Tag Archives: sugar

Friday Linkage 2/17/2017

Is this what it looks like from the inside of a failed state?  The current president cannot go a day without an unforced error blowing up in his face, leaks are rampant, confidantes are completely off message, and the orange master of ceremonies cannot let the smallest slight go unnoticed.  Is it the sign of a completely unhinged personality to respond via Twitter to every perceived challenge to his authority?

On to the links…

Coal-Fired Electricity is at its Lowest since Officials Started Keeping Track—Natural gas and cheap renewables are killing coal.  No one wants to live downwind from a coal plant and the death spiral is on.

The West’s Coal Giant is Going Down—You would be hard pressed to find a more controversial symbol of the coal industrial complex than the Navajo Generating Station, a giant coal fired power plant in Arizona.  With decades of life left in its boilers, its operator is scheduling the beast for shutdown in 2019.  This is a coal plant that burns upwards of 24,000 tons of coal per day.

Wind Energy is Setting Records in the U.S. and Around the World—Wind is cheap, a lot of people work in the industry, and even Republicans are behind the sector as they realize the political suicide of condemning something so popular.  The future may not be as bright, but there is potential for hope.

New North American Wind Power Record Set In Central United States—Over 50% of the electricity served came from wind. Yes it was overnight, but it’s a start.
China Doubled Its Solar Capacity In 2016—No matter what the base, doubling the capacity of anything is a big deal.  There are a lot of problems with China—one party state, authoritarian rule, etc.—but when they decide to go for something, solar in this case, they go big.

U.S. Solar Installations Jumped 95 Percent Last Year—China is not the only one to go big on solar.  We were yuge!

Low Carbon Technologies Now Cost-Competitive With Fossil Fuels—Low carbon technologies are basically mainstream.  Right wing reactionaries can try and stop the flood, but it is over.

5 Possible Futures for the EPA under Trump—This assumes that the Trump administration is not a flaming crater of incompetence by the end of March.

The United States of Oil and Gas—There are some amazing images that show the pervasiveness of oil and gas in our lives.

To Save The Planet, Give Cows Better Pasture—Managing productive rangeland for grazing may be on the lowest hanging fruit we have for helping to mitigate the near term impacts of climate change.

Outdoor Rec Industry Defends Public Lands—Outdoor recreation is a huge—sorry yuge—economic activity that needs to be taken into account when changes to our public lands policy are proposed.  Your elected representatives need to understand the value that you place on these lands.  The companies you patronize need to be reminded of the value that you place on these lands.  The time is now.

This Heatless Habanero Packs All Of The Flavor With None Of The Burn—I am really intrigued by this idea.  Bringing the flavor of a pepper without the heat might convert some of my family members.

The Best Trick for Cutting Down on Sugar—After getting some exercise there is no better or bigger change you can make in terms of your health than cutting down or eliminating added sugar from your diet.

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Getting the Sugar Out

The modern American…er, Western diet is awash in sugar. It is estimated that Americans consume an average of 47 sugar cubes or 10 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup per day. This compares with 39 sugar cubes in the 1980s or 34 sugar cubes in the 1950s. I do not know if those levels in the 1950s were healthy, as it is my sneaking suspicion that the health crisis related to sugar is really a story of post-war America which begins in the 1950s. Nonetheless, we eat too much god damned sugar.

All of this sugar—whether it is HFCS or table sugar or fair trade Turbinado or organic raw sugar from lowland plains of Maui—is killing us. Depending upon the measurement criteria almost 70% of Americans are overweight or obese. Almost 35% are obese and over 6% are considered extremely obese. The problem with our weight has gotten so bad that the U.S. military is concerned that the population is “too fat to fight.”

Our collective expanding waistline is just the first sign indicator of greater problems to come. If you think a lot of people being overweight is bad, just wait until those numbers translate into a lot of people having Type II diabetes. Diabetes and its related conditions are estimated to cost Americans over $250 billion per year and it is going to get worse as the prevalence of the disease increases. This is a direct function of our love affair with sugar.

However, these trends and statistics are not new. What has changed in the last few years is that focus has been put squarely on added sugar. This is a story about the sugar that we have put into processed foods making us sick. Any dietician will tell you that the fructose in an apple—chemically similar to HFCS and metabolically the same—is not the problem because you cannot eat enough apples to get the same deleterious impact as hammering home a Big Gulp full of Coca-Cola. It’s like trying to equivocate drinking a glass of wine with dinner to doing keg stands at a tailgate. There are some similarities, but the differences are what matter.

The easy answer is to make all of our food from scratch. I am sure that there are people with both the time and patience to pull that off. I congratulate them on their being awesome. I am not nearly as awesome. Sometimes I need a quick solution to hungry kids while I assemble dinner after working the entire day.

