Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Diabetes Australia asked to see my junk

I started typing a post with a plan in my mind to take an approach I’d not seriously attempted before – to write about a topic without swearing, being sarcastic, negative and, basically, not being a complete smart arse. I figure that every now and then I should be brave and try out new things.

The topic was type 2 diabetes and how it related to the Australian dietary guidelines. I'm familiar with the guidelines because I had a fairly close look at them a couple of years ago and I knew there was no way the advice was appropriate for Type 2 diabetics. 

I thought the post was going quite well, but then I made the mistake of looking up the local diabetic authorities, Diabetes Australia, to see if they had anything to say that was different from the maniacs that publish the dietary guidelines. 

I soon found myself in a state of bewilderment. I was dumbfounded and stupefied, stunned to the point of confusion. The statements they made were figuratively hitting me in the face with repetitive accuracy and I was left punch drunk and staring off in to space. 

You see, visiting the DA website is like being at a social gathering and getting in to a conversation with someone, who on first impressions seems quite nice, but then out of nowhere they drop inappropriate comments one after the other: 
  • They bitch about “dark-skinned foreigners” moving in next door. 
  • They say Asylum seekers are all wealthy economic tourists that have come to steal our jobs and our women. 
  • They say starving kids in 3rd world countries should blame their parents for not having a decent job and providing better care and clean water.
  • They tell you a story about the time they performed an exorcism on their son after he announced he was gay. 
  • They blame his gayness on being circumcised by a male surgeon who wore an earring and looked a bit suss.
  • They ask me if I'm circumcised. 
  • And if I will prove it.
Imagine being a party to that conversation, and that's roughly the feeling I had as a visitor to the land of inappropriate advice. 

Suffice to say I gave up on my plan to be serious and curb the swearing, but I’ll post my attempt anyway and see if you can spot the point where I visited DA website.

Slow-moving authorities

Despite the so-called ‘epidemic’ of obesity and type 2 diabetes that has evolved over the last few decades, it is perhaps a little surprising that the subject of nutrition is still so divisive. Like religion and politics, views on what constitutes the path forward are diverse and tightly held on to. In a world where all the information is widely available to anyone with an internet connection, opinions change rarely, or not at all, and new ideas are labelled as dangerous fads that will never last or will simply make things worse.

Perhaps the most resistant to change are the nutritional authorities themselves, who, after at least 30 years of proclaiming the same solution, and finding ourselves with the opposite of what was promised, are left with nothing but the claim that humans are lazy gluttons who decided all those years ago to stop listening to sound advice.

There are not many other fields where an authority would dare claim something so obviously ridiculous. Any competent institution that proclaimed to hold the ultimate truth on how to swim, would logically change their advice if a significant percentage of their customers drowned or failed to tread water without placing floaties around their arms. To not do so would be inherently unconscionable.

Given the polarised beliefs on nutrition and the overarching Government-authorised advice that remains unmoved, let’s instead look for what can be agreed upon and go from there. I am not diabetic, that I know of, and I'm clearly not a biochemist, so what follows is a lay-person's simplistic summary of a very complex and multifaceted process.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes (T2D), the non-genetic version that used to be called ‘adult-onset’ diabetes, is now presenting itself in children. Type 2 diabetics have an increased risk of heart disease, organ failure, dementia and circulation problems that can lead to drastic surgery such as amputation. It is clearly a condition a sane person would choose to avoid.

Looking at T2D from a very high and simplistic level – it is essentially a condition where the human body is failing to normalise blood sugar levels. This happens, in part, because the body's cells have become resistant to the hormone insulin. 

Insulin and Glucagon are the two key hormones that play vital roles in regulating blood sugar. Glucagon, secreted by pancreatic cells and also the stomach, ensures blood sugar levels do not get too low. Low blood sugar is not a good thing, clearly, because if it gets too low, you will drop dead. No joke. 

