Thursday, September 23, 2021

Comments by benjamindavidsteele

Showing 35 of 35 comments.

  • Yep. In general, our society seems to be highly stressful and traumatic in numerous ways. We have never had mass urbanization and population density at this level ever before. And it’s combined with industrial toxins and industrial diet, not to mention loss of green spaces, clean air and water, healthy ecosystems, etc.

    One of the most interesting is inequality. The US has the highest inequality in the world that has ever existed. And high inequality is strong associated with nearly every form of social and health problem. See the work of Kate Pickett, Richard Wilkinson, and Keith Payne.

    In high inequality societies, people aren’t only unhealthier in diverse ways but also become more aggressive, reactionary, paranoid, and bizarre. It’s entirely abnormal and we weren’t evolved for such conditions. And probably none of us escapes without any negative affect from it, even if for some of us it’s less apparent. Even the wealthy have higher rates of health problems in high inequality societies.

  • Also, what about the known powerful effects in early life development from malnutrition, heavy metal toxicity, hormone mimics, infectious diseases, parasite load, social stress, no nearby green spaces, lack of educational materials, etc? There is a massive amount of research showing the results of these factors. All of those, by the way, would be included in heritability data if the child shares the same environment, demographics, etc as the parent.

  • Stanley – “Thus heritability numbers are an upper bound on the influence of “risk-factor” genes, not a proof of their existence.”

    Exactly! Not proof. It merely suggests that genetics is a possibility. But heritability data also picks up shared epigenetics and shared environment. It’s simply a measure of everything shared.

    Then some people attempt to make calculations that isolate genetics, but it’s extremely unreliable and uncertain. There is no way to control for uncontrolled confounders after the data was collected without any controls.

    Anyone speculating on such data without pointing to these flaws and limitations is not doing so from scientific knowledge but preconceived biases and assumptions. But because genetic determinism was the ideological realism that dominated for so many generations it so easily gets accepted with little question.

  • Heritability data does not prove genetic causation, much less determinism. That is because heritability doesn’t disaggregate genetics from all other shared causal and contributing factors, not only epigenetics but also environment. If you grow up in the same city as your parents or the same kind of city in the same region (similar demographics, housing, neighborhood, culture, etc), those are included factors that are also being measured by heritability data.

    Also, heritability can not only include the influence from one generation to another but across multiple generations. This is the transgenerational effect that involves epigenetics. Research has shown that a person who experiences famine when young is more likely to have grandchildren predisposed to obesity. Research also has shown that shocking a mouse after smelling a particular scent can cause 7 following generations of mice to continue jumping in response to that scent with no experience of a shock.

    It’s a young field, but the emerging evidence is powerfully compelling across numerous fields of health. How is it that so many people still don’t understand this basic level of science and still are unfamiliar with the evidence? This is the leading edge of knowledge at present, although some of the research is already decades old. Far from limited to epigenetics, the basic point is that, no, heritability quotients don’t tell us anything directly about the causal or contributing factors of genetics. That would require proving causal mechanisms in double blind controlled studies.

  • How is it we aren’t talking about the transgenerational effects of epigenetics, political disenfranchisement, violent policing, poverty, inequality, systemic racism, social segregation, economic ghettoization, malnutrition, toxicity, etc? There is a long and continuing history of oppression, victimization, and disadvantages. Not only about minorities but also poor whites.

  • A thousand times, yes! For example, epigenetic research on humans have shown that an individual is predisposed toward obesity when a grandparent experienced famine early in life. Imagine what epigenetics get altered in relationship to development of brain, nervous system, hormone system, and immune system The human research is limited, but powerful. The non-human research is even more amazing.

    In a mouse study, mice were shocked every time they smelled a particular scent. Eventually, the mice would jump in response to the scent alone, as if they were being shocked. After the shocks had been stopped, something like 7 generations later the descendants of those mice were still jumping in response to that smell, even though none of them had ever been shocked.

