Monday assorted links


6. It isn't? To me the answers seem obvious if rude.

Fundamentally transformed . . .

Indeed. Antibiotics are a game-changer. Mounting research shows that gut flora manipulate our neurochemistry, particularly our appetite, for their own benefit. Even laboratory animals fed strict diets are facing an obesity epidemic. Fecal transplants will likely prove to be the most important medical procedure of the 21st century.

What could the benefit of keeping us thin be to our gut flora? Because you are claiming the use of antibiotics both kills them and makes us fat, right?

It is more likely to be that none of us, or our pets, are cold any more. Or too hot. We are kept at a temperature that is just right for wearing a suit most of the time. So we continue to eat as if we were burning calories to keep warm.

FWIW, I have often heard that farmers use antibiotics to fatten up animals and get them to market sooner, not merely to prevent infections. Which isn't to say that there is sufficient evidence to support the claim that antibiotics are making us fat, but just that it is a plausible claim and that further investigation is warranted.

Speaking as a fat guy who keeps his home in the low 50s during the cold months, I wish.

Following on what P.Burgos said, there's ample evidence that antibiotics fattens up livestock. And mounting evidence that the same can be said of humans. Nobody really understands the mechanism. But here's what we do know, bacterial strains manipulate neurochemistry to cause us to crave specific foods. Fecal transplants frequently result in the recipient's favorite foods completely changing.

Most likely fermentable fiber plays a major role. The strains most associated with low body weight are fermenters like Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Propionibacterium. The more aggressive and infectious strains like E. Coli, Strep and and Staph tend to subsist on simple sugars. The latter also demonstrate far superior adaptability in the face of antibiotics. Humans evolved in an environment rich with fermentation, and our neurochemistry is titrated for this gut flora. The intestine's biochemistry is not evolved to be filled with E. Coli and Strep. It's like filling a diesel car with regular gasoline.

1. Don't eat so much.
2. Don't eat so much crap.
3. Exercise.

So what if one just does #3?

A: they stay fat.

They will stay fat if they stuff their faces after they exercise. For most people doing 1 & 2 will contribute more to weight loss than exercise alone.

But the evidence is overwhelmingly clear. Exercise alone and no weight loss.

That is to say, people almost always eat more (or their bodies respond in other ways) to compensate, so no weight is lost.

One hardly needs a study to show that people with immoderate eating habits will vitiate the weight loss benefits of exercise (which also increases metabolism). People lacking self-control need to be tied to the mast through natural or artificial scarcity.

"the weight loss benefits of exercise (which also increases metabolism)"

If exercise has any long-term effect on resting metabolism at all -- and the evidence is mixed -- it would be a fairly small effect. This goes to Jan's point. If you run (really run, not just jog) for a half hour every day, you might burn 300-400 calories which is about one order of large fries from McDonald's. Most people cannot sustain this kind of exercise regime every day for the rest of their lives so diet control is going to be far more important for them.

Seriously, Ricardo? You think that adding tens of pounds of muscle wouldn't definitely increase metabolism in a significant manner?

Pound for pound, muscle cells burn more energy than fat cells, even in a resting state. I'm pretty sure this is established science. Which is altogether different from the question of overeating after exercise.

"Seriously, Ricardo? You think that adding tens of pounds of muscle wouldn’t definitely increase metabolism in a significant manner?"

I have glanced at the published literature on this subject and haven't found any indication the effect is numerically significant for normal people on normal exercise regimes. See these papers, for instance:

From what I can tell, the increase in metabolism from putting on an extra pound of muscle is subject to a lot of exaggeration that is not backed by science.

What the studies show is that most Americans are immoderate and do not like to exercise, proving yet again how useless so many studies are.

Exercise is 20%. Diet is 80%.

4. Spend the rest of your life sore and in agony from the hunger.

When the level of underweight people is reduced (which it is), we can conclude that everyone, including the fit and conscientious, is getting fatter. Heck, even wild animals are getting fatter. See for details.

The fact is, when everyone gets fatter, it's not just a willpower and moral weakness issue.

Maybe people are just being rational;

Living around fat humans who give their pets too much food results in fat pets. What a surprise.

Pets are, by definition, not "wild animals"

Now, that study did include domestic dogs and cats, but also a variety of wild monkeys, rodents, and chimps

The sample size of the other animals is quite small except for rodents living in or near cities.

Are people really eating that much more than they did just forty years ago? I don't think. And it's not like McDonald's, pizza, Pepsi and potatoes chips were non-existent in the 1970s.
The lack of exercise is a possible factor, since it';s well-documented that people (and notably children) get less of it today, except that exercising more doesn't seem to take weight off, as another poster below notes.

