This is my photo. There are some diagrams inside that I hope to take photos of for a subsequent post.

A few weeks ago I picked up this book from our bookcase:

Callanetics For Your Back, Callan Pinckney, 1988

I wasn’t having back pain. I was just curious what she had to say. I’d done some of the back exercises over the years but not much more.

Callanetics was popular in the mid-1980s. It is a series of exercises that could, according to its developer Callan Pinckney, make you look “10 years younger in 10 hours.” This book of exercises for the back was published a few after her introductory book. It was a bestseller then and the exercises, based on the “pelvic wave,” continue to be recommended for back pain sufferers.

Callanetics is unique:

It is a system of exercise involving frequent repetition of small muscular movements and squeezes, designed to improve muscle tone. The programme was developed by Pinckney from classical ballet exercises, to help ease a back problem that she was born with.

The theory of callanetics is that the surface muscles of the body are supported by deeper muscles, but popular exercise programmes often exercise only the surface muscles. According to callanetics, deeper muscles are best exercised using small but precise movements. Exercising the deeper muscles also leads to improved posture, which may result in the appearance of weight loss even if very little weight was lost.

She’s not kidding when she says “small movements.” For some exercises, she brings her thumb and forefinger almost together and says, “one sixteenth of an inch!”

Here’s Pinckney demonstrating her stomach exercise, which she is keen to say, “This is not a sit up!” Sit-up use (and abuse) the back. Notice here that the lower back is always on the floor, always in repose, not arched:

Why I’ve Come To Distrust Meta-Analyses, Especially Those Funded By Dairy/Egg/Meat Industries

I happened upon this little video on Twitter. It’s why I’ve come to distrust meta-analyses. It’s not just about cherry-picking studies to prove your point, although that’s part of it. It’s about publication bias and statistical analysis bias and design bias. There are so many ways that food industries are employing “science” to promote their products. They don’t have to find their products safe; all they have to do is instill doubt:

Doubt is their product.

Here’s an example of a meta-analysis that is suspect:

A giveaway that this is more advertisement than “science” … You can’t conclude from a study that a way of eating is “wrong.” You can only say that this study did not support that way of eating. Value judgements such as good vs. bad, and right vs. wrong are said purposely to manipulate:

Ian Givens, a professor of food chain nutrition at Reading University, who was one of the researchers, said: “There’s quite a widespread but mistaken belief among the public that dairy products in general can be bad for you, but that’s a misconception. While it is a widely held belief, our research shows that that’s wrong.

This Guardian article is strewn with manipulations. Givens (not just an expert but one of the study’s researchers) says that “drinking too little milk” leads to osteoporosis and brittle bones. It doesn’t, e.g. Milk Intake And Risk Of Mortality And Fractures In Women And Men: Cohort Studies, BMJ, 2014: “Conclusions High milk intake was associated with higher mortality in one cohort of women and in another cohort of men, and with higher fracture incidence in women.”

And this … what a scare tactic!

Pregnant women who drank too little milk could be increasing the risk of their child having neuro-developmental difficulties, which could affect their cognitive abilities and stunt their growth, Givens added.

It’s a disgrace how food industries have co-opted science for their own greedy goals.

The Story Of Lola

This is a good story, a true story.

In the process of showing empathy, it shows, it has to show, human weakness and carelessness and greed and contempt. As I say, red is invisible against a red background … empathy and compassion only emerge against a background of their opposites.

Have economies always been erected upon the labor of an underclass? Is that how it works?

Placebos Work Even When You Know It’s A Placebo

Placebos, commonly thought of as fake treatments that people think are real, have been found to be helpful even when people know they’re fake.

A Placebo Can Work Even When You Know It’s A Placebo, Harvard Health, 7 July 2016

What if people were told, up-front, that they were getting a placebo and not an active medication? It stands to reason the placebo would have no effect. Right?


