WSJ: Asia’s Promise Gives Way to Its Growing List of Troubles

The Wall Street Journal ran an essay entitled “Asia’s Promise Gives Way to Its Growing List of Troubles”. Here are a few sections (not in order) and my disagreements:

Asia’s second looming problem is demographic. Japan began losing population in 2011, after decades of dropping birthrates, according to World Bank data. The country’s health and welfare ministry and other experts worry that the number of Japanese, which stood at 127 million in 2014, could fall by as much as a third by 2060. One result of this failure to reproduce is that Japan, according to the U.N., “is home to the world’s most aged population,” with 33% of its citizens 60 or over in 2015; the country is thought to have more than 58,000 centenarians. No modernized society has ever faced such a challenge.

TK: Of course, Japan’s demographics are similar to many European countries. The writer typically uses extrapolations out to 2060 and concludes “No modern society has ever faced such a challenge.” But no modern society has ever seen health care of the 2020s to 2050s either: CRISPR type technology, nanotech, anti-aging pills and treatments, etc. that are coming just around the corner — in the 2020s.

Perhaps the greatest risk is the dramatically slowing Chinese economy. When trading opened on the Shanghai Composite Index on June 12, 2015, its value had skyrocketed more than 100% since the summer of 2014. Then the bubble popped. Fueled by fears of a slowing economy, a weakening currency and an unsustainable debt bomb of some $30 trillion, China’s markets went into free fall.

TK: China’s growth is not “dramatically slowing” down. Growth oscillated over the past three decades, and it’s GDP growth rate has been around 7% for the past few years, about the same as in the late 1990s/early 2000s when it was at 8%.

Asia’s advanced economies face their own problems. Japan continues to search for ways to end 25 years of economic torpor. An asset and property price bubble nearly brought down the country’s financial system in the 1990s, and the economy has limped along ever since. Most Japanese have a comparatively high standard of living, but decades of stimulus packages and a focus on exports have failed to nudge Japan beyond an average annual growth rate of barely 1%, according to World Bank data.

TK: As I’ve pointed out before, on a per capita bases – which is what matters, Japan’s growth has been almost the same as U.S. growth since 2000 and almost the same going back 25 years apart from 1996 to 2000 when the U.S. grew and Japan was stagnant partly due to Asian financial crisis.

Japanese corporations once led the world; now they struggle with shrinking market share, growing inefficiency and waning innovation… Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reforms have neither changed Japan’s risk-averse corporate culture nor eliminated enough regulations to unleash entrepreneurship and innovation.

TK: Abe II has only been Prime Minister for three years. Bloomberg still places Japan at #3 in terms of innovation – after another Asian nation, South Korea, that has continued to grow to where they have caught Japan, although workers put in much longer hours. South Korea is now similar to Japan in standard of living without as much leisure time.

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What dose of Nicotinamide Riboside (NR)? Part 1

While waiting for Elysium to release results from its last summer trial of Basis (NR and pterostilbine), I thought I’d mention what I’m reading about various doses.

Elysium, as with many vendors like HPN who sell NR, recommends 250 mg a day. Basis also includes 50 mg of pterostilbine found in blueberriers. Elysium tested 40 healthy, non-obese people between the ages of 60 and 80 as well as a similar group of 40 at 500 mg of NR and 100 mg of pterostilbine a day and a 40 person placebo group for 8 weeks.

Elysium then reported on their website in December that the 250 mg NR/50 mg pterotilbine increased NAD+ levels by 40% and that 500 mg NR/100 mg pterostilbine raised NAD+ levels by 90%.

Extrapolating these results downward, then 125 mg of NR with 25 mg of pterostilbine should increase NAD+ by around 20%.

Yet Chromadex, the sole supplier of NR, conducted a one day trial of 12 people in 2015 which showed that 100 mg of NR raised NAD+ levels by 30%, 300 mg raised NAD+ 50% and interestingly 1000 mg also raised NAD+ 50% so at the time it seemed that taking anything over 500 mg might be unnecessary.

But Charles Brenner, an NR researcher at the University of Iowa, published a study on an NR trial of one – himself – at 1000 mg a day for one week that showed a 170% increase in his NAD+ levels without adding pterostilbine. This happens to be similar to taking Elysium Basis at 1000 mg: You would see a 60% increase in NAD+ at 375 mg by interpolating their results, and then through extrapolation, a 140% increase at 750 mg and a 190% increase in NAD+ at 1000 mg, which is about what Brenner found without the pterostilbine.

My guess is that if the Elysium trial results are positive in at least one area, they will show more measured improvement(s) at 500 mg of NR than at their current recommended dose of 250 mg. The difference may be great enough that a higher dose like 500 mg may be the obvious level to take, creating a potential marketing problem as that would cost the regular customer not $45 a month but $90 a month, or $3.00 a day.

