The War on Drugs

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Foseti offers his thesis on the war on drugs:

My thesis is this: the Warren Court effectively made policing impossible, crime exploded, the war on drugs was implemented in response, crime dropped. As such, I’m not surprised by this: “the fourth amendment now has a de facto exception clause when it comes to drug-related crimes.” I’d only make one minor correction — “the fourth amendment as interpreted by judges in the ’60s.”

Is this state of affairs bad? Yes.

Should we end the war on drugs? No. We’re entirely dependent on it to keep crime in check now that we’ve outlawed old-fashioned (i.e. effective) police work.

Stand Up and Fight

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Mammals rarely walk on two legs, but they often rear up to fight:

Fighting from a bipedal posture is commonly observed in anteaters, felids including domestic cats, lions and tigers; canids including foxes, wolves and domestic dogs; bears; wolverines; horses; and many species of rodents, lagomorphs and primates, including great apes.

The advantage of standing up to fight is that it allows an animal to use its strong running muscles, which normally push aftward, to strike downward.

David Carrier, of the University of Utah, decided to measure striking power in humans — because they’re cooperative test subjects — from standing and from all fours, and upward, downward, and to the side. It comes as no surprise that humans strike harder from standing, striking downward. I have some questions about this reasoning though:

Experienced fighters were used as subjects to minimize the risk of injury and to reduce biases in performance among the different types of strikes that were studied.

I’m pretty sure the experienced fighters were much more experienced at striking from standing than from all fours.

Anyway, from this superior ability to strike downward from standing, he concludes that the observed female preference for tall men may relate to fighting ability — especially in the time since we lost our ancestors’ impressive canines:

The primary weapons of most primates are their jaws and large canine teeth. Darwin recognized the association of an increased use of the forelimbs in fighting and a reduction in size of their canine teeth in apes. In doing so, he associated habitual bipedal posture with fighting with the forelimbs.

I would think that all these points for height when fighting with forelimbs would hold doubly true for fighting with augmented forelimbs — that is, clubs or rocks.

(Hat tip to io9.)

Lionel Messi, Boy Genius

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I don’t follow soccer, but the story of Lionel Messi, boy genius, includes this fascinating tidbit:

An Argentine, Messi was not born into these tensions [between Barcelona and Madrid]. He came to Barcelona at 13, when the club agreed to pick up the costs of treatment for a growth-hormone deficiency. As the story goes, his contract was written on a napkin. At the time, he was about 4 feet 7 inches. He now stands 5-7. If his lack of size made him shy and self-conscious as a boy, his low center of gravity made him spectacularly elusive as a soccer player.

Just how skilled to you have to be — as a spindly, undeveloped, 4’7″ boy — for Barcelona to pay attention and then to pick up the tab for your growth-hormone treatment?

Tyler Hamilton Describes Doping System

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I am shocked — shocked! — to find that doping is going on in cycling:

Tyler Hamilton, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist and former Postal Service rider, described life on the team Sunday in an interview on “60 Minutes.” He said it was one filled with secret code words, clandestine phone lines and furtive conversations. Riders led double lives that revolved around performance-enhancing drug use, while publicly insisting that the team was perfectly clean, he said.

The best cyclists received white lunch bags filled with EPO, human growth hormone and testosterone by team doctors, who handed out the packages as if they contained only sandwiches and juice boxes. They were also given little red pills that contained a testosterone oil they squirted beneath their tongues for a performance boost.

And if a top rider needed the blood-booster EPO to help adjust his blood values to evade doping positives, Hamilton said, he knew exactly where to turn: to Armstrong, who was the undisputed leader of the team and whose help from other riders was necessary for victory.

“You know, I reached out to Lance Armstrong, you know,” Hamilton said on “60 Minutes,” describing what he did when he needed EPO. “And he helped me out, he helped me out.”

The next day or two, he said, a package arrived with some EPO.

“It was an illegal doping product, but he helped out a friend,” Hamilton said. “So I want to make it clear that, you know, if the roles were reversed and I had the connection, I would have done the same, same, thing for Lance.”

Earliest Memories

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Most adults can’t remember much from before the age of three or four, but three and four year-olds clearly can. A recent Canadian study confirms this:

Experts from the Memorial University of Newfoundland asked 100 children aged 4 to 13 to recall three of their earliest memories and when they thought they had happened.

They found that the younger children could recall memories from as early as 18 months.

They also checked with their parents, who could corroborate many of the events and the times they took place.

