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October 25, 2007

Doing what we do best
Posted by Avram Grumer at 11:21 PM * 149 comments

Patrick just linked to Cory Doctorow’s short story in Forbes, “Other People’s Money”. It’s a good story, with a counter-intuitive financial moral, but that’s not what I’m blogging about. I’m blogging about what popped into my head while reading these lines:

After Bubble 2.0, I took my best coders, our CFO, and a dozen of our users and did a little health-care startup, brokering carbon-neutral medical travel plans to Fortune 500s. Today that sounds like old hat, but back then, it was sexy. No one seriously believed that we could get out from under the HMOs, but between Virgin’s cheap bulk-ticket sales and the stellar medical deals in Venezuela, Argentina and Cuba, it was the only cost-effective way.

Not once the Dep’t of Homeland Security gets done with the airline industry, it won’t be. If large enough numbers of Americans start flying to South America to look for cheap health care, that’ll reduce the demand for health insurance. The health insurance industry will pull some strings, and air travel will become more difficult for people traveling for medical purposes. Same goes for any other threat to large corporate interests that involves lots of air travel.

Not that this is entirely new. This is why customs agencies place limits on how much of some things you can carry across national borders. But HomSec has the ability to harass any traveller for reasons they don’t even have to disclose. That kind of power doesn’t go unused.

Comments on Doing what we do best:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 12:35 AM:

Especially since the folk that stay in a corrupt organization don't tend to be the ones prone to refraining from abuse of privledge.

#2 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:01 AM:

But the high-altitude pollution produced/emitted by airplanes reduces global warming.

#3 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:42 AM:

The reports of the hassles of air travel and how they'd affect my medical needs are already pretty intimidating, not that I have the cash to test things.

Of course, what would already kill that scheme, as described, is the use of Cuba as a destination. No need for DHS.

#4 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 02:22 AM:

As an example of the kind of government string-pulling that hypothetically might get done on behalf of / by big business, is the case of stevia (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni), a South and Central American plant that has a much sweeter taste than sugar (up to 300 times the sweeten power), and much less potential cost than high fructose corn syrup.

In the early 1990s, the FDA banned Stevia at the behest of an "anonymous complaint." The stated reason was that stevia had not had toxicological studies with data to prove the plant was safe. Note that this stance is contrary to the FDA's own guidelines, that require adverse effects be demonstrated in order to effect a ban.

Those of us with suspicious minds might look to see where the money trail leads -- such a search would be short and sweet -- look to the manufacturers of corn syrup, specifically high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

HFCS is used as a sweetener in this country because of the price supports on domestic sugar and the tariffs on imported sugar, which makes HFCS more attractive, even though there are some really nasty potential side effects from HFCS use, based on the way that sugars are metabolyzed.

But the process of creating HFCS requires rendering corn for its starch, then several steps of treating the resulting starch with enzymes ( at lest one of which is a GMO-derived product)

After a lot of public omplaint, the FDA changed their stance, and approved Stevia as a "food supplement" but the ban is still in effect on the use of Stevia as a "food additive," which is a difference in name only, rather than a difference in substance.

Even 15 years after the fact, the FDA will not reveal the anonymous complainant. My money would on a entity with lots to lose if HFCS demand is is reduced. Such as a firm such as Archer Daniale Mdland

Of course, thats all just the rankest speculation....

#5 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 03:16 AM:

So, drive to Vancouver or Toronto. No car, can't rent one? Fly to Buffalo, Detroit, or San Diego, take transit, walk across the border. Once across buy a ticket and go.

#6 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:44 AM:

Fortunately, the airlines are capable of pulling strings themselves - see the post-9/11 bailouts, for example, and the general history of airline safety. I'd expect a kind of cancelling-out of opposing corrupt payments. Cheques and balances, asyermightsay. (That pun doesn't work with US spelling.)

#7 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 05:07 AM:

Interesting story: almost 100 percent infodump.

#8 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 08:04 AM:

Almost 100% infodump and almost impossibly difficult to sustain WSOD through, due to advocacy of a ludicrously unlikely social system, and conversion of the opposing character through authorial fiat.

Just like, oh, all of Cory's work, I'm afraid. At least all that I've read.

If all of Niven's characters act like the social systems of every society in the entire universe will tend to that seen in SoCal, Cory's tend towards some sort of strange Sterlingian quasi-libertarian attractor that could perhaps be described as `techno-cottage-industry'.

There are a few of these around (see boingboing passim) but not all that terribly many, not really, and most of the techno-cottage-industrialists do it as a hobby and actually make a living doing something else, because while people will buy stuff produced by techno-cottage-industrialists, it costs way too much for anyone not ridiculously rich to use it for anything other than an occasional luxury (*very* occasional, in my case). Magic devices to make food out of nothing (as in this story) might make things a bit better, but not enough. For this to work as an economic system, you need magic devices to make *everything* out of nothing, whereupon all you've done is moved the mass production into mass production of 3D printer designs.

The poor we will always have with us, and if we don't want them to starve or go homeless, we'll need mass production. (Among other things, who makes the 3D printers? Oops, that's mass production, isn't it?)

#9 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 08:04 AM:

Craig R @ 4: there are some really nasty potential side effects from HFCS use, based on the way that sugars are metabolyzed.

I've never really understood this, and have never found anything that to me appears to be an authoritative source explaining it. As I understand the process of metabolization of sugars, HFCS is not processed significantly differently from sucrose (which is split by glucoside hydrolase into equal quantities of glucose and frucose, the two constitutents of HFCS). Therefore I fail to see how any side effects of HFCS are substantially different from those of sucrose. If somebody would care to point me at an explanation, I'd be glad to read it.

#10 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 08:55 AM:

Jules@9, yeah, what I've been reading in my nutrition book (all 1,000 pages of it) is that the problem with HFCS in foods is that it's extra calories for whatever nutritional value may be in the food, and that its better to eat stuff with the same nutritional value, but without the added calories. Where "better" is just "not gaining weight".

I don't recall reading anything in there that said HFCS was actually unsafe.

#11 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 09:25 AM:

Jules: I gather that there is some suggestion that high HFCS consumption can be linked to type 2 diabetes; I gather this has something to do with the way that the body processes fructose.

A cursory google leads me into a maze of twisty passages, none alike, so make of that what you will.

#12 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 09:27 AM:


The Omnivore's Dilema by Michael Pollan.

HFCS is derived form industrial grade corn that is rated by the FDA as not safe for consumption by animals. Not that animals should eat corn anyway (how many cows have you seen munching on corn stalks? None. We fore feed it to them along with antibiotics because it's slightly cheaper than grazing them).

HFCS doesn't break down in your system. It's a sugar that humans were never really supposed to consume, as we don't have the natural enzymes to break it down and convert it into anything useful. Some of it is passed harmlessly by your digestive system but the rest just sort of hangs out in the form of fat.

Why are Americans obese? Because back in the eighties, Coke-a-Cola, McDonalds, General Mills, et al. decided that saving 3 cents a pound on sugar imports was worth it and switched entirely to HFCS as a food additive sweetener.

All our Good Old Fashioned American Food Like Products have been slowly poisoning us for nearly 30 years. We all have a sweet tooth and now we all have obesity, heart disease and a host of really fun health problems because agribusiness corps decided that real sugar was cutting into their profit margins.

But look, the Chinese are poisoning us!

#13 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 09:37 AM:

re #12: Sorry to have to say this, but nonsense. HFCS 55 has only marginally more fructose than pure cane sugar. Your body digests fructose, and to digest sucrose, it has to digest fructose, since that sugar is half of the first product of sucrose's digestion.

Americans are fat because they eat too much and don't get enough exercise to compensate. That is all.

#14 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 09:41 AM:

HFCS doesn't break down in your system. It's a sugar that humans were never really supposed to consume, as we don't have the natural enzymes to break it down and convert it into anything useful. Some of it is passed harmlessly by your digestive system but the rest just sort of hangs out in the form of fat.

What utter crap. Sugar is not fat; how d'you think it gets from being sugar to being fat without being broken down and converted?

#15 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:03 AM:

C.Wingate @13: utter crap back to you. I suffer from a (seemingly) inherited form of hyperglycemia which makes me obese even though I EAT LESS CALORIES than most people. The only control is high levels of exercise and staying away from ANYTHING with high fructose sugars in it, and even then I struggle to keep a balance every day. Funnily enough, I am extremely healthy and active in every other way.

#16 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:03 AM:

Oops. It was "nonsense" to C.Wingate and "utter crap" to Alex.

#17 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:12 AM:

I was paraphrasing from memory so my science might be a little off (and I should have added that caveat). Perhaps Jim or someone can describe the metabolic nuances that are escaping me. But my basic point stands: our bodies don't break HFCS down because it's a form of sugar we can't digest.

Studies have shown that diets high in HFCS contribute to an increased likelihood of diabetes, obesity, etc. Sure, exercise would help but so would eating real food, rather than filling our stomachs with chemically modified corn derivatives under the false assumption that so long as it isn't sugar it will make us skinny.

#18 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:23 AM:

Apparently fructose does not stimulate insulin relase, which means that it doesn't trigger a satiety response. It also isn't metabolised like glucose, and is broken down into acetyl CoA, which is the starting material for fatty acid synthesis.

Or so this link would have me believe.

#19 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:23 AM:

as for the topic at hand: yeah, given the current state of government regulations, I think the flaw in the story is the assumption that the insurance companies would just let medical tourism slide under their radar. They'd lobby congress to ban all international flights without a doctor's note, and picture of you kissing Bush's ring before that would happen.

I love Cory's imagination but he sometimes lets his ideas run off without thinking them through.

#20 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:31 AM:

My confusion on HFCS comes from using the acronym to mean the specific things we can or cannot digest-- I interpret the words 'high-fructose corn syrup' to mean 'corn syrup' which seems to be okay, and 'fructose' which is a perfectly fine sugar. According to Wikipedia (and I apologize for not confirming), it's fructose and glucose in various ratios.
I have not been convinced that high-fructose corn syrup itself is distilled metabolic evil, not compared to a similar quantity or equivalent sweetness of sucrose. What my cursory Google has turned up is that fructose is linked to metabolic issues, and so the higher proportion of fructose in HFCS is what causes any problems. But fructose is also in sucrose, regular table sugar, and so I would expect the solution to fructose-induced metabolic disorders to be 'avoid fructose, found in these sweeteners' rather than 'avoid these sweeteners, but these other ones containing fructose are fine'.

