Friday, April 27, 2012

Education Bubble Warning Sign Sounds Alarm

Remember this sign from the four signs of the education bubble:

4. Students become overwhelmed by negative news. The education bubble could pop tomorrow if students suddenly became depressed about their prospects and stopped attending school. Ironically, in this case only, students might receive much better prices later if every student in higher education boycotted educational institutions (won't happen). However, if students stop believing that their education is serving them, what's the incentive for continuing to pay?
The media have been announcing a disturbing statistic:
An Associated Press analysis reveals that 53.6 percent of bachelor's degree-holders are jobless or underemployed.
This disturbing statistic has caused both Obama and Romney to join sides in order to keep student loan rates low. However, this admission means that people are starting to see that education does not pay. While I expect Generation Y to continue pursuing college, Generation Z may start looking at other options. As I predicted, when students begin to believe that education no longer is worth their time and money, the bubble will pop.

Note that Obama and Romney's plan will actually further the education bubble by keeping interest rates artificially low (how many different comparisons can we draw to the housing bubble, now?). Also, neither Obama nor Romney stated what needs to be stated: do we really need this many college graduates (obvious answer: no)? Instead, their actions continue to promote the myth that a college degree is needed, when in fact, it may not be required.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Interview: Christine Cronau on Saturated Fat

The responses to the interview questions may not represent the views of The Echo Boom Bomb's author. These interviews are provided to inform readers of information from experts and provide these experts with a medium where they can answer questions without any content changes. You can also read other interviews at this link. All media in articles, unless otherwise stated, was added by Tim Smith.

"Fat will make you fat." "Saturated fat is dangerous!" These food beliefs exist in many places and are spread in some health communities. Christine Cronau writes about these misunderstandings concerning fat (among other health topics), and I caught up with her to address a few questions about fat and saturated fat. A little bit about her:

"Food Myth Buster" Christine Cronau is a nutrition expert, author, speaker, entrepreneur and mother of two. After transforming her body and her health, Christine is revolutionising the way we eat for longevity, pleasure and happiness. At 41, Christine shows us how to look and feel our best at any age. Christine has been studying health and nutrition for over 10 years, and uses her knowledge as a natural health advocate; she exposes major food myths that are keeping us fat and sick.
You can check out her website at Christine Cronau.

1. I recently interviewed Tom Naughton - who challenged the food pyramid and Dr. Layne Norton, who wrote, "I think you could turn the food guide pyramid upside down and it probably would work better." What are your views on the food pyramid?

If someone wants to get fat, then I suggest following the food pyramid. Back in the 1940s, a few farmers fed their cows saturated fat in an attempt to fatten them before selling them at the market. To their surprise, the cows didn’t gain weight; they lost body fat and became more active. Ever since then, farmers have fattened cows with grain, yet we still recommend a grain-based diet to people! Grain fattens cows, and it fattens us too.

2. In one of the videos I saw with you, another individual claimed that tens of thousands of studies have linked saturated fat to heart disease (here). Some in the medical community, especially here in the United States, seem convinced that saturated fat is dangerous. How do you address these popular misconceptions about saturated fat?

I find it astounding that every time they mention the ‘thousands’ of studies that have linked saturated to heart disease, they never manage to quote a single one. The simple fact is, there is no evidence linking saturated fat to heart disease, and in fact, there is a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Occasionally, I have put my ‘devil’s advocate’ hat on, and gone in search of the studies that mainstream health organisations swear show the correlation. Normally, I have to dig deep into their website to even find any studies, and the ones I do find, don’t prove their point at all. I am still waiting for someone to show me one study that proves saturated fat is bad for us. We have taken health authorities at their word that they exist, but the simple fact is, they don’t.

