We are giving away a $5000 prize for well-researched, well-reasoned presentations that answer the following question:
What are the best recommendations for what quantities adults (ages 20-60) should take the important dietary minerals in, and what are the costs and benefits of various amounts?
Part of the question is figuring out which ones are important. You may exclude any minerals for which an otherwise reasonable diet will always fall into the right range, or any minerals whose effects are relatively trivial.
If you have an excellent entry, even if you don’t win the grand prize, you can still win one of four additional cash prizes, you’ll be under consideration for a job as a researcher with our company Personalized Medicine, and you’ll get a leg up in the larger contest we plan to run after this one. You also get to help people get better nutrition and stay healthier.
Most of us spend a good portion of our time and money trying to figure out what would be best for our health, and then trying to implement those findings. We ask ourselves how to eat, how to exercise, what drugs and supplements to take and what treatments to seek, but everywhere we turn we find different opinions. Even if one reads the primary research, one finds studies riddled with problems. Most studies have an agenda to sell a product or prove a pet theory. They are then filtered by publication bias. When results are presented, many authors use framing to steer us to the conclusions they want us to draw.
We can and must do better.
We hereby challenge this community to do better. We're always saying how great and effective rationality is. This is our chance to prove it, and put those skills to the test. These problems badly need proper application of Less Wrong's favorite techniques, from Bayes' Theorem itself to the correction of a whole host of cognitive biases.
This contest is also a pilot for a larger contest; before we go and put a lot more money on the line and ask more questions, we want a chance to work the kinks out.
Entries are due by the end of day on January 15, 2012. This is a change of the original deadline, but it will not change again and it will be strictly enforced.
Final judgment will be made by Personalized Medicine’s Chief Science Officer, based on finalists chosen by our expert reviewers. If necessary, Peer Review will first be used to reduce the number of entries to a manageable size.
Sweet, gwern's modafinil fund was getting kind of low anyway.
For what little it's worth (since I'm not a potential participant here), the deadline struck me as a short one. Participants are going to do this in their spare time, and it's a busy time of year (holiday/family obligations for many people, and end-of-academic-term obligations for students and academics).
DEADLINE CHANGE: We have decided based on feedback to extend the deadline to January 15, 2012, to allow people time to find the contest or take care of finals and holiday obligations, but it will not change again and will be strictly enforced.
Ohh, this is exactly my field of study (currently). I may have to consider a submission. A good excuse to motivate me to consolidate my research anyhow!
You might want to post this over at the Immortality Institute (http://imminst.org/). They recently created a multivitamin using community input, so all of this has been discussed over and over again there already.
For a second there I thought this was you, personally, wanting an answer to this question, which was funny but not really ridiculous or out of character.
Good luck. Hope this gets good results!
The contest asks for "A recommendation list that tells people what they should do based on their situation, without any additional information or explanation. Keep it as short as possible, but no shorter."
Are there limits on the sorts of recommendations that are considered acceptable? For example, could one recommend no mineral supplementation? Alternatively, instead of recommending mineral quantities, could the paper recommend a procedure of personal experimentation saying, "take mineral A and monitor the results with process A', then adjust according to criteria A*, then take mineral B and monitor the results using criteria B'..."
If anyone entering this contest wants help from someone who develops and implements Bayesian statistical models for a living, let me know. I won't be entering the contest myself -- I don't have time for the required literature search -- but I can help out with some modeling and Bayesian analysis. One caveat -- my experience is with models of consumer choice used in marketing research, rather than analysis for medical research.
I plan to submit an entry to this. I hope that I don't get steamrolled by someone amazing.
I don't have much prior knowledge in this area. Do you think that will be a problem?
I imagine that prior knowledge of statistics is what's most helpful here, rather than medicine or biology.
I think the presentation needs to include how to tailor the information for your own personal situation. A person with a mineral deficiency can receive enormous benefits from supplements but a person who does not have such a deficiency may receive no benefit or worse. You don’t need to be a Bayesian to understand that just because a mineral supplement will help a specific individual with a specific individual condition, it does not follow that more of that mineral will provide any benefit for a generic human without that condition or deficiency.
A place... (read more)
Does cost just refer to price, or does it include risks?
I'd like to see information on how a person can tell if they're deficient or oversupplied in a nutrient and what to expect if the problem is being remedied. For example, a person might have a blood test which shows a deficiency, but if they trouble absorbing the nutrient, just taking more may not help and (faint memory) they might even be deficient while having what seems to be enough in their blood.
