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Archive for September, 2016

Right. It’s been exactly one year since my last deliberately provocative post on copyright. Then I was talking about Doctor Who and our inferior quality experience in Australia. Here we have Red Dwarf S11E01 which isn’t even yet scheduled for Australian broadcast. Now I am not a fan of online streaming, and I will never be a fan. In the video above I explain why, but also consider the fact that I can’t stream it to my TV which is where I want to watch the video – the service above exclusively allows me to stream it to my PC! Not only that, but it forces users to use flash – that wouldn’t be so bad if the website was secure, but it’s still god-damned obsolete technology!! The quality of the video is frankly, terrible. It should at least be made available in 720p.

Now to prove my point, my video above does not force you to use flash. It’s a plain HTML5 video element that you are free to save to your hard disk. As you can see, I could have easily recorded the flash video anyway, it’s not like anything would prevent me from doing so. The streaming version was very low quality (not unlike iView) and the episode wasn’t that great either. On the upside I can say that between mvp-hosts and ublock-o no ads were to be seen.

There is a section at the end of this blog post about their recent Tumblr drama, but the focus on this blog post is on the question health advice, as well as mental health. Okay, so let’s get right into this. They both have a superiority complex – and I have one as well. I don’t think that is a bad thing – in fact for me it’s been most helpful over the years. I’ll explain why in a moment, but let’s start with the premise that health is not just about physical health, but also psychological well-being, as well as spiritual well-being, and even community well-being. Earlier this week, new parliamentarian Julian Leeser devoted his maiden speech to talking about depression. Most people know what it is like to go through depression at some point, but it can affect people in disproportionate ways. And it can be very difficult to seek help for. When I went through a period of this myself as a young adult, I tackled it completely alone. And so one day I decided that I needed to help myself – if I’m not going to reach out for help, then I need to step up and provide a solution. And that’s what I did, and it was very successful for me. What I decided was that I didn’t give a fuck what anyone else thought about me, I would love myself unconditionally. So that’s why I have a superiority complex.

What I don’t allow it to do is guide my belief-set. It has taken a very long time to free myself from preconceived beliefs. And I believe the reason I have been successful with this is because I am quite receptive to receiving and considering information, even when it gets overwhelming. Health, unfortunately, is one of these areas where people have a lot of preconceived ideas, and everyone thinks they’re an expert. Not only that, but then they join the “evil” diet industry and are oblivious to the fact they’re a part of it. It wouldn’t bother me so much if when we showed people like this evidence they looked at it and said “that’s interesting, let me have a very good look at this and come to a fresh conclusion”. Diet is a very fast growing area of study, and things we used to believe about cholesterol and saturated fats have turned out to be wrong. If you don’t know exactly what I mean by this do not worry I will explain it in the future.

Much of the stuff that Leanne “Freelee” Ratcliffe and Harley “Durianrider” Johnstone have said regarding health is based on incorrect assumptions, and knowledge drawn from questionable sources. For example in 2014 Leanne said that Chemotherapy “killed” 13-year old cancer patient Talia Joy. Now it’s certainly true that chemotherapy is dangerous, and can result in patient death. This actually happened to someone I know recently. However, doctors do not prescribe the treatment unless the potential benefit outweighs the risk. That is to say, if you have a terminal illness like cancer then the prospect of dying a little sooner due to a negative reaction to treatment is outweighed by the potential to go on and live a long healthy life if the treatment is successful. So it’s not accurate to say that chemo killed the patient, when in fact it was cancer that was the main culprit.

In the video Leanne made, she claims that a raw vegan diet could have cured the girl’s cancer. As evidence she uses a testimonial from a man claiming that he overcame colon cancer by switching his diet. But Belle Gibson made the same claim and we now know it was a complete fraud. But even if the anecdotal case is true, it is still just evidence of a correlation and not causation. And that is a very important distinction to make. She also incorrectly claims that the health industry has a monopoly – the truth is that it is very difficult to research alternative cancer treatments because you cannot prevent patients from having surgery and/or chemotherapy as a part of the treatment for the purpose of research. What you can do is anything that will not prevent them from having those treatments, so if you wanted to do a large randomised controlled trial where people were given different diets – let’s say DASH, and Vegan, and Control – you could do that, you would get ethics approval. In her criticisms of chemo she does not cite anything peer-review or even from respected experts in the field.

