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Well said! I spotted it in a conversation with Dennis Mangan. I guess it’s good to see that someone else has brought up these points.

Here’s the rest of the conversation:

Unfortunately, it seems, Dennis Mangan – like many in the medical establishment – appears permanently locked into a rather unscientific way of thinking. The problem of disentangling correlation and causation is ignored. Uncontrolled observational studies are taken as proof of whatever medical fad in vogue at the time. It is possible to “control” for various variables (since we can surely think of all the relevant ones) to see if the variable of interest is a causal factor.

http://giphy.com/gifs/3HAYjfhY8Yt1Q6GSggM

James Thompson had a recent post on research conducted in this matter (Psychological comments: Is it healthier to eat 7 vegetables or 7 scientists?). Thompson references an article written by David Colquhoun, where Colquhoun references the work of John Ioannidis (here Colquohoun, quoting Ioannidis):

The gist is given by the memorable statement

“Almost every single nutrient imaginable has peer reviewed publications associating it with almost any outcome.”

and the subtitle

Definitive solutions won’t come from another million observational papers or small randomized trials“.

Colquhoun lays bare the problem:

The problem, of course, is that humans are very good at attributing causality when it does not exist. That has led to confusion between correlation and cause on an industrial scale, not least in attempts to work out the effects of diet on health.

The likely truth:

We can probably say by now that no individual food carries a large risk, or affords very much protection. The fact that we are looking for quite small effects means that even when RCTs are possible huge samples will be needed to get clear answers. Most RCTs are too short, and too small (under-powered) and that leads to overestimation of the size of effects.

and what must be done:

The best thing that can be done in the short term is to stop doing large observational studies altogether. It’s now clear that inferences made from them are likely to be wrong.

At the very least, it would seem to me there’s one idea that would be a very helpful step in the right direction:

As for this particular finding, the apparent link between depression and processed food consumption, assuming it’s real at all, what’s behind it? Well, what does processed food consumption correlate with (hint: negatively)? IQ. This is indeed the subject of James Thomspons’ latest post (IQ, Neuroticism, booze, and those damn vegetables again).

On that, one very large study (of Swedish conscripts) found that IQ was negatively correlated with severe depression (and other things like schizophrenia). So there’s that, anyway.

Previously: Gary Taubes on Obesity and Bad Science

For some reason, this seemed appropriate:

(Republished from JayMan's Blog by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. Toddy Cat says:

    And for whatever reason, there’s nothing like the subject of nutrition to bring out sloppy thinking in people. As a friend of mine once observed, people seem to desperately want food taboos, and they seem upset that the Western Christian tradition doesn’t really have any, so people keep trying, only in the name of “health” or suchlike. Labeling otherwise totally unobjectional foods as “pure” or “unclean” seems to fill some sort of deep human need.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan
    @Toddy Cat:

    Great points. It does indeed seem that way.

    , @Chip Smith
    I absolutely agree with this observation and I find it puzzling. Do out think this is a case of evolutionary mismatch? --That some food taboos in some past environments were adaptive and as a result modern minds are (mis)equipped with food taboo toggles that spring into action when faddish cues light up in the culture?
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  2. jackmcg says:

    It would be interesting to see this study being controlled for with IQ, although it did control for education and employment grade, reasonable if imperfect substitutes.

    Anecdotally it would seem a lot of people agree that eating less processed food makes them feel better, more energetic. Now that doesn’t mean processed foods cause clinical depression per se, but its certainly the case that some foods produce better outcomes than others. Ask bodybuilders about protein, for example. It makes one wonder why you always choose to throw the gauntlet down on this particular issue, with no counterevidence besides “correlation doesn’t equal caustion”.

    Why do you get so emotional about food?

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan
    @Jack:

    Anecdotally it would seem a lot of people agree that eating less processed food makes them feel better, more energetic.
     
    And therein lies the problem with anecdotes.

    Now that doesn’t mean processed foods cause clinical depression per se, but its certainly the case that some foods produce better outcomes than others.
     
    That's a big claim, depending on how literally you interpret it.