Dr. Ted J. Kaptchuk, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, has been studying placebos for more than 20 years:

In one study, Kaptchuk looked at people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common condition that causes abdominal cramping and diarrhea or constipation that can be debilitating for many. Half of the study volunteers were told they were getting an “open-label” placebo and the others got nothing at all. He found that there was a dramatic and significant improvement in the placebo group’s IBS symptoms, even though they were explicitly told they were getting a “sugar pill” without any active medication.

Here’s that study:

Placebos Without Deception: A Randomized Controlled Trial In Irritable Bowel Syndrome, PLOS One, December 2010

Kaptchuk also found open label placebos were useful for back pain. This is from: Fake Pills Can Work, Even If Patients Know It, NPR, December 2010

And Kaptchuk and his colleagues found the same effect among people with garden-variety lower back pain.

All the participants were told that the placebo was an inactive substance containing no medication.

Then half the group was assigned to simply continue their usual treatment regimens, which included things like non-opioid painkillers, rest and alternative or complementary remedies. The other half were assigned to continue with their usual treatment, but to also take the placebo.

Participants rated their pain levels and their difficulty in performing daily activities, like getting dressed or climbing stairs, at the beginning and the end of the three-week study. And researchers found that people who received the placebo saw their scores for both usual and maximum pain levels drop by 30 percent, compared to 9 percent and 16 percent declines for the control group. The placebo group also reported a 29 percent reduction in their score for difficulty in performing daily activities, while the control group saw no change. (A higher score on that test indicated more difficulties.)

Here’s that study:
Open-Label Placebo Treatment In Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial

So, in many cases, it’s definitely not the pill:

But there’s no question that people also benefit from the entire interaction with a physician. “It’s absolutely not the pill,” Kaptchuk says. “It’s what surrounds the pill,” he says. That includes a trusting relationship between the doctor and patient. In that situation, if you think the treatment might possibly work — even if you have been told the pill is inactive, as in the back pain study — the brain can fill in the picture and improve symptoms, he says.

Two things here:

    • How many drugs on the market (money-making drugs) do something more because of doctor-patient relationship than because of any effects of the pill?
    • If we suspect something might be helpful, even when another part of our brain says it can’t be, why not go with it?

Our Understanding Of How The Body Deals With Salt (Sodium) Is Changing

A refresher: When you burn a fuel, say wood, in the presence of oxygen, it gives off energy (in the form of heat and light), and it yields gas (e.g. carbon dioxide) and water.

In our body, that combustion process is called cellular respiration, the fuel can be fat or glucose. In the process of respiring, glucose and oxygen yield the same carbon dioxide and water. The reaction also gives off energy, some is trapped or stored in the bonds of a chemical called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and some energy is given off as heat (which keeps our bodies warm).

Glucose + Oxygen → Carbon Dioxide + Water + ATP

So, our body can actually make water. We make it by burning a fuel.

With that background … Here’s the thing I just read about salt:

It reminds us of this, which I was taught, and always believed:

If you eat a lot of salt — sodium chloride — you will become thirsty and drink water, diluting your blood enough to maintain the proper concentration of sodium. Ultimately you will excrete much of the excess salt and water in urine.

But when researchers gave Russian cosmonauts a lot of salt:

Instead of drinking more, the crew were drinking less in the long run when getting more salt. So where was the excreted water coming from?

“There was only one way to explain this phenomenon,” Dr. Titze said. “The body most likely had generated or produced water when salt intake was high.”

So, the water that the body uses to flush out extra sodium doesn’t come only from what we drink, but also from what we make, either through respiration or water conservation (e.g. reabsorption in the kidney). These processes use energy, which might make people hungry?

Another puzzle: The crew complained that they were always hungry on the high-salt diet.

There was some discussion about how high-salt diets could lead to weight loss because they increased energy expenditure:

Experiments found that mice burned more calories when they got more salt, eating 25 percent more just to maintain their weight.

But trying to capitalize on this as a way to lose weight seems fraught. The hormones involved in water conservation can also lead to osteoporosis, muscle loss, and type 2 diabetes (according to study author and lead researcher Dr. Jens Titze). That’s a high cost.