Coincidently, David Sinclair of Resveratrol fame, who conducted the NMN study on mice in 2013 that showed a human eivalent of reversing muscle from a 55 year old to a 35 year old, said a decade ago that the first pharmaceutical health pill would probably cost around $3.00 a day, which is what BASIS at a double dose of 500 mg of NR and 100 mg of pterostilbine would cost.

Sinclair also reportedly said in mid 2014 that you need to take 500 mg of NR for it to be effective: “In June, David Sinclair told me you need to take at least 500mg of NR for it to do anything.” – Kane Pappas, longevity documentary maker.

That may turn out to at least be partly true, and we’ll know more once Elysium releases its results.

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Kenneth Arrow dies at 95 and what is it about longevity and to economists?

An econ icon sadly passed away at 95 yesterday but what a life. Below is a link to what the NY Times’ wrote about this most excellent theoretical economist, the first to win a Nobel Prize in Economics.

What is it with well known economists and longevity? Sadly, Tobin died at a youthful 85 but Samuelson went out the Big Door at 94, Arrow at 95, Friedman at 95, Schelling at 95, Galbrieth at 97 and Coase stubbornly didn’t shuffle off the mortal coil until almost 103.

This is pre NR. Just how much oatmeal did they eat??

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/21/business/economy/kenneth-arrow-dead-nobel-laureate-in-economics.html?smid=tw-share&_r=2

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The Washington Post: “Japanese nuclear plant just recorded an astronomical radiation level. Should we be worried?”

The Washington Post recently printed another bad article on the cleanup efforts at the Fukushima nuclear plant site. It does correct misperceptions found in earlier articles from other news outlets but includes:

“So should the people who live in Japan, who live on the Pacific basin be freaking out?

Not yet, some analysts say.”

Not yet?? Neither the Japanese outside the overly large evacuation zone nor anyone living on the Pacific basin has ever had a reason to “be freaking out” over the accident at Fukushima since radiation levels didn’t pose a threat then or now. This is yet again a top American news outlet writing this uniformed FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt.

As former nuclear operator Rod Adams wrote at Atomic Insights with respect to the WaPo article,

“[The journalists] turned what could have been an opportunity to spread knowledge into a “he said, she said” opinion piece that leaves most readers in the dark about who to believe. After quoting several experts who provided credible responses and interpretations about the recently announced radiation dose rate measurements, the reporter chose to conclude with the following statement from one of the usual suspects.”

He means Greenpeace…

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Sheila Smith’s take on the TPP and a potential trade war with China

Here is part of a post I sent to the NBR Japan Forum, responding to Council on Foreign Relations Sheila Smith’s essay: U.S.-Japan Relations in a Trump Administration

1. Smith wrote: “A trade war with China [and the U.S.] would of course be a disaster for most of the Asia-Pacific economies, and Japan’s economy would be badly affected. Any protectionist impulse by the United States would affect China’s exports not only to the United States but also to Japan.”

A trade war, and these are very unlikely, where certain U.S. tariffs would suddenly increase significantly would hurt American companies like Walmart that depend on selling cheap goods from China. There is no reason why it would be “a disaster for most of the Asia-Pacific companies”, nor would Japan be hurt much. How would China’s exports to Japan change over a dispute with the U.S?

2. “Moreover, attempts to levy tariffs on Chinese manufacturers would affect the global supply chain so necessary to Japanese companies operating in the United States.” (p. 14)

Japanese companies like Toyota and Honda could be slightly hurt by high tariffs placed on auto parts imported from China, although that is not a given as they would likely shift any auto part imports from China, which only accounts for 8% of global auto part exports, to other countries like South Korea at 7%, Thailand at 2% and Mexico at 7% among several others.

3. “Should the new administration follow through on Trump’s campaign promise to back away from the TPP, it will be a tremendous setback for Japan and for Abe.” (p. 16)

TPP not being passed, and I can’t see how it will be anytime soon, would hardly affect Japan. The TPP is overwhelmingly a thousand page intellectual property agreement, which Japan has already followed the U.S. laws with patents and has already agreed to extend copyright protection to the (crazy) 70 years found in of U.S. copyright laws. Abe’s approval rating last month after Trump was elected was around 50% when those polled already took into account that TPP was not going through – if that was even an issue to the voter.

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ChromaDex sues Elysium over NR deal

ChromaDex, the monopoly supplier of Nictotinamide Riboside (NR) has sued Elysium, a high profile NR vendor at the end of the year. ChromaDex’s filing can be read here and Elysium has not responded in public as far as I can tell.

Elysium, co-founded by M.I.T. longevity researcher Leonard Guarante in late 2014 and now with a large science advisory board including seven Nobel Prize Laureates, has sold BASIS, which is 250 mg of NR and 50 mg of blueberry compound pterostilbine, since early 2015 at $50 a month for those who subscribe through their website. NR and pterostilbine can be be bought from other vendors but Elysium’s price is competitive.

According to Chromadex’s lawsuit, Elysium bought 900 kg of Naigen (the brand name of NR) in 2015 and then 1600 kg of Naigen (NR) in the first quarter of 2016. At the time, Elysium reportedly raised concerns about pricing and ChromaDex claims they reached out to Elysium to settle pricing concerns but was rebuffed.

Then on June 28, 2016, Elysium ordered 6600 kg of Naigen (NR) and 1260 kg of pterostilbine, four times the previous order.

But Elysium was also one month into its two month double-blind trial of 120 healthy 60 to 80 year olds on June 28, 2016, so they knew how their BASIS at 250 mg/50 mg pterostilbine and double dose of 500 mg of Naigen (NR)/100 mg of pterostilbine was affecting 1) heart rate 2) blood pressure 3) glucose levels as well as performance on a 6 minute walking test among others. A larger than normal purchase of NR and pterostilbine after the one month results were known suggests efficacy beyond the results released in December, that Elysium BASIS at 250mg NR/ 50mg pterostilbine increased NAD+ 45% and the double dose increased NAD+ by 90%.

Yet Elysium demanded a $400/kg price for Niagen (NR) which was

“far below the parties’ agreed price of S1000/kg for NIAGEN NR, even though Elysium never discussed the proposed pricing changes with ChromaDex. Elysium knew or should have know that ChromaDex would not accept the June 28 Purchase Orders at that price.”

ChromaDex then negotiated a $800/kg price for Naigen (NR), which the lawsuit claims Elysium reluctantly accepted. Elysium then cut back the previous larger order to 3000kg of Naigen (NR) and 580kg of pterostilbine. ChromaDex filled the orders and claims in the lawsuit that they have not received the almost $3 million in return. Elysium told ChromaDex it will not pay until the pricing issues of the June 30th phone call that transpired are settled.

So what’s going on?

One thing to keep in mind is that suppliers often receive late payments. Proctor & Gamble has faced friction for this practice with many of its suppliers, and ironically ChromaDex became one of their suppliers last year in an exclusive Naigen (NR) deal. My guess is that Elysium wants the same deal that P&G got if not an even better deal.

So we have an interesting case of a relatively high-profile NR vendor playing hardball with the NR monopoly supplier.

Stay tuned for round two!

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Charles Brenner of the U. of Iowa discusses NR at the U. of Wisconsin

Biochemist Charles Brenner of the University of Iowa gave a talk at the U. of Wisconsin – Madison yesterday on the current state of NR (Nicotainamide Riboside) research, the Vitamin B3 derivative that has shown to increase the health of mice. His presentation will be up on the internet soon, and I’ll link to that then.

Anyway…

1) Dr. Brenner told his story about how he was the subject of a small n=1 study – on himself – that he published which analyzed the effects of him taking 1 gram of NR for a week. During the Q&A he said he now takes 250 mg, the most common dose. He added that that we will know more after Chromadex’s and Elysium’s separate results are released. I hope in the first half of next year.

2) In the first part of the talk Brenner pretty much stated that resveratol wasn’t effective and that it wasn’t very bioavailable. Toward the end he mentioned the Elysium study and how it includes pterostilbine, the compound found in blueberries which is “an analog to resveratrol” but was skeptical that it does anything, contrary to Elysium’s expectations that it may act synergisticly with NR.

3) Brenner also pointed out that the study included only healthy adults (60 to 80) who had a BMI below 30, so that certain positive metabolic effects may or may not be noticed. He thinks it will eventually be shown that NR will make more of difference for those who are out of shape than those who are very fit.

4) He said glucose levels and weight were better maintained in mice that took NR than the control group. Overall cholesterol was also reduced but Brenner said that the mouse model doesn’t translate well to humans.

5) Brenner discussed heart failure in mice that took NR and that it seemed to help prevent the onset as well as improve heart failure once it occurred. He said the mice’s heart EF (ejection fraction) improved but not by how much. He added that he wasn’t an expert in cardiology but that several heart indicators improved.

6) Brenner mentioned that he has heard of people taking NR reporting that they have more energy, but he hasn’t experienced that himself. However, he did say that he used to have gastric problems when eating certain foods but that went away after he began taking NR and wasn’t sure why.

7) There has been a concern with respect to increased levels of NAD+ accelerating brain tumor growth. He replied that there was the one study out of the U of Washington that showed that but that there are other studies that show increased NAD+ may inhibit tumor growth and that he wasn’t sure at this point.

My guess is that Elysium will be correct that pterostilbine does increase NAD+ levels more than when NR is taken alone but have no idea by how much. Could be zero.

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