Thursday, February 04, 2016

Is sugar good for you after all?

Now that the accumulation of evidence has forced even myopic medical researchers and bureaucrats to abandon their demonization of salt and fat in the diet, the solons have reached back to an old scare popularized obsessively by Dr. Robert Lustig. Lustig claims that sugar is bad for you.  The health establishment ridiculed Lustig's "evidence" for many years but they were desperate when salt and fat were taken away from them so Lustig and his theories are suddenly now in good odor.  They particularly demonize a very simple sugar -- fructose -- because it is widely used in American fizzy drinks.  

But the evidence for the demonization of sugar is mostly just epidemiological speculation and it is an easy bet that sugar will one day be comprehensively exonerated too.

More importantly, however, fat was eventually found actually to be GOOD for you.  Will the same be found for sugar?  A straw in the wind below.  The article concerns fucose, not fructose but both are sugars.   Science has just recently figured out that fucose is one of the essential sugars that the body needs to function properly.  Below is one of several recent reports which find that fucose helps fight cancer!

Dietary Fucose Helps Attenuate Metastatic Melanoma in Mice

Tracy Hampton, PhD

Investigators have identified a mechanism that’s blocked during melanoma metastasis but can be restored in mice by adding the sugar fucose to the diet (Lau E et al. Sci Signal. 2015;8[406]:ra124).

Led by researchers at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, California, the team found that activating transcription factor 2 (ATF2), which is abundant in advanced stages of melanoma, blunts expression of the gene encoding fucokinase (FUK), an enzyme that attaches fucose to target molecules. The findings suggest FUK repression promotes melanoma motility and invasiveness in vitro.

JAMA. 2016;315(5):455. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.19343


Obamacare’s Cost per Beneficiary Explodes with Shrinking Enrollment

The Congressional Budget Office’s latest budget estimate shows Obamacare’s costs per beneficiary have exploded, as enrolment in Obamacare’s broken exchanges collapses. January’s update estimates 2016 exchange enrolment at 13 million people (p. 69). Although the president’s administration had previously downgraded its estimate of Obamacare enrolment, this is the first significant change by the non-partisan CBO.

As recently as March 2015, CBO was still assuming 21 million enrollees in Obamacare’s exchanges this year (Table 2). In the January update, it has changed its estimate only for 2016 enrollment, not for future years. Next March’s update will include a more thorough analysis including future years, and we can expect those estimates to be similarly downgraded.

What is shocking, however, is that the January update still estimates that tax credits, which subsidize insurers participating in exchanges, will cost taxpayers $56 billion this year (p. 182). That amounts to about $4,308 per enrollee (although not all are subsidized). Back in March 2010, CBO estimated that 21 million people would be covered in exchanges in 2016, for a total cost of $59 billion in tax credits (pp. 20-23). That would amount to about $2,810 per enrollee.

This leads to the conclusion that Obamacare exchanges are, in fact, high-risk pools for sick individuals who cannot get coverage elsewhere. They are not a properly functioning, broad-based market for health insurance.

And, by the way, CBO confirms that Obamacare kills jobs:

CBO anticipates that several developments in federal fiscal policy under current law will affect the economy through their impact on the labor market. The most sizable effects stem from provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA’s largest effect on the labor market—especially as overall employment conditions improve—will come from provisions of the act that raise effective marginal tax rates on earnings, thereby reducing how much some people choose to work. The health insurance subsidies that the act provides through the expansion of Medicaid and the exchanges are phased out for people with higher income, creating an implicit tax on some people’s additional earnings. The act also directly imposes higher taxes on some people’s labor income. Because both effects on labor supply will grow over the next few years, CBO projects, they will subtract from economic growth over that period.



Socialism Gets a Second Life

Why do the young love Bernie Sanders? Because their experience of capitalism is different.

I was watching Bernie Sanders speak last week at a town hall in Bedford when an early intuition became a conviction: Take Mr. Sanders seriously. He is not just another antic presence in Crazy Year 2016. His rise signifies a major shift within the Democratic Party.

The big room was full, 700 to 800 people, good for 5 p.m. on a Friday. The audience wasn’t raucous or full of cheers as at his big rallies, but thinking and nodding. They were young and middle-aged, with not many white-haired heads. There was a working-class feel to them, though Bedford is relatively affluent.

“Let me disabuse you,” Mr. Sanders says to those who think he cannot win. He quotes New Hampshire polls, where he’s way ahead. He can defeat Donald Trump, he says.

Then the meat. He described America as a place of broad suffering — “student debt,” “two-job families” with strained marriages and insufficient child care, “the old on fixed incomes.”

We can turn it around if we make clear to “the billionaire class” that income inequality “is not moral.” The economy is “rigged.” Real unemployment is not 5% but twice that. “Youth unemployment is off the charts.” He wants job-training programs for the young. The minimum wage is “a starvation wage.” Raise it to “a living wage — 15 bucks an hour.”

