Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Malocclusion: Disease of Civilization

In his epic work Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Weston Price documented the abnormal dental development and susceptibility to tooth decay that accompanied the adoption of modern foods in a number of different cultures throughout the world. Although he quantified changes in cavity prevalence (sometimes finding increases as large as 1,000-fold), all we have are Price's anecdotes describing the crooked teeth, narrow arches and "dished" faces these cultures developed as they modernized.

Price published the first edition of his book in 1939. Fortunately,
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration wasn't the last word on the matter. Anthropologists and archaeologists have been extending Price's findings throughout the 20th century. My favorite is Dr. Robert S. Corruccini, currently a professor of anthropology at Southern Illinois University. He published a landmark paper in 1984 titled "An Epidemiologic Transition in Dental Occlusion in World Populations" that will be our starting point for a discussion of how diet and lifestyle factors affect the development of the teeth, skull and jaw (Am J. Orthod. 86(5):419)*.

First, some background. The word
occlusion refers to the manner in which the top and bottom sets of teeth come together, determined in part by the alignment between the upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible). There are three general categories:
  • Class I occlusion: considered "ideal". The bottom incisors (front teeth) fit just behind the top incisors.
  • Class II occlusion: "overbite." The bottom incisors are too far behind the top incisors. The mandible may appear small.
  • Class III occlusion: "underbite." The bottom incisors are beyond the top incisors. The mandible protrudes.
Malocclusion means the teeth do not come together in a way that's considered ideal. The term "class I malocclusion" is sometimes used to describe crowded incisors when the jaws are aligning properly.

Over the course of the next several posts, I'll give an overview of the extensive literature showing that hunter-gatherers past and present have excellent occlusion, subsistence agriculturalists generally have good occlusion, and the adoption of modern foodways directly causes the crooked teeth, narrow arches and/or crowded third molars (wisdom teeth) that affect the majority of people in industrialized nations. I believe this process also affects the development of the rest of the skull, including the face and sinuses.

In his 1984 paper, Dr. Corruccini reviewed data from a number of cultures whose occlusion has been studied in detail. Most of these cultures were observed by Dr. Corruccini personally. He compared two sets of cultures: those that adhere to a traditional style of life and those that have adopted industrial foodways. For several of the cultures he studied, he compared it to another that was genetically similar. For example, the older generation of Pima indians vs. the younger generation, and rural vs. urban Punjabis. He also included data from archaeological sites and nonhuman primates. Wild animals, including nonhuman primates, almost invariably show perfect occlusion.

The last graph in the paper is the most telling. He compiled all the occlusion data into a single number called the "treatment priority index" (TPI). This is a number that represents the overall need for orthodontic treatment. A TPI of 4 or greater indicates malocclusion (the cutoff point is subjective and depends somewhat on aesthetic considerations). Here's the graph: Every single urban/industrial culture has an average TPI of greater than 4, while all the non-industrial or less industrial cultures have an average TPI below 4. This means that in industrial cultures, the average person requires orthodontic treatment to achieve good occlusion, whereas most people in more traditionally-living cultures naturally have good occlusion.

The best occlusion was in the New Britain sample, a precontact Melanesian hunter-gatherer group studied from archaeological remains. The next best occlusion was in the Libben and Dickson groups, who were early Native American agriculturalists. The Pima represent the older generation of Native Americans that was raised on a somewhat traditional agricultural diet, vs. the younger generation raised on processed reservation foods. The Chinese samples are immigrants and their descendants in Liverpool. The Punjabis represent urban vs. rural youths in Northern India. The Kentucky samples represent a traditionally-living Appalachian community, older generation vs. processed food-eating offspring. The "early black" and "black youths" samples represent older and younger generations of African-Americans in the Cleveland and St. Louis area. The "white parents/youths" sample represents different generations of American Caucasians.

The point is clear: there's something about industrialization that causes malocclusion. It's not genetic; it's a result of changes in diet and/or lifestyle. A "disease of civilization". I use that phrase loosely, because malocclusion isn't really a disease, and some cultures that qualify as civilizations retain traditional foodways and relatively good teeth. Nevertheless, it's a time-honored phrase that encompasses the wide array of health problems that occur when humans stray too far from their ecological niche.
I'm going to let Dr. Corruccini wrap this post up for me:
I assert that these results serve to modify two widespread generalizations: that imperfect occlusion is not necessarily abnormal, and that prevalence of malocclusion is genetically controlled so that preventive therapy in the strict sense is not possible. Cross-cultural data dispel the notion that considerable occlusal variation [malocclusion] is inevitable or normal. Rather, it is an aberrancy of modern urbanized populations. Furthermore, the transition from predominantly good to predominantly bad occlusion repeatedly occurs within one or two generations' time in these (and other) populations, weakening arguments that explain high malocclusion prevalence genetically.

* This paper is worth reading if you get the chance. It should have been a seminal paper in the field of preventive orthodontics, which could have largely replaced conventional orthodontics by now. Dr. Corruccini is the clearest thinker on this subject I've encountered so far.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Diabetics on a Low-carbohydrate Diet, Part II

I just found another very interesting study performed in Japan by Dr. Hajime Haimoto and colleagues (free full text). They took severe diabetics with an HbA1c of 10.9% and put them on a low-carbohydrate diet:
The main principle of the CRD [carbohydrate-restricted diet] was to eliminate carbohydrate-rich food twice a day at breakfast and dinner, or eliminate it three times a day at breakfast, lunch and dinner... There were no other restrictions. Patients on the CRD were permitted to eat as much protein and fat as they wanted, including saturated fat.
What happened to their blood lipids after eating all that fat for 6 months, and increasing their saturated fat intake to that of the average American? LDL decreased and HDL increased, both statistically significant. Oops. But that's water under the bridge. What we really care about here is glucose control. The patients' HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin; a measure of average blood glucose over the past several weeks) declined from 10.9 to 7.4%.