The go-to solution in my house to hungry kids is a cup of yogurt and a banana. The banana speaks for itself, but the cup of yogurt is a Trojan horse for sugar. I had never really thought about the sugar content until a few months ago. Guess what? You might as well give your children a candy bar if you are going to feed them most flavored yogurts. Compare the nutritional labels of a standard cup of national brand strawberry yogurt versus equivalent sized cup of strawberry yogurt from Kalona SuperNatural:

Yoplait_Original_Strawberry

The strawberry yogurt from Kalona SuperNatural has 104 calories for a 6 oz serving and 6 grams of sugar. The irony is that the Kalona SuperNatural yogurt has significantly fewer calories while having more fat. Where do you think those calories are coming from? That’s right. Sugar.

Damn. 18 grams of sugar versus 6 grams of sugar. The Kalona SuperNatural yogurt has two-thirds the sugar.

Things are not as clear cut as the math would make it seem. Nutritional labels are not required to show the sugars that are naturally occurring versus the sugars that are added. In yogurt this means that you do not get to see the sugars present as lactose versus the added sugars like HFCS or sucrose. Depending upon the brand and variety of yogurt a six ounce serving may contain anywhere from 13 grams of lactose to as few as 2 to 6 grams of lactose. It matters if the yogurt is fat free where more lactose is present to take the place of removed fats or if the yogurt is Greek in style which has lactose skimmed out. This is why reading the nutritional label is not going to always provide a clear answer. A Greek style yogurt may appear to have less sugar, but the reduction in sugar is really a function of having less lactose not less added sugar which is the component we are trying to avoid.

Assuming that these two yogurts were made in similar ways with similar base ingredients you can really start to see the difference in added sugar.

Children are supposed to only get approximately 12 grams of added sugar per day. A single cup of grocery store brand strawberry yogurt puts them nearly all of the way to the total. And that was supposed to be a healthy alternative. See what I mean about yogurt being a Trojan horse for added sugar? It’s literally a battle of grams and teaspoons when it comes to cutting out the sugar.

The moral of the story is that we can find better alternatives to the things that we feed ourselves and our children. In my house, we went cold turkey on a lot of sugar laden items. One day there was your standard strawberry yogurt and the next it was replaced by something with a lot less sugar. I think there was one complaint and away we went.

Friday Linkage 5/15/2015

Where did May go? I know that I have a similar sentiment a lot of months, but May really got to the halfway mark pretty fast without me noticing. Here is to hoping that summer can be a slower and lazier season than spring has been thus far.

On to the links…

Iowa Landowner Claims he was Offered Prostitute by Oil Pipeline Rep—This story is getting a lot of play here in eastern Iowa as the debate over a proposed Bakken oil pipeline is really heating up. If anyone is surprised that an oil company would act like this does not know oil companies. Seriously, read about oil company hospitality suites in the 1980s.

Renewables = 84% of New Electricity Generation Capacity in 1st Quarter of 2015—Yes, 84% of the electrical generation capability added in the first quarter of 2015 in the United States came from renewables. For the first time utility scale solar tipped over 1% of the total U.S. generation capacity. Dig it.

Tesla’s Powerwall Home Battery is already Sold Out through 2016—If you wanted to get a Powerwall home battery you are out of luck until sometime after we choose a new president.

MIT Report: Today’s Solar Panels Fine For Tomorrow’s Needs—We have the technical tools right now to supply the world with clean and green power from the sun. Any further efficiencies will only make the economics better in the long term.

Coal Investments are Increasingly Risky, says Bank of America—The real war on coal is occurring between coal companies and the investment community, which sees the industry as an increasingly riskier place to put their money to use. This is truly the death knell because modern corporations run on debt and financing. It is the lifeblood of large scale economic activity.

Oil And Gas Wells Are Leaking Huge Amounts Of Methane, And It’s Costing Taxpayers Millions—Basically, oil and gas exploration companies are allowing a lot of methane to leak out of wells drilled on public lands. Remember that these are the same oil and gas companies that pay lower than market rates for the right to drill on public lands. What a scam.

In Wyoming, Taking A Photo Of A Polluted Stream Could Land You In Jail—Like “ag gag” laws this law is just waiting for court case to blow open the cozy relationship between lawmakers, polluters, and the chilling effect such a relationships have on free speech. Isn’t it amazing how right wingers love the second amendment, talk about freedom constantly, and are the first in line to trample any freedom that does not involve a firearm?

Is Corn Ethanol Breaking The Law?—Uh oh. Inevitably, farm state lawmakers will pass a correction to this little piece of legislation that will remove the illegality.

Buh-Bye, Corn Ethanol: Joule Makes The Same Thing From Recycled CO2—I would love to fill my truck on ethanol derived in this manner.

First Large-Scale Hemp Processing Plant begins in Colorado—One of the overlooked part of the marijuana legalization in Colorado was the concurrent legalization of industrial hemp. Hemp will not be an instant agricultural miracle, but it could become part of a broader portfolio of options for farmers.

Who Controls California’s Water?—The story is a little more complex than Chinatown makes it out to be, but the problems can be traced to policies that can be changed. Maybe.