    How is it that public health debate continues on in the mainstream as if none of this scientific knowledge is relevant. It rarely even gets acknowledged, much less debated. It’s possible that most mental illness involves transgenerational effects. In the modern world, we are dealing with populations that, in many cases, have experienced generations of prejudice, disadvantage, victimization, malnutrition, high rates of toxicity, etc.

  • We can discuss genetic determinism as a potential contributing factor if and only when we improve environmental conditions for all children so that trauma, lead toxicity, malnutrition, etc is not the norm for entire communities; and once we’ve resolved the generations of victimization and trauma carried over from epigenetics and transgenerational effects. Otherwise, all we are having is an ideological debate, not a discussion of science and public health.

  • You are on target with looking at the larger context of stressors, traumas, and disadvantages. We shouldn’t ignore environment, poverty, inequality, heavy metal toxins, food deserts, malnutrition, processed food diet, epigenetics, transgenerational effects, and on and on. How can we go on pretending all of these other factors don’t exist or don’t matter? And why is our understanding of heritability still so primitive?

    Heritability data not only measures shared genetics but also shared epigenetics and shared environment. It does not and cannot tell us anything directly about the percentage of genetics as a factor. That is science 101. Yet the misunderstanding of heritability data stubbornly persists. Its amazing how hard it is to change ideological worldviews when they’ve been entrenched for so many generations.

  • Discover – That post you linked looks like a good summary. You list many major factors. I suspect that, if we had better prevention and treatment of physical health conditions, most mental health issues would be resolved or far less problematic. I have the sense that most people in the modern world feel stressed, anxious, etc largely because they don’t feel well in their own bodies.

  • My initial response was the same. It felt too simplistic. We don’t know that most ACEs get recorded. And we don’t know that most negative childhood experiences would necessarily get labeled as ACEs. Research, for example, shows that low-grade stress can more traumatizing long-term than a single high-stress event (abuse, rape, etc). So, it’s highly probable that the most common and most powerful causes of trauma are simply excluded from the ACE data. Such things are a very rough measure with a narrow focus.

    That is on top of the fact that most mental illness, like with most physical illness, goes without being diagnosed. Consider something as simple as diabetes where most diabetics don’t know their condition. And metabolic syndrome, by the way, is strongly correlated to neuorocognitive conditions through the affect on the hormone and immune system (e.g., brain inflammation). We need to remain humble about our present state of limited and sometimes misleading knowledge. ACE data is important, but a one small piece of info. Much else continues to get ignored, such as epigenetics and transgenerational trauma.

  • You write that, “Yet highly respected researcher’s like Allan N Score, suggest that the truly critical period in human development may be as short as three years.” I agree. For example, ongoing or high exposure to heavy metal toxicity during key developmental stages in the first few years can have physical and mental health consequences for the rest of the child’s life, including permanent damage to the brain and nervous system. Nutrition in those early years also has been shown to have profound long-term impact. No doubt social and other environmental factors are similar.

  • I agree with Marianne Williamson on this issue because she is right and the science supports her position. As you know, I too have dealt with depression. And I’ve been on antidepressants multiple times. Some people do get benefit from them, whether temporarily or long term. But I never noticed any positive effect. And that fact is, according to studies, antidepressants are useless or worse to most people being prescribed them. They are known, in some cases, to actually increase suicidal ideation and attempts. This is an open secret.

    The corporate media couldn’t simply state Williamson is correct because big drug is big money and that represents a huge hunk of advertizing money for corporate media. They would never bite the hand that feeds them. We already know much of what helps with depression and other mental illnesses. For most people, many factors by themselves or in combination (plenty of exercise, time spent in nature and sunshine, healthy diet, optimal nutrition, supportive relationsips, quality sleep, low stress, low inequality, etc) will have a thousand times more benefit than drugging people up.

    I really like Williamson. She is my all-time favorite presidential candidate. I know she didn’t have a chance in hell because the establishment would never allow her to be elected. But if she had become president, she would’ve shaken things up. Not because she is all that radical and extremist but because she would’ve been a genuine voice of the people. And as a minister, she has great speaking skills. In one interview, the interviewer was being confrontationally antagonistic and Willliamson handled her like a pro. She never gets ruffled and always comes across as confident.