My heart sank when I saw the video Leanne made about Eugenia Cooney. Eugenia suffers from some form of eating disorder, and is clearly quite underweight. I used to think that Freelee’s advice was based on a misunderstanding about nutrition, but I now can confirm it’s based on a lie. Eugenia suffers from a mental disease, not a diet-related-illness. Her poor diet is a symptom, not the cause, of her illness. Leanne’s video is completely misinformed about this, and in particular she makes comments about Eugenia’s body which are counter-productive. When a person is suffering from an eating disorder it means they also suffer from body dysmorphia. Criticising her body will only reinforce the beliefs that Eugenia has about her body. Asking Eugenia to go vegan is very inappropriate because it’s the exact opposite of what her therapist would be trying to do, which is to let her know that foods are safe, and that she can be less obsessive about her diet without it adversely affecting her. Also, therapists will want to introduce foods the patient enjoys, and not limit their choice by imposing restrictive constraints on their choices.

Was Harley abused by Leanne?

Right, so as promised I do have an opinion about this. I do not know the full story, of course. When I first saw the video I thought “he looks like a wreck”! But then I realised that was a manipulative attempt by Harley to convince people he was telling the “100% truth”. You could say that I took my preconceived ideas about Leanne into this and I had to keep them in check.

In this instance I see a few things that concern me. Harley consistently hurls insults/accusations at Leanne. This was true by the fact that he was sending her text messages, and in the video he posted where he began by saying “Freelee’s been using botox since 2013, but I don’t judge people who use it…” If you watch the video from start to finish you’ll see it’s a consistent attack on the other person, first botox, then claiming she “changed”, then calling her out for cheating. Notice that he talks about how she used to be carefree but started using makeup as well. What I see are clear actions of a perpetrator trying to exert control over their victim. I’m not saying that Leanne is innocent in this, on that point I do not know, but from what I’ve seen from Harley’s side is clear evidence of a manipulative abuser. He talks about her punching him in the head, but in a later video he says it only happened twice. Which is of course not evidence of systemic abuse against him, but perhaps a desperate attempt by her to fight back. As I said that much is speculation, but it does appear Harley was abusive nevertheless. A victim of abuse is not going to be the one who is sending abuse towards their former partner by texts, those actions alone incriminate Harley.

With all that said I think he made one valid point, which is that Leanne has been using botox since 2013. I don’t think that’s a lie, and I don’t think that Leanne realises how much she has been lying over the years about her health. Yes she might be a raw-to-four vegan, however she also does an excessive amount of exercise and has made use of cosmetic surgeries including her breast reassignment surgery. One thing I’ve learned in nutrition is that the more active a person, the more so-called “crap” they can eat in their diet. She preaches the opposite which is that you need to be excessively active and eat only raw foods. Athletes actually do eat a lot of “junk food” purely for the extra energy they need, and the reason why they can do that is because of their lifestyles. Leanne seems to be completely oblivious to this, and that is why I would caution anyone from taking advice from people like these.

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind, just please remember to be sceptical and to look at what the evidence says, and not what so-called “health gurus” say.


How bad are multivitamins?

First thing’s first. Most people do not need to take multivitamins. Sadly though people are stupid and tend to self-medicate with them anyway. So let’s start by considering who would need to take a multivitamin: the main groups of people who would need multivitamins are: People on restrictive diets (including people with eating disorders, people on low-kilojoule weight-loss diets, or people fasting), alcoholics, and perhaps the elderly. Do not take this as an invitation to self-medicate, if one of these three categories describes you then you should see a nutritionist or a dietician for dietary advice.

So what would happen if you need to take a multivitamin? Well as a starting point you’d need to know how much of the nutrients you need to get from a supplement, and how much you can get from your diet. In an ideal world a multivitamin+mineral supplement would contain 100% of all nutrients, and would be delivered across 5 or more tablets so that a person who needs say 20% of their nutrients from a multivitamin could take 1/5th the dosage easily.

Sadly though this is not the case. Almost all multivitamins contain way too much of the cheap water soluble B-group vitamins, way too much vitamin C, and low amounts of poor quality nutrients (cheap ingredients with low bioavailability) for everything else. Below I have made a table showing the Australian NRVs (Nutrient Reference Values) for men and women. I based it on the 31-50 age group, but most values are correct 19 through to 70 years. It shows these popular brands available at Woolies and Coles: Cenovis, Berocca Performance, Centrum Advance, and Swisse. I have also included the Life Extension Mix tables, which despite being much more expensive than supermarket brands is far worse.