    Ask bodybuilders about protein, for example.
     
    There must be some protein consumption for muscle growth. But then, there must be to live. The nature of the specifics of this consumption to muscle building is questionable, at this point.

    It makes one wonder why you always choose to throw the gauntlet down on this particular issue
     
    Have you been reading my blog at all?

    with no counterevidence besides “correlation doesn’t equal caustion”.
     
    I guess the answer is no. Let me help you out: Trans Fat Hysteria and the Mystery of Heart Disease.

    Health wisdom's fate is shared by many other topics on my blog. The reason why this is so is simple, or should be to anyone who reads me: because much of it is bullshit. Worst still, it's bullshit that is (almost literally) rammed down our throats on a regular basis. I think that's reason enough to rail against it.

    , @jackmcg
    I read your blog when I can. But I haven't elucidating your position on this yet.

    Do you believe that food intake (total calories, macronutrient ratios) has no effect on body composition and energy levels?

    or

    Do you simply believe that humans have no real ability to control what the food they intake, as we're all slaves to our genes and if you put a pizza in front of someone they'll either eat it or they won't?

    That's an honest question. I find one position far more defensible than the other. I've seen you take both stances depending on the argument.

    , @jackmcg
    Well what would you suggest then to remedy the problem? You did mention controlling studies like the one Mangan referenced for IQ. Certainly reasonable. But do you think the results of that would deviate in a significant way from the things that were already controlled for in that study (educational attainment, employment level)?

    But to take it more meta: Let's say this correlation between diet and depression was indeed causal, could it ever be proven, in your opinion? How do we KNOW anything? If correlations are all we can produce, will they never be good enough?

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  3. […] WORTH LOOKING INTO: “Correlational health studies would be more impressive (and useful) if they included IQ and pe… […]

    Read More
  4. JayMan says: • Website
    @Toddy Cat
    And for whatever reason, there's nothing like the subject of nutrition to bring out sloppy thinking in people. As a friend of mine once observed, people seem to desperately want food taboos, and they seem upset that the Western Christian tradition doesn't really have any, so people keep trying, only in the name of "health" or suchlike. Labeling otherwise totally unobjectional foods as "pure" or "unclean" seems to fill some sort of deep human need.

    Great points. It does indeed seem that way.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  5. JayMan says: • Website
    @jackmcg
    It would be interesting to see this study being controlled for with IQ, although it did control for education and employment grade, reasonable if imperfect substitutes.

    Anecdotally it would seem a lot of people agree that eating less processed food makes them feel better, more energetic. Now that doesn't mean processed foods cause clinical depression per se, but its certainly the case that some foods produce better outcomes than others. Ask bodybuilders about protein, for example. It makes one wonder why you always choose to throw the gauntlet down on this particular issue, with no counterevidence besides "correlation doesn't equal caustion".

    Why do you get so emotional about food?

    @Jack:

    Anecdotally it would seem a lot of people agree that eating less processed food makes them feel better, more energetic.

    And therein lies the problem with anecdotes.

    Now that doesn’t mean processed foods cause clinical depression per se, but its certainly the case that some foods produce better outcomes than others.

    That’s a big claim, depending on how literally you interpret it.

    Ask bodybuilders about protein, for example.

    There must be some protein consumption for muscle growth. But then, there must be to live. The nature of the specifics of this consumption to muscle building is questionable, at this point.

    It makes one wonder why you always choose to throw the gauntlet down on this particular issue

    Have you been reading my blog at all?

    with no counterevidence besides “correlation doesn’t equal caustion”.

    I guess the answer is no. Let me help you out: Trans Fat Hysteria and the Mystery of Heart Disease.

    Health wisdom’s fate is shared by many other topics on my blog. The reason why this is so is simple, or should be to anyone who reads me: because much of it is bullshit. Worst still, it’s bullshit that is (almost literally) rammed down our throats on a regular basis. I think that’s reason enough to rail against it.

    Read More
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  6. jackmcg says:
    @jackmcg
    It would be interesting to see this study being controlled for with IQ, although it did control for education and employment grade, reasonable if imperfect substitutes.

    Anecdotally it would seem a lot of people agree that eating less processed food makes them feel better, more energetic. Now that doesn't mean processed foods cause clinical depression per se, but its certainly the case that some foods produce better outcomes than others. Ask bodybuilders about protein, for example. It makes one wonder why you always choose to throw the gauntlet down on this particular issue, with no counterevidence besides "correlation doesn't equal caustion".

    Why do you get so emotional about food?

    I read your blog when I can. But I haven’t elucidating your position on this yet.

    Do you believe that food intake (total calories, macronutrient ratios) has no effect on body composition and energy levels?

    or

    Do you simply believe that humans have no real ability to control what the food they intake, as we’re all slaves to our genes and if you put a pizza in front of someone they’ll either eat it or they won’t?

    That’s an honest question. I find one position far more defensible than the other. I’ve seen you take both stances depending on the argument.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan
    @Jack:

    Not even wrong questions there.

    Here's what your missing: you're presupposing that we (or at least someone) knows what the effects that variation in diet has on variation in health. The key thing, and what I'm getting at in my discussion on the matter, is we don't know. Nobody knows much for sure about the effect of dietary variation on health, beyond that we need food to live. I've been highlighting why we don't know and have been suggesting ways to remedy that problem. Unfortunately, it seems only a handful of people get that.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  7. JayMan says: • Website
    @jackmcg
    I read your blog when I can. But I haven't elucidating your position on this yet.

    Do you believe that food intake (total calories, macronutrient ratios) has no effect on body composition and energy levels?

    or

    Do you simply believe that humans have no real ability to control what the food they intake, as we're all slaves to our genes and if you put a pizza in front of someone they'll either eat it or they won't?

    That's an honest question. I find one position far more defensible than the other. I've seen you take both stances depending on the argument.

    @Jack:

    Not even wrong questions there.

    Here’s what your missing: you’re presupposing that we (or at least someone) knows what the effects that variation in diet has on variation in health. The key thing, and what I’m getting at in my discussion on the matter, is we don’t know. Nobody knows much for sure about the effect of dietary variation on health, beyond that we need food to live. I’ve been highlighting why we don’t know and have been suggesting ways to remedy that problem. Unfortunately, it seems only a handful of people get that.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  8. jackmcg says:
    @jackmcg
    It would be interesting to see this study being controlled for with IQ, although it did control for education and employment grade, reasonable if imperfect substitutes.

    Anecdotally it would seem a lot of people agree that eating less processed food makes them feel better, more energetic. Now that doesn't mean processed foods cause clinical depression per se, but its certainly the case that some foods produce better outcomes than others. Ask bodybuilders about protein, for example. It makes one wonder why you always choose to throw the gauntlet down on this particular issue, with no counterevidence besides "correlation doesn't equal caustion".

    Why do you get so emotional about food?

    Well what would you suggest then to remedy the problem? You did mention controlling studies like the one Mangan referenced for IQ. Certainly reasonable. But do you think the results of that would deviate in a significant way from the things that were already controlled for in that study (educational attainment, employment level)?

    But to take it more meta: Let’s say this correlation between diet and depression was indeed causal, could it ever be proven, in your opinion? How do we KNOW anything? If correlations are all we can produce, will they never be good enough?

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan
    @Jack:

    Well what would you suggest then to remedy the problem? You did mention controlling studies like the one Mangan referenced for IQ. Certainly reasonable.
     
    A key first step would be, when we have IQ and personality data, to control for these and see if these "risk factors" remain such. At least when it came to risk of death during the study period, one study that did that found a negligible difference. IQ was by far the strongest predictor.

    Strictly speaking, neither education or employment are good substitutes for IQ.

    I'd say, actually, we should probably just stop doing diet research altogether. It really is virtually impossible to establish causal relationships (twin controls couldn't do this, even), and the associations are always small at best. It just seems like a blind alley. We should focus on behavioral genetics and biometric avenues, and maybe even start looking at pathogens.

    There is huge value in just saying "not necessarily THIS, just not THAT."