Insulin, secreted by the pancreas, has the opposite effect, suppressing glucagon and ensuring the removal of glucose from the bloodstream, delivering it to the cells that require it for energy, or storing it for later use.

If the blood stream is subjected to regular high levels of glucose, the pancreas tries to keep up by producing more insulin, but eventually the body’s cells say “sorry, I'm not listening any more” and become what is referred to as ‘insulin resistant’. 

Due to the inability of insulin and glucagon to play the game they were designed to play, the blood glucose levels remain high and you end up with T2D.

So you now have a typical Type 2 diabetic, whose body has almost given up on trying to clear glucose from their bloodstream. Clearly they would benefit from reducing the intake of foods that result in increased glucose in their blood stream. This is not just my opinion, it is both logical and reasonable.

You are not what you eat...but

You are not what you eat, but if you you base your diet on food that breaks down into glucose and then wallows in your blood stream, you are in dire need of a diet adjustment. So, what are the nutrients that break down into glucose? Common table sugar is the most obvious answer, but what about on a higher level, the macronutrients of protein, fat and carbohydrate? 

Protein can be broken down into glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis. Digested fat, despite what a lot of people seem to think, won't magically move from your stomach to your arteries, rather it is broken down into fatty acids and glycerol. Eating fat does not make you fat, but that's a whole other story.

Carbohydrates of any kind, be they bread, table sugar, pasta, wholegrains, beans, fruit – will all break down into glucose in the blood stream. There are no exceptions, that is what happens.

Of all the macronutrients, dietary fat, is clearly not the enemy of Type 2 diabetics.

Advice for Type 2 Diabetics.

Given the simplicity of this overview, and trying to ignore all of your pre-existing ideas on what is 'healthy food', what do you think the nutritional authorities recommend that type 2 diabetics eat? 

Pretend you are now an expert (go on, I do it all the time and it's loads of fun) - what would you personally suggest that a T2D eat to minimise the glucose that enters their blood stream after a meal? 

Would your advice involve eating meals that comprise at least 60% carbohydrates

A yes or no answer, please. There is no room for discussion of what you think are healthy/complex/low-glycemic carbohydrates. Remember they all end up as glucose and we’re talking about a person who’s internal organs are not coping well with glucose.

Put another way, would you recommend to your friend or family member, people you love, that despite their inability to metabolise this sugar, that they eat food that is going to increase their blood sugar levels, exacerbate their condition and make them sicker?

Of course you wouldn't. Just like you wouldn't hand your lactose-intolerant child a chocolate milkshake or a bowl full of cheese. Or your celiac child a bowl full of weetbix. It makes no sense.

I'm not advocating a diet totally void of carbohydrates, that clearly doesn't suit a lot of people. But there is a world of difference between restricting carbohydrates and basing your diet on them.

This is what the Australian national body for diabetes infor…oh,...wow.
Lower in what?

I'm confused. If only a quarter of  your plate is carbohydrates, and fat is to be avoided, diabetics need to eat at least 70% protein?

Note the last sentence - that is clearly sound advice, because your brain would die a horrible death without the goodness of carbohydrates.

Holy fucking crap
It's a 'fact', but curiously, also incorrect that you must be fat to get T2D.

And from the Queensland diabetic website:
Christ on a bike, what the hell are these people on?
Timmy says too much sugar does not equal "a poor diet"

All this madness makes me very glad I do not have diabetes, and equally glad I have a functioning brain to be able to immediately see that the authorities' advice amounts to one massive pile of steaming vegan shit.

Which leads to the equally sad and bizarre situation that Jennifer Elliot finds herself in.

Summary

I am not a doctor, biochemist or Associate Professor in Nutrition like young Timmy Crowe, so please do not take your advice from me. If you are keen to avoid developing type 2 diabetes, and who isn't, please research the facts, compare those facts with what your doctor or diabetic expert is advising, and act accordingly. 

