On obesity and diabetes

December 8, 2009

Prompted by this link

Obesity and diabetes (T2DM) are close to my heart; I carry too much weight, was diagnosed with T2DM several years ago, and have struggled to regulate BG. That said, I have successfully kept the important variables within satisfactory limits (just) and avoided recommendation of drug prescription by my GP.
There is no doubt in my mind that primary causality for the diseases of affluence lie rooted in food and with dietary contrasts between past and present. Additionally, I have first hand experience of a strong link between food and mood.
Casting the net a bit wider causality and explanation for proliferation of chronic illness, particularly so called diseases of affluence, lies in the contrast between past and present habitats. So far as I am concerned the dietary influences and inputs of western developed nations falls under the coverall term of habitat.

The trend towards weight gain is readily observable and manifests itself quite prominently in even young teens. Diabetes UK recently issued a release that seven million people are now reckoned to be ‘pre-diabetic’. (“Risk factors include having a close family member with type 2 diabetes, being overweight and having high blood pressure.” Really helpful, that!)

100,000 new cases of T2DM were recorded in 2007; 150,000 in 2008. Off the back of an envelope one would expect 230,000 in 2009. I have the envelope before me; crude maths extrapolates the diagnoses of 7 million cases of T2DM in the period 2009 – 2015.

Genetics may have a part. Genetic evolution is the mechanism behind the evolution of our species. Human genetic evolution is ongoing and it is in response to habitat.

I’m sorry, IMHO one doesn’t get to 32 stone without ingesting more food than is good for you. However, I do not believe it is simply gluttony or lack of willpower that takes a person there. Evolution is a factor because at no time in the human evolutionary past was it ever so easy to ingest so many calories for so little energy expended. Human evolution has simply not prepared us such a surplus in the caloric subsistence economy. The same can be said for domesticated cats and dogs.

I’m so with Ted. I believe enlightenment lies in the development of an ‘inflammation hypothesis’ underpinned by the ‘eicosanoid hypothesis’. Inflammation at cellular level would influence cellular expression because inflammation disrupts which of the chemical messengers can reach the cell. I would anticipate inflammation may influence genetic expression. If you catch a cold or flu you feel ill, but it is the bodies’ defensive inflammatory responses and disruption to eicosanoids (hormone-like chemicals with regulatory function) that makes us feel so rough. (Save for the symptoms of the respiratory tract the other symptoms of flu are not so dissimilar to poor BG regulation in T2DM.) Put simply, the problem is a breakdown in (physiological) regulation, (.. hmmn.)

I’m guided by author Barry Sears on the following. He knows his eicosanoids; important as eicosanoids are he labels some of them as being ‘bad’ or perhaps bad in excess. Eicosanoid imbalance results in inflammation. Sears calls it ‘slow inflammation’. In ‘The Anti-Aging Zone’(p175) Sears tables the conditions associated with eicosanoid imbalances;
Heart disease
Hypertension
Type 2 DM
Inflammatory diseases
Auto-Immune diseases
Cancer
Depression

While obesity is not in the list Sears does believe his zone diet, controlling insulin and balancing eicosanoids, can aid weight management.

What causes eicosanoid imbalance?
The building blocks of eicosanoids are Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs); omega 6 and 3 in the main. Important as they are it seems you can have too much of a good thing. Either too much omega 6 or too little omega 3 can result in omega imbalance that in turn precipitates eicosaniod imbalance. Too much insulin also precipaitates eicosanoid imbalance, and eicosanoid imbalance may lie behind cravings for carbs.

Too much omega 6 can arise from consumption of too much of certain vegetable oils, generally the cheap and stable ones preferred by the food industry. Wild meat can be a source of omega 3 whereas intensively reared cereal supplemented husbanded meat is significantly lower in omega 3.
John’s book ‘The True You Diet’ is excellent with a terrific chapter headed, ‘Oil Crisis’, which catalysed my interest.

The scandal of our time is the dietary preponderance of high GL carbohydrates coupled to increase in consumption of omega 6 PUFAs from vegetable oils; IMHO it’s the origin of metabolic dysfunction.
It’s worse, because Margarines, high in omega 6, can be supplemented with plant derived (cheap) omega 3 (ALA =- alpha-linoleic acid) and marketed with reference to the functionality of the ‘unique blend of omega 6 & 3′. There’s a catch. Humans have a limited capacity to convert ALA to to ‘good’ eicosanoids. The omega 3 (ALA) trumpeted on certain margarines and even ‘healthy’ oils do not compare with omega 3 of mainly marine origin.

The trouble with attributing causality to genes is adoption of the view, ‘I’m fat because of my genes’, or the false hope of a satisfactory and consequence free genetically engineered intervention or therapy. That said, what passes between our lips will determine genetic expression. Inflammation will determine genetic expression (in concurrence with Jamies’ view on Epigenetics). Without doubt aspects of western diet are directing human genetic evolution. What is not known is whether such direction reduces or increases the potential incidence of obesity and/or T2DM for successive generations.

In the field of Paleoanthroplogy there are finger posts to carbs (high GL) and EFA imbalance. Within the mirky waters of epidemiology are pointers to carbs and EFAs. And the functional understanding of EFAs and eicosanoids has pointers to high GL carbs and EFA imbalance.
It can never be too late in life to address EFA imbalance but possibly there are indicators that dysfunction from former EFA and eicosanoid imbalance may linger. Feeding kids toast spread with margarine looks like a bad start to life.

What is it that stands in the way of mainstream appreciation and progress?
Might, the problem be a breakdown in satisfactory regulation?

Evolving consciousness.

December 7, 2009

In the run up to the G20 summit in London earlier this year the planned protests were largely presented in the media as being a gathering of anti-capitalist groups.

The event became noteworthy for the manner of policing and for the death of a passer by, Ian Tomlinson. Matters were cemented to my memory along the lines that the unfortunate death of Ian Tomlinson on the fringe of an anti-capitalist demonstration during heavy handed policing.

After the National Audit Office reported on the cost of the bailouts last week my mind has become open to the possibility that Ian Tomlinson died on the fringe of pro-democracy demonstrations.

Coming soon, how to make savings to pay for the bailouts

December 4, 2009

Bears, Bulls, and the cost of the bailouts ..

December 4, 2009

News has broken today of the Audit Commissions’ report on the cost of bailing out failed British banks.

They report that the cost of the bailouts equates to a burden of £40,000 for each of Britains’ 26 million households, or as just reported on BBC tea-time news, £14,000 for each and every one of us.

The Commission emphasised the Government was right to salvage the collapsing banking system. I’d be in agreement – but only to the extent that there was no viable alternative that anyone could suggest in the heat of the crisis.

What irks me is that the banking system could get itself into such a precarious condition and neither the Treasury, the Financial Services Authority, nor the Bank of England could intervene. It is a failure of regulation. ..No! … Rather, it was a failure of recognition, then consequentially a failure of intervention and regulation. The above named tripartite regulatory authorities failed to see the extent of the exposure to risk. For all their schooling, qualifications, experience and ample salaries the people paid by the state on wages funded by the taxpayer did not protect the very people whose interests they were supposed to protect. Now we have to pick up the bill.