What about Ancel Keys? Didn’t he prove it? Ancel’s famous Seven Country Study, showed a direct correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. The paper he published sounded very convincing, but there was a problem with his study. He had data available from 22 countries, but he only used data from seven: Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Finland, USA and Japan. The trend between saturated fat consumption and heart disease looked unmistakable. But, the countries that were left out showed the opposite. Other countries showed very high intakes of saturated fat and very little heart disease, for example Holland and Norway. And, people in countries like Chile ate very little fat but had very high rates of heart disease. All the data analysed together showed no correlation between fat consumption and heart disease. At the time, Ancel Keys received pressure to do a clinical study, because many scientists were sceptical of his results.

Ancel was involved in a full scientific study in 1972; the Minnesota Coronary Survey. That study showed that people on a cholesterol-lowering diet had a significantly greater mortality, but the results weren’t published for seventeen years. When Gary Taubes, an award winning science journalist, asked Ivan Frantz Jr, the leader of the survey, why the results weren’t published, he said ‘We didn’t like the results.’

The Surgeon General’s office in the U.S. did the same thing. In the early 1980s, they strongly recommended that the public lower their fat intake to protect themselves from heart disease. They conducted a review to examine all the available evidence and to prove the cholesterol hypothesis once and for all, probably to quiet people like me. After eleven years, they cancelled the project, because they couldn’t do it. When interviewed later, Bill Harlan said ‘The report was initiated with a preconceived opinion of the conclusions, but the science behind those opinions was clearly not holding up. Clearly the thoughts of yesterday were not going to serve us very well.’ But, they didn’t release a report to advise us they were wrong.

3. What are some of the health benefits of saturated fat and what are good sources of it?

We need fat and cholesterol to be healthy! Fat really is our friend. We need fat and cholesterol for our immune system to function effectively and for effective brain development and cell renewal. Cholesterol is also an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and essential for vitamin D production. We also need fat and cholesterol to have healthy skin, hair, and nails. Our looks on the outside showcase the health of our system on the inside. This is often why vegans age very quickly, and develop far more wrinkles than someone else of the equivalent age; they simply need more fat. And our hormones are dependent on fat and cholesterol, including our sex hormones!

Serious depression and high suicide levels have also been linked to low cholesterol levels because production of serotonin (our ‘feel good’ hormone) depends on cholesterol.

In women especially, as we get older, the higher our cholesterol, the better our life-expectancy. Yet, we are continually trying to lower our cholesterol. As a result, we get sick, we get depressed, we lose our libido and often, the purpose in living. The Cholesterol and all-cause mortality in elderly people study found significantly greater mortality in those with low levels of cholesterol. Researchers stated the following in their conclusion, ‘We have been unable to explain our results. These data cast doubt on the scientific justification for lowering cholesterol to very low concentrations.’

Many people don’t realise just how important this life-giving nutrient really is. This is just one of the reasons I say that reducing fat intake has been the biggest health blunder in history.

4. What are some ways that individuals can contribute to ending these popular misconceptions about fat ("fat makes you fat")?

Spread the word! We are now at a crisis point. Modern, chronic disease is just that; modern. It didn’t exist before we decided to substitute real, tasty food with artificial replacements like processed vegetable oil and margarine. It also didn’t exist before we started mass producing sugar and adding it to everything. This information saves lives, and the more people know about it, the better. At least they can then make an informed choice.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Will Generation Y Dump the Food Pyramid?

Quick Summary:
  • The food pyramid is a recent view of food in history.
  • Results will matter when questions about what to eat arise.

Should people follow the food pyramid? Generation Y and Generation Z will see this issue addressed. Tom Naughton and Dr. Layne Norton (Tom Naughton of Fat Head | Dr. Layne Norton On Health and Fitness) didn't express positive views of the food pyramid. While some elements of the food pyramid might promote good health (many fruits and vegetables), other elements might be contributing to the current insulin resistance epidemic.

As Generation Y and Z mature, they will see this debate expand. Historically speaking, few cultures have supported the food pyramid or anything similar - this is a recent development in Western culture. If more data support the assertion that a high carbohydrate diet causes problems, then we may see more health officials (usually, this occurs in small subcultures, like the fitness community, before it becomes widespread) question the food pyramid and dump it.