Actually adults exercise more today and also eat WAY more

What I observe in the typical American is that the behavior of eating is almost entirely disconnected from whether a person is hungry. It is dinner time, therefore I eat. People around me are eating, therefore I eat. There is still food on my plate, therefore I eat. There is a bowl with further helpings on the table, therefore I eat.

I honestly don't think the typical American knows what hunger feels like or pays it much mind.

"I honestly don’t think the typical American knows what hunger feels like"

That is a good thing, imho.

Can't say that about the average African.

Also, large portions.

I remember an early visit to the US. I ordered a large shake because I wanted a large shake. It was so big it made me feel sick. There must have been at least 1000 calories in that shake. Then again, I feel kind of gypped in other countries when I order a large fries and get something half the size of a large fries in Canada, which is probably a third the size of a large fries in the US.

So the recommendation is to serve yourself a smaller portion, and only add more if you're actually still hungry. Because if the first portion is large, you are likely to overeat.

Portion sizes are larger and cheap food is more available. Have you been in a 7-11 lately? They offer hot dogs, sandwiches, relatively fresh donuts, not to mention "healthier" options like protein bars loaded with sugar.

"“I honestly don’t think the typical American knows what hunger feels like" That is a good thing, imho.

Whatever you say, Ton of Fun ™

carlopsin- I think people should periodically fast. It is good to know what hunger feels like. Aside from being able to understand the situation of the world's poor better, it also helps with self control and makes it easier to work through to complete something and not distract yourself with a food break when another 30 minutes of effort might do the trick.

Low blood sugar from fasting is also reportedly associated with certain types of spiritual and intellectual ponderings/explorations as well ...

There's the theory that processed food is uniquely bad--worse than it used to be! The food companies have figured out ways to be make it more addicting, yet cheaper to make, and crappier in multiple ways. Hang around a convenience store sometime, and see what the regular customers and the employees look like. It is not a pretty sight. You have to have a RADICAL diet these days to not be fat.

Depends how you define radical. I eat little processed food, it's not like that is impossible to do. I mean I buy my vegetables pre-cut and pre-washed in a plastic container, I don't even have any prep time, I just throw it in the pan and come back 10 minutes later and it's ready to eat.

But past generations used to be a lot skinnier without giving it much effort. For an individual, sure, it's good advice and sure you can be more conscientious and control your weight. But from a public health perspective, simply calling for greater self control on a mass scale isn't realistic. And it ignores the question of why we would need to try so much harder than past generations to not be fat.

As an analogy, if you were a business owner and productivity suddenly plummeted 50%, you probably wouldn't just assume that everyone suddenly got really lazy. Rather, you would first look for structural causes and try to correct them.

There is a cumulative advantage to being merely fat in a world of obese people. Network effects.

Sci hub link to the journal article (not sure if Tyler disapproves):

4) I'm sure it is a fine book, but Rafael can never escape his son's shadow.

#3 is very good, of course.

"This seems obvious to an outsider, given the field’s tendency to devolve into stalemate. Each side has highly intelligent scholars, some with fancy Swedish gold medals, and yet each finds the other’s conclusions self-evidently stupid."

I will say that economics has a leg up on the rest of the social sciences, because at least there are two sides.

5. Many years ago I purchased a tractor from a Mexican immigrant who belonged to a Pentacostal sect which practiced tithing. It was a Saturday, and I gave him a personal check for $4,000 which was customary payment at the time. He was disappointed that I could not give him cash and the bank was closed, because he wanted to present $400 at church service the next morning. I am certain he took a capital loss on the tractor... but that wasn't his definition of "income" for tithing.

Haaaaaaha, yeah I'm sure this fellow preferred cash for its convenient tithing attributes.

White people will believe anything.

Given the choice of handing a given fraction of my money to the government and handing it to a bunch of Pentacostals, I would pick bothers any time.

And since the real government takes a good bit more than a thithe, it seems all the more reasonable.

2. Always and comic sans.

5. Holly Golightly: "Sally [Tomato] helps me with my accounts. I have no head for figures at all. I’m trying desperately to save some money, you know I told you. I just can’t seem to. He makes me write down everything in there. What I get, what I spend. I used to have a checking account. He made me get rid of that. He feels, for me anyway, that it’s better to operate on a cash basis, tax wise." Who knew that Mormons and Sally Tomato would agree on anything, or have the same advice for Holly. Also, it's incorrect that the Bible applies a 10% rate to tithing, as that only covers alms to the church. The total rate is about 23%, after taking into account alms to the poor, etc.

