Disobedience, Ego, and Cholesterol

Today's topics include junk science, the impact of slow breathing, traumatic brain injury, and holistic health care.

Disobedience, Ego, and Cholesterol
Photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash

Thoughts to Ponder:

No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity.  For he is not permitted to prove himself.
~ Seneca

I've talked about being civilized to death and our modern comfort crisis many times before.  Whilst I don't have the references on hand, mental health problems are more common at both ends of a U-shape-curve – occurring when there is too much struggle and not enough.  This quote is pointed at the later.  It is a strange paradox that our quality of life tends to decline when we pass a point of too much comfort – I'd also posit a lack of connection (to other people and to purpose in our life).  What's more is that in the modern / technological age we've never been more comfortable, yet we're constantly overstimulated and never actually relaxed.  Maybe the "good old days" were / can be when we're far less comfortable, but when we vacation, or even just lay down at night, we actually rest.

Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state becomes lawless or corrupt.
~ Mahatma Ghandi

On course with my apolitical political commentary, I'll never get tired of asserting that the personal is the political and that governments should fear their people.  I also won't let this segment get sucked into COVID (vaccine / booster mandates) as it easily could.  At any rate, humans have a "sacred duty" to honor themselves.  What does that mean?  To me it means that entities (such as "the state") can become entities quite misrepresentative of what they were designed and intended to accomplish.  So, a corrupt state requires us to differentiate between legal and ethical boundaries.  A lawless one, between moral and ethical obligations.

Things I'm Reading:

Association of Red Meat and Poultry Consumption With the Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

"In this meta-analysis, a total of nine prospective cohort studies were identified. The results showed that red meat (processed and unprocessed) consumption was associated a higher risk of MetS, whereas, poultry consumption was associated with a lower risk of MetS." Statistical schmoozing at it's finest. Once again, correlation is not causation. One could take the same correlation ("association", "link") between increased consumption of processed grains and seed oils and / or lower consumption of animal products (specifically animal fat and red meat) with increased (nay, prolific!) rates of diabetes, obesity, Alzheimers, and metabolic syndrome. "More well-designed randomized controlled trials are still needed to address the issues further." This is a standard disclaimer, but we as citizens and citizen-scientists need to hold such "authorities" accountable. Better controls mean accounting for (un)healthy user biases. "For example, the definition of estimates varies according to the different definitions of exposure (inconsistent metric). However, it is not sensible to investigate the inconsistent estimates." Why the hell not?! "However, unfortunately, no relevant randomized controlled trial has been performed yet. As a consequence, further, well-designed randomized controlled trials are still needed." Indeed!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin D Decrease Plasma T-Tau, GFAP, and UCH-L1 in Experimental Traumatic Brain Injury

This is an interesting study that talks about the aid of exercise for repair of cognitive functioning and Vitamin D / DHA / EPA supplementation to reduce inflammation (specifically in the brain) after TBI.  What's important to note here is that appropriate sources of supplements were used, that is fish / krill oil for the Omeg-3s and Vitamin D(3).  If we're using synthetic or even plant-derived alternatives we would not see nearly the efficacy due to poor absorption from the gut to blood levels.  It is interesting too that the results took 30-days to develop, suggesting that there is a "back-log" or a build up process that's required after the brain's been damaged.  I could both go off on a tangent and refer to Chris Palmer's work here about psychosis; but I will also caution that anti-psychotics (or pharmaceuticals in general) may have applicable acute use cases.  That is, 30 days can be a long time to wait depending on a person's level of psychosis and / or suicidality in conjunction with their brain injury.

Impact of slow breathing on the blood pressure and subarachnoid space width oscillations in humans

CBD and breathing are the two (bio-hacky) things I've been most excited about this year.  This is another study in a long line showing that a few minutes of specified breathing practice can have significant and persistent effects on cardiovascular measures – if the practice is maintained of course.  What's interesting here is that immediate results are effected (positively) without a resistance apparatus added to the breathing practice.  However, there have been other studies showing that resistance breathing has been more effective than pharmaceutical interventions in addressing blood pressure and heart rate (thought the later rises during the practice itself).  If you're concerned about another 20-30 minute chore for the day, do your breathing practice while you're doing something else – like walking the dog.  You might not get the same respiration rate or depth of exhale / inhale you'd like (if you're counting the seconds), but this isn't about stat padding, it's about sustained improvements in health and long term efficacy.

