The Nutrition Collection

What should I eat? A seemingly simple question, but apparently without an easy answer. Every other species seems to know exactly what to eat without consulting a nutritionist. Koalas munch eucalyptus leaves all day, while lions prefer fresh meat from antelope, zebra and the like.  Humans are omnivorous, so in a sense, we are spoiled for choice. For hundreds of thousands of years, homo sapiens ate what he or she could gather, hunt or scavenge. Only recently has the question of optimal human nutrition become a much-debated topic. The advent of the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions profoundly changed how humans live and what they eat. These changes also contributed to much longer lifespans and exposed us to the effects of old age, particularly chronic diseases like cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer. These ailments are now the leading causes of death around the world and one of the key factors in preventing them is a healthy diet.  The Nutrition Collection is the result of a multi-year obsession with the question of what we should eat to stay healthy and live a long life. It attempts to make some sense in a field rife with myths, contradictions, and ambiguity. Here, we give you an overview of the collection allowing you to pick and choose the topics most interesting to you. We also recommend a sequence in which the content could be consumed and learned, so that new knowledge can be built upon the foundation of what you previously learned. The collection is made up of six streams, each of which approaches the topic of nutrition from a different angle:  Nutrition Primer — The Latest Insights in Nutrition and HealthAdvanced Nutritional Mythbusting — Debunking the Most Pervasive Myths in Nutrition and HealthNutrition Essentials — The Building Blocks of Nutrition ScienceWho Needs Fat? —The Essential Function of Fat in the Body and Factors That Control ItBattle of the Diets — Extracting Nutritional Insights from Popular DietsFasting — The Body's Reset Button? Nutrition Primer — The Latest Insights in Nutrition and Health Nutrition Primer is an introductory stream that provides a broad overview of topics that are covered in much more detail in other streams in this collection. It begins by arguing that nutrition is a key factor in health and wellbeing. The stream explores some of the challenges caused in part by bad nutrition like obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases. It touches on many of the things that have caused the common Western diet to diverge from traditional diets. The main focus is on reviewing the latest insights from the field of nutrition and contrasting them with common misbeliefs. Some of the basic concepts from popular diets are introduced to explore commonalities and differences. It concludes with the recommendation that people optimize their nutrition and lifestyle in order to live a long and healthy life.  Advanced Nutritional Mythbusting — Debunking the Most Pervasive Myths in Nutrition and Health Advanced Nutritional Mythbusting tackles some of the most pervasive myths in the field of nutrition. It begins by exploring what makes nutritional science so difficult and why that sometimes leads to confusion. It quickly transitions to debunking five of the most common nutritional myths. Specifically, it dives into the link between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease, the challenges with calorie counting, common but ineffective weight-loss advice and more.  Nutrition Essentials — The Building Blocks of Nutrition Science Nutrition Essentials provides foundational knowledge about major terminology and concepts in nutrition science. The distinction between micronutrients and macronutrients is explained. It then puts each of the main macronutrient groups — carbohydrates, protein, and fat — under the microscope, explaining what they are and how they are used in the body. The controversy around specific macronutrients is investigated. Who Needs Fat? —The Essential Function of Fat in the Body and Factors That Control It Many people try to restrict their food intake or sweat for untold hours on a treadmill to keep their body fat under control. Despite these efforts, many countries are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Who Needs Fat? takes a close look at body fat, its functions in the body and the things that can play a role in its unwanted accumulation.  It includes a deep dive into the metabolism which creates energy and maintains the body. Hormones are an important focus for this stream, particularly insulin and glucagon which regulate levels of glucose in the blood.  Battle of the Diets — Extracting Nutritional Insights from Popular Diets It’s hard to keep up with all the latest diet trends: Atkins, Keto, Paleo, low-carb, low-fat, Ornish, Meditteranean. There are many to choose from. Battle of the Diets makes the distinction between diet and dieting, arguing that only a long-term change in eating habits will have sustained positive effects on health and wellbeing. It highlights the many drawbacks of the Western diet characterized by the industrialized production of processed and refined food. It goes on to analyze the commonalities and differences between the many popular diets that aim to improve people’s eating habits. It attempts to cherry-pick the best insights from the different diets with the aim of assembling some simple rules for healthy eating.  Fasting — The Body's Reset Button? In a way, fasting is the opposite of nutrition. Choosing not to eat for a period of time deprives the body of nutrition. But in a broader sense, fasting is an important part of the daily rhythms that are innate to human biology. The regular cycle of eating and fasting can deeply affect metabolism and health. This stream introduces the concept of Fasting and explores how eating patterns affect the body. Important concepts like ketosis and the hormonal drivers of hunger and satiety are explained. We also contrast various fasting traditions with more recent practices. 

