In America we still have this odd puritan streak in us. People often seem as though they think things must be hard to be worthwhile. I find that if you work deliberately you can achieve great results without a ton of effort. For example, to get in shape I lift a few times a week, but most of it is simply getting enough sleep and not eating a few things that are really bad. 4am runs and cold showers are not my thing, but I’m also aware that I’m not trying to punish myself for my sins, I’m trying to achieve a goal in the easiest way possible. Even that last sentence still registers as lazy! Since you’re smart and curious, you’ll naturally want to optimize and get into the weeds. You can spend years obsessing about investing like I do, or you can beat me by buying an index and moving on. The difference for me is I love investing, and working out is a means to an end. Best of luck to you op
If you’re not already aware, you would like Henry George’s Progress and Poverty in how it deals with a framework for thinking about Labor and Capital.
Way above my paygrade, but can you just respond to some inputs randomly?
Somewhat easier, why take a loan against a 401k? Well, you have some value and some exposure to an asset, and you would like to use that value without facing the consequences of selling. In this case, the penalties to an early withdrawal are far higher than any normal interest rate, especially over a short time.
Yeah it seems like everything stagnates/goes down all at that same time other than college with a very small gain. Maybe stigma was causing underreporting of online? It used to be a way bigger deal
I don’t think anyone does! Now nature isn’t always right, but I tend to think you need a good reason to deviate from it. Something about the primarily processed foods is killing us en masse. I tend to think it’s acting mainly along some satiety axis, as otherwise your body should adjust towards a healthy homeostasis, but in many it isn’t. People are being given a signal to eat in excess of what’s healthy—quite literally killing them, and they seem unable to do anything about it in the long run of their own accord. Does that point to damage in the hypothalamus, a change in hormones, or are some highly processed foods simply sneaking through the gates? I don’t know.
As for your theory, I find it interesting—people really seem to agree that processed foods are bad, and some are only processed to the extent that a few components are consumed separately. If two components are inextricably tied for all of human history, the body would only need to measure one to get a good idea of where it stands. Certainly something to think about. What would have to be true for that theory to be true? Well, it should be really hard to overconsume protein to gain weight, but quite possible to become overweight primarily with fat. Easy to get fat on white bread, hard to get fat on vegetables high in fiber. Easy on cheese, hard on eggs. But why does our brain love this energy injection when we are positing that it can’t measure it? Perhaps it can’t measure it well, all you need is for it to be a little off to the tune of about 3600 calories a year. But why wouldn’t it be able to just measure the amount of fat and downgrade appetite? Well, we’ve already established that we’re talking about only a pound a year in the average American, that could be kept up as a continuous process—you could do that in two days relatively easily. That simple mental experiment definitely sets off some bells though
The answer, of course, is that there are transaction costs to using the market. There’s a cost to searching for and finding a trustworthy contractor, which is avoided by keeping me around.
The answer, of course, is that there are transaction costs to using the market. There’s a cost to searching for and finding a trustworthy contractor, which is avoided by keeping me around.
With the internet and fully online on boarding, could be a good way to explain the rise of contracting gig jobs in recent years
Soybean oil grew the most in the USA, and some studies in mice make it look quite bad. I’m not positive, but my takeaway is that it is very low downside and quite easy to cut it out of my diet. On the one hand it is new, and our ancestors were fine without it, whether it is bad or not. And two, it’s highly concentrated in processed junk that everyone agrees to avoid anyways. As for general soy products, not my area of expertise but I’m not going out of my way to avoid them if they’re not highly processed
I’ll throw in with you here, I think calories fundamentally is missing something. Not sure what it is yet, but I argued for suspecting vegetable oils. For anyone who naturally keeps a healthy weight, my intuition is: how hard would it be to lose 10 lbs from here? That would be hard as hell for me, and I have no reason to disbelieve people who have trouble getting to a healthy weight—especially in light of the contents of this post—it would only take a slight surplus to start getting really bad.
