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Jan 04 2013

Evolution? This fossil says no

I thought I’d break the news here first: I have incontrovertible evidence against human evolution. To wit: my lungs are persistently filling up with fluid over the last few days. Which, if I’m not mistaken, is pretty much the opposite of what they are allegedly evolved to do. I mean, what possible advantage could that have provided on the savanna? Aside from possibly repelling predators with weaker stomachs. Hear my mighty and productive coughs, o puny lion, and slink away revolted! Or something.

Why did we even bother to lose the gills, again?

This is becoming an annual tradition I’m not so sure I approve of: I was sick last year on my birthday as well. (Yes, today. 53. Thank you.) Last year Annette bought us a room in Tucson to celebrate, and we spent the day enjoying the city and eating lunch with friends, and then by the time we were halfway back to the Coachella Valley I was wracked with fever and hoping for truck stop soup.

I have to say, from the perspective of increasing age, that coughing fits aren’t nearly as fun as they used to be when I was a kid. And dextromethorphan is definitely becoming my least favorite recreational drug ever. Between this and PZ’s nosebleed, you all may want to cover your monitors with dental dams for the next few days. When do the Obamacare Death Panels kick in again? I’ll happily take my Socialist Suicide Pill if they cut it with some codeine.

Anyway, I do have a few interesting things to report that have accumulated over the last few days:

  • We were talking here a while ago about wildlife agencies and their 19th Century-style obeisance to the hunting crowd. As an effort to emphasize conservation over game hunting and fish stocking, the former California Department of Fish and Game is now the Department of Fish and Wildlife. A cosmetic change, but an important one.
  • Rebecca Rosen at The Atlantic has launched a campaign in which men pledge not to speak on science or tech panels  that are all-male. I don’t get asked all that often, but I signed it anyway. Spread the word.
  • A literature survey and metaanalysis published in JAMA suggests that while there are indeed links between significant obesity and increased mortality,  as compared to people with “normal” range Body Mass Indices (BMI), “Grade 1 obesity overall was not associated with higher mortality, and overweight was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality” [emphasis mine]  than in people whose BMIs are in the “normal” range.

I think that last item means I’m gonna have to get over this goddamn cough the hard way.

61 comments

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  1. 1
    moarscienceplz

    Hey Chris, welcome to the glorious Elysian Fields that is the Land of 53!
    (Cue Richard M. Nixon saying, “Sock it to me?”)

    And yes, I think Dextromethorphan is the biggest snake-oil con ever invented. Plus, it keeps me awake at night.

  2. 2
    chigau (違う)

    Happy Birthday Chris.
    and many happy phlegm-free returns.

  3. 3
    dianne

    Codeine. If you want your cough suppressed, get some codeine. The OTC stuff is nearly placebo. But remember to take some stool softeners or you’ll just be trading one problem for another.

  4. 4
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Happy ejection day.

    I assume you’ve seen this?

  5. 5
    Rob Grigjanis

    Happy Birthday, youngster. Maybe your inner Aquatic Ape is expressing itself.

    Good to see some corrective to the BMI nonsense.

  6. 6
    Aratina Cage

    It’s nice to know that fossils can talk; we’ll have to give this one to the creationists. Happy Crappy Birthday!

  7. 7
    Anthony K

    Some of my favourite people have birthdays! I’m pleased to see that you share so many characteristics with them!

  8. 8
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Chris:
    Have a happy birthday. You should treat yourself to some wabbit videos.

  9. 9
    Inaji

    Happy Birthday, Chris! I hope you’re feeling better soon.

  10. 10
    thunk: y'all know ageism is a thing?

    And of course, the usual suspects are screaming that “Oh no! If being overweight is not BAD, that will set a bad example for people, and will think that eating several cakes a day is fine!”

    Isn’t not being swayed by evidence great?

    Also, happy birthday. And get better.

  11. 11
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Happy birthday, oh phlegmy one.

    Have a nice triple whisky and relax.

  12. 12
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Happy Birthday, Chris. Hopefully you can beat this cold soon too.

    A literature survey and metaanalysis published in JAMA suggests that while there are indeed links between significant obesity and increased mortality, as compared to people with “normal” range Body Mass Indices (BMI), “Grade 1 obesity overall was not associated with higher mortality, and overweight was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality” [emphasis mine] than in people whose BMIs are in the “normal” range.