The Banks had gotten themselves into a fix. It’s not that the Banks did this by contributing to wealth creation by funding enterprise. No, the root of the problem lay inventing and investing in ever more creative ways to cream wealth of others. Complex financial wheeler-dealing that has no authentic economic function other than creaming other folks wealth ratcheted up exposure to volatility and risk because of the simple fact of being entirely geared to market confidence. In a ‘bull’ market everybody is confident and financial instruments are traded at inflated prices.

Confidence rises in bull markets. The market trend supports the confidence. However, infinite rises are not sustainable. Sooner or later, a free thinker among a minority will bet against the market trend, when others follow suit the bubble inflated with confidence will deflate; sometimes as fast and as ludicrously as the party balloon you inflate then release to “thlbthlbthlbthlb-phut” around the room! It’s now a ‘bear’ market. Values are wiped of assets and matters no longer seem ‘so safe as houses’. It’s both a long haul to re-inflate the balloon and delusional to think we can successfully knot it off when eventually fully inflated.

Risk is a consequence of economic evolution. Think of the economy like an onion with layers. At is heart is are the most biologically authentic economic functions. We need food, shelter and clothing. Only when those are satisfied can we greater economic activity around, say, plush fitted kitchens, conservatories, foreign holidays and such like. These are comforts rather than essential needs. We can distinguish them hierarchically.
It happens that competition drives efficiency. We’ve become very efficient at meeting these needs and consequentially, as matters stand, not everyone can be engaged working in these economies. Displaced people can become ever more inventive in trying to trade their efforts for someone elses’ wealth. So, while manufacturing declined the UK moved to a service based economy. Governments and Chancellors placated us. The thing is ‘service’ is not always functionally authentic in terms of human need. It can range to the downright deceitful or unlawful. Emergent sectors of developed economies represent continuing divergence from biologically authentic economic functionality. Each successive of our layer of our economic onion gets less authentic and with a greater potential for risk. When considered against the hitherto successful and collaborative division of labour that had been beneficial to the proliferation of the human species in the transition to agriculture and in moving to the age of industrialisation, continuing economic evolution appears to have increasingly undesirable traits. Greed and risk being two.

Have Banks willfully contributed to the systemic failure?
Small businesses have struggled for survival. Small businesses are important to us and to the economy. Irrespective of whereabouts in the functional hierarchy of our economic onion a small business is placed, be it food, manufacturing, or service, the local economic hyper-cycles of small businesses are closer to the individuals authentic and biological needs to feed the family and clothe the kids. Big businesses on the other hand are all about the balance sheet and profit and loss. When businesses invest in automation, constantly compete against each other to make efficiency savings people are casualties. Every redundancy is a virtuous economic hyper-cycle undermined and devalued.
Surviving small businesses are an exception. Medium sized businesses have collapsed and are a dying breed. Economies of scale have disadvantaged small and medium sized businesses; paricularly those in competition with larger ones and nowhere more apparent than on the high street. Banks have offered disadvantageous terms to smaller businesses for decades. Mergers and acquisitions amongst the bigger fish just keeps on moving relentlessly forward. Satisfactory economic hyper-cycles are being eroded. While big business, Marks and Spencer and Tesco spring to mind, invest in ever bigger DCs the units they vacate are unlikely to be filled by new occupants for some time. They will lie empty just like the smaller units neighbouring them on once economically active business and industrial estates. It’s efficiency and progress, apparently.
Blame cannot be wholly attributable to big business. As it stands they have competitive advantage over small businesses but we got there by consumer choice and buying habits. We thought one-stop shopping, price cuts, BOGOFs, convenient access and parking for retail parks and malls, and apparent value for money was in our own best interests. Thinking along more anthropological lines such a supposition looks increasingly uncertain. We need to be in employment and economically active to enjoy the malls.

You might think all the above sounds like the rant of an anti-capitalist. I have never been against free market capitalism. I have been stewing for almost one whole year. Thoughts have evolved. At times the evolutionary progress of my thinking had me wondering if I was adopting anti-capitalist sympathies. Fortunately, further thought evolved and now I recognise how one great pro-democracy theory is emerging.

People are displaced, disengaged, and disenfranchised. Meanwhile, the lobbying power of the ever bloating corporates gets greater and greater. We live in an age where features of continuing economic evolution is counter democratic. We’d do well to recognise how it is all going wrong. Certainly I view my personal liability to £14,000 of bailouts as being counter-democratic.

Food is fundamental. It is surprising how far thought can progress after that recognition.

‘Bulls’ and ‘bears’? ‘Sheep’ and ‘lemmings’, more like.

Money talks …

November 13, 2009

Money talks; and power corrupts – It’s official!

.. .. .. .. a tale of evolving consciousness.

Stuart Parkinson and Chris Langley, representing an organisation called Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) have authored a report, ‘Science and the Corporate Agenda’ and contributed a feature to New Scientist (7th November 2009, p32); summarising the reports’ findings.
The article and report looks at five commercial sectors of science and technology, considers the influence of commercial bias and ‘exposes problems so serious that we can longer afford to be indifferent to them’.The article specifically mentions potential for conflict of interest in medical research and its’ reporting in medical journals.
The inference is clear; that the corporate agenda influences the progress, advancement, and direction, of scientific knowledge and its’ application in ways that almost certainly satisfy commercial expediency but does not necessarily precipitate outcomes to the true betterment of humankind.

For anybody who has come around to thinking that perhaps a willingness to treat symptom or manage a problem predominates over an enthusiasm to address the root of causality then this report is a breath of fresh air.
Taking agriculture as an example the authors make the point that low-input solutions are willfully overlooked. Does it take a fertile imagination to appreciate that this trait may feature more widely?

The debate about scientific bias in medical research has raged for a while. Many of those who would highlight such bias also propose that such bias does not just direct the course of science but impacts at the point of delivery. Persistent minority dissent has been expressed over a number of health topics of our time such as the role of cholesterol in ill-health, saturated fat, mass prescription of statins, and the management of hypertension. There are a number of contributors attempting to balance the tide of mainstream consensus with counter arguments. It is difficult to know which of two opposing views may be the most reliable, especially for the layman, but the notion that the mainstream may have adopted commercially expedient stances is reinforced by the work of Parkinson and Langley.

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I have noticed a number of contributors attempting to submit a balanced and realists interpretation of the science and side effects in relation to statins. It crossed my radar that Dr John Briffa has recently blogged about drug companies trying to suppress knowledge of side effects or trying to delay action upon said knowledge.
What John is rightly illustrating, just as others are expressing similar concerns, is an example of the way the corporate agenda is permitted to direct the content, course and evolution of the knowledge economy, and in this case the knowledge economy pertaining to a group of drugs and their side effects.

