The Paleo Diet Belongs in Caves: What You Really Need to Know About Diets

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

Diets provide a great opportunity to exercise critical thinking. Pick any diet and pick it apart. Do this as a mental exercise or, if you teach, with your classes. Chances are that many of your students’ parents have dieted or are dieting. In this article, I am picking on the currently trendy Paleo diet.

The Paleo diet persists. I have a strange theory about diets. The first part is that people don’t like to diet. They like to eat whatever they choose. I suspect that this is especially true of libertarians. The second part is that many people see their food as a health problem and would like to change their eating patterns.

Many years ago, the Grapefruit Diet was very popular. This was great for people who loved grapefruit but not so much for those who found them too sour or too messy. Then, there was the problem that grapefruits are like the proverbial Chinese dinner that left you hungry shortly after finishing it. “Have another piece of grapefruit” just doesn’t work for most people.

Skeleton and restoration model of Neanderthal (La Ferrassie 1). Exhibit in the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Japan.

Skeleton and restoration model of Neanderthal (La Ferrassie 1). Exhibit in the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Japan.

Anyway, my theory is that diets are successful not if they work but rather when they cater to people’s desires. If you could get away with an ice cream diet, you’d have the world doing it because “everyone likes ice cream.” I haven’t yet seen a broccoli diet even though it would probably work better than grapefruit.  Continue reading

Changing Face of Healthcare: The Role Mobile Apps Will Play in Medicine

frida-cooper 80By Frida Cooper

Judging by the sheer popularity of smartphones in modern times, it’s safe to say that this multi-faceted and dynamic invention may just be the best thing since sliced bread. Maybe even better, if sales figures from smartphone manufacturers are anything to go by. The Smartphone’s utility isn’t restricted to the quintessential teenager texting all day or for showing the world what you had for lunch earlier that day. The advent of smartphones and their ability to connect to the veritable hoard of information that is the Internet has revolutionized life in general and pretty much every profession on the face of this world too.

The substantial healthcare industry here in the United States is most definitely one such example. The truth of the matter, though, is that the total impact of smartphones and mobile apps hasn’t even hit the industry yet, but that’s all about to change. Traditionally, the whole dynamic between healthcare professionals and the general population was that of blind faith. The knowledge and expertise of healthcare professionals wasn’t ever questioned, for better or for worse.

The origins

Things all began to change with the advent of the Internet in households across the USA. People started to conduct research on medical maladies that they were suffering from. They started to question the choice of medication, course of treatment taken, and potential side effects. These and many other things that would have been left to the professional’s judgment but a few years earlier were being challenged now that the patient was armed with information.

Where apps fit in

Whether this situation was and is good or bad is still up for debate, but this is where this revolution originated from. When smartphones came to the fore, this situation was taken up a few notches. A study conducted by IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics in 2013 pointed at over 40,000 healthcare-related apps available for download then in the iTunes App Store. Imagine how many more there are when taking platforms like Windows and Android into account. The sheer diversity of topics, too, covered under the healthcare ambit is staggering.  Continue reading

Technology and Our Health


Technology is rapidly morphing and changing, but what about the humans who use it? Numerous research studies as well as reports on various aspects of the connection between technology and our physical, mental, and emotional health are examining the various factors that may impact our lives.

box Can A Computer Change The Essence Of Who You Are?, by Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, NPR, Feb. 13, 2015.

In this essay, the authors explore the ways that technology can impact our lives in various ways. They focus on social media and how an individual used Twitter to document and call out people on bad behavior. Pete, who set up the Twitter account, soon found that over time, his tweets became harsher and harsher. The authors report that quite a few psychologists are trying to figure out how socializing is different online. For instance, when you have a bad day and post about it on social media, you are validated by not just one friend, but many “friends” who tell you that you are all right. This type of mass positive feedback can be addictive and can change the social dynamic. This post created a pretty lively exchange of comments, so be sure to read them, too.

box Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists: Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response, by Jennifer Golbeck Ph.D.Psychology Today, Sep. 18, 2014.

In this article, Golbeck reports on a study by some Canadian researchers published in Personality and Individual Differences which looked at people who purposely disrupt online discussion, so-called trolls. The researchers gave personality tests to over 1,200 people and surveyed their Internet commenting behavior. They found that respondents who scored high for narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism also reported that “trolling was their favorite Internet activity.’ Trolls use the Internet to harm other people for their own pleasure.

box Long-term health outcomes and cost-effectiveness of a computer-tailored physical activity intervention among people aged over fifty: modelling the results of a randomized controlled trial, by Denise A. Peels et al., BMC, Oct. 23, 2014.

Rather than focusing on possible negative influences of technology, in this study a group of Dutch researchers examined how technology in the form of a computer-tailored physical activity program can improve long-term health outcomes among adults aged over fifty. “[S]timulating people to become more physically active… can result in better public health and thereby reduce health care costs.”