    Plus, Williamson is a well known minister and author. I’m biased, of course, in my support. She belongs to Unity Church, which I grew up in. That church, by the way, was doing same sex marriages before I was born. Unity doctrine is more liberal than the average atheist. And she has written many books, inclucing on A Course In Miracles (ACIM). I read my grandmother’s copy of the ACIM in high school and read some of Williamson’s books shortly after high school. Unity and ACIM theology is that God, humans, all of Creation is a manifestation of Divine Love. She has also run various organizations to help AIDS victims and much else.

    Could you imagine an extremely liberal and progressive minister as president who preaches love for all of humanity? If anyone could’ve drained the swamp of political corruption and big money interests, it would’ve been Williamson. Sanders would’ve been better than Biden. But Sanders wouldn’t have been a fraction as transformative as she could’ve been.

  • Class status and power hierarchies obviously play a major role. But privilege doesn’t always protect an individual. In the Roman Empire, slaves working in the lead mines had short lives.

    On the other hand, the elite used water from lead pipes, used lead dishes, and sweetened their wine with white lead. Some argue this is what caused the decline of the Roman Empire, as the elite were brain-damaged from lead toxicity — just a theory. For a modern example,

    look to the work of Keith Payne in his book The Broken Ladder. The data shows that high inequality causes problems in society for all involved, poor and rich alike. Sure, the poor get the worst of it. But Payne shows that even the rich in high inequality societies have on average worse rates of mortality, depression, drug abuse, etc as compared to the rich in low inequality societies.

  • The author of the article is an anthropologist, not a mental health worker. Those are two very different fields. An anthropologist doesn’t work with patients, unless they were for some reason observing a population of patients or looking at data about them.

    Also, keep in mind there is no inherent conflict between her position and your own. It isn’t only large societal factors (inequality, political oppression, environmental toxins, etc) that alter epigenetics but also the more individual factors. Psychiatric medications and other drugs can also cause epigenetic changes.

    Some of this research has been done on non-human animals, but much of it has also been done on humans. We know how epigenetics works in the human body. Scientists have been able to detect epigenetic markers that are passed on in humans from one generation to another.

    Only one of the references below is about rats. The rest are about humans.

    Epigenetics in Psychiatry
    2014, Pages 481-496
    Chapter 23 – Epigenetic Effects of Currently Used Psychotropic Drugs
    Marco P.M. Boks
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780124171145000231

    Epigenetic alterations in depression and antidepressant treatment
    Andreas Menke, MD and Elisabeth B. Binder, MD, PhD
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214180/

    Effects of Antipsychotic Drugs on the Epigenetic Modification of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Gene Expression in the Hippocampi of Chronic Restraint Stress Rats
    Mi Kyoung Seo,1 Young Hoon Kim,2 Roger S. McIntyre,3,4 Rodrigo B. Mansur,3,4 Yena Lee,3 Nicole E. Carmona,3 Ah Jeong Choi,1 Gyung-Mee Kim,5 Jung Goo Lee ,1,5,6 and Sung Woo Park
    https://www.hindawi.com/journals/np/2018/2682037/

    Epigenetic Effects of Drugs of Abuse
    Thomas Heinbockel and Antonei B. Csoka
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6210395/

  • I’m talking about mental health. The fact of the matter is mental health is inseparable from physical health — not only health of the bran but also of the nervous system, immune system, metabolism, etc. And both mental and physical health are inseparable from environmental and public health. That has been the failure of much of mainstream healthcare, mental and otherwise. I’m obviously not arguing against the necessary criticisms when rightly targeted. There are those in this field who need to be held accountable — morally, legally, and politically. On that, we both agree.

    Yet if you look at the scientific literature, you’ll find thousands of studies, meta-analyses, case reports, etc linking mental health to many of these other factors: parasitism, toxicity, diet/nutrition, inequality, poverty, etc. So, there are many practitioners and researchers in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, and neurocognition who are concerned about such things, even if they don’t get the attention they deserve. The point being that it isn’t a failure of the entire field but merely the part of the field dominated by the pharmaceutical industry, which for obvious reasons gets most of the press from corporate media.