Two years later, they spoke to the same children and again asked them to recall three of their earliest memories.

What they found was that the younger children in the survey recalled different memories from those they had given before. Nor did they recall their earlier memories when presented with prompts.

A commenter at Boing Boing brings up a point I’ve pondered:

Like a lot of modern families (I think) we have digital cameras and use them with abandon taking pics and vid of far more life events and mundanity then my family ever did. My kids love to look at the pics and videos often and as we do we dialogue about the events that were happening then, etc.

I can’t help but think that all of this review is going to embed the memories deeper into their conscious and subconscious resulting in these ones have much more clarity and quantity of early memories.

When Black Bears Attack

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Realistically, you won’t get eaten by a black bear:

But if you do, it’s likely to be young, male, and single.

Recently scientists studied the history of black bear attacks. For the most part, the news it good. Only 68 attacks have been documented in the last one hundred and nine years. Unfortunately, over 85 percent of them happened since the 1960s. And here’s the creepy part: they’re all sneak attacks.

Most people believe that the quickest way to get killed is to get between a mother bear and her cubs. That may well be true. It’s never really been tested, because no one is stupid enough to try it. Black bear mothers help people along in that respect by grunting, growling, stamping the ground, and generally making people want to wet themselves and run away. It’s an effective defense, for both the bear and the human.

Fatal black bear attacks occur when people don’t get the chance to get scared away. Over ninety percent of the fatalities have been when bears are hunting, not defending. Attacking bears are almost always young, male, and hunting their victims rather than scaring them. They tend to creep up on people, and then charge them in a surprise attack. Some male bears were sick or injured, which may be why they tried to creep up on slow-moving, foul-smelling humans rather than something tastier, but with the limited number of cases there was no way to be sure that the injury had caused the bear to attack.

The Ticket to Easy Street?

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Is winning the lottery the ticket to easy street? Not so much:

This paper examines whether giving large cash transfers to financially distressed people causes them to avoid bankruptcy. A comparison of Florida Lottery winners who randomly received $50,000 to $150,000 to small winners indicates that such transfers only postpone bankruptcy rather than prevent it, a result inconsistent with the negative shock model of bankruptcy. Furthermore, the large winners who subsequently filed for bankruptcy had similar net assets and unsecured debt as small winners. Thus, our findings suggest that skepticism regarding the long-term impact of cash transfers may be warranted.

What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?, Wesley Yang — a rather bitter “Twinkie” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) Korean-American — asks:

Asians graduate from college at a rate higher than any other ethnic group in America, including whites. They earn a higher median family income than any other ethnic group in America, including whites. This is a stage in a triumphal narrative, and it is a narrative that is much shorter than many remember. Two thirds of the roughly 14 million Asian-Americans are foreign-born. There were less than 39,000 people of Korean descent living in America in 1970, when my elder brother was born. There are around 1 million today.
In 2006, a decade after California passed a voter initiative outlawing any racial engineering at the public universities, Asians composed 46 percent of UC-Berkeley’s entering class; one could imagine a similar demographic reshuffling in the Ivy League, where Asian-Americans currently make up about 17 percent of undergraduates. But the Ivies, as we all know, have their own private institutional interests at stake in their admissions choices, including some that are arguably defensible. Who can seriously claim that a Harvard University that was 72 percent Asian would deliver the same grooming for elite status its students had gone there to receive?
If between 15 and 20 percent of every Ivy League class is Asian, and if the Ivy Leagues are incubators for the country’s leaders, it would stand to reason that Asians would make up some corresponding portion of the leadership class.

And yet the numbers tell a different story. According to a recent study, Asian-­Americans represent roughly 5 percent of the population but only 0.3 percent of corporate officers, less than 1 percent of corporate board members, and around 2 percent of college presidents. There are nine Asian-American CEOs in the Fortune 500. In specific fields where Asian-Americans are heavily represented, there is a similar asymmetry. A third of all software engineers in Silicon Valley are Asian, and yet they make up only 6 percent of board members and about 10 percent of corporate officers of the Bay Area’s 25 largest companies. At the National Institutes of Health, where 21.5 percent of tenure-track scientists are Asians, only 4.7 percent of the lab or branch directors are, according to a study conducted in 2005. One succinct evocation of the situation appeared in the comments section of a website called Yellowworld: “If you’re East Asian, you need to attend a top-tier university to land a good high-paying gig. Even if you land that good high-paying gig, the white guy with the pedigree from a mediocre state university will somehow move ahead of you in the ranks simply because he’s white.”

