Photo of the day

Love this Atlantic gallery looking back at photos from 1969

A wide view of the Moratorium Day demonstration in Washington, D.C., on October 15, 1969. The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam was a broad single-day protest calling for the end of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. 


Genetically modified foods will kill you!

If you eat so much of them that you become obese and develop really bad cardiovascular health.  Otherwise, you’re probably okay.

So, we’ll stick with a food misconception theme here this morning.  I doubt anybody’s done any good work on diet soda misconceptions (hey, maybe that should be me!), but some very good work on GMO misconceptions and I kind of love the findings (via Jesse Singal).  The headline pretty much nails it:

People Who Are Most Fearful Of Genetically Modified Foods Think They Know The Most About Them, But Actually Know The Least

And some of the details:

There are few subjects where a larger gap exists between public opinion and expert opinion than people’s views on foods, like corn or wheat, that have been genetically manipulated to, for example, increase crop yields or bolster pest-resistance. Experts generally view so-called GM foods as totally safe to consume, while the public is suspicious of them — and this divide is massive. One Pew Research Center survey found that just 37 per cent of the American public believed GM foods are safe to eat, compared with 88 per cent of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science [emphases mine] (public attitudes are similarly negative in the UK, with a 2014 poll finding that 40 per cent of adults felt the government should not promote GM foods, compared with 22 per cent in favour, and the rest unsure).

Unlike some subjects where this divide between layperson and expert opinion is heavily mediated by politics, such as climate change caused by human activity — in the U.S. and elsewhere, conservatives are far less likely to believe in it than are liberals and climate scientists — the GM-food divide doesn’t really have a political dimension: Liberals, centrists, and conservatives are all about equally likely to have what are, from the point of view of experts, unfounded fears about the safety of GM foods…

This can be seen as a subject-specific version of the Dunning-Kruger effect, or people’s tendency to be ignorant about their own ignorance. The finding held across the samples in different countries…

This can be seen as a subject-specific version of the Dunning-Kruger effect, or people’s tendency to be ignorant about their own ignorance. The finding held across the samples in different countries…

As Fernbach and his colleagues note at the end of their paper, even for less-politicised issues like GM foods, their findings suggest that improving public awareness of basic scientific consequences might be more complex than previously realised, since those holding onto the most severe forms of misinformation are also least likely to seek out more facts or be open to hearing the other side. “This suggests that a prerequisite to changing people’s views through education may be getting them to first appreciate the gaps in their knowledge.” Which is a whole other task — and a very important one.

So, eat up those GM foods while consuming your diet soda :-).

Hydrate with caffeinated diet sodas!

That is, if you like soda.  Don’t take up the habit.  I’m not so motivated-reasoning here (can I use motivated reasoning as a compound verb?) on this issue that I would ever argue against the idea that just plain water is best.  But damn am I sick of hearing from everybody about how the diet soda is going to kill me.  “But chemicals!!”  Anyway, I actually had to put up with hearing somebody going on about the cancer link.  Yeah, yeah, come back to me when I consume half my body weight in artificial sweetener.  Here’s what the national cancer institute says on the matter:

Is there an association between artificial sweeteners and cancer?

Questions about artificial sweeteners and cancer arose when early studies showed that cyclamate in combination with saccharin caused bladder cancer in laboratory animals. However, results from subsequent carcinogenicity studies (studies that examine whether a substance can cause cancer) of these sweeteners have not provided clear evidence of an association with cancer in humans. Similarly, studies of other FDA-approved sweeteners have not demonstrated clear evidence of an association with cancer in humans.

As those who eat lunch with me know, I generally consume massive quantities of Diet Dr Pepper (and Diet Coke if its an okay day and on sad days, the damnable Diet Pepsi).  So, there I am drinking 40 ounces or more of liquid which is 99% or so water and people telling me that I am actually dehydrating myself because of the caffeine.  Oh please!  Maybe drinking 40 ounces of caffeinated is like drinking 38 ounces of non-caffeinated, but the idea that I would have a net loss of water?!  Of course, there’s science on this, too:


The available literature suggests that acute ingestion of caffeine in large doses (at least 250-300 mg, equivalent to the amount found in 2-3 cups of coffee or 5-8 cups of tea) results in a short-term stimulation of urine output in individuals who have been deprived of caffeine for a period of days or weeks. A profound tolerance to the diuretic and other effects of caffeine develops, however, and the actions are much diminished in individuals who regularly consume tea or coffee. Doses of caffeine equivalent to the amount normally found in standard servings of tea, coffee and carbonated soft drinks appear to have no diuretic action.


The most ecologically valid of the published studies offers no support for the suggestion that consumption of caffeine-containing beverages as part of a normal lifestyle leads to fluid loss in excess of the volume ingested or is associated with poor hydration status. Therefore, there would appear to be no clear basis for refraining from caffeine containing drinks in situations where fluid balance might be compromised.

I know, I know, recent research on elevated stroke risk and older women; possible impact on the microbiome, etc., but people really need to stop treating diet soda like I’m drinking turpentine.  I’ll keep taking my chances here.

%d bloggers like this: