Starch and sugar

Discussions on topics related to biochemistry and molecular biology, functional genomics, etc.

Re: Starch and sugar

Postby vivian maxine on September 12th, 2015, 3:17 pm 

neuro » September 12th, 2015, 1:10 pm wrote:The thread is having interesting developments.

By the way:
Does modern medicine reduce infant mortality?
Sure it does, as the availability of food does: just compare the statistics from various Countries, where the availability of food and medical care are radically different.

One may be interested in looking at dr. Ignaz Semmelweis' story: he was disparaged by the medical community because he suggested obstetricians washed their hands before helping a mother to deliver, simply based on the observation that in midwives' wards puerperal mortality rates were three times lower than in doctors' wards, and the former did not help mothers to deliver when just coming from the autopsy room...

About those ancient people being healthier than we are, I'd just note en passant that if only a minor fraction of the population manages to reach the age of thirty, then these survivors might well be healthier than we are in the average, but this might simply be related to the fact they have passed a quite tough selection... :°)


I am remembering a European history course where we were told how hard it was to get medical personnel to accept that they should wash their hands before and between treating patients. Now they are using latex gloves.

About the sugar, do you remember when mothers gave babies bottles of sugared water to soothe them? The start of sugar addiction? Who knows?
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby doogles on September 13th, 2015, 7:32 am 

Thank you to those who responded to my post about Weston Price.

Biowizard – Yes you are right. As I was typing my post, I thought of honey in particular but excluded a comment because of a need of brevity. Nevertheless you’ve given me the chance to comment upon the fact that our remote ancestors must have experienced dietary intake as seasonal bursts of a large variety of foodstuffs. My theory of glycation of multiple receptors requires that we can tolerate a relatively high quantitative intake of any particular food item for a limited time, but an excess (based on normal frequency distribution in a given population) of anything can trigger exhaustion of control homeostatic mechanisms in individuals (along the lines of Selye’s theories of Stress).

vivian maxine “That's all very well, doogles but, whenever I hear such stories I want to ask why we outlive these oh-so-healthy ancestors. They never seem to mention that in their reports.” I appreciate where you are coming from, but unfortunately we have no survey data on the longevity of any of our remote ancestors. And Weston Price does not appear to have recorded data on longevity in his 10-year study.

Darby“Minor correction regarding 1st snippet: As a rule, we don't eat the husks of cereal grains, because we humans can't digest cellulose. That sort of thing requires the 4 chambered stomach of a ruminant. The husk is normally removed by some combination of threshing and pounding, depending on the variety. I suspect you were thinking of the bran, which is the layer between the endosperm and the husk.”

Yes, I’m hanging my head in shame. I had in mind the outer shell of the grains themselves and assumed that there would be a certain amount of wear and erosion during chewing in the mouth (which I do with whole grain food) and some abrasion during stomach rhythmic contractions. You’ve also given me the extra time to add that whole grain meals provide vitamin B1 as well as fibre – in addition to carbohydrates. And I believe that our predecessors used to rough up the gathered grain crops and throw handfuls up into the air so that the husks would blow away.

“As for snippet 2: I was under the impression that elevated blood glucose, both directly and indirectly, elevates the body's inflammatory response and thereby (among other things) contributes to accelerated damage of tissues and organs with extremely fine capillary structures like the eyes and kidneys.”I

’ve never seen any evidence that elevated blood glucose concentrations produce inflammatory responses as such, the latter being well-documented, specific processes. But as I said, I can believe that an elementary chemical process known as Mass Action could result in glycation of proteinaceous cell receptors, thus causing problems in all body tissues. As neuro implied, there are multiple complex conditions associated with elevated blood glucose concentrations, involving not only eyes and kidneys, but many other tissues as well. Cardiovascular conditions of all types become involved including peripheral arterial disease to the extent of causing dry gangrene of the toes and feet. Glucose metabolism appears to be the common demonitator. Neuro seemed to disagree with my theory of glycation of multiple receptors and transfer proteins in the earlier post, but he did not present a better theory, except to state that the pathogenesis of diabetes 2 at least was complex in complex ways.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby Paralith on September 13th, 2015, 4:54 pm 

I really need to find some time to write that sticky post about human lifespans.

vivian, it is hard to accurately judge the lifespans of long dead ancestors from their bones, and longevity estimates based on those kinds of studies are under going some contention lately. But we can look at modern hunter gatherers living traditional lifestyles and look at people in and records from pre-industrial societies to get an understanding of what's going on with human longevity. It is very unlikely that all humans used to drop dead at the age of 30. The number 30 can arise from looking at averages that include many many infant deaths. When your sample of ages at death is filled with 1's and 2's, even if most adults live into their 60's and 70's the average taken all together ends up somewhere in the middle. And what infants mostly die of is disease. They have immature immune systems and tiny bodies with few energy and water reserves. Even something like diarrhea can quickly dehydrate and drop the body temperature of an infant and kill them. What changed drastically in recent history are advances in understanding disease and the importance of hygiene, and this in particular greatly reduced the human infant mortality rate in the last hundred years or so. This has driven the overall average up. On the other side of the lifespan, things like heart disease and cancer that are major causes of mortality for the elderly are also now better understood and more treatable. If there are major changes happening in our lifespans, it's not because of diet, it's because of medicine.