Jennifer W. Allyn, a managing director for diversity at PricewaterhouseCoopers, works to ensure that “all of the groups feel welcomed and supported and able to thrive and to go as far as their talents will take them.” I posed to her the following definition of parity in the corporate workforce: If the current crop of associates is 17 percent Asian, then in fourteen years, when they have all been up for partner review, 17 percent of those who are offered partner will be Asian. Allyn conceded that PricewaterhouseCoopers was not close to reaching that benchmark anytime soon — and that “nobody else is either.”

Part of the insidious nature of the Bamboo Ceiling is that it does not seem to be caused by overt racism. A survey of Asian-Pacific-American employees of Fortune 500 companies found that 80 percent reported they were judged not as Asians but as individuals. But only 51 percent reported the existence of Asians in key positions, and only 55 percent agreed that their firms were fully capitalizing on the talents and perspectives of Asians.

More likely, the discrepancy in these numbers is a matter of unconscious bias. Nobody would affirm the proposition that tall men are intrinsically better leaders, for instance. And yet while only 15 percent of the male population is at least six feet tall, 58 percent of all corporate CEOs are. Similarly, nobody would say that Asian people are unfit to be leaders. But subjects in a recently published psychological experiment consistently rated hypothetical employees with Caucasian-sounding names higher in leadership potential than identical ones with Asian names.

Maybe it is simply the case that a traditionally Asian upbringing is the problem.

The Asian upbringing he describes seems to lead to outright social retardation and what used to be called inscrutability — which he calls impassivity:

Mao was becoming clued in to the fact that there was another hierarchy behind the official one that explained why others were getting what he never had — “a high-school sweetheart” figured prominently on this list — and that this mysterious hierarchy was going to determine what happened to him in life. “You realize there are things you really don’t understand about courtship or just acting in a certain way. Things that somehow come naturally to people who go to school in the suburbs and have parents who are culturally assimilated.” I pressed him for specifics, and he mentioned that he had visited his white girlfriend’s parents’ house the past Christmas, where the family had “sat around cooking together and playing Scrabble.” This ordinary vision of suburban-American domesticity lingered with Mao: Here, at last, was the setting in which all that implicit knowledge “about social norms and propriety” had been transmitted. There was no cram school that taught these lessons.
Chu has a pleasant face, but it would not be wrong to characterize his demeanor as reserved. He speaks in a quiet, unemphatic voice. He doesn’t move his features much. He attributes these traits to the atmosphere in his household. “When you grow up in a Chinese home,” he says, “you don’t talk. You shut up and listen to what your parents tell you to do.”

At Stuyvesant, he had hung out in an exclusively Asian world in which friends were determined by which subway lines you traveled. But when he arrived at Williams, Chu slowly became aware of something strange: The white people in the New England wilderness walked around smiling at each other. “When you’re in a place like that, everyone is friendly.”

He made a point to start smiling more. “It was something that I had to actively practice,” he says. “Like, when you have a transaction at a business, you hand over the money — and then you smile.”
“One of the big things I see with Asian students is what I call the Asian poker face — the lack of range when it comes to facial expressions,” Tran says. “How many times has this happened to you?” he asks the crowd. “You’ll be out at a party with your white friends, and they will be like — ‘Dude, are you angry?’?” Laughter fills the room. Part of it is psychological, he explains. He recalls one Korean-American student he was teaching. The student was a very dedicated schoolteacher who cared a lot about his students. But none of this was visible. “Sarah was trying to help him, and she was like, ‘C’mon, smile, smile,’ and he was like?…” And here Tran mimes the unbearable tension of a face trying to contort itself into a simulacrum of mirth. “He was so completely unpracticed at smiling that he literally could not do it.” Eventually, though, the student fought through it, “and when he finally got to smiling he was, like, really cool.”

Solar Updates Marines’ Arsenal

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Marines go through a lot of batteries, so they’re giving solar chargers a try:

Batteries make up as much as 20% of the weight of the 100 pounds of gear a Marine infantryman typically carries. A Marine uses four times as much fuel as his counterpart did in the early 1990s — due to, among other things, laptops and other electronic gear that use electricity pumped out by portable generators.

Some 30% of all fuel trucked into Afghanistan — at great risk — goes to power those generators, at a time when roadside bombs remain the most dangerous weapon faced by allied troops.

While the U.S. military has been seriously studying renewable energy since at least 2001, the impetus for change was the high casualty rate on fuel convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Mabus told Congress last year that one U.S. service member is wounded or killed for every 24 fuel convoys.

Ashley Spurlin Reporting for Duty

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Top Shot competitor Ashley Spurlin describes his time in the Air Force as part of the spec ops group no one’s heard of:

I graduated basic training on January 1, 2001, or 01/01/01, which is always easy to remember. I attended basic aerial gunner school where I was selected to be an aerial gunner on the infamous AC-130 gunship. Little did I know how important that would be. The schooling is several months of training in multiple locations. Finally the day of graduation arrived and my classmates and I marched our way into the classroom awaiting our course certificates. It was the morning of September 11, 2001. A few weeks later, the AC-130 gunships rolled into Afghanistan working with coalition Special Forces ground troops, pushing deeper into the country and devastating the enemy. It was the first combat the gunship had seen in years. As a young gunner, I was exposed to every aspect of the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) there is. This allowed me to learn the command structure for each part of SOCOM and the various capabilities and personnel each service has.

One that really intrigued me was the Air Force Special Operations Command, and more specifically, Air Force Combat Controllers. People have heard of Green Berets; people have heard of SEALS; people have heard of Marine Reconnaissance; and people have heard of Army Rangers. So I asked myself why nobody knew about Air Force Combat Controllers (CCT). Is it because the Air Force is generally known for being the Chair Force, or traditionally non-combatants? Probably. Is it because the Air Force is full of pencil pushers and desk jockeys? Ninety-nine percent correct. But the one percent that does not fit into those descriptors is one of the most amazing jobs in the DOD and SOCOM. No I am not just saying this because I am one; please feel free to check into the facts yourself.

After meeting several CCT guys and other Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) members — yes, the guys who got Bin Laden — I decided I wanted to be on the ground and in the fight as any young man in the military usually does. So after several deployments on the AC-130 gunship and multiple combat missions, I put in my paperwork to cross train to try out for Combat Control.

The CCT pipeline averages about two years of training just to be combat mission ready and deployable, this is assuming you pass every school and do not get injured while doing so, which is very difficult to do. Some of the schools include Army Airborne School, Military Freefall Parachutists Course (HALO — High Altitude Low Opening) in Yuma, Arizona; Special Operations Combat Dive School in Key West, Florida; Marine Combatant Dive School in Panama City, Florida; and several other schools in the SOCOM or DOD. Aside from those schools, all CCTs have to go to Air Traffic Control School and become certified FAA air traffic controllers (ATC). The reason for this school is due to the fact that it is precursor to becoming a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC). A fully qualified CCT-JTAC on the battlefield can control every air asset from a man portable Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) up to a B-1 or B-52 bomber and everything in between. This makes a CCT a very, very valuable asset. Any ground force commander will tell you the first guy they look for when things go bad is the CCT guy to call in Close Air Support and put accurate firepower on the target. It does not matter if it is ground artillery such as 105mm or 155mm Howitzers, AC-130 gunship fire missions, A-10 gun runs, or Apache rocket attack, the CCT is responsible for it all, sometimes all at once. Yes, one guy with one or two radios can do it all while being shot at in a fire fight.

CCT guys do not operate as a team amongst themselves; our specialty is being attached to whatever SOCOM team that needs one. It sounds easy. However what this means is that if you get attached to an Army Green Beret team, you have to know your own job inside and out, and at the same time you have to know their training as well. Hence the reason we go to the Army’s Ranger school, SCUBA school, Airborne school, HALO school and any other Army school you can think of such as Air Assault, Static Line Jumpmaster, HALO Jumpmaster, and the list goes on—all so we can work with the Green Berets. What happens if you get attached to a Navy SEAL team? Yes, you guessed it, next thing you know, Navy Freefall School is in order along with several other schools necessary to be able to operate with the SEALS. Marines traditionally have always had their own Close Air Support (MARSOC). Marines doing similar jobs to a CCT, but in the last few years since MARSOC has been stood-up, CCT guys have been doing a lot more work with the Marines as well. I was fortunate enough to attend some of their training with 3rd Recon in Okinawa Japan and can say that those Marines provide some of the best training I have ever received.

After several years of training, a fully qualified CCT member will finally get to deploy attached to a SOCOM unit and go to war. Afghanistan could not be a more perfect environment for a CCT. It was the war that would finally get CCTs noticed. Shortly after Afghanistan, Iraq became a hot bed of CCT activity as well providing an even greater need for CCT guys on the ground. It has not slowed down to this day and probably will not any time in the future.