For my tithing I pay 10% on my pre-tax income and I always round up. I haven't begun to think about how to deal with investments and retirement income.

As that abstract says people pay different ways for different reasons. I believe that taxes, while sometimes going to causes I don't support, provide me with benefits and therefore the income toward them is a gain that I should be paying a tithe on. I know others who feel there is no value added from the government and they shouldn't pay tithing on it because it is not a gain to them.

In relation to the previous Mormon Tithing posts, I do this for pay this way in confidentiality. No one will ever know how I pay and on what basis. I do this because I've committed to God to do this and at the end of the day he is the one who matters. Not another person.

6: Courtemanche et al found that 14% of increased obesity is explained by gain after smoking cessation:

File under "trade-offs", maybe.

And one wonders if people who would've smoked in the past instead use sugar to get their high. It would not be so easy to determine the cause/effect if this were the case.

Sugar does not get you high, so case closed on that one

Give a bunch of candy to children and observe. And then tell me there is no sugar high. Or crash.

Studies done on this. It's more of an effect of parents beliefs in sugar. The reported their children acting more wild after being told the children had sugary drinks, when they actually hadn't.


Leave it to the patriarchy of the Mormon church to ignore household labor...a quick introduction to Gary Becker and the church elders should be demanding a whole heck of a lot more than 10% of cash income.

You may not be aware that the Mormon church has a lay ministry. The bishop of a ward donates his labor, which amounts to tens of hours a week.The bishop's counselors also donate their labor, as do the dozens of others who holds positions of responsibility in the congregation (the ward) and in the larger local organization (the stake). Since most active members have one or more such positions, aka callings, the labor donations are significant.

In addition to callings, members also participate in a variety of other labor donations, such as singing in the choir, cleaning the church building, helping other people spontaneously or by assignment (helping with moving, transportation, meals, etc.), monitoring the well-being of one or more assigned families on a monthly basis, etc. And, of course, Mormon missionaries donate the time (and resources) they spend on their missions, which is generally two years.

While labor donations are not specified as a tithe, and vary widely depending on the calling and the individual ability to serve, it amounts to "a whole heck of a lot more than 10% of cash income."

I think this may be tied to the wording "all of us pay the same one-tenth of our increase annually (see D&C 119:4)" (From

In the early history of the church, tithing was typically paid in goods, so home labor of the "grow more chickens" variety would have yielded an increase based on how many more chickens you have now than you used to have, with many of the inputs being household labor. So I'm not sure that gets at the psychology of it, although I'm sure some of it now is how much easier it is to track cash transactions vs. increases fromlabor.

"Increase" is more tied to additions from outside the household, rather than the results of internal household work, like family chores, etc.. So if a wife and son get together and make homemade soap (to pick a random example) and then the family uses it up at home, people probably think of it as a "defensive" action saving money which would otherwise have been spent. If they do the same actions (make soap) and make so much that they bring in cash for selling it online or around town, then that cash is going to now be thought of as "income" or an "increase", even though the basic actions in making the soap are the same.

You see this ambiguity in 3A and 3B in the survey. From an economic perspective, working a family farm you inherited and setting it are similar in what you've benefited, but if you're thinking in terms of increases from "outside" the family, then it becomes more ambiguous in people's minds, although if you worked the farm you're likely still paying tithing on whatever you sell the crops for.

One of the more interesting questions are 6A and 7A. More people seem to consider making a capital gains profit a legit reason to pay tithing than consider a capital gains loss as something to deduct from income for tithing purposes. You'd think a rational response would be to answer both the same, but looking at 6B there seems to be a self-controlled "conscious" effect where people are trying to make sure they err on the side of paying if they aren't actually sure if they should or not.

The fun part no one seems to consider inflation in their tithing calculus. If your interest earning don't exceed the rate of inflation over the same time period, did you really have an "increase"?

#2 --
I don't know why the FHA gave up on Clearview. It reduced the distance to Hellertown and Bethlehem by 50%.

#6. Am consistently surprised at how the shit in shit out maxim is ignored in academic papers as if indicators reflected reality. Sure "hard to explain" might be may be relevant to data points but that is a far cry from "hard to explain" if one is moderately connected to anecdotal reality which of course has no isn't tractable currency but really most of us live in the grey. In Malawi this is why no one with any ground level connection to economic realities pays attention to the World Bank. Nigeria anyone....... Obesity in America is easy to explain and that explanation is good enough for diagnostic purposes whatever its p-value. The ridiculous navel gazing in my homeland is so pitiful and I mean that in the most Christian sense.

