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Category : Lifestyle

Introduction

The diet industry is huge. And mostly it doesn’t work. Why is this? Well, it’s actually quite straightforward. People are set up for failure by an industry that thrives on people failing and coming back. They don’t really care whether their clients succeed or not, so long as they can profit from their efforts. I have a huge ethical problem with this, and I think any service should be covered by a guarantee. Instead, people blame themselves for the failure of commercial weight-loss programs, and the industry doesn’t take responsibility for their failures. In this entry what we’re going to look at is the peer-review published evidence for the Flexi diet, and I’ll go over whether or not it is sufficient to guide clinical practise.

The first thing I wish to ask is – how would you define success? Is yo-yo dieting/weight-gain a success? Is short term weight loss a success? Take a moment to consider these questions, they’ll be addressed as we proceed.

What is the “Flexi diet”?

The Flexi diet is “backed by CSIRO research” (CSIRO, 2016). When I first heard about this, I thought the CSIRO had designed and published a diet in the form of a book… I think I first heard it on the radio, and the media was reporting that the CSIRO launched an intermittent fasting diet for weight loss (Connery, 2017; Powley, 2017; SBS, 2017). In fact the CSIRO website also makes this claim. In reality they “co-developed” it, but it’s questionable as to exactly what they “developed” and wish to take credit for.

Despite repeated claims of this on the Impromy website they do not provide the citation to the paper itself. Even more bizarrely, neither do the CSIRO on most of their pages on Flexi including their blog announcement! I’ll refer to the research paper as the “CSIRO paper”, here is the paper’s citation,with a link to it so you can read in full if you want:

Brindal, E., Hendrie, G. A., Taylor, P., Freyne, J., & Noakes, M. (2016). Cohort analysis of a 24-week randomized controlled trial to assess the efficacy of a novel, partial meal replacement program targeting weight loss and risk factor reduction in overweight/obese adults. Nutrients, 8(5), 265. doi:10.3390/nu8050265

In a nutshell, the Flexi diet is a ~30% energy deficient diet that uses commercial meal replacement (MR) shakes and one high-protein meal six days a week. One day a week is a free day. The so-called “fasting days” are simply further energy restricted compared to the other energy restricted days. A more detailed description of the diet is in the following sections.

Description of the study

The study took place over a period of 24 weeks, and predominantly considered whether a program incorporating commercial meal replacement shakes, controlled diet, iPhone app, and ongoing dietary support would support weight loss for participants. In other words they studied a proposed commercial product, which eventually became known as the Flexi diet by Impromy.

The paper begins by informing the reader that lab data and real-world data are often very different, citing that meal replacement and other weight management strategies have been promising in trials, but that their efficiency in the real-world drops significantly. As noted in the paper, in just about all programs available through pharmacies weight-loss become negligible after the first 12 months. These issues will be discussed later in this essay.

The CSIRO study involved observing two intervention groups. All their participants were randomly assigned to one of two intervention groups, with both receiving the same intervention with the exception that one group was given a more basic iPhone app than the other. There was no control group. The study environment was a CSIRO lab and not a pharmacy. In total there were 146 participants, 104 females and 42 males. 27 participants were overweight, the remainder were obese (BMI 30+). The intervention period was 24 weeks, with 12 weeks of “active intervention”. “Active intervention” involved face-to-face meetings with non-nutrition trained consultants who had been given program-specific training from dieticians involved in designing the program. Participant-reported data was relied on primarily for care, and their weight was measured regularly by the consultants. They were also asked to provide feedback on their satisfaction of the meal replacement shakes throughout the program, as well as questions from the consultants that included “what has been the most helpful aspect of the program” (which was asked in week 12). Many of the feedback questions were targeted towards improving the prototype program rather than studying the program objectively per se. Meal replacement sachets were free for the first 4 weeks, and then provided at a nominal cost of $1 each for the remainder of the study.

The findings of the study were modest. 84 participants (58%) completed the study. Of those who completed, 72 offered 94 comments on the meal replacement shake, of those 57 were identified as positive comments, and 16 as negative. 33.5% of all participants lost weight over the study period. All significant weight loss occurred by week 12, with no significant change in weight between weeks 12 and 24.

The CSIRO paper cites Gordon et al. (2011) a systematic literature review which found that pharmacy based weight-loss intervention programs only achieve modest results. The Gordon paper found such methods only achieved an average weight-loss of 0.6-5.3 kg in the first 3 months, 0.5-5.6 in the first 6 months, and just 1.1-4.1 kg over the first 12 months. It’s important to mention to you the design of their study as it is not addressed in the CSIRO paper: this is not a review of all pharmacy weight loss products, rather it is a review of peer-review published “studies” of such products. Only 10 studies met inclusion criteria for a systematic review, and the paper’s authors report that this likely represents a strong bias towards meaningful results. That is many other programs that were available were either: not studied at all, studies undertaken went unpublished, published studies did not meet the inclusion criteria (eg did not take place in a pharmacy setting was the main reason for published papers not being included), or the focus of the study wasn’t weight loss. All 10 of the studies included were multi-factor interventions that included dietary and physical activity components. Finally, the authors noted there was a strong risk of bias in all of the studies which the CSIRO does not mention in its citation of this paper.

