jesse_the_k: Pill Headed Stick Person (pill head)
"Supplements" are substances which we can use like drugs. In the U.S. and Canada, supplements are not regulated for purity or efficacy: we must trust the suppliers to ensure these important qualities. When I started using them, my pharmacist was also learning about supplements, and we spoke at length about this issue. She claimed to have researched the best manufacturers. She chose (and therefore I used) "Nature's Bounty."

Supplements have been part of my treatment plan for a long time: they include fish oils, vitamin D3, mysterious Chinese herbs compounded by my acupuncturist, cranberry powder, and a magnesium/riboflavin/feverfew tab called Migrelief (which really relieves my migraines). I've periodically tested their efficacy by stopping, assessing, and restarting them. They help. If that difference is founded on the placebo effect, I don't care.

Last month I had an experience which jerked me out of that happy place.
I mentioned to my p-doc that I was having trouble staying asleep. She suggested I try melatonin. I asked how much; she said, "knowing you, start small." I was pleased to find a liquid version with a marked dropper so I began with 0.25 mg equivalent. And that was enough! Lovely stuff: easy sleepiness within 20 minutes, stayed asleep with energetic and creative dreams, woke refreshed 8 hours later.

When I traveled the following week, I forgot my liquid melatonin. I went to a health food store and discovered the smallest tablet was 1mg, four times as large. I was able to halve it without totally crumbly results, so I thought I'd sleep like a lamb at twice my previous dose. But no—ZERO effect. Was this due to dosing sublingually versus through my digestive system? I kept doubling the pill dose with no result. When I made it home, I was taking 5mg (the typical dose available) with no pleasant sleep. Switched back to 0.25 liquid and slipped into the ocean like a sleepy seal.

The moral of the story: I don't know if a supplement isn't working because it's not effective in my body, or because there's not enough, or not even any, of the active ingredient in the bottle I bought.

And then this week, propinquity! A fascinating article in BioMedCentral:
DNA barcoding detects contamination and substitution in North American herbal products
Newmaster, Grguric, Shanmughanandhan, Ramalingam and Ragupathy

It provides extensive detail on how unreliable supplement labels can be, from a Canadian group with zero ties to the supplement production industry.

So, supplement users, how do you ensure their quality?
jesse_the_k: Extreme closeup of dark red blood cells (Blood makes noise)
From Amy Harris' "Kinsey Confidential" blog comes news to break my heart. It doesn't matter how long a group of women live together: our periods are not going to synchronize.
begin quote  When Strassman reported that she found no evidence of menstrual synchrony in the Dogon, she also pointed out that it would be almost impossible for synchronization to occur, given the natural variation in menstrual cycle lengths. Women’s cycle lengths vary for many reasons, including responding to nutritional availability, changes in physical workloads, early (and often undetected) pregnancy loss, etc. For synchronization to occur, these highly variable, even erratic, menstrual cycle onset dates would need to align and remain aligned over time—but the biology of reproductive functioning and the reality of menstrual cycle data makes this kind of regularity highly unlikely. quote ends
Kinsey Confidential is a service of The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. Sexual health experts there answer questions, provide newspaper columns and weekly podcasts. A link to savor at
jesse_the_k: Hands open print book with right side hollowed out to hole iPod (Alt format reader)
Recently Finished: Two winning science-y books

Too Big To Know by David Weinberger. For a very long time, human knowledge was what fit on paper (no mention of oral cultures). Now the Net removes the requirements of publishing contracts, printing limits, salability. Everybody can be a publisher. And so, there's a whole lot of knowledge; so much that it's ... Too Big To Know.

Author brings lots of Internet, journalism, and librarian experience to the question of, "How will we know what to learn?" Challenging, intriguing, probably 30 ways wrong but very enjoyable.

Delusions of Gender by Cornelia Fine. Stacks up the various studies that claim that male and female differences are hardwired into the human organism, and demolishes them one-by-one. Author is funny, provides tons of footnoted details, doesn't mention some statistical issues that even statistically-illiterate me think relevant. Nothing so delicious as the deconstruction of Simon Baron-Cohen.

Currently Reading: Many megabytes of Sherlock BBC fanfic

I prefer my works not-in-progress, and several of my fave authors have finished up novel-length narratives. In particular:

The Art of Seduction by [ profile] flawedamythyst
Sherlock maintains his intense focus on data and experiments, but the field is human sexual congress. Hilarious with tender and sad bits. Also lots and lots and lots and lots of sex, which ends with Sherlock emitting yet another "Dull!" and swirling away.

Not What Is Said But What Is Whispered by [ profile] sirona
It's the good old "characters read the fanfic" trope, but this one didn't squick. Instead I laughed and giggled at the (can you still call it 'epistolary' if it's) email.

Next Up: Many more megabytes of Sherlock BBC fanfic

And when I'm not on a bus, I have Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson (audio read by Alison Larkin) which claims to consider kitchen tools and gadgets from the beginning of history and their impacts on how we cook. Perhaps the mystery of the vegetable slicer will be unveiled?

And when I want to hold an actual book in my hand, I've got How To Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers. I'm not really at all Buddhist (or even JewBu), but I want to read this book in honor of my acupuncturist Kate Behrens. She surely is a Buddhist, and has improved my life greatly. Easier first step than joining a meditation community.
jesse_the_k: Human in professorial suit but with head of Golden Retriever, labeled "Woof" (doctor dog to you)
Thank heavens for [personal profile] antarcticlust, who introduced me to the lovely notion of “science-y” at a great WisCon panel a couple years back. Science-y is information that's science-related enough to matter, and presented plainly enough for those of us without science education (a large group, sadly, in the US). But as the first link shows, "science-y" can also include information presented with just enough PhD-level flash to stun the rest of us into not thinking clearly.
Psuedoscience, Fraud & Sex inside the cut )

ETA: The cut! The cut! I wish there was a default to cut all my entries.

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jesse_the_k: Perfectly circlular white brain-like fungus growing on oak tree (Default)
Jesse the K

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