Like the other commenters here, I will miss Seth's writing. He shared so much and influenced so many others. He had both the curiosity and the courage to try crazy things and shared what he learned with the world. RIP, Seth.
Well, there are "rumors" of links between eating too much fat and cardiovascular diseases, and he was abusing butter as of late...
The author of that paper your linked, Uffe Ravnskov (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uffe_Ravnskov) seems to be part of a small minority holding this belief.
He was well known for self experimentation and writing the book, "The Shangri-La Diet".
I know this is a rough time, but I’d like to ask: if you don’t already know for certain, please preserve any evidence, digital and physical, that might indicate why he died. If it was the result of one of his self-experiments, then I think he would want us to know.
There is a well known separation between the theorist and the experimentalist mindset. He was one of the best of the experimentalists. A "soft science" guy with the math and computing skills to teach the "hard science" guys a lesson or two, despite the poor reputation of soft science guys in that area. My possibly mistaken observation is you're trying to apply theoretician morality (consensus building, rabid conformity, name dropping) to a guy who was nearly the cultural archetype of the ideal ultimate experimentalist.
Not surprisingly all his posts began with "So I temporarily doubled my daily butter intake while taking standardized psych intelligence tests before, during, and after the dietary change and the results were ..." and practically none of his blog posts began with "Like everyone else, I agree with Dr Phil's strategies for weight loss and anyone who doesn't agree with everyone else, all of the time, is inherently wrong ..."
Your judgment of his work is accurate and correct if you use theoretician criteria on his work. But he was focused on the near exact opposite, in experimentalism. And if you use the more appropriate experimentalist criteria on his experiments, he was Awesome for a soft sciences guy and could teach the supposedly elite math/CS skilled hard science guys, a thing or two about data analysis and presentation.
He was a terrible experimentalist. He never used randomization or blinding; he never took into account any covariates like travel or smog (he lived in China and flew back and forth! and would still report A/B/A comparisons); he didn't even try to correct for time trends; and all of this was deliberate since he knew why you need good methodology and how abandoning all this stuff leads to systematically false results, and he went and did it all anyway. Roberts as critic was very different (and much superior to) Roberts as experimentalist.
Harmful? No - you can't state that with any quantitative facts, what you've stated is pure postulation. The first thing I thought when I read this is that Seth's work and studies will be used as a scape goat to discredit the high cholesterol / high fat intake perspective on diet unfortunately.
"Generally not the kind of of crowd hacker news "associates" with." - It seems you haven't been here long.
> "Generally not the kind of of crowd hacker news "associates" with." - It seems you haven't been here long.
Good job on the passive aggressive attack there. Let me retort with "what are you, twelve?". Equally as convincing an argument I hope.
Haven't tried it myself, but open to it at some point.
Seth Roberts' 'diet' seems to be based on eating things with and without a flavour at different times; a bit of a WTF to say the least.
Perhaps I can help clarify it a bit. Note that I liked the guy and his attitude (although I never met him) but have never embraced his research, may as well get biases out of the way.
As a psych prof he became very interested in WHY people get hungry. If you can control when and what you desire to eat, then you can eat whatever you desire whenever you want, yet you can trivially control your nutrition / weight.
Needless to say the hair shirt crowd and the neo puritan crowd see this as a direct attack against their core beliefs, no improvement should be possible, should be allowed, should even be non sin ful to think about, without agonizing suffering. Who is being rationally scientific and who is suffering from a mental illness impairing their day to day lifestyle is an interesting question where I have an intense bias.
Personally via experience I agree with most of his general theories although I disagree or have no opinion WRT some of his techniques and choices. For example I have a very low refined carb low grain low sugar diet, and the idea of eating a sickeningly sweet snickers bar now is kinda nauseous, so although I could trivially afford, obtain, and eat an entire box of snickers bars, there's no way I'd do it other than a survival situation, although as a young-ish adult I gobbled those things up with predictable results.
Seth's theories about how to get to that kind of ... mental state or whatever ... might sound a little weird. But they worked for him, and seem appropriate for a psych professor to professionally comment on, so he's probably completely correct, however weird it may sound. A psych prof commenting on psychological state (at least WRT appetite) probably has more wisdom than any CS/IT guy on HN commenting on a psych topic...
The controversy is all in the application. His theory seems sound, now its all people freaking out about how it can be (mis)applied. That's where all the screaming is happening, no one at a professional level seems to disparage his actual theoretical psych work.
Its like debating the morals and ethics of Maxwells equations in a debate about net neutrality. Maxwell's probably right; doesn't imply much one way or another about the morality of the position purchased for the FCC. Although both topics are certainly in the same field of human endeavor.
All those experiments start with a very restricted diet and then they start adding apples, pork....
The restricted diet consists of what is considered safe food. ( A pear for example)
Double blind means that nor the participants nor the observers know which of the two groups follows the highly restricted diet. The participants are young children.
> The parents and teachers who filled in the questionnaires could not be blinded as they had to supervise the food intake of the child and knew whether the child was following an elimination diet.
Do you have a reference of a similar article with a double blind test?
Another question: Pears, apples and quinces are very related plants. Why pears are safe and apple not? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malinae
In the first table, second column (RCTtype) everything starting with DB is a double blind trial. (5 in total)
It has something to do with the hypo-allergenic qualities of pears, rice, turkey and most vegetables.
But I'm not a food scientist.
Seth Roberts: "The Growth of Personal Science: Implications for Statistics" (pdf)
I had the pleasure of knowing Seth personally and am deeply saddened to hear this news.
Anyone who stakes their life on a single published meta-analysis is unwise. Anyone who puts faith in a single assessor of cardiac risk, coronary CT, is unwise. It is ironic that the most apt assessment of Seth's life and death comes from a margarine commercial popular in the 1970s: "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature."
Your comments in this thread are inappropriate and untimely. We do not yet know what caused Seth's collapse, and to jump to blame his experiments because you disagree with his methods is shortsighted.
This is not science. You are drawing a conclusion to support your own preconceived medical notions based on incredibly limited evidence.
The world does not need more armchair coroners, claiming they've determined causes of death in comment threads hours after someone has passed.
His unusual diet may have been connected to his death, and it's certainly reason for concern, but you don't know anything about the causality.
or just due to plain old heatstroke and/or going beyond your physical limit (on that given day and for you given overall condition for that day). You should at least have mentioned whether you know this hills. I hike a lot in the East Bay, and if i remember the Sat was pretty sunny.
It was not heatstroke.
"Going beyond your physical limit" -- what, exactly, does that mean? Thousands of times a day, people get on treadmills in cardiologists' offices, and are taken to their physical limit with a "maximal effort stress test." Even this doesn't precipitate life-threatening complications unless cardiovascular disease is present.
There are some genetic blood disorders that can cause sudden death during extremely heavy exertion (e.g. professional football drills) at altitude, but they are very rare in caucasians, and Berkeley's hills don't qualify as "altitude."
So perhaps what finally killed Seth relates not to his experimental treatments, but to whatever underlying preexisting conditions inspired him to invest such effort. Seems worth considering, anyway.
You may be right about what killed him, asshole, but how about you let his body get cold first before you start tut-tutting and wagging your finger?
It's already apparent for reasons exclusive of this that experimenting on yourself is a bad idea. However it is fallacious to just assume that his actions led to his death like this and to claim outright like you are is irresponsible.
On the surface and, in the general case, I agree maj0rhn's comments could be seen as borderline trolling. However, in this case we are discussing an untimely and rare sudden death of a very public figure that, very publicly, was engaging in and tacitly touting the health benefits of a practice that the medical community, wisely or not, widely agrees on as a significant risk factor for some of the most common causes of, precisely, sudden death. I think the public/hacker interest case for openly debating the possibility of a link --and the related possibility that those of us who liked to experiment with ourselves and try out Seth's ideas might, just might, have unknowingly exposed ourselves to an increased risk of a rare sudden death--- is fair and proper in this case.