Discussion

The paper’s premise that pharmacy-delivered weight loss intervention programs are advantageous, is highly questionable to say the least. Any positive findings from the cited Gordon paper are not relevant to this study for several reasons including that: all trials reviewed in it included a physical activity component, and all trials were conducted in actual pharmacies and not research labs. Literature consistently shows that interventions that combine diet and exercise provide patients greater weight loss (Franz et al., 2007; Johns et al., 2014). Furthermore it represents but a small fraction of the weight management programs available in pharmacies, many of which are quackery! The Gordon paper is their best evidence from the literature for delivering weight-loss programs through the pharmacy, yet read below what the paper actually says in its conclusion:

“This systematic review identified few high-quality studies on weight management in community pharmacy. Currently, there is insufficient evidence for the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of community pharmacy-based weight management initiatives to support investment in their provision.” (Gordon et al., 2011).

CSIRO authors correctly point out that successful lab studies generally provide participants with ongoing multidisciplinary professional support at no cost for the duration of their clinical trials. This should not surprise us! In fact, it completely discredits their hypothesis that any commercial program will succeed. Finding effective low-cost long-term solutions continues to be evasive. People who wish to lose weight will be far more successful by working directly with a dietician or a registered nutritionist on a tailored program: no commercial program has been shown to even approach an equal degree of success. In fact, most of the commercial programs are not designed and targeted for people who are obese, but rather people who are only slightly overweight. Cost is a big factor: clinical trials as mentioned are generally free to participate in. Commercial programs are expensive and need to fit into people’s budgets. Working directly with a registered nutritionist or a dietician is also expensive, however they can provide their clients suitable and realistic diet plans instead of generic plans produced for mass-consumption that don’t fit most overweight or obese clients. This begs the question: why is the premise of the CSIRO study to deliver a program through pharmacies instead of through dieticians?

Some of the claims in the paper are dubious to say the least:

“For longer term success on a program such as this, providing individuals with the flexibility to transition through to fewer meal replacements as their weight loss progresses or as fatigue with the shakes sets in becomes an important element for success. Pharmacy staff are ideally placed to assist the community with weight loss as they are readily accessible and can be available to consultant with individual’s on an as needs basis, potentially quicker that seeking advice from other health professionals. However, appropriate training and tools are required to ensure pharmacy staff delivering the program (not qualified in nutrition) have adequate support to facilitate such a transition through a weight loss program.” (Brindal et al., 2016)

These findings in particular are concerning as they did not recruit pharmacy staff. Nor did they do any research into determining whether people would actually approach pharmacists for dietary advice and assistance with weight management. Nor did they attempt to find out if this is something pharmacists would do instead of say directing a client to a registered nutritionist. Why should pharmacists who are health professionals administer a commercial weight loss program that is not supported by evidence? Even Impromy’s own forum shows the flaw in this logic: “Just opened up the program. … I’m thinking this appears to be more a money making venture, rather than a supported diet. … The Pharmacy wasn’t much help at all.” (C. Kendall, Impromy discussion forum). The last question from that participant on the online forum has gone unanswered for two straight weeks! I don’t imagine the pharmacy will help either – is this really the realistic supportive environment envisioned in the study?

I’m going to show you something the diet industry doesn’t want you to see:

weight-loss-interventions

Figure: Franz et al. 2007.

The figure is from a high quality literature review. As you can see, none of these interventions can be shown to work long-term except for maintaining some of the weight loss experienced in the first 3-6 months. The only thing in that review that kept going was an appetite suppressant (Sibutramine) that’s since been banned by the TGA (also the FDA in the US) in 2010 due to serious adverse side effects. This is why the diet industry is so big – nothing works long-term. Weight-loss doesn’t continue beyond 6 months. Only half the weight lost is maintained to two years, and often all the weight is regained over 5 years. I guess that’s fine if you just want to lose 8kg in 6 months and don’t mind putting back on 4kg. But – keep in mind that most participants at least in this study are obese. A person who is 5′ and slightly obese needs to loose a minimum of 12kg to get to a healthy weight. A person who is 6′ needs to lose 18kg. And have you ever noticed how there are dozens of “12 week” weight-loss products? Now you know why. It’s not because they’re great products, it’s because people won’t notice they don’t work if they stop after 12 weeks!

