Sunday, September 24, 2017

If You Want To Be Happy, Listen Up. Now! alternative title: The FT's Izabella Kaminska Is...

...trying to destroy one of my upcoming "set it and forget it" trades.

But enough about me.
(for now)

Izabella interviewed Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF who is making a bit of a cottage industry (including a cookbook) out of spreading the word on the actual biochemical effects of sugar in its many guises. Ho-hum.

The reason for the languorous response: if one is curious about this stuff, the information began coming out over 30 years ago.
We interrupt this post to ask you to proceed directly to the interview should you wish to avoid the ramble that lies ahead: "Robert Lustig on the science behind our addictions" at FT Alphaville.
If the reader chooses to press on we will have another departure point at the bottom of the bleat.
Back on message, here's the Guardian in April 2016:

The sugar conspiracy
In 1972, a British scientist sounded the alarm that sugar – and not fat – was the greatest danger to our health. But his findings were ridiculed and his reputation ruined. How did the world’s top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long? 
Robert Lustig is a paediatric endocrinologist at the University of California who specialises in the treatment of childhood obesity. A 90-minute talk he gave in 2009, titled Sugar: The Bitter Truth, has now been viewed more than six million times on YouTube. In it, Lustig argues forcefully that fructose, a form of sugar ubiquitous in modern diets, is a “poison” culpable for America’s obesity epidemic.

A year or so before the video was posted, Lustig gave a similar talk to a conference of biochemists in Adelaide, Australia. Afterwards, a scientist in the audience approached him. Surely, the man said, you’ve read Yudkin. Lustig shook his head. John Yudkin, said the scientist, was a British professor of nutrition who had sounded the alarm on sugar back in 1972, in a book called Pure, White, and Deadly.

“If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive,” wrote Yudkin, “that material would promptly be banned.” The book did well, but Yudkin paid a high price for it. Prominent nutritionists combined with the food industry to destroy his reputation, and his career never recovered. He died, in 1995, a disappointed, largely forgotten man.

Perhaps the Australian scientist intended a friendly warning. Lustig was certainly putting his academic reputation at risk when he embarked on a high-profile campaign against sugar. But, unlike Yudkin, Lustig is backed by a prevailing wind....MORE
Yes, same Robert Lustig. Again, old hat for those in the dilettante biochem community. 
But I thought to myself there must be a reason Ms Kaminska is doing this interview.
So, some quick background. She's been investigating this stuff for a while. For sure since 2013 when she linked to a Credit Suisse report in her Alphaville post "Sugar as the new tobacco?".

And in 2016 the Financial Times had some of their writers and opinionators weigh in, so to speak, on the Government's proposed sugar tax.
To my eternal shame I decided the FT needed a little graphical jazzing up and perhaps went too far:

Michelangelo's David Comes Out Against Taxing Sugary Drinks 
Drink more sugar!

HT that the big guy was out there, Incidental Economist.

I was thinking of calling our tipster the Coincidental Economist because the same day they posted  (Mar. 19) the Financial Times' Comment section was having some of their journos weigh in on:
Is the sugar tax an example of the nanny state going too far?
George Osborne announced the long-debated sugar tax in his Budget this week. This will see a levy introduced on sugary drinks from 2018, so manufacturers have two years to change their recipes. The chancellor claims this will raise £500m a year, which will be diverted towards school sports. What is the point of this tax: is it necessary to tackle obesity in Britain or has the nanny state gone too far? The Financial Times’ columnists and commentators discuss whether the sugar tax is a good or bad idea.

  Izabella Kaminska... 
Read on for her thoughts and those of Alan Beattie and Martin Wolf .
Additionally, on July 4th of this year she had a column at the paper which applies directly to the reason to listen to the interview: neurotransmitters.


Here's a part of that piece: 

Our digital addiction makes us miserable
How we have become conditioned to hope that each click will lead to a bigger hit
Despite all the technology that connects us, much of it there supposedly to make our lives easier and better, people have never been more depressed. A case in point: the UK’s National Health Service disclosed last week that a record number of antidepressants were prescribed in England last year.
 Worldwide the figures are no more reassuring. World Health Organization statistics show more than 322m people were afflicted with depression worldwide in 2015, some 4.4 per cent of the global population. What’s equally concerning is that the numbers keep increasing. In the past decade they have gone up 18.4 per cent, affecting both developed and developing countries. This state of global psychological misery runs counter to the message that greater digital connectivity, faster access to goods and services and instantaneous gratification through frictionless systems is the pathway to universal happiness. Have the peddlers of high-tech systems, in their obsession to quench our short-term desires for their own profit, inadvertently become part of the problem rather than the solution?

In a forthcoming book entitled The Hacking of the American Mind, Robert Lustig, a paediatric endocrinologist with a background in neuroscience, makes a compelling argument that this may indeed be the case. Part of the issue, according to Dr Lustig, is that in the modern age we have come to conflate pleasure with happiness. Pleasure, he notes, is all about the phenomenon of reward. This can be achieved by way of everything from impulsive shopping sprees to outright substance abuse.

Happiness, on the other hand, is a state of general contentment that requires little in the way of a trigger. The difference is important because chronic excessive reward eventually leads to both addiction and depression, the exact opposite of happiness. Moreover, a vicious circle is often created, whereby the victim attempts to deal with the resulting depression by indulging even more in the original activity. Dr Lustig’s most famous work in this area focuses on the role played by sugar addiction in the obesity epidemic....MORE 
But don't follow that link. Follow this link to "Robert Lustig on the science behind our addictions".

Listen for the segue from sugar and the liver and everyone's favorite endocrine gland to neurotransmitters. I missed it the first time through and had to go back to answer the question "Hey, when did we switch?"
The transition is seamless and I thought "Dr. Lustig, you're an old pro at talking to people about this stuff aren't ya"

And then come back and we can talk about other stuff, like betting big on the opportunities in diabetes and a countryside full of blind amputees on dialysis and our old friend the dopamine D4 receptor and dozens and dozens of other posts on topics as seemingly disparate as "New York Fed On "Anxiety, Overconfidence, and Excessive Risk Taking" (pathological gambling and self-manipulation with booze and blow)" and "Credit Suisse: The Smart Money Is Betting On Fat" and "Small Batch Artisanal High Fructose Corn Syrup" should you really, really need a fix of the good stuff.

We might even get to anhedonia and its sometimes comorbidity, "Pleasure Dissociative Orgasmic Disorder" and how our friend the fungi can come to the rescue in "Hawaii's Orgasm Inducing Mushrooms".