More on artificial sweeteners, the microbiome, and diabetes

Some very interesting pushback on the research I recently discussed:

The scientific community is already starting to pick over the results of this study, and dampen public reaction by putting it into perspective. First, the majority of this work was done in mice, who have a different glucose metabolism, diet, and tolerance than humans. The small study with 7 human subjects is very preliminary, and far from sufficient to conclude that the mice data will be applicable to people.

The Science Magazine article points out that the study was published in a basic science journal, and that a clinical science journal would probably have been much more critical of their clinical speculations.

Another potentially serious criticism is that the researchers combined saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame data. It seems highly unlikely that three very different molecules would all have the same effect on gut microbiota. It’s possible that what the researchers are seeing is isolated to saccharin alone, which the research focused on. Earlier trials used aspartame, which had a smaller effect so the researchers switched to saccharin.

And here’s really the key bit from my perspective:

If this effect is unique to saccharin, that would also explain the disconnect with other data focusing on the consumption of diet soft drinks, which use aspartame and sucralose. A large European epidemiological trialpublished last year and involving cohorts with >10,000 subjects found an association between drinking sugary drinks and Type II diabetes. It also found an association with drinking NAS containing drinks, but this association vanished when controlled for energy intake and BMI. In other words, people drink diet soda because they are overweight, not the other way around. [emphasis mine]

Alright, I think I’m back to drinking diet soda guilt free.  I think I might pay some attention to saccharin, though.  Of course, those of us to remember Tab and Diet Rite recall that sodas sweetened with saccharin alone are mouth-puckeringly bad.

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My national anthem expertise knows no bounds

So, based on some earlier posts, now when you google: national anthem expert, you end up here and here.  Whenever somebody wants an interview, I insist I’m not actually an “expert” but they always want to proceed anyway.  I had absolutely the most enjoyable time with this recently on an ABC (Australian, that is) radio program called “It’s Just Not Cricket.”  It was actually the longest I’ve ever been interviewed about anything.  To their credit, they referred to me as an anthem “enthusiast and political science professor.”  I was thrown a little by the first question and started slow (oh, I hate listening to all my “um”s), but it gets better.  Anyway, since “national anthem expert” and “foremost national anthem expert” are already titles of posts, I thought I’d go with this title.  Oh, and I think I might actually make an effort to be more of an expert for when the next interview comes calling (2016 Olympics, most likely).

Mega Quick hits (part I)

Lots and lots this week.  Two big parts coming at you.

1) Really liked this from Kristof on the way to beat poverty.  Low-hanging policy fruit that it’s just crazy we’re not investing in:

The visits [to poor families from home nurses] have been studied extensively through randomized controlled trials — the gold standard of evidence — and are stunningly effective. Children randomly assigned to nurse visits suffer 79 percent fewer cases of state-verified abuse or neglect than similar children randomly assigned to other programs. Even though the program ends at age 2, the children at age 15 have fewer than half as many arrests on average. At the 15-year follow-up, the mothers themselves have one-third fewer subsequent births and have spent 30 fewer months on welfare than the controls. A RAND Corporation study found that each dollar invested in nurse visits to low-income unmarried mothers produced $5.70 in benefits.

This also featured prominently in the terrific How Children Succeed.  Which you really, really should read.  Yes, you.

2) Fall color map of North Carolina foliage.

3) Stop taking vertical photos, says this post.  Actually, now that I pay attention to composition I always think about whether to compose horizontally or vertically and many a photo should be vertical.  That said, people really need to stop with the vertical videos.  So obvious with all the bucket challenge videos.

4) It’s not easy accusing someone of sexual assault in Florida.

5) We should be like Germany.  At least when it comes to renewable energy.

6) Nice set of tips to help kids learn.  

7) The power of random noise in biology and why identical twins are not identical.

8) How a species of porpoise is going extinct before our eyes.

9) Once many addicts kick their drug of choice, they end up addicted to sugar.  Mmmm, donuts.

10) I really liked this Kevin Drum post on how images rule our world.  If you have any doubt, just think of how the news would be different the past couple weeks without A) the Isis beheading videos; and B) the Ray Rice video.

11) The political tables have turned and now Democrats are the ones using “cultural issues” i.e., gay marriage and birth control, as a political weapon.

12) Stupid people are quite convinced of their own intelligence.  Than again, so am I.  Uh oh.

13) If you’ve heard of the Food Babe, you know she’s an ascientific idiot.

14) Medieval style longsword fighting is making a comeback. So much cooler than fencing. I love how the subjects of this video have bruises on their faces.

15) About that politics of smell piece, here’s a really nice takedown from Andrew Gelman.  Also love this short critique from Seth Masket from when he shared my earlier post on FB:

Would it be nuts to say that spouses tend to come from similar communities, racial groups, socio-economic levels, etc., and that those groups tend to have not only ideological similarities but also dietary similarities, and that diet can influence body odor?

16) Sit less; live longer.  (It’s the telomeres, JD!)

17) Thomas Frank (of Wht’s the Matter with Kansas fame) wrote a horrible column attacking political scientists.  Great takedown from Chait.  And an even better one from Ezra.

18) David Brooks says friendships are good.  Uhhh, yeah.  Seriously, though, the decline of adult friendships is a problem.  I wish I had more good ones.

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