There are several problems with the CSIRO study. Firstly it’s far too small to generalise data from, and it doesn’t have any follow-up data after six months. There was no control group – therefore this is not an RCT but just an observational study. It’s not in the commercial interests of Impromy to commission an RCT (randomised control trial) as it would likely show their intervention to be ineffective as is the case with the Ahrens paper reviewed by Gordon et al 2011 (and the only RCT in their review). An academic description of it reveals there was no statistically significant difference in the weight loss outcomes compared to the control group that were given a traditional energy-restricted diet (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2006). The CSIRO study environment was not a pharmacy, and the trial was not delivered by pharmacists. Participant-reported data was relied on, when we know that is problematic. And the “satisfaction feedback” is unlikely to have produced meaningful feedback: people participating in studies are often willing to say more positive things about their experience then real-world clients or customers would.

Conclusions

Overall this is a low quality study that is not suitable to guide clinical practise. And that’s putting it as nicely as I can. As mentioned there are many problems with this study, it is low quality by design. It’s not really designed to find best practise, it’s just designed to produce a result. They lack a control group which is absolutely necessary to make any clinical guidelines from. There is no doubt at all that expecting participants to get ongoing support from pharmacies is wholly unrealistic.

The program produces mediocre results. Some media incorrectly reported that participants lost an average of 11kg (I have no idea why, perhaps they extrapolated the finds from 24 weeks to 12 months or something), but in reality the amount of weight lost was nothing special and well below the amount required to make the participants healthy. In other words, they’re selling a diet that fails to achieve a healthy weight even for participants that were only slightly obese. A successful program should at the very least reduce the weight of obese category one clients (BMI 30-35) to a healthy weight. There is no suggestion in the paper that any of their 117 obese clients achieved a healthy weight. Which is not surprising of course in only a 24-week period, but nor is there any indication that their clients were on track to do so: in fact the paper states that weight-loss ceased after the first 12 weeks!

The CSIRO are doing themselves no favours by promoting this “weight-loss diet”.

Recommendations

What should you do if you wish to lose weight? My suggested starting point is to learn the Consumer Healthy Eating Guidelines (that’s the AGTHE in Australia, MyPlate in the US, etc). Those guidelines are freely available and evidence-based, and you can read the literature behind them. Unfortunately most consumers ignore them. If you’re OK with a more restrictive diet you can also consider using DASH or the Mediterranean diet guidelines. None of those are weight-loss diets of course, but they are all health-promoting and provide a solid foundation for learning portion sizes and the right balance between the food groups. Meal replacement diets suffer the problem that they don’t re-educate people into healthy eating, and people often find themselves lost when working out how to eat once the MRs are gone.

A good starting point would be elimination of “discretionary foods”, and a strong focus on eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables (most people don’t eat enough veggies). If you can work that out, then weight-loss is as simple as creating a moderate energy deficiency with of course a long-term commitment to substantially altering one’s lifestyle.

Physical activity also needs to play an important role. When it comes to this there are many options available to people – sports, gyms, swimming, cycling, jogging, walking, altering the workplace environment, dancing, martial arts classes, etc. People should seek solutions that work for them.

References:

(Academic)

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2006. AWM: Meal Replacements (2006). Evidence Analysis Library (if page doesn’t load clear cookies)

Brindal, E., Hendrie, G. A., Taylor, P., Freyne, J., & Noakes, M. (2016). Cohort analysis of a 24-week randomized controlled trial to assess the efficacy of a novel, partial meal replacement program targeting weight loss and risk factor reduction in overweight/obese adults. Nutrients, 8(5), 265. doi:10.3390/nu8050265

Franz, M. J., VanWormer, J. J., Crain, A. L., Boucher, J. L., Histon, T., Caplan, W., … & Pronk, N. P. (2007). Weight-loss outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of weight-loss clinical trials with a minimum 1-year follow-up. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 107(10), 1755-1767. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2007.07.017

Gordon, J., Watson, M., & Avenell, A. (2011). Lightening the load? A systematic review of community pharmacy‐based weight management interventions. Obesity reviews, 12(11), 897-911. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00913.x

Johns, D. J., Hartmann-Boyce, J., Jebb, S. A., Aveyard, P., & Group, B. W. M. R. (2014). Diet or exercise interventions vs combined behavioral weight management programs: a systematic review and meta-analysis of direct comparisons. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(10), 1557-1568. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.07.005

(Non-Academic)

Connery, G. (2017). CSIRO backs fasting and meal replacement shakes in new ‘Flexi’ Diet. Fairfax News

CSIRO. (2016). Impromy™ Health and Weight Management Program. CSIRO website

Powley, K. (2017). How does the CSIRO’s new flexi diet rate? News Corp (subscription) / Mirror

SBS. (2017). Researchers examine time-restricted eating. SBS News

Tufvesson, A. (2012). The CSIRO’s Flexi diet weighs in as the fast way to avoid fasting. The New Daily


1

So I thought I would tackle this one. To be upfront I will “vote” yes in the survey, but I’m about to make a pretty compelling argument for the “No” case. And one that frankly isn’t being made but is by far their most legitimate argument that is free from secondary concerns like the bullying tactics of the far-left advocates. Let me also say that I think it’s a mistake for the “Yes” side to assume that Marriage is an intrinsic right that “of course” gays should be entitled to… it is in fact not that at all, it’s a made up human institution. And if we figure out why it has value as an institution we can also figure out why there is actually a pretty good reason to be opposed to same-sex marriage.