Here's a graph showing the improvement in HbA1c. Each line represents one individual:

Every single patient improved, except the "dropout" who stopped following the diet advice after 3 months (the one line that shoots back up at 6 months). And now, an inspirational anecdote from the paper:
One female patient had an increased physical activity level during the study period in spite of our instructions. However, her increase in physical activity was no more than one hour of walking per day, four days a week. She had implemented an 11% carbohydrate diet without any antidiabetic drug, and her HbA1c level decreased from 14.4% at baseline to 6.1% after 3 months and had been maintained at 5.5% after 6 months.
That patient began with the highest HbA1c and ended with the lowest. Complete glucose control using only diet and exercise. It may not work for everyone, but it's effective in some cases. The study's conclusion:
...the 30%-carbohydrate diet over 6 months led to a remarkable reduction in HbA1c levels, even among outpatients with severe type 2 diabetes, without any insulin therapy, hospital care or increase in sulfonylureas. The effectiveness of the diet may be comparable to that of insulin therapy.

Diabetics on a Low-carbohydrate Diet
The Tokelau Island Migrant Study: Diabetes

Google Maps with ads revisited

Last week Sydney Morning Herald published a news item that Google Maps to be plastered with ads. The story is being picked up by online publishers around the world and many are trying to sensationalise the significance of the announcement. However, Google’s foray into advertising on Google Maps is nothing new as the company extends its efforts to provide more and more relevant information to users. Let’s revisit “the story” so far…

The first attempt to bring advertising on Google Map was about 2-3 years ago when Google introduced sponsored markers on both, public version of Google Map and as an optional advertising service available for developers using Google Map API. The ads appeared as little clickable markers when users visited certain geographic areas specified by advertisers. With exception of Japan, this concept didn’t quite catch up. I tested the concept on aus-emaps.com but eventually have given up as hardly any advertisers in Australia bothered to use this form of advertising.

Last year Google introduced an option for developers to add its famous text ads directly on the map to help monetise various mapping applications. The ads can be positioned in a corner of the map and content is dependant on the geographic extents viewed by the users. This follows the concept first introduced by lat49 a Canadian online advertising company attempting to explore map based advertising for Google, Bing and other major online mapping platforms offering APIs for developers. My test results with lat49 ads were less than impressive so, I quickly removed that option from my site. I am yet to try Google version, possibly in the next release of aus-emaps.com front page.

Not many may have noticed that recently Google also introduced clickable mini-markers on its public Google Map site. Things like train or bus stations, museums and other places of significance can now be “clicked on” for additional information. Markers are subtly incorporated into the overall design of the map so they do not detract from map browsing experience. Only when you hover your mouse over those tiny markers you will notice that the mouse pointer style changes to a hand, which means this item is clickable. Extending that concept to branded markers for fast food restaurants or other "commercial" points of interest seems a logical "next step" for Google.

Others are already doing similar things. For example, Telstra has been incorporating branded markers for hotels (roamfree.com and wotif.com), restaurants, petrol stations etc. points of interest on its whereis.com maps for quite a while now and not as subtly as Google. Majority of those points are referenced to Yellow Pages advertisers. For Google, adding those branded markers will be just a small step forward in an ongoing quest to extract maximum value from its asset while providing extra functionality for map users. It is not a “radical new development” that news headlines are inadvertently implying.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Google for the Australian Public Sector

On September 16, in a private function at Parliament House with Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy as a keynote speaker, Google Australia launched a new site “Google for the Public Sector”. As described by Google Australia public policy chief Iarla Flynn, the site is simply “…a guide to the tools and best practice for the public sector to reach, communicate and engage with their communities”.

It was a quiet ceremony (even Senator Conroy’s site does not refer to it officially) and so far there has not been any official directive to consider Google tools as potential solutions in support of Public Sector operations and activities. However, the significance of this event is that it sends a clear message that Google can now be treated as a trusted supplier of competitive technologies. A formal recognition of a kind.

Not that Google didn’t manage to sell its wares to Public Sector before, oh no. For example, Australian Bureau of Statistics uses Google search on its public website and at least a couple of other State and Federal Departments are implementing its commercial GIS solutions. And of course there are occasional Google Map deployments on public sites but overall, penetration of this segment of the market by Google is rather limited. There is no doubt that Google is making an attempt to muscle in on the turf traditionally serviced by Microsoft and its allies. This step in the battle for the market share is aimed at changing perception of Public Servants that Google is not only “that free thing for searching the Internet” but actually a significant technology provider that can offer a whole range of specialised solutions.

To finish off, just a few examples of Google Map applications on Public Sector sites. They may not have a "wow" factor that would make them stand out on the Internet but they well support information content provided on the sites and are a good indication that free resources from Google are certainly being noticed by Public Servants:

NSW Government Stimulus Snapshots Map
Shows where and what projects the $62.9 billion Economic Stimulus package will be spent on.

Renewable Energy Power Stations: Operating and Proposed
Map created by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts depicting locations of power stations by energy source and providing basic technical information about their operations.

Mapping our Anzacs
Mapping tool developed by the National Archives of Australia to browse 375,971 records of persons in the Australian Army during World War I, according to the their place of birth or enlistment.

Australian Indigenous Languages Database (AUSTLANG)
Map created by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies with information on 1,143 different Indigenous languages and dialects.

Australian places on the World Heritage List
Map created by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts showing 28 World Heritage listed locations with links to more extensive information about each place.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ban on use of phone GPS navigation in cars

The story of mobile phones turning into fully featured GPS navigation devices is taking an unexpected twist. It appears that some authorities in Australia are planning to ban the use of such devices in cars – based on a simple principle that these are still “only” mobile phones and as such cannot be used legally “while driving”. The Age reported on Monday that the Victorian Government road traffic authority VicRoads will introduce a new amendment to the road rules, taking effect November 9.