There exists a problem. Let me spell it out. The problem effects millions of people at the individual level. I can perceive it effects me and it is likely it effects you. Floods are borne of individual raindrops. Likewise the problem highlighted would also appear to direct the course of advancement in the anthropological sense. The SGR report attempts to identify it, quantify it and give the recognition some credulity. What to do about it? The authors appeal to scientists to share responsibility, dispense with indifference and counter the bias.

To quote a line from a conversation I had with an employee of a prominent grocery retailer recently about an entirely unrelated topic we could elect to,

“Tell somebody that gives a shit”.

The intended irony being quoted to me was that if we recognise a problem and would like to share it or have it addressed our first and biggest challenge is to find somebody who actually gives a damn. It is a pearl of wisdom coming from a bakery manager highlighting a trait, as he sees it, of indifference in retail grocery line management. Perhaps the quote also conveys a sense of despondency and resignation. It seems to be a waste of the human spirit and intellect.

The nature of work can be very unfulfilling. Many of us have to suffer repetitive regimes in work in ways that leave no scope for self-expression. Rise up the ranks and you still have to suffer the pressures and impositions, but worse still you have to impose the malaise upon those under your management. I cannot see how such constraints contribute to mental well-being. And at the very top, executives themselves, though considerably more financially secure, seem no more cheerful than the rest of us.

I saw Sir Terry Leahy interviewed by a journalist on television recently. The business correspondent felt interpretation of Tesco results following the financial crisis and credit crunch were some matter of gargantuan import to the nation.
I felt genuine pity to el Tel. His responses were to cast Tesco in a positive light and to deflect all hint of doubt. But there was nothing about his demeanour that I could warm to. Zip.
His presence was wooden, mechanical, and entirely devoid of any endearing expression of likable emotion. There are exceptions, but contact with his employees in his stores can feel much the same. I don’t especially want to appear critical of Tesco. There are levels at which I can admire the UKs’ most prominent retailer. They are hugely successful, have transformed the face of UK retailing, and employ a lot of people; judged from a commercial perspective you cannot fault the business model. It is noted that the business has its’ detractors while I just have this sense that neither Sir Terry nor his employees look especially pleased with their degree of success.

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Human evolution and the emergence of complex and industrialised human societies has so far been based upon an advantageous balance of competitive and collaborative behaviours. We may think we are intelligent and smart to coordinate our activities in this way but truly nature evolved similar strategies long before we arrived on the scene.

Examples of the balance of collaborative of competitive behaviours abound in nature and biology, the study of things natural. Bees ants and termites are examples of creatures that live in colonies that benefit from collaboration and division of labour. In the complexification of life itself division of labour is a feature replicated at several hierarchical levels. We ourselves carry that legacy in our physiology. Really, we are not one being. For one thing we exist because of a symbiotic relationship with a mind bogglingly astonishing number of bacteria that populate our gut. I mean, who is the more persistent here?
For another matter our body is a great expression of division of labour. Our organs divide necessary life support functions between them, likewise so do constituent cells, as do organelles that split duties within cells. It is not as if this incredible coordination and collaboration has been consciously planned. It is the case because such coordination serves to needs of the constituents and preserves the existence of the species.

But evolution also confers a competitive element; the process of evolution by natural selection, survival of the fittest. We are all clear on that, but what is often overlooked is that competitive or exploitative tendencies must be kept in check. Complexification of life depends upon hierarchical levels of preceding evolution and the legacy of the older levels remains inherent somewhere within the higher orders.
If a healthy balance of collaborative and competitive behaviours is not maintained matters can become disastrous. Overly competitive, aggressive, or exploitational behaviour may lead to short-term proliferation, thus presenting an illusion of success, but it should be remembered that most, I mean all surely, beings exist as part of an ecology – a delicate balance of diversity comprising ranges of the infinitesimally small to the uncommonly large, and also ranging from the simple to the complex, from the vegetable to the intelligent. Over-dominance of a species or component ultimately destroys the very ecology that sustains it. Is this not the case with cancer?

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Let’s return to us humans and the choices we make about our daily life. One major preoccupation for most of us is the need to earn a living to satisfy our needs and wants. Needs are generally essential and wants can be classified as desirable.
The problem is exacerbated by a lack of real choice. Many of us depend directly upon large corporations for our employment and many more depend indirectly. The capacity to earn a living is the basis for the wider economy and the basis for us being able to put food upon our tables.
Small businesses struggle to compete on profitability but small business constitute far better prospects from a social point of view, People working in small ventures feel they have a vested interest and opportunities for self expression. Small businesses can be beneficial to the lower order hierarchical economic hyper-cycles that benefit local communities and contribute to social cohesion. Smaller business ventures have power commensurate with their size and are less likely to abuse it. In small businesses strategic decision making is closer those engaged and/or effected and correspondingly may have a conscience. Small businesses are a dying breed.

Evolution does not just apply to the natural world. It can be observed in the business world, too. The tendency for small and medium sized businesses to fail or be bought up by larger ones continues. Mergers and acquisitions involving large businesses continue resulting in an onward trend to fewer, but ever larger, enterprises. Breaking news today is the proposed merger of two airlines each struggling in adverse economic times. The agreement between Iberia and BA is presented as a merger of equals. Each has problems and one analyst was heard to say that the merger would not provide instant relief.
In the heat of the crisis acquisitions and mergers went on hold for a while but as the fallout continues to settle there appears a resumption to the trend.
“Keep your hands off Cadbury!”, I say. Kraft is large enough as is Cadbury. I concede there may be benefits from a business point of view but I cannot see any from an anthropological viewpoint.

I find the continuing evolution to fewer but larger corporations and multinationals un-democratising and alarming. The bigger of them are rewarded for failure. Injected with cash to preserve taxpayers jobs and without the taxpayer having any say. Moreover the behaviour of these businesses seems not to retain the essential balance of competitive and collaborative traits required for long term evolutionary success.

In the status quo the consequence for humankind by the unfettered or un-moderated introduction of technology is the capacity to evolve human induced problems at a pace that outstrips our capacity to evolve solutions that in turn would be satisfactorily consequence free. The accusation seems more or less proven in the realms of science and were I better informed I might be better placed to apply the same argument to economics. This is my best effort so far and it seems relatively fair to offer an opinion that humankind is largely responsible for it’s own problems and then, in trying to solve them, adds to them. Most of our technologies have side effects.

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I would hope that the report, Science and the Corporate Agenda, comes to the attention of our nations dedicated health professionals. I’m sure professional health practitioners could contribute considerable insight as to how the assertions of bias made in the report applies to the promotion of public health. Instances of General Practitioners speaking out of school are rare but there was a hint of dissent expressed when GPs met at a Glasgow conference and Dr David Walker proposed a price hike for chocolate. I have high regard for David Walker and his colleagues but fixing the price of chocolate is merely tinkering at the fringe of a greater problem. I had a constructive, but short telephone conversation with David but he has subsequently remained mute. Wherein lies the disincentive for, say, General Practitioners to contribute an opinion?

