Random Thoughts: Some Updates

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Today some topics we have written about before where something new and/or interesting came up. Here goes.

  • On health insurance vs. nutrition advice: I finally got around to reading the study by Credit Suisse Research Institute: “Fat, the new health paradigm”. Although there isn’t much in there that I didn’t already know, it is still an interesting read, especially for those who want a (relatively) quick overview of the topic and don’t want to read a whole book. (It’s worth it just for the first two pages alone.) The TL;DR: the whole low-fat advice was unscientific nonsense. Ok, they say it more diplomatically: “One of the biggest myths in nutrition is that saturated fat intake above a certain level—say 10% based on most dietary guidelines—significantly increases your risk of heart attack. […] Plenty of research funding has been earmarked to study and back this hypothesis, yet we cannot find a single research paper written in the last ten years that supports this conclusion. On the contrary, we can find at least 20 studies that dismiss this hypothesis.”
    What makes the report all the more powerful is the fact that CS doesn’t have any vested interest either way – they are simply giving their investors the facts… [1]
  • On the same topic: starting today, Professor Tim Noakes, a medical doctor and one of the world’s most renowned researchers on exercise (I just got his book “The lore of running”), is on “trial” for giving controversial nutrition advice on Twitter – at least controversial according to standard recommendations. (But not according to the CS report mentioned above.) Noakes was a longtime advocate of carb-loading for athletes – until he one day discovered he had type II diabetes, despite following conventional advice to the dot. He switched to LCHF (he calls it Banting) and is very outspoken about it ever since. Here is some more background about the hearing.
  • What exactly is the nature of disruption by Uber et all? “Uberization”, like in this opinion piece on INN, is generally seen as disintermediation of an industry. A recent commentary from the banking industry viewpoint by Ron Shevlin posits that this is all wrong: while Uber was and is disruptive, it is actually defragmenting a highly fragmented industry, not disintermediating – except if you count the taxi dispatcher as an intermediary. I think Ron’s conclusion – that consumers actually prefer higher bundling, so that’s the way industries will go – is correct and works for both banking and insurance. For banking, check out my colleagues latest IBV study “Banking redefined: Disruption, transformation and the next-generation bank.”[2]
  • On cognitive computing: a “surprising – and genuinely scary research paper” (according to the NYT) found that patients did better at U.S. teaching hospitals when the high-profile experts where away at conferences.[3] It looks like the reason for that is that the more famous doctors tend to do too much, even when doing less would have been the better treatment. A very human failing, and why cognitive systems can be so beneficial. They give recommendations based purely on the facts, with estimates of confidence in the results. Purely objective, no ego or other biases involved. When both doctors and patients have this information (yes, the latter should get it, too) we should be seeing better results. (And probably with a lot less cost.)

[Update: forgot the link to Ron’s piece. Sorry]


[1] In 2013, CS had already trashed sugar consumption in a report.

[2] Side note: in the posts from this blog linked above, none of the authors used Uberization at all, but rather referred to Uber as a poster child for the sharing economy.

[3] Looking at cardiologists and heart-related incidents only.

Insurance Leader, IBM Institute for Business Value

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