Daily Archives: November 25, 2012

Junk science about cane sugar

How could they tell I’d be so stupid?

Well it’s all junk food, so I suppose it deserves junk science but still, it’s disquieting to see so much nonsense prevalent in Greenwich – leaves not much hope for the less educated areas of the US. Greenwich mommies prefer cane sugar over high fructose syrup 575 – 1, according to a study I just made up. And they pay a premium to express that preference, even though there is zero, nada, no difference between sugar that comes from a test tube and that harvested by a sweaty exploited Cuban peasant.

Sugar cane sweetened sodas are becoming fashionable, mainly to avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which many claim is associated with obesity and increased cardiovascular risk. Jim Laidler did an excellent job reviewing this controversy two years ago on SBM. To me this represents a general tendency to try to understand a complex question by oversimplifying, specifically by avoiding perceived “villains.” It may seem overwhelming to grapple with all the complex information involved in basic dietary health choices, like which beverages are best. Following simple rules, such as avoiding single ingredients that are perceived to be “bad,” therefore has an appeal. I also think this is part of the appeal of the naturalistic fallacy, a simple litmus test to what is good vs bad.

A recent commentary in the International Journal of Obesity seeks to set the record straight with respect to HFCS. The authors point out that, in reality, there is very little difference between sucrose and HFCS. Sucrose is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. There are two main forms of HFCS in drinks and processed food: HFCS-42 and HFCS-55, indicating the percentage of fructose they contain. So one form has slightly less and the other slightly more fructose than sucrose. Available evidence indicates that this is not metabolically significant. In fact HFCS-55 is slightly sweeter than sucrose and so products with this sweetener may use less sweetener, and therefore contain fewer calories.

The authors write:

HFCS existed as a benign and essentially non-controversial product for over 35 years until 2004 when Bray, Nielsen and Popkin published a commentary suggesting a potential link between HFCS consumption and obesity.1 These authors buttressed their argument by charting the consumption of high fructose corn syrup along with the prevalence of obesity in the United States between 1970-2000,

And…

Later research showed that HFCS is not a unique cause of obesity (beyond the calories they contain), and there is no significant difference between the effect of different carbohydrate sweeteners on metabolism and weight gain. They also point out that there has been a lot of misleading research involving feeding animals a high carbohydrate diet consisting entirely of fructose, which cannot be extrapolated to HFCS consumption.

The scientific controversy is largely over. The Bray hypothesis, which was always weak, has not survived later research. But the meme that HFCS is harmful is out there, taking on a life of its own on the internet, and so the public controversy continues.

It’s astonishing to see Greenwich women (and it seems to be mostly women) who at least attended well-regarded colleges, stocking their carts with products they’ve selected on the basis of junk science or what their equally-ignorant pilates instructor has told them. Check it out, so to speak, and watch them buy homeopathic “remedies”, eschew cancer-causing plastic water bottles for glass, gluten-free Cheerios and a pack of Day’s Work (okay, maybe not this last item) and  stuff it all in filthy, germ-ridden organic hemp recycle bags, then carry it out into some of the most polluted air in the nation and drive it home in their Mercedes SUV. In so far as it implies even a faint stirring in the amygdala, cognitive dissonance is too kind a term for this behavior.

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Gideon accomplishes what I’ve been too lazy to do

Purveyor of fine toilet papers and suppositories

When he’s not selling (a lot of) real estate, brother Gideon likes to cruise the dump, looking for house warming gifts for his clients, and while leaving that fine Byram institution – why we don’t locate the new town pool there eludes me – took a picture of what has to be the ugliest new building in town, the 40th Greenwich CVS. His picture doesn’t do justice to the massive, awful design, but what camera could truly capture the entirety of its hideousness? This is truly a case of you have to see it to disbelieve it.

But Gid’s made a start and now inspired, I’ll try to swing by on my way to Walmart (I assume there’s one over there, somewhere) and try myself. In the meantime, Gideon’s made a damn good start.

UPDATE: In view of the conflicting comments by readers as to the merits of this building I thought I’d let the rest of you decide. Here are two before and after shots: you decide – my vote’s for “before”.

As originally designed

As built

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Hooray for Walmart

Now that he’s Governor and has new friends pay his expenses, former Walmart shopper Dan Malloy encourages higher prices for the poor

Retail is in the news because we’ve moved into the herd psychology/madness of the Christmas season and, naturally, the healthcare workers (???!!!) union is using this time of media attention to picket Walmart stores to demand that the workers be unionized. Just as unexpectedly, the media goes right along with this story line and gives the union free coverage, all in favor of the supposed rights of down trodden workers who, for some obscure reason, are too stupid to understand the benefits union membership alongside bedpan-emptyers and floor moppers could bring them.

Here’s the real story, courtesy of Peter Suderman:

1. Walmart’s customer base is heavily concentrated in the bottom income quintile, which spends heavily on food.

2.The bottom income quintile spends about 25 percent of income on food compared to just 3.5 percent for the top quintile.

3.So the benefits of Walmart’s substantially lower prices to the lowest earning cohort are huge, especially on food.

4. Obama adviser Jason Furman has estimated the welfare boost of Walmart’s low food prices alone is about $50b a year.

5.Walmart’s wages are about average for retail. Not amazing. But not the worst either.

6. Paying Walmart’s workers more would mean the money has to come from somewhere. But where?

7. Erase the Walmart CEO’s entire salary, and you can raise average hourly wages by just a penny or so.

9. Raise prices to pay for increased wages and you cut into the store’s huge low-price benefits for the poor. It’s regressive. [like all modern day liberal policies - Ed]

10. But what about Costco? They pay more, right? Yes, but it’s a different, smaller market.
11. Walmart’s average customer earns roughly $35k. Costco’s average customer earns about $75k.
12. Costco only has about half as many employees as Walmart. What would happen if Walmart adopted a Costco model and shrank to Costco size?

17. As for Walmart workers getting health benefits thru Medicaid, that’s due in part to a policy liberals argued for: wapo.st/axXXNE

UPDATE: What I said, but expressed in transitive logic: Liberals hate Walmart>> Walmart helps the poor=Liberals hate the poor.

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Anyone tried a Nest thermostat?

Better looking than (most of) your children, certainly, but is it any more productive?

The tech press has been raving about this energy-saving device since it came out a couple of years ago and the new improved model was released this past summer to even more favorable reviews but I haven’t seen one, let alone used it. It appears to be – brace yourself – a thermostat – but also a bit more because it learns your household’s living pattern – when does mom get up to make coffee before heading off to her charwoman duties, when does ol’ redundantized Dad roll off the sofa in the living room and leave for the unemployment office and when does he get back from the club bar, etc. – and automatically drops and lowers the house temperature accordingly.

Does this actually save money over manually doing the same thing yourself with a ten dollar device instead of a two hundred dollar one? Can it control a typical seven-zone Greenwich Maxipad? I have no clue, but if you care to share your experience with this thing, feel free to do so.

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