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  9. JayMan says: • Website
    @jackmcg
    Well what would you suggest then to remedy the problem? You did mention controlling studies like the one Mangan referenced for IQ. Certainly reasonable. But do you think the results of that would deviate in a significant way from the things that were already controlled for in that study (educational attainment, employment level)?

    But to take it more meta: Let's say this correlation between diet and depression was indeed causal, could it ever be proven, in your opinion? How do we KNOW anything? If correlations are all we can produce, will they never be good enough?

    @Jack:

    Well what would you suggest then to remedy the problem? You did mention controlling studies like the one Mangan referenced for IQ. Certainly reasonable.

    A key first step would be, when we have IQ and personality data, to control for these and see if these “risk factors” remain such. At least when it came to risk of death during the study period, one study that did that found a negligible difference. IQ was by far the strongest predictor.

    Strictly speaking, neither education or employment are good substitutes for IQ.

    I’d say, actually, we should probably just stop doing diet research altogether. It really is virtually impossible to establish causal relationships (twin controls couldn’t do this, even), and the associations are always small at best. It just seems like a blind alley. We should focus on behavioral genetics and biometric avenues, and maybe even start looking at pathogens.

    There is huge value in just saying “not necessarily THIS, just not THAT.”

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  10. Chip Smith says: • Website
    @Toddy Cat
    And for whatever reason, there's nothing like the subject of nutrition to bring out sloppy thinking in people. As a friend of mine once observed, people seem to desperately want food taboos, and they seem upset that the Western Christian tradition doesn't really have any, so people keep trying, only in the name of "health" or suchlike. Labeling otherwise totally unobjectional foods as "pure" or "unclean" seems to fill some sort of deep human need.

    I absolutely agree with this observation and I find it puzzling. Do out think this is a case of evolutionary mismatch? –That some food taboos in some past environments were adaptive and as a result modern minds are (mis)equipped with food taboo toggles that spring into action when faddish cues light up in the culture?

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  11. […] Tweet of the Week – “‘[H]umans are very good at attributing causality when it does not exist. That has led to confusion between correlation and cause on an industrial scale, not least in attempts to work out the effects of diet on health.’” – @jayman’s. […]

    Read More
  12. […] doubt on most any environmental theory. Quite likely, as with the case with diet and lifestyle (see Tweet of the Week), most of the ones you’ve heard are bunk. It seems likely that the human genome draws up a […]

    Read More
  13. While I adamantly follow you 99% of the way on every other topic and you’re probably my single favorite blogger, period, I can’t help feeling you slip just a little bit over the rails when it comes to these questions. It looks to me like we’ve got perfectly good grounds for concluding that foods are very likely having tremendous effects on the brain (especially sugar: http://www.forbes.com/sites/gerganakoleva/2012/05/17/binging-on-sugar-weakens-memory-ucla-study-shows/), and suggesting that IQ (et al) is the cause of every one of these changes strikes me as off-the-wall as claiming that the harm caused by consistent use of meth is simply because people who would’ve broken their teeth, become anorexic insomniac depressives and ruined their lives anyway just so happen to choose to abuse meth before doing so. Food, particularly sugar, is chemicals that effect the body no less than drugs. Maybe less genetic load means someone can handle these harmful effects more easily, but that’s a far cry from denying that there could be any harmful effect altogether. Maybe IQ correlates with less depression because more intelligent people are more likely to see the value in nutrition. If the IQ that determines that insight is itself determined, it’s not as if we’re giving up or contradicting the essence of the hereditarian position. I, for full disclosure, thought I was stuck with severe depression for the rest of my life, having endured such for most of it, until I finally made specific changes to my diet and lifestyle (including cutting refined sugar completely, regulating my circadian rhythm, and even following some of Mangan’s own peculiar recommendations), and the change that occurred some fairly short time after doing so is one that every single person around me saw vividly. At a very personally invested level I would fucking *hate* to think that someone might discredit the thought of pursuing this possibility for themselves because they’ve heard that genetic factors are the real cause of it anyway.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan
    @Awakened Bacon:

    I'm glad you read my blog. But I hope the take away from it, more than anything else, is not so much particular findings, but a word on proper scientific methodology.