My brains hurts. It must be craving more glucose.


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Learning from mistakes and making criminals pay

Although the finance world is an interest of mine, I don’t write about it often because it usually makes me angry and I feel like a raving loon, someone sane but who claims to have been locked up in the asylum due to a clerical error. Today’s rant is long, but ultimately therapeutic, and that's all that matters to me. There are a few links toward the bottom that are probably more interesting than the blog post, so if you are looking for something worthwhile to read, I suggest you go there.

An analogy

Imagine that you buy a very expensive fishing boat.  You take out a sizeable loan to do so, one that you can afford to repay, IF you catch enough fish. The boat runs beautifully for a while, but the maintenance costs are much more than you expected and the fish are proving elusive. You refinance your loan and you max out every credit card you can get your hands on, stretching the truth on the application forms because you’re certain that things will get better soon.

The fish come back on the bite for a while and you pay off some of the credit cards, but then a crew-member drowns at sea and you can’t give his family the payout they are owed because you stopped paying insurance premiums ages ago - you couldn't afford not to.

You realise you’re in deep shit, so you go see your mate from school who’s now an acclaimed economist. He tells you that debt is nothing to worry about – he urges you to take out another loan, wherever and however you can get it from – the money will provide stimulus for your business and you can repay the debt when times are good.

You follow his advice, not just once, but 3 or 4 times over the next 5 years, because surely a profitable year is just around the corner.  Fish and profits don’t materialise, but what does is a significant injection of funds from the Government. As it happens, your deckhand knows someone with influence and a stimulus program is kick-started to help out struggling businesses like yours. The money is paid to you in the form of an interest free loan.

You use the money to buy 3 more boats because more boats in the water = more fish = more profits, right? But luck is not on your side because somewhere along the way, new competition enters the industry – cashed up computer programmers, tired of scamming the stock-markets, have come for a bit of a laugh and to make some money in seafood. They have designed algorithms and equipment that allow them to see and catch the fish before you do and take more than their quota without the authorities knowing. The Department of Fisheries is either too incompetent, corrupt or powerless to intervene.

In the ten years since you started the business, your debts now outweigh your assets by about 5 to 1 and you've been effectively trading insolvent for the last 5 years.

What do you do? Do you:

(a) default on your loans, declare bankruptcy, dissolve the business, and start again from scratch; or
(b) borrow, beg and steal more money to keep the business going.

I'm not a huge fan of analogies because, on close inspection, they often turn out to be stupid nonsense. The mangled one I just created is probably in that same category, but it’s the best I could come up with to describe my view of the current economic environment. You might argue that you can’t apply personal finance scenarios to the macroeconomic environment – but I just have, so there.

Personally, there’s not a chance in hell that I’d choose (b), subject myself to more stress and pain, and then pass on the debts and crippled business to my children, hoping that maybe one day my great, great, great-grandchildren will get something out of it. I made the mistakes and had the bad luck, so I would take the hit to my pride and move on.

More specifically, my opinion of what is going on, can be summarised as: 
  • There are many countries that have taken on debt they have no chance of paying off, or will take generations to do so;
  • Their central banks and Governments are of the mistaken belief that they can fix their economies by interfering.
  • A lot of people seem to think this interference will be successful.
  • Printing money, keeping interest rates at low levels or zero, selling bonds and bailing out banks is a foolish and ultimately doomed exercise.
  • Nothing has been learned from the 2007-08 crisis because the bankers are still rich, none of them are in jail and they are still playing the same games with ordinary people’s lives.
Stock markets are not efficient at the best of times, but especially not when they are being tampered with. “Fair value” means absolutely nothing if Central Banks are creating an environment where returns on conservative investments like cash are not keeping up with inflation. Investors are forced to put their personal and retirement savings in riskier assets to get returns that are better than “bugger all” - they are taking on risk they would otherwise avoid.