#6: Obesity comes from eating food that is high in calories but low in nutritional content. Cut out the meat, dairy and starches, eat an equivalent volume of fruit, greens and legumes every day, and watch what happens. In fact eat as much of those as you possibly can and watch what happens.

The problem is two fold: people regard eating as something done for pleasure or convenience rather than for nutrition, and people don't know what is nutritious and what is not.

Seems like #1 is the real issue. "People don't know hamburgers and fries bad for them!" doesn't seem particularly convincing

I suspect that most people don't really understand how bad those things are, or why, so identifying a better alternative and adhering to it doesn't seem that important to them.

Then there are people who like the idea of eating nutritious food, but think they're doing so by following a diet that in reality is not: Atkins, paleo, grass-fed free-range whatever, vegetarian who lives on white rice, noodles and pizza...

Fries ain't so bad for you

It may be more complicated than one might have thought:

As I showed above, a large order of fries from McDonald's has a calorie content it would take about 30 minutes of rigorous exercise (e.g. running) to burn. For most people, fries, potato chips and sugary drinks are going to be the low-hanging fruit they can cut out of their diets in order to start loosing weight or avoid further weight gain.

Sugary drinks are in a totally different category from fries and chips. Yes, if fried they generally have a lot of calories and it is therefore easy to overeat. But they also have a ton of nutritional value. They can certainly be eaten in moderation, particularly if a limited amount of oil is used for cooking. Sugar water on the other hand has zero value.

Meat and dairy have low nutritional content? It seems to me all you need to do is cut out the starches.

This comment is ridiculous. Meat and dairy have a lot of nutrients, and they are far and away the best sources of certain ones. Go look up the nutrition data for eggs, plain yogurt, different meats, liver. Many starches are also high in nutrients. Sweet potatoes, for example. This slander is particularly unnecessary given than there are such obvious examples of deficient foods such as vegetable oil, corn syrup, and refined wheat.

"people regard eating as something done for pleasure or convenience rather than for nutrition"

OMG, people do things for pleasure! Shocking.

"fruit, greens and legumes"

As part of food intake, acceptable to most people. As most [or all] of diet, unacceptable since its boring.

The interview with Russ Roberts is a real mixed bag. He makes some good points, such as that to get media attention economists must take oversimplified strong positions.

OTOH, he pushes the line that all economists are just biased and pushing their ideologies. He would have more credibility on this argument if there had been a single example in the interview of him critiquing a study by somebody in his ideological wing of economics, but no, all of the critiques are of studies coming to liberal or leftist conclusions. I shall note that there are economists who critique studies done by people they mostly agree with. Lots of leftist and liberal economists have criticized Piketty's book on a variety of grounds.

I would also note the matter of the study by Gerald Friedman, brought up in the interview and sneered at by Russ. There are plenty of left/liberal economists who have criticized his study, although some of them have been people thought to be supporting Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, e.g. Krugman and the Romers. But there are others who have been Bernie Sanders supporters who have done so, such as Peter Dorman at Econospeak, who has taken Friedman to task for not letting anybody look at his model so they can properly evaluate it. Russ is just full of it that all economists are just spouting stuff that agrees with their ideologies.

Oh, and while it has been widely reported that Gerald Friedman is a "supporter of Hillary Clinton," apparently based on him donating some money to her at some point, it is widely gossiped about that in fact he has been supporting Bernie Sanders more recently.

I think you're misrepresenting his views

#6. I still like Stephan Guyenet's theory the best.

Great link, thanks.

Every post on fat people gets the same response. "If only people ate food that tastes like dirt and not much of it while running marathons, they'd be skinny."

Ok, yeah. You are right. You feel better now? You got to be right on the internet. Good for you.

Many healthy foods are also tasty. Fish, nuts, eggs, fruit, whatever vegetables suit your palette, etc. You just have to find what you like.

Also, in trying new foods, it may take a little time until your palette warms up to them, or different ways of preparing them. Choosing the right spices, oils and preparation methods can turn the most mundane foods into delicacy. A few drops of sesame oil, for example, can transform many dishes from boring to awesome.

7. Dogs Test Drug Aimed at Humans’ Biggest Killer: Age (There is no Great Stagnation in canine life extension)

I'll add this here since Tyler didn't. The oversight is understandable since the 2700 word article was buried on page one of The New York Times.

I'm surprised no one mentioned ALL CAPS as a reason to stop reading.

Personally, I use it as emphasis for one or two words, since there is so much info in the world these days that I think italics generally get overlooked.