My question for you—could you elaborate just how useful avoiding vegetable oils is for you? And you wouldn’t have happened to have run an experiment where you just avoided them but nothing else? A man can hope!
These guys say yes
These guys say not really
Haven’t started playing with time series data yet, you may be interested to know that there is something fundamentally different about the patterns of consumption between Asian countries and GDP—that is to say there is no correlation in my data, but a very strong for Ex-Asia and GDP
Ah interesting, nice catch there. Wonder what’s going on with 3rd gen Chinese, given that the equivalent all Asian is .86 whites vs their 1.08.
though 2nd and 3rd generations of Asians were also associated with reduced obesity prevalence as compared to other races, the magnitude of the association decreased compared to the 1st generation of Asians.
So in aggregate, it would lend itself a bit to our theory here
Also, you may be interested to know that there is no correlation between consumption and GDP in Asian countries, while Ex-Asia GDP is very highly correlated. I noticed the difference just eyeballing the chart in the OP—at the very least the linkage between GDP and consumption is fundamentally different between Asia and Ex-Asia. When you separate the data you start getting other really interesting stuff too, I’ll definitely be putting that on my substack soon.
Either way, I don’t put an absolutely massive amount of stock in this, but it is certainly plausible, I was reading this article:
So we would be getting closer to a mechanism—there is a genetic difference between African Americans and
(FADS) cluster are determinants of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LC-PUFA) levels in circulation, cells and tissues.
Can’t find a lot of stuff on Asians or Asian Americans.
Yeah, I haven’t had time to really dig into how intake differs between countries; one of many reasons why I didn’t put much stock in the data I gathered. The best numbers are consumption, but it is really hard to figure out what exactly that entails when it comes down to calories in bodies.
That’s certainly fair enough! I really don’t think that I have any qualms with your logic, my reason for posting and exploring this is partially that maintaining a calorie surplus didn’t seem to be a very satisfactory answer, analogous in your argument to saying we know the proximate cause of climate change because more energy is coming in than out—and that opinion was shared by a lot of other people here. In particular, the mysteries of the Peery paper were definitely getting some discussion going.
I’d refer you to the comments on this post—I think a lot of others said it better than I why we at least think this merits more discussion.
I think that analogy maps quite well. In both cases we have a net retention of energy—measured in temperature on earth and in weight in humans. I believe there’s the possibility that I’m writing about the metabolic equivalent of CO2 in humans here (both graphs go up and to the right with industrialization). See, we know that the net balance of calories in humans or joules retained on earth is going up. The question is why. I think the answer to “why” is CO2/possibly vegetable oils. As for “how,” from what I understand that is the source of your exasperation—in climate change the answer to “how” is the greenhouse effect—the mechanism. What is it about these substances that cause the energy to be retained? As for this theory, there are a many reasons that I don’t fully and completely understand, so I didn’t want to muse on about them in the OP. I am certainly at fault for your exasperation here.
The following are studies (not an exhaustive list) followed by what I would consider the statements that most closely map to “mechanism”
Here is perhaps the most direct answer for weight gain
Here we posited that excessive dietary intake of linoleic acid (LA), the precursor of AA, would induce endocannabinoid hyperactivity and promote obesity.
Here’s one for inflammation, which from what I know is quite correlated with weight gain:
Omega-6 (n-6) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) (e.g., arachidonic acid (AA)) and omega-3 (n-3) PUFA (e.g., eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)) are precursors to potent lipid mediator signalling molecules, termed “eicosanoids,” which have important roles in the regulation of inflammation.
Here’s the really crazy study in mice:
To test the hypothesis that soybean oil diet alters hypothalamic gene expression in conjunction with metabolic phenotype
Metabolomics analysis of the liver showed an increased accumulation of PUFAs and their metabolites as well as γ-tocopherol, but a decrease in cholesterol in SO-HFD. Liver transcriptomics analysis revealed a global dysregulation of cytochrome P450 (Cyp) genes in SO-HFD versus HFD livers, most notably in the Cyp3a and Cyp2c families. Other genes involved in obesity (e.g., Cidec, Cd36), diabetes (Igfbp1), inflammation (Cd63), mitochondrial function (Pdk4) and cancer (H19) were also upregulated by the soybean oil diet. Taken together, our results indicate that in mice a diet high in soybean oil is more detrimental to metabolic health than a diet high in fructose or coconut oil.
And finally in terms I can really understand intuitively:
The primary fatty acid in most vegetable oils is linoleic acid, a type of omega-6 fat. The omega-6 content of vegetable oils is what makes them so problematic.Omega-6 fats, while necessary in extremely small amounts, contribute to general inflammation when eaten in excess. While chronic inflammation is cited as a source of many of the diseases we face today , it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The unstable, reactive properties of dietary omega-6 create a host of other downstream effects that have been causally linked to poor health and chronic disease, including heart disease, the leading cause of death in the world .
The primary fatty acid in most vegetable oils is linoleic acid, a type of omega-6 fat. The omega-6 content of vegetable oils is what makes them so problematic.
Omega-6 fats, while necessary in extremely small amounts, contribute to general inflammation when eaten in excess. While chronic inflammation is cited as a source of many of the diseases we face today , it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The unstable, reactive properties of dietary omega-6 create a host of other downstream effects that have been causally linked to poor health and chronic disease, including heart disease, the leading cause of death in the world .
Now that seems like a wall of proof, and if it were in defense of greenhouse gases, you would probably have good cause to be mostly convinced. From what I can tell in nutrition, that is probably not the takeaway that you should have, necessarily. You could probably make just as convincing a case against saturated fats or fructose or something. I am partial to a somewhat “zoomed out” approach, I’d love to just see more studies of humans over long periods of time eating vegetable oil in good experimental conditions. As I said, there’s a disproportionate lack of them, especially given how prominent they now are in our diet. Those sources were strong for this theory too. Here’s one, PDF warning.
Only a handful of randomized controlled trials have ever causally tested the traditional diet-heart hypothesis. The results for two of these trials were not fully reported. Our recovery and 2013 publication of previously unpublished data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study (SDHS, 1966-73) belatedly showed that replacement of saturated fat with vegetable oil rich in linoleic acid significantly increased the risks of death from coronary heart disease and all causes, despite lowering serum cholesterol.14 Our recovery of unpublished documents and raw data from another diet-heart trial, the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, provided us with an opportunity to further evaluate this issue.
I do think I was mistaken to not have included this stuff, I kind of assumed people would read the sources but that probably didn’t happen lol
No clue, that would be a tough data point, taken as given that they got skinnier while also using more vegetable oil. I don’t know much about vegans so I’ll look into it, if you had to steelman it what would you say?
Perhaps they switch to oils relatively better for our health such as olive oil. My cursory googling points to this as a possibility.
Fighting the strongest version of this argument: let’s say someone does lose weight replacing meat with lots of soybean oil. If soybean oil primarily induces us to eat more, then veganism counteracts it by vastly reducing the choice set of palatable food, coming out slightly net positive for losing weight. In this scenario you’d expect veganism to be very, very hard to stick to assuming you add a lot of vegetable oil to your diet. In this scenario, veganism would have no special sauce vis a vis other diets, and would actually be a pretty uphill battle to lose weight.
Overall, my arguments would still leave a lot to be desired, the existence of healthy vegans chowing down on vegetable oils would certainly be a net negative for the plausibility of this theory
Very interesting, that could give us a pretty good test case. At first blush, it rings as consistent with this theory. However, it seems the Chinese in the USA are more obese than in China, but not as obese as white or black or Latino Americans (they still have plenty of time to catch up). That would imply:
This theory is wrong: the simplest explanation. At the very least, it doesn’t fully explain what’s going on. Something else is causing obesity here.
