Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lustig, Sugar, Controversy

"Let me tell you what's happening. You're not a glutton. You're not a sloth. But if you eat a lot of carbohydrate or drink those sweetened drinks, the sugar makes your insulin shoot up. You know that ring around your neck? It means your body has chronically high insulin. That's not good. Insulin steals the energy from your blood and puts it into your fat. Say you eat 1,000 calories. Your insulin grabs 500 of those calories and stores them in your fat tissue. And guess what? You're still hungry and you feel tired."

Here's a guy who's so right, and so wrong:

"All health debacles were originally categorized as personal travails before they were declared public health issues," Lustig writes in FatChance. "What if our breakfast cereal was laced with heroin by some unscrupulous food company?" Whose fault would it be if people became addicted? "Isn't it the role of the government to protect us?" 

Lustig, and many Americans, don't make the basic connection that government is characterized by ineffectiveness, largely because government only has one tool - force backed by violence.  
Our government, in its zeal to protect us is killing us by advocating a diet that was not supported by science (high carb, high industrial seed oil, and until recently, high sugar).  In short (and I blog at length about government and liberty on my other blog, Apolloswabbie) when "we" allow governments to have the power requisite to "protect" us in the way that Lustig imagines, we ignore a fundamental reality - governments serve the politicians that run them, and their political aspirations, and sometimes by accident do us favors as well.  As Thomas Jefferson stated so eloquently, "The government that governs least governs best."

Back to the part that Lustig is right about: 
The event that sparked his insight: "In 1995, when Lustig was a pediatric endocrinology attending physician at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, a group of children with brain tumors set him on his career course. Lustig noticed that, after neurosurgery to remove the tumors, the children showed signs of hypothalamic obesity. Their hypothalamuses were damaged, and as a result their bodies started producing too much insulin. All became lethargic and fat. Then Lustig prescribed octreotide, a drug that blocks insulin. With no counseling or any effort at behavior modification, all of the children started eating less, moving more, and losing weight. According to Lustig, elated parents started calling him, saying, "I got my kid back!" 
A follow-up study, in 1998, showed that insulin suppression using the same medication caused weight loss in 20 percent of obese adults. Lustig concluded that adiposity-fatness-must stem from a hormonal problem, not a behavioral one. In other words, fat people eat too much and gain excess weight because chemical imbalances make them hungrier and lazier than they should be. These hormonal imbalances cause the behavior, not the other way around. So if you want to fix the behavior, you have to fix the biochemistry."
I think Lustig casting his eye towards government to "make it right" is ironic - he'll have far more success, far faster, using his knowledge to help the people directly. When half the population has figured out that sugar and fructose and these other beasts of "civilization" are killing us, government will come along for the ride.

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