What physiological bits am I missing?

#21 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:40 AM:

17: I think that Alex has a point - I don't see how HFCS could be converted into fat if it couldn't be broken down by the digestive system! As for humans not being supposed to consume it - not really, unless you think humans aren't supposed to eat fruit.

Fructose can, of course, be digested - but apparently with more difficulty than glucose. This may have health effects. I'm not a nutritionist.

Some studies suggest that there is a link between HFCS and obesity or diabetes. But that isn't because we can't break down fructose.

I think the confusion may be because a lot of foods have HFCS (because it's cheap and sweet) and this makes people fat; but it's not the HFCS specifically that's doing it, just the calorie load.

13: that was a bit rude. It's true in a lot of cases, but not in all.

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:41 AM:

I've seen reports of side effects from HFCS also; I don't know what it is, but there are things in corn that get past fermentation, so I'd guess that there are things in corn that get past whatever processing is done to make HFCS. (I know somone allergic to corn and to corn-based alcohol, whether distilled or not.)

#23 ::: jean vpxi ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:55 AM:

It's not just the evil overlords of govt and big biz who don't like "outsourcing" health care. union blocks overseas care

#24 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:56 AM:

And if you think the insurance companies would howl about medical tourism, you haven't seen anything about the damn doctors...

I work in health information technology and the single biggest obstacle outside of costs to getting doctors to adopt electronic health records is the fear of 'doc in a box' - the fear of being irrelevant. Once you get past that, they whine about the price (while they'll drop thousands for marginally useful new lab equipment). And people wonder why I prefer to work with community health centers and rural health clinics.

OK, back to topic though, the medical lobby is obscenely powerful and damnably effective - look at the stance they have against frivolous lawsuits and the results. Combine it with the fact they got in bed with the insurance industry on this (they'll be lucky if they get a $20 and told to wipe themselve off before its over) and it gets nastily effective. Big insurance money, plus the credibility of physicians and the urgency and importance of health care.

Offer up large scale medical tourism and you'll see them foam at the mouth and really offer up nasty things (improper care, no readable records, diseases, etc.) about it to block it.

Another perceived threat might be real honest to god telemedicine - waldos, cameras and all - carried out by physicians and surgeons in areas where the costs are lower but have access to good telecoms.

#25 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:59 AM:

and air travel will become more difficult for people traveling for medical purposes. Same goes for any other threat to large corporate interests that involves lots of air travel.

In fact, I'd guess a more general form of this is ultimately driving the TSA (et al) harassment of air passengers, and the inflation of the watchlist.

Consider that ShrubCo has a vested interest in limiting air travel, especially out of the country. After all, it's hard to enforce monopolies and other restraints of trade, when people can venture out of your jurisdiction.

Likewise, the administration would love to cut down on on "unauthorized interactions" between Americans and foreigners -- it's amazing how a few face-to-face conversations can undercut their propaganda! Let alone if people start getting the idea that other countries have better solutions to health care, energy policy, and so on. Much better not to expose people to those "alien concepts"....

#26 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:10 AM:

Ajay @212: Actually, I can't eat fruit UNLESS it's part of a larger meal, and even then apples are better than bananas. I cannot have any form of sweetened drink ( better safe than sorry, even though pure fruit juices may be ok in some occassion). The way my doctor explained it, for a majority of people, their metabolism handles the breaking down of all kinds of sugars and carbs just fine. For people like me, which seem to have a (genetic?) predisposition towards insulin problems, processed sugars hits the system like you're mainlining, and it causes a flood of insulin, which then triggers hunger, which triggers.... and of course, the body can't use all that damn sugar, so it stores it as fat.

I'm not saying that my situation is the norm, but it's not uncommon; and some studies suggest that if you consume processed sugars on a regular basis, you may trigger the effect.

Sorry about having derailed this somewhat, but I get set off when someone condescendingly informs me that all my problems come from eating too much and not enough exercise...

#27 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:13 AM:

Ajay @21, dang it, 21!
That's it; no more posting for me until I can untangle my fingers...

#28 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:21 AM:


No, no, you're just a prophet. How else could you have foreseen what Ajay is going to comment on almost 200 messages in the future?


#29 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:25 AM:

Emma 15: But you're not typical. Most Americans DO eat too much and DON'T exercise enough. I consider myself about 30 pounds overweight, and I'm in GREAT physical shape compared to most of my friends, and compared to the average 48-year-old man in America. When I eat less and exercise more, I can get down to 12% bodyfat, which is extraordinary for my age. Keeping it up...that's an issue.

Explaining that you're overweight for a reason that's not your fault doesn't refute C., any more than my saying that my boyfriend is underweight because he doesn't eat enough does. (I'm assuming that "That is all" means that's all C. has to say on the topic, not that it's the only reason Americans are overweight.)

#30 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:43 AM:

On the other hand, I also lost a lot of weight when I ate a very low-carb diet.

And as for government intervention, I'm still amazed when I recall how readily I and everyone I know bought into that ridiculous and reprehensible "food pyramid." What trusting fools we all were. We just assumed that, as a government agency, the USDA would have our best interests at heart.

Of course, they didn't. The A stands for Agriculture, not Health. The food pyramid was designed to sell farm products, not promote health, and in fact its introduction produced a dramatic rise in obesity rates in America.

These days, of course, I can't think of any government agency that I think has my best interests at heart—or even has a heart to have best interests at.

#31 ::: Eric K ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:49 AM:

AFAIK, sugar metabolism is fairly complicated, and not entirely understood. Fructose--whether from HFCS or table sugar--is metabolized via a different pathway than glucose. At one point, diabetics were encouraged to consume fructose, on the theory that it reached the bloodstream more slowly than glucose. But recent research suggests that this may not be such a good idea, for reasons mentioned by Jakob @ 11.

Here's a survey paper, with lots of pointers to other studies. The author is not a fan of fructose, FWIW.

Diatryma @ 20: I have not been convinced that high-fructose corn syrup itself is distilled metabolic evil, not compared to a similar quantity or equivalent sweetness of sucrose.

From my (very limited) understanding of the research, HFCS and sucrose cause the same sorts of problems.

ajay @ 21: As for humans not being supposed to consume it - not really, unless you think humans aren't supposed to eat fruit.

Well, actual fruit tends to have a reasonable amount of fiber. So it's entirely possible that our bodies can handle an occasional piece of fruit better than they can handle a lot of sugary junk food.

#32 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 12:01 PM:

Actually insulin metabolism problems are becoming an increased problem among women in the US. Like Emma I can't have just fruit or sugar of any kind unless it's a small portion of any meal and even then I really just should not have it at all. This includes carbs.

Not only does the sugar store itself as fat, but also as cysts attached to my organs.

He's the best part...once on medication I'm told I have to loose weight...but that I will never be able to. So I'm stuck on the low end of obese despite weightlifting, cardio and a proper diet.

I'm not saying HFCS is to blame...but they put it in EVERYTHING. Check zesty pickles next time you go to the store. Check pasta...check your canned goods. They put it in things that don't need it at all.

That's where it gets crazy.

#33 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 12:04 PM:

755,000 currently on the terror watch list and another 200,000 being added each year? Someday we'll be on it.

I'm all with Xopher on exercising more, but eat less? Screw that!

#34 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 12:27 PM:

personal anecdotal comment about HFCS:

I'm diabetic and I monitor my blood glucose levels obsessively.

Anything with HFCS in it metabolizes very very quickly in my system. It spikes my blood sugar up way high, triggering a flood of insulin (or what passes for a flood in my impared system). But the amount of insulin triggered is too much for the actual amount of long-term blood glucose provided by the HFCS (it metabolizes fast), and that lands me in a low-blood-sugar situation.

There is some thought among diabetics and diabetic researchers that long-term exposure to this very high-very low cycle is what deranges the metabolic systems and causes "type-2 diabetes", more accurately known as metabolic disorder.

#35 ::: Joy ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 12:28 PM:

I'm not entirely convinced that HCFS is more bad for you than any other kind of processed sugar that is loaded in large proportions into foods where you neither need nor expect it. Which is a badness in itself, but not the chemical evil from the dark lagoon.

I think "eat stuff that your ancestors would recognize as food" and that more plants, and more colorful plants at that, is a good rule of thumb for those without insulin disorders (since they need to be more careful). Of course in this day and age that often means cooking your own food which can be an enormous time-suck for a working parent.

#36 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Ah. I don't see a problem with high-fructose corn syrup causing the same problems as sucrose for the same reason. As with most things, it's wrong to entirely demonize it.
Putting it in everything, now, that's a bad. I dislike hidden ingredients in food.

#37 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 12:43 PM:

What Michelle @ 32 says is what I always understood to be the real problem with HFCS. I know nothing about differences in the way it's metabolized vs. sucrose. But it's in everything, adding calories. And because it's so cheap, it makes sweets very cheap, so you get everything sweetened.

Article in San Francisco Chronicle, detailing both arguments.
Article from "The Weston Price Foundation for Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts" which name automatically makes me suspicious of its scientific accuracy, but it has a lot of references, many to articles in peer-reviewed journals. I have not verified the sources.
Article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, full text available. Technical details on metabolism of fructose and glucose. Conclusion appears to be that it's overconsumption of sweetened beverages that truly causes the problem.

#38 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 12:44 PM:

Craig R. @ #4, That's interesting, and thanks for the info about stevia. I'd always assumed the stuff wasn't very widely used because it tastes nasty; I've tried it twice, and both times had to go wash my mouth out with something else because the aftertaste lingered so viciously. No one else in my family can tell that it tastes any different from sugar once mixed into food or drinks, so I assume it's one of those "Cilantro tastes like industrial chemicals!" things where only certain people get the aftertaste.

#39 ::: Chris J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:16 PM:

Excess fructose (either as corn syrup or as sucrose) upsets glucose metabolism, and subsequently screws up insulin regulation and release. Read more about it here (I can't get the linky thing to work.)