So let me start by asking this: why not just de-legislate marriage altogether? Then everyone can simply register and dissolve legal civil unions whenever they wish, but Marriage will become a completely civil institution held up by whatever organised groups wish to do so, free from government interference. After all marriage began as a non-legislated social institution.

Why we don’t do that is because it is harder to dissolve a marriage than a civil union. Marriage encourages people to stick together through thick and thin rather than dissolve their relationships at any moment. Now at first this may not seem important, but it is. Break-ups of long-term relationships are difficult, expensive, and messy. Often harmful to children. Although sometimes they are necessary, often they are not. So the real purpose of Marriage for government is to encourage married couples to stay together. It’s good for the economy, keeps people out of courts, no need for messy child support payments or court-determined split custody arrangements.

We would still have all this if marriage is a civil institution. However, as a civil institution people’s rights were foregone in favour of religiously flavoured ideologies. The ancient Jews for example did not permit women to get divorces. The Christians did not recognise spousal abuse as a legitimate reason for a divorce. In the end it is the courts who are charged with upholding people’s rights, and they can’t enforce these rights on non-legislated institutions… so de-legislating marriage would end up putting these decisions back into the hands of organisations that have been shown not to upload people’s rights above ideology.

It’s difficult to see how same-sex marriage will strengthen the institution of Marriage. We have, about, a 50% divorce rate. Now true, a lot of those are after children are grown up, so the main costs to the courts are property disputes. But it is more in our interests to be concerned with ways to strengthen the institution, rather than ways to open it up to greater “flexibility”. The “Yes” side is calling the campaign “marriage equality” – but it’s not that. It doesn’t confer rights to polygamous relationships for example. And even though polygamy may not be compatible with social ideals, how is it fair in those relationships that the first wife has all the legal rights and subsequent “wives” have none? Tackling the inequality in people’s rights goes well beyond simply allowing same-sex couples to get married.

The social justice warriors (SJWs) have already begun their bullying tactics. Given how closely tied they are to the “Yes” campaign I do fear for how they will negatively impact upon this survey. The claim being made by the “Yes” side is that same sex couples need marriage for their relationships to have the same “validity” as heterosexual couples. Well many heterosexual couples choose not to marry – is the claim that their relationships have no legitimacy either? The stigma surrounding people who live out of wedlock should be addressed, but more importantly it shouldn’t be the case that marriage confers “legitimacy” that is not otherwise there. Rather, marriage is a seal that is harder to break than a de-facto relationship. Allowing same-sex marriage could in fact be detrimental to getting “equal rights” to those in de-facto relationships. I don’t mean equal rights in property disputes, but equal rights to be legal next of kin, legal parental rights in the event of a break-up, and legal treatment as a couple in hospital situations. In reality, it is very possible that SSM will set back people in de-facto relationships from being conferred the rights that they deserve.

I also have concerns that silent voters will not receive the opportunity to return a survey form. Despite the ABS claiming they will, I have seen no evidence that they have a plan in place to get survey forms to voters with no fixed address or are homeless. They only have a plan in place to send forms to silent voters who have an address they know that isn’t listed on the electoral roll.

And finally, of course, I think the whole idea of a postal survey is absurd. That’s not to say I disagree with holding a plebiscite – a plebiscite would have been perfectly acceptable. Other countries hold them all the time – the UK held one for Brexit for example. But I don’t think a non-compulsory survey will have any legitimacy unless it gets an 80%+ response rate, which I very much doubt it will. If there’s a response rate any lower than that, no matter which side is the victor I would say it has no legitimacy. But that’s me, and I’m not a parliamentarian, so if you want the parliament to listen to your side you have to get out there and return a “Yes” or a “No” response to the survey question – which response is up to you, but base it on what you believe is fair, and whether you think same-sex couples should be included in marriage or not.

You may be wondering why I think marriage should include same-sex couples – well I actually don’t. I think it should include whomever society feels it should, and my vote would be for inclusion, so I will respond “Yes” to the ABS survey. Marriage in all of its various forms around the world all grew out of social norms as a social institution reflective of the values and beliefs of those societies. So if there was a plebiscite (a compulsory attendance plebiscite, not a postal vote) and the result was for “No” I would personally be fine with that. I think it should change to include same-sex couples when society wants it to. But in the meantime, no matter what the outcome, there are real issues to do with discrimination and the rights of partners that are not yet equal to the rights of marriage, and I think it’s really important to address those rights first and foremost. And to strengthen the institution of marriage, whilst also making sure we cater for the vulnerable in society (domestic violence victims, etc). Our present laws are out of date, archaic, reflective of past beliefs not based on evidence, and do not favour those who are in an “at-fault” situation. People currently abuse the system we have at the moment, and our divorce laws (in particular the at-fault ones) need a complete overhaul from the ground-up to fix it.