TL;DR this comment sums up my reaction better than the lousy wall of text above.
Seeing as how, right now, at this moment, YOU HAVE NO FUCKING CLUE what killed him, take your "teachable moment" and shove it up your ass.
It happens all the time up here in Canada when people shovel snow.
"It was nice to know all that but I did wonder: Was I killing myself? Fortunately I could find out. A few months before my butter discovery, I had gotten a “heart scan” – a tomographic x-ray of my circulatory system. These scans are summarized by an Agatston score, a measure of calcification. Your Agatston score is the best predictor of whether you will have a heart attack in the next few years. After a year of eating a half stick of butter every day, I got a second heart scan. Remarkably, my Agatston score had improved (= less calcification), which is rare. Apparently my risk of a heart attack had gone down."
(quick edit) It's profoundly sad to watch http://quantifiedself.com/2010/09/seth-roberts-on-arithmetic... all the way through as a result of this story. It's complicated... maybe it's a failure of medicine, of medical care delivery, education, etc but a room full of educated people laughing off the comments by that person warning of artherosclerosis/stroke and Robert's responses... it's just not a good sign.
I've been following his Shangri-La diet for over four years now. Here's a page about my results, although it's a bit out of date:
Then I increased cardio, stopped the diet (why? I don't recall), and proceeded to gain it back (while doing 3+ hours/week of cardio). I've tried various things with limited success and been meaning to try Shangri La again.
Personal anecdote, post hoc ergo propter hoc, etc.
(I'm going to cut my flaxseed oil consumption on the theory that it might have contributed to his death, as long as I don't hear otherwise, but there are other ways to hack the flavor-calorie association, like wearing a noseclip sometimes when you eat.)
It did however make me not hungry at all, I would barely eat throughout the day.
It caused social problems though, because at night I still wouldn't be hungry, so I would just sit there at dinner while the family ate, and they would constantly be asking if I was ok.
I stopped losing weight when I hit the set point, and stopped the diet a while after that. Eventually I gained the weight back.
Interestingly, a few years later I started exercising regularly as a way to loose weight, and now I'm once again stuck at the same set point, which is about 15 pounds more than I'd like to be. Still trying to figure out how to lower that set point.
Tried both oil and sugar water.
Following the Shangri-la forums, I notice that a lot of people lost SOME weight using his diet but practically nobody reached their ideal weight or anything near it. At best it's one tool in the toolbox, but in no way a "cure" for being overweight. I think the effect is real, and really hope somebody does more rigorous testing to figure out when and how the effect works so the diet can be made more effective/reliable/convenient, to the degree that's possible.
I am sad to see this. I only recently learned of the site. I have done my own personal health experiments and had hoped to make contact and what not, but did not get around to it. I imagine a lot of people will say his experiments killed him or believe it even if they don't say it.
I increasingly think there is no point to trying to share such info. If you die under a doctor's care, they say your condition did you in. If you die doing alternative stuff, they say the alternative stuff did you in. It seems pretty no win, in that regard.
I never knew him, yet it feels like a personal loss for me.
I get a lot of feedback from people about all kinds of projects that my work is "too niche" and only serves a tiny population. I don't think that's true at all and I am trying to figure out what I am doing wrong.
Swartz also wrote about Roberts' Shangri-La Diet on his blog, claiming that through it "losing weight has to be one of the easiest things I’ve ever done":
I think Seth Roberts was the very definition of a hacker. Not computer hacker. Hacker.