To Less Wrong: what are your priors on nutrition? Not necessarily what you do, but what your prior life experience and research has led you to believe is actually correct.
Paleo diet is great, except some carbs and gluten are fine in moderation except in a minority (though possible a high minority, like 40%) of people with outlying genetic mutations that make them process carbs improperly (I admit my prior on this is partially determined by my current unwillingness to stop eating pizza and sandwiches). Intermittent fasting helps prevent cancer.
If... (read more)
Pollan's book is horrible. It is actually against science per se in nutrition, continuously bringing up the supposed holistic irreducibility of diets and emphasizing "common sense", "tradition" and "what our grandparents ate" as primary guidelines. Pollan presents several cherry-picked past mistakes of nutrition science, and from that concludes that nutrition science in general is evil.
I am not fundamentally against heuristics derived from tradition and/or evolution, but Pollan seems to use such heuristics whimsically, mostly to push forward a personal agenda of vegetarianism, organic foods and an extremely warm and fuzzy philosophical baggage of food culture and lifestyle. Also, Pollan's arguments are almost exclusively based on affect (nature = good, artificial = evil, people selling artificial food = monstrous, etc.). Actually, looking a bit into the book to refresh my memories, Pollan doesn't even use traditions to make inferences about foods' healthiness; they are merely convenient sources of positive affect.
Any citations or links?
I haven't eaten anything in 4 hours. I had 12 pills in one swallow each of which apparently has two and a half times the RDI of zinc for males. I haven't experienced any nausea. If I head eaten a dozen oysters on the other hand I am almost certain I'd have vomited. But that says a lot more about my aversion to oysters than their zinc content.
More generally I can confirm that taking vitamins on an empty stomach most certainly does produce more acute side effects. For example I tried a pharmacological dose of niacin (1g) on an empty stomach and apart from the intense pain and flushing over my entire body I was extremely nauseous and nearly passed out. The same dose with a meal only gives me a mild, almost pleasant tingling sensation - albeit one that lasted longer.
Now... no more zinc for me for a couple of weeks.
I've posted a critique of the contest's internal assumptions here, along with part of my answer:
I'm actively interested in optimizing my health, and I take a number of supplements to that end. The survey would seem most interesting if its goal was to find how to optimize your health via supplements. As it turns out, none of the ones I take qualify as "minerals". If it turns out in fact that taking Vitamin XYZ is the single best thing you can do to tweak your diet, then this survey's conclusions, whatever they turn out to be (eg. that Calcium is better than Selenium) will be misleading. Maybe that's the next survey.
FYI, I'm taking: vitamin C, green tea extract, acetyl-l carnitine, vitamin D-3, fish oil, ubiquinol, and alpha lipoic acid. I've stopped taking vitamin E and aspirin.
This concept is fantastic - I'm going to publicize it to some friends.
I'll be doing this - might as well put my notes to use.
Their website does not appear to be working. Is Personalized Medicine defunct?
Anyone else giving this a serious shot? I'm curious to trade strategies, wondering if mine is the dominant one and this is a competition of research or a competition of strategies.
My strategy: recommending basically no supplemental minerals, except where indicated by testing.
I've been struggling for some time with the issue of how to know what and whom to believe when it comes to lifestyle medicine (the effects of nutrition, supplements, exercise, etc. on health on longevity)... and it has occurred to me that I'm ignoring the elephant in the living room. As I understand it, the one non-obvious lifestyle change for which there appears to be good evidence of a very strong effect on longevity is caloric restriction.
When I first heard about CR over twenty years ago there were already decades of research demonstrating its apparentl... (read more)
Is there a way to hide banned comments?
Would it be wrong to suppose that the body is more active in metabolism than given credit for? Every chemical induced regularly over a period of time is not guaranteed- but still subject to requiring a higher threshold than was previously necessary. My proposal is not empirical whatsoever, minus the observation of my own habits and metabolism. Given, I am young, and still have a metabolism that acts like ants on a cookie, i still fully support the idea that the body changes over time, and supplements and dietary habits must adapt as well.
Consider that some... (read more)
A normal diet provides easily enough calcium to meet most people's needs [EDIT: That is completely wrong, but still works for the purposes of my question]. Is the question asking about how much we should consume in total, or how much of the various minerals we should consume from supplements? In the first case, the answer is "about as much as you are currently consuming", while in the second case, the answer is "probably none."