Lying Media Bastards

May 25, 2011

The Fattening

In April, the New York Times Magazine published a powerful, misleadingly-titled article called Is Sugar Toxic?. I have since heard several interviews with the article’s author, Gary Taubes, and watched a lecture by one of the key scientists that Taubes highlights in his article, Robert Lustig. I find their argument pretty compelling (their real argument, not the simplified article title’s “argument”). I was going to write a summary of their argument (which, if true, could be very important to healthy living), but the more I’ve tried to bone up on the topic, the more complicated it’s gotten. It’s even worse as this topic covers all manner of physiology, biochemistry, and several other subjects I only have basic understandings of. So my opinion on this subject shouldn’t really sway anybody very much.

Anyhow, the Argument as I understand it.

Taubes isn’t really saying that sugar itself is toxic (Lustig is, but in the same way that the alcohol is technically toxic). But putting it into common language, they are saying that sugar and corn syrup (also known as sucrose and fructose), when eaten in large enough quantities (a threshhold that most Americans meet, cross and double) causes the body to react in incredibly unhealthy ways that cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and possibly even cancer. Eating lots of calories causes many health problems as well, but they argue that digesting sucrose and fructose create special problems above and beyond the disorders caused by overeating. So I guess you could revamp that article title to “Are Certain Types of Sugar So Harmful to Humans That They May as Well Be Toxic?”

Lustig’s lecture makes it very clear: the body digests different substances in many different ways. They get processed by different organs, using different enzymes, creating different byproducts, which in turn effect other biological processes not related to just digesting your candy bar. In his lecture, Lustig shows that the digestion of normal carbohydrates (bread, vegetables, etc.) gets energy to your cells, stores some of that energy in the liver, contributes slightly to weight gain, and not much else. He then shows how the process of digesting fructose and sucrose is more similar to those of digesting alcohol and pure fat. The process likewise gets energy to your cells, but perhaps half of these sugars are then stored as fat. These digestive processes then also create chemical byproducts which make you stay hungry longer, increase blood pressure, increase chances of diabetes, and contribute much more to the creation of fat. Taubes adds on to this, claiming that it also increases the body’s secretion of hormones that can help cancers to grow.

Lustig is on a crusade about this. That’s why he keeps referring to sugar as poison. We know that a high-fat diet is unhealthy, and Lustig argues persuasively that, in effect, a high-sugar diet is a high-fat diet because of how the body metabolises sugar. It also follows from this that all calories are not created equal, at least as far as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are concerned. Eating 500 calories of candy and 500 calories of spaghetti effect your body differently. In a way, this is common sense; eating 10 carrots is better for you than drinking a can of soda. But the majority of public nutrition info in the past few decades has focused on calories in general, exercise, and fat consumption. If sugar (which is added to almost any food you can buy) is as big a factor as any of those other three, then that’s big news.

It would be one thing if this was an issue of individual diet and individual choices, but multiply the surprising impact of sugar times the number of Americans who eat food, and the number of residents of other nations who have largely adopted the American way of eating. Taubes mentions that some medical researchers see diabetes and obesity together in so many patients that they have coined a new term: “diabesity”. Lustig says that the United States has an epidemic of obese six-month olds. Some studies show that 17% of all American health care spending is on obesity-related treatments. This is horrifying.

Anyhow, biology was never my strongest subject, but I would recommend listening to those Taubes interviews if you’re interested, and reading his NYT Mag article. And then, if you want the hard stuff, or if biochemistry equations make you warm and tingly inside, watch the Lustig lecture. I could be wrong, they could be wrong/lying, I just don’t know. Worth a look, though.

Posted by Jake on May 25, 2011 9:24 pm

May 13, 2011

Ron Paul Announces/Dooms Presidential Run

Most people don’t know who Ron Paul is. Most people who do, think he’s crazy. The small number who don’t think he’s crazy are libertarian college students, and peaceniks who haven’t dug down much into Paul’s record.

If you’re in that first category, Ron Paul is a senator from Texas. His one dominant trait is his strict and sincere belief in small government conservatism. On the plus side, this means that he is against American imperialism, handouts to corrupt corporations, and wasteful government spending. On the downside, Paul is against almost everything else government can do as well. Also, there’s the racism.

Yes, that’s Ron Paul, announcing his intent to run for president of the United States, while simultaneously stating his opposition to laws ending racial segregation. Specifically, he said that if he had been in Congress at the time, he would have opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Which is funny, because most American like civil rights*. Even if Americans knew who Ron Paul was, he’d be pretty fucked at the ballot box.

I only recently have grasped the true nature of libertarianism. We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the Ayn Rand branch of libertarianism, an empty-headed fiction where greed, arrogance, and whining about how no one recognizes your greatness, leads inevitably to a utopian society. I think some Randians actually believe their own bullshit, and others just spread the lie. The latter want money, power, and no accountability. They could give a fuck about whether or not that leads to utopia.

But I think that Paul is a different kind of libertarian. This other branch believes that the world is a horrible, horrible place, but that it is immoral for government to do anything to stop the horror. It’s a fucking jungle out there, deal with it. If you want an end to racism, sexism, poverty, disease, or [other], you have to do it on your own, Jack. These libertarians believe that the only acceptable role of government is to protect them, their assault rifles, their pot and their hookers from the legions of desparate poor.

So for the most part, libertarianism can be summed up as “I got mine!”


*well, for themselves. Not so much for other people.

Posted by Jake on May 13, 2011 10:15 pm

May 10, 2011

She Blinded, Cloned, and Mind Controlled Me… with Science!

Frankly, I’d like to see a lot more videos like these:

Well, I would and I wouldn’t. It’s an excellent summary of recent developments in a field of science (bio-engineering), aimed at non-scientists, describing many of the cutting edge advances that you wouldn’t hear about unless you were looking for them.

But many of them are horrifying. For example, scientists can apparently insert chips into the brains of insects and rats and control them with joysticks. Literally. And there are implications that they are making progress on the mental patterns of monkeys. Which, y’know, are fairly close to the mental patterns of humans.

So while I wish there were more videos that let us “outsiders” know what’s going on in the world of advanced science technology of all fields, I do wish it wasn’t looking so much like mad science. This is shit we need to know, so that when our monkey cyborg masters make our electrified skeletons dance for their amusement, we can at least say “I told you so”.

[edit]

Wow, I appear to have, uh, posted this link already. I’m gonna delete that article now and go camp out on Mount Sheepish.

[/edit]

Posted by Jake on May 10, 2011 9:16 pm

May 1, 2011

The End of an Era. Maybe.

I was actually in the process of writing two new posts for the site, after a long time away, when I saw this news about the death of Osama bin Laden. And for now, I won’t suck the wind out of anyone’s sails by pointing out all of the terribleness done in the name of stopping bin Laden. He was a mass murderer, he’s dead (so we’re told), no tears here. I’m sure to many, this news is justice finally served, peace of mind finally come. I can accept that.

But I have to make two points.

First, one of bin Laden’s goals had been to drive the US out of the Middle East by drawing it into foreign wars and bleeding it dry. Tragically, he had a lot of success there.

But bin Laden’s primary goal was for the people of the Muslim world to rise up, overthrow their dictatorial regimes, and replace them with fundamentalist theocracies. And irony of ironies, he dies during a time when these people are indeed rising to overthrow their dictatorship, but are replacing them instead with moderate democracies. I like the idea that he lived to see “his people” publicly reject his life’s work.

Plenty of depressing “war on terror” commentary to come!

Posted by Jake on May 1, 2011 11:19 pm

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