    Out of curiosity, I did a search on Mad In America and only found 13 results about diet/nutrition but none on parasitism or toxins, although there was quite a few results on poverty and inequality. Another website I’m familiar with is Psychology Today that regularly publish articles about these topics — they have hundreds of pieces on diet/nutrition, hundreds on poverty and inequality, a little over a hundred on toxicity, and about a hundred on parasitism. It is a well known and researched area, the link between mental, physical, and environmental health.

  • That would be the advantage of a systems approach. Diagnosing individuals with “mental disease” is only meaningful if one assumes the problem is an individual problem and an isolated problem.

    But this all changes once we realize that depression is related to other health issues like toxicity rates and that those other health issues are related to the world around us such as old lead pipes in buildings, lead residue in the soil from old factories, and the toxic dump a politicians decided to locate in poor communities.

    Multiply that by thousands of environmental factors as part of numerous systems: political systems, economic systems, ecosystems, etc. Maybe we should learn from ecosystem science in particular, an entire field that is about the study of complex interrelationships. Rather than diagnosing individuals, we need to be diagnosing our entire society.

  • Once we stop treating humans as isolated individuals, once we stop treating one thing separate from all else, psychiatric medications become far less attractive. Once we realize that by taking simple collective actions like reducing rates of toxicity, parasitism, malnutrition, etc, many supposedly psychiatric conditions will begin to drastically lessen.

    But because of epigenetic changes, it could take several generations to reverse the damage we’ve caused as a society in being so dismissive of the shared conditions of our suffering, not to mention our scapegoating of individuals for the sins of society. That is why we need to make these changes as quickly as possible and so a new systemic way of thinking is necessary.

  • The rat park research is quite the opposite. It was a challenge to the chemical model of psychiatry that believed addiction was a biological disease, maybe genetically determined. The rat park research disproved this. Even with the presence of a highly addictive drug, the rats had no interest in the drug as long they that had plenty of access to all the things that make a rat happy (other rats, toys, good food).

    Johann Hari talks about the evidence among humans. Drug rehab programs that re-create social connections show higher success rates. This is seen on an even larger scale with Portugal changing to compassionate public policy that no longer treated and scapegoated addict as if they were a failed individual and instead sought to help change the social conditions that promoted addiction in the first place. Their drug addiction rates then plummeted.

    It turns out the individual is not separate from the society and world around them. Imagine that.

  • What do you mean that the human is not a system? That is the problem with the conventional healthcare model. Every person and every aspect of a person is treaed as if in isolation.

    So, the individual goes to a doctor to treat their depression, another doctor to treat their psoriasis, and still another doctor to treat thei diabetes — as if the human body and mind aren’t part of the same system. Each doctor has their separate expertise and none is looking at how one thing is affecting another.

    That is precisely the dysfunction in our society that is harming so many people. A system simply means tha one thing relates to and affects another.

    When I was treated by psychiatrists and psychotherapists, no one bothered to test for nutritional deficiences, inflammatory markers, heavy metal toxins, etc. Nor did anyone discuss how my being in poverty in highly unequal and oppressive society might be contributing.

    The false assumption was that my depression was merely ‘psychological’ and ‘individual’. But my depression only went away when I stopped going to psychiatrists and psychotherapists, when instead I started to think about the larger context of what might be causing it.

    I identified the external factors I had control over and changed them to the best of my ability. That worked like magic, even though much remained outside of my control. Thinking of myself as connected to a larger world of systems made me feel not only less powerless but also less isolated and less frustrated.

    Many of the changes I made were relatively simple. But they were only possible to do once I took a systems approach, especially learning from doctors who use functional medicine.

  • To understand complex systems, we need better scientific literacy. Look at the society-wide effect from lead toxicty rates or parasite load. How is it that few people still don’t know about such basic scientific knowledge demonstrating the complexity of human society and health?

    Parasite stress theory indicates that parasites can even change personality and culture. Some parasites directly alter the brain, such as with toxoplasmosis. Parasite exposure is very much an external factor, depending on various environmental and societal conditions. Some places in the Deep South have parasite rates, not to mention poverty and mortality rates, similar or worse than many developing countries.

    Or consider the rat park research related to addiction where changes in social conditions changes behavior. Johann Hari writes about this and has another book showing the social factors behind depression. None of this is merely about the individual in isolation for we are social creatures part of social systems, not to mention political and economic systems and ecosystems.

    Another big factor I left out is epigenetics, which is influenced by environment, collective events, diet, etc. Epigenetics determines genetic expression and research shows that, in some cases, this can get passed on for at least several generations, such as with increased obesity rates of grandchildren following famine experienced before the grandparent had children. So, genetic expression that shapes who we are is inseparable from not only the environmental conditions we’ve experienced but also of what our parents, grandparents, etc have experienced.

    Research has even shown cultural carryover of social behaviors from historical events that happened many centuries before, such as increased xenophobia in villages that protected themselves during the Black Death by keeping out strangers. Also, consider how inequality remains high, even among whites, in places where slavery used to be concentrated. Talk about complexity! We need to teach systems thinking, as part of basic public education.

  • This is a great beginning. People can nitpick at it if they want and public debate is always needed, but there is no other way to move forward. It’s a simple fact that we are not only part of systems but inseparable from them. We are systems within systems. This is the future of healthcare for individuals and as public policy. Individual health is always public health.

    Oppression, disenfranchisement, social stress, interpersonal trauma, violence, economic inequality, poverty, prejudice, malnutrition, toxins, parasites, infectious diseases, etc. There are thousands upon thousands of factors that contribute to our physical and mental health or lack thereof. And none of these factors are merely personal. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as isolated individuals, a false and oppressive ideological realism.

  • I came across my comment again. I realize that, unless someone goes to my blog, they probably won’t know what I’m referring to. Most Americans have never been taught this info and so I can’t assume that anyone here has familiarity with it. Let me give an example to clarify (for more examples and info, go to my blog).

    In many chronic diseases inflammation is a central factor. This is seen in metabolic syndrome and autoimmune disorders, but it is likewise seen as brain inflammation in neurocognitive problems and psychiatric illness, from schizophrenia to mood disorders. Inflammation can be caused by lifestyle factors such as stress, inactivity and inadequate sleep, although some of the most important factors are related to diet and nutrition.

    For example, excess sugar or a generally high-carb diet along with industrial seed oils (i.e., the standard American diet; SAD) contribute to inflammation. And this SAD diet likewise contributes to metabolic syndrome which alters hormonal functioning which deals with appetite signalling and so can alter eating patterns and behaviors.

    This could get diagnosed as an eating disorder when, in reality, it is a dietary disorder. That is to say it’s a bad diet that is messing with the healthy functioning of the entire body. This can manifest in diverse symptoms that get diagnosed as a wide variety of conditions, even though the underlying causal factors might be the same or related.

    This is where something like functional medicine comes in. It looks at the body as a system but also at the totality of the individual’s lifestyle, relationships, and environment. Many systems in the body are interrelated. There are several connections between the gut and the brain, one of which is direct. Or consider insulin which is a hormone that is used as signalling both in the metabolic system and the immune system.

    I came to understand this from personal experience. I went on a very low-carb diet to lose some extra body weight. Unexpectedly, decades of severe depression disappeared and never returned. This is a common experience with a number of other psychiatric and neurocognitive ailments and issues. A lot of research has shown the mechanistic causes behind this.

    I don’t specifically know about eating disorders. But I’d be surprised if it had no relation whatsoever to diet and nutrition.

  • Why not mention how different diets have been shown to cause and alleviate various serious mental health conditions? Maybe eating disorders are real, even if the cause has been misattributed. Maybe it’s not about how someone eats but what they eat.

    The science points to this understanding being more widely applicable: mood disorders, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder, Alzheimer’s, etc. For centuries, experts have been linking mental health to physical health, often emphasizing diet.

