A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about how to read scientific research papers. That covered what to do. Today I’m going to tell you what NOT to do as a consumer of research studies.
The following are bad practices that can cause you to misinterpret research findings, dismiss valid research, or apply scientific findings incorrectly in your own life.
Weight Watchers (recently rebranded to WW) put out an app for kids and teens who want to lose weight a few months ago. It’s called Kurbo, and it assigns “traffic light” color codes to different foods. Green foods like fruits and vegetables can be eaten freely, yellow foods like low-fat dairy, lean meat, and bread can be eaten in moderation, and red foods like full-fat dairy and sweets should be eaten sparingly or “planned for.” Kids under 13 need to sign up with a parent, while older kids can sign up on their own. Online coaching is available for an extra fee. Users are urged to track their food intake and body weight, even if they choose a goal like “Have more energy.”
Critics hit back. The Atlantic claimed that using apps like Kurbo won’t make a difference for the kids who need it most—those living in “food deserts,” those exposed to junk food marketing, those whose parents can’t afford healthy food and haven’t the time to fix healthy meals. Outside Online warned against the potential for Kurbo to create unhealthy fixations on food and “clean eating” in kids, setting the stage for eating disorders that can increase the risk of mortality, depression, and anxiety later in life. They called for an overhaul of “food policy” instead.
Cold season is upon us. Vitamin D levels are down. People are cloistered indoors. Kids are walking petri dishes. Drug stores are advertising free flu shots. It’s that time of year. I’m sure a few of you are even sniffling as you read this, or maybe trying to ignore the pain of swallowing with a sore throat.
Colds seem like an inevitability, maybe not so much since you’ve cleaned up your diet, but nothing is 100% fool-proof. You will get sick. You will catch a cold. Or someone close to you will. What can you do for yourself? For your sick kid or partner? Are there any natural cold remedies that actually work?
Let’s look at them.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a couple questions. The first one is a big one, one that multiple people have asked me across several different mediums: why don’t I do a full review of “Game Changers,” the vegan documentary on Netflix, or at least watch the film? I explain why I won’t watch it, why I don’t think it’s worth your time, and why I’ve already addressed it all before. Then, I answer why sugar is such a fixation for us and give some options for avoiding or mitigating it.
When I did my first earnest attempt at a keto diet a few years ago, one of the benefits I quickly noticed was improved wakefulness and energy during the day. I chalked this up to sleeping better on keto.
It turns out that I might have been one of the lucky ones. While plenty of people report improved sleep, a fair number also complain of insomnia, sleep disruptions (waking frequently during the night), and generally poor sleep once they go keto.
Can a keto diet really impact sleep quality? What might be the mechanism behind a correlation? And how does one work around any potential effect?
In response to the recent post on whey vs. collagen, a number of readers wrote in asking about pea protein. Today, I’m going to compare the two.
Before I begin, let’s get this out of the way: I’m biased toward whey protein. I sell the stuff. But the reason I sell whey protein is because I really like it, not the other way around. All my products are things that solved a problem I was having, an itch I needed to scratch. I made Primal Kitchen Mayo with avocado oil because I couldn’t find one without industrial seed oils and I didn’t want to make it fresh every time I wanted tuna salad. I put together Adaptogenic Calm (formerly Primal Calm) to help me and my buddies recover from heavy training. And so on. I made Primal Fuel out of whey protein isolate because it is the best gram-for-gram protein powder around. But pea protein is having its day in the sun now, and readers want the facts.
With the last few weeks’ definitive guide and follow-up on fish, a reader asked me about trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO. What is it?
TMAO is the latest justification given for why eating meat just has to be bad for you. Saturated fat didn’t take. Animal protein didn’t work. Iron was a dud. IGF-1 hasn’t panned out. Methionine isn’t enough. So now they’re using TMAO to convince you not to eat that steak.
How’s it supposed to work?
When I say “hack” or “biohack,” what does that call to mind for you? Taking 20 supplements per day, shining special lights into your ears, stem cell injections? Simpler things like wearing blue light blocking glasses or turning your shower to cold for 30 seconds?
The term has become ubiquitous in modern parlance, to the point where its meaning has become blurred. On the one hand, hacking can be about optimizing—taking your health and fitness to the next level once you have the basics dialed in, or adopting strategies aimed at living well over 100. On the other hand, a hack can also be a shortcut or trick designed to reap certain benefits without putting in the usual work. (Whether that’s a clever maneuver or a form of “cheating” depends on the context and whom you ask.)
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions. First, what’s the deal with the new Harvard study claiming that eating more red meat increases the death rate? Does it actually prove this? Second, how about the one claiming that reduced carb diets also increase death? Should you worry? And finally, why do I recommend eating locally farmed farmer’s market produce, even if it isn’t organic?
I left the pro athlete world a long time ago. I no longer compete. I don’t train with the intensity and volume it’d take to win races. But I do pay attention to what’s going on in that world, and I still have a lot of friends who never left it. Developments there often foreshadow developments in the rest of the health world. And after things like keto, MCT oil/ketones, and collagen, the performance hack that’s blowing up among elite athletes is CBD oil. Almost everyone I talk to who puts in serious training and competing time (in a variety of sports and pursuits) is dabbling with CBD.
What are they using it for?