However, the ban will not apply if your GPS navigation enabled phone is placed in purpose-made cradles and operation is entirely hands-free. But be aware, it will not get you off the hook if you are a Learner or P-plate driver! In Victoria Learner and P1 drivers, are not permitted to use a mobile phone at all while driving.

Cheap navigation option …
[image courtesy of http://xkcd.com/ as first spotted on http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com]

If you have already bought your Tom Tom, Navigon or similar application for mobile phone you will need to budget a bit extra for a proper holder. The law in other States is unclear at this stage however, prevailing attitude is that "…if it's a phone, it's a phone". So, you can be fined for holding it on your lap or in your hand while driving. Since hands-free use of phones is permitted in Australia, invest in adequate accessories to take full advantage of GPS navigation capabilities of your mobile phone and of course to be on the safe side regarding laws governing use of mobile phones in cars. Suddenly the price gap between mobile phone enabled navigation applications and purpose built GPS navigation devices got smaller…

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dust storm turns Sydney red

Today the biggest item on the news is a dust storm over Sydney. Visibility was reduced almost to 0 as a big cloud of red dust totally blanketed the city. I have compiled a short list of videos from YouTube so you can get the feel for what it was like… Sydney dust storm captured on videos.

Yesterday it was Canberra that looked a bit red-ish (the sky and anything on the ground) but conditions were not as severe. Overnight rain washed away the dirt so now the city is “as new” again. This image from NASA shows the dust cloud over Eastern Australia yesterday (from MODIS Aqua captured at 13:40 AEST 22/09/2009). You can see in top left corner what “hit” Sydney today…

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Diabetics on a Low-carbohydrate Diet

Diabetes is a disorder of glucose intolerance. What happens when a diabetic eats a low-carbohydrate diet? Here's a graph of blood glucose over a 24 hour period, in type II diabetics on their usual diet (blue and grey triangles), and after 5 weeks on a 55% carbohydrate (yellow circles) or 20% carbohydrate (blue circles) diet:

The study in question describes these volunteers as having "mild, untreated diabetes." If 270 mg/dL of blood glucose is mild diabetes, I'd hate to see severe diabetes! In any case, the low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet brought blood glucose down to an acceptable level without requiring medication.

It's interesting to note in the graph above that fasting blood glucose (18-24 hours) also fell dramatically. This could reflect improved insulin sensitivity in the liver. The liver pumps glucose into the bloodstream when it's necessary, and insulin suppresses this. When the liver is insulin resistant, it doesn't respond to the normal signal that there's already sufficient glucose, so it releases more and increases fasting blood glucose. When other tissues are insulin resistant, they don't take up the extra glucose, also contributing to the problem.

Glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), a measure of average blood glucose concentration over the preceding few weeks, also reflected a profound improvement in blood glucose levels in the low-carbohydrate group:

At 5 weeks, the low-carbohydrate group was still improving and headed toward normal HbA1c, while the high-carbohydrate group remained at a dangerously high level. Total cholesterol, LDL and HDL remained unchanged in both groups, while triglycerides fell dramatically in the low-carbohydrate group.

When glucose is poison, it's better to eat fat.

Graph #1 was reproduced from Volek et al. (2005), which re-plotted data from Gannon et al. (2004). Graph #2 was drawn directly from Gannon et al.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Live traffic on Google Map Australia

Today Google launched yet another service to complement Google Maps and Google Maps for Mobile: live traffic information for major cities and regional centres. Traffic congestion indicators are currently available for major and minor arterial routes in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Wollongong, the Central Coast, Geelong, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast.

To display traffic information on Google Map simply click on the button labelled 'Traffic' and a colourful mesh of lines will be overlayed on the base map. Red lines indicate congested routes and green lines depict streets with free flowing traffic.

Google also offers an option to view traffic conditions at different times of the day and on different days of the week. The data is predicted based on past conditions and is not an indication of what exactly was the traffic situation eg. “last Monday”. To access this functionality just click “change” option on the traffic legend.

It is quite interesting how Google generates the information in real time. In particular, it is derived by “crowdsourcing”. That is, Google collects information from people who have Google Maps for mobile running on their GPS enabled phones and who have chosen to enable ‘My Location’ service. As they drive along city streets the phone sends anonymous bits of data back to Google about how fast the device is moving. By combining that anonymous speed data from thousands of mobile devices travelling on the roads Google can compute live traffic conditions and generate Google Maps traffic layer. The more people that participate the more accurate the information. Google is very strong on enforcing privacy protection measures so the information is collected only from people who choose to participate and is totally anonymous.

With the release of traffic information service for Australian largest cities there is an opportunity for a great improvement to Google’s driving directions service: adding an option to “avoid congested roads”. It would nicely complement “Avoid highways” and “Avoid tolls” already available as additional filters for defining the most appropriate route.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Manual geocoder for 70 countries

Google provides a number of complementary services to support advanced functionality of Google Map. Address geocoding is one such handy service. It facilitates finding geographic coordinates for addresses, locations, postal areas and geographic features in 70 countries around the world (208 in total if countries with partial geocoding capability are included - as at September 2009).

Although the primary use of geocoding service in Google Map is for depicting points of interest based on commonly known names (address, locality etc.) and/or for specifying “To” and “From” locations for driving directions service, the underlying functionality can also be used for extracting geographic coordinates of those locations for other purposes. For example, you may need geographic coordinates of your business venues (like shops, offices, meeting places, etc) to depict them on a static reference map for your web site or corporate brochure.

