Coronavirus Chronicles — And… How Has COVID Been Doing?

The year started off with a bang as someone tweeted about how the COVID-19 cases at Santa Rita Jail (California) had increased by 1250% overnight, with outbreaks among both the staff and incarcerated people. And then three nights later, the number of inmate new cases increased by another 453% — and this was not unusual or atypical among such institutions.

The New York Times reported that nationwide, during the previous three weeks, the seven-day average of newly identified cases had tripled. Under-reporting was already a problem, as more people used home test kits whose results were not recorded in official databases. Of course, numerous Americans with mild or symptomless cases were not counted in any statistics.

The Mayo Clinic fired 700 employees who refused to be vaccinated, which sounds like a lot, but the number actually comprised only less than 2% of Mayo’s vast number of employees. Some hospitals were asking nurses and other staff, who were already severely underworked, to volunteer even more time.

Moral confusion, emotional pain

In many hospitals, there was uneasy discussion of the dreaded T-word — triage. What happens when the hospital only has five ventilators, but 20 patients need them? They can’t be shared. What happens when people with other life-threatening illnesses need the beds occupied by COVID sufferers?

On a battlefield, the traditional rules of triage are well-established and unquestioned. In a public general hospital, not so much. We will not discuss it here, as such debates about which patients should be treated, and which should be left to fate, can become bitter and divisive. It worsens an already desperate situation, even before the lawyers get involved.

“Fairness,” a significant factor in every area of public life, becomes a battle cry. The key point of triage is to utilize scarce resources on those with the best odds of being saved. But this downgrades the chances for people with pre-existing conditions. And, whether or not vindictive emotion is behind the claim, many people believe that those who remain willfully unvaccinated should go to the end of the treatment line.

Joseph Goldstein wrote in The New York Times,

More than 15,000 people with Covid-19 have been hospitalized in the city in the past four weeks, the most since the initial surge. About half of all patients in the city’s hospitals now have Covid-19.

The journalist visited a Brooklyn hospital’s COVID-19 ward and found patients “crammed into every corner.” Thirty-six very sick humans were being cared for by only two nurses, which not only cruelly overburdens the nurses, but is dangerous for the patients. Many hospitals are lucky if even a skeleton crew is on hand, any day of the week. At that particular one, on that particular shift, the Emergency Room had enough doctors but nowhere near enough nurses. The doctor in charge said, “During the first wave we were able-bodied, but now we’re exhausted and many are ill.”

Meanwhile, the country experienced mass confusion over such matters as the difference between isolation and quarantine. The new CDC guidelines were deemed contradictory, already outdated, frustratingly unclear, or impossible. One headline called them a “dumpster fire.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Anthony Fauci Is Right To Distinguish COVID-19 Infections, Which Are Exploding, From Severe Disease, Which Is Not,” Reason.com, 01/02/22
Source: “As Omicron Overwhelms Hospitals, We Must Talk About Triage,” WashingtonPost.com, 01/05/22
Source: “What the Omicron Wave Looks Like at One Brooklyn E.R,” NYTimes.com, 01/15/22
Source: “America’s COVID Rules Are a Dumpster Fire,” TheAtlantic.com, 01/06/22
Image by Jernej Furman/CC BY 2.0

Everything You know About Fat Is Wrong — Probably

And… we’re back for another installment of the history of why people are so confused about dietary fat. Even as long ago as 2014, there was unrest among the world’s nutrition experts. A University of Cambridge meta-analysis examined 72 observational studies that pretty much debunked the Fat=Bad paradigm.

On the other hand, some experts held that a large number of observational studies really do not prove more than a single observational study, so there was still plenty of room for controversy over methodology. Three years later, another shock wave hit the establishment:

Researchers in the study, called PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology), recorded the food intake of over 135,000 people from 18 different countries, including high-, medium-, and low-income nations. They found that those who ate plenty of butter, cheese, and meats lived up to 23% longer lives than those who cut back on fats.

Well, 23% longer is a lot of time! Author Ana Aceves went on to point out that one study was unlikely to persuade health officials to entirely rewrite the dietary guidelines. Although large, it was still an associational study, meaning there was an association but not a direct link between carbohydrate intake and mortality. She added that according to a newer diet study, it was not total fats or saturated fats that threaten longevity, but excess carbohydrates.