Monsanto Bets $45 Billion on a Pesticide-Soaked Future—You can buy organic all day long, but the big companies pushing pesticides and herbicides are betting big on a future where we continue to soak our fields in their deadly chemicals. Who do you think will win?

Sri Lanka First Nation to Protect all Mangrove Forests—Mangrove forests are those great unsung ecosystems. Threatened, like swamps, because they seem like a hindrance to development but the value is not realized until the ecosystem is gone.

M&Ms Candy Maker says, “Don’t eat too many”—Sugar is the equivalent of a drug. It’s addictive and it causes health problems. Now, the pushers are telling consumers that it is a bad idea to eat too much of their own product.

The Brutal Reality of Life in China’s Most Polluted Cities—You do not need to spend $10 and see the new Mad Max movie to witness what a scarred hellscape would be like in the future because China has done all the work for you without the explosions or insane cars.

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

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.

Friday Linkage 2/20/2015

This week was hard. Vanilla Ice got nabbed for burglarizing a vacant home next to a home that he and his crew were remodeling. Stay classy ,nilla!

On to the links…

If People Treated Their Homes like They Treat the Earth—Pretty much says it all:

earthhome720

Statistical Realism—At its most basic, the shale oil boom is a momentary blip in the inevitable decline of readily available and economically viable fossil fuels. The sooner we come to the realization the better off the economy and environment will be.

Is Hawaii’s Solar Power Surge Slowing Down?—Hawaii has solar panels on ~10% of roofs statewide, which compares with ~0.5% in the U.S. as a whole, but as the technology disperses and penetrates the market further conflicts have risen to the fore. HECO, the primary provider of electric power on the islands, is no friend to this site and is claiming to have reached a point of saturation. Never mind the threat to their little monopoly.

Cloudy Prospects for Rooftop Solar Growth in Florida—Unlike Hawaii, Florida is trying to not even get the ball rolling when it comes to rooftop solar. Then again this is a state where the top elected official oversaw the largest fraud in the history of Medicare.

SolarCity Leasing 200,000-Sq-Ft Former Solyndra Manufacturing Facility In Fremont—Solyndra was Benghazi before there was a Benghazi for Republicans. It’s too bad the successes of the loan program were not highlighted, only the failures but that is the cost of doing business with a political party in the pocket of the oil and gas industry. SolarCity, however, is killing it now.

1 Million Solar Homes Project Announced By President of Tanzania—The developing world holds a lot of potential for distributed renewables because the investment in a centralized infrastructure was never made. Essentially, these nations can “leapfrog” that development step.

World’s Biggest Offshore Windfarm Approved for Yorkshire Coast—The numbers are pretty staggering…enough electricity to power approximately 2 million homes…covering 430 square miles…900 jobs…potentially 2.5% of the U.K.’s electricity needs. Damn.

Biofuel from Trash could Create Green Jobs Bonanza—This is an interesting development. Close by in Marion, Iowa a Dutch company is building a sorting facility that will provide an ethanol distillery with the feedstock it requires. The feedstock is the municipal waste stream. I kind of look forward to pulling up for a gallon or two of “trashanol.”

First Purebred Bison Roam Larimer County since Civil War—The problem with a lot of existing stock of bison is that the animals have been crossbred with cattle—remember the beefalo? Thus, genetically pure hers are an important reservoir of genetic diversity for this amazing animal.

Warmer Ocean Blamed for Struggling Sea Lion Pups found at Beaches—Raise your hand if you saw this coming when you read the stories about starving sea lion pups. Yep, pretty much everyone with half a brain and an eye on the changing planetary dynamics brought about by human derived climate change.

We Lock Up Tons of Innocent People—and Charge Them for the Privilege—We have privatized a lot of penal functions, so it should come as no surprise that the prison industrial complex has tried everything within its purview to maintain revenue in the face of public opposition to a continued crisis of incarceration.

At Chipotle, How Many Calories Do People Really Eat?—Watching people dive into burritos loaded with sour cream, cheese, and guacamole almost makes me want to scream because they have no idea how many calories are in the food. Just because it is prepared in front of you from well sourced ingredients does not mean that it is necessarily a good idea to pile on the toppings.

General Mills Cutting Sugar in Yoplait Original by 25 percent—The more I read and the more I think about nutrition—Sweet Poison by David Gillespie helped as well—the more I come to the conclusion that added sugar is the primary culprit in our national waistline problem. Yogurt is a great example of this. Just look at the ingredients and see how much added sugar is in this “healthy” food.

The Unnatural: How Mark Dayton Bested Scott Walker—and Became the Most Successful Governor in the Country—Nobody ever really talks about Minnesota as a laboratory for politics on a national level. It’s viewed with the same curiosity that other nations view Nordic countries. There must be something to all that cold weather and clean living.

A Room-by-Room Guide To Ousting The (Energy) Vampires Lurking In Your Home—There is a stunning amount of energy that gets consumed by appliances just standing at the ready. Take the time to cut down on these vampire loads and the planet will thank you.

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.