Thursday, 29 December 2011


In New Zealand, a man called Frankenstein is calling for a tax on sugar.

Really. Sugar. That basic chemical that all your body cells run on. A lack of which will cause your body to burn protein for energy, send you into ketosis and eventually kill you.

It's okay though. Mr. Frankenstein has the answer. He'll sell you some water.

This is way below the level of biological knowledge we were once expected to understand at O level. By the end of the first year at university I had all the pathways and equations in my head. Only for the duration of the biochemistry exam, of course. Now I just need to remember which book they're in and they are conveniently all in one very big book.

Salt and sugar are essential to life. If you don't eat fast food and never add any salt, you are risking salt deprivation. No, there is not enough in natural foods. That's why we started digging it up in the first place.

The sugar doesn't have to be refined and it can be in the form of some carbohydrates, such as starch. Not cellulose, mammals can't digest that. You need it or your body will break protein to make it and it will throw away the bits of the protein it doesn't need. Some of that will appear on your breath as acetone. You can spot Atkins diet afficionados with a quick sniff.

It's not good for you. Metabolically, it's a disaster. Your body can use protein for energy but it's not designed to do that for very long. This is a backup system for use in emergencies, it is not designed to be a way of life.

Ruminants such as sheep, goats and cows get no sugars directly from their diet. None. All their sugars are made in their liver from fatty acids. Bacteria in the rumen break their cellulosic feed and the cow absorbs their waste products. There's a reason they evolved to live on bacteria crap, and indeed on bacteria because they get their protein when the bacteria are digested further down the gut. It means they can live on cellulosic stuff like grass, which is no use to humans. Cows can't digest it but bacteria can. Since the cow's bacteria can make all the amino acids, and the cow's liver can make sugar from fatty acids, cows can live on newspaper and urine. Their bacteria will make everything they need from that.

We can't do that. Our bacteria are mainly in the lower gut, too far down to be digested. They are throughout the gut, sure, but not enough to provide a protein source in the stomach. Our livers can make sugar from fatty acids but they are set up primarily to deal with actual sugar. Glucose, specifically. The alternative pathways are a backup and will be overwhelmed if over-used.

So yes, we could live with no sugar input. But not for very long.

This proposal is a tax on staying alive. A breathing tax cannot be far behind.


JuliaM said...

"We can't do that. Our bacteria are mainly in the lower gut..."

Are they? If I'm to believe the tv ads, they're in little bottles in the 'Yoghurt' section! ;)

Rob F said...

A peeing tax will probably come before a breathing tax.

They can justify it by saying that sewage works cost the state too much money.

Anonymous said...

what about shitting tax?

Anonymous said...

Keep posting the threats troll and they will be deleted, simples.

andy said...

Anonymous said...

what about shitting tax?

A bit O/T but I wouldn't put it past them but how would this be formulated?.

Faecal weight?



If one abused laxatives would this put someone in a higher tax bracket?

I kid you not, these are the sorts of criteria a scribbly would think up.

Anonymous said...

Get some help for gods sake

andy said...

Thank you for that.

Lou said...


What a splendid idea.

Gets your blog slammed up the ratings chart every time the millipede logs on!

And it's doing it for free!

Anonymous said...

this is scary

lyn said...

Ok knock it on the head you silly prat

Anonymous said...

Surely blogger can stop multiple posts like this

lyn said...

Get some help, your cries for help need addressing, this episode goes from funny to scary in minutes

Leg-iron said...

Sorry about the delay on the delete button. I was working late so was up late.

Blogger also has a 'login' function for comments. As far as I can tell, that means you'd just have to log in here rather than having to have a Blogger account. So you can still be anonymous, but with a username and password for this site.

One of those 'first comment must be approved then you're in' sort of things.

Too late to add it to the poll, unfortunately, but the way that's going, full moderation isn't what people want.


Leg-iron said...

Although that might be the 'invited readers only' thing. That won't work.

Third party comment section?

Mark Wadsworth said...

LI, your troll seems to be far more malicious than anything I've had so I voted for 'Kill it with moderation', but I don't like all this 'logging on as a member' stuff so what I'd like you to do is delete the troll comments yourself by hand.

winston said...

Most blogs have some moderation these days and it doesn't do any harm. You wouldn't let someone walk in uninvited and trash your house so why let someone trash your blog ? Especially after all the hard work you've put in over the years. I'd rather wait for comments to appear than have to read the ramblings of a retard. If troll had anything useful to say it might be interesting to find out why it does the trolling but it doesn't.
It probably piggy backs on to unsecured wi fi connections so there would be millions of ISP's to try and chase up to find it. Plus if it goes through a proxy server in Russia or wherever that would increase the difficulty in blocking it.
It's hard to tell which monikers are genuine now as troll seems to be copying other people's monikers so I'd go for a set up where you give us a password and username. Not sure if that's feasible ?

Bucko said...

"cow's liver can make sugar from fatty acids"

It's amazing what you learn on some blogs :-0

Anonymous said...


You are so right.

I don't mind some kind of moderation LI, such bizarre snippets of information like your quick run down of a cow's digestion system are well worth waiting for.

When I use Anon, I sign it anyway, but it will be a shame if passing readers with interesting information have to go through some protracted rigmarole just to write a couple of lines.

Still, sign of the times, I suppose.


kitler said...

You should be flattered, the government don't send trolls to just anyone you know.

trolling with admin rights -payback time said...

thats not all, some of the stuff i have ready for launch means many more episodes of ....guess what some sent me about you.

trolling with admin rights is not secure when their real names and addresses..hell even google street view can show me what cars they drive.

im so desperate to send some shit off but at the same time i want to make sure you have the chance to back down first.

its the honourable thing to do...i get ignored and then you deserve it

Dave h said...

It's only a matter of time before Cameron proposes a minimum price per Joule...

Chalcedon said...

It's in Lehniger. I still have mine. I knew the chap who produced the metabolic pathways (over 90 years old now). Worked on Neisseria gonorrhoeae under him. You are spot on about ketosis. As for Frank N Stein, a little kowledge is a dangerous thing but zero knowledge is terrifying when such a dolt gets into a position of power!

Leg-iron said...

I left Troll's last one because I'm intrigued by this 'trolling with admin rights' stuff.

I don't have admin rights on any site unless I log in as me, and then everyone can see who's posting.

So, how does 'trolling with admin rights' work?

Leg-iron said...

Chalcedon - the guy who drew the metabolic pathways chart that Sigma have?

Amusing Bunni said...

I love sugar! I didn't know it was good for you, but it makes lots of sense. Everything that is good or fun the mentals want to take away, or tax!

As for your troll problem. Get Disquis, Leggy. It's free and works very easily. You can ban a nit wit instantly, and never be bothered again. I like it WAY better than js kit, which I quit.

Elby the Beserk said...

"Really. Sugar. That basic chemical that all your body cells run on. A lack of which will cause your body to burn protein for energy, send you into ketosis and eventually kill you."

You sure about that? The common citizen had no access to "fabricated" sugar until the 19th century. And yet lived. Sugar of course comes to us naturally in many food stuffs - but there is no need (tho' much desire) for the fabricated version. And no, I wouldn't tax it - I would make those who need medical treatment as a result of not being bothered about their health, pay for their treatment, as I would those hospitalised as a result of booze.

Sorted. No tax. No hit on those who do look after themselves.

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