The Poor Quality of an Undergraduate Education

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

It’s commencement season, and American students seem pleased with their educations:

In recent surveys of college seniors, more than 90 percent report gaining subject-specific knowledge and developing the ability to think critically and analytically. Almost 9 out of 10 report that overall, they were satisfied with their collegiate experiences.

That sounds wonderful, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa say, except that college seniors haven’t learned much:

Over four years, we followed the progress of several thousand students in more than two dozen diverse four-year colleges and universities. We found that large numbers of the students were making their way through college with minimal exposure to rigorous coursework, only a modest investment of effort and little or no meaningful improvement in skills like writing and reasoning.

In a typical semester, for instance, 32 percent of the students did not take a single course with more than 40 pages of reading per week, and 50 percent did not take any course requiring more than 20 pages of writing over the semester. The average student spent only about 12 to 13 hours per week studying — about half the time a full-time college student in 1960 spent studying, according to the labor economists Philip S. Babcock and Mindy S. Marks.

Not surprisingly, a large number of the students showed no significant progress on tests of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing that were administered when they began college and then again at the ends of their sophomore and senior years. If the test that we used, the Collegiate Learning Assessment, were scaled on a traditional 0-to-100 point range, 45 percent of the students would not have demonstrated gains of even one point over the first two years of college, and 36 percent would not have shown such gains over four years of college.

Arum and Roksa blame the shift toward treating students as paying customers. I think the problem is slightly different. The problem isn’t that teachers treat students as paying customers but that graders treat students as paying customers. Combining those two separate roles is the problem.

An SAT tutor or AP class instructor has no misaligned incentives, when its the College Board that scores the test.

A Medical Nihilist

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

His years inside the medical sausage factory have made Kurt Harris a medical nihilist:

A medical nihilist posits that in a world where the entire medical system (alternative and complementary not exempted) disappeared in some selective rapture, that the net effect would be positive for the economy, and no worse than neutral for the aggregate level of health and wellness.

(This does not mean that some medical interventions are not highly useful, just that in the aggregate they are balanced out by all the negative ones — the side effects and the nutritional advice, etc.)

Extinct Australian thylacine hunted like a big cat

Monday, May 16th, 2011

The extinct Australian thylacine has been called a marsupial wolf and a Tasmanian tiger, but the latter name may be closer to the truth, as it likely hunted like a big cat, from ambush, rather than by running its prey to exhaustion:

The researchers compared the thylacine’s skeleton with those of dog-like and cat-like species, such as pumas, jackals and wolves, as well as Tasmanian devils — the largest carnivorous marsupials living today.

They found that the thylacine would have been able to rotate its arm so that the palm faced upwards, like a cat.

This increased amount of arm and paw movement would have helped the “Tasmanian tiger” subdue its prey after an ambush.

Dingoes and wolves have a more restricted range of arm-hand movement. Their hands are — to a greater degree — fixed in the palm-down position, reflecting their strategy of hunting by pursuit and in packs, rather than by surprise.

However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule. Some cats, like cheetahs, use speed to catch their quarry, while some dog-like species, such as foxes, rely on ambush to catch their prey.

This part always makes me sad:

The last captive thylacine — known as Benjamin — died in Hobart Zoo, Tasmania, in September 1936.

Is Homework a Waste of Time?

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Is homework a waste of time? Generally, yes, but with one exception, a new study on 8th-graders suggests:

They found that doing additional math homework had large and statistically significant effects on math test scores. They found that additional homework in science, English and history had little or no impact.

Actually, even math homework shows little effect for black students and for students whose parents don’t have a high-school diploma. Hmm…

No such thing as a macronutrient

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Metabolism is complicated, so the scientists studying nutrition — like all scientists — make simplifying abstractions.

For instance, nutritionists see foods as composed of three macronutrients — carbohydrates, fats, and proteins — and numerous micronutrients — vitamins and minerals.

We’re used to hearing the word carbohydrate thrown around these days, but it was originally a highly technical term, referring to the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that form sugars and starches — and fibers.

Certainly these things seem like they belong in a group together when viewed through a chemical lens. The three monosaccharides — glucose, fructose, and galactose — all share the same chemical formula — C6H12O6 — and the other sugars and starches are made up of these monosaccharides.

But not all simplifying abstractions are created equal, and not all carbohydrates are metabolized the same way. This seems to get swept under the rug though.  In my basic nutrition textbook — used in med schools and vet schools — it briefly mentions that fructose gets converted to glucose in the liver, so it will be treated as glucose throughout the rest of the text. My advanced nutrition textbook only addresses fructose on two pages, according to the index.

Kurt Harris suggests that maybe there is no such thing as a macronutrient, and we should be treating individual nutrients, like fructose, individually:

Fructose is special. I would argue that fructose is so special that even calling it a “carbohydrate” is misleading. Later on I’ll discuss cellulose, which like starch is a polymer of glucose, but which, as the main component of indigestible sawdust, could not be metabolically more different than starch. So we can have polymers made of the very same LEGO-like building blocks, but because they are attached to each other in a different way, it is really a completely different substance.

In the case of fructose, we have a monosaccharide that has the same chemical formula and a caloric content equivalent to glucose, but is treated quite differently by the body because it has a different 3-dimensional structure.

Fructose is found in plants foods only, and especially in their fruit. Plants use fructose to attract animals like us to the fruit, so we will eat it and spread their digestion-resistant seeds about via our feces. The plant is not thinking of us when it does this. Fructose is fructose and is tolerated in reasonable amounts (whether you get it from table sugar, honey or high fructose corn syrup), but because fructose is tasty we have bred fruit and cultivated plants in order to increase its availability dramatically. Fructose has easily become an order of magnitude more abundant in our diets in the past few hundred years than it was at any time in the preceding several million years of human evolution. If fructose were as benign as saturated fat or starch, this would be no problem, but I am pretty sure it is not.

Like glucose, there is no dietary requirement for fructose, but unlike glucose, we do not require fructose for use as an internal fuel. There is no organ like the brain that has an absolute fructose requirement. In fact, our body has mechanisms that evolved specifically to keep most cells from being exposed to too much of it.

Because fructose spends more time than glucose in the unstable and reactive open configuration, it can react with proteins in a chemical reaction known as the maillard reaction. This results in glycation — attachment of a sugar — to other molecules, especially proteins. As proteins can be important structurally or as enzymes, this can have pathologic consequences. These glycated compounds are known as advanced glycosylation end products — AGEs.

Fructose absorption in the gut is most efficient when paired with equimolar (one-for-one equivalent) amounts of glucose.

When there is fructose in excess of glucose, or even when there is a large amount of fructose with glucose, there is often malabsorption in the small bowel — this can lead to rapid fermentation by bacteria in the colon, or abnormal overgrowth of bacteria in the distal small bowel. I speculate that fructose malabsorption is actually a defense mechanism to keep the liver from being overwhelmed by this metabolic poison, and the fact that we have not evolved a mechanism to handle big-gulp doses of fructose to the small bowel indicates modern quantities are likely outside of our evolutionary experience — the EM2.

When fructose is absorbed, it goes via the portal vein directly to the liver, and the liver attempts to clear it completely so it cannot get into the general circulation. This is good, as fructose seems to be about 10 times more likely to cause glycation than glucose. Even small amounts of it can wreak havoc.

To keep fructose out of the general circulation, it must be immediately burned or stored as fat. Fructose is related to the spectrum of serious diseases known as NAFLD (non-alcoholic liver disease), including fatty liver and cirrhosis.

Excess fructose, chiefly via the liver volunteering to “taking one for the team” causes a variety of negative effects that are linked to pathologic insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, a general inflammatory state, and of course obesity.

Finally, fructose has no immediate effect on insulin release, but is linked to pathologic hyperinsulinemia via it’s effects on the liver. This is the exact opposite of glucose, which requires insulin to partition it when eaten, but for which there is no good evidence to relate it to chronic pathologic hyperinsulinemia.

(Note: This does not mean eating glucose is harmless once you have metabolic syndrome. You also have to be careful of large boluses of fat once your gallbladder is diseased. This doesn’t mean eating fat caused your gallstones, though — quite the opposite in fact.)

So fructose is a “carbohydrate” that has the same chemical formula as glucose, but unlike glucose, is very highly reactive with other molecules, is obligately metabolized by the liver, is malabsorbed by the majority of the normal population, can lead to NAFLD including fatty liver and cirrhosis, and in my view, is thus partly accountable for the current epidemic of metabolic syndrome, obesity and all the related diseases of civilization, including coronary disease and epithelial tumors.

Why do we lump harmless starch and possibly toxic fructose together and say they are equivalent macronutrients? They seem to have very little in common metabolically. Who cares about the paper chemical formula?