The Bed of Procrustes is a short book consisting of quotes by Taleb. Unlike his other books, this book is mostly a collection of quotes. Procrustes used to stretch/amputate his guests who won’t fit on his bed. Similarly, when our minds need to reduce information, we are more likely to try to squeeze a phenomenon into the Procrustean bed of a crisp and known category (amputating the unknown), rather than suspend categorization, and make it tangible. That’s the central theme of this book.
The story of the rise and fall of the biggest foreign investor in Russia.
This book and its summary are pretty long, I extracted the useful advice in a shorter article.
- Major killers in 1900’s USA were Pneumonia, TB, and Diarrhea that are pathogen based while major killers in 2000s are heart diseases, cancer, and lung diseases that are lifestyle diseases. The developing world, which has shifted to a western diet, is seeing the same fate.
- Aging is tied to Telomeres, a tiny cap at the end of chromosomes, which prevents DNA from unraveling. Some amount of it is lost on every cell division. So, shortening of Telomere indicates aging. Smoking triples that rate. Meat, soda, dairy, fish, and refined foods are associated with shorter Telomeres. Plant diets with rich antioxidants are associated with longer Telomeres. Plant-based nutrition is the only intervention which helps in growing Telomerase, an enzyme which helps in regrowing Telomere.
- Vegetarians transitioning to meat once a week experienced a 146% increase in odds of heart attack, 152% increase in odds of stroke, 166% increase of odds of Diabetes, and 231% increase of odds of weight gain. India, despite a low increase in per-capita meat consumption, is facing high lifestyle disease rate due to an increase in refined foods like white rice. So, don’t just go for a vegetarian diet. French fries + Coke is vegetarian but not healthy. Go for an evidence-based diet. The current evidence suggests a whole plant-based diet is healthy. Calories in junk food are cheaper but when you take nutrition beyond calories into account then junk food loses out to whole plant-based diets. Moreover, farms with animals are associated with a higher rate of cancer. Plant-only farms are not. Poultry farms are the worst. Pet companionship is associated with lower cancer rate though.
- A healthy lifestyle is key. Not smoking, not being obese, 30-mins daily exercise, and a plant-based diet is sufficient to wipe out 80% chance of chronic diseases. Non-genetic factors account for 80-90% of the major diseases today. For example, colon cancer rates were 1/5th in Japan compared to the USA in 1950. Now, due to increased meat consumption, they are almost the same. Diet is a gradual process and not all or nothing. If you eat Pepperoni Pizza once a week, going down to once a month is better than not giving it up at all.
- Thanks to dairy and meat lobbies, you will hear “eat more veggies” message but no “eat less meat” message. The latter message will be made more cryptic by saying “avoid saturated and trans fat”. But in reality, no amount of trans fat is safe as it always leads to a risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). However, trans fat is unavoidable in a non-vegan diet. Order of nutrition quality: Unprocessed plant food > Processed plant food = Unprocessed animal food > Ultra-processed plant food = Processed animal food.
- Patients regularly overestimate the benefits of drugs. Doctors are hesitant, to tell the truth since no patient would take a drug which has only a 5% chance of success. Big pharma spends a lot on advertisements. They advertise drug, not diet changes. Drugs make money for them, diet changes do not.
- Washing vegetables remove 50% of pesticides. Washing in 5% vinegar (expensive) or 10% saltwater (cheaper) is much more effective. Rinse again after saltwater though.
- After consuming acidic food, rinse the mouth with water to avoid enamel decay. However, don’t brush since that will damage the already softened enamel.
Daily Dozen checklist of Good Health
- 3 servings of Beans
- 1 serving of Berries
- 3 servings of other fruits
- 1 serving of Cruciferous vegetables
- 2 servings of Greens
- 2 servings of Other Vegetables
- 1 serving of Flaxseed
- 1 serving of Nuts
- 1 serving of Spices
- 3 servings of Whole Grains
- 5 servings of Beverages
- 1 workout session
Why Nations Fail
The book is a good read on why some nations are rich today while others are poor. While the book Breakout Nations provides useful information on the current situation in many countries, Why Nations Fail offers valuable historical lessons on critical aspects of economy and politics that have shaped countries around the world. The theme of this book includes:
- Inclusive vs. Extractive Economic and Political Institutions
- The Myth of Geography/Culture
- Path-dependence of the Past
- Centralization of Power
- Creative Destruction
- Critical Junctures
- Defending Prosperity