Abbreviations: RDI – Recommended Daily Intake, AI – Adequate Intake (/day), UL – Upper Level of Intake, NP – Not possible to set, mg – milligram, µg – microgram.

Multivitamin - NRV Comparison


Well there are quite a few areas for concern here, and this is simply going by the state nutrient levels – some lab analyses have shown that nutrient levels are often misreported on the product labels. You will notice the Upper Level of Intake for Magnesium is actually lower than the RDI for men (which is why I’ve highlighted it). The Upper Level is actually specifically in reference to supplement use, as opposed to Magnesium found in food. Life Extension Mix is actually the worst multivitamin in my table here, for the fact that three nutrients contain well above the Upper Level of Intake (Niacin, B6, and Magnesium), as well as containing excessive amounts of Beta-carotene, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic acid, B6, Botin, B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc. This is particularly concerning, much more than the nutrients with low amounts. It contains one hundred times the recommended daily amount of Pantothenic acid, and also one hundred times the recommended daily amount of Biotin. The level of Vitamin C was also of particular concern.

Berocca Performance was the worst of the four supermarket brands I looked at. I chose it because it’s heavily advertised on TV. The first thing to note is that it misses a lot of key nutrients. Like most multivitamins, it is packed with the cheap and readily available shit that the company can pack into their tablet without spending money on balancing it out with the more expensive nutrients. Just about everything it contains it contains in excess of, with the exceptions of Magnesium and Folate. On the plus side, it doesn’t contain any Iron or Copper which are two metals worth leaving out of a multivitamin. Most concerning of all is that it contains above the upper level of intake for Niacin.

Swisse is only slightly better, but their nutrient compositions all over the place. Despite women needing less micro-nutrients than men (except for Iron, obviously), their Women’s formula contains more micro-nutrients for most nutrients. Like Berocca, it contains Niacin in amounts either close to the UL or in excess of it. In addition to containing excessive amounts of B-group vitamins, it contains low levels of Vitamin D, calcium, iodine, and anything else people might actually need, as well as an excessively high level of beta-carotene. At least it’s not Retinol.

Cenovis has just 1% of RDI of Calcium. I’m not sold on whether this multivitamin is better or worse than Swisse, but they’re both bad. Cenovis at least did not contain above the upper level of intake for any nutrients, but like Berocca and Swisse it is missing quite a few key nutrients. On the plus side, it contains decent amounts of Vitamin D and iodine.

Centrim Advance was by far the best of the four brands I looked at. Do keep in mind though that it’s still badly formulated. On the positives: it contains both Retinol and beta-carotene, it contains good levels of Vitamin D3 and Iodine, the b-group vitamins are all above the RDI but not to the excesses of the other brands, and at least it includes Vitamin K. On the negatives, it contains both Iron and Copper, and only half the minerals are at decent levels with the rest at worryingly low or absent levels. This is especially so for calcium with Centrum choosing to use (no surprise) a dirt-cheap form of calcium with poor bioavailability. Look it appears to be somewhat more workable than the others I have looked at, but it still would not be an ideal choice for someone that needs the use of a multivitamin.

Further considerations

Just because a vitamin or mineral doesn’t have a UL does not mean it is safe to over-consume in supplement form. There is no UL for Vitamin C, but NHMRC notes that 1,000mg is a “prudent limit”. They all contain high levels of Folic Acid, which could also be a concern noting that all non-organic wheat-flour used for bread making is fortified with Folic Acid to reduce the risk of Neural Tube Defects at childbirth. Too much Folate in the diet can mask B12 deficiency, as well as make it worse. I did mention earlier that in an ideal world multivitamins would contain everything and be able to be taken in an easily measured dose – that is simply not the case for these products. Yes you could take half a tablet every two days to reduce the dosage by 1/4, however a well formulated option should come pre-packed to be taken at the required dose, and not require consumers to make extra effort to control their dosage.

I’m not sure a “good” multivitamin even exists. As I mentioned above, it would seem that a nutritionist would have to work with the “best available” options rather than an ideal option. Even then they have no guarantees that the tablets can be properly absorb anyway, or that the stated dosage is indeed correct. My advice would be to strongly distrust anything that is actively advertised anyway, and of what’s remaining to be very sceptical and to ask the advice of a professional before selecting a product.