In health, a feature of the predisposition to prefer treating symptom sooner than establish or address cause exposes whole populations to increasing risks arising from health or treatment. Foremost in my mind is obesity and rising incidence of type 2 diabetes, but the critique could apply to other chronic disease.
If I remind you that 100,000 new diagnoses of type 2 diabetes were made in 2007, 150,000 in 2008, then you might reasonably calculate on the back of an envelope that the prospects for 2009 are 230,000. In fact the back of envelope calculation predicts 7 million new diagnoses of type 2 diabetes in the period 2009-2015. As if by coincidence Diabetes UK recently had a release covered by the press stating the opinion that 7 million of the population have already progressed to a state of pre-diabetes.

At least one team of scientists may offer some hope to safeguard us from the consequences of being overweight. An American team have identified that certain saturated fatty acids produce an errant and false immune response in an interaction with a protein known as TLR4. The team hope that a drug can be developed that can mitigate some of the consequences of being overweight. The protein mistakes the fatty acid for bacterial invasion and responds with the defensive action of promoting inflammation. Armed with this knowledge the team hope to develop a drug to block the inflammatory action of TLR4. If disabled, would it deploy correctly when faced with a genuine bacterial threat? The predictability of any new drug is that it will have side effects.
Moreover, does the knowledge of the process and behaviour of TLR4 suggest it might be worth backtracking? Is the response of TLR4 more prominent because the fatty acid is more prevalent, and why? If this could point to dietary of lifestyle factors there may exist a low-input and reduced risk solution to the problem. The avenue is a non-starter, not for lack of potential practical feasibility but for lack of commercial expediency.

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Increasing extension of risk, as a consequence of corporate evolution, recently had calamitous monetary economic consequences such that the symptoms were treated with a massive injection of taxpayers cash and corporate entities were rewarded for looming failure with a second chance. The advocation for free market economies is their being beneficial for the evolution of improved trade and business practice. Adam Smith was an early advocate. I expect he was right in the main but had not foreseen that accountants would come to have such influence, or that efficiency would open a void that must be filled by an appetite for emergent technologies or by innovation into less than noble economic ventures involving greater extension to risk. I retain hope for the future of capitalism although the concept needs modification. Judging the success of capitalism by the singular parameters of balance sheet and profit and loss account appears to have its limitations. Increasing risk and rewarding failure seems at odds with evolutionary economic theory. This alone is not clever. Clever is having promising solutions. I don’t.

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The media is excited anticipating Copenhagen. Climate change and sustainability issues are foremost in many peoples minds and before long the future plight of 7 billion people may rest in the hands of the worlds leading politicians. The science of climate change is complex. Climate change is a natural feature of the complex adaptive system that is the fragile Earth upon which we live.
The topic of human induced climate change is even more complex and even more contentious. But most significantly it has much in common with much of our knowledge in other sectors in that it is incomplete.

Humankind faces it’s biggest challenge ever to collaborate without any selfishness to secure the future for our descendants and hard decisions will have to be taken while not in full possession of the facts. The science of climate change is beyond my my field of study but comprehension of matters of sustainability seem easy to grasp. Has there ever been any instance in history where unbiased scientific knowledge should be openly pooled, transparently debated, reliably advised and respectfully received for the sake of future generations, astronomical in number, and growing daily.

OMG !! That unspeakable word Unbiased.’ just made an appearance. It’s a word that means different things to different people. By far the biggest challenge facing humankind wanting to successfully develop and implement a climate agenda is for the whole of humankind to become considerably more self-aware.

The prospects of financial rewards can clearly be intoxicating. Scientists have come out and said what has been widely known but largely ignored for some considerable time. They have done so in the language of science and with gravitas. The whole world needs to sober up; more so for western developed nations. Scientists ought to be best placed to see the need and accept greater responsibility.

Is it human indifference that is at the root of our problems and is that not a greater challenge above the science of climate change?

I am constantly wondering if leaders have grasped our economic challenges sufficiently well to make the necessary changes. Volatility seems to be an enduring feature of the modern global economy and if we emerge from this recession it’s implied that instability dictates another will follow sometime. In the very least it is to be hoped we will have recovered sufficiently well enough as to be able to afford a repetition of quantitative easing.

A few decades on will it be so easy to inject new life into a dying planet as it was to inject cash into an ailing economy? Can you ask the question of someone who gives a shit?

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I would hate to deliver an impression that I believe I know what I am talking about. I harbour great self doubt but I just cannot stop thinking. The piece you have just read really is a tale of evolving consciousness; I sense it has some pertinence but without surety. It is expansive take on matters that can be detrimentally shallow in the detail. I only have limited time to study the areas it covers to greater depth.
What I notice is that other people have found ways to express a sense that not all about 21st century living satisfies the need for a fulfilled passage from cradle to grave. Humans have the capacity via intellect and spirit but fail in the execution. Perhaps the new age movement and conspiracy theorists exemplify the recognition. Authors have written on the topic of simplicity,
Cecile Andrews and Tom Hodgkinson are two of whom I am aware. Robert Fulghum expressed it most simply and succinctly in All I Really Need to know I Learned in Kindergaten.
Christopher Lloyd author of
What on Earth Evolved? 100 Species That Changed the World conveys the sense of evolutionary biological hierarchy that I struggled to recognise in the more technically complex, The Major Transitions in Evolution (John Maynard Smith & Eors Szathmary).
The economic sub-classification of
Energetics about which I know little save for the Wikipedia entry seems to be a link that could be developed to face 21st century challenges. It is not difficult to assert that economic wealth has depended heavily upon supplementing human effort with energy sourced from fossil fuel reserves. As energy ceases to be plentiful surely energy economics will come to the fore. But energy is not the only concern. The wider economy was created when humankind became sufficiently adept at provisioning food as to have time left over for other endeavours. There had been no need for money prior to the dawn of the agrarian age. Currency, and it’s flow through the economy must facilitate the flow of energy and nutrients (food) satisfactorily between the population. We fail dismally on a global scale to satisfy that need fairly. More locally, for all the trappings of wealth; cars, flat-screens, games consoles, etc., do we retain a satisfactorily robust subsistence economy?
Prior to the publication of the SGR report I had was wrestling with the sense that the nature and extent of accumulating human knowledge, helpful as is, has a flip-side because knowledge is not dissimilar to an industrial or post-industrial monetary economy. Ever increasing division of labour, increasing specialisation of function, displacement of occupation by automation, and increasing complexification dictate that people must place increasing trust in people whose interests are measured by £££££. We are disenfranchised because of the expansiveness of knowledge and that simplifies the process of mis-appropriation. At least in the realms of science it is now official. Cease the moment, I say.
Have a think and feel free to pass comment on whether there’s sense in this somewhere or whether I’m sprouting bollocks… …  But only if you give a shit.

Pie in the sky ..

September 8, 2009

Appearing recently in the media have been submissions from scientists tabling possible worse case scenarios and last resort tactics to avert catastrophic global warming.

Some of the propositions involve deflecting solar radiation by placing mirrors or reflective dust in the upper atmosphere with the intent of deflecting solar radiation and thus with the hope of countering rising temperatures. Are they kidding?

As with other 21st century problems we need to address climate change with an appreciation of causality and addressing that at the root rather than treating symptoms by dispensing some additionally constructed human remedy. There is scope for greater insight into this as may apply to climate change as there may be from delving into the same basic flaw in the way mainstream human health-care is delivered.

Climate change and sustainability are complicated issues with diverse and often in-congruent arguments from various camps. However, I can simplify matters somewhat..

Try drawing two circles on a piece of paper to loosely represent Sun and Earth. What does the one give the other? It is child’s play, isn’t it? The Earth is reliant upon the Sun for energy, right? Rub out our circle that represented the Sun and what are the implications?

The Earth is an energy system subservient to the Sun. Life upon Earth in all its’ diversity is/are energy (and nutrient) systems subservient to the whole Earth. Humans are entirely subservient to those energy and nutrient hyper-cycles that nature has constructed by the process of evolution and all made possible by the Sun.

Through Defra and one of its’ offspring FERA (Food and Environment Research Agency) the government, via Hilary Benn, the minister responsible, recently launched a consultation document upon future food security and entitled, I think, ‘Food Matters, part 2′. This is a document that questions the future of food security on a number of lines.
Concerns are expressed about rising global populations, increasing wealth in developing nations and anticipated change in dietary expectations of wealthier people, further concerns are declining fertility, dependency upon finite fossil fuel reserves for agrochem’ production, falling water tables, and potential changes to weather patterns, temperatures and precipitation. In short it is concern about energy and nutrients and whether we are fast reaching the limit of the total capacity of the Earth to feed a rising population. The problem lies rooted in conventional agricultural methods as applied by western civilisations because inherent in the practice at a number of levels is the principle of deferred accountability. Conventional agriculture practices with complete deference to natural energy and nutrient hyper-cycles. 21st century challenges are the consequences of carrying on without any regard for these natural constraints. One such constraint, somewhat fundamental, was illustrated by drawing our two circles.

Food is produced by capturing solar radiation and nutrients through the life giving process of photosynthesis. So if we register already concern over ability to meet demand then one might deduce that we need to capitalise upon all the solar radiation we can capture, and in the face of passing peak oil we acknowledge we may have to produce increasing amounts of energy for our domestic and industrial needs from renewable sources. The primary capitals here are Sun, Moon (tidal) geothermal, and morphological (fission/fusion). Factor in that energy production may have to be carbon neutral or even carbon negative (and soon) and photosynthesis looks increasingly attractive to produce energy for requirements other than simply and primarily for food.
Such a strategy would place a huge burden upon the suitable agricultural regions of the world. We’ll need several things to meet this burden but not least will be plenty of solar radiation. Best not to pin too much hope upon launching reflective material of any kind into space. I mean, its’ hardly rocket science..

Artificial Sweeteners – artificial hope?

September 8, 2009

Dr John Briffa raised the issue of artificial sweeteners in his blog of 4th September 2009 headed: The myriad of reasons why artificial sweeteners may not deliver on their weight loss promise”.

Sooner than post at length on Johns blog I posted a reply with link to these paragraphs:-

John, no, I hadn’t researched xylitol any more than having seen it advocated in the aforementioned book. I agree entirely about cause for caution. The entry in Wikipedia reads as though it could have been compiled by those of largely enthusiastic persuasion.
The claim is that spoon for spoon there are 40% fewer calories than sugar but nothing is mentioned about relative sweetness. For all I know one might need to use 40% more of the stuff to satisfy ones palette. There is a link in the wiki to the BMJ; it is not available to me.

What should we regard as natural anyway? Our forebears have a long history of exposure to many sugars intrinsic to many natural food sources including glucose and fructose yet as you point out there is reason to be concerned about fructose and the associated dependency upon the liver to break it down. At 50/50 glucose/fructose common (table) sugar could be labelled natural at one level but considered entirely un-natural by virtue of refinement and context. I guess the same argument holds for the sugar-alcohols (sorbitol, xylitol etc.)
I was not especially advocating xylitol – there seems every reason to categorise it with the ‘artificial sweeteners’; and by the same token, might there be a case to argue that sucrose and perhaps even honey deserve inclusion in that same category?

If human progenitors existed for substantial periods largely as folivores and frugivores we might consider that we ought to be well adapted to these dietary components; fruit and veg in general are deemed to be good for us.
However it could be a pitfall to overlook the contrast between modern cultivars and naturally occurring sources as was. Modern varieties have resulted from the pursuit of sweetness and size. Our ancestors quite likely could not select just the ripest fruits while foraging but probably had to consume unripe or, most certainly under-ripe, fruits too;  fruits with a considerably higher fibre to sugar ratio than our modern equivalents. There’s another contrast too, one might expect our ancestors to have consumed fruits whole.

So 21st century folks in the main have an artificially sweet tooth(?), consume a diet unnaturally high in GL(?), consume too little (non-cereal) fibre(?), and are intolerant to the taste of foods rich in bitter tasting compounds which may be good for them – such as dark leafy greens(?).
Increased exposure to sweeteners, especially the ‘artificial’ ones, in commonplace products cannot be congruent with the likely benefits of re-educating overly ‘sweet-tooths’.

Because I acknowledge the dietary benefits of fibre and the anti-oxidant properties of limonene I do on occasions consume an orange complete with pith and peel. I expect most folks would find that unpalatable and eccentric practice, yet the declaration serves points in para. 3.

The soft drinks industry (US -’soda’) is clearly factorial in conditioning folks to sweet-tooths and this has come to the attention of at least one US state, as was reported recently in New Scientist, who advocated increased taxation upon sodas, much like the instance of Dr David Walker who tabled a motion for debate and vote at the Glasgow conference  earlier this year (defeated only by a narrow margin) to increase taxation upon chocolate bars and confections on sale in the UK.

Concluding just a little politically I think there is mileage to be gained from considering the role of regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. Is there scope for improvement in the efficacy of regulation and education?

Economic reflections

August 28, 2009

Prompted by the letters page of the Economist of August 8th I was minded to construct and submit the following letter to the ed. of the Economist.  I know absolutely zip about conventional macro- economic theory, but I am in no doubt about the impact of the financial crisis, bailouts, and MPs expenses furor upon my household and domestic economy.

Here’s the letter and footnote as emailed to Economist.com. I posted a draft of the letter to CiF on the Guardian online. At the time of writing it has four recommendations; hardly exceptional, but a start.