The audience is attentive, supportive. “Yeah!” some shout.

He speaks of Goldman Sachs, of “banksters” and of a Republican Party owned by “the oil industry, coal industry.”

“Health care is a right of all people, not a privilege.” He asks if any in the audience have high-insurance deductibles. They start to call out: “$4,000,” “5,000,” “6,000!” Someone yells: “Nothing’s covered!”

No one mentions ObamaCare, but it seems clear it hasn’t worked here.

Mr. Sanders says people don’t go to the doctor when they’re sick because of the deductibles. “Same with mental-health care!” a woman calls out. “Mental-health care must be considered part of health care,” he responds, to applause. He is for “a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.”

How to pay for it all? “Impose a tax on Wall Street speculation,” he says, briefly. He does not elaborate and is not pressed to.

Mr. Sanders’s essential message was somber, grim, even dark. It’s all stark — good guys and bad guys, angels and devils. But it’s also clear and easy to understand: We are in terrible trouble because our entire system is rigged, the billionaires did it, they are the beneficiaries of the biggest income transfer from the poor to the rich in the history of man, and we are going to stop it. How? Through “a political revolution.” But a soft one that will take place in voting booths. We will vote to go left.

As the audience left they seemed not pumped or excited, but satisfied.

I listen to Mr. Sanders a lot, and what he says marks a departure from the ways the Democratic Party has been operating for at least a generation now.

Formally, since 1992, the Democratic Party has been Clintonian in its economics — moderate, showing the influence of the Democratic Leadership Council. Free-market capitalism is something you live with and accept; the wealth it produces can be directed toward public programs and endeavors. The Clinton administration didn’t hate Wall Street, it hired Wall Street. Big government, big Wall Street — it all worked. It was the Great Accommodation, and it was a break with more-socialist approaches of the past.

All this began to shatter in the crash of 2008, not that anyone noticed — it got lost in the Obama hoopla. In March 2009, when Mr. Obama told Wall Street bankers at the White House that his administration was the only thing standing between them and “the pitchforks,” he was wittingly or unwittingly acknowledging the Great Accommodation.

The rise of Bernie Sanders means that accommodation is ending, and something new will take its place.

Surely it means something that Mr. Obama spent eight years insisting he was not a socialist, and Bernie Sanders is rising while saying he is one.

It has left Hillary Clinton scrambling, unsteady. She thought she and her husband had cracked the code and made peace with big wealth. But her party is undoing it — without her permission and without her leading the way. She is meekly following.

It is my guess that Mr. Sanders will win in Iowa and New Hampshire. But the tendency he represents — whether it succeeds this time or simply settles in and grows — is, I suspect, here to stay.

A conservative of a certain age might say: “No, he’s a fad. Socialism is yesterday! Marx is dead, the American economic behemoth rolled over and flattened him. Socialism is an antique idea that rocks with age. America is about the future, not the past.”

I disagree. It’s back because it’s new again.

For so many, 2008 shattered faith in the system — in its fairness, usefulness and efficacy, even in its ability to endure.

As for the young, let’s say you’re 20 or 30, meaning you’ll be voting for a long time. What in your formative years would have taught you about the excellence of free markets, low taxes, “a friendly business climate”? A teacher in public high school? Maybe one — the faculty-lounge eccentric who boycotted the union meetings. And who in our colleges teaches the virtues of capitalism?

If you are 20 or 30 you probably see capitalism in terms of two dramatic themes. The first was the crash of ‘08, in which heedless, irresponsible operators in business and government kited the system and scrammed. The second is income inequality. Why are some people richer than the richest kings and so many poor as serfs? Is that what capitalism gives you? Then maybe we should rethink this!

And Mr. Sanders makes it sound so easy. We’re rich, he says; we can do this with a few taxes. It is soft Marxism. And it’s not socialism now, it’s “democratic socialism” like they have in Europe. You’ve been to Europe. Aside from its refugee crisis and some EU problems, it’s a great place — a big welfare state that’s wealthy! The French take three-hour lunches.

Socialism is an old idea to you if you’re over 50 but a nice new idea if you’re 25.

Do you know what’s old if you’re 25? The free-market capitalist system that drove us into a ditch.

Polls show the generation gap. Mr. Sanders does poorly among the old. They remember socialism. He does well among the young, who’ve just discovered it and have little to no knowledge of its effects. A nationwide Marist poll in November showed Mr. Sanders already leading Mrs. Clinton, 58% to 35%, among voters under 30. She led him among all other age groups, and 69% to 21% among those 60 and older. By this month a CBS/New York Times poll had Mr. Sanders up 60% to 31% among voters under 45.

Bernie Sanders is an indicator of the Democratic future. He is telling you where that party’s going. In time some Democrats will leave over it, and look for other homes.

It’s all part of the great scrambling that is happening this political year — the most dramatic, and perhaps most consequential, of our lifetimes.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


No comments: