Archive for December, 2009

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.