To the ed. of the Economist magazine;

Sir,
Tony Hays (letters, Aug 8th) disclosed that he considered taking a degree in economics 50 years ago but was dissuaded on the grounds of being advised “that the exam questions would be the same from year to year, but that the correct answers would differ each year.” He elected instead to pursue a career in engineering. He ought to be well placed to understand financial market failure and recession.
Is it not apparent to all and sundry that the macro-economy is a system with inherent instabilities capable of comparison with and to the laws of dynamics as applied to unstable physical systems such as flogging sail, snaking caravan, or unsecured gate swinging in a fresh breeze? In each instance force(s) send the system swinging one way to the point where counter forces are activated to send it swinging back.
Surely, super-extension of money supply involving increasing degrees of risk associated with ever greater extension of credit must inevitably reach a glass ceiling from where it must rebound? The only comfort is that the periodicity is somewhat greater than a clanging gate on a stormy night. Perhaps this is congruent, but nonetheless a simpler explanation to that of Prof. Meghnad Desai whose letter in the same issue describes “a disequilibrium dynamic stochastic system.”
I cannot help wondering if degrees of complexity in human constructs stand in the way of comprehension, or wonder if things might be more stable if humankind could find a way to pin monetary economies with the natural economies of the Earth and do so sympathetically to natural hyper-cycles and hierarchies. Might it be the Sun, stupid?
.. Perhaps if economists were to reflect somewhat anthropologically upon the human departure from the natural subsistence economy, see that as the origin of trade and the origin of a wider economy, then make comparisons…

The following footnote went with the submission;

It is difficult for me to elaborate on the above while remaining brief, and while the final paragraph may seem like a call to fundamentalism, this is not the case. But it is a suggestion of a direction to take to gain understanding.
The natural subsistence economy is caloric not monetary, and species in general must satisfy the caloric economy or die. The imperative is to match caloric return from food to caloric effort in relation to existence, provisioning, and avoidance of predation. It was once the same for human ancestors. Fail to satisfy the imperative and death, extinction possibly, results.

The emergence of a wider human economy stems from the time when humans became sufficiently adept at provisioning food so as to have a degree of freedom from the natural imperative. Our ancestors had time to give over to making tools and trinkets. The modern scale of the macro-economy is simply measurable by the degree to which it surpasses the subsistence economy.

So, somewhat provocatively, I postulate that economists who study the flow of money are a bit like physicians who might once have recognised the importance of blood without fully understanding its’ purpose. Blood circulates energy and nutrients in a hierarchical biological being (yep, we are frequently guilty of overlooking these natural evolutionary and biological hierarchies inherent in the ‘self’)  and manages waste. Money circulates energy and nutrients around the economy.

21st century challenges are plural; climate, sustanability, and economic. Prince Charles addressed these in his Dimbleby lecture. He has a book due next year, ‘Harmony’, which purports to link these themes. I don’t know what he has chosen as the conceptual vehicle.

My paradigm lies in the facilitation and comparisons hinted at in the above. I have a graphical representation of the transitions that bring us to where we are today. Further development is needed.

I find two observations are significant.
In the departure from a fundamentally constraining natural economy and with the accompanying accumulation of ‘knowledge’, complexity is a token of two sides. Upside and downside. People do now speak of an ‘economy of knowledge’
Second, in the transition from barter to multi-nationalism and viewed from an anthropological perspective the nature of trade has evolved from collaborative, that is negotiated between parties of loosely equal muscularity, to exploitational and predatory.
.. And in a three for two offer it has something to say about chronic disease,  esp. obesity and diabetes.

There is more to be learned from the model, perhaps, such as the constant need for emerging technologies, and why full employment is an unrealistic goal.

The marginalisation and failure rates of small and medium businesses is an economic evolutionary consequence of a system that has vested a false belief in the nature and worth of ‘capital’ as constructed by humans. Virtuous economic hierarchies and hyper-cycles are imploding around humankind just as our disregard for the natural counterparts is degrading and destroying those.

Events are telling us to direct attention to Earthly capitals. Root and branch reform is needed. We must find a way to enjoy monetary economies while operating within the constraints of natural ones.

The Earth is an energy system subservient to the Sun; Life and humans are energy systems ultimately subservient to the Earth. Economies circulate energy. Wake up world, take a good luck.

Comment on the guardian has been interesting. In recognition of the failing of conventional capitalism there has bee a debate raging between proponents of capitalist and socialist agendas. Division and entrenchment will get us nowhere save for reinforcement of the resonant and cyclical nature of the periodic pendulum like swing between the two.

If we could just ditch our conditioning and vested interests then recognise true capitals for what they are,  then capitalist, socialist and green agendas might converge; that in itself may some imply or infer something of the validity in the postulation. Ideological I know, however, if we are to face concern over food insecurity head on then perhaps the error of ours ways may be apparent to all but the most pig-headed. The need to feed ourselves is fundamental after all.

Hot Potato

July 30, 2009

“.. British milk has been marginalised by price pressure from leading supermarket(s) to the point that British dairy farmers cannot make any money out of the raw product -they are paid little more than the cost to produce it. The recent collapse of DFoB (3,4) illustrates that even the processor cannot make money out of the raw product without investment in value added lines.
For sale in a leading supermarket in the northwest of England is milk distinguished on the label as ‘North West Milk’. Arla Foods closed the Manchester Dairy shortly after being awarded the contract to supply this milk. So, it is collected from northwest farms to be trucked to Arlas flagship plant at Leeds for process, to be trucked back to shops in the stated region. I doubt this is contrary to any law or CoP, but it is a deception. I cannot see how instances such as this are consistent with the need to reduce carbon emissions. ..”

The comment can be read in full on the Food Standards Agency website here ;

http://www.fsascience.net/2009/07/14/you_say_potato_i_say_potato

Eating Breakfast

July 8, 2009

On 3 July 2009 Dr John Briffa posted to his blog with the heading ;

Eating breakfast found to be major boon for diabetics, and why this may be important for non-diabetics too

I noticed a comment by Bryce inquiring why this may be so. It set me musing.

Bryce, I hope this may be of help or, if it has weaknesses, that we might be able to develop it.

I see this one as really quite simple and so might any reader sufficiently open-minded to accompany me to an unconventional viewpoint.

All of life as we know it owes it’s existence to a series of major transitions in evolutionary history. Such transitions are hierarchical; that’s to say preceding events give rise to new opportunities and successive  future opportunities. Mammals, and humans, owe their existence to a greater number of transitions than does pond scum or a shark, say.
The body works at a series of levels. It works as a whole, the ‘me’ sat at the keyboard; it works at the level of the division of function performed by our organs; it works at the level of the individual cell, and all of this is subject to a symbiotic relationship with 500 species of bacteria populating our gut who outnumber our cells by a factor of ten.

Our individual cells have a limited capacity to store or buffer energy, yet need to be supplied with energy 24/7.  At a level up from the single cell our physiology has functionality to buffer energy and manage the distribution of energy to the cells; sinking energy as stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles after eating, then releasing it as required to maintain the level of glucose in the blood within quite fine parameters to meet the energy requirements of the bodies cells.