Fake. I like to be upfront, I saw for some reason a video come up on YouTube with a click-bait title “my 600 lb life exposed” where the lady claims she did her research and she’s concluded that it’s “real”. Well she’s wrong, and this entry will explain why she’s wrong.

So first off let’s set some parameters. Real would be a documentary, an investigative journalist report, a medical procedural show, a bibliographical programme, or perhaps an educational programme. At the lower end we might even accept a current affairs show. 600-lb Life is a reality television show that imitates the format of a documentary programme like Brother’s Keeper. Its imitation of the documentary format is as close as it gets to being “real”, the show is just entertainment, not an informative show. You could even call this kind of show “documentary-porn”. It’s what people watch instead of documentaries as documentaries are far less entertaining.

One reason why people might think that this show is real is because it has “real people” and claims to follow their journeys over the course of a year. But this is just a staple of reality television.

So why then is this show fake – what makes it fake? The number one difference between this kind of show and a documentary is that a documentary film-maker is there to tell the story that unfolds – they aim to represent people and their journey as they are, and to present the viewer with an accurate account of what took place condensed into the space of an hour or two. Reality shows instead of showing you people’s journeys, construct characters/personalities out of their participants and manufacture dramatic moments through the use of music cues, clever editing, and frankenbiting. Constructing personalities for your characters in single episode instalments is far easier than in ongoing serials – have a look at Ice Road Truckers for a counterexample and take notice of how those portrayed with “reckless” personalities have that toned down or even dropped in subsequent series!

They also create whatever story and whatever ending they want for their show and make it all fit within their show’s formatting. One huge difference you will notice between this show and any acclaimed documentary is that use of a voice-over by their participants. To create this voice-over the participants are primed with videos of stressful or emotional clips and a producer (or director) grills them with questions that both further prime them or are intentionally leading. So for example, when you hear someone say something like “this is my last chance and if I don’t get surgery I will die” a line that every participant I’ve seen so far appears to have uttered, it’s because someone has primed them or lead them to say that off-screen … or they’ve simply constructed it by frankenbiting (taking different parts of conversations and editing them together to create a completely new statement by their participant). And it’s not hard for them to manipulate these participants, as most of them have high anxiety associated with their weight, and when a producer or someone off-camera makes them uncomfortable they will do what the producers want in order to lower their anxiety.

The show does not address many of the issues facing the participants. It presents a very shallow view of weight management – there are many issues which these people face, however if it doesn’t fit the show’s manufactured format then they aren’t included. Social anxiety for example is one huge issue for many people with morbid obesity that prevents them from going into public more to exercise etc. Disordered eating is usually the result of a mental health condition, rather than the result of gluttonous behaviour and those issues are not addressed either. Instead the show simply views morbid obesity as the result of a person’s unwillingness to control their behaviour and the enablers that surround them. While that forms part of the picture, it’s far from a comprehensive understanding.

If someone fails to lose weight or to get surgery over the course of the programme they can construct whatever personality they want to present the viewer with. The blame for this is always on the patients and never on the healthcare providers who never seem to feel responsibility for the success of their clients. One example of this is an episode with a man named James K who they present as being a gluttonous slob. Never mind that he became bed-bound due to breaking his ankle, and probably feels high anxiety and humiliation due to it, which of course is going to make any effort to control his diet difficult. Cynthia on the other hand is portrayed as a strong independent woman raising a lovely family, but how different her episode would have been had she started bed-bound following a broken ankle! And that leads me to my next point…

The show presents unrealistic expectations on its participants. You think morbidly obese people can stick to a 800kcal or 1200kcal diet on their own? You have to be kidding me. And not only that, but every episode portrays bariatric surgery as the final goal of the participant – never mind the fact that it’s not suitable for everyone, and that people need to be assessed to determine whether they can lose sustained weight on a controlled diet on their own or whether they will require surgery. It’s not something suitable for all morbidly obese people. And nor is a 800 or 1200 kcal diet, to lose weight over the long term without surgery you would put someone on a energy restricted diet that decreased energy overtime as they lose weight – and you wouldn’t start anywhere near 1200kcal. In fact based on the shows portrayal of Dr Nowzaradan who consistently blames his patients or their family members for their ill health, and never seems to advise them that bariatric surgery may not be the right solution for them, I would think he should be investigated for medical malpractice.

Some participants are shown to be consistently losing weight, but then get surgery anyway. Um what? And worse still, in those episodes Dr Nowzaradan will say something like “they have done reall well but needs surgery to keep going and make progress long term”. No they don’t – many of them don’t need surgery at all. Bariatric surgery does not work long-term. It’s not a real solution, at least not for all patients. It can be a helpful tool, but that’s it. The idea that people need it or they will die, or that they can’t make progress without it is a complete fabrication and outright lie. If you watch the original series that was shot over the course of 7 years you will find that some of those participants (all of them by now probably) re-gain all the weight they managed to lose before and then after surgery. And that brings me to my final point.