Phil von Heydebreck
12 Sep 2019

The Longevity Collection

At some point in life, we all come face to face with our own mortality. While few people like to contemplate death, it can be worthwhile if it means not dying prematurely. There has been incredible progress in extending human lifespans over the past 100-150 years. People are living longer and healthier lives on average. But living to older ages means we are facing new challenges, first and foremost chronic diseases like cancer, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disease. Planning for longevity can lead to healthy lifestyle choices that can contribute to improvements in lifespan and most importantly healthspan, which is the proportion of one’s life spent in good health. Recent advances in aging research are a cause for hope that we will see continued increases in human lifespans in the future.  The Longevity Collection takes a close look at longevity from different perspectives ranging from a practical approach to making longevity-optimized lifestyle choices to exploring tough questions like “why do we age?” and “why did aging evolve?”. Along the way, the collection examines aspects of aging and longevity through different lenses including biology, public policy, ethics, history, economics, etc.  The purpose of this post is to give you an overview of the collection allowing you to pick and choose the topics most interesting to you. It also recommends a sequence in which the content could be consumed and learned. The collection is made up of five streams, each of them approaches the topics of aging and longevity from a different angle:  The Longevity Lifestyle — Practical Lifestyle Choices for Living a Longer and Healthier LifeDestination Centenarian — Preparing for Life Beyond 100Extending Life — The Science, Business and Ethics of Life ExtensionWhy We Fall Apart — Biological Theories of AgingAnti Aging Science — Methods to Slow or Reverse the Aging Process The Longevity Lifestyle — Practical Lifestyle Choices for Living a Longer and Healthier Life The Longevity Lifestyle is a good place to start your exploration of aging and longevity. The stream explains why longevity is something everyone should be thinking about. It provides a good general overview of some of the topics in aging and longevity that should interest individuals with a personal interest in the topic from a health and wellbeing perspective, without diving too deep into any specific topics. The stream takes a pragmatic approach by focusing on the decisions and actions people can take today that may influence their longevity. Healthy lifestyle choices are a major focus including nutrition, sleep, physical activity, stress, cognitive fitness, mental wellbeing, social connections, etc. Making healthy lifestyle decisions is a key factor in increasing healthspan, which is the number of years spent in good health. Much of chronic disease is avoidable by making choices that enable a long and healthy life. Destination Centenarian — Preparing for Life Beyond 100 What will it be like to live for 100 years? What impact will it have on society, when more and more people achieve such advanced ages? Destination Centenarian begins by looking at demographic trends that clearly show that people are living longer. Centenarians are the fastest-growing demographic group in the world population. The stream explores the factors that may have contributed to the extraordinary longevity of today’s centenarians and supercentenarians. It probes the question of whether there is a maximum human lifespan and whether it has already been reached. The aging of societies will have a profound impact and we explore what effects it might have and how countries can prepare. Longer lifespans are likely to completely redefine how people view the stages of their lives, in particular, the concept of retirement is likely to undergo a transformation. Finally, the topic of healthspan and its importance both for individuals and aging societies is explored.  Extending Life — The Science, Business and Ethics of Life Extension After a very brief look at the fascinating history of human attempts to extend their lifespan, the stream Extending Life examines how aging science went from being a fringe interest to a respectable field of study. It goes on to investigate the different goals and beliefs of the scientists and businesspeople pursuing longer lifespans. While some are focused primarily on improving healthspan, some are convinced that radical life extension is possible. This stream includes a look at the philosophical and ethical considerations surrounding life extension and tackles some of the common objections: Isn’t life extension unnatural? What about overcrowding, inequality, social rigidity, poverty, starvation, and climate change — aren’t they all more important?  Why We Fall Apart — Biological Theories of Aging Get ready for a deep dive into the biology of aging. Why We Fall Apart aims to provide a deeper understanding of the process of aging and why it happens. The stream surveys the incredible variability in patterns of aging across species and attempts to identify the drivers behind this variability. It goes on to outline the debate between supporters of different theories of aging highlighting the arguments for or against aging as a programmed mechanism and aging as a random process of deterioration. The importance of genetics in the aging process is also explored.  Anti Aging Science — Methods to Slow or Reverse the Aging Process Probably the most challenging stream in the Longevity Collection, Anti Aging Science zooms in on the drivers of aging at the cellular and molecular levels including genetic and epigenetic factors, protein malfunctions, and metabolic effects like oxidative stress and inflammation. A deep understanding of these drivers is leading to research into promising new treatments for aging and chronic disease. Such potential treatments include drugs, gene therapy, and regenerative medicine. 

Phil von Heydebreck
11 Sep 2019

How we use email reminders

We are activating email reminders on Trickle. This is a feature that many of our testers have asked for. You’ve been telling us that although you have good intentions of maintaining your learning habit, it’s easy to forget. Email reminders are currently the best way we can notify you that it’s time to come back to Trickle. There are currently four types of email that you can receive from Trickle:  Daily drip reminder: A preview of your next drip delivered to their inbox as a prompt to return to Trickle every day. Streak reminder: Get notified whenever your learning streak breaks. So if you’ve been learning regularly on Trickle, but then miss a day, you’ll get this email. It helps you to build up a habit.  Start again reminder: If you haven’t read drips for a few days, you’ll get a start again reminder on Sunday. A great day to start again. Trickle news: News and updates from Trickle when we release a new version or a major features. Just a few messages a year.

