24 thoughts on “Missing Link Friday – DIY edition

  1. I don’t read any other blogs but here is something I have been looking at – the relation of diet to heart disease.

    Can it be true that cholesterol is not related to heart disease? See a short video at:


    Is there no evidence to link saturated (animal) fats with heart disease? That couldn’t possibly be true, could it? Denmark has just legislated to tax saturated fats extra. At:


    we read:

    “In 2010, a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies supported by the National Dairy Council including 348,000 subjects found no statistically significant relationship between cardiovascular disease and dietary saturated fat.”

    Do Cholesterol lowering drugs (statins) achieve nothing except cognitive damage as these skeptics claim?


  2. Mike
    From what I have read the relation of fat to heart disease is complex and contested, some animal fats are actually very good ( the fats in animals that have eaten a lot of seaweed, for one example) on the other hand some vegetable fats especially synthetically manipulated vegetable oils – often eaten in combination with lots of refined carbohydrates – are bad.
    Cholesterol is synthesized by the body. The ability of diet to change cholesterol levels ,out side of a small percentage of women, has never been well established.

    There are also two types of cholesterol one type is good , the other is not good.

    Eating lots of refined carbohydrates and lack of exercise ! is much more of a provenobesity/diabetes/cardiovascular problem .

  3. Pedro, thanks for the link.

    Interesting. Perhaps I’m reading it too critical, but it seems to be a bit of a ‘gotcha’ article. Krugman and the guys who wrote the original article tell essentially the same story but disagree somewhat on its moral.

    The significance of that?

    Still I was intrigued by one comment ‘the distinction between “fiscal policy” and “monetary policy” is illusory.’ This may be code for some agenda, I’m not sure, but it’s still worth pondering.

  4. Mike

    this might be of interest

    Obesity expert: Sugar is toxic and should be regulated – opinion – 28 September 2011 – New Scientist

    The Obsession with saturated/animal fat goes back to some studies in the late fifties , it has always had a lot of contradictions and weird outcomes. To give an example Goose fat is 80% monounsaturated (about the same as olive oil) whereas palm oil is a very saturated fat thus chips cooked in palm oil are vegetarian – Good?_ where as potatoes and garlic cooked in goose fat are… Bad?

  5. I thought it a bit of a gotcha, which is unfair because there is no rule that one must take all of the lessons out of an example. I read the Krugman essay yonks ago so am running from memory, and I don’t think his point is refuted. But there seemingly is more too it and the story is interesting as an example of macro effects in a simple economic system. I don’t think Krugman would have any reason to whinge about gotcha elements.

    John W, I’ve been watching the sugar story since one of my best mates started getting heart problems. Now that the Danes have imposed the fat tax, we will have a new blizzard of potentially very dangerous emphasis on fat. Given the media and political attention span sugar will continued to be ignored.

    I used to support the Heart Foundation but ditched them because of their failure to tackle sugar with the tick program.

  6. Pedro
    ‘Sugar’ is a contested area but the demographics are strong; nowhere on this planet is there a population that eats a lot of sugar and is healthy. It might well be a canary rather than a cause – it is strongly linked to ‘cultural’ poverty for example- but the evidence of a biological link is convincing to me, however my brother in law , a biochemist, is more skeptical.

    Another example of how weird the ‘fat’ stuff can get is this; an egg is high in fat but an egg weighs about 50 grams , total fat in an egg is about 5grams, of which about 4 grams is saturated I.e eating an egg = consuming less saturated fat than is on many a piece of toast and marge.

    One thing that there is no question about, is that sugar and ‘palm’ oil are much cheaper ingredients than ‘real’ food; a manufactured ‘food’ that proclaims “98% fat free” and does not mention that it is bulked out with 30% cheap sugar is a scam , misleading advertising and very profitable = very addictive for the industry .

  7. Thanks for the link John. The man says: “You can make dog poop taste good with enough sugar. In essence, that is what the food industry has done.”

    That site links to his video which is utterly persuasive:

    The video is an hour-and-a-half and is in part very bio-technical. A couple of his points:

    High fructose corn syrup, which since the 1970s is in practically everything, is sweeter than sugar and half the price. The body has no satiety (negative feedback) mechanism for fructose.

    Fructose has the same effect on the liver as ethanol – a can of soft drink is the same as a can of beer and generates the same fat. Result: obesity epidemic.

    Coke contains fructose, salt and caffeine. The caffeine makes you pee, the salt makes you thirsty. The fructose disguises the salt.

  8. Mike
    Caution , the claims are contested , particularly the linking of fructose to metabolic disorder(and ‘effects on the liver’) is not totally proven.

