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Surprise! Scientists discover that eating cheese makes you happier in old age!

Science discovers the obvious: A computer analysis of 2.3 million people in Europe has found that eating cheese helped make them healthier and happier as they aged.

A mediation analysis identified 33 factors that mediate “between the well-being spectrum and the aging-GIP” – essentially, statistically, the disease, behaviors and lifestyle choices that significantly reduce the healthy aging score. Key ones included TV watching, smoking, medication use, heart failure, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), stroke, coronary atherosclerosis and ischemic heart disease.

Cheese, on the other hand, swung the pendulum the other way in both its impact on the well-being spectrum and aging-GIP. One of five key lifestyle mediators the data testing identified, it had a 3.67% positive impact on those healthy aging factors (whereas, for example, higher fruit intake had a 1.96% positive result and too much TV time, an indication of a more sedentary lifestyle, had a 7.39% negative impact on the score for both indicators).

While interesting, this research is generally junk. The number of uncertainties and assumptions are so large that no one should take any of these positive and negative scores very seriously. Furthermore, the study basically discovers something that is patently obvious from the beginning: If you are active and eat well, you will be healthier in old age. If you are a couch potato who smokes, you will likely be sicker in old age.

Why cheese (and fruit) should improve these scores is intriguing, but simply suggests that the study is not very useful. The intriguing (and amusing) nature of these results guarantees however that it will blasted by every mainstream news source in the coming days, with little mention of the weakness of the research.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.


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  • F

    The study IS useful . . . as a way to waste money.

    The vast majority of studies provide little or no benefit, but serve to line the pockets of those who conduct them.

  • Call Me Ishmael

    I found particularly interesting the discovery that heart failure reduces your healthy aging score.

  • Edward

    The following link is to a commentary by a statistician, who believes that science is broken, partly because data analysis is not a science but an art. Different methods of reducing the data can produce different results, then scientists use statistics to show that their method worked or was even the best.

    To the author’s credit, they don’t make any strong claims about the results, other than that SCA [the method] works.

    One thing that I have noticed, over the past decade or so, is that Americans have gained weight, on average. In the 1960s, when the government recommended three square meals a day, we averaged a lighter weight, and fewer of us were overweight. Then the government changed to a recommendation of low-fat diets, based upon a food pyramid, and we started gaining weight, on average.

    When I combine that with the apparent success of low-carb diets (what was the name of that famous one in the 1990s?) and the three forms of calories (carbohydrates, proteins, fats), it seems that Americans started getting more of their calories from carbohydrates (the wide bottom of the food pyramid) and fewer from fats (at the tiny top of the pyramid). If low carb diets help to lose weight, then the converse could be true: high carb diets tend to gain weight. No wonder Americans got so fat, this past half century.

    Heck, it’s lunchtime, here, so I think I will go have an open-faced double-cheese double-burger from In-‘n-Out Burger, hold the fries, hold the shake. Healthy old age, here I come!

    Of course, if I paid any attention to Robert Zimmerman’s and Briggs’s commentaries, I wouldn’t put much store in these Europeans’ findings. But, hey, any excuse for a juicy, fatty cheeseburger, eh?

  • john hare

    Considering I just lost a friend to heart attack two weeks ago, I have a bit different take than interesting. 60 years old reasonably active, and no prior warnings.

    People are heavier than the 60s for two main reasons. Much less hard physical work on average. Much more ability to purchase food than back then. A lot of people today live a lifestyle that was reserved for the rich several decades back. A century ago there was no such thing as fat poor people.

  • Edward

    John hare,
    There are a number of other studies that give a variety of reasons for the increase in overweight Americans. One of them is that we tend to gain weight when we do not get enough sleep, and we are getting less sleep than in the 1960s. So, as my own personal experiment, maybe I should stay in bed all day and see how much weight I lose.

    Then, there was the change in the definition of overweight and obese. In the 1990s, we went from whatever system was used before to a relatively arbitrary definition based upon something called the body mass index. Overweight and the other categories were based upon what a study showed people thought of the way people looked at the different BMI values. When those who were shown pictures thought someone was fat or obese, those BMI values were used to create the new BMI scale. Barely scientific, and definitely not in any way related to actual, perceived, or fantasy health issues. Oh, and on that BMI scale, Arnold Schwarzenegger is considered obese, not fit. Too many muscles on a fit body tilts the BMI scale away from indicating fitness and into unhealthiness. So much for reality, now we have made fantasy seem scientific.

    Then there were the coffee scares. News reports would alternate about coffee being bad for us or being good for us. Bad, then Good. Bad, then Good. I cannot remember which way it is right now, but don’t worry, it will change soon.

    john hare, my grandfather died of a heart attack, and when I was a wee little bairn I was told that it was because he drank coffee. So, why were my parents coffee drinkers?

    Does anyone ever pay any attention to these warnings from scientists? I doubt it. Scientists and politicians, and celebrities are all in total agreement (well, 97% of scientists, anyway, or so says Scientist Cook, et al) that the Earth will end by 2032 unless we change our CO2-emmitting ways in a very short period of time. (So why is California going all-electric in 2035 instead of in time to save the world?) Even those who advocate the end of the Earth — and all life as we have known it — continue to buy beach houses, use powered transportation, use power at work and at home, and buy goods that were produced and distributed using power. And so does everyone else, so who really believes the latest in the over 50 such warnings about global warming, climate change, climate disruption, and the coming Ice Age (which Leonard Nimoy warned us about only a couple of years before global climate warming change disruption started being the latest Chicken Little fad, back in the 1980s).

    My point is: It doesn’t much matter what we do, say, or are, we don’t believe The Science (the settled version, not the real science which continues searching for real answers and does not have a publish-or-perish imperative). So I think I will drive over and have yet another double-cheese double-burger for dinner, too.