Likewise, Generation Y may see the people who have fewer health problems, or fewer problems with obesity, and abandon the government's suggestions.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Interview: Dr. Layne Norton On Health and Fitness

The responses to the interview questions may not represent the views of The Echo Boom Bomb's author. These interviews are provided to inform readers of information from experts and provide these experts with a medium where they can answer questions without any content changes. You can also read other interviews at this link. All media in articles, unless otherwise stated, was added by Tim Smith.

Educational Background for Dr. Layne Norton:

BS in Biochemistry from Eckerd College with honors (>3.5 GPA) in 2004
PhD Nutritional Sciences, University of Illinois 2010

List of scientific publications by Dr. Norton

In my interview with Tom Naughton, who directed Fat Head, I asked about the food pyramid and its suggestion about maintaining a low fat intake. Some might still be skeptical about a higher fat diet and think that the food pyramid promotes a healthy lifestyle.

Enter Dr. Layne Norton. Dr. Norton is a natural bodybuilder (meaning, he does not use steroids), who received his Ph.D. in nutritional sciences and is an expert in health, fitness and nutrition related topics. You can view his material at his website BioLayne.

1. The food pyramid promotes carbohydrates as a main macronutrient in diets. In the past few years, lower carbohydrate diets have challenged this notion, some of which have seen results as far as body composition. What is your view on the food pyramid?

I think you could turn the food guide pyramid upside down and it probably would work better to be frank. In the 30 some years that the food guide pyramid has been around, people have actually typically followed it (increased grain consumption, cut down on meat/egg/dairy consumption) and we have done nothing but get fatter and more diseased. Recent studies have shown increasing proportions of protein and decreasing carbohydrates not only provides more favorable body composition outcomes, but also provides better health outcomes (reduced cancer, cardiovascular disease, and better blood lipid profiles). Some anti-meat 'experts' will conveniently point out correlation data showing an association with meat consumption and cancer. What they DON'T point out is that people who eat more meat typically eat higher total fat, calories, exercise less, and eat less fiber. When the data is statistically corrected for those variables, there is absolutely no association with meat consumption and cancer.

2. How would you advise young men, interested in fitness, as far as protein consumption is concerned? Does it differ if a person is gaining muscle, losing fat, or maintaining weight?

I actually think the amount of protein that's optimal for gaining muscle is probably around the amount that's optimal for overall health. What our research data has shown is right around 1g/lb is a great number to shoot for in terms of optimizing body composition. It's probably a bit more than what is 'needed' but it's not as if consuming a bit extra protein is somehow bad.

3. What's the importance of insulin sensitivity and do supplements, like alpha lipoic acid, increase insulin sensitivity?

Well insulin sensitivity is important as the more glucose you can dispose using less insulin is always better as it will reduce fat accumulation and keep you healthier.

Lipoic acid can increase insulin sensitivity short term by making the muscle receptors respond more effectively to insulin, mostly through it's anti-oxidant properties. Since Lipoic Acid is one of the most powerful anti-oxidants available it tends to be a better insulin sensitizer than other anti-oxidants like vitamin E which still have mild insulin sensitizing effects.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Stage For the Education Bubble

Some might ask, "What is the stage for the education bubble?" With college costs continuing to rise (despite the myth that "inflation is low") and some students facing a student loan debt crisis, some might wonder what would finally cause young people to question the validity of going to school?

Keep in mind that some career paths will always require college - medicine, law and possibly advanced engineering. But other career paths can often be learned simply through doing, or through educational programs such as the Khan Academy. One argument I've made is that free education can only succeed if business owners and recruiters see it as a positive and not a negative. In other words, the reputation of those who self-educate will determine the success of such sites, like the Khan Academy.

There is, however, another piece to this education bubble puzzle. What happens if young people begin asking, "why go to college?" Note this changing zeitgeist among one proud parent:

"Congratulations!" my mother said upon hearing the news.