The Acceptability and Appropriateness of a Collaborative, Sport-Centered Mental Health Service Delivery Model for Competitive, and High-Performance Athletes

"The availability for Canadian athletes to receive care from mental health providers with expertise in sport remains limited. This is a significant gap because evidence suggests that there are unique interactions between sport, mental health, and mental illness necessitating specialized expertise."  There are at least a dozen angles I could take this one... First "integrative care" should be implied; in the Western World we've become very specialized – psychologist, surgeon, dietitian, etc.  Secondly, sport / performance psychology should be an equal no-brainer.  A competitive athlete, even recreationally, isn't "playing a game", they may be fighting for a paycheck, or have as strong an identity connected to their athletic endeavors as someone else does to their respective career / lifestyle / family tradition.  Third, this brings us to a culture clash when these outlets / careers are being prohibited by government (lockdowns).  Fifth, high performance athletes aren't your "regular healthy / active people."  Part of my interest in nutrition is that fighters and climbers are different – we're crazy.  If the first thing a MD tells us after an injury is to stop training, we're going to tell them to f*off ... and keep training.  Similarly, congruence and understanding need to and should be sought from the psycho-spiritual spectrum of health as well as physical and cognitive.

Association between low density lipoprotein cholesterol and all-cause mortality

Cholesterol.  One of my favorite subjects, and one of the most important molecules in your body – and you probably need more of it!  Perhaps you'll even recall my prior reference to people with low cholesterol having higher rates of suicide – not to mention that LDL is required for brain and endocrine (hormone) function.  The authors here write; "In the age-adjusted mode, it was found that the lowest LDL-C group had a higher risk of all-cause mortality (HR 1.708) than LDL-C 100–129 mg/dL as a reference group. The crude-adjusted model suggests that people with the lowest level of LDL-C had 1.600 times the odds compared with the reference group... In the fully-adjusted model, people with the lowest level of LDL-C had 1.373 times the odds compared with the reference group..."  So, if you're in the group of "lowest LDL" you have at least a 37% increased chance of death compared to an LDL of 100-129 mg/dL.  For reference, mine was about 150 the last time I checked.  To be completely fair though, there's a lot of nuance to this misconstrued particle including oxidation (OxLDL) and it's constituents LP(a).

Resources to Thrive:

  • 30 Minutes of "flow-based" yoga reduces anxiety more effectively than aerobic exercise (reference), however "One session of sun salutation may not be adequate for cognitive benefits."  I've touted the benefits of minimalism countless times.  I wouldn't consider 30 minutes / day to be "minimalist", but the concept comes home.  Do the thing!  Even if you did 5 minutes of yoga every morning, do you think you would receive none of the aforementioned benefits?  Of course not, you'd at least get some return on your investment, and likely more because you'd continue the practice for more consecutive days than if you decided you "need to go longer to get the 'cognitive benefits'."  Not to mention the benefits of building a habit of success!

Trainer's Corner:

  • PEDs and Keeping up with the Jones's:  That's not the actual title of the paper, but I thought it was clever.  The linked article is actually titled The Ego Phenomenon and the Doping Problem in Sport.   Now, this is an interesting topic because cheating is, well... cheating.  However, as I mentioned above there's a lot on the line for professional, Olympic, or other competitive athletes.  Beating anti-doping tests is an industry worth almost as much as doping itself – billions.  So, if you have to win to feed your family and everyone around you is cheating, how much pressure is there on you to do the same?  The answer is a ton!  What's more, ego is often presented in a negative context as if to imply narcissism.  But, this isn't necessarily true.  In the psychoanalytic tradition your "ego" is literally your (conscious) self – or self conceptualization.  Again, there's a lot at stake here, much more than "just winning a game."  Now, I'm not an apologist for anabolic steroids, but the lines are more blurry than we'd like to admit.  Are supplements PEDs?  TRT?  What about TRT after an injury?  What about affordability and access to better nutrition, coaches, trainers, and training facilities?  Some of this is, admittedly, semantic as the rules of one's sport define how we must compete – what "drugs" are allowed and which aren't.  My point is just to open a nuanced discussion here rather than dumbly asserting: Drugs are bad!  Ego is bad!  You don't need supplements!  You must win!  If you lose you're a terrible person!  Do you see how confusing and conflicting those statements are?

In Case You Missed It:

  • This newsletter has a new home on Ghost!  This allows me to have a blog and newsletter in the same place as well as (in the future) paid subscription content.  Due to privacy controls – a good thing actually! – I can't release newsletters there yet because apparently my imported list from Buttondown was large enough to throw a spam warning – Thanks for your support everyone!  This little frustration actually makes me quite happy :-D

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