We can also look at living hunter gatherers and easily see few of them are dying from conditions related to obesity. There are general differences in dietary trends that clearly have a negative impact on the health of people in industrial societies. And in these cases, yes, edging our diets towards a more hunter-gatherer-like regimen is probably a good idea. But the problem is no humans anywhere, and probably never in time, all ate the exact same thing all the time. One of the hallmarks of humans is how flexible we are, and how we have managed to reap all the food we need out of nearly every environment the planet has to offer. Modern hunter gatherer diets can vary a lot depending on what's available where they live. There are broad trends common across them, such as their diets always being a pretty high percentage animal protein, and these general trends may be worth aiming for in our modern diets. But it's hard to get much more specific and still be standing on solid scientific ground.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby vivian maxine on September 13th, 2015, 5:23 pm 

All of which, Paralith, just keeps me asking "then why aren't we healthier than they are alleged to have been?" It is just very hard to conceive that people with all the negatives the hunter-gatherers faced, were healthier than we with all our advantages. As for all those whole grains - and more - this I have often read in reports about the hunter gatherer: His teeth were worn to a nubbin. I've not seen much about plaque and how much infection it would have caused but wearing the teeth down almost to the bone makes for very poor eating.

I suppose I am totally wrong but I do think we, as a whole, are much healthier today with all our modern medicines and with more knowledge about taking care of our health. Then there is our easier life style. Think of the exposure the hunter had when he went out searching for food. Maybe it toughened him up so he survived more life threats. I'm not talking about dangers from animals and enemies. I am talking about weather, etc.

All right. I don't claim authority. I just keep on wondering when I see babies and children thriving who would not have lived out their first year in hunter gatherer days.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby Paralith on September 13th, 2015, 5:38 pm 

vivian, perhaps I misunderstood what you were talking about. I'm not trying to say people living as a hunter gatherers are, on the whole, more healthy than we are. I do think it is reasonable to look to them when we think particular aspects of industrial life are problematic or harmful for us, on a case-by-case basis. But there are plenty of cases where the modern way of life is clearly better for us, such as the case of the higher survival rate of our children.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby BioWizard on September 13th, 2015, 5:51 pm 

I guess everything I said on the matter was either entirely unclear or too utterly boring to be read and remembered. If you specify which may have been the case, I can try again accordingly.

Whatever the case was, we don't need to do any kind of direct comparison between our health and the health of our ancestors to be able to tell whether their diet (or any given diet) is more conducive of human health than our modern industrialized diet. You just need to look at risk factors (emphasis on risk factors) associated with each diet. Based on such studies, for example, the mediterranean diet is thought to be healthier than a diet that is high in sugar/salt and processed foods and low on fresh wholesome foods.

Once again, don't confuse the effects of diet on health with those of modern life commodities. That's why you look at risk factors, not the actual outcome which could be confounded by so many diet-independent factors (ex access to better healthcare).
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby vivian maxine on September 13th, 2015, 6:04 pm 

Paralith » September 13th, 2015, 4:38 pm wrote:vivian, perhaps I misunderstood what you were talking about. I'm not trying to say people living as a hunter gatherers are, on the whole, more healthy than we are. I do think it is reasonable to look to them when we think particular aspects of industrial life are problematic or harmful for us, on a case-by-case basis. But there are plenty of cases where the modern way of life is clearly better for us, such as the case of the higher survival rate of our children.



Ah, all right. I was referring to the post about a man who did some research and found that hunter gatherers, on their whole grain and roughage diet were healthier than we are today. I keep thinking this little syllogism:

We are healthier because of all our modern medicines and vaccines.
The hunter gather did not have these medicines and vaccines.
Therefore, the hunter gatherer was healthier than we are.

Somehow I see "fail" on my term paper.

It may well be that we'd be still healthier if we did something about our dietary habits - like boycott companies that bury everything in sugar and salt? I wouldn't argue that for a minute. I'm just having a problem seeing the hunter gatherer who had to scrounge for scarce food and live in cold caves managing to be healthier than we with all our creature comforts.

