Health & Lifestyle Interventions With Heavy-Tailed Outcomes?

post by MondSemmel · 2022-06-06T16:26:49.012Z · LW · GW · 9 comments

This is a question post.



A key question for advice in a domain is: how are outcomes in this domain statistically distributed?

If extremely good and extremely bad outcomes are rare, you probably can't do much better than just copying the default or median behavior. The value of acquiring information in this domain seems low.

Conversely, if the distribution has a heavy tail, then changing your behavior can avert very bad outcomes and/or lead to very good outcomes. In this case, the value of information in this domain seems comparatively much higher.

Hence the question: Which health & lifestyle interventions have particularly heavy-tailed outcomes?

Example prompts:

Toothpaste: Without having looked into this topic, I'd expect commercially available toothpaste to mostly be in the same ballpark in terms of outcomes. In which case there would be little value in optimizing this domain beyond choosing e.g. the most popular brand, or the product with the highest Amazon rating.

Proper Workout Technique: It's very easy to injure yourself with sufficiently bad workout technique. Irrespective of how much better the outcomes for the best technique are than for the median technique, it at least seems worth some effort to avoid the "bad technique" tail of the outcome distribution.

(There's also a discussion thread on the SSC subreddit.)



Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by romeostevensit · 2022-06-06T18:07:44.554Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Most american toothpaste brands don't include ingredients that can remineralize teeth for patent fight reasons IIRC. I import my toothpaste from singapore (hydroxyapatite is active ingredient)

Replies from: MondSemmel, pktechgirl, Verden, Nanda Ale
comment by MondSemmel · 2022-06-06T18:22:18.906Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I should've seen something like this coming, but I didn't. Oops. I wonder if the situation from which I was generalizing (toothpaste in Germany) is sufficiently different that I was just extrapolating too far, or if my assumption is wrong even there.

comment by Elizabeth (pktechgirl) · 2022-06-07T06:58:11.213Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can I get anything on amazon that has that ingredient, or are there other things I should know?

Replies from: romeostevensit
comment by romeostevensit · 2022-06-07T17:29:20.092Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just that many such brands advertise as Fluoride free, but you want fluoride. I just use a fluoride mouthwash also.

Replies from: Schleppy
comment by Schleppy · 2022-06-08T17:58:01.578Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've read somewhere that while mouthwash kills bad bacteria, it can also kill good bacteria.

Replies from: romeostevensit
comment by romeostevensit · 2022-06-09T00:05:36.583Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's why alcohol free is typically recommended now

comment by Verden · 2022-06-16T10:56:49.248Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Has anyone looked into how it compares to stannous fluoride?

comment by Nanda Ale · 2022-06-09T01:37:10.966Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hydroxyapatite looks like it might be better, but regular fluoride can remineralize teeth too. Though how much fluoride remineralizes is quite dose dependent. I spent most of life rinsing my mouth out with water after brushing and only recently switched to simply spitting and leaving the toothpaste on my teeth, and I haven't had a cavity since that switch.

comment by MondSemmel · 2022-06-10T17:26:47.765Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Note that there's also a discussion thread on the SSC subreddit.