  9. Thanks Mike,

    the video was great. In my ignorant opinion of this whole debate, the main thing you can do is not eat too much (there are lots of nasty interactions that only occur in the overweight). Alternatively, I don’t believe the fructose stuff in terms of things not to do with weight gain — many long distance athletes eat tons of the stuff and this has been true for probably 30 years (its in most sports drinks), but there’s no reports of them being terribly afflicted with metabolic problems.

  10. Actually, I had another thought about the video — a lot of it was to do with things that make you hungry or suppress your hunger, but I wonder to what extent people’s eating is governed by this. Most people I know (including myself), tend to eat at regular intervals even if not hungry and simply eat everything on their plate, so presumably the number of calories people eat are at least in part determined by this rather than just hunger. I wonder what the balance is.

  11. “eat at regular intervals even if not hungry and simply eat everything on their plate” have read that we have a sort of preset body image of what is our ‘appropriate ‘ size that is very hard to change.

  12. There’s a complication with the thesis that the post-1970s anti-fat campaign has been counter-productive.

    It is well-known that this obesity epidemic much more strongly afflicts the lower socio-economics. These are not the sort of people who listen to official dietary advice. The middle class, on the other hand, heard the anti-fat story clearly and obeyed – yet did not get fat.

    So it must be that the low SEs listened to the TV ads and trotted off to McDonalds (who did not exist 40 years ago) and McDonalds did listen to officialdom and substituted sugar for fat (so Lustig said in the video) to give their stuff some flavour. The middle class listened to officialdom and moderately cut their fats but did not go near McD but instead ate grilled fish and went on eating the veggies they had always known were good for them. So perhaps they did not need to compensate for loss of fat flavour. Moreover, the middle class has always known that sugar is bad. Apart from anything else it tastes good which itself makes it bad to the extent we are a Lake Wobegon, Protestant society. Also the same middle class would, like Conrad, eat regularly and consider it sinful to eat between meals.

    Or could it all be in the lolly-water? Might it be simply that the slobs drink more soft drinks (without the sport) than they did in the past and the middle-classes don’t?

  13. Mike question the middle class did not get ‘fat’ idea it might be better to say that they did not get as obese ; I live in a town half way from Canberra to the coast many of the large people outside the bakery do not look that poor.

  14. High fructose corn syrup, which since the 1970s is in practically everything, is sweeter than sugar and half the price.

    It’s only in everything in the USA, and then it’s only because of US government restrictions on imported sugar and subsidies to the corn industry.

    In Australia we still mostly use sucrose, because we do not have a fructose industry, but we do have a sugar cane industry.

    Sugar Cane in Australia is worth about $2 billion per year as opposed to Corn which is only grown for kernels and worth around $7 million per year.

    And yet we still have plenty of fatties in Australia, so I don’t think we can blame fructose for everything just yet. The more obvious difference between now and 50 years ago is that a much larger percentage of people are not involved in manual labor because of mechanisation and a shift to a service-based economy.

  15. Yobbo, that’s informative, but still blame the fructose. The lecture video explains that both corn syrup and sucrose are 50-50 glucose and fructose. “High fructose corn syrup” is a mixture but sucrose is a compound which has a bond connecting the fructose molecule with the glucose molecule. He said the stomach instantly dissolves this molecular bond making the sucrose metabolically the same as HFCS.

    So the corn syrup per se is something of a red herring. The alleged basic mechanism remains: propaganda against fat resulted in replacement of fat with sugar. Of the sugar, it is the fructose which is the baddie. Just looked at Helga’s mixed grain bread (you can tell I am middle class) and it says that in 100gm there is 2.8gm of fats (saturated less than 1gm) and 2.5gm of sugars. Have they replaced shortening with sugar compared with the good old days? I haven’t a clue.

    Mechanisation means less manual labour – okay but it is not 50 years; it’s 30 years and kids are fat. Kids are sitting in front of computers, I suppose. But kids are getting “adult onset diabetes.” It would be interesting to know if the diabetes is statistically biased to working class kids. Also the middle class isn’t affected by mechanisation. They weren’t fat and they still aren’t fat. (Relatively, John. I said lower socio-economic to be polite. I should have said working class for you are right: they aren’t that poor – though I’m not sure you can tell just by looking. Braidwood? Cold hole. I have many times stopped to buy a meat pie at one of those bakeries.)

    No TimT, to the Puritan the pleasures of the flesh are intrinsically sinful. It is a distraction to base earthly things taking the mind from higher, heavenly issues.

  16. Mike- Some of the cars they are getting out of are really not cheap … but what is class these days?. ‘Cold hole’ I Like the cold … but there is a lot of insanity in braidwood.

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