But what do I know? My favorite dessert is a slice of Cheesecake Factory chocolate fudge cake. :-(

Response to Biowizard: But, the Mediterranean diet is not what the man was researching. And he was not comparing the health of the Mediterranean peoples with modern man. The people being examined for the benefit of the Mediterranean diet are modern man. My friendly dispute is his claim that the hunter gatherer peoples were healthier than we are.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby Darby on September 13th, 2015, 6:33 pm 

Paralith » September 13th, 2015, 5:38 pm wrote:vivian, perhaps I misunderstood what you were talking about. I'm not trying to say people living as a hunter gatherers are, on the whole, more healthy than we are. I do think it is reasonable to look to them when we think particular aspects of industrial life are problematic or harmful for us, on a case-by-case basis. But there are plenty of cases where the modern way of life is clearly better for us, such as the case of the higher survival rate of our children.


I think on the one hand, hunter gatherer's overall health benefits greatly from a more consistently physically active lifestyle, plus a diet skewed towards less refined foods and generally better in terms of glycemic index. On the negative side, you have a lack of modern healthcare and medication, reduced access to reliably potabable water & increased exposure to disease carrying insects and microbes, a decrease in daily hygene, and increased susceptibility to environmental impact.

On the other hand, we're sort of the reverse ... although we have access to modern healthcare and medication, reliable potable water and a much more hygenic daily lifestyle, and better year-round shelter against the elements, we also generally suffer (more than most of us realize) from being more sedentary and having a diet skewed towards more refined foods and a less desirable glycemic index. Not only that, but because we're often several generations removed from serious environmental/physical harships, our overall collective health has suffered somewhat from the reduced effects of Darwin's forces of natural selection, and thus hereditary diseases are slowly proliferating and being protected from timely demise.

All things being equal, I still prefer the advantages of the modern lifestyle, but we need to keep where we came from firmly in mind at all times, and try to adjust our lifestyles accordingly, as best we can.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby BioWizard on September 13th, 2015, 8:06 pm 

vivian maxine » 13 Sep 2015 05:04 pm wrote:Response to Biowizard: But, the Mediterranean diet is not what the man was researching. And he was not comparing the health of the Mediterranean peoples with modern man. The people being examined for the benefit of the Mediterranean diet are modern man. My friendly dispute is his claim that the hunter gatherer peoples were healthier than we are.


Le sigh. That's why I said "for example", Vivian. Meaning I used the mediterranean diet as an example of how various diets can be compared. That said, I haven't been trying to support anybody's points in this thread other than my own, so I'm not that concerned about what "his claims" were. And as paralith said, human diet in past times varied quite a bit by region and period. Nevertheless, some things must have been common to all of them - the absence of highly processed food items we have today. So whatever health risk factors are correlated with high sugar, fat, salt, etc diets of industrialized life were not there before, and in that respect past diets could have been arguably healthier.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby BioWizard on September 13th, 2015, 8:15 pm 

What I don't understand is why people are treating the advantages of modern life commodities/medicine as insaparable from the industrialized diet. Who said we either have to choose all or nothing? Who's even arguing that modern medicine/commodities don't make up for any downsides to the industrialized diet? The thread is about food/diet, and comparisons should be diet to diet. Not diet to diet + every other factor that can affect health and longevity.

Focus people! :]
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby Paralith on September 14th, 2015, 1:37 am 

vivian, I think this may come down to how you define what is healthy. There have been multiple previous threads on diet before that ran into this same problem. There are multiple ways to measure a person's health and a given diet can have multiple effects on that person's health, and some may be good while others may be bad. It may be that this person who claimed hunter gatherers are healthier than we are has a concept of health that is closely tied to the human "natural" state of being. To humans living the way their bodies evolved to live. Now, this view also carries with it some assumptions about what is natural, and that humans only evolved to live in one certain or a limited number of ways, and that we have not continued to evolve much since then. These view points are debatable themselves. But this may be where this person was coming from.

That being said, I went back and looked more closely at doogle's post about this person's ideas. It doesn't seem to me he was trying to say that hunter gatherers are overall more healthy than industrial people. In fact he looked for non-industrial people who were already quite healthy, disease free and reasonably well fed, and looked very specifically for what particular aspects of their health and wellness that outstripped those of people in industrialized societies. He was not making overall comparisons or judgements of health on the whole. And if he did do so, somewhere in his book or writings, he certainly should not have based on his biased sample.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby wolfhnd on September 14th, 2015, 2:35 am 

BioWizard » Mon Sep 14, 2015 12:15 am wrote:What I don't understand is why people are treating the advantages of modern life commodities/medicine as insaparable from the industrialized diet. Who said we either have to choose all or nothing? Who's even arguing that modern medicine/commodities don't make up for any downsides to the industrialized diet? The thread is about food/diet, and comparisons should be diet to diet. Not diet to diet + every other factor that can affect health and longevity.

Focus people! :]


Because we are lazy and it is easier to assume and either or? One of the advantages of industrialized diet is it is less work than eating something like the mediterranean diet. It's a trade off time to play or time to be healthy. I think the problem is thus somewhat deeper culturally in so far as we have forgotten how to make eating play.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby vivian maxine on September 14th, 2015, 4:55 am 

BioWizard » September 13th, 2015, 7:15 pm wrote:What I don't understand is why people are treating the advantages of modern life commodities/medicine as insaparable from the industrialized diet. Who said we either have to choose all or nothing? Who's even arguing that modern medicine/commodities don't make up for any downsides to the industrialized diet? The thread is about food/diet, and comparisons should be diet to diet. Not diet to diet + every other factor that can affect health and longevity.

Focus people! :]


Is the thread about food/diet? I thought it was about which group is/was healthier. I am wrong, though. Mea culpa.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby CanadysPeak on September 14th, 2015, 6:37 am 

One might, for the sake of elucidation, say that a modern man who eats a diet based on current knowledge of the advantages of some of the elements of the hunter-gatherer diet has fewer health problems than one who does not. But, we must live in the world in which we find ourselves.

For example, almonds are generally thought to be a healthy food. Yet the western drought will likely push almonds off the store shelves soon as prices rise past, what, twenty dollars a pound? Will anyone buy a half gallon of almond milk at that price? So, we must eat such nuts as we find available, but not base dietary recommendations on that.

In a similar vein, lean animal protein in small amounts, taken through vigorous hunting activity, is probably quite beneficial, but that is not comparable to the well-marbled slab of Angus taken from an animal who spends his life in a modern feedlot. It is still possible to buy meat similar to what a hunter-gatherer might have eaten, but the price tends past ten dollars a pound, and the animals from which the meat comes makes some squeamish.

Thus, we must look to nutritional science to tell us what we can best eat that is available to us in this modern world. That means looking at GMOs in terms of which ones are viable, healthy foods, for example.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby BioWizard on September 14th, 2015, 6:55 am 

.....And generally try adjust intake to "need"?

Nothing is absolutely bad (or good) - it's all dose dependent. Even poison.

I may not be able to find raw almonds everywhere, but do I need to eat two burgers in a meal during a day where I've barely moved? And then top it off with a soda that has 50 grams of pure sugar, and repeat during dinner?

I'm not trying to push any kind of diet or lifestyle here. Just pointing that a little bit of common sense goes a long way with diet. Nobody does or can know everything, so I won't follow anybody's preaching. But I can read around and make some educated guesses and circumstance-dependent adjustments to make sure I'm not horribly throwing off my metabolism.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby CanadysPeak on September 14th, 2015, 8:06 am 

BioWizard » Mon Sep 14, 2015 6:55 am wrote:.....And generally try adjust intake to "need"?

Nothing is absolutely bad (or good) - it's all dose dependent. Even poison.

I may not be able to find raw almonds everywhere, but do I need to eat two burgers in a meal during a day where I've barely moved? And then top it off with a soda that has 50 grams of pure sugar, and repeat during dinner?

I'm not trying to push any kind of diet or lifestyle here. Just pointing that a little bit of common sense goes a long way with diet. Nobody does or can know everything, so I won't follow anybody's preaching. But I can read around and make some educated guesses and circumstance-dependent adjustments to make sure I'm not horribly throwing off my metabolism.


You are more the exception than the rule in terms of knowledge. The average person in the supermarket is almost surely ignorant of what lecithin is or whether they should pay $1 more for a food containing it. Thus, they must look for guidance from nutritionists (we hope) or from Dr. Oz (a ???? ).

Interestingly enough, I was grocery shopping at the MegaSuperDooperMart the other day, and I noticed that most of the healthier foods were on the outside walls (vegetables, fruits, nuts, cheese, bread, meat, fish, dairy) while almost everything less healthy was in the interior aisles (sugared cereal, pop, candy, cookies, Steeler paraphernalia, cake mixes, ice cream). There are a few exceptions, but the cost breaks down about the same - stuff on the outside walls is more expensive.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby BioWizard on September 14th, 2015, 8:26 am 

True to some extent, but my expert knowledge of biochemistry serves more to tie things down at the molecular level for myself. Almost everything I know about nutrition comes from avocational reading. And it's not like we don't get blasted by the major points of concensus around the clock: too much sugar and carbs is not good, balance bad fat with good fat, include fresh fruits and vegetables, don't overeat, exercice even if just a little, etc.

These are all very simple and well agreed upon points that I see most people ignore.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby BioWizard on September 14th, 2015, 8:31 am 

And yes the "outside stuff" is always more expensive, simply because the more processed the food item is, the cheaper it is to manufacture, package, transport, and stock it, and vice versa. That would mean if one chooses to eat less processed food, they might also have to eat a little less... Oh the humanity! :]
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby TheVat on September 14th, 2015, 10:09 am 

LOL "Steelers paraphernalia"

The only dietary adjustment where I notice a marked change on a particular day is eliminating white flour. The desire to nap, and most afternoon lethargy, vanishes when bread and pasta are replaced with, say, rhizomes. IOW, a bit more hunter/gatherer, a bit less agrarian.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby BioWizard on September 14th, 2015, 10:43 am 

Braininvat » 14 Sep 2015 09:09 am wrote:LOL "Steelers paraphernalia"

The only dietary adjustment where I notice a marked change on a particular day is eliminating white flour. The desire to nap, and most afternoon lethargy, vanishes when bread and pasta are replaced with, say, rhizomes. IOW, a bit more hunter/gatherer, a bit less agrarian.


That's not necessarily a long term health marker per say though, and rather an observable acute effect of certain foods on you specifically.

You want to tell me you can't notice any effects from ingesting large amounts of sugar or caffeine (or both)?

Most health markers and risk factors are not something that changes acutely or can be noticeable as such.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby TheVat on September 14th, 2015, 11:59 am 

True. I would suggest that the acute observable effect of avoiding simple carbs is indicative of a longer term health marker, given that there seems to be a causal relation between the sustained energy you have in your waking hours, for all your activities, and longterm health. It's a sort of "connect the dots" awareness, when other nutritional aspects (like the longterm effect on metabolic syndrome) are understood. I wouldn't make that leap with tobacco, say, since its longterm negatives are well documented and understood. So, yes, I could have a very energetic day running on cigarets and coffee but I wouldn't be seeing that as a longterm health marker.

That said, if I avoided most wheat foods in favor of potatoes and turnips, I might inadvertently develop a B-vitamin deficiency or some other nutrient found in wheat but not in roots, and that could work against longterm thriving even though I might experience several weeks of well-being. But that kind of vitamin loss would be unlikely in a developed country where vitamin-enriched foods are so plentiful. We are very fortunate that, if we happen onto a food that doesn't like us, our society offers alternatives that have comparable nutrients added in, e.g. almond milk or soy milk. I enjoy "challenge foods" - nutritionists use the term to refer to something that you can tolerate a little of, but not too much. I like to push that as far as my gut can stand it because my challenge foods are all foods I really like. :-)
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby BioWizard on September 14th, 2015, 12:33 pm 

The problem with how we "feel" is that it can a good indicator for the presence of a problem, but not a good indicator for the abence of one. That's why biological markers that don't depend on our relatively subjective perception are so useful. As an example, by the time you start "feeling" the effects of hypertension, it's already too late.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby BioWizard on September 14th, 2015, 12:38 pm 

My point there being that you need to pay attention not only to how things make you feel acutely or chronically. But also to what they do to your vitals and health risk factors - the majority of which you may not easily perceive during the window where they can be addressed preventively.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby TheVat on September 14th, 2015, 2:54 pm 

For sure. I was speaking only within the domain of blood glucose, where a sustained "feel" of energy and absence of fatigue and lethargy does correlate strongly with good insulin levels and cellular uptake. Energy metabolism doesn't hide the way hypertension does, though there are masking pathologies that a diagnostician would have to be watchful for, like thyroid or adrenal problems or even neurological issues that first present as abundant zest. But, ruling out such issues, and stimulants, a sustained vigor through the day does seem one area where our bodily feedback is pretty reliable. Thin people who walk everywhere and play two sets of tennis every evening tend not to be type 2 diabetics. There are exceptions, and the fact that they are viewed as exceptions, makes my point.
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby BioWizard on September 14th, 2015, 3:47 pm 

Braininvat » 14 Sep 2015 01:54 pm wrote:There are exceptions, and the fact that they are viewed as exceptions, makes my point.


And everything you've said re-iterates a number of my points (not just in this micro-discussion, but in the whole thread) :]
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Re: Starch and sugar

Postby Darby on September 14th, 2015, 4:00 pm 

Here's some visible proof that sugar is the food of the Devil.



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