Monday, November 03, 2014

Did rationing in World War 2 increase intelligence of Britons?

The journal article is Aging trajectories of fluid intelligence in late life: The influence of age, practice and childhood IQ on Raven's Progressive Matrices and the key passage is reproduced below:

"Standardizing the MHT [original] scores indicated a difference between the cohorts of 3.7 points. This is slightly smaller than expected and may be brought about by survival and selection bias discussed above. Late life comparisons indicate a significantly greater difference between the cohorts, comparing the cohorts at age 77; where there is overlap in data we find a difference of 10.4 raw RPM points or 16.5 IQ points, which is surprisingly large."

What this says is that both groups started out pretty much the same but by the time they had got into their 70s the younger group was much brighter.  The authors below attribute the difference to nutrition, which is pretty nonsensical.  They say that eating "rich, sugary and fatty foods" lowers IQ but where is the evidence for that?  The only studies I know are epidemiological and overlook important third factors such as social class. So those studies can only be relied on if you believe that correlation is causation, which it is not.  And one might note that average IQs in Western nations have been RISING even as consumption of fast food has been rising.  So even the epidemiology is not very supportive of the claims below.

Where important  micronutrients (iodine and iron particularly) are largely absent in the food of a population  -- as in Africa -- nutritional improvements can make a big difference but the idea that Aberdonians in the 1920s were severely deprived of such micronutrients seems fanciful. Aberdeen has long been an important  fishing port and fish are a major source of iodine -- and iron is mostly got from beef and Scots have long raised and eaten a lot of beef.  The traditional diet of poor Scots -- "mince 'n tatties" -- is certainly humble but it does include beef. Aberdeen even has an important  beef animal originating there: The widely praised "Aberdeen Angus".  You can eat meat from them in most of McDonald's restaurants these days.

So why was the IQ divergence between the two groups below not observed in early childhood when it was so strong in later life?  A divergence of that kind (though not of that magnitude) is not unprecedented for a number of reasons:  IQ measurement at age 11 is less reliable than measures taken in adulthood; IQ becomes more and more a function of genetics as we get older.  In early life environmental factors have more impact and it takes a while for (say) a handicapping early environment to be overcome.

But I suspect that the main influence on the finding was that two different tests were used.  IQ was measured at age 11 by an educational aptitude test and in the 70s it was measured by a non-verbal test.  The two were correlated but only about .75, which does allow for considerable divergence.  So the oldsters (1921 cohort) were simply not good at non-verbal puzzles, probably because they had little experience with them.  The tests they did in 1921, however mostly used problems similar to problems they had already encountered many times in the course of their schooling.

The 1936 cohort, by contrast, had most of their education in the postwar era when people spent longer in the educational system. And IQ testing in the schools was much in vogue up until the 1960s so that generation would have had a much wider testing experience.

The retest was, in other words, invalid.  It was not comparing like with like


A study by the University of Aberdeen and NHS Grampian has found that children who grew up during the Second World War became far more intelligent than those who were born just 15 years before.

Researchers think that cutting rich, sugary and fatty foods out of the diets of growing children had a hugely beneficial impact on their growing brains.

The University of Aberdeen team examined two groups of people raised in Aberdeen, one born in 1921 and one born in 1936. These people are known as the Aberdeen Birth Cohort and were tested when they were aged 11 and when they were adults after the age of 62. The study consisted of 751 people all tested aged 11 and who were retested between 1998 and 2011 on up to five occasions.

Researchers compared the two groups at age 11 found an increase in IQ of 3.7 points which was marginally below what was expected but within the range seen in other studies. However, comparison in late life found an increase in IQ of 16.5 points which is over three times what was expected.

Before the war, more than two thirds of British food was imported. But enemy ships targeting merchant vessels prevented fruit, sugar, cereals and meat from reaching the UK.

The Ministry of Food issued ration books and rationing for bacon, butter and sugar began in January 1940.

But it was the MoF’s Dig For Victory campaign, encouraging self-sufficiency, which really changed how Britain ate. Allotment [mini  farm] numbers rose from 815,000 to 1.4 million.

Pigs, chickens and rabbits were reared domestically for meat, whilst vegetables were grown anywhere that could be cultivated. By 1940 wasting food was a criminal offence.



The statin craze is fading as doctors see the side-effects

Two thirds of GPs are refusing to comply with controversial NHS advice to prescribe statins to millions more adults, polling has found.

Family doctors said guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), advising 40 per cent of adults to take the pills, were “simplistic”. They insisted they would not allow the “mass medicalisation” of the public.

The guidelines, published in July, say drugs to protect against strokes and heart attacks should be offered to anyone with a one in 10 chance of developing heart disease within a decade.

It means 17.5 million adults, including most men aged over 60 and women over 65, are now eligible for the drugs, which cost less than 10p a day.

A number of cardiologists have defended the guidance, which Nice says could cut 50,000 deaths a year from strokes and heart attacks.

But the advice has divided experts, with prominent doctors accusing Nice’s experts of being too close to the pharmaceutical industry.

The survey of 560 GPs, carried out by Pulse magazine, found 66 per cent of family doctors say they are not complying with the guidance. The system of pay for family doctors means part of their income depends on how far they comply with guidelines on prescribing, including the Nice advice on statins.

Many of the GPs said they were not prepared to be “bribed” to put more patients on the drugs, with others saying the recent advice was “bonkers,” and “simplistic”. “You won’t bribe me with payments to hit statin targets,” said Dr Sanjeev Juneja, a GP from Rochester, Kent. “I have seen havoc caused in some patients with this drug, so Nice pressure is not so nice.”

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, said: “This is something that an awful lot of GPs have concerns about, and they simply aren’t prepared to prescribe drugs in such a broad way, when the evidence supporting this approach isn’t clear.”

Arguments have raged about the side effects of statins. In May the British Medical Journal withdrew statements which had said that one in five of those on the drugs suffered from ill-effects such as muscle pain, tiredness and diabetes, saying the claims were wrong.

But some doctors believe such problems have been under-reported.

Dr May Cahill, a GP partner in Hackney, east London, said she was not convinced of the benefits of prescribing drugs with “horrific” sideeffects. She said: “Why give something to a patient that you would not take yourself nor recommend a family member or friend to?”

Dr Andrew Green, chairman of the BMA’s clinical and prescribing subcommittee for GPs, said no doctor should automatically prescribe the drugs based on a “slavish devotion” to advice from Nice.

Until July, GPs were advised to offer statins to anyone with a one in five chance of heart disease within a decade. The new advice halves the threshold to one in 10.

Even before that change, Britain was the “statins” capital of Europe, with the second-highest prescribing levels in the Western world for the drugs. A study last by year by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which examined 23 industrialised nations, found this country had the highest levels of statins use in Europe, with 13 per cent of adults taking the pills daily.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a London cardiologist who has been critical of the Nice guidance, said: "Although it is clear that the benefits of statins outweigh harms in those who have suffered a heart attack and are at high risk, this is in my view is not the case in a healthy population, where it does not reduce the risk of death.

"I am pleased to see that the majority of GPs are also realising this and acting upon it."



Immigration Services Union: Amnesty Will Lure More Terrorists, Criminals, Disease Carriers to US

On Tuesday, the president of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council said the Obama administration is endangering America on a daily basis by pressuring immigration officials to rubber-stamp applications for potential Islamic terrorists, criminals, and disease carriers.

Kenneth Palinkas, who represents 12,000 United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) agents, said the situation will actually become "exponentially worse" and "more dangerous" after Obama enacts his executive amnesty later in the year. Palinkas referred to the USCIS contract bid for up to 34 million green cards and work authorization permits ahead of Obama's planned executive amnesty, which Breitbart News first reported.

Palinkas, who has repeatedly slammed the agency's culture that encourages as many applications to be approved as possible without proper vetting, said the Obama administration is actively blocking USCIS's "loyal and dedicated adjudicators and personnel" who "diligently man the front lines in the battle to protect Americans from terrorism and the abuse of our economic and political resources" from doing their jobs.

"As the individuals who screen the millions of applications for entry into the U.S., it is our job to ensure that terrorists, diseases, criminals, public charges, and other undesirable groups are kept out of the United States," he said. "Unfortunately, we have been blocked in our efforts to accomplish this mission and denied the professional resources, mission support, and authorities we urgently need by the very same government that employs our skill sets."

He said immigration "caseworkers still operate under a quota system that prioritizes speed over quality, and approvals over investigations." He mentioned that the agency is pressured to process applications "without regard to national security" and mentioned potential "plans to waive interviews of applicants who seek adjustment of their status in the U.S. to ready our workforce for the coming onslaught of applications unforeseen in previous administrations."

"We are still the world’s rubber-stamp for entry into the United States – regardless of the ramifications of the constant violations to the Immigration and Nationality Act," he said. "Whether it’s the failure to uphold the public charge laws, the abuse of our asylum procedures, the admission of Islamist radicals, or visas for health risks, the taxpayers are being fleeced and public safety is being endangered on a daily basis."

Palinkas, who opposed the Senate's "Gang of Eight" comprehensive amnesty bill, said "America dodged a bullet" when the Senate's amnesty legislation that "would have been a financial and security catastrophe" did not pass Congress. But since efforts by Senators like Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) to stop Obama's executive amnesty failed in Sen. Harry Reid's (D-NV) Senate, Palinkas urged Americans to pressure their elected officials to stop Obama's executive amnesty: "If you care about your immigration security and your neighborhood security, you must act now to ensure that Congress stops this unilateral amnesty."

"Let your voice be heard and spread the word to your neighbors," he said. "We who serve in our nation’s immigration agencies are pleading for your help – don’t let this happen. Express your concern to your Senators and Congressmen before it is too late.”



Are GDP Numbers a Trick or a Treat?

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its third-quarter report, claiming Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by an annual rate of 3.5%. The report goes on to list a number of indicators leading to the conclusion that the economy, though still unspectacular, is on the upswing. With Election Day right around the corner, that’s good news, right? Maybe it’s a little too good.

How fortunate for Barack Obama and Democrats in power that this positive economic report comes out just days before the midterms. It brings back memories of the days leading up to the 2012 presidential election, when Obama spun a slight uptick in the unemployment rate to suggest that the country was still better off than it would have been without his failed stimulus and his punishing interventionist policies. “The private sector is doing just fine,” he said that summer.

In a keen analysis of the numbers, James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute argues the GDP report is nothing more than “lipstick on a pig.” Pethokoukis notes that, since the last two quarters are really little more than a rebound of the first quarter, the year’s overall growth has not been impressive.

One of the biggest boosters to third-quarter GDP was a 16% surge in defense spending due to Operation Inherent Resolve. As for the high export numbers, we have reduced economic performance in China and Europe to thank for that, along with a strengthening dollar driven by concern over European debt and global security matters. These factors, though beneficial to the American economy right now, will lead to a slowdown in the future as world economies adjust and react to a bleaker world economy.

It’s also worth noting that every major indicator mentioned positively in the third-quarter report – from consumer spending to housing to the sale of durable goods and beyond – is down compared to the second quarter. And just wait until this report is quietly revised down sometime after the midterms.

Taking all this into account, it’s clear the economy is still not strong. Furthermore, there are no realistic appraisals that it will improve under current conditions. Chief among those conditions are the business-killing, government-loving policies of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats. Voting out Democrats in Congress is not a guarantee the economy will improve, however, because we’ll still have Obama for two more years, and Republicans haven’t exactly paved the way to economic salvation. But it’s a start.



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