - where style, fashion, and elegance matter the least - such as the Anglo countries, are the fattest. It is astonishing that nearly ALL the thin countries are full of well dressed, fashionable people, whereas nearly ALL the fat countries are full of people who dress terribly. Why should there be such a convergence on this? I have never ever been to a country where I noticed the people were thin and badly dressed and style disregarded. In France, Italy, Japan, Thailand, style and personal appearance are notoriously a hugely important thing in daily life. Then you have a place like Sweden, with low rates of fatness, but who are Germanic, who however prize personal appearance and fashion.

    In fact, in my experience, modern American junk food just isn’t very good, it’s kinda good but just about fails to hit the spot, leaving you craving more and more.

    That’s. The. Point.

    The problem with this analysis is that the countries which are thinnest also eat the most palatable food, and are known for delicious cuisines. The obvious examples are the French, the Italians, as well as Japan, Thailand, etc. The French in particular are famous for cooking with tons of butter and fat.

    So it would seem that the facts are directly opposed to your analysis. Highly palatable/rewarding cuisines seem to produce thin people, while countries with long traditions of bland food, and a modern tradition of junk food that is only mildly palatable without really “hitting the spot”, produce fat people, which is the exact opposite of your analysis.

    You’re not thinking fourth dimensionally, so to speak. If these cultures long had a tradition of palatable foods (and remember the context in which this term is used here), then they would have had the longest to adapt to the presence of these foods. Evolutionary forces could have conditioned them such that they are less inclined to indulge in modern junk food, as Anglo-Celts are.

    In my personal anecdotal experience, I have known multiple thin people who eat a combination of junk food and traditional highly palatable fatty foods, as well as some thin health freaks who ate mostly veggies and fruits. Their diets were completely opposed yet both were thin, leaving me unable to find any pattern in the kinds of foods that lead to thinness from examples in my personal life.

    These are what Satoshi Kanazawa (whose Big Think blog page was taken down, damn it!) calls “manwho statistics”. It’s worth noting that I didn’t say that excessive junk consumption is the sole factor that determines who will be thin or fat. Metabolism plays a huge role between individuals. Junk food consumption is one of many factors that determines final body weight, but it is the only factor that has systematically changed since decades past.

    As for the concept of “cultural shaming”, it is a striking fact that countries where physical appearance matter the least – where style, fashion, and elegance matter the least – such as the Anglo countries, are the fattest. It is astonishing that nearly ALL the thin countries are full of well dressed, fashionable people, whereas nearly ALL the fat countries are full of people who dress terribly. Why should there be such a convergence on this? I have never ever been to a country where I noticed the people were thin and badly dressed and style disregarded. In France, Italy, Japan, Thailand, style and personal appearance are notoriously a hugely important thing in daily life. Then you have a place like Sweden, with low rates of fatness, but who are Germanic, who however prize personal appearance and fashion.

    There could be something to this. If there is, it may have something to do with sex drive and the need to maintain sex appeal accordingly. It’s hard to know for sure without solid data.

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  • The problem with this analysis is that the countries which are thinnest also eat the most palatable food, and are known for delicious cuisines. The obvious examples are the French, the Italians, as well as Japan, Thailand, etc. The French in particular are famous for cooking with tons of butter and fat. I very much doubt if junk food is more palatable than French food or even Thai food, whih uses lots and lots of fatty oils, sugar, and fatty coconut milk. In fact, in my experience, modern American junk food just isn’t very good, it’s kinda good but just about fails to hit the spot, leaving you craving more and more. The Anglo/Germanic countries are known for bland diets, and are the fattest. What gives?

    So it would seem that the facts are directly opposed to your analysis. Highly palatable/rewarding cuisines seem to produce thin people, while countries with long traditions of bland food, and a modern tradition of junk food that is only mildly palatable without really “hitting the spot”, produce fat people, which is the exact opposite of your analysis. In my personal anecdotal experience, I have known multiple thin people who eat a combination of junk food and traditional highly palatable fatty foods, as well as some thin health freaks who ate mostly veggies and fruits. Their diets were completely opposed yet both were thin, leaving me unable to find any pattern in the kinds of foods that lead to thinness from examples in my personal life.