Simple Geocoder is a free service provided by aus-emaps.com to assist in extracting geographic coordinates of points of interest. The points can be identified either by their name (eg full address, town, postal area) or simply by clicking on the map.

Use “Address” tab to search for locations based on their name. As mentioned above, it could be a full address, or just suburb/ town name, postal area code or a prominent geographic feature. If found, the location will be marked on the map and the following information about the location will be printed under the text input box:

  • correct address and/or full details about the location, exactly as in Google database, as well as its latitude and longitude coordinates;

  • comments field will provide description as to the accuracy of geocoding process (see below for description of codes).
    Accuracy Code Descriptions:

    0 - Unknown location.
    1 - Country level accuracy.
    2 - Region (state, province, prefecture, etc.) level accuracy.
    3 - Sub-region (county, municipality, etc.) level accuracy.
    4 - Town (city, village) level accuracy.
    5 - Post code (zip code) level accuracy.
    6 - Street level accuracy.
    7 - Intersection level accuracy.
    8 - Address level accuracy.
    9 - Premise (building name, property name, shopping center, etc.) level accuracy.
Handy tips:

  • click on location description text to zoom to that particular place on the map

  • you can manually reposition the marker with a mouse if it is not in the right spot (left button click-hold-drag function) and geographic coordinates in the description text will be adjusted accordingly;

  • you can execute multiple searches (one at a time) and then copy the information to other documents “in one go” by highlighting the text and copying it with right-mouse-button-click function.

Use “Point” tab to geocode locations by clicking on desired points on the map. This function is very handy for creating vertices for polylines and polygons or where text search described above is not yielding adequate results. Position of markers can be adjusted by dragging them on the map and geographic coordinates text will be adjusted accordingly.

Bulk geocoder function is no longer available for free use due to changes in Google service terms and conditions, aimed at protecting commercial suppliers of address data. However, Simple Geocoder will be sufficient for gocoding tasks where small to medium volume of data is involved.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Free Australian weather widget

It is time to launch another web widget: live weather information for 196 localities in Australia. It is free to use for any website - all I ask for is just tell others about it! Information is coming from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) every half an hour so, it is official weather data. Currently, there are four display options:

  • current temperature and today’s forecast for all capital cities (default view);
  • current observations for a specific location (temp, dew point, barometric pressure, humidity, visibility and rain since 9am);
  • graph displaying temperature changes in the last 24 hrs (min, max and current temperatures are marked for information);
  • 7 day forecast for a given location (shorter forecasts for minor localities).

Visitors have the ability to check weather information for specific towns or localities by typing the name of location of interest in the input box. Auto look-up function shows matching names as text is typed in.

The widget can be embedded in any website with a simple line of code and there is an option to set the city, info tab and top bar colour to suite your requirements. Full setup instruction is provided on aus-emaps.com site.

This is the second weather widget that I am sharing with others through my aus-emaps.com site. The fist one, build with free service provided by weatherzone.com.au, was released in 2006 and was part of aus-emaps.com front page design since day one. I will maintain it indefinitely for anyone interested but the future development will focus on my new creation.

Briefly about the new widget, from a technical point of view. I have already been using BOM’s Web Feature Service for my weather map, snow map for NSW and snow map for Victoria so, when I decided to update the widget, it was easy decision as to the source of the data. On the back end, I use CRON jobs to call BOM service at regular intervals and PHP script to convert weather information (current temperature and forecasts), delivered in XML format, to MySQL database. Matching weather stations with localities was a bit of a challenge since “forecast locations” do not relate directly to “weather station names”.

The front end is built with jQuery JavaScript library and auto look-up extension. It was the only way to provide “links” to 196 locations in such a confined space. Temperature graph was a late addition but I believe it was worth the effort. Complexity of generating the graph using Google Chart service is not trivial but it was either this approach or using PHP GD image processing library. Managing “time” for multiple time zones was another challenge – so, until I come up with something better, time displayed in the widget will always refer to user local time (derived from computer's internal clock).

Your comments and suggestions for improvements, as usual, most welcome!

Paleolithic Diet Clinical Trials Part IV

Dr. Staffan Lindeberg has published a new study using the "paleolithic diet" to treat type II diabetics (free full text). Type II diabetes, formerly known as late-onset diabetes until it began appearing in children, is typically thought to develop as a result of insulin resistance (a lowered tissue response to the glucose-clearing function of insulin). This is often followed by a decrease in insulin secretion due to degeneration of the insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells.

After Dr. Lindeberg's wild success treating patients with type II diabetes or glucose intolerance, in which he normalized the glucose tolerance of all 14 of his volunteers in 12 weeks, he set out to replicate the experiment. This time, he began with 13 men and women who had been diagnosed with type II diabetes for an average of 9 years.

Patients were put on two different diets for 3 months each. The first was a "conventional diabetes diet". I read a previous draft of the paper in which I believe they stated it was based on American Diabetes Association guidelines, but I can't find that statement in the final draft. In any case, here are the guidelines from the methods section:
The information on the Diabetes diet stated that it should aim at evenly distributed meals with increased intake of vegetables, root vegetables, dietary fiber, whole-grain bread and other whole-grain cereal products, fruits and berries, and decreased intake of total fat with more unsaturated fat. The majority of dietary energy should come from carbohydrates from foods naturally rich in carbohydrate and dietary fiber. The concepts of glycemic index and varied meals through meal planning by the Plate Model were explained [18]. Salt intake was recommended to be kept below 6 g per day.
The investigators gave the paleolithic group the following advice:
The information on the Paleolithic diet stated that it should be based on lean meat, fish, fruit, leafy and cruciferous vegetables, root vegetables, eggs and nuts, while excluding dairy products, cereal grains, beans, refined fats, sugar, candy, soft drinks, beer and extra addition of salt. The following items were recommended in limited amounts for the Paleolithic diet: eggs (≤2 per day), nuts (preferentially walnuts), dried fruit, potatoes (≤1 medium-sized per day), rapeseed or olive oil (≤1 tablespoon per day), wine (≤1 glass per day). The intake of other foods was not restricted and no advice was given with regard to proportions of food categories (e.g. animal versus plant foods). The evolutionary rationale for a Paleolithic diet and potential benefits were explained.
Neither diet was restricted in calories. After comparing the effects of the two diets for 3 months, the investigators concluded that the paleolithic diet:
  • Reduced HbA1c more than the diabetes diet (a measure of average blood glucose)
  • Reduced weight, BMI and waist circumference more than the diabetes diet
  • Lowered blood pressure more than the diabetes diet
  • Reduced triglycerides more than the diabetes diet
  • Increased HDL more than the diabetes diet
However, the paleolithic diet was not a cure-all. At the end of the trial, 8 out of 13 patents still had diabetic blood glucose after an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). This is compared to 9 out of 13 for the diabetes diet. Still, 5 out of 13 with "normal" OGTT after the paleolithic diet isn't bad. The paleolithic diet also significantly reduced insulin resistance and increased glucose tolerance, although it didn't do so more than the diabetes diet.

As has been reported in other studies, paleolithic dieters ate fewer total calories than the comparison group. This is part of the reason why I believe that something in the modern diet causes hyperphagia, or excessive eating. According to the paleolithic diet studies, this food or combination of foods is neolithic, and probably resides in grains, refined sugar and/or dairy. I have my money on wheat and sugar, with a probable long-term contribution from industrial vegetable oils as well.

Were the improvements on the paleolithic diet simply due to calorie restriction? Maybe, but keep in mind that neither group was told to restrict its caloric intake. The reduction in caloric intake occurred naturally, despite the participants presumably eating to fullness. I suspect that the paleolithic diet reset the dieters' body fat set-point, after which fat began pouring out of their fat tissue. They were supplementing their diets with body fat-- 13 pounds (6 kg) of it over 3 months.

The other notable difference between the two diets, besides food types, was carbohydrate intake. The diabetes diet group ate 56% more carbohydrate than the paleo diet group, with 42% of their calories coming from it. The paleolithic group ate 32% carbohydrate. Could this have been the reason for the better outcome of the paleolithic group? I'd be surprised if it wasn't a factor. Advising a diabetic to eat a high-carbohydrate diet is like asking someone who's allergic to bee stings to fetch you some honey from your bee hive. Diabetes is a disorder of glucose intolerance. Starch is a glucose polymer.

Although to be fair, participants on the diabetes diet did improve in a number of ways. There's something to be said for eating whole foods.

This trial was actually a bit of a disappointment for me. I was hoping for a slam dunk, similar to Lindeberg's previous study that "cured" all 14 patients of glucose intolerance in 3 months. In the current study, the paleolithic diet left 8 out of 13 patients diabetic after 3 months. What was the difference? For one thing, the patients in this study had well-established diabetes with an average duration of 9 years. As Jenny Ruhl explains in her book Blood Sugar 101, type II diabetes often progresses to beta cell loss, after which the pancreas can no longer secrete an adequate amount of insulin.

This may be the critical finding of Dr. Lindeberg's two studies: type II diabetes can be prevented when it's caught at an early stage, such as pre-diabetes, whereas prolonged diabetes may cause damage that cannot be completely reversed though diet. I think this is consistent with the experience of many diabetics who have seen an improvement but not a cure from changes in diet. Please add any relevant experiences to the comments.

Collectively, the evidence from clinical trials on the "paleolithic diet" indicate that it's a very effective treatment for modern metabolic dysfunction, including excess body fat, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance. Another way of saying this is that the modern industrial diet causes metabolic dysfunction.

Paleolithic Diet Clinical Trials
Paleolithic Diet Clinical Trials Part II
One Last Thought
Paleolithic Diet Clinical Trials Part III

Friday, September 11, 2009

Blonde moment of different kind

Cyberspace can be a very lonely place, especially when you don't have many cyber friends… It's a good time for a reflection and a quick review of how this blog is going. I have been posting my thoughts and comments for almost 4 months now. I have a few hundreds visitors a month, coming mainly from Google search (60%), blogger.com (13%) and aus-emaps.com (10%). The rest are just occasional visits from a few regulars and as a result of a few comments I made "here and there". Not the explosion in popularity that one might have wished for but I didn't expect anything more, especially since so far the blog has too many threads and too little content. A wide mix of themes was a conscious decision with anticipated consequences and long term objective in mind.

One consequence I didn't quite anticipate is a wide variety of Adsense ads that appear on the front page - too wide to be relevant for visitors as click through rate is below 1%. However, effective cost-per-thousand impressions (eCPM) rate is comparable to long term average of my main site - which means, the ads that are relevant are paying well. I also did not put too much effort in the design and functionality of the blog, so it is pretty much a standard template for now, and rather a boring one …

The fact that I am not getting almost any comments is a bit disappointing although this is not unusual phenomenon. The blog is still too small to be of relevance in "link game", and that may explain why I am not getting even "one-liners" for link backs, but lack of genuine comments is the real issue for me. One possibility is that what I write about is totally of no interest to anybody. However, Google Analytics shows average time on site of almost 2 minutes and 1.6 pages so, there is a group of people who do take time to scroll through the site.

Top 5 Pages of Interest on this Blog:

It led me to a conclusion that the real reason may be that I simply do not have cyber friends to kick start discussions! I admit, so far I did not put much effort into finding people with similar interests and contributing to their Internet endeavors so, I should not expect much from the others either.