Soybean oil does cause obesity, but they have partial adaptation to 0 adaptation physically, rather the consumption of soybean oil there is essentially different in some way culturally, such as combinations or preparation.
Soybean oil does cause obesity, they have some adaptation, but they consume soybean oil more here or the nature of the use here produces oil or effects that are physically different. Thats why they aren’t on the same as other recent immigrants who are quite obese.
Or something else, but that evidence is somewhat hard to rectify with soybean oil completely causing all this. On that macro level, just comparing USA obesity to China obesity, that could explain a lot. When I think about Chinese in the USA, it comes a little undone. There is plenty of precedent in racial differences in reaction to foods, such as dairy and alcohol.
Japan is interesting:
Consumption falls between 06 and now, as does obesity in boys
And this is quite interesting too, but doesn’t entirely support our theory, it’s hard to tell what the trend is there. If it’s trending up, you’d have to posit that the oil only modulates obesity in young people, which isn’t the most ridiculous idea ever, however it would be another hurdle.
Overall, Japan seems to somewhat vindicate our idea here, that is really quite striking that obesity and soybean oil decline at the same time in boys, and I think overall obesity looks to have flatlined in adults in that timeframe. Also, they mostly missed the obesity train despite being industrialized relatively early on; due to their adaptation.
Any other thoughts? I definitely feel like I haven’t quite thought this through quite right logically, or I’m missing something. Thanks for the new info.
Whatever the cause is, I’d bet it’s probably modulated by genetics as well. The Peery paper goes into it too. I have most of those factors other than maybe the virus and I pretty effortlessly maintain a 22 BMI unless I’m drinking 5+ beers a day for months. Obviously anecdote but I know I couldn’t get down to 18 BMI without a ton of effort, just as an obese person can’t get down to 23 without a ton of effort too. Or perhaps the damage is done as a child or in the womb, hard to say.
Hey guys I’m Sam. You may have read my post on the obesity epidemic. I studied econ, although I’d say I’m really only qualified to assert any expertise at all when it comes to financial markets. I’ve been on reddit for what, 10 years and have thus stumbled on here from time to time.
From me, you’ll probably see a lot of trying to figure out just what in the world is going on in a complex system, and then throwing my hands in the air. Also, you may see me going to logical extremes (“how about we model the universe as one atom going in a straight line the void”) both of these are habits from econ that die hard.
I have a particular focus on insightful and novel ideas (sometimes, i even have them), and I have a strong tendency to prefer what is simple and elegant as an explanation for nearly anything. You’ll probably find that i have a very detached style; this gets me in trouble in real life but this is the only place where it seems to go over well.
Good stuff, I’m still digesting it all! This adds to my idea that different types of oils/fats and different types of w3 and w6′s act quite differently in studies. I see very little bad about olive oil, and virtually nothing about soybean oil in particular even though it’s used most intensively in the US. People tend to talk of them in monolithic ways, but when you get down to it something like olive oil almost always stacks up well. As for the intuition, same here, not sure what to really make of this stuff other than it I don’t see a downside to excluding seed oils from my diet—our ancestors were certainly fine without them, and they’re found mainly in processed foods. The other low downside takeaway I have is that this should be studied more. When zoomed out, it definitely looks like a preponderance of the evidence is against seed oils, but when you get lost in the really specific studies you always come away thinking that whatever pathway they chose wasn’t quite proven.
Interesting, that would definitely jive with processed foods being bad. I think you could make a great argument that it’s more primarily processed foods too, vegetable oils included. Now in these findings, are they under isocaloric conditions? I ask because you could certainly posit that processed foods are bad because they avoid satiating us somehow, but that wouldn’t necessarily hold in situations where we get the same number of calories from them. I think that’s an easier hurdle to start with, it’s very easy to imagine structures in food that our body measures satiety with getting broken down under any type of processing, but your idea of reduced efficiency or side effects would be next on my list after that.