One problem has been that people who cut down on fats tend to compensate by eating more carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and rice. Their cardiovascular health does not prosper. Apparently, the authorities were nervous about telling people about the new discoveries, because they might go rogue and think they could safely eat any amount of saturated fats. But apparently, up to about 35% is okay.

Is it the government’s fault?

Elizabeth Nolan Brown also reported on the same study at Reason.com. She called the findings “unexpected” and speculated that they might cause experts worldwide to rethink dietary guidelines. Fruit freaks get less heart disease; legume fiends have “lower rates of death from all causes and from non-cardiovascular causes.” Huge consumers of raw veggies enjoy a lower risk of total mortality, while cooked vegetables do not confer nearly as much benefit.

Brown commented on the part that raised eyebrows:

Perhaps most notably, while higher fruit, vegetable, and legume consumption was associated with lower total mortality risk and less risk of death from non-cardiovascular causes, this benefit appears to max out at three to four servings, or around 375-500 grams, per day.

The researchers discovered that being tested for LDL cholesterol is nowhere near as helpful as everyone has been led to believe, and their work produced many other hitherto unsuspected revelations. Much of the previous confusion about all these matters was attributed to the previous findings being based on limited populations in the same old places, while the PURE study included subjects in Africa, China, the Middle East, and other understudied environments.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk,” ACPJournals.org, 03/18/14
Source: “People Who Follow Low-Fat Diets Have Higher Mortality Rates, Study Says,” PBS.org, 08/29/17
Source: “More Evidence That Everything the Government Teaches Us About Eating Is Wrong,” Reason.com, 08/30/17
Image by Arne Hendrics/CC BY 2.0

Everything You Know About Fat Is Wrong, Perhaps — Continued

This discussion carries on from yesterday. Disappointingly, no revolution in thought occurred, and Christopher E. Ramsden was able to make only mild claims that ignoring the old study had been a mistake. As Sharon Begley put it, “Observational studies are weaker than randomized ones because people who eat one way, rather than another, might have characteristics that benefit their heart health.”

Or as Dr. Michael Greger expressed it, heaping up a whole slew of observational studies will not grant any more solid conclusions than any single observational study. So, that is a problem. Begley wrote,

Ramsden and his team found […] that substituting vegetable oils lowered total blood cholesterol levels, by an average of 14 percent.

But that lowered cholesterol did not help people live longer. Instead, the lower cholesterol fell, the higher the risk of dying: 22 percent higher for every 30-point fall. Nor did the corn-oil group have less atherosclerosis or fewer heart attacks.

The study that Ramsden et al published reported that among its subjects,

[…] substituting dietary linoleic acid in place of saturated fats increased the rates of death from all causes, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease. An updated meta-analysis of linoleic acid intervention trials showed no evidence of cardiovascular benefit. These findings could have important implications for worldwide dietary advice to substitute omega 6 linoleic acid, or polyunsaturated fats in general, for saturated fats.

Dr. Michael Greger describes how the dairy industry took this and ran with it, and succeeded in changing perceptions about saturated fat among the scientific community. And as for the ordinary consumer? Big Fat doesn’t need to convince customers, “just confuse them.” Like the tobacco industry,

They don’t have to convince the public that smoking is healthy to get people to keep consuming their products. They just need to establish a controversy. Some science says its bad, some says it’s not bad. Conflicting messages in nutrition cause people to become so frustrated and confused they may just throw their hands up in the air and eat whatever they want…

Childhood Obesity News has previously made posts with the facetious title “Everything You Know About ______ Is Wrong,” which is a pretty safe observation to make on almost any topic. Is that because all science is wrong? Absolutely not. But in many fields, some wrong answers need to be tried and rejected before a really good working model of comprehension is produced. Over the decades, students have been taught several different rates for the speed of light. And ultimately, the speed of light may not, after all, be constant. It’s a lot to handle.

Anyway, it may take a lot of variegated input to move any scientific community into agreement, and there are always outliers, explorers who may be contrarian, or simply surprised to discover something new. Stay tuned for other ideas that have been brought up over the past few years.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Records Found in Dusty Basement Undermine Decades of Dietary Advice,” ScientificAmerican.com, 04/19/17
Source: “The Saturated Fat Studies: Set Up to Fail,” NutritionFacts.org, 2015
Source: “Use of dietary linoleic acid for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and death…,” BMJ.com, 02/05/13
Image by Vic/CC BY 2.0

Everything You Know About Fat Is Wrong, Perhaps

Dr. Michael Greger noted that the relation between diet and cholesterol levels could be studied in three ways: with controlled feeding experiments, with “free-living dietary change experiments,” and through cross-sectional observational studies of large populations. He wrote that there is…

[…] a clear and strong relationship between change in diet and change in serum cholesterol in the interventional designs, but because of that interindividual variability, in cross-sectional designs, you can get zero correlation…

[A] cross-sectional study doesn’t have the power for detecting such a relationship. Thus because of that variability, these kinds of observational studies would seem an inappropriate method to study this particular relationship.

A layperson-oriented article by Sharon Begley, published by Scientific American, succinctly explains the diet-heart hypothesis:

The hypothesis holds that vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid, like safflower and corn, are good for heart health; that saturated fats, such as those in red meat and dairy products, clog arteries and are very bad; and that replacing the latter with the former reduces deaths from heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes by lowering blood cholesterol levels.

This remained the received wisdom for a long time, but a handful of critics urged professionals and laypeople alike to challenge it. Among other reasons, it was suspected that data had been tinkered with in order to make saturated fat look worse and the polyunsaturated kind look better. After 1970, a prominent study influenced the machinery of the U.S. government to deprecate saturated fat, and advocated for polyunsaturated fats.

This was the Seven Countries Study, whose subjects had originally included many more nations:

But in only seven did populations consuming lots of saturated fats have high levels of heart disease, prompting recent accusations of cherry-picking data.

Also, a fellow named Christopher E. Ramsden and several co-authors upset the applecart. Begley describes Ramsden as a specialist in “excavating lost studies, particularly those with the potential to challenge mainstream, government-sanctioned health advice.” He prevailed on an earlier researcher’s son to dig out the original records from a study conducted in Minnesota from 1968-73.

Ramsden and his colleagues discovered what had been hidden for nearly half a century: records on 9,423 study participants, ages 20 to 97, all living in state mental hospitals or a nursing home. It was the largest experiment of its kind.

This 40-year-old data was from research that Begley says is “more than just another entry in the long-running nutrition wars — it is more rigorous than the vast majority of research on the topic.” She elaborates,

It’s possible, Bob Frantz said, that his father’s team was discouraged by the failure to find a heart benefit from replacing saturated fats with vegetable oils. “My feeling is, when the overall objective of decreasing deaths by decreasing cholesterol wasn’t met, everything else became less compelling,” he said. “I suspect there was a lot of consternation about why” they couldn’t find a benefit.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Saturated Fat Studies: Set Up to Fail,” NutritionFacts.org, 2015
Source: “Records Found in Dusty Basement Undermine Decades of Dietary Advice,” ScientificAmerican.com, 04/19/17
Image by Internet Archive Book Images/Public Domain

Everything You Know About Fat Is Contradictory

In the history of societal tolerance of dietary fat, we left off at 2015, when an unrepentant Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) was still shaking its head over saturated fat (the kind in meat and dairy products). “The Saturated Fat Studies: Buttering Up the Public,” written by Michael Greger, M.D., was published that year.

Dr. Greger talked about a systematic review and meta-analysis which had “concluded that current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage cutting down on saturated fat.” In other words, the trend had shifted to the approval of saturated fat. At the same time, the elimination of animal fats was entrenched as the focus of chronic disease prevention programs all over the world.

But the CSPI labeled promotion of this type of fat as a ploy engaged by the global dairy cabal to increase its sales. The campaign to stop saturated fat acceptance had already gathered a lot of momentum. But the dairy industry was not sleeping. Big Animal Fat “set up a major, well-funded campaign to come up with proof that saturated fat does not cause heart disease.”

Allegedly, they only picked scientists already favorable to their cause, and lined them up for numerous public speaking about the virtues of saturated fat, which worked. Their mission was to characterize the dairy industry’s chief problem as “[n]egative messages and intense pressure to reduce saturated fats by governments and non-governmental organizations.”

Bad news for the Bigs

Dr. Greger noted that…

The top contributors of cholesterol-raising saturated fat are cheese, ice cream, more cheese, chicken, then non-ice cream desserts like cake and pie, and then pork.

Meanwhile, the most impressive authorities in the U.S. and Europe still recommended less and less animal fat. Making it only 10% of the average person’s caloric intake would be good, but a smaller ratio would be better. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommended that it should comprise only 5% or 6% of calories.

