Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wow. What a dick.

Haiti: Bush cleans his hand on Clinton's shirt.

(via Good)

Using statistical significance (95% confidence) to your advantage


For anyone who's taken a science or statistics course, you'd be most likely familiar with the Holy Grail of statistical significance; the 95% confidence interval. We've all read something to the effect of, "Group A and Group B are different along C variable due to drug D, statistically significant to a 95% confidence level." The 95% confidence level is today's gold standard.

However, these numbers tend to lie. Here's a great example:

Consider the use of drug tests to detect cheaters in sports. Suppose the test for steroid use among baseball players is 95 percent accurate — that is, it correctly identifies actual steroid users 95 percent of the time, and misidentifies non-users as users 5 percent of the time.

Suppose an anonymous player tests positive. What is the probability that he really is using steroids? Since the test really is accurate 95 percent of the time, the na├»ve answer would be that probability of guilt is 95 percent. But a Bayesian knows that such a conclusion cannot be drawn from the test alone. You would need to know some additional facts not included in this evidence. In this case, you need to know how many baseball players use steroids to begin with — that would be what a Bayesian would call the prior probability.

Now suppose, based on previous testing, that experts have established that about 5 percent of professional baseball players use steroids. Now suppose you test 400 players. How many would test positive?

• Out of the 400 players, 20 are users (5 percent) and 380 are not users.

• Of the 20 users, 19 (95 percent) would be identified correctly as users.

• Of the 380 nonusers, 19 (5 percent) would incorrectly be indicated as users.

So if you tested 400 players, 38 would test positive. Of those, 19 would be guilty users and 19 would be innocent nonusers. So if any single player’s test is positive, the chances that he really is a user are 50 percent, since an equal number of users and nonusers test positive.

Because of the way statistical significance works it takes a large difference to achieve statistical significance on a small sample size but as the sample size gets larger and larger a smaller and smaller difference will yield statistical significance. If the sample size is large enough, you can get statistical significance for a difference that is very small, unimportant, and sometimes just plain wrong.

Just something to keep in mind next time you read test results, and how numbers can lie when the entire story is not told.

A closer look at 4 supplements, and sample daily diet formulations...

First up, Creatine. Yes, that creatine.

From this infographic, everything seemed to make sense, except for the benefits of creatine on cognition(?).

I've always heard that creatine is a good supplement for vegetarians (protein replacement) and is great for building muscle mass. "In humans and animals, approximately half of stored creatine originates from food (mainly from fresh meat). Since vegetables do not contain creatine, vegetarians show lower levels of muscle creatine, but show the same levels after using supplements." (wiki)

But cognitive effects of creatine?

In both trials, (vegetarian) volunteers receiving creatine scored better than placebo-treated volunteers on measures of memory and analytical skills... In one test, for example, volunteers taking creatine could recall an average of 8.5 consecutive numerical digits, but those receiving the placebo pill remembered only 7 digits.

Effects on quality of life?

Using an animal model of aging, it was shown that creatine supplementation extended maximum life span by 3.5%.[3] Even more impressive was the effect of creatine supplementation on “healthy” life span (defined as the age before animals were classified as suffering from disease) which significantly increased by 9%.

More from Wikipedia:

A placebo-controlled double-blind experiment found that vegetarians who took 5 grams of creatine per day for six weeks showed a significant improvement on two separate tests of fluid intelligence, Raven's Progressive Matrices, and the backward digit span test from the WAIS. The treatment group was able to repeat longer sequences of numbers from memory and had higher overall IQ scores than the control group. The researchers concluded that "supplementation with creatine significantly increased intelligence compared with placebo."[20] A subsequent study found that creatine supplements improved cognitive ability in the elderly.[21]

Seems maybe like it's only for the old and the sleep deprived - which, aren't we all?

Ok, so, it seems to make sense (even though I'm not sure I'm gonna try) to take about 5g of creatine a day when sleep deprived or under a larger-than-normal amount of stress.


Next, NAC (Cysteine).

I have no idea what this is/was, but so far I've read that NAC (cysteine amino acid) is apparently a potent antioxidant. What brought it to my attention was its heralded liver and kidney detoxification properties. It's apparently also not bad at fighting throat infections and bronchitis, and it may help build and repair connective muscle tissue.

Food sources for cysteine include poultry, yogurt, oats, egg yolks, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, and (ugh) Brussels sprouts.


Fish oil.

My fascination with fish and fish oil first started maybe 10 years ago when someone asked me if I ate fish in the last few days, cuz my completion had really changed recently. After saying "wha?" (cuz I had and normally didn't at that time) I did a bit of research. So, anecdotal (and potentially psycho) evidence aside, Omega-3s are a great anti-inflammatory. Everywhere says that, and if you have a healthy diet, a supplement of 1g a day is enough.


My mom recently attended some conference where they were told that Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) was starting to show really amazing lab results. These lab results included significantly longer and healthier rat lives (like 10%+), cardiac arrest and heart failure reduction. There are ongoing studies on its impact on cancer. Basically, 30mg a day seems to be the accepted dosage for optimal gains.

(sorry - just gave up on links the last few of these, cuz it was just taking way too long.. )


So, to sum it all up, in an ideal world, I'm looking to do the following most days (4-5 days outta 7). I'm gonna try to vaguely put these in an order that I think they are important and the order in which I'd recommend them based on my readings.

1) Vitamin D3 supplements (500-1000 IU, depending on season) - boosts common immune system, cancer, cardiovascular
2) Vitamin B-complex (100 IU) - energy, mood, neuronal connection production and maintenance, immune system
3) Omega-3 (1g - with ~200mg DHA) - cognitive function, concentration, cardiovascular health, anti-inflammatory
4) Vitamin C (500mg) - immune system, kidney stones, teeth, bones, everything really...
5) C0Q10 (30mg) - anti-oxidant, cancer, heart disease, energy. Drawback? They're expensive.
6) Beta glucan (250mg) - cancer, immune system
7) NAC (500mg) - colon cancer, kidney, liver
8) Lutein (10mg) - for glaucoma, which runs in the family
9) Creatine (5g) - when/if needed for energy, lack of sleep, studying.

Wow, 8-9 supplements? That's starting to sound like a crazy old person. From the quick math it'd cost me under $3 a day when I do this, which is practically nil given the researched benefits behind these.

However, at some point it may be worth to check the statistical significance of these claim, the funder of the research, etc...


So, now, turning the attention to diet. I'm gonna try to eat the following as much as possible. Just a note that this isn't a specific recommendation; these are foods that will significantly (statistically) improve your life in one way or another.

- flax seeds (it really only requires a small sprinkle on anything - 1/2 a tsp with the supplements above and your good)
- learn to like canned sardines (recipes???)
- more smoked salmon (anti-inflammatory and very low mercury (cuz they're small!))
- Microwave whole-grain brown rice
- almonds
- Brazil nuts (one a day is enough for the selenium)
- blueberries
- apples (pectin lowers fat absorption and cholesterol)
- tomatoes (grape tomatoes for ease)
- low fat yogurt
- apple cider vinegar
- green tea
- coffee
- skim milk
- oatmeal
- Curcumin (use as a hot sauce substitute)

So, most optimal morning options look like:

- yogurt and flax seeds
- oatmeal and flax seeds
- peanut butter and blueberry jam sandwich on whole grain bread
- coffee
- green tea


- blueberry banana milkshake (so easy with a banana, frozen blueberries, milk, cup, and a handblender. 1 minute)
- beans (can of beans, bean soup)
- hummus spread
- BFS? (big fucking salad)
- sardines?
- sushi
- coffee
- lunches that are quick and easy are looking a little thin right now...


- almonds
- apples
- milkshakes
- nuts
- yogurt


- salad bags (quick and easy, throw on grape tomatoes)
- fish of some sort
- microwave brown rice
- beans, beans, they're good for you're heart... with cheese
- chili (nachos.. what up!)
- I'm not going to be able to stay away from making pastas - just need to do it less often.
- and of course, the good ol' vegetable stir fry on brown rice.

Additional ideas/things to prepare/make:

- apple cider vinegar and garlic (Garlic vinegar) - easy as shit. Submerge peeled garlic cloves with vinegar, cover and place in fridge. If you feel like doing it up, put some salt in there and maybe add some fresh ground basil. Tastes fucking amazing, good for you, detoxifies, and keeps for 4 months easy. Use alone as a garlic clove snack, on salads, on rice, with fish, stir fry, etc...


I go two-three times a week max, and I'm eating whatever the fuck I want just to avoid going any more insane than I apparently already fucking have.