Achim Rothe
04 Sep 2019

The Art of Unbiased Decision Making

The best way to make better decisions is to avoid biases and other costly mistakes Although there appears to be no scientific support for the oft-quoted statistic that people make on average 35,000 conscious decisions per day, it’s clear that we are constantly making decisions. Some of those choices might seem mundane, like deciding what to have for breakfast, while others are defining moments that are life-shaping or career-making. Even seemingly inconsequential decisions can have an outsized impact over a long enough period if they become habitual. Think of the breakfast example: if a decision to eat sugary breakfast cereal turned into a lifelong habit, it might detriment health in the long run. Decisions don’t just affect the individuals making them, but also the people around them. The cumulative choices of large groups of people can have an impact on a planetary scale, as illustrated by global warming. Making better decisions starts with understanding your limitations Decisions are important, which is why most people strive to make good choices. Whether it’s an important life choice like what to study or a high-stakes business decision like whether to acquire another company, there are proven methods for making better decisions. It starts by understanding our limitations as decision makers. Decisions frequently fail to achieve the desired outcomes, partially because they are often made under conditions of ambiguity with incomplete information. Decisions under such conditions of uncertainty are like bets placed in a game of poker — there is no guaranteed payout. But it is possible to increase the odds of a good outcome, primarily by reducing errors made by the decision maker. Researchers have found that humans are rarely the rational decision makers that neoclassical economists imagined them to be. On the contrary, in many situations, people are predictably irrational. Systematic errors in judgment, such as cognitive biases often lead to predictably suboptimal outcomes. Relying on intuition is a lousy way of making decisions Many decisions are made intuitively, without deliberate conscious thought. Relying purely on intuition or gut feel is a risky strategy that should only be used in decisions of low-risk and low-importance or if the urgency of the decision is so high that there is virtually no time for deliberation. Potentially life-threatening situations such as those encountered by firefighters or soldiers in combat are good examples. Intuition only works well when decision makers have sufficient expertise and are operating in environments in which their knowledge helps them predict the outcomes of their decisions. In most cases, relying solely on intuition is a lousy way of making decisions. It may even be a sign of overconfidence and hubris. Decisions are rarely as urgent as people make them out to be. As one former US-president was fond of saying: The things that are urgent are seldom important and the things that are important are seldom urgent. — Dwight Eisenhower For important decisions, intuition should be considered one data point among many. Everyone is susceptible to bias, but debiasing is possible For tough choices, it’s best to engage in a more deliberate thought process and be aware of the many cognitive biases that can influence decision making. Everyone is susceptible to biases. They are a direct consequence of how the human brain makes sense of the world. Although we rarely catch ourselves making biased decisions, knowledge of the existence of biases can help us take action to avoid them by developing better decision-making habits. There are many methods of debiasing decision making. Depending on the type of decision, it might make sense to follow a structured decision-making process or make use of an algorithm or analytical tool. But the most powerful debiasing methods are relatively simple habits that any decision maker can adopt, such as considering a broader range of options and listening to different points of view. To make better decisions consider a broad set of options and a diversity of opinions A limited set of options is a telltale sign of flawed decision making. Academics call it narrow framing. It’s a sign that the decision maker has not considered all the options and may be ignoring important information. Narrow framing occurs because of our natural overconfidence in our ability to predict future outcomes and our tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs. Teenagers and organizations appear particularly prone to framing decisions as whether-or-not problems in which only one option is considered (Should I go to the party or not, should we acquire this company or not). Choosing from a broader set of options makes it more likely that decision makers will consider creative solutions to their challenges. It also provides a fallback plan, should the initially preferred option prove to be unsuitable. To obtain a broader set of options, encourage divergent thinking and avoid narrowing the search too quickly. Allow opposing viewpoints from a diverse group to collide. Don’t hesitate to create a mashup of the best features from different options. Instead of trying to make the best choice, find ways to minimize costly mistakes Even with a broad set of options, we are not immune to bias. When evaluating the options, decision makers can fall into the trap of using analysis to justify forgone conclusions. Unfortunately, this can lead to costly mistakes. It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent. — Charlie Munger Luckily there are some good methods for minimizing the risk of costly mistakes: It can help to invert the problem. Instead of trying to devise the optimal solution, think of ways to mitigate the risk of failure. Instead of asking “how can I buy the best car?”, think “how can I avoid buying a lemon?”. Running experiments is a way of testing hypotheses without making substantial upfront commitments. Instead of committing to a high-risk decision such as building and launching a new product, design an experiment to test demand first. Challenge assumptions by getting a better understanding of the failure rates and success factors of similar decisions. Ask experts to estimate the outcome of similar decisions in the past. Allowing for debate and disagreement is vital, but diverging views can get suppressed by influential leaders or strong organizational cultures. An effective method for legitimizing dissent is the premortem method, which is a discussion in which participants imagine that the decision has already failed and they explore possible reasons for the failure. Decision making is an essential skill in virtually all walks of life. By being aware of our limitations, we improve the chances of making successful decisions, while minimizing the risk of costly mistakes. This blog post originally appeared as a story on Medium. It is based on insights from a stream on decision making.

Phil von Heydebreck
12 Jul 2019