#40 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:17 PM:

#38 Fade - All of the "super-sweetener" chemicals, including stevia, taste horrible to some people. There's also some kind of limit to how much you can use; Mrs. Mjfgates does this thing with whipped cream and cocoa and stevia, and if she puts in two bittyspoons of stevia, it's really good, and if she puts in two HEAPING bittyspoons, there's a mass rush to the sink so that we can all scrub off our tongues with Brillo pads and dish soap.

re HFCS: Most commercial pasta sauces list it as either the second or third ingredient. Corn syrup in spaghetti sauce? Who came UP with this idea? And if you know who, could you please drown them in a vat of tomato paste?

#41 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:22 PM:

Time for some biochemistry. Corn starch is mostly made of amylose and amylopectin, both of which are polymers of glucose. To make basic corn syrup, you run this starch through a process which depolymerizes it, giving you an almost pure glucose syrup.

Sucrose, meanwhile, is a disaccharide: one fructose molecule plus one glucose molecule. The first step in its digestion is to break it in half, giving equal amounts of the two monosaccharides.

HFCS is produced through an enzymatic process that converts about 43% of the glucose to fructose. This is then processed further so that the resulting product is about 90% fructose; it can be mixed with the 43% syrup to cut the fructose content down to 55%.

If you can trust the Wikipedia article, some of the 90% stuff is used in some baked goods. Sports drinks tend to use the 43% stuff, while sodas tend to use the 55% version. Some of this has to do with sweetness: fructose is much sweeter than glucose or sucrose.

What it comes down to is that once they hit the bloodstream, FHCS and table sugar (and for that matter, honey) are very similar: they consist of nearly equal parts of glucose and fructose. This isn't surprising since the point of HFCS is unit-for-unti substitution for sucrose. Kosher-for-Passover Coke is just as bad for you as the regular HFCS-sweetened kind. Substituting fructose itself for sucrose is a completely different story, because they are not chemically equivalent. But most HFCS isn't used this way.

#42 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:27 PM:


The same folks who require sugar in catsup. (No sugar? Can't call it catsup.) It's the USDA. Some of the stuff they do or require is very good for consumers, and some of it is very good for business. Which one is which can be very difficult to determine.

#43 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:28 PM:

Along with looking for cheaper treatments, medical tourism is a way to sidestep irritating local laws and bans.

And this is good and bad. More freedom means, broadly, that informed careful people will probably do better, but that others may do worse. Medical tourism may mean going to a first-world quality hospital in Bombay for bypass surgery from a guy who did his fellowship at Hopkins, but it may also mean going to a quack-cure cancer clinic in Barbados that will keep feeding you expensive herbal supplements till your cancer finally kills you.

I don't want to see that regulated out of existence, but it's not like there's no downside to this kind of thing. Being able to bypass US regulations means you get to sidestep the regulations that keep prices artificially high and choices artificially low, but also that you lose the protection of having the FDA doing some oversight on drugs, and US liability laws keeping hospitals and doctors at least somewhat honest. It also means the ability to bypass US laws based on ethical concerns, which ranges from bans on late-term abortions to bans on buying kidneys for transplants*.

* IMO, legalizing this would be a good thing, but I'd like to see the trade regulated so that there was no question of, say, prisoners getting their organs harvested and sold by some government, or people being murdered for their organs.

#44 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:30 PM:

If we have to give up our high fructose corn syrup, then the terrorists have already won.

#45 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:33 PM:

albatross 43: I don't think there's any set of regulations that could keep coercion from becoming part of that equation; nor is there any government agency that would enforce it if any significant business interest got involved...and if organ-selling were legalized, brokerage firms would appear like mold on fruit.

#46 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:44 PM:

Albatross @43: you seem to be making the assumption that the FDA does what it's supposed to do, i.e. actually provide oversight and quality control over medicinal products. Alas, I suspect it succumbed to regulatory capture some decades ago; a good chunk of its job these days consists of (a) ensuring that nothing embarrassing happens, and then (b) raising the cost of entry to the pharmaceutical business until it's so high that only big pharma can compete. Certainly, as the development costs of new drugs have spiraled (it now costs roughly $500M to jump through the hoops to get FDA approval for a new medicine) the safety issues don't seem to have gotten much better -- Vioxx™, anyone? And meanwhile, there's a metric shitload of "orphan conditions" that don't get any R&D spend because they're not lucrative enough to justify a $500M investment (conditions affecting a small minority, such as narcolepsy, or illnesses affecting developing nations).

#47 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:45 PM:

#12, If You think cattle will not preferrentially eat corn stalks over, say, green grass, well, you just don't know any cows personally, is all I can say.

Cattle up to their bellies in lush fescue and clover will break down fences to get to corn at any stage of growth; deer yard up in corn fields waiting for the ears to form; raccoons will go through electrified chicken wire to get to milky ears; crows will gather from miles around; pheasants and coyotes will eat green corn together. I may be alone on the planet in not liking the stuff, because everything else I've observed (including, strangely enough, feral cats) loves corn. Growing organic sweet corn for the Farmer's Market was a constant struggle to keep everything else out of it.

I respect Michael Pollan, but sometimes he trusts secondary sources way too much.

#48 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:59 PM:

mjfgates @40: re HFCS: Most commercial pasta sauces list it as either the second or third ingredient. Corn syrup in spaghetti sauce? Who came UP with this idea? And if you know who, could you please drown them in a vat of tomato paste?

You think that's scary, you should see the recipe here, widely claimed to be a clone of the Olive Garden's sauce and certainly one of the most appalling recipes I've ever seen.

#49 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 02:09 PM:

Julie L

The V8, I think, adds the veggie flavors that should come in as part of a good broth. The grape jelly is for sweetness, and maybe some of the fruitiness that you would get with fresh tomatoes. (There's a popular meatball-in-sauce version that has a jar of grape jelly and one of chili sauce.)

It isn't that bad a recipe, actually, although I'd describe it as an out-of-season sauce recipe: most of the ingredients are pantry items.

#50 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 02:23 PM:

I can attest to the "cows love corn" comment made above. I grew up on a farm and the usual way to both feed the cattle and knock down the old cornstalks was to turn the animals into the field.

They would literally shoulder each other out of the way in their eagerness to get to those cornstalks, even though they may have already started drying out. Within a week there would be nearly nothing left of the plants; even the stalks would be eaten.

#51 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 02:29 PM:

Well, one good thing about Insane Governmental Policies^TM:

If they keep pushing corn ethanol they way they have (driving up grain prices and meat prices and yoyoing the Mexican economy), HFCS may at some point stop being the ubiquitous-sweetener-of-choice.

Also, as a side note, all of you word-wonks might be interested in this website, if you haven't seen it already. I've been wasting something like 30 minutes a day on this thing since I found it.

#52 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 02:59 PM:

JESR writes in #42:

#12, If You think cattle will not preferrentially eat corn stalks over, say, green grass, well, you just don't know any cows personally, is all I can say.
I respect Michael Pollan, but sometimes he trusts secondary sources way too much.

Yeah, Pollan should have talked to a cow before publishing.

#53 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 03:05 PM:

Bill #52: Instead of going to a bull for output?


#54 ::: blahsdsoei ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 03:19 PM:

Why do rich people always seem to think poor people can just hop on planes like them and fly all over the world? I'm trying to imagine someone with my income doing that. I can't even imagine myself getting health care in the first place, which I don't have. Flying on planes comes in way, way at the bottom of my list of things to do, behind feeding myself, clothing myself, and sheltering myself, and saving a little for pizza. And no matter what richie riches think, there are way more of me than there are of them.

#55 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 03:26 PM:

in support of 12, contra 47 and 50:
two problems:
1. even if the cows like corn stalks, that doesn't mean it's good for them. We like Coke and McDonald's junk food.
2. the cows aren't being fed corn stalks, for the most part, they are being fed corn grains; cows can't digest corn very well, so they get bloating, acidosis, etcetera. For this reason supplements and antibiotics are typically used. Not good.

otoh, HCFS is not any kind of poison, just cheap empty calories. I've been paying attention to sugar metabolism from the viewpoint of endurance athletics since the 80s, and haven't seen any research yet to indicate that HCFS is processed any differently than its component sugars. That is, assuming the GMO corn used in producing HCFS doesn't have any long-term effects, which we won't know until that long term I guess. Just part of the unacknowledged chemistry experiment we're performing on our children, with the witches' brew of chemicals, steroids, hormones, antibiotics, and genetically modified foods we feed the poor brutes.

#56 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 03:27 PM:

I don't think medical tourism has been presented as a solution for everyone, just as an alternative for those who can afford the trip, but not the cost of medical care at home prices. It already happens to some extent.
No one's going to say, "Oh, well, you don't have any money and you've maxed out your credit cards, clearly the solution is an international flight and several weeks abroad," but it's better than, "Oh, we're charging you five times what the Otherlandia system does for the same thing, and you can't go to Otherlandia." It's not going to fix healthcare problems entirely, but it does present an alternative to some people.

#57 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 03:40 PM:

Richard Brandt @ 33

If we're all going to end up on the watch list it's not going to be a high-status thing to be there. I think I'd better get on it quickly, while there's still some street cred to be gotten from it.

#58 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 03:44 PM:

Well there is some basis to adding sugar to tomato based sauces, primarily as a way to smooth out the harshness that some tomatoes will add to the sauce. Personally I have not noticed any large difference in taste. But then I tend to use lemon juice to season pasta sauces.

#59 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 03:53 PM:

I'm not convinced the health insurance industry is going to be against cross-border medical treatment. All they have to do is not pay for any treatment you get that way, and they don't lose a thing, in fact, they gain by not having to pay for your treatment at all.

A friend of mine was recently faced with this problem of where to get treatment. He has a pinched nerve at C4-C5, I think, that runs into the shoulder, and he's in considerable pain. The best operation for him would be a procedure that repairs two disks at once, but that procedure has only just gone into clinical trials here in the US, though it's standard practice in Germany. So he has a choice: use an inferior procedure that will have to be redone in a few years, wait 2 or 3 years until the procedure is approved here, or go to Germany and pay $20 - 30K out of pocket (which would seriously affect his retirement savings) because insurance won't cover it. Not a fun choice at all. He's decided to wait for awhile, because he got two opinions that said that it might be painful, but waiting won't make the prognosis worse.

