March 03, 2015

1:00 PM | Syndemics and Historic Diseases
I’ve been looking for a model or framework to bring together interdisciplinary evidence on diseases of the past. There are a variety of disciplinary approaches but few that can readily incorporate very different types of evidence well. Apart from past discussions of discrete co-morbidities, the most common framework for understanding historic disease ecology has been … Continue reading Syndemics and Historic Diseases →
10:00 AM | Hot under the (epidemiological) collar
Blogs like this are venues for expressing views on the current scene, in our case, related to genetics, evolution and a few other things we throw in.  If you express a view, unless it's just plain vanilla, you will irritate some readers.  In a sense, if you don't then there's no point in writing the blogpost.  In this case, we heavily criticized the recent NYTimes article reporting that the government has now backed off its claim that dietary cholesterol is a heart disease risk […]

March 02, 2015

3:00 AM | The Chimp and the River: How AIDS Emerged from an African Forest
By David Quammen Synopsis: In this “frightening and fascinating masterpiece” (Walter Isaacson), David Quammen explores the true origins of HIV/AIDS. The real story of AIDS—how it originated with a virus in a chimpanzee, jumped to one […]

February 25, 2015

1:25 AM | Summing it Up: Meta-synthesis of quasi-experimental and qualitative clinical research
When I first started this blog in 2011 (in a different format), I promised exegesis of methodologies as well as critical thinking about topics in epidemiology. I have not kept my promise in recent months, but intend to correct that now with some thoughts about conducting structured literature reviews or even meta-analysis with non-optimal data.…

February 24, 2015

10:00 AM | Causation revisited again
A paper* published recently in The Medical Journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran ("X-ray radiation and the risk of multiple sclerosis: Do the site and dose of exposure matter?" Motamed et al.) explores the possibility that X-rays are a risk factor for multiple sclerosis (MS).  (Do we routinely read this journal?  No.  Ken sent me a pdf of the paper, and when I asked him where he'd gotten it, he said he thought I'd sent it to him.  Which I had not.  On looking […]

February 23, 2015

10:00 AM | When the methodology fails
An op-ed piece by Nina Teicholz in Friday's NYTimes lays it on the line, chastising the government for its regular bulletins on dietary advice that, for 50 or so years have altered what we eat, what we fear to eat, and what the risks are.  Now, new studies tell us that what was bad is good and what was good is bad, and that the prior half-century of studies were wrong.  We've eliminated fats and cholesterol, and replaced them with carbohydrates, but, as Teicholz […]
2:24 AM | To the importer who says there’s no proven link, I say, epidemiology still works: 18 confirmed sick with hep A from frozen Chinese berries
As the number of confirmed hepatitis A cases in Australia from frozen berries grown in China rose to 18 over the weekend, as political rhetoric about imports and local food reached staggering new heights, the company continued to insist there’s … Continue reading →

February 16, 2015

10:00 AM | Occasionality (vs Probability)?
In genetics and epidemiology, we want to explain the causes of diseases, and we want to be able to predict who will get them. We generally do this statistically, by working out the probability that we are right in our guesses about alleles or environmental causal factors.  But this is problematic for a number of reasons. The concept of probability and the term itself have always been elusive or variable in meaning.  But they refer to collections of objects and the relative proportions […]

February 12, 2015

11:47 PM | Smoking Is Even Deadlier Than We Thought
Smoking is bad for you. You know this! Now, a long-term study of close to a million people has broadened our understanding of the harmful side-effects of smoking, and the results suggest tobacco is even more dangerous than previously believed.Read more...
6:46 PM | What's a 'healthy diet' anyway?
A nutrition advisory panel is convened by the US Department of Agriculture every five years to review recent research in the field, make sense of it, and offer recommendations about what Americans should be eating for optimal health.  Those food pyramids, MyPlate, decades of advice to limit our cholesterol, saturated fat and salt intake?  All the work of these panels of experts who scoured the data and told us what it meant.  And as a result, from the 1960's onward, good, […]

February 08, 2015

2:03 AM | Misinformation and selective coverage change perception of outbreaks, but can be corrected by presenting the facts
While it’s not an animal product, the Listeriosis outbreak recently traced to apples is just as relevant to the food industry as a whole as any other food-borne illness outbreak. While I was looking for more information on the outbreak, I came across this gem* of an article posted on *When this post was originally […]

Young ME, Norman GR & Humphreys KR (2008). Medicine in the popular press: the influence of the media on perceptions of disease., PloS one, 3 (10) PMID:

Mummert A & Weiss H (2013). Get the news out loudly and quickly: the influence of the media on limiting emerging infectious disease outbreaks., PloS one, 8 (8) PMID:


February 05, 2015

11:30 AM | Witches, Prince George of Cambridge, other babies and the full moon
This blog took a little bit longer to sort, because it actually involved some data preparation and statistical analyses (plus Christmas, new year and my birthday), but I hope it is worth the wait. Something I got, for reasons I cannot remember, interested in – out of curiosity rather than professional reasons – is whether […]
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