My last attempt to "find friends" was rather a disaster. I have located a forum with a relevant theme on a relatively popular site and posted a quick note on how to take advantage of aus-emaps.com custom map printing function, in good faith and after checking that what I was about to say complied with the forum guidelines. The post was deleted within a few hours and without any explanation (I did register my contact email). It was a genuine attempt on my part to provide interesting content and valuable information that could have encouraged others to engage and contribute further content to this otherwise empty forum. Surely, quid pro quo is implied in such arrangements. Missed opportunity for all. And this is where the reference to "blonde moment" comes into play but not in the context you may expect…

Have you seen the movie "Beautiful mind"? There is a scene there where the main character Nash (Russell Crow) had an enlightening experience while he was with a group of friends in a bar and observed a beautiful blonde entering the premises with a group of her less attractive brunette girlfriends. It gave him an inspiration for a theory for which he later was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. In particular, he released that if he and all his friends went after the attractive blonde, there would be no "winner", but if they ignore the blonde and go after her friends, there could be many happy couples that evening… Here is that scene on YouTube, unfortunately embedding is disabled but click on the image to visit the relevant page.

By analogy to the scene in the movie and the action of the overzealous webmaster of the forum I mentioned above, we are all trying to find the audience for our Internet ventures, and some are more successful in this than others. If we all compete with each other for the same prize (ie. search engine traffic, regular visitors and limited number of advertisers) there can be only a handful of winners. However, if we could get together as a group and act in the interest of the whole group rather than acting alone, the progress towards individual goals would be much faster and more successful for everyone involved! I know exactly how to implement this concept but it may take me a while to master the technology…so stay tuned! Meantime, are you interested in geography, maps, 3D visualisation, javascript and related open source technologies, online business and/or travel? Would you like to be my friend and join my network? Since with friendships come obligations, I promise to contribute actively to your endeavors!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Post code maps and population statistics

Post Codes were introduced in Australia in 1967. What was initially only a tool to improve efficiency of distribution of mail has now become a very versatile “point of reference”, with many different applications. For example, a lot of important information is published “by postcode area” (like real estate sales, social trends, demographic statistics, etc.), very often franchise or sales territories are defined based on post code extents and now even street gangs started using post codes to define their territories of influence and post code numbers became the symbols of their allegiance!

In Australia postal codes are usually assigned to geographical areas (eg. suburb or town) but they are not always contiguous areas and quite often have complex geography, especially in areas beyond the urban fringe, and tend to change over time. Post codes can also relate to individual addresses or to institutions that receive large volumes of mail, such as government agencies and large commercial companies. Australia Post maintains the most up-to-date database of post codes with detailed references to localities. Postal boundaries data published by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) are updated at every population Census (the last one was in 2006).

There are certain caveats that need to be considered in more advanced use of post code information which I will cover in more details in a separate post. Today I just wanted to introduce a simple tool offered by aus-emaps.com and called Postcode Finder. It can be very handy, not only for private individuals but also for business, as it allows to:

  • locate postcodes and view their geographic extents;
  • find locations and determine which postcodes they belong to;
  • create and print maps of postal areas and suburbs/localities contained within.

Please note, due to limitations of Google Map, printing is only possible in Internet Explorer. Click “about” link on Postcode Finder page for important information on printing.

Postcode Finder supports text based search via input boxes located in the top left corner of the page. The first one is for searching by post code number and the second is for searching localities.

If search was successful, a location will be marked on the map and an information window will display a range of options for adding post code and suburb boundary overlays with respective labels.

If you were searching using post code number, “Ref-map” tab will contain an image showing full extent of a given postal area (depicted here on the right). The image can be copied to your electronic documents using "right mouse button click" function.

An alternative postcode search option is via a click on the map. It will initiate a search action for a post code that covers that exact geographic location. Please note, water bodies have no assigned post codes however, click on any other area on the map should return a valid response (try again if you are not successful!).

Background map in Postcode Finder can be changed between street directory, satellite image (with or without street overlay) or terrain map to suit your requirements.

Postcode Finder supports “link to map” functionality which you can use to bookmark locations of interest with a specific background map option. To view boundary outlines just click on the map and select required layer from the options in the "pop-up balloon" that will appear.

Special Feature: Demographic Information for Postal Areas

A distinctive feature of Postcode Finder is a list of links to demographic information from Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Summary statistics” link will take you to a page with a brief overview of main population statistics for the area. “Thematic maps” will show distribution of population within a postal area according to certain characteristic like income, profession, employment status, etc. (as shown on the map on the right - click it to view live page). “Detailed data” link will take you to a page where you can select and download information as Microsoft Excel files. Functionality of the last two pages is very similar: just click on the first row of numbers to select the topic of interest and on the second to select specific data item. And both pages can be linked to directly from any web site or electronic document (click "about" link under the map for full instructions). For example, to link to Thematic Maps page use the following URL: http://www.aus-emaps.com/postcode_demographic_profile_map.php?pc=2000 [substitute "2000" with a postcode of interest].

This resource is a very handy research tool. Demographic profiles for postcodes can greatly assist in strategic planning and marketing of consumer goods and services. They are also very handy in real estate when assessing properties for purchase or investment. There are over 90 thematic maps and 248 detailed data tables for each individual post code. All free for your perusal, without the need to sign up to use the service.

Related post: Free postcode search widget

Saturday, September 5, 2009

More unique features of Australia discovered

Some weekend trivia :-) ... Last week several stories circulated about the discovery of the coldest place on Earth - which happens to be in Australia (or more precisely, in the Australian Antarctic Territory). This week the "main story" is flash eating plant! All who have ever been to Australia, or live here, know pretty well that this is a unique and remarkable country, in many respects, but THIS sounds like pure science-fiction!