    I recall reading some of those studies a while back, and coming to the conclusion that ‘overweight’ is an inaccurate category. It is ‘over’ the normative weight, but mortality statistics appear to indicate that the current normative BMI is not, in fact, the healthiest (or at least the BMI that was normative when the standards were laid down). I really think that the simplest solution is to just move all the categories up a few notches until they correlate w/ health effects, so what’s now ‘overweight’ would become the upper regions of ‘healthy,’ while people like me would be moved into the ‘underweight’ category and what’s now Grade 1 obesity wither becomes ‘overweight’ or we just drop the category entirely, and call it obesity when it reaches the point of negative health effects.

  13. 13
    Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun)

    Why did we even bother to lose the gills, again?

    I think someone mentioned something about sharks way back. And jellyfish. And several wierd creatures who’s out to eat you.

    Happy b-day!

  14. 14
    FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!)

    Happy birthday Chris! I got you the same thing as last year, hope you like it.

    Get well soon.

  15. 15
    Rob Grigjanis

    Totally off topic, I know, but Creature from the Black Lagoon is showing tonight on TCM.

  16. 16
    rq

    In the immortal words of the Sultan from Aladdin, But you’re so ooooollld!!!
    Happy birthday. :)

  17. 17
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Chris’s birthday?
    *hears intercontinental trebuchet launch a load*
    Incoming machinery (transporter prototype, shhhh, keep it quiet).
    Let us know when plugged in. Loads of grog, swill, sammiches and a cake ready to send your way, compliments of the Pharyngula Saloon and Spanking Parlor (Patricia, Princess of Pullets, Proprietor)

  18. 18
    osmosis

    What if it’s a small panel and these men are undeniably the experts in the appropriate fields?

  19. 19
    chigau (違う)

    osmosis
    Are you joking or did you really miss the point?

  20. 20
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Happy birthday! You’ll probably evolve back into something halfway human within a few days. I recommend Sudafed.

  21. 21
    Shiroferetto

    Happy birthday!

    Anyone know if they’ve legalized ferrets in CA yet or are going to? The Department of Fish and Wildlife can suck my until they stop being morons and legalize ferrets like intelligent, rational human beings who operate on evidence and not whatever bubblegum wrappers they write their reports on. Also, the Sierra Club can go too.

  22. 22
    chigau (違う)

    and another thing
    I ♥ dextromethorphan when I have a cough-due-to-a-cold.
    If that shit (in the over-the-counter form) is a placebo, I am coming to your (Chris and/or dianne) place to sleep the next time I get such a cough.
    Unless placebos still work even if I know it’s a placebo.

  23. 23
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Flu? you should be taking Airborne! A teacher and herbalists came up with it, so you know it works against one of man’s easiest to conquer viruses.

    And I hear it supports your immune system too!

    Trust it!

    /ducks

  24. 24
    irisvanderpluym

    Happy birthday Chris! May you enjoy many more (phlegm-free) orbits around the sun.

    I’m pretty healthy for a middle-aged Type I diabetic, but I get sick around the holidays. (In my case it is undoubtedly connected to the family pressure, stress, non-healthy eating and extensive travel that the season inevitably engenders, despite my best efforts.) FWIW my excellent endocrinologist is adamant about my taking Robitussin DM (or similar) whenever a cough lingers for more than a day. The pseudoephedrine is a powerful decongestant, and the formulation also contains an expectorant that breaks up the junk so you can cough it up. (Eew. I know. But it beats pneumonia.)

  25. 25
    JohnnieCanuck

    No. No. Use ColdFX. It’s more expensive. That’s how you know that it works.

  26. 26
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Happy birthday, Chris!
    My never-fail cure-all: drink a little bit of grappa. Nothing helps to disrupt a cold like booze made from grape skins!

  27. 27
    markr1957

    Many happy returns, young ‘un. My treatment for colds is a mixture of cheap whisky and Stone’s Green Ginger Wine. It tastes a bit like cough medicine and it does nothing for your cold – but after two drinks you just don’t care any more :)

  28. 28
    ednaz

    Happy Birthday, Chris! Hope you feel better soon.

  29. 29
    Chris Clarke

    chigau@22:

    If that shit (in the over-the-counter form) is a placebo, I am coming to your (Chris and/or dianne) place to sleep the next time I get such a cough.

    You are always welcome.

    Also, aren’t you from Canada? Please bring codeine.

  30. 30
    cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming)

    In its defence, as an antitussive, dextromethorphan is actually very effective.

    my lungs are persistently filling up with fluid over the last few days

    If that is actually the case, antitussives are probably a spectacularly bad idea. Go see a doctor! (My father, suffering from pulmonary edema, had a 10-minute ambulance ride to the hospital take an hour because they had to revive him on the hard shoulder of the motorway–flatlined, CPR, shocks, all that. He has 20 years on you, but …)

  31. 31
    sqlrob

    Unless placebos still work even if I know it’s a placebo.

    Supposedly, they do

  32. 32
    FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!)

    It would appear that the evidence for over the counter cough relief products is still conflicting.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22895922

    If anyone has a a better study I’d be glad to take a look at it.

  33. 33
    schweinhundt

    I’m not shocked by the BMI study results. It gauges mass and not composition. It doesn’t even take gender or body frame into account. I’m no body builder but fall into the “overweight” category even when I’m at a very reasonable and healthy body fat percent.

  34. 34
    schweinhundt

    Also: A happy birthday and speedy recovery to you, sir.

  35. 35
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    My treatment for colds is a mixture of cheap whisky and Stone’s Green Ginger Wine. It tastes a bit like cough medicine and it does nothing for your cold – but after two drinks you just don’t care any more :)

    Actually, it does do something! Not a cure, sure, but it is a symptom reliever. The alcohol is not only a mild antiseptic but also a cough suppressant. The late night hot toddy can be a real help, if you are not sleeping due to coughing.

  36. 36
    jpspaz

    Get well soon! I am suffering from the same thing, so you’re not alone.

  37. 37
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    And ironically, just yesterday the doc told me I’ve got pneumonia symptoms as well (will find out why on Monday, after he’s had time to look at the chest xray – hopefully).

    Get well soon!

  38. 38
    Hortan

    Chris maybe your body is experimentally revamping its genome each new year beginning with your mucus membranes, give it a century or so and you will be a ‘god’ amongst ‘men’!

  39. 39
    No One

    I boil ginger root and make a tea. Relieves symptoms. Burns on the way down.

  40. 40
  41. 41
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Oh the god damn motherlode

    Herbie Hanock Headhunters 1974

  42. 42
    strange gods before me ॐ

    This comment is good for one happy belated birthday, redeemable when you feel better. In the meantime, jaguar.

  43. 43
    llewelly

    fluid in the lungs?

    Uh-oh. Better tell PZ the transformation to cephalopod form has gone horribly wrong and needs to stop NOW.

  44. 44
    Chris Clarke

    give it a century or so and you will be a ‘god’ amongst ‘men’!

    Again?

  45. 45
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    Hippo, birdie & two ewes.

    {theophontes throws in a happy monkey for good measure}

  46. 46
    Inaji

    Llewelly, I miss you.

  47. 47
    lb

    Happy birthday and I hope you feel better soon. I turn 53 on Monday and am not looking forward to it.

    Best wishes!

  48. 48
    catlover

    Happy Birthday, Chris, and many more happy, fun trips around the sun, in GREAT health!
    Get well soon! I’m so sorry you’re sick on your birthday — that’s a real bummer.

  49. 49
    bargearse

    I feel your pain Chris, I went camping after Christmas and came down with a chest infection on the second day. Other campsites were treated to my impression of a dying elephant seal. Happy birthday and get well soon.

  50. 50
    Azuma Hazuki

    Oh no, pneumonia :( Hopefully it’s bacterial and they still have a working antibiotic.

    Treatment of cold/flu/etc tends to be largely symptomatic. I find drinking ridiculous amounts of green tea, like 1-2qt/day, to be useful whenever I’m feeling sick.

    If you can get good sencha, you can successfully infuse 1 tsp two or three times, for easily 200 to 300mL each.

    That, and avoiding inflammatory foods (refined sugar, white flour, most meats, dairy aside from yogurt) usually helps. But pneumonia is something else entirely; I can only send you good wishes and hope they can treat it. It sounds like they caught it early at least…

  51. 51
    sheila

    Happy birthday.

    Traditional Scottish cold cure:
    You will need:
    1 four-poster bed
    1 bottle of whisky
    1 hat

    Method
    1) Put the hat on one of the posts at the foot of the bed.
    2) Climb into bed.
    3) Drink whisky until hat moves.

    Result
    Your cold will not trouble you at all.

  52. 52
    opposablethumbs

    Wishing you a happy birthday … for when you’re feeling well enough to enjoy it (just fudge the dates – it’s your birthday, so you get to say when, right?).
    .
    pseudoephedrine FTW

  53. 53
    jurekdedor

    I recall reading some of those studies a while back, and coming to the conclusion that ‘overweight’ is an inaccurate category. It is ‘over’ the normative weight, but mortality statistics appear to indicate that the current normative BMI is not, in fact, the healthiest (or at least the BMI that was normative when the standards were laid down). I really think that the simplest solution is to just move all the categories up a few notches until they correlate w/ health effects, so what’s now ‘overweight’ would become the upper regions of ‘healthy,’ while people like me would be moved into the ‘underweight’ category and what’s now Grade 1 obesity wither becomes ‘overweight’ or we just drop the category entirely, and call it obesity when it reaches the point of negative health effects.

    Did the studies base on BMI over lifetime, or near the time of death? I wonder if the studies took into account that people put on weight as they grow older and that several diseases such as cancer will make you loose weight before they kill you. What I mean is that a person who dies while being in the overweight category probably was in the ‘normal’ category for most of her life, while a person dying in ‘normal’ category has good chance of having moved there in the last few months before death. First effect would attribute health outcome of having ‘normal’ BMI over most of lifetime to the ‘overweight’ group, while the second would attribute effects of having a serious disease while in ‘normal’-overweight-obesity 1 to the ‘normal’ group.

    And of course, Happy Birthday Chris.

  54. 54
    sueboland

    Happy Birthday, ya whippersnapper.
    I’ve been following Coyote Crossing for a really long time and am thrilled that you now may have a bigger audience. I just thought that knowing you have secret fans out here in lurkerland might help your recovery.
    Hope so.

  55. 55
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    jurekdedor
    The short answer is yes, they did take that into account.

    What I mean is that a person who dies while being in the overweight category probably was in the ‘normal’ category for most of her life, while a person dying in ‘normal’ category has good chance of having moved there in the last few months before death.

    You seem to be misunderstanding; people in the overweight category are less likely to die in a given year than people who are categorized as normal.

  56. 56
    jurekdedor

    I guess I’m rather miscommunicating than misunderstanding (not my language really). I meant that weight that is measured close enough to the time of death is not necessarily representative to the weight a person had for the most of her life (that was actually responsible for her health) – because of dying old, or dying very sick.

    I guess that the studies excluded people who were already diagnosed with terminal illness, that would do away with my second point. Normalising for age would do away with the first, but that might defeat the point (if some group dies more often, it also dies earlier). I guess it can be done anyway.

    Still, quite weird. Maybe it’s about how you try to achieve “ideal” weight? Many popular diets are quite suicidal in the long term, so is swapping them every other week…

  57. 57
    jurekdedor

    /damn no edit button/

    Ah yes, I get it now. Without normalising for age, and with people gaining weight with time, we’d expect people dying more often as they are getting heavier (=older). So this effect had to be taken into account.

  58. 58
    wondering

    @ jurekedor

    It’s not about ideal weight. THERE IS NO IDEAL WEIGHT. It is about health and about how fat people have been demonized as being more unhealthy than other populations regardless of actual health outcomes. It is about Health At Every Size – and how it is important to eat well and move your body in ways that you enjoy. It is not about numbers on a scale.

  59. 59
    jurekdedor

    Yes, I understand, that’s why I put ideal in scare-quotes. I agree that as long as you keep moving and eat healthy, the weight you’re end up with is the one that’s probably best for you (not counting some diseases ofc). I also agree that weight/BMI is next to useless when trying to measure health (I actually had ‘better’ BMI before I started to work out, according to it, a stick figure with a sizeable belly is healthier than a bit of muscles and a much smaller one)… Still I thought that ‘normal’ BMI shouldn’t have any bad health effects in itself, that’s why the results surprised me.

  60. 60
    khms

    The way I heard it over here (German radio – WARNING: filtered through journalists) was that the longer life for slightly heavier people was because those people go to the doctor more often, and thus have better control over health risks. No idea if it’s true or a just-so story, unfortunately.

  61. 61
    jurekdedor

    I recall some other research that linked higher BMI with longer telomeres. So maybe it might work like slower metabolism -> higher weight but slower aging.

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