#60 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 03:54 PM:

Doug K

They turn corn stalks and leaves into silage, which cows can eat. Also, after the combines go through, the field may get fenced and a small herd put in for a couple-three months. Add a water source (a trough connected to the well) and it works out pretty well.

#61 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 03:54 PM:

I am not, by the way, supporting the corn-heavy diet of feedlot cattle and confinement dairy cattle, nor have I ever supported it; my point was about whether animals of any sort have a predilection for corn. We avoid feeding grain corn, although we have fed a neighbor's corn maze stalks to our cattle, dried and baled. Harvested corn plants are cellulose with minor amounts of starch and protein and incidental random imperfectly pollinated ears. It's very little different from good grass hay, and has much lower protein and sugar than, say, alfalfa.

#62 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Eric K@31

Sugar metabolism is well enough understood that if you pick a carbon you can pretty much determine every place it might end up.

What gets messy is individual physiological response, but that's another animal.

#63 ::: Ewan ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 03:58 PM:

Ye gods. ML actually hits a topic I'm potentially an authority on? :) Woohoo!

[Background/disclaimer: my research is on the impact of metabolic variables on brain function. Specifically, the role(s) of glucose and insulin on cognitive performance, the impact of diabetes on cognitive functions (both acute and long-term) and recently e.g. the links between type 2 (high-insulin, obesity-linked) diabetes and Alzheimer's. For a couple of examples of recent(ish) papers on this kind of stuff, if you care, check e.g. , , or ). I’m also a PhD, not an MD; nothing I say here is even close ot being medical advice.]

HFCS: the best comments thus far, I think, were 18 and 21. First, the silly: absent some truly rare genetic enzyme deficiency, we’re perfectly capable of using fructose as fuel. Well, most of us is - the brain runs (in general) exclusively on glucose, and fructose is *not* transported across the blood-brain barrier to the brain. This means among other things that fructose does not activate brain satiety centres; in combination with the noted reduced or absent insulin response (and possibly also reduced or absent release of gut satiety peptides such as leptin), this means that we are potentially* capable of eating far more calories in the form of hfcs than many other sources. But our muscles, lungs, and so on are just fine using energy from fructose, thanks - and as has also been noted, once something is stored as fat, the release of that fat into usable energy is not affacted by the source from which it came.

Then some other stuff. Both glucose and fructose are usable as sources for AcCoA (and hence for e.g. fat synthesis). Fructose is absorbed somewhat differently from the gut (hexose transporters have differing affinities, and fructose is moved primarily through GluT5, for example {that’s Glucose Transporter 5, one of a family; neurons and the brain in general use primarily 1 and 3, both of which work for glucose, and also have some selective expression of 4 which is the same transporter found in the rest of the body to mediate insulin-facilitated glucose uptake}. Sorry this is more than anyone wanted. In non-diabetics, eating food triggers release of insulin (from the pancreas) which signals that energy is available and should be used (specifically, uptake of glucose from the blood). The basis of low-carb diets is that they produce less of an insulin rush, and hence don’t stimulate fat storage; diets based around whole grains are aimed to release glucose more slowly (from starch breakdown) and again minimise insulin release levels.

* Note that while the lower insulin release following fructose intake might (perhaps) allow greater caloric intake without satiety, it may also mean that there’s a lower risk of contributing to development of type 2 diabetes, which is more likely a consequence of (i) obesity and (ii) frequent hyperglycemic/hyperinsulinemic episodes. Indeed, fructose has been suggested as a diabetic-suitable sweetener.

I am not personally a fan of HFCS (and I *am* a fan of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, incidentally); but the lack of convincing evidence as yet for a direct link between e.g. hfcs and obesity leads me to suspect that the problem is rather (as was suggested above) over-consumption of high-energy foods, many of which are these days sweetened using hfcs. The problem is probably the calories, not (mostly) the source.

Finally, Emma’s describing the phenomenon of reactive hypoglycemia: over-release of insulin, in response to food [usually processed sugar, indeed], which then removes so much glucose from the blood that blood glucose gets abnormally and in some cases dangerously low. This, too, is nothing to do with fructose, much more to do with glucose (and is often worse in folks with glucose intolerance, which is generally because of low exercise and/or high weight). The comment that pure fruit juices might be OK is likely because these are high-fructose, low glucose, not the reverse. Obesity because of hyperglycemia? Not enough data to comment on any individual, but I’ve never heard of such; indeed, most type 1 (insulin-deficient) diabetics are skinny exactly because they have little/no insulin to signal fat storage despite having huge levels of insulin in the blood.

Yikes. Sorry; enough, but I live this stuff ;-)

#64 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 03:59 PM:


Do you really know people who bought into the food pyramid? As far as I know, if I had a dollar for everyone I know who eats the recomended ammount of fruits and vegetables I could MAYBE pay for the lipid and protein rich meal that I'm likely to call lunch today.

#65 ::: kyubi ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:01 PM:

Doug K (@55)

Corn stalks and leaves, in the form of silage, are highly nutritious for cattle and other ruminants (and apparently can reduce the amount of manure they produce). It was the staple winter feed for dairy farms in New England when I was growing up.

#66 ::: Ewan ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:02 PM:

note that comment 63 above was written at a time when this thread had only reached #22... sorry if it took too long to write to appear in the right flowpoint :(

#67 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Ewan @ 63

Thanks for this - about the right amount of info for this veterinarian-type scientist! I sort-of knew much of this but would have had to spend some hours looking stuff up to present a reasonable description, and even then it woudn't have been as coherent as yours.

#68 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:13 PM:

The flip side of medical tourism is medical practitioner import, which presumably could drive down the cost of medical care by increasing the competition of doctors (and hence tending to lower their price). There are various immigration and licensing barriers against doing this at a large scale, however, and folks argue about what the appropriate balance of ensuring quality vs. restricting the labor pool should be.

One of PNH's recent Particles alludes to this issue, with respect to dental care. The linked piece criticizes a NY Times article "never mention[ing] the restrictions that prevent foreign dentists from practicing in the United States".

Unfortunately, the piece itself didn't bother to mention or link to a description of exactly what the restrictions *were*, so my reaction at the time was to dismiss the piece as handwaving.

But I'd be interested in hearing some informed discussion of the barriers to entry for doctors (foreign or domestic) and whether they're justified.

#69 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:25 PM:

Ewan @63: don't apologize! You explained the mechanism better than my doctor could. It doesn't answer my primary question about my dignosis, but it does give me some ammunition the next time I see him :-) :-)

#70 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:26 PM:

That's a pretty reasonable recipe for a pasta sauce for people who've never cooked with anything other than prepackaged Kraft food. I'd bet that the grape jelly is there to provide a shot of sweetness (and possibly tart) that one might get by adding balsamic vinegar to a sauce. But I can't imagine wanting to replicate the food from big chain stores. The little NY style pizza shop from college? The bagels? sure. Olive Garden? No. I'm just like that.

Then again, my ingredient list for pasta sauce has garlic as the second ingredient, followed by olive oil and cayenne.

Xopher @30:

These days, of course, I can't think of any government agency that I think has my best interests at heart—or even has a heart to have best interests at.

My local county agencies do, the VFD and Health Department in particular. Not so sure about the Planning Commission though.

#71 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:31 PM:

Avery (64): My mother eats (at least) as much fruits and vegetables as the food pyramid recommends. So did I as a kid, because Mom made me--but I sure don't now!

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:31 PM:

Avery 64 (which sounds like a computer from the 80s, or something): By "bought into" I mean "believed it was sound nutritional practice." So yes, I do. I don't know anyone who succeeded in eating all the recommended amounts, but I do know people who tried, and they all gained weight.

If I ate that much grain I'd be morbidly obese (and really crabby).
If I ate that much fruit I'd have...TMI things.
And if I ate that little fat I'd be miserable!

#73 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:37 PM:

eric 70: I was thinking in federal terms. If you want to get technical, your local county agencies don't care about me, now do they? :-)

But I don't think mine care about me either. Corruption is rife in Hudson County, NJ. Famous for it, in fact.

But seriously, you are correct. I meant, and should have said, federal government agency. Many state and local agencies are much, much better.

#74 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:37 PM:

Xopher (72): Until relatively recently, I had been under the impression (probably gained from my mother) that the food pyramid was about the *proportions*, not the actual amounts. In that light, it's not so bad, at least for some people. It certainly seems to have served my mother well.

#75 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:46 PM:

linnen @58:

Well there is some basis to adding sugar to tomato based sauces, primarily as a way to smooth out the harshness that some tomatoes will add to the sauce. Personally I have not noticed any large difference in taste. But then I tend to use lemon juice to season pasta sauces.

Interesting choice of seasoning. One of my cookbooks* mentions that tomatoes these days are being bred to be sweeter. They went on to say that this has implications for how tomatoes can/should be canned, since the lowered natural acidity means increased danger from nasties like botulism. Can't remember exactly if the recommendation was to add more vinegar when canning or to can differently.

Re: tomatoes in ketchup. My grandmother's recipe, hailing from the '40's at least, calls for 1/2 cup of sugar for 18 ripe tomatoes (plus 3 onions, one green pepper, and spices).

*Sorry I can't put my hands on the right one. I have many.

#76 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:46 PM:

Mary Aileen 74: See, I think the proportions are wrong too. It's way too much fruit, and WAYYY too much grain for the amount of other things. Early humans got lots of fruit, some vegetables, an occasional jolt of protein and fat, and grain? WTF is grain?

Not saying we should eat like early humans, but if you eat everything on the pyramid except that you double the amounts of protein and fat and eat only as much grain as you can't stop yourself from eating (unless you have self-control, in which case you should eat a little more than that), you'll do well.

There's also a built-in error. WHOLE grains are one thing; they have a lot more protein and fat (and fiber!) and a lot less carbohydrate than say, white flour. While that's not the fault of the pyramid per se, the number of people who count a flour tortilla/wrap as a serving of "whole grain" is appalling.