    For one, no, it's not proper to blindly generalize from non-human animals to humans. They're not even chimpanzees...


    and suggesting that IQ (et al) is the cause of every one of these changes strikes me as off-the-wall
     
    Incredulity for no other reason than personal taste is not an argument. You did see my post IQ and Death, right?

    claiming that the harm caused by consistent use of meth is simply because people who would’ve broken their teeth, become anorexic insomniac depressives and ruined their lives anyway just so happen to choose to abuse meth before doing so
     
    Who becomes a meth abuser?

    Food, particularly sugar, is chemicals that effect the body no less than drugs.
     
    While that statement is strictly true, it borders on tautological. Are all "effects" created equal?

    I, for full disclosure, thought I was stuck with severe depression for the rest of my life, having endured such for most of it, until I finally made specific changes to my diet and lifestyle (including cutting refined sugar completely, regulating my circadian rhythm, and even following some of Mangan’s own peculiar recommendations), and the change that occurred some fairly short time after doing so is one that every single person around me saw vividly.
     
    I often say you need to do what works for you. Considering the sorry state of nutrition and lifestyle knowledge, that's probably a guideline as good as any.

    At a very personally invested level I would fucking *hate* to think that someone might discredit the thought of pursuing this possibility for themselves because they’ve heard that genetic factors are the real cause of it anyway.
     
    More than you would hate spending another 100 years ignorant of the true causes of such ills?
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  14. JayMan says: • Website
    @Awakened Bacon
    While I adamantly follow you 99% of the way on every other topic and you're probably my single favorite blogger, period, I can't help feeling you slip just a little bit over the rails when it comes to these questions. It looks to me like we've got perfectly good grounds for concluding that foods are very likely having tremendous effects on the brain (especially sugar: http://www.forbes.com/sites/gerganakoleva/2012/05/17/binging-on-sugar-weakens-memory-ucla-study-shows/), and suggesting that IQ (et al) is the cause of every one of these changes strikes me as off-the-wall as claiming that the harm caused by consistent use of meth is simply because people who would've broken their teeth, become anorexic insomniac depressives and ruined their lives anyway just so happen to choose to abuse meth before doing so. Food, particularly sugar, is chemicals that effect the body no less than drugs. Maybe less genetic load means someone can handle these harmful effects more easily, but that's a far cry from denying that there could be any harmful effect altogether. Maybe IQ correlates with less depression because more intelligent people are more likely to see the value in nutrition. If the IQ that determines that insight is itself determined, it's not as if we're giving up or contradicting the essence of the hereditarian position. I, for full disclosure, thought I was stuck with severe depression for the rest of my life, having endured such for most of it, until I finally made specific changes to my diet and lifestyle (including cutting refined sugar completely, regulating my circadian rhythm, and even following some of Mangan's own peculiar recommendations), and the change that occurred some fairly short time after doing so is one that every single person around me saw vividly. At a very personally invested level I would fucking *hate* to think that someone might discredit the thought of pursuing this possibility for themselves because they've heard that genetic factors are the real cause of it anyway.

    I’m glad you read my blog. But I hope the take away from it, more than anything else, is not so much particular findings, but a word on proper scientific methodology.

    For one, no, it’s not proper to blindly generalize from non-human animals to humans. They’re not even chimpanzees…

    and suggesting that IQ (et al) is the cause of every one of these changes strikes me as off-the-wall

    Incredulity for no other reason than personal taste is not an argument. You did see my post IQ and Death, right?

    claiming that the harm caused by consistent use of meth is simply because people who would’ve broken their teeth, become anorexic insomniac depressives and ruined their lives anyway just so happen to choose to abuse meth before doing so

    Who becomes a meth abuser?

    Food, particularly sugar, is chemicals that effect the body no less than drugs.

    While that statement is strictly true, it borders on tautological. Are all “effects” created equal?