I started the diet about 5 weeks ago. The oil drinking helped to make my cravings tolerable. I quit after 2 weeks because I didn't seem to need the oil any more. My cravings have been under control since without the oil. (I've lost about 3 inches of waist. I've not measured my weight because I don't care about that. I'm feeling lighter and better than I have in about 4 years.)
I think there's value to his theory of set-points, and to the use of unflavored oil as something that breaks the brain's flavor-calorie connection. Nevertheless, I'd be severely concerned by this news if I were still on the diet, or if I were on the diet long-term.
I won't say that diet can't lead to suicide but...it was suicide for Swartz, right?
I didn't mean to imply he died because of the diet (just like we shouldn't infer that Seth died because of the diet). Apologies if it seemed I implied that.
Nevertheless, it's possible that the diet messed with Aaron's brain.
Personally, I've benefited from the diet. So I'm firmly in Seth's camp. But his death does raise questions.
Did his diet mess with Swartz's brain? Possibly. I doubt it, though. Being harassed by the DOJ was more than enough to drive anyone to suicide.
I don't even care about the weight loss and cardiac shit, I think I've seen enough here.
Seth did report a lot of N=very-small anecdotes uncritically. You might say he was encouraging people to do their own N=1.
"They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown." - Carl Sagan
Double-blind peer-reviewed replicable studies or GTFO.
Neither of these conditions apply to the question "Can this airplane fly or not?" There is no subtlety there, no biochemical variations. The plane either flies or it doesn't, and either result is perfectly clear to even the most ignorant layman.
As for peer review, the Wright Brothers had plenty of it: their peers showed up, looked at the plane in flight, and said "Yep, uh-huh, that's flying all right."
I knew it would be a laugh and a half after that.
In that, he was like us all. Unlike many of us, he was open minded and brave enough to experiment.
Report of the death of a genuinely good scientist, is a cruddy way to start a day. We should have a site rule that this kind of thing is only permissible after 5pm or something.
Listen to a cardiologist trying to talk Seth out of his course, at around 11 minutes in this 2008 video:
A fitness buff throughout his life, so never straying far from a conventionally healthy diet in the first place, he famously doubled down on conventional wisdom and went on a low fat, vegetarian diet after suffering a heart attack at a young age. He did everything right, according to establishment wisdom. After a few years, at only 58, he died from a heart attack or stroke. Those of us who are skeptical of the diet-heart hypothesis were not surprised.
The point is, it's very easy to support a side with your favorite anecdote.
After decades of motivated science, the support for the diet-heart hypothesis is poor. Stephan Guyenet, a Ph.D. neurobiologist who studies obesity for a living, has a blog where he examines the evidence in detail. Here's a sample:
If you disagree, I'm sure Stephan would welcome you opening a dialogue with him in the comments on his blog. I'd be interested in that.
It seems that Mel Siff didn't follow a low fat vegetarian diet himself, based on his response to a critical article about him: (full response here: http://www.somasimple.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6558 )
Interestingly, I cannot recall anyone by the name of Glassman ever staying in the Siff household or studying me in the laboratory to examine my eating habits, so I am intrigued to know where he found this inside information. The abbreviated tale of my cardiac rehab programme
(http://www.worldfitness.org/drmelsiff.html) certainly said nothing about my specific breakdown of macronutrients in my diet.
Had he read a little more carefully what I wrote, he would have noticed that my diet comprises something like 50-60% lipids (no fried foods, no transfats, no animal fat, plenty of fish) and under 30% carbohydrates (no refined carbs) and hasn't deviated much from that sort of balance for many years - I have never been a lover of high carb diets and have eaten little or no sugar
(other than about 1-2 tablespoons of honey or a few servings of fruit a day). Where on earth does he obtain that nonsense from about my diet?
So, he says there he ate about 50-60% fat. It's strange though that he says "no animal fat" but plenty of fish, which is of course animal fat.
Edit: downvotes? Where is the evidence of what actually killed Seth? What makes a 'cardiologist' correct here, vs a scientist?