"Well, yea thanks," the woman replied, but then added: "Harry got into Harvard, but let’s just see if he gets out of Harvard."

I would bet that Harvard hopes most parents and students don't see things this way, but if this attitude becomes prevalent, not only among young people (some of whom are already succeeding outside of college), but also among parents, college won't be the path of pride anymore. It will be a source of embarrassment. Imagine a world in which having a college degree is something to be ashamed of - "You finished school? Wow!" Yet that attitude is reflected in that parent's statement.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Low Marriage Rate Future For Australia Too?

I predict low marriage rates for Generation Y, and this trend has been observed not only here in the United States, but elsewhere:

The study shows that Australia has experienced a sharp decline in levels of partnering, particularly married partnering, among young people in their late twenties and thirties. By 2001, 41 per cent of males and 34 per cent of females aged 30 to 34 were not partnered.

...

The consequences of this revolution in partnering are profound. They explain much of the decline in fertility over recent decades. The study shows that when women do marry, by age 35 to 39 years, they almost have at least one child. The problem is the drastic decline in the proportion of young women who are married. The decline in partnering is also linked to the rise in the number of lone parent households. They now account for more than one in five households with young children.

And even with the decline in marriage rates, it is female happiness relative to male happiness that is declining (from the article "In all of these cases, we see happiness rebalancing to reflect greater happiness for men relative to women."). And remember Millennial females are burning out, a problem Millennial males aren't experiencing:
In the time that I've spoken with both male and female Echo Boomers, males seemed to have a different aim. Female Echo Boomers aimed for similar positions, like a Public Relations Consultant, almost as if they were following a script. For instance, when I asked males, "How do you see your life in five years," they would often laugh and respond, "I don't know." Females, by contrast, could describe things quite well. In a nutshell, I'm not surprised by this article given the attitudes by each gender.
In other words, the new life track for men doesn't always include marriage (for at least 60%, it will).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Will Sites Like Khan Academy Replace Colleges?

Quick Summary:
  • Sites like the Khan Academy, or free education, might challenge the need for paying money to attend college, when the skills could be learned outside school.
  • It depends how the Khan Academy is viewed by employers.
  • It depends if the Khan Academy can produce results.

4 signs that the education bubble will pop:

1. Bankruptcy laws change for student loans.
2. The perception of education changes.
3. A major recession returns to the United States.
4. Students become overwhelmed by negative news.
What about sites like the Khan Academy replacing traditional brick and mortar schools? This depends on a few factors:

1. How employers, such as business owners or recruiters, see the Khan Academy. Traditional colleges are perceived as "safe" even though reality may be the inverse of this perception. What is the reputation of employees who've obtained millions of points on the Khan Academy? Also, how do employers see a person who self-educates as opposed to following a protocol?

2. Can these sites offer "doable" skills, instead of "knowable" skills. In life, results matter, not effort. That sentence describes the problem with modern education. Can the Khan Academy show that people who use it see results, as opposed to showing how much effort its users commit? Just because something takes a long time (like four years in a university) doesn't mean that the effort will produce results.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Inflation Exploding In Education

Why does an education bubble exists?

If we saw incomes rise on pace or higher than educational prices, the rise in cost of education would be justified and possible. Yet, we're not seeing incomes rise on pace with college. Also, as more students pursue college, the value of a degree declines and the demand for similar jobs increase. This has consequences: high school dropouts or even college dropouts may find superior jobs by learning specific skills that are in high demand, while other students lose four or more years without sharpening these skills.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Interview: Tom Naughton of Fat Head

Can You Lose Weight Eating Fast Food?

The responses to the interview questions may not represent the views of The Echo Boom Bomb's author. These interviews are provided to inform readers of information from experts and provide these experts with a medium where they can answer questions without any content changes. You can also read other interviews at this link.

Super Size Me received a ton of attention with Spurlock "proving" that McDonald's fast food was unhealthy.