In a followup article, Dr. Greger emphasized that many studies from everywhere proved that eating saturated fat makes a person’s blood cholesterol rise, with generally bad results, such as “cardiovascular events like heart attack.” Still, admittedly, people have different setpoints and might consume the same amount of dietary fat yet have different cholesterol levels and a different number of heart attacks.

Nevertheless, he wrote:

But while our genetics may be different, our biology is the same, meaning the rise and drop in cholesterol is the same for everyone… All I can say with certainty is that if you eat less, your cholesterol will likely improve.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Saturated Fat Studies: Buttering Up the Public,” NutritionFacts.org, 2015, modified 2019
Source: “The Saturated Fat Studies: Set Up to Fail,” NutritionFacts.org, 2015
Image by Northwest Retail/CC BY-SA 2.0

Everything You Know About Fat Is Wrong, Maybe

Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., FACN, CNS, author of Know Your Fats, a primer on the biochemistry of dietary fats, is described in her bio as an expert of international renown in the field of lipid chemistry, with many other professional accomplishments. In 2003 she wrote about the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the “sordid history” of its campaign against saturated fat, saying the organization…

[…] provides the classic example of chutzpah, like when the child who murders his parents pleads for mercy in court because he is an orphan! In this case, the crime is the complete ruination of the food supply with the replacement of healthy traditional saturated fats with partially hydrogenated soybean oil…

Healthy traditional fats, Dr. Enig said, had almost completely disappeared from the food supply, and the substitution came to be held responsible for “ever-increasing rates of cancer, heart disease, infertility, impotence, asthma, allergies, learning disabilities, bone problems, digestive disorders, diabetes and obesity.”

In 1984, CSPI got serious about pressuring fast-food establishments to forswear beef fat and tropical oils, insisting on hydrogenated oils instead. In 1987 the organization’s newsletter published a piece by Elaine Blume, which claimed the hydrogenated oils posed no serious threat to the health of humans. She explained why manufacturers had to hydrogenate vegetable oils to prevent them from becoming rancid while in storage or during the frying process.

In 1988 a CSPI publication…

[…] defended trans fatty acids and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and called for pejorative labeling of “saturated” fats.

This caused Dr. Enig to suggest that the authors were “completely ignorant (or pretended to be ignorant) of lipid science.” The fast-food chains were still under attack as holdouts who would not relinquish their beef fat or palm oil. But by the time 1990 rolled around, CSPI was forced to reassess its position, and its director published “Trans in Trouble” which admitted that it was difficult to reconcile the group’s stand with the understandings gained from more recent research.

Dr. Enig says,

In May, 1991, I wrote a letter to the editor of Nutrition Action, outlining and correcting Ms. Liebman’s numerous errors, including her claim that consumption of trans fatty acids in the US typically ranged from 4 to 7 grams per day. By 1991, many Americans eating processed foods were consuming over 50 grams of trans fats per day.

A couple of years later, CSPI publicly scolded the fast-food industry for adopting the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils like the CSPI had told them to do. The author details the many “lies, false innuendoes, and cover-ups” in the far-reaching deception that had been orchestrated by the saturated fat haters.

But despite having paused to scold fast food for its departure from a saturated fat agenda, in 2015 CSPI had apparently returned to its traditional resistance against saturated fat, and castigated school lunch programs for accepting butter and bacon as healthful substances to feed to children.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Tragic Legacy of Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI),” WestonAPrice.org, 01/06/03
Image by Ted Eytan/CC BY-SA 2.0

Confusing Concepts

Grasping the idea of drive theory, or drive-reduction theory, might be tricky. In a 2021 article, health and wellness writer Hilary I. Lebow wrote,

The term “drive” refers to the tension or discomfort you experience when your biological needs kick into high gear, like a mental itch that needs to be scratched.

A table describes the progression from drive to reduction behavior to homeostasis. For instance, if the physiological drive is hunger, the reduction behavior is “grabbing an apple” and the result is satiation, or homeostasis.

Wait, what? In the real world, grabbing an apple does not result in satiation. What does, is eating the apple. Such a departure from logic makes for a less than satisfactory reading experience.

Quibbling with terminology

Reducing a drive seems to suggest working on it from the causation point or source. It seems to imply diminishment or disempowerment of the drive itself, rather than an attempt to satisfy it. If there were overweight people, and someone fed them amphetamines to lose weight, it seems like that would be drive reduction. The substance would override the drive that says “Let’s eat.”