The flesh-eating pitcher plant (Nepenthes tenax ) was found on northern Cape York. It can grow a maximum height of 100 cm and potentially can eat small rats, lizards and birds. It was highlighted by WWF Australia (used to be World Wildlife Found) as an example of "the amazing richness of Australian biodiversity". The study by WWF Australia found that, on average, two new species have been discovered in this country every week during the last decade and that potentially there are 1000's more to be discovered. Who knows what else may be lurking deep in the bush. One more danger to be added to my advice to travelers visiting Australia!

But seriously, the key message of course is to focus on the protection of what we've got! According to WWF Australia, there are currently 125 species critically endangered in this country so, engage to save our fauna and flora while it is still not too late! Here is a link to WWF Australia "Australia's hidden treasures" report.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Embed web pages in PowerPoint

Have you ever given a public presentation where you had to jump between your PowerPoint slides and live web pages? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to display web content within the PowerPoint presentation?

Or what if you need to compare two applications and displaying them on one screen would make it easy to demonstrate subtle differences? Or how about setting up “a mobile operations room/ command centre on a budget”, with only one projector and one computer to display multiple information windows?

There is a trick to accomplish all of that and impress your audience. You don’t have to be technically savvy but it requires some preparation and a simple procedure to deploy your presentation every time you are using someone else’s equipment.

Here is what to do:

1. Visit this site http://skp.mvps.org/liveweb.htm and follow instructions! Very easy :-)

All steps are very well described there so, rather than rewriting the instructions, I will just share with you a few tips from my experience:

  • Download both files from the page referenced above to accommodate various versions of PowerPoint as you never know which version will be available to you when presenting “on the road”.
  • Please remember that your embedded HTML pages will only work if there is a plug-in installed. For all practical purposes, always have two versions of your presentation (with and without embedded HTML).
  • Have a printed installation instruction sheet handy for quick reference (and possibly, write your own!) since sometimes it is easy to miss a step when installing plug-in “under pressure”.
  • Make sure you have reliable access to Internet when you choose to run embedded HTML version of your presentation (otherwise there will be no content!).
  • I strongly suggest to disable standard PowerPoint controls (like mouse-click to move to the next page or mouse-wheel functions) otherwise navigation between HTML content and PowerPoint slides can be a bit tricky. [From menu select: Slide Show | Set Up Show… and then “Browsed at a kiosk (full screen)” option.] However this will necessitate creation of custom navigation controls on each page (which is best accomplished in one go via slide master), otherwise there will be no way of moving from page to page during your presentation.
  • Last but not least, since this is Microsoft application, you need pretty powerful computer to run this set up and since PowerPoint uses web object, not a "real browser", some pages may not display correctly (especially those using fancy javascript stuff).

Have fun and good luck!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Animal Models of Atherosclerosis: LDL

Researchers have developed a number of animal models of atherosclerosis (fatty/fibrous lesions in the arteries that influence heart attack risk) to study the factors that affect its development. In the next two posts, I will argue that these models rely on a massive increase in LDL, up to 10-fold, due to overloading the cholesterol metabolism of herbivorous species with excessive dietary cholesterol. This also greatly increases oxidized LDL, leading to atherosclerosis. I will discuss the role of saturated fat, which often receives the blame, in this process.

A reader recently sent me a reference to an interesting paper titled "Dietary Fat Saturation Effects on Low-density-lipoprotein Concentrations and Metabolism in Various Animal Models". It's a review of animal studies that have looked at the effect of different fats on LDL concentration as of 1997. 

When an investigator wants to study diet-induced atherosclerosis, first he selects a species that's susceptible to it. These are generally herbivorous or nearly herbivorous species such as rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and several species of monkey. Then, he feeds it an "atherogenic diet". This is typically a combination of 0.1 to 1% cholesterol by weight, plus 20-40% of calories as fat. The fat can come from a variety of sources, but animal fats or saturated vegetable fats are typical. The remainder of the diet is processed grains, vitamin and mineral supplements, and often casein for protein.

Let's put that amount of cholesterol into human context. Assuming the average person eats about 2 pounds dry weight of food per day, 0.5% cholesterol would be 4.5 grams. That's the equivalent of:
  • 17.5 pounds of beef steak, or
  • 3.8 pounds of beef liver, or
  • 22.5 eggs
Per day. Now feed that to an herbivore that's not adapted to clearing cholesterol. You can imagine it doesn't do their blood lipids any favors. For example, in one study, compared to a low-fat, low-cholesterol "control diet", a diet of 20% hydrogenated coconut oil plus 0.12% cholesterol caused hamsters' LDL to increase by more than 7-fold. A polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) rich diet caused LDL to increase less. This study is typical, and the interpretation is typical as well: SFA raises LDL. But there's another possible explanation: in the absence of unnatural amounts of dietary cholesterol, PUFA reduces LDL in some species, and SFA has very little effect on it in most.

It's important to remember that the relevance of this hamster experiment to humans is unclear. No one is claiming that reducing saturated fat and cholesterol will reduce a human's LDL by 7-fold.  

But let's get back to the animal models. The hypothesis the paper addresses is that saturated fat raises LDL in animal models. If that is true, it should be able to raise LDL even in the absence of added cholesterol. So let's consider only the studies that didn't add extra cholesterol to the diets. And if saturated fat raises LDL, it should also do it relative to monounsaturated fat (MUFA- like olive oil), rather than only in comparison to PUFA, which has a known cholesterol-lowering effect. So let's narrow the studies further to those that compared SFA-rich fats, MUFA-rich fats and PUFA-rich fats. In Fernandez et al. (1989), investigators fed guinea pigs 35% of calories from corn oil (PUFA), olive oil (MUFA) or lard (MUFA-SFA). Here's what their LDL looked like:
The same investigators published two more studies showing similar results over the next five years. The next study was published by Khosla et al. in 1992. They fed cebus and rhesus monkeys cholesterol-free diets containing 40% of calories from safflower oil (PUFA), high-oleic safflower oil (MUFA) or palm oil (SFA-MUFA). How was their LDL?
None of the differences were statistically significant. Khosla and colleagues published another study with the same result in 1993. This is hardly supportive of the idea that saturated fat raises LDL in animal models. The most you can say is that PUFA lowers LDL in some, but not all, species. There is no indication from these studies that SFA raises LDL in the absence of excessive dietary cholesterol. I didn't cherry pick studies here; this is every study in the review paper that met my two criteria of no added cholesterol and a MUFA comparison group.

The bottom line is that experimental models of atherosclerosis appear to rely on overloading herbivorous species with dietary cholesterol that they are not equipped to clear. SFA does exacerbate the increase in LDL caused by cholesterol overload. But in the absence of excess cholesterol, it does not necessarily raise LDL even in species ill-equipped to digest these types of fats. Dietary cholesterol has a modest effect on LDL cholesterol in humans, and it has even less effect on LDL particle number, a more important measure. So there may not be a cholesterol overload for saturated fat to exacerbate in humans. 

PUFA vegetable oils do lower LDL in humans, and the effect appears to persist for at least a few years (probably indefinitely). But the evidence is not conclusive that lowering cholesterol in this way actually prevents heart attacks.

Stokes set to shake up media sector Down Under

In a recent post on evolution of media and implications for players in this market I made a suggestion that the most viable strategy would be to “…go after all existing channels with [the] content. And the only way to do it is via a mix of direct investment in capabilities and partnerships with existing operators.” I concluded that “…The dominant ‘new age’ media player may not be the News or Fairfax but just an aggregator of content or an organisation like Australian Broadcasting Corporation that covers many channels (subsidised by taxpayers and free to the public).” However, I overlooked one more player making significant inroads in Australian media market that may potentially upset current leaders – Mr Kerry Stokes.

I admit, I underestimated Mr Stokes genius til this point in time. However, the announcement earlier this week about his investment in 4G wireless telecommunication capabilities (initially only in Perth), prompted me to review my position. I have just realised that he is already implementing the strategy I outlined above – he is going after all available media channels!

Mr Stokes has a wide range of media interests, covering television (Seven Network), satellite channels (Sky News Australia), journals and magazines (Pacific Magazines), newspapers (West Australian Newspapers), online portals (Yahoo!7) and wireless service providers (Unwired, Engin, TiVo licencee in Australia and New Zealand). What initially appears as only “second grade” media assets, when viewed in terms of potential synergies and complementing media channels, can indeed be a very solid base to launch an assault on top position in media business in this country.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Science proves Australia coldest place on Earth

Would you believe that? It probably comes as no surprise to many overseas visitors. You often hear comments like “I have never been so cold in my life as here in Australia!” And these are comments even from those used to harsh Northern Hemisphere winters. I don’t know, maybe it is a reflection on how depressing winter can be in Canberra or maybe it is because of a common perception that “Australia is such a warm and sunny place” (this is how Australia is normally portrayed in travel brochures) that the idea of snow and ski fields in this country is difficult to reconcile for some.

Now there is a "scientific proof" that one of the coldest places on Earth is in Australia, technically speaking… It is a place called Ridge A, located in the Australian Antarctic Territory (81.5 °S 73.5 ÂșE), where winter temperatures do not get much warmer than -70 degrees Celsius. It is an unusually calm place and is situated at 4,000 m above the sea level.

The place was identified using satellite imagery and climate models as part of a study conducted by a team of astronomers at the University of New South Wales to locate an ideal spot on Earth for the ground based optical telescope. They have concluded thatRidge A looks to be significantly better than elsewhere on the Antarctic Plateau and far superior to the best existing observatories on high mountain tops in Hawaii and Chile.” Never mind the cold!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What every treveler to Australia should know

Following on from my recent post introducing my new, free YouTube video player gadget and just to complement a video presentation, a few points of advice to every tourist travelling Down Under:

Our wilderness is vast and pristine but it can be harsh and you can get lost easily

- tell others (eg. friends, hotel receptionist) where you are going and when you will be back (and don't change plans in the last moment!);
- always have a mobile with you but coverage can be limited so better, buy emergency beacon;
- never leave your car when you break down in the middle of nowhere;
- always carry plenty of water;
- learn basic road rules before venturing into the wilderness, driving conditions are very different in the outback.

Our beaches are the most beautiful in the world but can also be deadly

- avoid swimming on unpatrolled beaches, there are dangerous currents (rips) and if you are not aware of their existence, they can turn your happy day at the beach into a very sad experience.
- if you ever get caught in a rip don't try to swim towards the shore, even if you seem to be only "5 meters away” from it! Your physical strength is no match for the current. Swim along the beach and you will quickly escape the force of the rip as they are only narrow corridors of strong currents.
- rise a hand if you need to alert others you are in trouble.

Our fauna is unique and rich
– enjoy the experience but be aware of dangers

- avoid swimming at dawn and dusk not to tempt sharks to attack;
- don’t go into water if you spot any jellyfish and stingers, check with locals whether it is safe;
- while in northern part of Australia, avoid proximity to lakes and rivers, especially after dark, not to tempt crocks to attack;
- wear long boots to the bush and never handle snakes, some are very deadly;
- avoid walking bare foot on the grass (Sydney and NSW only), Funnel Web spider bite can be deadly if not treated immediately;
- when handling metal objects that are left outside (chairs, ladders, metal scrap) watch out for Red Back spiders, their bite can make you very sick;
- always respect the wilderness and you will have wonderful holidays in Australia!

Bookmark and share this information with others as a video presentation: What every traveler to Australia should know!