White flour, and foods made from it, should be an occasional indulgence, not a staple. For ANYONE.

I confess I'm none too good at this myself. Hence my aforementioned extra 30 pounds.

#77 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:49 PM:

Debbie 75: One of my friends has an old cookbook whose recipe for baked beans says "Close your eyes when you're putting in the brown sugar. Your conscience won't let you put in enough."

#78 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 05:00 PM:

Xopher @77 -- Interesting that that advice comes from an old cookbook. Heaven knows our exposure to processed foods can skew our perceptions, especially of sweetening. Don't know if that closed eyes/conscience thing would still work. And denial still ain't just a river in Egypt.

#79 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 05:13 PM:

In general tomato recipes will call for either acidification or pressure canning. As a rule, if there's anything in it besides a tomato (ex. ketchup, which is full of vinegar anyway) it has to be pressure canned. Some suggest using pressure canning anyway because the canning times are a lot shorter.

#80 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 05:33 PM:

Tomatoes are bred for sweetness? That would be a welcome change from the days they were bred for cubicalness and unbreakability. (I remember reading about the H-1, a more cubical tomato that could safely handle a 6' drop to a hard floor. Given the landing speed, it's safe than a car. And, probably, almost as tasty.)

My understanding is that in small quantities (under about 50gm/day), fructose is good (less bad than other forms of sugar). In larger quantities taken chronically, fructose is much worse.

#81 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 05:45 PM:


They've been breeding tomatoes for less acidity for years, although not so much the plum (sauce) tomatoes. I think it goes with the increasing soft-drink consumption: people get used to sweet stuff, and start expecting everything to be sweet. (There was a Chinese farmer I saw quoted as saying that if Americans really wanted really sweet, really orange sweet potatoes, they ought to eat pumpkins instead.)

Maybe it explains the popularity of heirloom tomatoes: they taste like tomatoes.

#82 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 05:49 PM:

Side conversations.
I used to do the grape jelly in tomato sauces then got my hands on a good supply of concord grapes in the fall and freeze them. Now when making sauce I throw a handful of the frozen grapes in to simmer down. Grapes and tomatoes are compatible and give you that wine undertone without the booze and tannins. Also toss some grapes in with the beef roast.
I know sucrose gives me a hangover like headache if I have too much but sucrose shuts off my appetite sooner than glucose, fruitcose or dextrose does.
Many animals like corn but one does not normally find endless acres of all corn in the wild. Pasture is mixed plants. In-laws are ranchers with organic pasture beef, oh the difference in flavour, texture and leanness compare to corn feedlot.
Food pyramid issue is portion size. Remember when a pound of ground beef could feed a family of five. Now people sit down and eat over half a pound of meat individually in one sitting.

#83 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 06:19 PM:

Xopher (76): All I can say is my mother seems to be thriving. Whole grains help: not just whole-wheat bread, but also brown rice (*so* much more flavor than white rice!), and I've introduced her to whole-wheat pasta. She also adds wheat germ to the breads, biscuits, cakes, and pancakes that she makes.

#84 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 06:42 PM:

A couple of minor points in response to the thread:
Reports from Australian troops in Iraq and Afghanistan stationed close to US troops are that they are very keen to get processed foods (sauces, breakfast cereal, etc.) from Australia or Europe because the American ones are cloyingly oversweetened;

Xopher #76 re grains and early humans. Grains may not have been a very large proportion of diet, but were collected and used, from looking at archaeological evidence and modern hunters and collectors. It was an evolution of this that led to grain agriculture.
Inland Australian Aboriginals use Nardoo (Marsilea drummondii), a fern which they roast and grind into flour to make dough. [Dunno the relation to this, tho.] There are other edible native seed grains used similarly across the continent.

#85 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 06:49 PM:

Keith@12: how many cows have you seen munching on corn stalks? None.

Me? personally witnessed? In my lifetime? Probably over a thousand head of cattle.

We force feed it to them

Say what?!? We do?!? Force feed, as in, foie gras? Stick a tube down their throat and pour down grains of corn?

Come on. This sort of language is so far off base that it clearly has some sort of agenda behind it. Maybe not you, but whoever you read it from. Because my guess is you actually haven't had to raise cattle.

along with antibiotics

Oy, my head. If farmers are such cheap bastards (more on that below), why would they spend money on antiboitics?

because it's slightly cheaper than grazing them

Seriously, I don't even know where to begin. You can graze cattle for very little money. About the only expenses you have are money to go out and cut down the occaisional patch of bull thistles and whatnot, and patch an occaisional break in the fence. You can graze cattle from spring to fall if you have enough space to let the grass regenerate.

Meanwhile, you have to spend time, machinery, and fuel to plow a corn field, plant corn, cultivate corn, spray the corn, harvest the corn, and then depending on how wet it is, dry the corn so it doesn't go moldy over winter. Or put it in a silo. Or one of those big horizontal plastic silage bags.

I don't know what the agenda is behind this, but if you're trying to justify veganism, then you can be a vegan by choice without fabricating all sorts of nonsense about farming.

#86 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 07:20 PM:

A couple months ago (3 maybe?) someone here recommended "The Complete Food and Nutrition Guide" by Roberta Larson Duyff. (I apologize I forget who it was who recommended it, but if you're reading this, thank you.) In that time, I've lost 20 pounds (another 20 or so to go). Some factoids from the book:

The Institute of Medicine advises acceptable Macronutrient distribution ranges (AMDR) for an adult's source of calories: 50% of calories from carbohydrates, 25% from fats, 25% from proteins.

The book doesn't have an issue with HFCS itself. Calories are calories. It does recommend eating food without HFCS simply so that you can get nutrition without getting extra calories. It also doesn't consider stuff like cane sugar or honey or carob or other sweetners as significantly better than HFCS. They all have calories, and again, calories are calories.

The book also doesn't make a distinction between salt in its various physical forms. It considers table salt to be the same as sea salt, for example.

So, I've cut out a lot of foods with HFCS or added sugars of any kind. I don't eat much beef or pork due to the higher fat. And I've been avoiding stuff with sodium (which is way harder than I would have ever thought given that it's used as a preservative). I stopped eating pretty much all fried or deep fried foods. I'm eating chicken/turkey, whole grains (been making whole wheat bread in the breadmaker), lots of fiber, more fruits and vegatables, overcome my intense dislike for spinach, and water instead of so much soda and juices.

Someone also provided a link to an article about turning food into a religion, and that's helped me quite a bit as well. I think on average I've been doing really good with eating good nutrition and losing excess weight and so on. And I don't freak myself out when we have lunch at work at a meeting and there isn't anything that's exactly what I would have picked to eat myself.

#87 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 07:47 PM:

I've been sorrowful for years about the sweetness of the modern tomato. I need tomatoes to make salsa. Sweet is right out. I need tart, harsh tart. This year, I ordered some Hungarian stripy heirloom seeds off eBay... Still too sweet.

On the other hand, it seems to me that I could probably adapt a gooseberry pie recipe to use cherry tomatoes. Still, it's not a fair trade.

#63 Ewan: It honestly brightened my day to get real information given by someone who cares about the reality of information. Thank you.

#88 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 08:14 PM:

Speaking of Homeland Security: Check out Lillygirl's Diary at Daily Kos. It's about her 81 year old father, who was arrested at JFK for having an old pair of brass knuckles in a suitcase. I tried to link to it but couldn't get the link to work, sorry. Stories about old people being harassed or hurt make me completely crazy, and this story made me have to get up from the computer and walk around the house to calm down. It was actually an inordinate reaction, he wasn't hurt, but that's just me...

#89 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 08:37 PM:

Getting back to the Doctorow story, I'm not sure his idea of a future economy is that far off base.

So Monday to Friday I am an analytical biochemist for Big Pharma Inc. Lately we (and when I say we I mean my corporate overlords) have been eyeing nimble little biotech startups and asking "How can we achieve the same kinds of things in our R&D area that they are?" They've made some changes in how we do things at the strategic level. It an amazing exercise in cargo cult reasoning since, at the same time, the systems that we operate under (IT environment, safety and security policies, purchasing, getting samples, etc.) have exploded into a bouquet of pointless bureaucracy.

On weekends I'm trying to rehab an old arts and crafts house that has taken some hits in the past 90 years. Right now I'm making doors and I'm doing it right – split and wedged through tenons, the whole nine yards. Looking at the prices in the adds in "This Old House" and other magazines of its ilk, it's struck me that I could probably do better for myself quitting my job and going into what seems like a pretty laid back level of production of wooden doors and windows.

To me, Doctorow’s story is this observation with a jet engine strapped to it. Large structures, be they physical, financial or social, are not nimble no matter how much time and money they spend lashing bamboo together in the image of nimbleness. At the same time there is growing portion of the population out there that’s getting disenchanted with newer shinier mass produced crap and is starting to look either to the craftsmanship of the past, or a new kind of future craftsmanship that’s typified by Make magazine and the RepRap project.

I don’t think people will someday point to this story and gasp at Doctorow’s uncanny prediction of the future any more than they will Dovetail in Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, but they’re both onto something.

#90 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 09:00 PM:

Avery #89

Some years back I made an observation that the larger and more complex the organization, the more your job is defined by what you may not do.

#91 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 09:02 PM:

Greg: your assumptions about relative costs ignore ag subsidies. Always remember that, in the US, grain is made cheap by Congress (and your tax revenues), and that this distorts everything related hugely.

In NZ, where there are no subsidies (to a first approximation) farmers do in fact raise cattle on grass.

#92 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 09:05 PM:

I went out and checked and yes, the cows are still out at pasture, except for the ones standing under the Esopus Spitzenberg trees my great-great-grandfather planted trying to convince the apples to fall on the ground so they can get at them. And, for complete accuracy, they do get some corn: my son works at the local multiplex, and brings home whatever is left in the popcorn machine at the end of business.

#93 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:08 PM:

Greg: I don't know what you or the people in your area do, but (as I understand it) enough antibiotics are used in animal feed that doctors have been worrying for some time about the effect on ]germ[ evolution. What I've read is that concentrated operations (e.g., feedlots rather than ranches) both fear decimation (easier with crowding) and calculate that the cost of bulk antibiotics is less than the cost of lower weight gain of some sick animals; it's cheaper to dose the entire herd than to cull and treat the sick ones.

#94 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:26 PM:

Keir 91,
Is there anything that your congress doesn't in some way subsidize or slap punitive duties on the competing imports for?

#95 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:30 PM:

Avery @ 89

Your observations about Big Pharma are dead on with respect to just about every other large corporation. Frex, most big businesses these days require massive amounts of IT development, and very few of them have any idea of how to do that. So they get into, in your excellent phrase, "cargo cult reasoning" whereby they use the trappings of nimble development they pick up from consultants and articles and they try to magic it all together.

#96 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:33 PM:

CHip, Greg: They use antibiotics on animals because they grow faster with them (which makes me wonder just how healthy they are without the drugs). That's one of the reasons the scientists are worried about antibiotic use in animals: it's general use, not just one animal here and one there.

Lizzy L: That story also makes me wonder why he didn't check the case (or the regulations on carry-ons). Brass knuckles are almost certainly on the must-be-checked-in list, if they're allowed at all. I do think they way over-reacted, though.

#97 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:53 PM:

P J, no question about it, the gentleman should have known not to carry brass knuckles with him. But he should not have been arrested. Wholly unnecessary, and demonstrates yet again the weakness at the heart of the system we have theoretically designed to keep us safe...

#98 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:35 PM:

#96: They use a particular antibiotic. One of the side effects of it is that the cows apparently belch up less greenhouse gases.

#99 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:51 PM:

C. Wingate, above: Of course, intestinal gas is caused by eating things your digestive tract doesn't handle very well, to which the above thing about grain vs. grass is highly relevant.

#100 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 12:05 AM:

AJ Luxton, humans get flatulent when they eat sugars they can't digest; cattle, and other ungulates, are flatulent because the bacteria which break down cellulose are not 100% efficient at breaking carbon bonds, and produce some gaseous by-products as a result, as well as leaving some undigested cellulose (the same is true of the gut flora of termites and cellulose-degrading soil bacteria). There are studies being done to select for efficient gut bacteria in cattle to reduce carbon gas emissions.

#101 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 12:47 AM:

Julie L., #48, that seems unlikely. A large company like Olive Garden isn't going to buy jars of Prego. They're going to make their own sauce in giant batches and ship it to the restaurants.

Avery, #64, when I eat at home, I eat very closely to the food pyramid. I don't eat the same volume because I'm rarely hungry (the doctors set me a 1000 calorie/day minimum), but I eat pretty much the same percentages. The only thing I consider when I eat out is protein because I can only have 40gr/day.

Xopher, #76, according to the tupperwares in my fridge, grains are oatmeal, wheat berries, barley, rice, Kamut berries, quinoa, spelt, and triticale berries. I cook these roughly the same way our ancestors did -- in hot water. I just use a Zojirushi Fuzzy Logic rice cooker to do it instead of a pot over a fire.

#102 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 12:52 AM:

Lizzy L @88, that'd be "My 80 y.o. Dad Arrested-We are Safer Now", from Oct 25 on Lillygirl's Diary. I have a lot of trouble navigating Daily Kos, so these are the direct links for later on, AFAICT has all the comments. For a compact version sans comments there's

#103 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 01:31 AM:

Not my Congress. I don't live in the US.

#104 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 08:52 AM:

Bruce #59: A natural outgrowth would be for some insurance companies to offer coverage that included preferred providers overseas. We'll cover your bypass surgery, but if it's not done on an emergency basis, it'll be at that hospital in Bombay. (And this may very well be a win for you, too, if the hospital in Bombay ends up doing thousands of bypasses a year, because they'll probably get pretty good at it.)

#105 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 12:20 PM:

Those of my relatives still farming raise beef cattle, and they graze them--most beef going to slaughter are put in feedlots for a couple of weeks before they're slaughtered to put on weight, but for the most part it's grass, hay, stubble (including corn stalks), and silage prior to that.

Hogs, of course, are fed corn far more intensively and for longer periods, as are poultry.

One reason most people raising beef do things this way is that, government subsidies on corn crops or not, there's a lot of competition in the market for the available grain, whether from the HFCS people, those raising hogs and poultry, or (nowadays) the fuel ethanol folks. Then there's the effect of large-scale drought on the amounr of grain raised, which will become even more of a factor as time goes by, I'm afraid.

#106 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 03:04 PM:

Bruce #95: Yep. Was it you that had that great quote about misuse of advanced technology being indistinguishable from superstition? It's the same phenomenon--these guys have no idea what would make a startup create great new ideas (and perhaps nobody does, other than happening to get a genius working in your lab during the peak of his creativity), but they know they can do the superficial stuff.

#107 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 03:35 PM:

Greg London @ 86
And I don't freak myself out when we have lunch at work at a meeting and there isn't anything that's exactly what I would have picked to eat myself.

I think that's one of the mistakes many people make when they go on a diet: if there is a reason they don't stick to their diet one day, they get all upset make themselves miserable about it and/or they say "well, that's it! Diet ruined!", and quit - when all it means, if you overshot your "allowance" one day is one (or at worst two) extra days until you reach your target...

One of the other problems with crash diets (apart from encouraging the body to go into starvation mode) is that they don't re-train you about what to eat when you finish the diet - and it's long term stability you should be looking for, not yo-yoing.

The other thing is that very few people seem to look at what they actually need, calorie wise, per day - they just assume the 2,000 (female) or 2,500 (male), then get upset if they stick to a diet less than that and don't lose weight - when it might be that they are not reducing their calorie intake down below what they actually need per day for a sedentary life style (which most people in the developed world have, nowadays).

#108 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 03:44 PM:

dcb @ 107

My mother's doctor put it this way:
One day a week, eat whatever you want for breakfast.
On a different day, eat whatever you want for lunch.
On a third day, eat whatever you want for supper.
The rest of the time, follow the diet.

#109 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 04:03 PM:

P J Evans @ 108

Sounds sensible. Or incorporate what you like into the diet - if you want some chocolate each day, have it, just reduce intake of other foods. Me, I'm a "snacker" - I like to eat a mid-morning snack and a mid-afternoon snack and probably an early evering snack if we're having dinner late. So, rather than spending half the day grouchy (and with my stomach trying to digest itself) because I want a snack and "shouldn't" have one, I decrease my calorie intake in my "main meals" - mainly by eating more vegetables and less carbs and fat - and can have my snacks no problem.

And retrain yourself regarding portion sizes.

And change what's in the house - more fruit and veg and complex carbs, less candy and highly-processed starches. Know which temptations you can sensibly ration and which you'll just guzzle!

#110 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 10:57 PM:

Keir@91: where there are no subsidies (to a first approximation) farmers do in fact raise cattle on grass.

Yes, we do it here in the states too. That was my point about there being almost zero dollars in maintaining a pasture, versus growing corn. This was in response to someone saying farmers feed corn with antibiotics to cattle because corn is slightly cheaper than grazing them.

No. that's not the reason. It's just that you can't graze 365 days a year when you may have three feet of snow in January, so you've got to store something for winter. Hay is good. But corn works too.

#111 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 12:18 AM:

Greg London, the thing is, if you are feeding grass hay in winter, you have to supplement with a small but significant amount of grain (or high protein hay, like good alfalfa, but grain is usually less costly) to provide the nitrogen source to keep the rumen bacteria breaking down cellulose. The grain doesn't have to be corn: oats are actually better, but they're trickier to grow and harvest than corn, although that's mostly got to do with technology.

#112 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 01:46 AM:

Lately, I've mostly only been eating foods that make me feel good and mostly not eating foods that make me feel bad. It works out to pretty much not eating grains, dairy, or sugar, and eating decent quality just about everything else. Details here.

Feel good/feel bad is a matter of how I feel in the hours after I eat--this covers digestion, energy, and mood. My motto is that my gut gets a vote, and usually it gets a veto.

This is my list--it would literally kill some people (fish allergies can be deadly) and probably make quite a few people miserable because they need more carbs or something. One of my friends would fall over if he ate as little salt as I do.

I have become completely cynical about specific recommendations for how everyone should eat.

Here's an interesting claim that people who aren't diabetic can handle simple carbs just fine.

Here's my list of scientifically based alternate theories of why people put on fat.

As for Pollan, I enjoyed The Omnivore's Dilemna, but he didn't seem to have any interest in whether it would work for everyone to eat organic food from small farms. I'm not sure that it's unfeasible, but whether it's feasible is quite an important question.

#113 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 02:39 AM:

albatross @ 106

Yes, that was me; I'm rather proud of that one.

Many large organizations can't even manage the superficial actions; they go really cargo-culty and just use the names of the actions, a kind of sympathetic magic. One company I worked for, $12E9 / year sales, and actually very nimble for a company its size at least as far as marketing is concerned, was more dependent even that most on its IT. A few projects in one group that was essentially a skunk works went well, largely by letting the engineers figure out how to do things, so the IT bureaucracy figured they could that too. They started imposing what they called "agile development" processes on engineering from above, like at 3rd or 4th level management*, The result was predictable: projects started taking longer and longer and producing software of lower and lower quality. When the whippings didn't improve morale, management was stumped over what to do. After all, they'd been using "best practices", hadn't they?

* You shouldn't snicker quite so loudly, they might hear you.

#114 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 07:57 AM:

dcb @ 107

You're right, sedentary maintenance caloric intake for an adult male is considerably less than 2500. Last I heard it was about 1800. And the exact value varies with basal metabolism rate for the individual; 1800 is the mean, I believe. So it's quite possible not to lose weight on a diet because it's set too high for you.

#115 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 10:17 AM:

Nancy #112:

The obvious evolutionary explanation for obesity (our ancestors had a lot more problems with famine than with too much food) looks like it's true, but it's not terribly helpful in explaining why some people are heavier than others. Genetics seems to have some plausible role (different races/ethnic groups have somewhat different body shapes by default, and there are some known differences in digestion, such as lactose tolerance), and patterns of diet must have a big impact, too. Also, saying "obesity is genetic" doesn't do much to explain why there's so much more now than before, though it sure looks plausible that different people have different susceptibility to obesity, given certain environments. And "obesity is genetic" gives me little help in losing weight, since I can't change my genes.

In my own case, I think stress and lack of time are big drivers for overeating and eating badly; time to plan out and cook a decent meal pays off for me in terms of eating better, but it's common enough for me to get home to two screaming/rampaging kids, a wife with a thousand-yard stare (thanks to the two kids), a messy kitchen, and everyone hungry. It's not a huge surprise that on those days, we eat something quick and not all that healthy, or just order a pizza. We've been trying to make sure we have some fast and at least minimally healthy foods on hand for those days, but there's a lot of temptation to use those foods on normal days, because we're *always* short on time.

#116 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 10:40 AM:

albatross @115:
We live like that, from time to time. It's tough.

Our solution‡ is to have vegetables, part baked bread, ground beef and chicken breasts in the freezer and cartons of passatta in the cupboard.

I'm never more than twenty minutes from a stripped down pasta Bolognese, in either family or guest quantities. I defrost the beef, brown it in a pan, add passatta, fresh basil from the windowsill, salt, pepper. garlic from the braid, and herbs from the cupboard*. Boil some pasta at the same time.†

Alternatively, chicken: defrost (takes longer than the beef), brown, add passatta and assorted herbs, serve with pasta.

Round both meals out with cooked frozen vegetables.

‡ Which does not work all the time - I'm just suggesting something that you can add to the tricks you no doubt already have
* I miss my herb garden. Fresh rosemary and oregano, sigh.
† The kids are neophobes, so nothing interesting or challenging in there.

#117 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 11:45 AM:

JESR@111: The grain doesn't have to be corn: oats are actually better, but they're trickier to grow

We grew corn, hay, and oats, and raised beef cattle and hogs.

#118 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 12:01 PM:

Nancy @112: same here. As mentioned upthread, I have been diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia; my father is a diabetic. Supposedly it's playing hell with the way I process carbs and sugars and that tends to affect my weight. When I mention it I get told it "shouldn't make a difference" and "a calorie is a calorie" (please note I'm not speaking of the people in this thread!), but the thing is, IT DOES. I know because of the way I feel!

And as far a sthe food pyramid goes, I once had a doctor who insisted on putting me on a supervised 1100 calories a day diet based on the food pyramid. I gained weight! Repeated reassurances from me AND the nurse who was supervising me that I was not sneaking food gained me nothing. So I told him where he could stick his food pyramid and went on.

It's been a difficult going because of the societal assumptions about weight and morality. Now I'm engaged in the same kind of evaluation of food you seem to be going through -- and screw the experts.

#119 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 12:25 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 112: if it works for you, then go for it!

As for monitoring foods, yes that can be difficult to do well. It took me over a year to work out what was kicking off a reaction which manifest as an itching palate. Doesn't sound too bad? When a sharp knife starts to look appealing to try scratching with, the itching is bad! Anyway, I finally worked out that it was nuts. I'm still experimenting to find out which nuts (almonds, cashews, not peanuts, so far). One reason working it out was difficult is that the itching doesn't start immediately after I've eaten nuts but several hours later, sometimes not until the evening body-rhythm histamine peak.

albatross @ 115
Abi beat me to it. I like to have quick-to-prepare vegetables in the house (e.g. broccoli cooks in under 10 mins including preparation time), ditto cauliflower or carrots cut into thin slices. Also, on the rare occasions that I have the time and am in the mood to cook properly, I try to make enough for several meals and freeze the extra - that way I have healthy, home-made "ready meals" that can be nuked and eaten when I've no time. Harder with four to cook for, of course, and if the kids are picky eaters.

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) @114
Iowa State provides three different ways to calculate energy requirements:

For my height, weight and age (5ft 2, 106 pounds, 39 yrs), the estimates range from 1,330 - 1,678 if I have a sedentary lifestyle, to 1,749 - 2108 for a very active lifestyle (e.g. an hour of decent exercise per day). If I eat 1,500 calories a day and don't exercise, I'm not going to lose weight. I don't want to lose weight - I'm at comfortable-for-me weight (low end of normal range for my height, same weight I've had most of my adult life). But when I've gained weight after forced inactivity e.g. due to injury, I've had to knock intake right down and exercise daily to drop back to my normal weight.

Emma @ 118 "A calorie is a calorie" obviously only works if you have a "normal" metabolism. The basic "energy in has to be equalled by energy out to maintain a steady weight" is true, but obviously the form of the calories can make a difference to e.g. speed of digestion, blood glucose spikes etc. - which can affect mood, satiety and so on.

#120 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 07:56 PM:

albatross, #115:

I don't know if you got a chance to look at my list of non-standard reasons for obesity, but they're about mechanisms--insufficient sleep, a virus(!), changes in intestinal flora.....

If you need Food Prepared by Someone Else (this can be an important emotional category for me), is salad with meat on top healthy for you guys and otherwise feasible?

#121 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 08:24 PM:

In re self-monitoring: I seem to keep track of myself much more than most people do. Even so, it didn't occur to me that keeping both dairy and grain very infrequent would do a lot more for me than cutting back on either of them alone.

I expect that most people would need to keep food/quality of life diaries to get a handle on the question of what makes them feel good.

Please note that I'm trying to maximize the number of good hours. I'm not trying to lose weight. I've lost some weight, and may lose more, but I'm trying to keep a grip on the idea that losing weight doesn't prove anything about whether I'm doing what's good for me.

A lot of what made me into a rather bad-tempered fat acceptor was realizing that low fat and/or eating less than I'm hungry for makes me miserable very quickly. I'm opposed to any idea which implies that living like that proves that I'm a virtuous and respectable person, and that especially goes for the "I didn't say it was easy" contingent.

#122 ::: geomark ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 09:25 PM:

Sorry to derail the sugar/fat debate and go back on topic...

I certainly hope there is not interference in people traveling for medical procedures. I've been taking advantage of fantastic care and a tiny cost in Thailand. Some people may not know it as a world class medical destination, but quite a few do, about 1.5 million westerners this year went there for medical care.

It's not just the cost or the great medical care. It's also the wonderful way they treat you. Nothing like it in America, that's certain.

Check the link in my signature for more info.

#123 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2007, 08:36 AM:

Nancy #121:

Yes, this linking of eating patterns with morality bugs me, too. I'm fat, and the moral relevance of that is zero. I'd like to lose weight (and I've been making some changes to my lifestyle) because I want to live longer and be healthier, not because I need to prove I'm a member of the Elect to whom God gave healthy metabolism and blood chemistry.

My son commented to me yesterday about how eating very sweet foods makes him feel good for awhile, but lousy later; I thought it was an interesting insight, because they affect me that way, too. (Though I wonder whether it's healthy to have that reaction.)

I definitely agree with you that how you feel now on a diet of any kind is a big deal. Along with the obvious quality-of-life-now issue, you can't really sustain a diet that makes you feel rotten most of the time, even if it's healthy for you otherwise. I've been finding, lately, that pretty consistent exercise is a big win for how I feel, regardless of my weight. I gather that regular exercise is a big deal for your health, too, though I still want to lose some weight for the health benefits there.

#124 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2007, 09:06 AM:

Nancy #120:

Yeah, I wonder about the lack of sleep applying to me. I've seen the discussion of intestinal flora (and the broader idea that our symbiotes have thousands of times the genetic material we do, evolve faster, and benefit from changing their environment (our bodies) in various ways, so they probably have a huge impact on us). I hadn't heard the idea of a virus causing weight changes. Is there some kind of study that found this? (I gather a bunch of cancer-causing viruses were found by taking patients with a certain kind of cancer, and checking for antibodies to some virus vs. a non-cancerous control group.)

Salad out works okay for me, though I'm not a huge salad eater. I've been trying to decrease the number of times a week I eat out in general, both for money reasons and for health reasons. But when I eat out, my big problem is that I tend to get more food than I'm hungry for, and it's *really* hard for me, for some reason, not to eat everything on the plate. I won't eat if if it's bad, but if the food's good, it takes a real effort of will not to just unattentively eat it all. Often I won't even notice I've done this till I get up and think "Geez, I'm stuffed; why did I eat so much?"

#125 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2007, 10:32 AM:

Nancy @121, albatross @ 124. Re. how you feel as a guide to what you should eat. It makes some sense. The sugar thing particularly (sugar high, followed by excess insulin release followed by low blood sugar so feeling bad???). It would also make sense if you're food-intolerant to something. The body can certainly "encourage" you to eat things it wants. I remember reading about miners (sweating a lot while working) putting spoonfuls of salt into their beer - it tasted better that way. Some years ago I was (unintentionally) eating a very low fat diet. I started getting a craving for fat - e.g. bread with a thick layer of margarine (I used to find butter too rich) on it, which was unusual for me (used to eat bread dry). Lasted about three months, then tailed off, but I still like the taste of fats more than I used to - even like butter sometimes. Makes sense if I was getting low in fat-soluble vitamins or essential fatty acids.

#126 ::: ajay sees possible spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2007, 12:15 PM:

122: First time poster, pitching a commercial site? Hmm...

#127 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2007, 01:21 PM:

About the role of infectious agents in obesity and metabolic disorders, a brief observation

Over the past ten or twelve years I've read any number of published studies which have put forward strong links between a history of staph and strep (especially) infections, prenatal caloric stress due to hyperemesis gravida and early-onset obesity. Then there are the ones showing that resistance exercise is an effective counter to insulin resistence, and aerobic exercise an important determinant in weight control. In nearly every case, and independent of the actual facts of the paper, the conclusion always includes the phrase "however, reducing caloric intake is still the only sure way to counter obesity" as if it were the medical researcher's equivalent of Amen.

I don't think it's a conspiracy; I think is is, in fact, a kind of religious belief.

#128 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2007, 02:40 PM:

albatross 123: I'm familiar with that good-then-lousy feeling, which I've learned to call "blood sugar spike-and-crash." Not everyone experiences it. I most emphatically do. I've heard that it's linked to type II diabetes, the theory being that the spike-and-crash overworks your pancreas, which eventually doesn't function as well. I am not a doctor, though, and I haven't seen any reliable studies to support this idea.