    As for the concept of “cultural shaming”, it is a striking fact that countries where physical appearance matter the least – where style, fashion, and elegance matter the least – such as the Anglo countries, are the fattest. It is astonishing that nearly ALL the thin countries are full of well dressed, fashionable people, whereas nearly ALL the fat countries are full of people who dress terribly. Why should there be such a convergence on this? I have never ever been to a country where I noticed the people were thin and badly dressed and style disregarded. In France, Italy, Japan, Thailand, style and personal appearance are notoriously a hugely important thing in daily life. Then you have a place like Sweden, with low rates of fatness, but who are Germanic, who however prize personal appearance and fashion.

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    • Replies: @JayMan

    In fact, in my experience, modern American junk food just isn’t very good, it’s kinda good but just about fails to hit the spot, leaving you craving more and more.
     
    That's. The. Point.

    The problem with this analysis is that the countries which are thinnest also eat the most palatable food, and are known for delicious cuisines. The obvious examples are the French, the Italians, as well as Japan, Thailand, etc. The French in particular are famous for cooking with tons of butter and fat.
    ...
    So it would seem that the facts are directly opposed to your analysis. Highly palatable/rewarding cuisines seem to produce thin people, while countries with long traditions of bland food, and a modern tradition of junk food that is only mildly palatable without really “hitting the spot”, produce fat people, which is the exact opposite of your analysis.

     

    You're not thinking fourth dimensionally, so to speak. If these cultures long had a tradition of palatable foods (and remember the context in which this term is used here), then they would have had the longest to adapt to the presence of these foods. Evolutionary forces could have conditioned them such that they are less inclined to indulge in modern junk food, as Anglo-Celts are.

    In my personal anecdotal experience, I have known multiple thin people who eat a combination of junk food and traditional highly palatable fatty foods, as well as some thin health freaks who ate mostly veggies and fruits. Their diets were completely opposed yet both were thin, leaving me unable to find any pattern in the kinds of foods that lead to thinness from examples in my personal life.
     
    These are what Satoshi Kanazawa (whose Big Think blog page was taken down, damn it!) calls "manwho statistics". It's worth noting that I didn't say that excessive junk consumption is the sole factor that determines who will be thin or fat. Metabolism plays a huge role between individuals. Junk food consumption is one of many factors that determines final body weight, but it is the only factor that has systematically changed since decades past.

    As for the concept of “cultural shaming”, it is a striking fact that countries where physical appearance matter the least – where style, fashion, and elegance matter the least – such as the Anglo countries, are the fattest. It is astonishing that nearly ALL the thin countries are full of well dressed, fashionable people, whereas nearly ALL the fat countries are full of people who dress terribly. Why should there be such a convergence on this? I have never ever been to a country where I noticed the people were thin and badly dressed and style disregarded. In France, Italy, Japan, Thailand, style and personal appearance are notoriously a hugely important thing in daily life. Then you have a place like Sweden, with low rates of fatness, but who are Germanic, who however prize personal appearance and fashion.
     
    There could be something to this. If there is, it may have something to do with sex drive and the need to maintain sex appeal accordingly. It's hard to know for sure without solid data.
    , @Misophile
    I like to blame my own thinness on the delicious ethnic food I grew up on. Nothing compares -- no no high-end restaurant and certainly no fast-food chain. It's actually given me a visceral disdain for the culture surrounding high-end restaurants. "You think THIS is good? You think this is food?! This?!" Especially when I hear the meal complimented for its visual appeal ("Oh, it's gorgeous!"), and then especially when it's arranged in some silly geometric pattern. It could only be severe childhood culinary neglect that could turn a simple appreciation of good food into this status-obsessed parody. Or so I'd like to believe. That said, a sober look at my family suggests there is nothing I could do to make myself fat, not for another 15 years minimum.
    , @Matt_
    Guyenet sometimes oddly presents his argument, to the extent that foods with a complex, strong, pleasurable flavor are always more rewarding and people want to eat them in higher quantities. I heard him once claim that people in the past were more slender because a lack of "sauteed onions" and more "plain food".

    This isn't how flavorists approach the topic. Complex, strongly pleasurable foods are not automatically foods which encourage people to eat a lot of them.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    "The military has long been in a peculiar bind when it comes to food: how to get soldiers to eat more rations when they are in the field. They know that over time, soldiers would gradually find their meals-ready-to-eat so boring that they would toss them away, half-eaten, and not get all the calories they needed. But what was causing this M.R.E.-fatigue was a mystery. “So I started asking soldiers how frequently they would like to eat this or that, trying to figure out which products they would find boring,” Moskowitz said. The answers he got were inconsistent. “They liked flavorful foods like turkey tetrazzini, but only at first; they quickly grew tired of them. On the other hand, mundane foods like white bread would never get them too excited, but they could eat lots and lots of it without feeling they’d had enough.