Camels can live where water is scarce by breaking down fat in their humps.

All of this seems like a lot of trouble to go to just to find water in the body. But it would work if it happened that no water was coming in … which is one way animals like camels get fluids without actually drinking.

Here are the studies that this article was based on:

High Salt Intake Reprioritizes Osmolyte And Energy Metabolism For Body Fluid Conservation, The Journal of Clinical Investigation, Online 17 April 2017

Increased Salt Consumption Induces Body Water Conservation And Decreases Fluid Intake, The Journal of Clinical Investigation, Online 17 April 2017

Editorial: Salt And Water: Not So Simple, The Journal of Clinical Investigation, Online 17 April 2017

So, it’s not true that eating salt will make you thirsty. In fact, it does the opposite, it makes you less thirsty, because internal water-making kicks in. But it’s true that eating salt makes you hungry, for the same reason: water-making uses calories that you are primed to replace.

You know who will love these studies? Food manufacturers. Put a little extra salt in their products and it will have us coming back for more.

Study Finds Food Additive Causes Symptoms In People With Ulcerative Colitis

Carrageenan is extracted from a type of seaweed called Irish moss, here being harvested in the Philippines.

That food additive is carrageenan. I saw this on Reijo Laatikainen’s Twitter feed:

A Randomized Trial Of The Effects Of The No-Carrageenan Diet On Ulcerative Colitis Disease Activity, Nutrition and Healthy Aging, Online 31 March 2017

BACKGROUND: Carrageenan is a very common food additive in Western diets, but predictably causes inflammation in thousands of cell-based and animal experiments.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the impact of carrageenan exposure on the interval to relapse in patients with ulcerative colitis in remission.

METHODS: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter, clinical trial was conducted to assess if patients with ulcerative colitis in remission would have a longer interval to relapse if they followed a diet with no carrageenan. All participants were instructed in the no-carrageenan diet and were randomized to either placebo capsules or carrageenan-containing capsules. The carrageenan in the capsules was less than the average daily carrageenan intake from the diet.

RESULTS: Twelve patients completed study questionnaires. Three patients who received carrageenan-containing capsules relapsed, and none of the patients who received placebo-containing capsules relapsed. Laboratory tests showed increases in Interleukin-6 and fecal calprotectin between the beginning and the end of study participation in the carrageenan-exposed group, but not in the placebo-group.

CONCLUSION: Carrageenan intake contributed to earlier relapse in patients with ulcerative colitis in remission. Restriction of dietary carrageenan may benefit patients with ulcerative colitis.

Carrageenan is extracted from seaweed and is used as a thickener. It’s in lots of foods: soy milk, yogurt, sauces, and vegan “meats” and “cheeses” for texture. People think because it’s natural that it’s benign. It isn’t. This study just looked at colitis (see below) but carrageenan is thought to contribute to many irritable bowel problems.

From Mayo Clinic:

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers (sores) in your digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis affects the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon) and rectum. Symptoms usually develop over time, rather than suddenly.

Some symptoms:

  • Diarrhea, often with blood or pus
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Rectal pain
  • Rectal bleeding — passing small amount of blood with stool
  • Urgency to defecate
  • Inability to defecate despite urgency
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • In children, failure to grow

Another Study Shows That Eating Red And Processed Meats Leads To Premature Death

The increased risks from red and processed meats may be based on their proinflammatory, pro-oxidative, or carcinogenic compounds, such as nitrosamines, iron, or saturated fatty acids. (The World Health Organization classified processed meat as Group 1, “carcinogenic to humans.”)

David sent this new study:

Food Groups And Risk Of All-Cause Mortality: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Of Prospective Studies, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Online 26 April 2017

Objective: The aim of this meta-analysis was to synthesize the knowledge about the relation between intake of 12 major food groups, including whole grains, refined grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, eggs, dairy, fish, red meat, processed meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages, with risk of all-cause mortality.

Results: With increasing intake (for each daily serving) of whole grains (RR: 0.92; 95% CI: 0.89, 0.95), vegetables (RR: 0.96; 95% CI: 0.95, 0.98), fruits (RR: 0.94; 95% CI: 0.92, 0.97), nuts (RR: 0.76; 95% CI: 0.69, 0.84), and fish (RR: 0.93; 95% CI: 0.88, 0.98), the risk of all-cause mortality decreased; higher intake of red meat (RR: 1.10; 95% CI: 1.04, 1.18) and processed meat (RR: 1.23; 95% CI: 1.12, 1.36) was associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality in a linear dose-response meta-analysis. A clear indication of nonlinearity was seen for the relations between vegetables, fruits, nuts, and dairy and all-cause mortality.

Optimal consumption of risk-decreasing foods results in a 56% reduction of all-cause mortality, whereas consumption of risk-increasing foods is associated with a 2-fold increased risk of all-cause mortality.

It concluded:

In conclusion, an optimal intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and fish, as well as reduced consumption of red and processed meats and SSBs [sugar-sweetened beverages], can lead to an important decrease—by about 80%—in the relative risk of premature death when compared with intakes always from the highest risk category.

It reinforces the message that eating red or processed meat leads to an earlier death.

But I’ve grown wary of meta-analyses. They are only as good as the studies they include. This one included the PREDIMED study (the famous Mediterranean Diet study), which was awful. I wrote about it here:

That Mediterranean Diet Study From 2013, Why Are People Saying The Opposite?
Is The Mediterranean Diet Really All That?

So, for example, this new meta-analysis found that eating nuts was beneficial. Authors of the PREDIMED study report the following conflicts of interest: California Walnut Commission, International Nut and Dried Fruit Council. That gets buried in a meta-analysis.

While I’m talking about the Mediterranean diet … Everyone keeps saying how great it is. I don’t think it’s so great. PREDIMED, a big, famous, randomized control trial of the Mediterranean diet found:

The Mediterranean diet groups did not reduce risk for heart attack, death from cardiovascular causes, or death from any cause. “Only the comparisons of stroke risk reached statistical significance.”

The Mediterranean diet is full of processed oils, dairy fats, and animal foods. It shows benefit in spite of those ingredients because it also includes more vegetables than an American diet. Or, it did.

“Hunger” Is Big Business

First, let me draw your attention to this slick and expensive website: Feeding America

It has a ton of sponsors. Here are just a few: Monsanto, PepsiCo, Nestle, Walmart, Morgan Stanley, ConAgra, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Del Monte, Dean Foods, Cargill, Tyson, Unilever, Smithfield, Proctor & Gamble, Dannon … and on and on.

These companies are not involved in “feeding America” out of altruism. They get something back, something that feeds their bottom line. It is in their financial interest to maintain a hunger market in this country. I’m not kidding.

Here’s a screen shot from Feeding America:

You know why “hunger” touches every community in the US? Because big corporations have a stake in making it so. And they use photographs like these to keep the argument emotional. It’s despicable.

Also … People who are truly involved in feeding the hungry have grown dependent on these corporations. In a way, they’re dependent upon each other:

Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America And Anti-Hunger Groups, Andrew Fisher

Reliant on corporate donations of food and money, anti-hunger organizations have failed to hold business accountable for offshoring jobs, cutting benefits, exploiting workers and rural communities, and resisting wage increases. They have become part of a “hunger industrial complex” that seems as self-perpetuating as the more famous military-industrial complex.

Civil Eats interviewed the book’s author, Andrew Fisher:

To Solve Hunger, First Solve Poverty A new book about the business of hunger argues that food charities’ reliance on corporate donations makes solving hunger impossible.

And Fisher said this, which blew me away:

Steve Holt wrote a two-part series criticizing food banks for being in bed with corporations for extensively quoting me. [Here that is: Are Food Banks Selling Out to Corporate America?]. When the second part of the series didn’t run, I discovered that Feeding America went “ballistic” after reading the first article. They admitted that the critiques were true, but convinced the website to censor the second article.

So, that slick corporate-run website at the top of my post, “Feeding America” censored Holt’s and Fisher’s claims that corporations – like Walmart and Monsanto and Pepsi – are in bed with food pantries.

This next part gets me angry, because almost every time I go to the grocery store anymore, the check-out person asks me if I want to donate to some food bank or other anti-hunger charity. (This has become a thing!) Now, if I do, I’ll be thinking I’m contributing to low wages and worker exploitation:

By failing to organize around wages and jobs, and perpetuating dependency on free food and food stamps, the anti-hunger community contributes to economic insecurity.

Finally, I have to repost this comment that was under the Civil Eats article. It’s by a man, Alan Jennings, who has spent his life tackling inequality:

It is great to see someone shake up the charitable approach to fighting hunger in this wealthy nation of ours. It would be a lengthy piece for me to write a comprehensive response to the points made here in. But I am up to my eyeballs in fighting the battles that need to be fought to effectively address poverty in our midst and can’t spare as much time as would be needed. Unfortunately, when we have limited time we tend to be more strident. So, I’ve run the risk of offending some people and, while some need to be offended, the risk is to lose support for what we do. So, I will apologize up front for any hard feelings I might cause. Here goes.

First, the word “hunger” is an inappropriate term. The reality is that, while far too many people struggle to pay their bills, the incidence of “hunger” is pretty limited in America. By “hunger” I mean the pangs and the bloated belly that come with them.

What we do have is millions of people who, even when they work, simply cannot possibly pay the bills. What those of us who run food banks do is enable people to save money on food, thereby freeing up very limited dollars to pay their rent and other unavoidable expenses.

Hunger is a very charged word, and we need to be more careful with its use.

Second, emergency food assistance is charity. Charity is what society does when there is no justice. Charity is food assistance. Justice is a job that pays the bills. Charity is a homeless shelter. Justice is an affordable apartment that is safe.

Third, many well-meaning people support food pantries and food banks because those programs reinforce the notion that the failure of our marketplace is episodic, temporary and, all too often, the fault of the individual for not keeping their nose to the grindstone. They don’t want to believe that the marketplace doesn’t work as most of us would surmise by the fact that tens of millions of people can’t find shelter from the storm of a marketplace that seems to be getting meaner by the day.

I am grateful to each and every person who reaches out to serve others, regardless of their political views or situation in life. My preference would be helping each and every one of our donors to understand the deeper challenges of our society, its marketplace and the political environment that would have even a single American turning his or her back on their neighbors in need.

We should be working on raising the minimum wage to at least $12 an hour. We should be reducing the only housing subsidy entitlement in America (the mortgage interest deduction) and shift that lost revenue to real housing subsidies for those unable to work and those whose skills have so little value in our marketplace. We should join the rest of the civilized world by establishing a single-payer, universal health insurance entitlement. We should stop educational apartied that locks inequity into our system in favor of ensuring that every kid in America gets access to quality early childhood education and decent K-12 public education.

That, my friends, would enable us to shut down much of the anti-poverty and anti-hunger “industry.” That would be real success.

The organization I run, called the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley in Eastern Pennsylvania, could redirect the funding we use to sustain our Second Harvest Food Bank and our homeless shelter in favor of other programs we operate like those that help people start their own business, buy their own home or accumulate other kinds of critical household resources.

I have tried my best to avoid being publicly critical of some key organizations that do anti-hunger work, including one with which we are closely affiliated. I’m not dumb enough to offend the – pun intended – hand that feeds us. Too many people get paid to keep the system and its inequity in place. That aspect of the status quo should be upended.

Alan L. Jennings, Executive Director
Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley
Bethlehem PA

Here’s some background on Alan Jennings: After Decades Of Fighting For The Poor, Alan Jennings Now In A Fight For Himself. That article was written around June 2015. It included a short video which I’m having trouble embedding, but you can click his photo here and it will take you to it. It’s people like Alan Jennings that restores my faith in humanity.