Salt of the Earth

(Jan 30, 2010)

Most of our readers will normally associate the acronym FSA with the Financial Services Authority, the body supervising financial-services providers in the United Kingdom.  Confusingly, another UK regulator has the same acronym: the Food Standards Agency, which has nothing to do with financial services but is "an independent Government department [...] to protect the public's health and consumer interests in relation to food."

Recently the Food Standards Agency ran a campaign to warn people about hidden levels of salt in their food, especially pre-prepared foods.  New York City is running a similar health campaign.  This is because high salt intake is believed to play a role in certain diseases,…

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Tags: salt, stroke, hypertension

Cause and effect

(Nov 5, 2009)

Examining past trends in cause of death can be very instructive.  However, in some quarters it has become popular to try to extrapolate trends in causes of death to create a forecast of future mortality rates.  This has a superficial appeal: using a more-detailed breakdown of mortality data feels like it should result in a better-quality forecast.

However, extrapolating trends is tricky because some important causes of death are driven by the same underlying factors.  For example, smoking increases mortality due to heart disease and numerous cancers.  This means that trends by cause of death are not independent, and forecasting correlated time series is problematic.  Furthermore, some causes of death…

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Tags: cause of death, heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer

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