The newborn baby has a high energy requirement to meet the need for growth but has an underdeveloped capacity to buffer energy; consequentially it will not go long between feeds and will wake in the night. In the baby, the need for constant energy is met by a pattern of ingestion characterised by frequent feeds with short intervals between.

Modern humans use a lot of words ending -ism and -isation. Try pausing and reflecting when you encounter one next time. Generally these words describe some some aspect or degree of complexity of modern human life or society, and let’s face it, it has become really very complex. Few of these words can be applied to the animal kingdom.

Looking at the development of the human diet from an anthropological perspective makes for interesting study. Without going too far back in our linage it is possible to encounter progenitors (species of which humans are directly descended) who scampered around the the floor of an arboreal forest, perhaps having characteristics akin to a rain-forest today. Ivan Crowe (1)  postulates movement into the trees themselves may have been a significant transition. It is suggested by Crowe that the change from foraging on the forest floor to inhabiting the trees is a factor that would drive evolutionary changes in size and form, and particularly the changes in degree of limb articulation that distinguish primates from other creatures and is highly notable amongst humans.

It is thought that during the period of evolution described above that the diet largely comprised of fruits and leaves. We might surmise, that in living in a ‘kitchen garden’, these creatures lived a largely sedentary lifestyle. There is are other reasons to think that, and one is that living largely as folivores and frugivores the energy reward available from these plant food is limited and requires time and effort in digestion. We know that these creatures were able to gather adequate food, else they would have become extinct before we emerged, but very likely it took these creatures most of their waking hours to provision and digest their food. Modern gorillas are not suggested as being a close comparison of these progenitors but they do have some dietary and digestive factors that illustrate some pertinent aspects. Modern gorillas exist largely as folivores, pithivores and frugivores and they have a gut morphology consistent with this. Unlike humans, the gut is large and can digest starch in a process requiring fermentation or suchlike. Gorillas just about meet their basic requirements for energy and little else. They have little freedom from the need to eat and digest. They have a sedentary lifestyle forced upon them. Worse still, they are tied to a specific habitat by specific dietary needs. If there is pressure upon the habitat, lack of versatility inhibits the ability of the gorilla to move on to pastures new. If climate change or human encroachment should threaten the habitat of the gorilla, theirs will constitute an evolutionary cul-de-sac.

Our progenitors once had gut morphology different to ours. Their habitat has long since disappeared, but fortunately in the transition new species emerged that would one day produce you and I as offspring.

To express this very simply;  once it took our progenitors all day to provision their food whereas today we do so in moments, with little thought or occupation, and many of us are guilty of doing this only as an inconvenient disruption from all the other tasks we perform. This is some contrast. It arises because humans have a unique ability to capitalise upon energy. Energy from food as foragers, energy from soil as practitioners of agrarianism, and energy from oil as industrialists.  This is only possible because we have time for these human constructs, meaning the -isms and -isations. How did we go from one extreme to the other?

The short answer is our progenitors and ancestors got lucky. They innovated. But be very clear, I do not imply the usual positive connotation(s) associated with the word. I simply mean that distant ancestors adopted change, largely dietary change, that conferred evolutionary advantage. Change was probably out of need in relation to pressure or change applicable to habitat, and drove the evolutionary physiological changes, perhaps accompanying incremental increase in intelligence, that led to the emergence of homo sapiens. Innovation would be slow and incremental in the transition, permitting the necessary evolutionary adjustments along the way. But the tiny incremental improvements contributed to a ratchet effect resulting in increasing calorific reward in return for calorific effort.

Remember, this is the constraining characteristic of our friends the gorillas. They only marginally satisy calorific reward in relation to calorific need. Sizable clicks of the ratchet are cited as the ability to forage for underground storage organs, USOs, in short  (the modern familiar USOs  might include yams, potatoes, carrots and suchlike), the ability to harness fire for cooking, and the ability to make and develop the use of tools.

Eventually we’d become omnivorous, with physiology to match.  Intelligence had developed, as had versatility, and our ancestors were no longer tied to a specific habitat. A few of them set of from the Rift Valley, so the story goes, and the rest as they say, is history. As our ancestors began the migration to populate all corners of the world they were no longer tied to a pattern of ingestion that involved grazing most of the waking day. I have no claims to be able to support this, but I feel there is predictability in being able to say that the move to inclusion of USOs, or at least the general trend of becoming more adept at securing increasing energy density, may be additionally factorial in the development of brain size and/or function. The accepted view is that amino acids and EFAs are factoria and may have been supplied from animal protein and marrow. I subscribe to that too, but USOs are significantly more dense in energy than the foods previously available, today we would say they have a higher glycamic index than say green leaves and unripe fruits. USOs also require adiitional knowledge and skill to find and forage, perhaps involving simple organic tools to dig, and also they often require pre-consumptive processing to make them paletable and or digestible. Some contain toxins that must be negated by leaching and/or heating. But the higher GI, or energy density, makes the trouble worthwhile. If the body is adapting in tandem and is developing increased capacity to sink glycogen in the muscles and liver then it can go longer between feeds and can sleep longer. So USOs introduce an imperative to pass on skills and knowledge and may also have allowed these ancestors to sleep longer, something that, intuitively, I feel may be factorial in developing intelligence. Certainly, the brain is acknowledged as being highly consumptive of energy.

A corelation in different species between capacity for intelligence and the capacity to store glygogen, liver size, and/or sleeping habits might in part constitute support for this theory, but so far as I know humans are the only primates with any real ability to exploit USOs. This then renders comparison difficult.  I haven’t had time to examine such a possibility. The theory is not much more than thinking aloud.

We have moved on in the story where our ancestors have moved into the paleolithic; the gatherer-hunter period. We shall move on swiftly again to the agrarian age commencing around 20,000 years ago. Up to this time, humans have been lucky to enjoy a relationship with food that has satisfied the basic need and more; successive innovations had improved calorific reward for calorific effort, and time has been released from the imperative to provision food. Those of our ancestors that made it this far had capitalised and improved upon the ability to gather calorific reward as foragers.

The move to agrarianism is a huge click on the ratchet. This is a period of domestication of cereal grain. Aspects of division of labour were likely apparent in the foregoing subsistence lifestyle, and are apparent in those peoples and tribes alive today in remote parts who still continue with subsistence practices, but the move to agrarianism also accompanied increased moves to division of labour and specialising occupations. It was the dawn of the moves to the -isations such as larger, more structured, communities we call civilisations. It was not all plain sailing; some civilisations were lost along the way. But benefits of cooperative behaviours and increased division of labour, coupled with farming practice and a move towards the cultivation of grain resulted in increased food security, at least in terms of availability, that permitted industriousness in other ways. One example of such industriousness being construction of the pyramids.