The other symptom of the blood sugar crash is hunger. This is because the brain decides you're hungry when there's too little sugar in the blood going past it; this can have little or nothing to do with how much food your body needs, if you have an overactive pancreas.

Thus, that spike-and-crash can lead to obesity.

For myself, I found that going on a low-carb diet worked for me. Not just for weightloss, though that was my initial goal; I became a more pleasant person (instead of giddy with high sugar part of the time, and cranky and depressive with low sugar the rest of the time). I've also found that, while I do get hungry while on a low-carb diet, being hungry isn't as desperate a state as it is on a high-carb diet.

I don't know how old your son is, but if he's a child, it might be a good idea to see how he feels on a lower-carb (but still high-calorie, since he needs calories to grow) diet. (I have a friend who was once so underweight that the doctors told his parents that if they could get him to eat sticks of butter, they probably should. Note: butter is pretty much carb-free.)

I agree with you on the moral content, or lack of same, of being fat or thin. The only arguments against that point of view have to do with carbon footprint (if I eat 10 avocados a day, my carbon footprint is bigger than if I eat one per week), and with obligations to others as far as longevity (I need to live as long as possible so that I won't leave my much-younger boyfriend alone any longer than necessary when I die), and those are pretty abstract.

There is, however, a moral component to the spike-and-crash pattern, at least for me. Now that I know that I'm not just an asshole to people who care about me because I'm just an asshole, but because I have the spike-and-crash problem, so since controlling my blood sugar with a low-carb diet makes it easier to treat others well, I feel I have a moral obligation to do whatever it takes to enable me to behave properly.

Other things that feel good now and lousy later include cheap, meaningless sex, and yelling at people who don't deserve it (or yelling at them more than they deserve). Those have obvious moral content, though at least for me only the second one is connected to my diet. (Well, if I go low-carb and get down to 12% body fat, it will make me better ABLE to have cheap sex, but it won't make me more INCLINED to!)

Little or none of this may be applicable to your situation. Only you can judge. But now that I've thought of it, I'm going to use the analogy of spike-and-crash the next time I'm advocating against cheap, meaningless sex!

#129 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2007, 02:47 PM:

My antepenultimate paragraph in 128 has a frelled-up sentence in it. It should read

Now that I know that I'm not just an asshole to people who care about me because I'm just an asshole, but because I have the spike-and-crash problem, and that controlling my blood sugar with a low-carb diet makes it easier to treat others well, I feel I have a moral obligation to do whatever it takes to enable me to behave properly.
Xopher regrets the error.

#130 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2007, 03:49 PM:

Xopher @128

So why is cheap meaningless sex any less moral than expensive meaningless sex?

#131 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2007, 03:54 PM:

And wouldn't the best of all possible worlds be full of cheap, meaningful sex?

#132 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2007, 07:07 PM:

Xopher @ 128 "There is, however, a moral component to the spike-and-crash pattern, at least for me."

Thanks for this - it made me think. I don't get that sort of sugar spike-and-crash (that I know of). However, I do get very easily upset, about little things, when I get over tired (and low blood sugar, i.e. too long since I last ate, makes it worse, faster). I've learned to recognise when this has happened, but what you said made me realise: I owe it to those around me, particularly my husband, to try not to get that tired. Not quite as easy as changing my diet, since it's usually to do with work that's got to be done, but still...

#133 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2007, 09:36 PM:

albatross, #124, there's some thought that there is a virus in hospitals that makes long-term patients fat. I thought this was interesting because I gained all my 215 additional pounds during my two long hospitalizations. As to eating out, I can only budget eating out at a fast casual place once a week. I like Friday's because they have the small size portions. I like Ruby Tuesday because they have an excellent side item menu that you can make a good small meal from. At other restaurants, I make sure I get something that will be reasonable the next day after having been in the styro in the fridge overnight.

#134 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2007, 08:54 AM:

I don't get much in the way of sugar highs--a slight lift at most. I wonder if that's why I don't have an extremely rough time cutting way back on sugar. For me, it's just that it tastes good. And I suppose that if I'm knocked out by too much sugar, then even that slight lift feels good.

I'm still thinking about where a reasonable balance lies. On the one hand, I don't think I win by trying to figure out how much simple carbs and dairy I can get away with. On the other hand, I can get away with a little, and if the goal is quality of life, then the occasional good dessert with mild consequences isn't a bad idea.

Xopher@128, a large part of the incentive for keeping me careful about what I'm eating now is a specific crappy feeling of depletion if I get hungry after I've been eating much in the way of simple carbs.

On the emotional side, too much sugar (not sure if this applies to other carbs) has me thinking "I don't care, I don't care" and doing very little. For a long time, this looked to me like an emotional problem, but now I think it's a symptom of being poisoned.

#135 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2007, 09:08 AM:

Bruce@130: So why is cheap meaningless sex any less moral than expensive meaningless sex?

Because cheap meaningless sex doesn't contribute to the GNP?

#136 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2007, 11:51 PM:

P.J., #81: One thing I noticed immediately when I started trying Indian food was that most of their dessert items (pastry, candies, etc.) weren't very sweet by my American standards. So I asked a friend who grew up in India whether, when he first came to America, he found most of the dessert foods to be sickeningly sweet. He said, "Oh, yes."

I'm trying to retrain my taste buds to expect/want less sweetness in everything. It's a slow process, but I'm having some success.

Marilee, #101: No, Olive Garden isn't going to buy Prego by the jar; they'll simply buy it in bulk from the Prego company, if it's an ingredient in their sauce. Food companies wholesale out their products for relabeling all the time -- most of the "house brand" products in your local grocery are relabeled name-brand products.* Waffle House's "Casa de Waffle" salsa is repackaged Pace Mild, as anyone who regularly uses Pace can easily tell. Wholesaling it for use as an ingredient in some other corporation's products isn't much different.

Xopher, #128: I figured out some years back that when I start feeling as though I'm the only intelligent person in a world full of idiots, it's a strong sign that I need to eat something!

* The very lowest-end generics probably aren't. But the next tier up almost certainly are.

#137 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 04:06 AM:

I eat pasta with bottled sauce quite frequently, so all the talk about corn syrup and spaghetti sauce made me go look at the ingredients list on my favorite brand. (Bertolli's Marinara With Burgundy Wine, in case anyone's interested.) I was pleased to see that the top two ingredients were tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Sugar was present, but was fifth on the list, and HFCS was not there at all.

#138 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:23 AM:

Lee @ 136--I once made a sweet potato pie, and forgot the sugar--only one person noticed that it wasn't as sweet as the recipe they were used to.

I've had fun using a World War II-era cookbook of my mother's, which has an entire set of reduced-sugar recipes, as well as instructions on using substitutes*. It's remarkable how little you need in many desserts to get a decent result, especially when fruit is involved.

*Molasses, including sorghum, is king here. Honey seems to come in second.

#139 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 12:11 PM:

I'm one of the unfortunate few who is a super-taster for all artificial sweetners and also Type 2 by way of three different genetic pathways. What I've found is that most dessert-ish things can have the sugar cut by a substantial amount and the difference made up by adding or increasing Vanilla, Almond, or Cinnamon, depending on what works. In any case, buying the real stuff and tossing it when it starts to fade is essential.

#140 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Lee @ 136: Interesting — my experience of Indian desserts is exactly opposite yours. The prototypical Indian dessert, as far as I can tell, starts by simmering full-fat cream until it's reduced to a thick paste, adding as much sugar as can be mixed in, forming the sugar-cream paste into balls and deep-frying them, then soaking the fried balls in sugar syrup.

A little searching just yielded this recipe for atta halwa. Ingredients, not including water: equal parts ghee, sugar, and flour.

And the quantity of sugar that gets added to chai is amazing.

#141 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 12:54 PM:

Lexica @ 140

I wouldn't be surprised at the amount of sugar added to chai. I find that it takes a lot of sweetener to make tea taste sweet: far more than I'd put in plain water to get the same sweetness effect.

As for Indian sweets: I found the articles in the Oxford/Penguin Companion to Food interesting on this. (They have one on milk reduction which goes into more detail than you might want.)

#142 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 01:33 PM:

I've just experimented with tea and stevia recently. I had liquid stevia on hand from prior tries, but I've found that it isn't sweet enough, and leaves an aftertaste. I just figured out that I can cut one spoonful of sugar out of my tea, add three drops of stevia, and have it sweet enough. Since I drink several cups of tea a day, this reduces my sugar intake. Yay! (Thanks for the inspiration!)

#143 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:26 PM:

Lee, #136, sure they're not buying it by the jar, but it would probably be more expensive buying in bulk than making it themselves. After all, they use the sauce in a lot of things.

#144 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:55 PM:

Lexica, #140: You've reminded me that there are a few very sweet/sticky Indian desserts -- one that looks a bit like red funnel-cake comes to mind. But around here at least, most of the pastries are as I described. Perhaps we're looking at regional differences in cooking style?

That recipe reminds me of what I call "shortbread candy" -- it got made by accident at an SCA feast some years back, and I liked it enough to fiddle around in the kitchen and re-create the outcome.

1 stick unsalted butter (NOT margarine!)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar

Cream all ingredients together into a stiff dough. Spray a cake pan with non-stick spray and spread the dough into it. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the color becomes a light golden brown (keep an eye on it after 10 minutes, because it'll go from perfect to burnt in less than a minute). Remove from oven and let cool for about an hour, until it's solid enough to cut. Score into bite-size pieces and let cool completely. If you don't score it while it's still warm, you'll have to break it apart like peanut brittle. Keeps for about a week (not that it's going to last that long!), and freezes well.

#145 ::: Mary Aileen sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2014, 12:43 PM:


#146 ::: Marjorie Laatsch ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2018, 05:07 AM:

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#147 ::: Buddha Buck sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2018, 06:11 AM:


#148 ::: Mary Aileen sees undeleted spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2018, 10:01 AM:

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#149 ::: Tom Whitmore sees informative spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2021, 11:51 PM:

"saccharine fried pool balls are already drizzled with sugar syrup" -- I don't think this is a wedding for humans. This is almost like The Exquisite Corpse!

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