In Goldilocks terms, it would be a girl so unmotivated to eat, she would not even bother to sample the bowls of porridge to see if they were too hot, too cold, or just right. To use the term “reduction” seems to imply making the drive smaller and less urgent, rendering it tame and manageable. That potential misunderstanding could muddy up the whole rest of the explanation, because apparently “drive-reduction theory,” in current usage, is about scratching, not minimizing, the itch.

Food and eating are frequently mentioned by professionals who discuss these matters. It may be the most obvious and relatable example of the phenomenon. Why do people eat even when they are neither hungry nor malnourished? Why are they not content with what, by any reasonable standard, should be satisfying enough to deserve the term “satiation”?

These are important questions that, again and again, drive-reduction theory has been accused of ignoring. Simply Psychology writer Olivia Guy-Evans goes into more detail:

For instance, eating a three-course meal or having another slice of pizza when already full, or continuing to drink when not particularly thirsty.

Other behaviors that cannot fully be explained by drive-reduction theory and can be explained by other factors include:

Fasting behaviours where someone will purposely not fulfil their primary need.

Extreme workouts which are purposely uncomfortable. How does DRT explain eating behaviour?

According to drive-reduction theory, organisms seek food when they experience the drive of hunger. Any behaviour that reduces the drive is likely to be repeated by both humans and animals, so this is why they continue to eat.

The reduction of the drive by eating serves as a positive reinforcement (i.e., a reward) for the behaviour that caused such drive reduction.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “What Is Drive Reduction Theory About?,” PsyCentral.com, 09/15/21
Source: “Drive-Reduction Theory and Human Behavior,” SimplyPsychology.org, 05/19/22
Image by Internet Archive Book Images/Public Domain

Getting a Grip on Homeostasis

The inner tension of an unfulfilled biological need is a drive, and reducing the various drives is, in Clark Hull’s thought, the main motivation for all human actions. An uncredited author explains:

As soon as there’s an unmet need within the body, a person starts behaving in a manner that allows them to address this need, reduce the drive and achieve a state of balance.

When a drive is reduced, the person can return to a state of homeostasis, also known as equilibrium or balance. Behaviorist founding parent Clark Hull earned a ton of respect. Nevertheless, as previously mentioned, later scholars and practitioners felt free to pick away at his theories, which should be seen as a good sign, and one of the hallmarks of thriving academia.

Regarding flaws in Hull’s theory of motivation, the same writer mentioned these bones of contention:

1. The primary drawback of the drive theory is that it doesn’t explain why a human being behaves in a particular manner without being prompted by an internal unmet need. For instance, a person may indulge in a three-course meal even when they’re not feeling hungry.

2. Sometimes human beings participate in risky activities such as adventure sports that actually increase internal tension instead of reducing it.

Childhood Obesity News has discussed the propensity of humans to invent and manufacture drives, some of them quite harmful. Then, there are secondary drives, and that is another ball of wax, or can of worms, or spanner in the works:

3. Hull’s drive reduction theory doesn’t explain why secondary drives act as reinforcers for a particular behavior even when they do nothing to reduce biological needs.

Explanation continues:

In terms of the drive reduction theory, the reduction of the drive functions as a reinforcement of the behavior that helped the person to satisfy their unfulfilled need. Such reinforcement increases the likelihood of the person behaving in the same manner in the future to address that particular drive.

Parents will recognize this dynamic. If whining for a treat is successful, a child is likely to adopt whining as a frequent behavior. Strangely, this also sounds a lot like a state of physical addiction — when the body feels an unmet need for heroin, for example. If stealing from a relative’s wallet has yielded results before, chances are the addict will check the wallet again next time.

Here is another related matter. Society has discovered a variety of drugs since the days when heroin was the biggest problem, but one of the most-repeated details about that affliction was that after a certain point, an addict doesn’t even expect to get high anymore. They’re just attempting to feel normal. At that stage, what they seek is merely a state of balance, equilibrium, or homeostasis.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Drive Theory Of Motivation: Meaning And Examples,” Harappa.education, 11/24/21
Image by Ricardo Liberato/CC BY-SA 2.0

What Are They Talking About, Anyway?

This site has been looking at a number of related concepts, and how at various times behavioralists have added to or refined their definitions. Educator Melissa Bialowas, for instance, has described how pioneer Clark Hull was driven to reduce his drive-reduction theory to a complex mathematical formula that took into account numerous variables like deprivation, stimulus intensity, reinforcement delay, inhibition, random error, learning reaction, and more. She wrote,

Many theories were created and tested to either support or contradict drive reduction theory of motivation, thus allowing scientists to understand more about human behavior.