Throw in to the mix: 
  • high frequency traders manipulating markets;
  • the investment banks with their ‘dark pools’ and immoral and illegal conduct;
  • the impotent or incompetent regulators;
  • Governments that believe the bankruptcy of a large investment bank will prove catastrophic, but do nothing to reduce their size and power;
  • legal systems that make it too hard or too costly to imprison the psychopaths that run the banks;
and you get a system that is clearly broken and that only operates to make the divide between rich and poor, wider.

This broken system is being injected with adrenalin and kept on life support in the hope that the heart beat will miraculously kick back in to gear by itself. Or at least survive so long that, the puppet masters get so ridiculously rich and filter those riches into untouchable tax dodges, it doesn't matter.

Meanwhile the pawns and the mainstream media think – “things have been bad for so long, surely good times are just around the corner. Surely enough stimulus has been pumped in to have an effect.”

Whether the people in power truly believe the world would come to an end if a few ‘too big to fail’ corporations went bust, I don’t know, but from an observers’ point of view – investment bankers have done very well out of the decision to bail them out, the commoner in the street, not so much.

Considering the devastating effect that the financial crisis of 2007 and beyond had and is still having, and the obvious involvement (via incompetence, underhandedness or both) of the banks, that no-one of significance was given jail time is just plain ludicrous. It defies belief, and yet the mainstream media rarely think it worth a mention. They’re too busy writing bullshit articles about whether some stooge that runs the Federal Reserve will or won’t raise interest rates.

Spoiler alert – it doesn't matter what the Fed do, the markets will find some way of interpreting the decision to be “good news for stocks”, or “news so bad, more stimulus is required…which is good for stocks”.

When the “most powerful man in the world” stands by and allows the rich to keep taking and the poor to keep suffering, what hope is there? When this celebrity President gives the role of Attorney General to a banker lawyer by the name of Eric Holder, who then proceeds to facilitate the non-jailing of all the financial crisis criminals, and then calmly returns to the cesspool from which he came, how is that in any way logical, just or sane?

I think a rude shock is coming, but I've been thinking that for years, and like a broken clock, I’ll probably be ‘correct’ eventually, even though I've been wrong for quite a while. It doesn't really matter and I will get no joy from it, because by not learning from the last shock, I think “they” will make the same mistakes again. It certainly won’t be the rich people paying for it. They never do.

Here's a thought - let the banks fail. Jail the perpetrators and take their ill-gotten riches. Start from scratch, if necessary. What's the worst that could happen? 
The earth will still rotate
The animals won't give a shit
and I will still have very ugly feet.





Thursday, 10 September 2015

Reminiscing in a forest of paper

I didn't enjoy school – high school was painful and university was worse ‘cause I had no friends, but I'm generally a poor student because, as far as I'm aware, no-one hands out Masters Degrees in Procrastination. 

My lack of talent in schooling is possibly why I've not visited a library often in the last decade or so - it brings back memories of trying to stay awake while throwing together assignments that I've had months to write, but could never muster enough motivation to do properly. I left with the piece of paper that I sought and paid dearly for, so the fact that I learned bugger all is probably irrelevant. 

Even though book shops are pretty much extinct these days, everything is within a few taps of the keyboard anyway.

Or so I thought.

I was married 15 years ago at our Parliament building, which is down the road a bit from where I work.
The House where the Arseclowns live
On a quest to catch a bit of Vitamin D, I wandered over to reminisce about being young and care free and found myself in the building’s State Library instead. The scent of stale paper filled my nostrils, the familiar sight of hippy-looking professional academics made me smile, and I found myself just a little excited at being there because I wanted to be, not because I had to be.

There were walls of books on every conceivable topic, that I could pick up, hold in my hand, and flip the pages of without using a mouse. 
Is there an answer lurking in there somewhere?
They even had a science fiction section:

It made me feel good and I could have stayed there for hours, but I was running out of time and still wanted to get to my intended destination. 
Still the same, just missing the 20-something beautiful couple
The books will still be there tomorrow.

