Tag Archives: high fructose corn syrup

Friday Linkage 3/13/2015

Things are going to be on hiatus for a while during my vacation, which begins about lunchtime today. Later.

On to the links…

Here’s What Gas Would Have To Cost To Account For Health And Environmental Impacts—If gasoline prices had to account for externalities it would cost an additional $3.80 per gallon. That would make a gallon of gas here in eastern Iowa cost ~$6.25. Seems about right.

The World Added 51,477 Megawatts of Wind Power in 2014—That total number represents a 44% increase over the prior year.

US Solar PV Installations Surpassed 6 GW In 2014—If you could not tell I have a hard jones for solar. It looks like the rest of the U.S. is catching on to my solar love.

Solar and Wind on Track to Dominate New U.S. Power Capacity in 2015—2014 was a good year, but 2015 may be even better. The climate change deniers and fossil fuel flunkies can harp about solar panels and wind turbines being for the hair shirt crowd…it does not matter. The market is speaking. I love that invisible hand.

US PV Installations Predicted To Pass 8 GW in 2015—Every time you see a headline the numbers for installations are bigger. It’s like a snowball rolling downhill and picking up some wicked speed.

Solar System Pricing Dropped By 9% In 2014—Almost a 10% drop in one year! Talk about bending the cost curve downward.

Solar As Cheap As Coal… Why Not Cheaper?—Balance of system costs and “soft” costs are keeping the price of solar systems higher than need be. If the cost curve for these other costs were matching the cost curve for panels solar systems would be way cheap.

Hawaii Ready for 100% Renewable Energy—I am a big Hawaii fan. If my family would allow it I would sell all of my stuff and move to the islands tomorrow. It’s also a great laboratory for what the future of renewable energy in the U.S. looks like. Now, if I could just find some of that Hawaiian Sun here on the mainland.

New York Just Showed Every Other State How to Do Solar Right—Public policy is not the most exciting topic to wade through, but small changes can have dramatic impacts on markets. Since most utilities are regulated as public concerns there is a great amount of influence that policy can have on their behavior.

You Can Now Invest In Solar Bonds Through Your Retirement Account—If you thought public policy was boring wait until you wade into the world of IRA options and plan construction. However, trillions of dollars are stashed in these funds so it is a huge potential source of funding for the solar industry if “solar bonds” can become a trusted investment grade vehicle.

Solar Power To Form 25% Of India’s Installed Power Capacity By 2022—India, a rapidly growing emerging economy, is doubling down on renewables, particularly solar, like a riverboat gambler with a hot hand.

Non-Fossil Fuel Sources Provide 25% of China’s Electricity—China’s air may be a mess and the country is still a totalitarian state, but they are trying.

Ghana Increases Levy On Petroleum Products To Fund Solar Power Projects—This is a wonderful piece of policy and something I wish the U.S. would adopt. Tax fossil fuels to fund the development of renewables. It would never happen here because of big money influence. You go Ghana.

Documents Detail Sugar Industry Efforts To Direct Medical Research—As if you needed more proof that the industrial giants behind sugar and process foods were manipulating health officials, doctors, and governments. Well, here you go.

Perennial Rice: In Search of a Greener, Hardier Staple Crop—Perennial rice seems like a great idea as it avoids the destructive process of planting, but critics point to lower yields. It’s an interesting scientific pursuit.

The True Energy Savings of Living Sustainably—I have not posted an infographic in a while and thought this one uses British pounds as a currency you can do the math to figure out what the savings would be:

MillerHomes_Infographic2015

Advertisements

The Many Evil Faces of Added Sugar

Start talking about added sugar, without even getting into the differences on a biochemical level of fructose versus other sugars, and the rebuttal is likely to be, “But fruit has sugar.” At the most base level this argument is true and, in fact, fruit contains the very sugar type—fructose—that appears to be the source of our dietary ills.

An apple, according to data sources that I averaged across the internet, will contain approximately 65 Calories, 13 grams of sugar in the form of fructose, and 3 grams of dietary fiber. Compare that with a twelve ounce can of Coca-Cola which has 143 Calories, 40 grams of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup, and no dietary fiber. Here it is in a simple chart form:

Apple Chart

Sure, fructose is contained within the natural sugar of an apple in roughly the same proportion as it would be in a can of Coca-Cola. However, to get the same amount of fructose as the Coca-Cola you would need to eat three entire apples. On par, you would still be slightly ahead because the apple contains dietary fiber and other nutrients beneficial to the body’s function. Your mother was right about soda being just a bunch of empty calories.

Not that I would suggest undertaking this experiment, but drink an entire can of Coca-Cola and tell me how you feel. Do the same thing with three apples and tell me how you feel. I am certain that there will be major differences in satiation. Three average apples will fill your belly with approximately 35% of your daily requirement. It’s not a pound of Brussels sprouts, but it will get your insides a moving if you know what I mean.

There is a problem in demonizing an entire category of nutrients. If you say fat is bad then you ignore the beneficial fats. If you say carbohydrates are bad then you have dismissed a key source of the body’s energy system. You get the idea.

Within those broad categories, however, there can be bad actors. All fats are not bad, but trans-fats might as well be the Red Skull of the nutritional world. Seriously, when have either the Red Skull or trans-fats done something good?

It’s the same way with carbohydrates and, specifically, sugars. If our body is capable of registering the calories from a sugar—i.e. every sugar except for fructose—than it has a role to play in our nutrition. Fructose, in the form added to our food, is a bad actor because it screws with our bodies in a myriad of ways.

It looks like the experts are finally getting on the “added sugar is pretty bad” bandwagon.  And maybe that egg yolk won’t kill you after all.

