06
Jan
12

Stuff I’ve been reading

My recent discovery of Karl Smith’s “obesity” tag led me down a rabbit hole  on sugar metabolism, the basic result of which was “Holy shit, fructose is pretty nasty stuff”.  Also, I learned that I’ve been using the term “lipid hypothesis” embarrassingly wrongly; it’s particularly galling that I confused the “lipid” in same for dietary lipids (“eating high-fat, high-cholesterol foods will give you heart disease”) rather than serum lipids (“having high serum LDL and triglyceride levels will give you heart disease”), which is a confusion I gleefully roast others for making.  Oh well, live and learn.

Anyway, have some links.  First a pair of Gary Taubes articles from the New York Times Magazine:

Next, a random T-Nation article on fructose:

Then a trio of ScienceDirect ScienceDaily blurbs on fructose metabolism:

tl;dr: Glucose can be metabolized by pretty much any cell in the body, while fructose only really gets metabolized by the liver to replenish glycogen stores.  So regardless of your metabolic demands, if your liver’s topped up with glycogen and you consume fructose, it’s going to get stored as fat.  Extra credit: Fructose actually seems to increase hunger, rather than satiety.

A lot of the above hammers sugar (sucrose, or glucose bound to fructose) as hard as high-fructose corn syrup (glucose and fructose in similar proportions but not bound up into a sucrose molecule).  Anyone know if the molecular bond in sucrose makes a difference for how sugar is metabolized relative to HFCS?  My vague understanding is that the liver needs glucose to metabolize fructose, so sucrose probably gets broken down pretty early in the process, but I’m not at all sure about that.  (And if so, could the difference between the 50:50 glucose:fructose ratio in sucrose and the 45:55 split in HFCS make a significant difference?)

Finally, a hilariously biased article from the Journal of the Institute of Brewing on beer as a low-carb beverage.  (Yeah, turns out most of the maltose inputs in beer get fermented by the yeast.)  Mostly I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t inadvertently chugging tons of fructose with my evening beverage of choice, and it turns out I’m not — the sugars in beer are mostly maltose and maltodextrins, which are tiny little starches composed of glucose pretty much exclusively.

The article contains this sentence, which I desperately want to believe:

It is believed that ethanol induces an increase in the sensitivity of muscle to insulin with a down-regulation of the effect of insulin on adipose tissue, so fat mass decreases[19].

19. McCarty, M.F., The alcohol paradox. Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 1999, 70, 940–941.

Post-workout beers, anyone?

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8 Responses to “Stuff I’ve been reading”


  1. January 7, 2012 at 13:06

    Seth Roberts keeps mentioning that he lost weight while drinking some sort of fructose concoction, so that’s not the whole story.

    However….I bet if you added everything they know to everything Seth knows, cancelling out the now-obvious nonsense, you’d end up with about half the story, plus an unknown amount of non-obvious nonsense. Nutrition science is hard.

    Alcohol most definitely affects insulin or something, I found out earlier this week. I discovered some amaretto at a friend’s house – he doesn’t like it – so I volunteered to get rid of it. I also had some overly sugary things, and they didn’t result in brain fog like they usually would. Alcohol is a partial antidote to sucrose, apparently.

    • January 7, 2012 at 13:33

      It’s kind of hard to figure out what Seth’s doing with a bit of casual googling, but AFAICT it involves loading up on a (relatively) small number of calories to trigger a satiety response. From what I can tell from here, he’s recommending only a small dose of fructose (and not necessarily fructose over other kcal sources), which wouldn’t overload the liver’s glycogen capacity the same way as, say, a 32oz Coke.

      A quick trip through his forums suggests that most people are interested in losing “weight” on a calorie-restricted diet. I think that’s a rather suboptimal way to do it, but it’s probably a local minimum for people who aren’t willing to exercise.

      Hacking the satiety response is a really neat idea, though. Definitely something I’ll have to keep in mind. I wonder if it would help compliance with the Velocity Diet.

      • January 7, 2012 at 13:53

        I have to agree it’s hard to tell what Seth’s doing.

        I personally have this bizarre idea that my body knows what’s good for me to eat, and it will tell me if I can just understand it. My archevore-inspired diet tastes…well, I didn’t realize what I was eating before didn’t really taste like food. Also I’m stronger, faster, smarter, have better endurance, and sleep better.

        Two other points:
        Animals will naturally gravitate to a balanced diet. They have to – it’s not like they can listen to FDA recommendations, and they’re life’s on the line if they get it wrong.

        People react differently to the same food.

        If people are animals in this sense, what amounts to a balanced diet differs between people.

      • March 3, 2012 at 13:48

        Further testing seems to confirm that alcohol and grain/sugar are antidotes to each other. All very scientific, of course.


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