The point in time is significant. The move to greater reliance upon grain constitutes an enormous click on our ratchet of increasing energy density within the provisioning of food and was so significant that the ability to move towards industrialisation can be attributed to it, at least in the fertile and cyclically replenished growing region of the Nile delta, though the true dawn of industralisation as we accept it today was founded upon the ability to harness motive power and chemical morphology from fossil fuel as an energy source. Grain is significantly higher in GI and becomes even higher in GI if it is refined. Introduction to the diet of grain on this scale was not without it’s impact on human health an skelature that is recorded in the fossil record. The other distinguishing feature of a diet high in cereal grain, discounting the inclusion of meat, is that it is less balanced in protein and carbs as say leaves and tree nuts may be. Save for sugar itself, refined grain is just about as energy dense in carbohydrate as it is possible to get. It is significantly lean in the phytonutrients that would have been supplied in several million years of evolutionary precedent from the diverse range of  plant matter incorporated into the diet. It is lean in comparable fibre too.

Fast forward to the present day; we lead fast lives and eat fast food, we give precious little thought or time to provisioning our food, or how we eat eat, we eat sizeable meals punctuated by sizeable intervals between meals, and the meals themselves are comprised of foods of high GI. The effect of this is that the foods to which we are drawn, and the pattern of our behaviour as regards eating habits, pattern of ingestion, if you like, contributes to a diet of high aggregate glycaemic load. The term glycaemic load is generally applied as a measure of much and how fast carbohydrate from a given foodstuff will spike our blood sugar, but I find the term equally fitting to indicate the blood sugar load and, consequentially, the insulinemic load placed upon the body. This really does test the limits of our physiology and largely because while the capacity to sink glycogen confers upon us a degree of freedom from having to constantly eat in order to maintain our blood sugar, the predictability is that we have hiked up the aggregate GL beyond or ability to sink the glucose spike, beyond the bodies capacity to tolerate long term hyperinsulinemia arising from large, infrequent, meals of high GL and the associated large release of glucose from the gut to the blood, and beyond our capacity to store the excessive spike of glucose as glycogen. The body has contingency for this case,  excess blood glucose can be converted to body fat and used later. I think we are overloading that ability too. It is something that our scampering forest floor dweller did not do and if the contrast between him and us does not in some way cast light upon causality for obesity, insulin resistance, and type2 diabetes then I will eat my own do-dos. At some point in the time line I have described, our pace of innovation has outstripped the potential for evolutionary adjustment, and that point constitutes a tipping point.

The fossil record greatly implicates the introduction of cultivated cereal grain as such a tipping point. I am in broad agreement, but I do not argue the case for not eating grain. I think grain can be included as part of a balanced diet but that balance may vary between individuals. Besides,  for all that I believe a diet of high aggregate GL is implicated as a prime factorial in chronic disease, particularly those whose incidence is often associated with being overweight or obese, I have reached a firm opinion that nature rarely exhibits singularity. Instead I think that nature exhibits pluralism, particularly when the nuts and bolts of nature are scrutinised.  In conversation with a GP upon the topic of causality for obesity and diabetes, I put my postulation to him. He replied by saying he felt that causation was probably multifactorial though he did not allude to alternate factors. While he may not have intended it to be so, I felt that his reply carried a degree of dismissiveness towards my postulation.  Events cut the chat short and prevented any further  expansion of our discourse.  I have not had the opportunity to take up with him since.

To return to the pluralism I have come to expect from nature I am going to say that in addition to the prime factorial I have described above I expect there to be other compounding or mitigating factors in relation to diabetes. All of this is an ongoing work; including the expression of the increasing energy density from food.  To date I have some 6 or 7 compounding or potentially mitigating factors on my radar. This may create the impression of it being complicated. No, I do not regard it as complicated; I simply regard it as being plural. I’m in agreement with the doc who said during our telephone conversation that causation was ‘multifactorial’.  Actually, I’m forming the opinion that the common expectancy of a singular expression of causality is actually what renders things complicated. I can make my explanation sound fairly simple, but rarely can I do it briefly, so I aware of the need to wrap things up.  Time does not permit reference to the several likely compounding factors.

If high GL is attributable as primary causation what can we do about it? Simple, reduce the GL.

Obvious choices are:-

Eat less of high GL food and replace with more foods of mid or low GL

Balance every meal with the inclusion of a balanced amount of protein in relation to carbohydrate.

Do not be preoccupied with eating low-fat.

Include fresh foods of high fibre content, excepting the hard cereal fibre and bran.

And finally, Bryce, to answer your question, eat less but at more frequent intervals, because grazing is good whereas skipping meals only to rush the next meal and to consume in large portions , is not so good. It is less of a load upon the bodies systems.

Before folks passed the tipping point, there probably existed the ability to self regulate appetite. Some people exhibit this today. Others however, in increasing numbers have clearly lost that ability. Hyperinsulinemia looks a likely candidate to as to some explanation of the reason why.

I am not opposed to convenience foods per se, but  firmly believe that processed and convenience has a price. Such foods are often conjured from starch, sugar, and fat with small amounts of more distinguished (and less cheap) ingredients, and short of supplying calorific content they have little other nutritional merit.

I eat grain, I love bread. In my condition I ought to eat less. My interpretation of convenience extends to include cereal grain and especially wheat. So I consider those first steps to grain cultivation as moves to convenience food. Grain is convenient because of calorific yield from the land. Grain is convenient as being energy dense permitting humankind to capitalise upon increased calorific reward from high GI food, and grain is convenient because it can be stored; it is so much less perishable that what came before. Refined wheat flour has a long shelf life. According to Taubes (2) mice will eat wheat grain but will stoically refuse to eat white flour. They clearly recognise something that we do not.

Not all grains are equal. Some could be substituted for wheat or rice consumption to good effect. I still like my bread, though.  I have been overweight for a large part of my adult life, and diagnosed diabetic for about 5/6 years. Enlightenment came to me a little late in life. I am losing weight even though I struggle to practice what I preach and I have so far avoided the necessity to medicate my diabetes.

(1) Ivan Crowe, The Quest For Food

(2) Gary Taubes, The Diet Delusion

Many books have contributed to my opinions. Dr John Briffa, The True You Diet and Baryy Sears, The 7 Day Zone diet catalysed a line of thought that took me a long way and continues to do so. Neil Shubin, Your Inner Fish contributed to my confidence in believing in the predictability of nature, Bruce Lipton, The Biology of Belief helped to cement the idea and expectation of pluralism inherent in nature. Other titles that may have some bearing upon this expression of views include Ungar & Teaford, Human Diet; Its’ Origin and Evolution, Lynn Margulis, The Symbiotic Planet, and Patrick Holford, 100% Heath. A presentation by Craig Sams entitled ‘Peak Oil, Peak Soil and Climate Change’  was the single most pragmatic and optimistic argument that I have been party to, ever.

The ideas expressed in this blog are subject to the laws of copywrite and the author reserves his rights in relation to these. Non of the content may be stored in a retrival system, copied or otherwise reproduced with the authors consent.


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