I think bold is a rather effective way of providing emphasis for a longer section of more than a couple words. I don't think highlighting is a good idea because that is often used to denote an incomplete section that has incorrect or poorly thought out ideas that needs to be worked on. Italics should generally be reserved for longer quotations (ideally and/or also indented) or for denoting key terms (I prefer use of bold for this purpose as well, in which case I underline key words/phrases to draw attention to).

I had certainly not consdered how ALL CAPS could serve to "fake draw attention to" something in legal documents where in fact it would make it less likely to read carefully with good understanding.

I've been struggling with my Chinese students to express that the way they are taught Roman letters for pinyin actually makes it more difficult to read, and is a throwback to when teachers were learning how to write using ancient fonts in print. I had to explain some of the historical issues in why those fonts were used to improve readability of printing press outputs, but how it actually makes it more difficult to read handwriting. I estimate that perhaps 10% are getting the message. Habits are hard to change ... it would be good to try to persuade the Chinese to change their way of teaching Roman letters for pinyin. Implemented perfectly, it looks nicer, but a) it's more difficult and time consuming to write, and b) it contributes hugely to illegible writing.

6) High fat high sugar convenience foods that appeal to our proto-selves. Always driving, never walking, in part because nothing is located close enough to walk to. Or ... what they said, considering that they're using actual data. I sort of doubt about food stamps - maybe there's something causally affecting things related to food stamp? Don't people normally eat healthier and less fat/sugar full foods when they can afford better options? I don't think the reference point involves people who were literally skinny because they couldn't afford any food.

Much different from, say, China, where it used to be rather common that people simply couldn't afford enough food to be fat. Also consumption of highly processed foods/drinks high in fat and sugar is rather common, and I assume this did not apply two decades ago.

6 - how about drilling into people that eating low fat was the key to weight loss, leading people to think that snackwell cookies are diet food!

Diet and obesity - where every commentator is an expert and know exactly what to eat and why other people are fat (never them though).. The actual scientific evidence is very thin when I look at it as to the causes of obesity and what diet is best for longevity. The only thing to do in such a situation is perhaps to try various diets or exercises and if one suits you and it doesn't detract from your life enjoyment too much - then follow that. Otherwise ignore the preaching of others which is often motivated by simple snobbery (look at the poor people - aren't they fat!) or condescension (many people who are low on life's totem pole love to have other people to look down on).

Personally I eat and drink what I like and exercise when I feel like it, but as I don't enjoy too sweet food, and have a fairly moderate appetite for alcohol, and enjoy cooking, I find I have no problem controlling my weight. But I try not to feel morally superior to those who don't have my advantages.

"Enjoy cooking"

That, of course, is part of the problem. I do enjoy cooking, but cooking takes time. Sometimes, a lot of it. When I and my wife are out all day until 7pm, and only then can we start cooking, then a huge number of vegetables are denied us. Thankfully there are microwave steam-in-bag veggies, or else it would be nearly impossible to get enough. Usually, we stick to German rye and pickled herring for dinner. My wife consumes a huge amount of dairy, but is allergic to soy and peanut, and avoids legumes normally. I, on the other hand, am lactose intolerant but beans are a staple food for me, culturally.

We've found various ways to make it work, but when I see the various recommendations, all I can see is a really bad cost/benefit result in terms of time invested. Getting half an hour in at the gym takes an hour and a half. Cooking and cleanup easily add hours to your workload.

The more ready-made healthful solutions there are, the better.

I enjoy cooking enough that it is relaxation for me. So when I get home late (as I often do) then I don't mind getting the pots and pans out - I would rather do that than sit down in front of the TV. As I say this isn't because I am morally better, I am just lucky I have this preference.

On exercise - have you tried doing it before you go to work? I found this the best solution, to avoid those evening excuses. I get up around 5 am to do my gym or jog, then it's done for the day.

I'm a night owl and not a morning lark at all (and I've tried), so morning exercise doesn't work for me. It's far too easy for me to make a morning excuse than an evening excuse. Going in the evening is fine--the time commitment remains, however.

My wife, though, is a complete morning lark (she can barely keep her eyes open past 9pm), and if she could have her way, would never eat any meal after 7pm. As a result, available meal time is compressed to a ready-made snack for dinner. When I can on the weekend, I'll prepare dinners for the week and keep them in the fridge for quick heating. She'll wake up as early as 3am for her exercise.

Admittedly, if I were alone, then I'd spend more time in the evenings preparing late meals. But I can't really bring myself to tucking my wife into bed then having my dinner.

Low calories high nutrition usually works...

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