    Just because I can. And because it is obviously healthy. And having one won’t cause global climate ice age warming change disruption.

  • John

    Good I’ll get a pizza tomorrow. Sleep is good, too? Done and done.

    I don’t need a study to know coffee is good for me, and everyone else around me.

    Long live The Science.

  • Cloudy

    I’d like to hear a statistician talk about how this study can so confidently assign causation to interacting factors with such precision. I’d also like to see a simulation where a dozen changing variables influence the outcome of some event over a long period of time. The programmers would make the true weight of each variable knowable with certainty from the algorithms used. Scientists in many different fields would predict the causal weight of each variable. However, they would not be told what algorithms the machine is using. They would not be told the “answers”… the true weight of each variable. The simulation would not emulate anything in the real world, so there would be no inadvertent hints.

    My guess is that different fields of study would do differently in this test. “Hard Sciences” would probably do best, and social sciences the worst…..but again, that is just a guess. It would be reassuring to see experimental proof that we know the mathematics of causation in a controlled environment. As far as I know, however, no one has done this. However, even if it the statistical methods used are shown to be mathematically sound, it still seems to me that the claims made are a bit over the top considering just how messy the real world is.

    Note that I am not even considering the possibility of dishonest techniques such as “p-hacking”. Nor am I looking at the unconscious biases. Both of these things have been proven to exist, but even without this kind of human error, the world is much more complex and unknown than most of us want to admit.

  • Jeff Wright

    If this makes PETA mad, I’m all for it.

  • john hare

    Edward, you are focusing on symptoms and looking for someone or something to blame.

    The core is that this is a much wealthier society than the 60s. We can afford to eat out, buy large amounts of food, and don’t have the lifestyle that burns calories on the average. The average household couldn’t buy all the junk food for their kids, and the kids didn’t have access to anywhere near as much indoor entertainment. Restaurants are everywhere today compared to 60 years ago and we can afford to patronize them.. The “long” hours at SpaceX would have been a normal work week back then for most people, with many of the jobs being physical.

    The various, mostly worthless, studies are a symptom of the wealth. We didn’t have the resources t support so many drones back then.

  • wayne

    Historically in the United States, we consumed a lot of protein & fat.
    During WW2 both were rationed, and the government manipulated everyone’s diet to be composed of more carbohydrates. After 1945 we were off to the races with mass-produced carbohydrate heavy foodstuffs.

  • pzatchok

    Cheese MMMMMMMMMM.!!!

    Long live science

    Cheese, its not just good, its good for you. There I just wrote the next Cheese commercial for them.

  • Edward

    john hare,
    You wrote: “Edward, you are focusing on symptoms and looking for someone or something to blame.

    You were the one who pointed out two main reasons people are heavier. However, you provided no evidence that these are the reasons.* The point is not the reasons, the symptoms, or the blame. The point is that science is not being performed in a way that it is reliable as a source for decision making, yet such poor science is then reported as though it is accurate enough for individuals, organizations, and governments to make life-altering — even society altering — decisions.**

    What life-altering decisions did your friend make during his life that led to his fatal heart attack,† and what information drove those decisions?

    I think that Robert Zimmerman put it well:
    While interesting, this research is generally junk. The number of uncertainties and assumptions are so large that no one should take any of these positive and negative scores very seriously. Furthermore, the study basically discovers something that is patently obvious from the beginning: If you are active and eat well, you will be healthier in old age. If you are a couch potato who smokes, you will likely be sicker in old age.

    Why cheese (and fruit) should improve these scores is intriguing, but simply suggests that the study is not very useful. The intriguing (and amusing) nature of these results guarantees however that it will blasted by every mainstream news source in the coming days, with little mention of the weakness of the research.

    So, if it is unreliable, how do we make informed decisions?

    Perhaps more important: How do we get scientists, who live under a publish or perish imperative, to produce more reliable information?

    Currently, scientists have access to — and create — a lot of data. Data should not be confused for information, which we can use to make informed decisions. The job of the scientist is not just to create data but to interpret that data and draw conclusions that are the information we use to make decisions. Decision making is the reason news organizations report these conclusions, and it is the reason we pay any attention to them.

    Weak research produces poor information, which results in bad life-altering decisions.

    We have the prosperity (I prefer this word over “wealth,” as it includes more than mere acquisition and may include the increased availability of both foods and activities) to afford strong, well done studies. The various, mostly worthless, studies are a symptom of the publish or perish imperative, not a symptom of wealth or prosperity.

    Memberships at gymnasiums demonstrates a desire to care for our bodies. Joining the gym is a result of information that exercise is healthy, which comes from studies that we hope are strong and reliable. Joining gyms may also be a result of wealth, prosperity, and the knowledge that we take in a few more calories than we burn on an average day.

    Now, if you will excuse me, I will follow John to the pizza parlor. Carbohydrate-heavy that they are, pizzas are tasty.†† I’ll start another diet tomorrow.
    * Yes, I admit that I provided no evidence for any of the reasons I spouted, either, but having evidence is not the point. The point is that what little information we have is unreliable.

    ** Is the coming Ice Age upon us, or is global warming going to end civilization, or is a changing climate really to be fought? Do we really have to turn everything over to electricity, as our fearful leaders demand?

    † I’m sorry for your recent loss. I have been losing friends and neighbors to strokes, for the past three years, and these may be due to the faux vaccinations that were made popular, back then. Life altering decisions were made based upon information that is now being admitted to have been fabrications and lies.

    †† Pizza: Toppings on a flatbread.

  • Greg the Geologist

    “Blessed are the Cheesemakers!”

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