Or did he?

Tom Naughton produced the documentary, Fat Head, which challenges Spurlock's assertions in Super Size Me. Fat Head also addresses some of the other common nutrition idioms such as "high fat diets are bad" and "saturated fat will give you a heart attack." Fat Head will be well worth your time, whether you're looking to be in better health, lose weight, or view the opposite side of the attack on fast food restaurants (and people's freedom to choose what food they want to eat). A little more information about Tom:

Tom Naughton spent various portions of his adult life working as a health-magazine editor, freelance writer, standup comedian and software programmer before writing and producing the comedy-documentary Fat Head.

You can also check out his website, Tom Naughton.

1. The food pyramid suggests that we limit our fat intake while keeping up a good carbohydrate intake. Based on some of your research while doing Fat Head, what have you discovered about fats, and are they always bad for us (for the record, my testosterone levels seem to enjoy saturated fat)?

Most fats not only aren't bad for us, they're good for us. The fats that are bad for us are unnatural fats that have to be chemically extracted and processed, like corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and any kind of hydrogenated oil. Natural fats like olive oil and animal fats raise your HDL, help keep your blood sugar more stable, reduce triglycerides, and keep your appetite in check as long as they're not mixed with sugars and flours. They can also raise your LDL, but they shift the LDL pattern away from the small, dense variety towards the large, fluffy variety. Large, fluffy LDL is good for you. It protects against cancer and infections, in addition to being the building block for a variety of hormones that are important for your health.

There's a reason we've become fatter and more diabetic as a nation since the Food Pyramid was promoted: we started consuming less natural fat and more grains and other carbohydrates, exactly as we were told to do. The result was a cascade of biochemical reactions that led to overeating, high blood sugar, low HDL, high triglycerides, small LDL particles and pretty much most of the conditions we now call Metabolic Syndrome. The Food Pyramid was created by people with good intentions, but they never had any real science backing up their advice. They just assumed they were correct ... but they were tragically wrong.

Editor's Note:

In one of my favorite books, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford points out that the Mongolians ate a diet of mostly fat and protein - "The Mongols consumed a steady diet of meat, milk, yogurt, and other dairy products, and they fought men who lived on gruel made from various grains. The grain diet of the peasant warriors stunted their bones, rotted their teeth, and left them weak and prone to disease. In contrast, the poorest Mongol soldier ate mostly protein, thereby giving him strong teeth and bones. Unlike the [Chinese] soldiers, who were dependent on a heavy carbohydrate diet, the Mongols could more easily go a day or two without food” (Weatherford, 87).

2. You challenge Spurlock on his assertion of how many calories he consumed during his documentary Super Size Me. His documentary also seemed to imply that McDonalds is "tricking" people by using tactics like close locations and marketing to kids. With such poor logic, how did this documentary ever catch on?

It caught on because it played to the beliefs of people who were predisposed to dislike McDonald's. It's an unfortunate aspect of human nature that we tend not to apply much critical thinking when people are telling us what we want to hear. I've actually heard from many, many people that after they saw Super Size Me, they were craving a Big Mac and went out to get one. I had the same reaction. Those of us who don't think McDonald's is some kind of evil empire recognized that Super Size Me was essentially a publicity stunt without any real science or logic behind it.

3. Fat Head gave me a good smile when you discussed how sedentary our culture has become, especially with young kids. What do you think has contributed to the way we raise children - especially the attitude that almost discourages kids from going outside and playing (for instance, some adults worried that kids might get hurt by trying some things in The Dangerous Book For Boys)?

I think there are a few factors involved. When I was a kid in the 1960s, the only mothers in our neighborhood who worked outside the home were the very few who were divorced. So kids came home from school, had a quick snack, then went outside to play. Now a lot of kids go from school to some organized, indoor activity where they're kept busy until Mom or Dad picks them up after work. When we moved from California to Tennessee, we noticed most of the mothers in our neighborhood were stay-at-home moms, just like in the neighborhood where I grew up. Sure enough, most of the kids played outside after school.