    I, for full disclosure, thought I was stuck with severe depression for the rest of my life, having endured such for most of it, until I finally made specific changes to my diet and lifestyle (including cutting refined sugar completely, regulating my circadian rhythm, and even following some of Mangan’s own peculiar recommendations), and the change that occurred some fairly short time after doing so is one that every single person around me saw vividly.

    I often say you need to do what works for you. Considering the sorry state of nutrition and lifestyle knowledge, that’s probably a guideline as good as any.

    At a very personally invested level I would fucking *hate* to think that someone might discredit the thought of pursuing this possibility for themselves because they’ve heard that genetic factors are the real cause of it anyway.

    More than you would hate spending another 100 years ignorant of the true causes of such ills?

    Read More
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  15. Mangan says:

    Late to the party, but I found a lot of the commentary here nonsensical. For starters, nowhere did I claim that the study I linked was “proof” of anything. But it’s an interesting correlation that demands explanation, which you and others have failed to do, and you dismiss any attempts to do so as not being to your liking. You wave the magic fairy wand of genetics around and claim that it just must be the case.

    Second, when asked (on Twitter) about SES, I noted that the study “adjusted for age, gender and energy intake… employment grade, education, marital status, smoking and physical activity”. What exactly do you think SES and IQ correlate with, if not employment grade, education, smoking, and probably marital status? IQ correlates with those, and if they are taken out of the equation, then IQ (or SES) cannot be responsible for the correlation.

    Third, you state in comments, “Nobody knows much for sure about the effect of dietary variation on health, beyond that we need food to live.” You state that ex cathedra without evidence, and I can assure you that it’s false. There are tons of randomized controlled studies showing dietary influence on health, not to mention animal studies that remove human IQ and variation from the picture. You discredit yourself with a statement like that.

    Not that I think you’re open to persuasion.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan
    @Mangan:

    Late to the party, but I found a lot of the commentary here nonsensical. For starters, nowhere did I claim that the study I linked was “proof” of anything.
     
    In this instance that's true. But it's not like taking correlational studies as demonstrative of causation hasn't been part of your SOP.

    But it’s an interesting correlation that demands explanation, which you and others have failed to do, and you dismiss any attempts to do so as not being to your liking.
     
    There are untold many correlations that have no good explanations. We're all free to speculate, but prematurely regarding on explanation as correct without evidence isn't a wise procedure.

    You wave the magic fairy wand of genetics around and claim that it just must be the case.
     
    Invoking genetics is hardly waving a magic wand, since all human behavioral traits are heritable. We are more than justified in exploring a genetic explanation for any discovery about man.

    Second, when asked (on Twitter) about SES, I noted that the study “adjusted for age, gender and energy intake… employment grade, education, marital status, smoking and physical activity”. What exactly do you think SES and IQ correlate with, if not employment grade, education, smoking, and probably marital status?
     
    Correlate with, but not equivalent to. As we saw in my post IQ and Death, IQ remains predictive of longevity even when all those things are controlled for. Hence, while it is noteworthy, it's not actually proper to assume that we have controlled for IQ (or even more specifically, g) when it's not explicitly tested.

    Third, you state in comments, “Nobody knows much for sure about the effect of dietary variation on health, beyond that we need food to live.” You state that ex cathedra without evidence, and I can assure you that it’s false. There are tons of randomized controlled studies showing dietary influence on health
     
    With a sample size larger than the people who can fit on a Maine lobster boat and a duration longer than New York minute? A review of any meta-analysis of tiny RCTs should show the folly in giving too much regard to any one result until we have respectable samples (upwards of 1,000).

    not to mention animal studies that remove human IQ and variation from the picture
     
    Misdreavus on that: https://twitter.com/SuperMisdreavus/status/459125731633545216

    We can't blindly generalize from non-human animals to humans. Our very best bet would be with chimpanzees, and chimpazee research is frowned upon these days. Even they would not be a perfect substitute.


    You discredit yourself with a statement like that.

    Not that I think you’re open to persuasion.
     