The show’s successes are only an illusion. Here today, gone tomorrow. The show does start by saying that only 5% of morbidly obese people are successful long-term in controlling their weight, but they end many of their episodes by portraying a success that may be nothing but a short-lived false victory. The end goal for weight management is in 20, 30, 40 years time in the long-term, not in 1 year. 1 year means nothing, and if the show put that into context it might have a bit more medical credibility.

The show is fake, if you enjoy that’s perfectly fine. It’s an entertainment show after all, but stay sceptical and don’t take it seriously.

I just heard that political satirist John Clarke has died. RIP you wonderful man!

John was 68 years young.

 

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

Breakdown

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.

Well this post will cement my return to tackling the far more controversial and “difficult” topics on my blog. I want to acknowledge that this post does not provide all the answers you may be seeking, but after doing 2 low-level psychology units at university I feel it is imperative to share with you some of the contradictory information that set off alarm bells in my head, by highlighting some of the large unanswered questions the discipline leaves us. But firstly consider this: I’m asking the question “is mental illness a sham”. A sham does not mean that it doesn’t exist, what it does mean is that at some level there is a misalignment of priorities, a miscommunication of fact versus theory, and at least some level of deception.

I want you to consider a peer-reviewed journal article titled Spirituality, religion and health: Evidence and research directions, by Williams & Sternthal (2007), you can read the text online here. It talks about the evidence that exists for the connection between religion and health. Overall the effect is positive, but there are some negative effects also. This is not controversial, this is something very well known. For all the bashing I did to Christianity in recent posts, note that I’ve never denied the evidence that does show conclusively that religion generally brings participants better health. Doesn’t matter if it’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

There are two main responses that critically thinking people have to the above. The first (the point of view I subscribe to) is that community involvement in solving health problems and promoting positive health should be valued and nurtured. The World Health Organisation also shares this view, as does the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. Some benefits include that it is cheap and can break through barriers that prevent people from accessing other health services. I would further argue that strictly from an evolutionary point of view as it applies to human culture (game theory etc.) it predicts that behaviours and structures that benefit the whole should ultimately rise and prevail above those that don’t. To put it in a nutshell, religion and culture exists because the people who practised them outperformed the people who didn’t. Religion does create barriers as well, and that’s one of the negatives.

The other main point of view is that although religious beliefs have a positive correlation with health they do not benefit society overall. This point of view could suggest that religion has been a powerful force for good in the past, but that now its benefits do not have the merit that they once had. And it’s certainly true that people slip through the cracks when religion gets involved. At one time Christians believed that all illnesses were caused by daemons as per Acts 5:15-16. Later this belief was changed to daemons causing some illnesses but miasmas causing others. In Romans 1:26-27 Paul writes pretty clearly that homosexual desires are caused when people turn away from God and his truth. This type of primitive mythology for explaining so-called ‘deviant’ human behaviour is the seed from which discrimination and oppression are grown and has caused a great deal of suffering for different people. It creates barriers between people. But I would argue that although that is true, in every society there are marginalised and disadvantaged people. You can’t judge a society just because it has disadvantaged people, but you can judge it on their attitudes and whether they minimised the number of people who would be disadvantaged.

So how do we apply this information to modern medical thinking then? Well an effective medical treatment will either alleviate symptoms or cure an ailment. It should improve the quality of life, and reduce the burden of disease. But it does come with a similar expense to that of religious participation – medical treatments also have negative health effects. And as you will see, Psychology cannot always offer any improvement to existing techniques for treating certain mental illnesses.

If a person has been diagnosed with a mental illness, there are an array of theories behind how or why that illness has developed. Behavioural, Cognitive, Biological, Evolutionary, Genetic, Physiological, Psychodynamic, Naturalist. The only two theories that have absolute conclusive proof for causing a mental illness is physiology and genetics. We know for instances that brain damage can cause an irreversible impaired mental state. We know that roundworms in the small intestine can cause clinically significant depression. Impaired foetal development can also cause lasting mental illness. Autism and Alzheimer’s have strong genetic predispositions, but both are thought to be due to an autoimmune disease (i.e. triggered by an environmental factor such as an infection).

Now that’s all fine and well, but we also know that life events can contribute to or cause mental illnesses. There’s really not a debate that this happens – even the social gradient effect on the cognitive ability of children has been established – the question however is why it happens. So let’s take something like Gambling Disorder. How should it be treated do we think? With medication perhaps. What about interventional therapy? Okay, well the most researched forms of therapy are cognitive therapy (CT) and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). But there’s also behavioural therapy (BT), motivational therapy (MT), and “minimal intervention” (MI), a striped down intervention that simply has a therapist deliver targeted advice to the patient just once for as little as 10-15 minutes or as long as an hour. There’s also the 12-step program that’s refused to change or update the 75 year-old method – Gambler’s Anonymous (GA). Surely CBT and CT based treatments did best, right? WRONG! CBT, CT, BT, MT and MI all performed essentially equally well according to Toneatto and Gunaratne (2009). Well there’d at least have to do much better than Gambler’s Anonymous anyway. WRONG AGAIN! Marceaux and Melville (2010) found that GA was just as effective as CBT after 6-months (their results are from a controlled study). Petry et al. (2009) conducted a study with one cohort receiving CBT in addition to MI, one receiving just the MI session, and a control group, and found that both of their groups that received the intervention showed improvement with no significant difference between the group that received the CBT and the one that didn’t!

