RSSCategory: Education

Gluten Sensitivity as a Nocebo

September 25, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More

There’s an awfully large amount of money being spent on special gluten free products.  How many of the people who buy these products really need them?   According to this article on Buzzfeed, not many.    The most memorable passages from this article:

17 million people may unnecessarily believe that they are gluten-sensitive. (Source: A Mayo Clinic survey in 2012, cited in a NY Times article.)

[We] spent $10.5 billion last year on gluten-free products. (Source: Mintel, a market research company, cited in the NY Times article.)

It is especially important because a psychological disease can spread as fast as any virus but be more enduring.

A 2012 Mayo Clinic survey concluded that only 1.8 million Americans have Celiac disease. Only 1.8 million people should be on a non-gluten diet. Compare this to the 18 million people who consider themselves “gluten sensitive”

According to this article many of the people who spend lots of money on gluten-free products, gluten serves as a “nocebo,” defined below by Wikipedia:

nocebo (Latin for “I shall harm”) is a harmless substance that creates harmful effects in a patient who takes it. The nocebo effect is the negative reaction experienced by a patient who receives a nocebo. Conversely, a placebo is an inert substance that creates either a positive response or no response in a patient who takes it. The phenomenon in which a placebo creates a positive response in the patient to which it is administered is called the placebo effect. The nocebo effect is less well-studied and well-known, by both scientists and the public, than the placebo effect.

What’s the evidence that gluten is not detrimental to most people who are committed to gluten free products?

This disease is largely self-diagnosed, and studies are starting to show that it may be real in a great number of cases. Professor and scientist Peter Gibson is no stranger when it comes to studying gluten. He did a study in 2011 that gave a lot of credit to the belief in (non-Celiac) gluten sensitivity. Seeing that NCGS had become a worldwide phenomenon, he revisited the topic in 2013 with a critical look at the original assumptions. These are the measures he took to validate his results:
Subjects were given every single meal for the duration of the study.Any other potential causes of bad stomach symptoms were removed from the diet. (Think lactose from milk.) Just in case you do not think he was serious, Peter collected nine days worth of urine and fecal matter. (Now that’s a topic of conversation.) The results were pretty shocking. They concluded that gluten in no way could have caused any of the negative symptoms that the subjects were suffering from.

 

Most claims of the need to be gluten free are starting to remind me of the phenomenon of facilitated communication regarding autistics.

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Myths of Authority in Practice

August 22, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More
Myths of Authority in Practice

I’ve been trying to come to terms with Ferguson since it began. The shooting of Michael Browne sparked a response that surprised many people and the counter responses have been equally surprising among certain people, not so much among certain others. Every time I start to write something I find what I intended to say had already been said better elsewhere. [More . . . ]

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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse sets the record straight on climate change

July 30, 2014 | By | Reply More

I couldn’t agree more with what Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had to say on climate change. Here’s an excerpt:

Let me tell you some of the government agencies who are so-called colluding together. How about NASA? We trust them to send our astronauts into space. We trust them to deliver a rover the size of an S.U.V. to the surface of Mars safely and drive it around, sending data and pictures back from Mars to us. You think these people know what they’re talking about? … How about the United States Navy? The commander in chief of our Pacific Command? Is he colluding when he says that? …

If you want to ignore the federal government, if you live in a world in which you think the federal government colludes with itself to make up things that aren’t true, okay. But look at the property casualty insurance and reinsurance industry. They’re the people with the biggest bet on this. They have billions of dollars riding on getting it right, and they say climate change is real, carbon pollution is causing it, we’ve got to do something about it. So does the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, because they care about the poor and the effect this will have on the people who have the least. So does every major U.S. scientific society. Every single one.

Now the extraordinary part. Here is the proposed resolution:

Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that global climate change is occurring and will continue to pose ongoing risks and challenges to the people and the Government of the United States.

Here is the full resolution. 

Despite Whitehouse’s argument, however, the resolution — which required unanimous consent — failed with Inhofe’s objection. So as demonstrated by that non-action, the Senate has no official position on whether climate change is real or not, much less whether it poses a threat to American citizens.