Monday, 7 September 2015

The Sugar Coated Sugar Conspiracy

There is a newish documentary out that you might want to take a squiz at. It's called "Sugar Coated" in Canada, where it was produced, but SBS in Australia apparently decided that wasn't edgy enough.

I don't know if they have country restrictions on viewing, but if not or you have a VPN, you can find it here just search for "sugar conspiracy".

Robert Lustig features fairly prominently- I haven't been exposed to much of his stuff, but I understand he's fairly polarizing.

Yoni Freedhoff and Gary Taubes make a few appearances and while the beginning is fairly standard in terms of outlining the history, mentioning Keyes and Yudkin, there are some interesting insights into the Canadian authorities and the Obesity Summit of 2013.

Instead of bashing Keyes, Fred Stare from Harvard is painted as chief psychopath in this story, and it sounds like he deserves it. Look out for John Sievenpiper - I've seen him before in something but he strikes me as interesting. Money before morals type of bloke, but obviously talented at his job.

Cristin Kearns is someone I hadn't seen before. I had this nagging suspicion that she may have some input into Taube's upcoming book, but I could be talking out of my arse on that one.

Sugar Coated felt a little unfinished and was fairly vague in parts, although it was presented in a form easily digestible for the average personOne thing I noticed with this and The Sugar Film is that they are very careful not to promote fat, only referring to "real food". Which is only smart, I guess. I can imagine blasting sugar and praising fat at the same time might lead to a viewers' reaction on par with what would have happened if the lead character in the Crying Game saw the penis and then was told it belonged to his long lost half brother. 

Too shocking to believe, perhaps.

I found the trailer on youtube, with a very amusing fella commenting underneath. 

Going by his profile, Mr Kingsmill really really really likes trains.


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Food reward plus more insanity in the fridge

I eat quite a bit of dark (85%) chocolate. Combined with almonds or macadamias, it makes for a tasty and rewarding snack. 

I also like salt. It's like butter in that it goes with pretty much everything you can put in your mouth. 

A little while ago I had the brilliant idea to steal an idea from the internet and combine all these delicious things together in the one, readily digestible form. I turned out well. A bit too well.

Chocolate, butter, macadamias and rock salt make for some serious food reward. 


Looks a little disgusting. Tastes the opposite.
I couldn't eat it all in one go, but the 100g block of chocolate that would normally last almost a week, was through my digestive system in a matter of 3 days. It was almost enough to make me consciously cut back on other calories. I haven't done it again, but it's tempting.

To venture off in the opposite direction, I happened to find a curious item for sale in the meat section of the local shop the other day. (speaking of which, our major supermarkets have recently started selling lard again. Woo-hoo, a win for the whiney fat-lovers!) I'm a keen observer of the fascinating methods butchers use to entice consumers, but this was something breathtakingly bold. And profoundly sad at the same time.
Well, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?
This package of sadness, at $45 a kilo, cost almost $7 for 2 mouthfuls of lamb. It was so heartbreaking I had to laugh to ward off the tears that I felt brewing. 

Not really, real men born before 1990 don't cry. Not in public and certainly not in the fridge. But what was the butcher thinking? I am reluctant to brush it off as some wet-behind-the-ears apprentice, too naive to realise that his/her profession is supposed to value and treasure animal products, because what I thought was a one-off mistake earlier this year, is now obviously the norm:
Lamb. With or without flavour.
This outrage and sadness is not about charging $9 per kilo more for taking most of the deliciousness and goodness from a meal. Actually it is, a bit, but it's also about the humans who consciously pay more for an inferior product.

I don't care about the people who pay for soy products because they are clearly unstable, and as far as I'm aware, soy production doesn't involve raising a lovely animal then throwing its edible bits away because of all sorts of unAustralian insanity. 

Stop the madness. Say NO to 'extra trim' anything.