    [I posted this comment once, but it had links in it and the comment disappeared. Apparently, links aren’t allowed to be posted. If you want to see the links, go to my WordPress blog Marmalade (benjamindavidsteele) and look for the following posts: “Physical Health, Mental Health”, “Ketogenic Diet and Neurocognitive Health”, The Ketogenic Miracle Cure”, “Diets and Systems”, “Moral Panic and Physical Degeneration”, and “The Agricultural Mind”.]

  • The serious problem isn’t that we’ve pathologized eating problems for the minority diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. Rather, much worse is that we’ve normalized the eating problems for the majority not diagnosed with anything. The standard American diet, including ‘plant-based’ versions, is a collective sickness.

  • Few people realize that the modern industrial diet is extremely unnatural with its high intake of starchy carbs and low intake of nutritious animal foods. Such a diet wasn’t even possible until quite recently.

    It was only in the 1800s that there were consistent high yields of grains and even then it was mostly fed to animals, not humans. Wheat and sugar are fairly recent introductions to the common diet, as they previously were only affordable and accessible to the wealthiest. Prior to the 1900s, Americans ate more meat than bread and, prior to the 1930s, more lard than seed oils.

    I’m constantly surprised, despite all the vast research, that most people still don’t realize the powerful impact diet and nutrition has over neurocognitive development and mental healthy. An unhealthy relationship to food is largely to do with what kinds of foods one is eating. Our entire industrial food system is built on and creates eating problems.

  • Then again, much of the unhealthy standard Western diet of chemical-saturated monoculture and industrially-processed foods was also exported to the East and elsewhere in the world. Maybe people have unhealthy eating patterns and unhealthy psychological patterns partly because they are part of an unhealthy food system that creates havoc in the body, including in the gut-brain system, nervous system, hormone system, etc. There is a tremendous amount of research showing the connection between diet, nutrition, neurocognitive development, and mental health.

  • I haven’t been to a functional doc. But I’ve been reading about it this past year.

    I’ve had depression for decades. And I used to be on antidepressants and antipsychotics. That isn’t what led me to dietary changes, though. I was a sugar addict for my whole life. And weight I had gained wouldn’t go away in my 40s. I had been decreasing sugar for a while. I didn’t make a big difference. Then I tried low-carb paleo. That helped a fair amount.

    Though I felt better, it was only when I when went very low-carb (keto) that I realized my depression had entirely disappeared. No moody funks, brooding, apathy, irritability, etc. Just gone. For all the doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists I went to, not a single one ever recommended functional medicine or anything like it. I never had any tests on much of anything. Most simply told me to take drugs.

  • In my ideal world, there would be no coercion and no mental health issues. And, for that reason, I want to understand what causes such things. But, as everyone knows, correlation doesn’t inevitably prove causation.

    Still, causal links can be proven (and disproven). In fact, research has already discovered many of them. We do know that malnutrition, heavy metal, and parasites directly cause or contribute to numerous issues of neurocognitive development and mental health.

    Lead toxicity, in particular, is one heck of a doozy. Besides physical health problems, it causes depression, ADHD, learning disabilities, impulse control, aggressive behavior, etc. Urbanized and industrialized populations will obviously have higher toxicity rates than, for example, tribal people on small islands.

    Even more interesting are some of the parasites. Consider toxoplasmosis gondii. It infects the brain and alters its functioning—in many cases, leading to: depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc. This is the origin of the crazy cat lady stereotype. It is contracted from cat feces, and infection increases with childhood contact with housecats which are more common in the industrialized West.

    The physical and environmental sources of mental health are very much real. But that doesn’t disprove the connection to social and cultural factors. It’s just that the latter are hard to prove, especiall in terms of all the known and unknown confounding factors.

    There is also something to be wary about in non-physical explanations. Culture, in particular, has been a favorite tool of the political right to bash over the heads of minorities and the poor. It is often argued that an inferior culture is to be blamed for the problems and struggles of impoverished and oppressed. It is conveniently ignored that thee populations live in unhealthy environments (e.g., toxins) and have limited access to quality affordable healthcare.

    I don’t doubt that cultures can become dysfunctional under conditions that are far from optimal. Yet that leaves ultimate causes unclear.