Our neighorhood in Tennessee was also a very safe area, which relates to the point you raised. A lot of parents these days are afraid to let their kids play outside without supervision. To some extent, it's a legimate fear. I wouldn't have let my daughters run around loose in our neighborhood in Los Angeles. It was too busy, with too much traffic and too many people we didn't know. In some suburban areas, however, I think parents are giving in to exaggerated fears of things like child abductions. I've seen the statistics, and while every one of those incidents is a tragedy, they're really not more common than when I was a kid. But they've gotten a lot more media attention, so parents are more afraid.

4. From your interviews with doctors and experts from various fields, what are some good guidelines for nutrition and health?

I believe the diet that's best for human health is what's now called a Paleo diet, which means avoiding the foods that came along very recently in human history and mimicking -- as best we can, anyway -- the diet of hunter-gatherers. That means giving up sugar, grains, and any kind of processed vegetable oils. The stricter paleo types also give up dairy foods, although I think a little full-fat cream, butter and cheese are fine for most people if they don't have issues with lactose or casein. If you go back through the anthropological records, what we correctly call the "diseases of civilization" -- heart disease, cancer, diabetes -- didn't show up in human populations to any significant degree until people began consuming grains and sugars. To make matters worse, the grains we consume today have to a large degree been genetically altered and are biochemically different from the grains people consumed just 60 years ago. We're not adapted to eating these grains, and they cause a whole slew of problems after we ingest them.

5. Have you stuck with the high fat diet and what's been your experience while on it?

My diet has evolved. It's still a high-fat diet, but it's more along lines of the paleo diet I described above. I don't eat grains anymore, except for a very occasional indulgence in pizza -- usually when I'm in Chicago and can get the awesome stuffed pizza from Giordano's. I've also given up processed foods for the most part. My wife cooks nearly everything from scratch, and we only eat fast food a couple of times per month. As I demonstrated in Fat Head, it's possible to make smarter choices when eating fast food and still lose weight, but whole foods you cook at home are still the best.

We're even going a step further now. We moved to a five-acre mini-farm in Tennessee and are preparing to raise our own chickens and sheep for meat and eggs. My wife has spent much of this spring preparing a huge garden. So while we won't be living completely off the land, we'll be growing or raising much more of what we eat.

Moving to the farm was also great for my girls. They not only play outside, they have a five-acre yard with trees, a creek, pastures and hills. They love to run around and explore. I saw them out there one day recently washing their clothes in the creek and hanging them on the bushes to dry. They were pretending they were pioneer girls. They also like to climb trees and build forts out of branches and sticks. In other words, they're living more like kids did in previous eras. If either one of them ends up fat or diabetic, I'll be the most suprised father on earth.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Baby Boomers Versus Echo Boomers

Ouch:

This helps explain the generation gap in voting. It also explains why Obama will win Generation Y in the 2012 election (which increases his probability of winning the entire election).

Monday, April 2, 2012

Can A Tuition Cap Be Established?

Quick Summary:
  • No.
  • An ad hoc analysis will occur too late to solve anything.

As the education bubble continues to expand, one article ponders if a cap on tuition can be established. Like many articles, it paints a negative picture, but never answers the question about whether leaders will place a cap on tuition.

The reason that a cap won't occur is similar to the mess with the housing market and bubble: leaders only see problems after they pass (which demarcates them from those who make a profit - the people making a profit must be proactive, while leaders respond on an ad hoc basis). Even with many students facing a debt crisis involving their student loans, and tuition continuing to increase, leaders will continue to look the other way until the bubble bursts.

The article nails one point on the money:

The first part of that problem is that somewhere along the way it became politically incorrect to suggest that college might not be right for every young American.
See the parallel with the housing debacle? At one point in time, it was politically incorrect to suggest that some Americans shouldn't own a home. As Oscar Wilde so eloquently put it, "Everything popular is wrong."