Carvings December 15, 2022

In the news

When scientists wear blinders.

            Two recent articles reveal why scientific information is rendered less valuable by a narrow view of the subject by investigators. Some researchers simply are unable to see factors beyond their field of study that would affect, perhaps negate, their conclusions.

            In Obesity tied to worse brain health in children, the authors report that a study of nearly 12,000 children revealed that obesity is linked to “pervasive loss of white matter integrity and neurite density, cortical gray matter thinning, and decreased connectivity within and between networks that have been associated with impulse control and reward-based decision making.” (Note: This is an article in Medscape based on an abstract presented at a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, therefore there was no original paper that I could access for more details.)

            Obesity is a form of dysnutrition, that is, the body receives excess calories but too few nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Obese persons, especially adolescents, consume almost no plant foods (except for french fries). In actual surveys, the average teenager takes in only 0.9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day – less than 10 percent of the recommended number. They eat nearly zero omega-3 fats that are essential for normal brain and eye development. It’s not the presence of fat that hinders brain development but the absence of brain-building nutrients.

            I think that those scientists are simply looking in the wrong direction.

            On the same day that I saw that article another appeared: The surprising failure of vitamin D in deficient kids. In that study, 4400 Mongolian children who received vitamin D for three years didn’t become taller or gain weight faster than 4400 given a placebo. Note: 95 percent of these kids had vitamin D deficiency; more than 30 percent were severely deficient. Isn’t it possible that pretty much everything else in  their diet was also inadequate for normal growth? The  physician who wrote the column for Medscape offered some possible reasons: “Perhaps the dose wasn’t given correctly, or three  years isn’t long enough to see a real difference (C’mon, man !!!), or the growth metrics were wrong, or vitamin D needs to be given alongside something else to really work and so on”.

            That last part might have hit the nail on the head – many somethings! All the studies that compare a group given a supplement with a group given a placebo suffer from the same defect: adding a single vitamin or other supplement to one’s diet and expecting significant results makes no sense. Vitamins, as well as other nutrients, never act alone. A normal diet for humans consists of several thousand nutrients, most of which are found in plant foods. Expecting to see a difference when adding more of only one out of thousands is not what I would expect from nutrition experts.

            BTW – if  you’re wondering how nearly 100 percent of Mongolian kids could be vitamin-D deficient, consider that Ulan Bator is at about the same latitude as Winnipeg, Canada. If you draw a line from Los Angeles to Atlanta, residents above that line get almost no vitamin D from sun exposure for about six months of the year – and Ulan Bator is waaaay farther north than Atlanta. And do you think that those kids are getting vitamin D-fortified milk like our kids?


Most seniors (sorry – that means about 55) don’t sleep through the night, mostly for bathroom visits, sometimes because of medical issues. In a drowsy state, falls are more likely, so there are some safety tips that are recommended in the book Why we sleep by Matthew Walker – an excellent read for people of all ages because sleep disorders of one type or another affect more than half the population.  

Some tips to avoid falls:

Don’t get out of bed quickly. As we get older it takes a few seconds of sitting on the side of the bed to allow blood vessels to adjust so that we don’t get light-headed. This is known as postural hypotension. (Don’t let it bother you. It’s very common in adolescents too, whose bodies are going through a lot of adjustments.)

Have a light and a phone on the nightstand.

Consider motion-sensitive night lights. We have two from Amazon (of course) for only about $10 for both. They plug in, fit the décor just fine, intensity is adjustable.

Get rid of loose carpeting.

Check with your physician if you are taking a new medication. Some of them are associated with a risk of falls, especially antidepressants and sleep aids.

A new (to me) kind of scam

            I received a notice of a possibly unauthorized payment allegedly from PayPal. There was an 888 number to call to delete this payment from my account.This is part of the scam. A professional sounding man with an Indian accent started to walk me though the process of deleting the payment but I smelled a rat and ended the call. Indeed, when I went to my PayPal account there was a list of ways in which this scam is perpetrated and the unauthorized payment appeared on my account. I was able to refuse payment. Sure enough, a Google search gave all the details of how it works. ☹

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