Along the way, the various participants discussed the meanings of words like homeostasis, regulation, drives, displacement, and so forth. Here, for example, is an authoritative explanation, and a look at how it might lead to confusion or even contention:

Drive theory is based on the principle that organisms are born with certain physiological needs and that a negative state of tension is created when these needs are not satisfied.

Then, the writer goes on to say, “when a need is satisfied, drive is reduced and the organism returns to a state of homeostasis and relaxation.” This seems to take for granted something that really is a huge assumption — namely, that relaxation is the ideal natural default state of all organisms. In the wrong hands, such an idea could develop into the belief that a sedentary life, of looking at screens, for instance, is the most natural and desirable state for children.

For this and other reasons, it is tempting to object that perhaps the word “relaxation” does not belong in a definition of homeostasis. Some types of sharks have to swim constantly. And what about humans? In early human history, our natural state was not to sit around, but to prowl through the underbrush with a pointed stick at the ready, looking for something to barbecue.

Consider this

From that angle, it seems inaccurate to say that “homeostasis and relaxation” is the ideal default state for creatures in nature. But looking a little further reveals that relaxation does not preclude motion. It simply, basically, means being free from tension or anxiety. The sharks who need to keep swimming in order to get oxygen are, presumably, most free from tension or anxiety while in constant motion — a condition preferable to oxygen-starved and moribund.

Neurodivergent humans are often into “stimming,” making repetitive motions that are sometimes publicly noticeable and sometimes not, which relieves tension and brings relaxation. Concerning homeostasis, one overall maxim might be, “Motion and relaxation are compatible,” and another might be, “Change is the only constant.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Drive-Reduction,” Instructure.com, undated
Source: “Drive Reduction Theory: Concept & Examples,” Study.com, undated
Source: “A Body in Perpetual Motion,” Medium.com, 11/01/19
Image by Elias Levy/CC BY 2.0

A Dive Into Homeostasis

Homeostasis is the subject, and under review here is an enormous piece of work, published by Frontiers in Physiology by George E. Billman. He credits pioneers Claude Bernard and Walter Cannon with spreading the notion that “the health and vitality of the organism can be said to be the end result of homeostatic regulation,” and also the concept that a physician’s role is to “clear the path so that nature could take its course.”

Billman wrote,

[H]omeostatic regulation is not merely the product of a single negative feedback cycle but reflects the complex interaction of multiple feedback systems that can be modified by higher control centers. This hierarchical control and feedback redundancy results in a finer level of control and a greater flexibility that enables the organism to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Regulation is an interesting word, because rather than rolling up on a problem with heavy artillery, it suggests more of an incremental approach. One regulates a thermostat, or a carburetor. In order for this to be effective, the parts and the system have to work together as a complex and multifactorial community.

Homeostasis, then, is the tendency of a system to maintain an internal stability as the result of the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that disturbs normal conditions or function.

As previously noted, Cannon specified that homeostasis does not mean immobility, but “a condition which may vary, but is relatively constant.” Various things are going on at three different levels:

— physiochemical processes, the organ and tissue functions, the component parts upon which homeostasis acts.
— autonomous (self) regulation… [C]hanges in a given variable are sensed and adjustments of the first level processes are initiated…
— central command and control centers (central nervous system) that process the information transmitted from the second level and integrates it with information from other sensory inputs to coordinate the physiological and behavioral response to changing environmental conditions.

The higher centers can intervene either consciously or unconsciously, but only — and this is vital — if the first and second levels are working properly. For good or ill, there are also higher levels of control outside the organism. The body can signal urgently that it needs water, and the conscious mind may concur, but the reality of the situation, e.g. being lost in a desert, will win.

Another outside control mechanism might be a medical care system that cannot or will not take the appropriate measures. In his Summary, Billman reaffirms that disease is caused by disruption of the homeostatic mechanisms, and “effective therapy must be directed toward re-establishing these homeostatic conditions, working with rather than against nature.”

J. S. Turner in 2017 suggested “dynamic disequilibrium” as a fitting description of homeostasis, and went so far as to say “homeostasis is life’s fundamental property, what distinguishes it from non-life. In short, homeostasis is life.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Homeostasis: The Underappreciated and Far Too Often Ignored Central Organizing Principle of Physiology,” Frontiersin.org/articles, 03/10/20
Image by Pat Hartman

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:

Presentations

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources