Monthly Archives: December 2017

Cullen Roche

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Vaccines and why the anecdotes?

Just saw this paper dated 2008 from NIH titled  “Genetics and the myth of vaccine encephalopathy”

It talks about the anecdotes of children receiving vaccines and then within one to 14 days, seemingly regressing and becoming autistic.  It turns out there is an explanation for this:  Vaccines can cause fevers.  A very small number of people have either genetic defects/mutations (which happen during development – not inherited) or mitochondrial disorders.  These already existing issues lead to autism, triggered by a fever.  So the person would have become autistic when triggered by a fever, whether that fever was caused by a vaccine or some other (inevitable) cause.

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Natural Gas mini plants

From Quartz:

On an acre and half, FuelCell had built a natural-gas power plant that feeds into Bridgeport’s city grid. It produces 15MW of power, enough for 1,500 American homes. Just blocks away, I saw rows of suburban homes.

Typically, you wouldn’t want a house that close to a fossil-fuel power plant in order to avoid exposure to harmful gases containing sulfur and nitrogen. FuelCell, as its name implies, sells fuel cells, similar to those in hydrogen-powered cars. But instead of hydrogen, FuelCell’s products burn natural gas without the harmful emissions.


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Critical Thinking

From Scientific American

University of Waterloo psychologist Igor Grossmann and his colleagues argue that most intelligence tests fail to capture real-world decision-making and our ability to interact well with others. This is, in other words, perhaps why “smart” people, do “dumb” things.

The ability to think critically, on the other hand, has been associated with wellness and longevity. Though often confused with intelligence, critical thinking is not intelligence. Critical thinking is a collection of cognitive skills that allow us to think rationally in a goal-orientated fashion, and a disposition to use those skills when appropriate. Critical thinkers are amiable skeptics. They are flexible thinkers who require evidence to support their beliefs and recognize fallacious attempts to persuade them. Critical thinking means overcoming all sorts of cognitive biases (e.g., hindsight bias, confirmation bias).

Critical thinking predicts a wide range of life events. In a series of studies, conducted in the U.S. and abroad, my colleagues and I have found that critical thinkers experience fewer bad things in life. We asked people to complete an inventory of life events and take a critical thinking assessment (the Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment). The critical thinking assessment measures five components of critical thinking skills including verbal reasoning, argument analysis, hypothesis testing, probability and uncertainty, decision-making, and problem-solving. The inventory of negative life events captures different domains of life such as academic (e.g., I forgot about an exam), health (e.g., I contracted a sexually transmitted infection because I did not wear a condom), legal (e.g., I was arrested for driving under the influence), interpersonal (e.g., I cheated on my romantic partner who I had been with for over a year), financial (e.g., I have over $5,000 of credit card debt), etc. Repeatedly, we found that critical thinkers experience fewer negative life events. This is an important finding because there is plenty of evidence that critical thinking can be taught and improved.


How to teach critical thinking:

The Foundation for Critical Thinking

Our conception of critical thinking is based on the substantive approach developed by Dr. Richard Paul and his colleagues at the Center and Foundation for Critical Thinking over multiple decades. It is relevant to every subject, discipline, and profession, and to reasoning through the problems of everyday life. It entails five essential dimensions of critical thinking:

  1. The analysis of thought.
  2. The assessment of thought.
  3. The dispositions of thought.
  4. The skills and abilities of thought.
  5. The obstacles or barriers to critical thought.

Critical Thinking.NET

Underlying Strategies

(The three underlying strategies are “Reflection, Reasons, Alternatives” (RRA):

1. Urge students to be Reflective, to stop and think, instead of making snap judgments, or accepting the first idea that comes into their heads, or automatically accepting whatever is presented in the media.

2. Gently ask such questions as “How do you know”, “What are the reasons?” and “Is that a good source of information?” thus prodding them to have good Reasons for their views and to seek reasons for others’ views.

3. Emphasize alertness for Alternative hypotheses, conclusions, explanations, sources of evidence, points of view, plans, etc.


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Insulin – Illness Connection

From Mark’s Daily Apple


If you’re insulin resistant, insulin doesn’t work very well. You need more of it to get the same effect an insulin sensitive person would get. When insulin doesn’t work, its ability to shuttle glucose out of the blood suffers, and blood glucose goes up and stays up. That’s hyperglycemia. Everyone “knows” that high blood sugar is bad, but why? What exactly goes wrong?

Some cells are passive recipients of blood sugar, while others have mechanisms that prevent excess blood sugar from entering their membranes. In the presence of high blood sugar, the passive recipients begin producing excessive amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS aren’t pathological in and of themselves. They’re signaling molecules that our bodies need for healthy cellular function. But unchecked ROS generation induced by hyperglycemia causes a lot of problems.

In endothelial cells, hyperglycemia inhibits the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator—it helps our blood vessels widen to accommodate increased blood flow and reduce shear stress. Without sufficient nitric oxide, our blood vessels are more susceptible to high blood pressure and our risk for heart disease and atherosclerosis goes up.

In neurons, hyperglycemia causes shrinkage. No one likes shrinkage, especially not in the brain cells where thinking occurs.

In pancreatic beta cells, hyperglycemia reduces cell mass, induces oxidative stress, and reduces functionality. Since the pancreas secretes insulin—the stuff used to deal with excess blood glucose—this is disastrous.


Insulin is a growth promoting agent, and cancer is a disease of unchecked cellular growth. There are nuances to this of course. But by and large, those are true statements. It’s no surprise that hyperinsulinemia is a risk factor for most, if not all cancers.

While insulin isn’t everything when it comes to cancer, the links are undeniable and myriad—and worrying.

The link between colon cancer and hyperinsulinemia likely involves the increased availability of insulin-like growth factor in a hyperinsulinemic state. Post-menopausal women with genetic variants related to insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia have a greater risk of colorectal cancer, and colon cancer patients who eat the most insulinogenic foods have poorer outcomes.

In breast cancer, hyperglycemia increases the tumors’ resistance to chemotherapy. Fixing the hyperglycemia makes chemotherapy more effective.

People with a genetic predisposition toward hyperinsulinemia have a higher chance of developing pancreatic cancer.

Independent of bodyweight, hyperinsulinemia predicts endometrial cancer; so does a high postprandial insulin response.

Diabetics who use insulin therapy have an increased risk of liver cancer.  One study of Taiwanese diabetics found that those on insulin therapy have an elevated risk of dying from cancer and from non-cancer.

Across the board, in both obese and people of normal bodyweight, hyperinsulinemia, whether it’s genetic, simulated, or diet-driven, increases cancer incidence and mortality. 

Okay, okay. That’s all rather convincing, but there’s a chance that these are merely associations and some common factor is causing both the hyperinsulinemia/insulin resistance and the cancer. Right?

What seems to counter that hypothesis is the effect of metformin, an anti-diabetic drug, on cancer. Compared to other diabetic drugs, metformin reduces the risk of cancer in type 2 diabetics. Metformin’s mechanism of action? A reduction in insulin levels and improvement of insulin resistance.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s hits families like a freight train, but if you know what to look for you can see it coming.

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are characterized by brain insulin resistance. In experiments where researchers simulate brain diabetes by administering drugs known to induce brain insulin resistance, it looks almost exactly like Alzheimer’s. Some people even call Alzheimer’s type 3 diabetes, so closely is it linked to insulin resistance.

Alzheimer’s patients have high blood sugar, but their neurons are so resistant to the effects of insulin that they’re unable to utilize the available glucose for energy. That’s why ketogenic diets and ketones in particular are so helpful for Alzheimer’s; they offer an alternative fuel source that even the insulin resistant brain can utilize.

Heart Disease

Independent of most other factors, insulin resistance predicts heart disease riskOne of the best predictors of heart disease risk—the HDL:triglyceride ratio—also happens to be an accurate barometer of insulin resistance. The lower your HDL and the higher your triglycerides, the more likely you are to be insulin resistant.

The two go hand in hand, and it’s not just a coincidence.

As you saw in the hyperglycemia section, insulin resistance can increase the risk of heart disease by increasing hyperglycemia and reducing endothelial function. This impairs the blood vessels’ ability to react to stressors and makes them more vulnerable to atherosclerosis.

What You Can Do

A big step, maybe the first step when you’re insulin resistant with hyperinsulinemia, or even just suspect you are, is to reduce your intake of the most insulinogenic macronutrient around: carbs. This stems the tide and stops feeding the fire until you can figure out and resolve the root cause of your dysfunction.

That next part is harder. Some of it is genetic; there will be people who simply make more insulin than others, or who are more insulin resistant as a baseline. Oftentimes the dysfunction is multifactorial, stemming from a dozen different causes, all of which require your attention. In past posts, I’ve explained strategies for combating insulin resistance and reducing hyperinsulinemia. If you haven’t read those yet, do so.

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Best of 2017 from Mark’s Daily Apple

From Mark’s Daily Apple:

1. Vegetable oils are still really, really bad.

2. Keto works.

3. Everything has a circadian rhythm, and the circadian rhythm affects everything.

4. What the Health, this year’s token vegan screed, came out to rapturous applause. In one of my favorite pieces of the year, Robb Wolf took it apart piece by piece and, in doing so, definitively commented on anti-meat hysteria and bad science in general.

5. We learned that the sugar industry has been stifling anti-sugar research results for decades, surprising no one while enraging almost everyone (with an honest bone in their body).

6. We learned more and more about ancient human evolution and migration. It turns out that our history is even crazier and more impressive than we thought.

7. Human gene editing drew ever nearer to the mainstream.

8. Awareness of digital media’s effect on our health and happiness grew.

9. There was serious debate over whether we’re educating and parenting our kids the right way.

10. Even as health and food-related tech has largely come up short, there were some promising developments.


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Corporate profit margins and income inequality

Really interesting paper from the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center.

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Duration of This Bull Market

Grant Williams has a fantastic presentation regarding overvaluation of the current market:

A World of Pure Imagination

A related presentation, but with a different focus, comes from Jim Rickards:

What I find interesting is that in these, and many other analyses, the bull market is defined as having started in 2009, making this one of the longest (and thus presumably most overwrought) bull markets in history.

That brings me to Josh Brown.

Back in 2016, he noted that a bull market starts once a new high is reached, not from the prior low, and also that a bull market is interrupted by a new bear market on a 20%+ drawdown.  From The Reformed Broker:

  • It’s become likely that we are in a secular bull market for stocks. We do not measure secular bull markets from the bear market low of the prior cycle. The 1982-2000 secular bull market is measured from the day in 1982 when stocks finally took out their 1966 high. It had been a 16 year secular bear market until closing above those highs, and stocks never looked back. We do not date that bull market from the lows of 1973-1974 that were the nadir of the prior bear. Nor should we use 2009 as our starting point for the current bull market. 2009 was merely the cycle low of the prior bear, not the starting point of the current bull.
  • The actual starting point of the current secular bull market is the spring of 2013, when we broke above the double-top record highs of 2000 and 2007. This means we’re only into the third year.
  • I also would like to asterisk the fall of 2011 because the S&P 500 dropped 21% briefly in the depths of that panic, which would restart the count anyway if you were using 2009. This is semantics but important if we’re serious about dating. A drop into 20%+ drawdown, even if it’s brief, means a bear market and the end of the previous bull, if we’re using the generally accepted 20% (which is also meaningless, but it is what it is).


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