    This contradiction is known as “sensory-specific satiety.” In lay terms, it is the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm the brain, which responds by depressing your desire to have more. Sensory-specific satiety also became a guiding principle for the processed-food industry. The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola or Doritos — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating.”

    Strong, complex flavors are not "rewarding" in the sense that either maximizes total food intake or maximizes intake of the specific foodstuff. A prescription to eat blander food (unseasoned baked potatoes) is a madness (well, it might be saner than a Doritos diet, but its far from sane).

    , @Matt_
    Sensory-specific satiety also became a guiding principle for the processed-food industry. The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola or Doritos — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating

    On the back of this, an interesting HBD angle might be that this kind of small target might be sensitive to even small differences in population sensitivity in taste. Optimizations (a la Howard Moskowitz) to maximize intake work less well in some populations than others (for instance, looking as TASR, Europeans tend to have a higher sensitivity to sugar and less to bitter flavors), so some foods may be less effectively addict for some populations than others.

    Another interesting outcome of this is that in this context, evolutionarily novel drugs such as nicotine and caffeine (which are more or less equally new to all populations, even with all the tea in China) might serve as a more optimum index of a populations propensity to addiction.

    , @Anatoly Karlin
    Maybe Eastern Europeans are thinner because they smoke so much more than Westerners…

    Greeks are fat, and they smoke even more than average East Europeans.

    I'm not even sure how the relationship would work. I don't smoke, but at the times I've tried it, I felt hunger pangs afterwards.

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  • Good Article. If treatment for being overweight is possible it will not come from the fantasy of misanthropic reactionaries that they are going to take away the abundance of pleasurable foods or punish fat people in some way. If it is possible, I think we will move towards genetic modifications in the womb or petri dish to turn endomorphic fetuses into mesomorphic ones or some sort of drug must be developed for that naturally fat people can stuff themselves without gaining weight. The second way would allow obesity to be treated like a heart condition or other innate health problems. There are attempts to produce drugs of this sort but we will have to see if they survive their trials.

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  • EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • [...] been satisfactorily answered is why has the obesity rate shot up in the past few decades? As I’ve made plain in previous posts, variation in obesity between individuals within a group at any given time is [...]

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  • To demonstrate a point that I have asserted at various points – a point that tends to be often indirectly hinted at in the blogosphere and only occasionally stately concretely, I again avail to maps to tell a tale. First, I'll start with a previously featured map of fertility rates across Europe: This is a...
  • @chrisdavies09
    Definitely close correlation between fertility rates and reported levels of happiness in countries as seen on the first 2 maps. Britain's fertility rate has rebounded in recent years, partly due to immigration and partly due to the native population having more children. I think Britain's TFR reached a post-war peak in the early 1960s? then continued declining until the late 90's before climbing again.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13809280

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2204800/British-birth-rate-soared-highest-Europe-thanks-increase-migrants.html

    In France I believe mothers are paid 1000 Euros/month for 1 year if they give birth to a third child. And in Scandinavia there is generous paid childcare and lengthy maternity/paternity leave etc. (all this of course comes at the cost of very high taxes).

    I think the lower levels of reported happiness in Eastern and Southern Europe may partly relate to economic weakness in these countries, but one should not overlook their less generous welfare states as compared with Western Europe. All of this will contribute to women reluctantly choosing to have fewer children. These countries are at an earlier stage of demographic transition, and in several years their TFR may start to rise also.

    The real mystery is Germany, which currently has a strong economy and a fairly generous welfare state, but very low reported happiness and a very low fertility rate. Of course we should remember that part of Germany is a former eastern bloc country like the low happiness/low fertility central & eastern European countries. I think the eastern part of Germany may still have some economic weakness but it is no longer enough to drag the whole country down. I did hear that there is a much lower level of labour force participation among German mothers, which apparently is due to cultural reasons. Whereas in Scandinavia many mothers return to work and continue bringing in a second income to their family, in Germany this is far less common so with a reduced household income they rationally make the choice to have no more than one child. Apparently there is now pressure to reform the tax/welfare system to encourage more German mothers to return to work.

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/lab_wor_mot-labor-working-mothers

    Population density is the key. Germany may be so crowded that the German paycheck doesn’t go all that far, discouraging reproduction.

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  • @Anonymous
    There's an error there.

    What constitutes "high fertility"? In France and Sweden high fertility is 2.1 or 2.3 children, which is replacement level. It's not +3 children, which is common in either lower class criminals neighborhoods or certain religious families.

    Low fertility is < 2 kids.
    Replacement fertility is 2-3 kids.
    High fertility is +3 kids.

    And what's with the whole "working mothers", working women charade that you wrote there? Various women have always worked either as servants or slaves in patriarchies.

    Or are you talking about the most successful women of them all, ones who compromise 1-10% of the population, and who aren't the average working mother type?

    In modern populations, especially in the crowded UK, fertility doesn’t need to be that high. Replacement value or abouts is all that is necessary.

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  • @asdf
    Jayman,

    This is inordinately sloppy research. You've got to seperate out the births of immigrants from those NE European numbers. Muslims and chavs in London churning out kids don't tell me what Mrs. Anglo 130 IQ has for a TFR.

    I can't find that stuff. However, the stuff I can find casts doubt on the overall TFR #:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2223009/A-quarter-babies-born-UK-children-immigrants-mothers-Poland-India-Pakistan-birth-record-numbers.html

    According to the ONS analysis, the number of babies born to British-born mothers barely changed in the five years from 2007 to 2011, up from 603,000 to 612,000.

    However migrant mother births went up from 169,000 to 196,000, an increase of 16 per cent.

    (As HBD chick points out, even amongst the "British born" mothers many may not be actually be British)

    "Overall, foreign-born women were likely to have 2.28 children during their lives, while British born women could expect, at 2011 fertility rates, to bear 1.89 children.

    But there was a bigger gap in London, where fertility rates were higher for foreign-born women and where fertility rates for British-born women were ‘well below average’.

    This may be because a higher proportion of British-born women in London than elsewhere are pursuing education and careers and delaying childbirth and families."

    Further showing that what British fertility there is may be the lower end of the British bell curve. I here chavs shit out lots of kids.

    "The number of births outside marriage has also been rising alongside the general birth rate. In 1999, 38.9% of live births were to unmarried women, while in 2009 this had risen to 46.2%. The percentage of births to mothers born outside the UK has also increased, to 24.7% from 14.3%."

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AgdO92JOXxAOdFZIUU1SODRaMXI5cFdvMkRIQm5Obmc

    The "mommy track" is in fact not working. Liberalism and careerism remains a TFR dead end. Only religion has had any real success at getting high IQ people top breed. Your own data shows it.

    The White British total fertility rate is 1.89 – plenty high by modern standards. See my latest post.

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  • [...] up on my earlier post about the connection between fertility rates and happiness, I wanted to take a wider view with more [...]

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  • EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • [...] We know heredity is heavily responsible for differences between individuals in a group (with one’s BMI being 80% heritable, as heritable as height), and it is clearly considerably responsible for the racial differences seen above. That heredity [...]

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  • Comedian/documentarian Tom Naughton recently made a highly intriguing post about the "Spanish Paradox"; that is, the low rate of cardiovascular illness among Spaniards despite their apparently poor markers of heart health. This post was made on the discussion site of Naughton's 2009 documentary Fat Head. This movie (which I have yet to see, but plan...
  • [...] maps track the variations in the obesity rates across the various Canadian provinces. As we’ve seen before, there is a distinct pattern, with the Québécois routinely being fairly light, and the Maritime [...]

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  • EDIT, 5/30/15: [Post updated with results of new meta-analyses of behavioral genetic studies. See below!] Edit, 1/3/13: [Post updated to reflect additional information provided in the comments. See below and see the comments.] The time has come for a little reminder of the First Law of behavioral genetics. In my final post of 2012, I...
  • “In the case of single motherhood and divorce, social mores have changed to make this more acceptable, so, those with genotypes more susceptible to exhibiting this behavior have done so, hence, a change in phenotypes.”

    and schooling has been made compulsory. Tracking outlawed and consider Sailer’s criticism of her work.

    “That said, as racial differences in IQ demonstrate, there is only so much of a difference environmental changes can make. ”

    what about conscientiousness? See for example Grady Towers’ essay Outsiders.
    And early puberty in girls?

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