    Look, I understand you have a fundamental difference of view here, but my role here is - more than anything - as a (sorely needed) scientific purist. It's not like my criticisms have shown themselves to be without merit, considering the abysmal track record when wisdom derived from animal studies and observational studies is tested in large RCTs on humans. The result is without exception failure. I would most like us to advance knowledge and do our best to alleviate human suffering. That can only be done with research adhering to sound scientific practices and helped with a strong command of the facts.
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  16. JayMan says: • Website
    @Mangan
    Late to the party, but I found a lot of the commentary here nonsensical. For starters, nowhere did I claim that the study I linked was "proof" of anything. But it's an interesting correlation that demands explanation, which you and others have failed to do, and you dismiss any attempts to do so as not being to your liking. You wave the magic fairy wand of genetics around and claim that it just must be the case.

    Second, when asked (on Twitter) about SES, I noted that the study "adjusted for age, gender and energy intake... employment grade, education, marital status, smoking and physical activity". What exactly do you think SES and IQ correlate with, if not employment grade, education, smoking, and probably marital status? IQ correlates with those, and if they are taken out of the equation, then IQ (or SES) cannot be responsible for the correlation.

    Third, you state in comments, "Nobody knows much for sure about the effect of dietary variation on health, beyond that we need food to live." You state that ex cathedra without evidence, and I can assure you that it's false. There are tons of randomized controlled studies showing dietary influence on health, not to mention animal studies that remove human IQ and variation from the picture. You discredit yourself with a statement like that.

    Not that I think you're open to persuasion.

    Late to the party, but I found a lot of the commentary here nonsensical. For starters, nowhere did I claim that the study I linked was “proof” of anything.

    In this instance that’s true. But it’s not like taking correlational studies as demonstrative of causation hasn’t been part of your SOP.

    But it’s an interesting correlation that demands explanation, which you and others have failed to do, and you dismiss any attempts to do so as not being to your liking.

    There are untold many correlations that have no good explanations. We’re all free to speculate, but prematurely regarding on explanation as correct without evidence isn’t a wise procedure.

    You wave the magic fairy wand of genetics around and claim that it just must be the case.

    Invoking genetics is hardly waving a magic wand, since all human behavioral traits are heritable. We are more than justified in exploring a genetic explanation for any discovery about man.

    Second, when asked (on Twitter) about SES, I noted that the study “adjusted for age, gender and energy intake… employment grade, education, marital status, smoking and physical activity”. What exactly do you think SES and IQ correlate with, if not employment grade, education, smoking, and probably marital status?

    Correlate with, but not equivalent to. As we saw in my post IQ and Death, IQ remains predictive of longevity even when all those things are controlled for. Hence, while it is noteworthy, it’s not actually proper to assume that we have controlled for IQ (or even more specifically, g) when it’s not explicitly tested.

    Third, you state in comments, “Nobody knows much for sure about the effect of dietary variation on health, beyond that we need food to live.” You state that ex cathedra without evidence, and I can assure you that it’s false. There are tons of randomized controlled studies showing dietary influence on health

    With a sample size larger than the people who can fit on a Maine lobster boat and a duration longer than New York minute? A review of any meta-analysis of tiny RCTs should show the folly in giving too much regard to any one result until we have respectable samples (upwards of 1,000).

    not to mention animal studies that remove human IQ and variation from the picture

    Misdreavus on that: https://twitter.com/SuperMisdreavus/status/459125731633545216

    We can’t blindly generalize from non-human animals to humans. Our very best bet would be with chimpanzees, and chimpazee research is frowned upon these days. Even they would not be a perfect substitute.

    You discredit yourself with a statement like that.

    Not that I think you’re open to persuasion.

    Look, I understand you have a fundamental difference of view here, but my role here is – more than anything – as a (sorely needed) scientific purist. It’s not like my criticisms have shown themselves to be without merit, considering the abysmal track record when wisdom derived from animal studies and observational studies is tested in large RCTs on humans. The result is without exception failure. I would most like us to advance knowledge and do our best to alleviate human suffering. That can only be done with research adhering to sound scientific practices and helped with a strong command of the facts.

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