You Must Read—Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World

Soda—or pop if you are of that persuasion—is a well-known public health enemy. It delivers a powerful one two punch of empty calories and a lot of sugar. The consumption of soda in the United States has risen dramatically since World War II. Take for example the average size of a soda bottle. Before the 1950s the standard container size was ~6.5 ounces. You know, those little glass Coke bottles that everyone tries to find in antique stores. Contrast that with today’s 12 ounce cans and 20 ounce bottles, which are considered single servings by everyone but government nutritionists.

9781613747223But, how did soda get to be such a big deal? Rather than spend more than two hundred pages demonizing an industry that has more than its share of detractors Tristan Donovan chronicles the rise of the soda giants in Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World.

While there are other major soda players there is one name that essentially defines the category: Coca-Cola. The Atlanta, Georgia-based company has become the proxy for all discussions about soda and this is for good reason. It’s marketing tactics have defined the category for the better part of eighty or more years coinciding with the introduction of the now-famous Santa Claus ads by Haddon Sundblom. It’s distribution channel is the model favored by the industry. It’s global reach and global brand identity are nearly unmatched anything outside of national governments. Heck, I bet there are corners of the globe where the Coca-Cola logo is more recognizable than the American flag.

The story is interesting because in many ways soda should have been a victim of World War II. Rationing of sugar and the lack of proper substitutes—high fructose corn syrup would not be available to soda makers until later—should have crippled the industry and taken the brand images outside of the consideration set of the world population. However, Coca-Cola allied itself quite amazingly with the U.S. military and, by extension, the victories of the U.S. military. Soldiers on battlefields across Europe and the Southeast Asia came to see a bottle of Coca-Cola as a piece of home and by permission of the U.S. military Coca-Cola was going to provide those bottles. It also helped that the U.S. military helped the company build bottling plants to supply soldiers all over the world and when the soldiers went home those plants supplied the populations left behind. I am sure that if you asked an official historian there would be little mention of this nice government subsidy in the history of the company.

More frightening, in my opinion, than anything else is just how pervasive soda has become in our modern lives. Take for example:

  • Soda now comprises approximately 9% of our daily caloric intake in the U.S. up from 4% in the 1970s
  • Children get nearly 11% of their daily caloric intake from soda or other sugar drinks

It’s easy to see how this has become such a problem. Think about how close the nearest soda is to you right now. If a soda is not in your refrigerator or on your desk, how far away is a vending machine or location that sells soda? I am guessing that within a few minute walk everyone who will ever read this blog has access to a Coke. I have been on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert and seen a small refrigerated case with the familiar red and white logo. About the only place I can remember being free of western soda brands was Cuba. Soda was still present, but just not the familiar brands back home.

But the health impacts of this sweet obsession are equally appalling:

  • If you regularly consume 1 or 2 cans of soda per day you have a 26% greater risk of developing Type II diabetes as opposed to a person who rarely consumes soda
  • In men, a 1 can a day habit has been shown to raise the risk of heart disease by 20%

A lot of these debilitating effects can be traced back to sugar and HFCS, which has for the most part supplanted real sugar in soda in the U.S. Don’t believe me? Read David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison.

Tristan Donovan’s Fizz is an excellent way to gain an understanding about how a sugary drink became such an integral part of our social and economic fabric.

You Must Read—Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat

There’s nothing wrong with being in the business of selling products that every human on the planet is hardwired to consume. The difference between sugar and tobacco is that the sugar industry has us all convinced it is our fault we’re fat, not theirs. [Page 192]

Sometimes you read a book and, while it is not particularly enjoyable, it leads you to another book that is truly profound. Recently, I struggled through Year of No Sugar: A Memoir by Eve Schaub. The concept was interesting, but the tone was liberal, privileged, and preachy. If you have ever watched an episode of The Goode Family you know exactly what I mean.

9780718179076However, that tome led me to David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat. The author is an Australian lawyer, IT professional, consultant, and person who generally struggled with his weight following college like so many of us do. Working out and dieting did not work, so he set out to figure out what was structurally wrong with our food system.

Why is this a structural problem? If left to our own devices the human body will naturally tell us that we are full. However, we are very fat as a species and getting fatter. Why is such a beautifully engineered machine as the human body being subverted and making us fat? Sugar. More specifically, fructose. Our bodies, for some evolutionary reason, do not register calories consumed via fructose. Thus, we will continue to eat until we consume enough non-fructose calories.

Throughout most of human history this was not a problem because sugar was rare and expensive. The few pieces of ripe fruit, which also contain a lot of fiber, were not enough to upset the delicate balance our bodies orchestrate. Modern society has destroyed all of this by making fructose cheap and nearly ubiquitous.

Gillespie’s real triumph in this book is laying out the biochemical process in a clear, easy to understand way—trust me, biochemists and doctors are not known for writing accessible prose—that lays bare the fundamental failure of our modern food system.

You want to know how messed up the system is? We subsidize corn that is used to make high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that is essentially killing us. If you live in the corn belt—like me here in Iowa—envision about half of the fields of corn being used to make HFCS. That is the scale of the problem. This is why it is a structural problem.

Furthermore, the problem is structural because foods that are not normally considered sweet—bread, cereal, etc.—have become veritable minefields of sugar laden pseudo-foods. Take a moment and consider the cereals we consider acceptable for breakfast. How are Lucky Charms, Trix, Fruity Pebbles, or anything similar considered anything but an occasional dessert instead of a breakfast cereal? No wonder we are fat. If you start the day off with one of these fructose bombs you might as well just schedule your trip to the endocrinologist for a diabetes checkup. It does not stop at breakfast.

The solution seems simple: cut out the sugar. In fact, the solution is that simple. In practice, it will be much harder but unless we want to look like the humans in Wall-E there is no other choice. Put down the Big Gulp. Now!