Saturday, March 29, 2014

"The plural of anecdote is not data"

Tonight's dinner: lamb tandoori meatballs, brown rice, brussel sprouts with lemon & garlic and a dollop of tomato sauce a la Marcella Hazan

Hey, I'm still here! Things might be perking up here again, now that my MOOC is finally ending (provided I don't tank the final test). It was an EdX course from McGill University on Food Chemistry, as done by their Office of Science and Society.

I took this course for a few reasons. First and foremost, I'm a firm believer in continuing education. It's important to be a lifelong learner, be it a new language or creative technique, or taking on an entirely new topic. Not surprising coming from a librarian, I suppose. After all, it was one of Mevil Dewey's big passions, as well.

And, seeing as I have been so immersed with food and health and weight, I thought this course would be interesting. I also thought it would be a little less daunting and time consuming than the MIT Solid State Chemistry course I MOOC'd last year. (Averaging 3 hours a night on differential equations and molecular modeling was invigorating, but a little too much of a time suck).

So, this course seemed like a just right slice of healthy dessert. I think it also helped that the professors giving the course were of the same mind set and belief as mine in regards to food and weight maintenance: you should look to the research, but it's not that all the answers have yet been found.

I really enjoyed how they would delve into results of various intervention studies, case control groups and meta-analyses to show how results can be skewed or varied depending on who is marketing the results.

And they had a healthy skepticism for most of the media-based nutrition gurus out there. The title of this blog post is a quote from one of the professors in regards to some of the "natural miracle weight loss miracles" we see.

And it was nice to see that studies they referenced were the sorts of things that I was uncovering in my own searches.

That's not to say that I didn't learn a lot. I actually learned quite a few things about epidemiology, agriculture and fertilizer, molecular reactions and the like. Learning about things you already know is sort of like re-reading a good book. Adding new things into the mix is like finding out there's more volumes in to the series.

What do I have to show for this course, aside from a nice certificate if I don't tank next week's final? 

A renewed respect for my own journey and my continued search for research. I admit that it wasn't just the stress, weather and workload that was affecting my maintenance. It's the amount of crap you have to mine though when you connect into the health movement. But this MOOC helped me see that you CAN find the actual facts and data underneath the anecdotes. 

The Streamlined part of my persona has always been one of constant work. The Libarian part doesn't really get to rest on this topic either. 

The Ska part never worries.


Dewey, Melvil. "Adult Education" from Journal of Social Science: Containing the Transactions of the American Association, 266-268: 42, American Social Science Association, Leypoldt & Holt, 1904, pp. 152-156.

Johansson, Kari, Martin Neovius, and Erik Hemmingsson. “Effects of Anti-Obesity Drugs, Diet, and Exercise on Weight-Loss Maintenance after a Very-Low-Calorie Diet or Low-Calorie Diet: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 99, no. 1 (January 1, 2014): 14–23. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.070052.

Pittler, Max H., and Edzard Ernst. “Dietary Supplements for Body-Weight Reduction: A Systematic Review.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 79, no. 4 (April 1, 2004): 529–36.

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