How can this be? If you don’t know what a mental illness is to begin with, then how could you possibly know how to treat it? The disciple of Natural Psychology argues that mental illnesses are non-existent:

The question is not, “What is the best definition of a mental disorder?” The question is not, “Is the DSM-5 definition of a mental disorder better than the DSM-IV definition of a mental disorder?” Those are absolutely not the right questions! The first and only question is, “Do mental disorders exist?” The phenomena certainly exist. The birds and bees exist; pain and suffering exist. But birds do not prove the existence of gods and pain does not prove the existence of mental disorders. Let us not play the game of debating the definitions of non-existent things. Let us move right on. (Eric R. Maisel Ph.D. on Psychology Today).

So if we don’t understand how mental illnesses occur, and we can’t clearly define it, and all of our wildly different treatment options performed equally well as each other, wouldn’t that tell you that something is seriously amiss? Now I want to acknowledge that I’m not saying I know either – but I do know that the risk can be reduced environmentally. That is through policies that provide better safeguards for people who are at risk of developing an addition, and ensuring early proactive intervention rather than reactive intervention.

Pharmaceutical companies are some of the most immoral in the world.

Certainly more immoral than tobacco companies – at least tobacco companies can’t advertise their products on TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines. And yes, the risks are stated on the label, supposedly, the label that you see AFTER you buy the medication. Many of the patients who are currently dependant on pharmaceuticals were never told that in the first place, because the development of dependency wasn’t known at the time. Over-medication, dependence, and people accessing the wrong medications for their health issues, as it is, creates a huge amount of pharma-waste. Pharmaceutical advertising encourages people to self-diagnose, and self-select the medications they think they need. This is a massive problem with non-mental medical disorders; so you can just imagine how big a problem it is with mental-health related diagnosed “disorders”.

If you see a psychiatrist here, in Australia, they will diagnose you according to the DSM-V. If you go to China, and see a psychologist they will diagnose you according to the CCMD-3. That’s right – there are two completely different diagnostic manuals, that define mental illness differently to each other, and designate a number of different illnesses. Each has illnesses that are unique to their manual as well – in other words there are illnesses that exist in CCMD and not in DSM (and vice versa)! Mental health illnesses are also defined in the ICD-10 (maintained by WHO) with some difference to DSM.

So then, is mental illness a sham?

Yes I believe so. Hypothesises are presented to clients as medical fact and that means it’s falsely presenting mental health issues as sure and certain factual illnesses. Now I just said before that there are some mental health issues that we know are illnesses like Autism and Dementia. But those are believed to be autoimmune diseases; they’re a physiological disorder that causes mental health problems. But the mental health problems that are purely mental health related with no known link to physiology or bacteria or viruses are not proven to be illnesses per se. They may masquerade themselves into a diagnosable condition; but that’s not an illness. Think about this: we still call gender dysphoria an illness because all conditions in the DSM are mental illnesses by definition (DSM-5 = Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5); yet this is offensive to many people who suffer from the condition, and the French government actually declared that it is not to be considered a mental health condition whilst guaranteeing that people who suffered from the condition would still be able to receive subsidised healthcare.

So I personally welcome a clear delineation between illnesses and other states of mental health, and I look forward to the day that we stop using the word “disorder” to refer to people’s health problems that we don’t understand.

References

Check back they will be edited in. :)

Privacy is a basic human right, defined in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see also Right to Privacy in the Digital Age). We should all be very concerned with invasions of our privacy, or where our privacy is not guaranteed. Or when our data is accessed illegally (as in PRISM) by foreign government agencies and then passed to our law enforcement agencies. Or when your data is invaded because somebody else uses your network and is under investigation. Or when your data simply falls into the wrongs hands because it’s been stored inadequately and has been accessed by a hacker (as happened to the Ashley Madison website). People don’t necessarily feel sorry for Ashley Madison – they quite rightly feel apathetic towards the company – but they certainly feel sympathetic to innocent users who had their accounts hacked (note it’s not our place to judge anyone’s guilt based on the services they use).

Now imagine instead that your ISP was hacked, and hackers revealed everyone who had accessed services such as Ashley Madison, or mental health services, or Lifeline/Beyondblue, or domestic violence help, or financial assistance, or family planning and abortion services, or drug rehabilitation services, alcoholics anonymous, gambling help online, or emergency food relief charities, or specialised legal services, or religious services, or other sensitive services a person might feel self-conscious about and rightly expect they have a right to privacy about. Virtually all of the services I just mentioned promise to provide either confidentiality or anonymity. If your data is stored by your ISP, by law, then it becomes a target for hackers. Once the data is obtained by a hacker (or a disgruntled employee) it can be mined and sold. Vulnerable people can be selectively targeted. For example, people suffering from gambling addition could have their details (their full name and email address) sent to advertisers who could then target everyone on the list with online gambling services. Identities can be stolen wholesale. This list of horrendous possibilities goes on. You might want privacy for all kinds of genuine reasons, but you need privacy in order to be able sure of your security as well as to access sensitive services that require anonymity or confidentiality. I highly suggest listening to the recent IQ2 debate Only The Wicked Need Fear Government Spying (seems to be unavailable as at 21/02/2018, check here).

Government spying is not legal in Australia. The metadata honey-pot for the various law enforcement agencies to access cannot legally be stored by any government agency – yet the Federal Government and law enforcement agencies wants this information stored indiscriminately by service providers so they can access it whenever they need it. Many have argued, including Malcolm Turnbull, that this data is “already available”. Well that’s not entirely true. If it was already available there would be no cost associated with storing it. The reality is the law forces ISPs and Telcos to store more data and for longer. For example all email providers have to now store metadata relating to your emails! That’s a list of everyone who you contact, and when, and everyone who contacts you, and when. You have no control whatsoever over what comes in to your email address! In Europe, where similar data retention laws were passed in several countries, the duration for the storing of metadata was usually much less than 2 years – typically around 6-12 months.

Europe is an interesting case. The European Union came up with a directive instructing member states to enact mandatory data retention by Telecommunication companies, after 8 years the directive was struck down by an EU Court by a finding that found that the directive was illegal. Across Europe, in response to the EU Directive, similar laws were passed, and in a number of countries they have since been retracted – and in many countries on constitutional grounds. The list of European countries I know about that had data retention laws struck down by a constitutional court includes Austria, Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Cyprus, and Argentina. Note that in the Slovenia ruling the court ordered Telcos to destroy retained data immediately! And that’s just a list of EU countries where it was revoked on constitutional grounds alone. The Netherlands scrapped their law, Hungary’s law may be struck down constitutionally, and the UK’s has been suspended by court order with a suspension on the suspension order until 31 March 2016! In the majority of cases in Europe VPNs were included along with ISPs in being forced to log data.

The United States, of course, does not have any mandatory data retention laws. Canada does, and the law appears to apply to VPNs as well as ISPs (it has not yet been tested in court).

So where does that leave us – here in Australia? Well our legislation is set to come into effect on October 7. It’s now widely viewed all across Europe, and in the USA, as a clear breach of privacy. Most Australians don’t understand what data is to be stored (see iiNet and journalist Quentin Dempster‘s article). ISPs, Email providers, and Telcos all now have to store “Metadata” in Australia. That’s right – even your email provider – so you can get a foreign email and the data won’t be stored, but if you use an Australia email provider from October 7, the provider is required to log all activity on your account. Local providers cannot compete evenly with overseas providers, who are able to offer greater protection for privacy not just for your emails, but also for voice calls. This could also push companies who host their websites in Australia overseas so they can avoid having their company email “medata” logged and stored by providers. The retained data can be accessed without a warrant, and for the reason of suspicion of any crime. The government argued there isn’t a need for a warrant because that’s for the content proper – however, iiNet points out the so-called “metadata” provides as much information (or more) as the content itself does. And mentioned earlier – your data may be accessed along with every else who used a shared internet connection (such as a family or workplace internet connection). Imagine this, there could be 6 people in your household, and one person for some reason becomes under suspicion of a crime by law enforcement. When the ISP data is accessed, everyone’s data is accessed at once – the one person under suspicion, and the five who are not. If you use public WiFi – that data also has to be logged and your data will be accessed when anyone who used it is under suspicion!

How to go about securing your privacy online will be the topic of my next post.

The Aractus Creed (subject to review):

We believe in the prophet, our apostolic father, Charles Darwin;

Creator of wonder, evolutionary biology, and wonder;

We follow the teachings of the great holy book “Origin of Species”;

We follow the guidance of his disciplinary descendant, Richard Dawkins;

Towards truth, wisdom, discovery, and wonder;

Even though sometimes he can be a giant douche;

We believe in his ways of inductive reasoning and the holy scientific method;

We believe in his teachings written down in the academic journals of Science, Nature, and the Journal of Theoretical Biology;

We believe in the pursuit of Power, Wealth, Wisdom, Knowledge, Happiness, Health, Development, Advancement, and Progress;

We acknowledge the inspired work of secularists;

We strive each day to understand their teaching;

We believe that the Christian god isn’t really real;

And that when we die we don’t go anywhere we just rot in the ground.