Here is the entire proposed resolution, which failed:

[More . . . ]

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Time to discard the Myers-Briggs test

July 27, 2014 | By | Reply More
Time to discard the Myers-Briggs test

This article at VOX points out numerous problems with the test. Erika Price, a friend of mine who has a Ph.D in psychology (and who has written articles for this website), summed up the criticisms as follows:

-Myers-Briggs is based on an old, fringe, untested hypothesis
-The categories do not naturally occur in any sample data
-The test itself was formulated by people with no psychometric training or experience
– It divides people into categories when really every trait is a spectrum
– People are divided into binary categories even though most people are near the middle of the spectrum.
-Individuals do not consistently get the same type. (i.e. it is unreliable)
– It does not predict behavior
-It is not used in mainstream psychological research

The article itself concludes:

It’s 2014. Thousands of professional psychologists have evaluated the century-old Myers-Briggs, found it to be inaccurate and arbitrary, and devised better systems for evaluating personality. Let’s stop using this outdated measure — which has about as much scientific validity as your astrological sign — and move on to something else.

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How to make college free

April 27, 2014 | By | Reply More

Many politicians would claim that college shouldn’t be free and that, in fact, the federal government, which is now a direct provider of many college loans, should pile interest onto student loans.   I have two things I’d suggest in response, both of which speak to the systemic corruption of the United States Federal Government:

 

Warren - college loans

 

 

college free

Here are more stats from The Atlantic:

A mere $62.6 billion dollars! According to new Department of Education data, that’s how much tuition public colleges collected from undergraduates in 2012 across the entire United States. And I’m not being facetious with the word mere, either. The New America Foundation says that the federal government spent a whole $69 billion in 2013 on its hodgepodge of financial aid programs, such as Pell Grants for low-income students, tax breaks, work study funding. And that doesn’t even include loans.

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No time for fun at Kindergarten

April 27, 2014 | By | Reply More

This New York Kindergarten cancelled a play because the 5 year olds needed to spend more time preparing for college. If I were an employee of that school, I would never sign that idiotic letter to the parents unless my job security depended on it. Time to reevaluate the values of the school. Time for the administrators to study the importance of play.

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Conversing in a public library

April 12, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More

Once a month I teach English as a Second Language at the St. Louis Public Library. I’m assigned a small corner of a big library and I teach English conversational skills to a group of up to eight adults at a time, people from all over the world. During this afternoon’s class, a group of talkative men sat 20 feet away from our table. They weren’t part of any group, just guys talking with each other. Those men made it somewhat difficult for my students to hear each other, forcing us to be louder than normal. Eventually the Library Security Guard briskly walked up to the table where I was teaching and told my class to stop talking. I told him I was teaching ESL, but he said he didn’t care. He told me to quit talking. I showed him the sign designating our space (see the photo – “Conversation Practice”) and told him “It is my JOB to converse with these students.” He said that if I didn’t stop talking he would throw all of us out of the library.

ESL sign

I found the librarian in charge, convincing him that the unauthorized loud talkers nearby should be quiet, so that we could continue with our class. Eventually, the librarian agreed while the security guard sulked. My English conversation lesson for the next 15 minutes was focused on making fun of the ignoramus security guard.

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The myth of working one’s way through college

April 6, 2014 | By | Reply More

What does it take to earn one’s way through college? From the Atlantic, some stunning numbers:

[Olsen] added a linear regression analysis to extrapolate the stats for 1979-2013, and found that the average student in 1979 could work 182 hours (a part-time summer job) to pay for a year’s tuition. In 2013, it took 991 hours (a full-time job for half the year) to accomplish the same.

And this is only considering the cost of tuition, which is hardly an accurate representation of what students actually spend for college. According to the College Board, average room and board fees at public universities today exceed tuition costs by a little more than 100 percent. (For the current academic year, average tuition at 4-year public schools is $8,893, but with room and board, the total average cost comes to $18,391.)

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Commenting without reading: An April Fools experiment by NPR

April 5, 2014 | By | Reply More
Commenting without reading: An April Fools experiment by NPR

NPR played a clever April Fools trick this year. It posted a link on FB with the following headline: “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?.”

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