I SPENT A couple of hours reading the newspaper on-line yesterday. Leisurely though that might sound, it wasn’t exactly relaxing. I think my big mistake was spending too much time reading the back articles, particularly health headlines.
Most articles in this section tend to be food-related, and it’s no wonder people get confused about what they should and shouldn’t eat. The information these lightweight articles provide are at best vague, and rarely seem to be strongly substantiated. They are commonly targeted on one specific element of a certain food or diet, supporting the ill-founded notion that there is not one simple diet which promotes and supports general good health. And you know where I’m going with that – I’m talking about a whole foods, plant based diet.
Instead, ‘industry science’ is far more concerned about promoting and circulating any information that puts their products in a good light, and diverting attention away from any information that does the opposite. It’s sad but true that most of the ‘health information’ relied on today is circulated and promoted largely by industries who have a lot to lose if their products are portrayed as being ‘bad for us’, or even ‘not very good for us’. To say that conflicts of interest exist is an understatement. Being a vegan is easy-peasy compared to navigating the high seas of industry science!
“Start spreading the news, saturated fat isn’t so bad!” was the first headline that caught my eye. Apparently, new analysis of a study conducted in the late 1960s and early 1970s reveals that people who followed the standard advice and substituted margarine in place of butter died sooner than those who made no change to their diet. There was some debate within the article regarding what conclusions (if any) could be reliably drawn from the study. None, I suspect.
How can these results indicate anything at all without knowing what other dietary changes (if any) those people made, and what their state of health was in the first place? Would it really matter what they were smearing on their bread if it was under a half pound of bologna and swiss cheese? I’m no fan of margarine, but it would be a very big ask for anyone to believe that only changing what you spread on your bread could have any real impact on health. What I find deeply disturbing is that there could still be any debate about what effects saturated fats (particularly animal fats) have on our health, even if the majority of people choose to continue with the status quo.
Then it was on to eggs. Cardiologist and associate professor Karam Kostner has reassured us all that it’s hunky dory to eat six eggs a week. This is according to ‘new research’, apparently. Professor Kostner theorises that “kangaroos can get fat on grass and that doesn’t mean that grass is bad, but it means that if you have too much of a good thing it is basically bad.” Well, that’s cleared things up! Oh, and by the way – it doesn’t seem to matter too much how you spread out your egg ration for the week – possibly you could gobble them all up in one sitting if that spins your wheels! However, I was skim reading, so don’t take that for gospel, I’d hate to be responsible for any egg overdoses. Prof Kostner didn’t mention what might happen if you ate seven eggs in one week, though.
Anyone for lasagne? Just the other day I was asking hubby where old race horses end up, as I imagine they’re a bit flighty to make good hacks when their racing careers are over. Now I know: frozen lasagne and spag bol, of course (in Europe, anyway). I won’t dwell on this article as the topic has already been masterfully covered by Gary Steel here in his ‘Who Gives a Rat’s Ass’ blog. A quick recap though: The article reported that eating horsemeat is not generally a health risk, but that the cases have spurred disgust in places where “such meat is far from a staple” and the “great public concern” around the “very shocking” issue, is that “people will be very angry to find out they have been eating horse when they thought they were eating beef.” Am I reading too much into this if I were to assume then, that if the label had stated horsemeat instead of beef, then everything would be fine? A certain old favourite comes to mind as an ideal front-person (or should I say front-horse) for a new campaign: Mr Ed, of course.
Then there was the study involving diabetics about whether diet drinks were better than their sugar-laden counterparts. This article was a real doozy! I read it three times and still couldn’t work out the usefulness of any of the facts and figures, nor what purpose it actually served to have it published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition! Interestingly, its authors admitted the study “had limitations” and that “information on beverage consumption was not updated during the follow-up, and dietary habits may have changed over time,” and that they “cannot rule out that factors other than ASB (artificially sweetened beverages) are responsible for the association with diabetes.”
Why is there any need for such a study in the first place? Surely we ALL know by now that both these types of drinks are bad news? Once again, it is one of those studies that does nothing more than add to the smokescreen that separates the average Joe Bloggs from the simple truth. Such ‘studies’ simply serve to confuse people, which leads to a loss of interest, thereby dissipating any negative information that could lead to a loss of profits somewhere along the time. As for the beverage choices discussed in this study – “ordinary sugar-laden” or “artificially sweetened” – faced with that choice we’d probably be better off drinking our own urine.
On a culinary note, in America a plate of crispy battered prawns, mushrooms, tomato and arugula tossed with spaghettini and a cream sauce has taken the prize as the “most calorie-rich chain restaurant dish in America” – coming in at 3120 calories, for the ever so reasonable price of US$17.95. This delectable delight (if you’re aiming for 400 pound status I guess…) featured prominently over other menu items on this year’s “Xtreme Eating Awards list”. Those US scientists who are now nervous as to whether they may have been wrong in advising people to eat margarine instead of butter needn’t have worried, as it is likely not many were listening.
“Ashton Kutcher hospitalised after ‘fruitarian diet’ went wrong” – this article isn’t worth commenting on, other than to say that the American Cattlemen Association will be peeing their pants with glee.
On a somewhat brighter note – only because it’s plant-related – I learned that coconut water is now the ‘in’ beverage, especially for supermodels and raunchy, scantily clad singers. Apparently, there is “a growing appreciation in the West for coconut water as an alternative to sugar-laden carbonated drinks”. Did you know that coconut water is the only natural substance that can be safely injected into the human blood stream? (Please don’t try it on the strength of this blog though – I am quoting from the website for Coca Cola’s version of coconut water, and not personal experience!) Regarding this new craze, in his most recent state of the nation address, Manilla’s President Aquino hailed coconut water as one of the country’s “most promising new export opportunities”. It would be nice to think this will be good news for worker families who earn “$9US a day processing truckloads of coconuts in their backyard to get the meat that is turned into vegetable oil” (and currently throw away the water). However, as much as those families could use the extra cash, in reality I know that it is likely to be far more beneficial for the likes of Rihanna and Madonna, who are reportedly both shareholders in a major brand.
So there you have it, a few highlights from the health headlines. Don’t you feel better informed now? So long as we continue to pursue the impossible dream of there being a different magic bullet for every disease, we will continue to lose the war. The practise of treating illness and disease largely with drugs and surgery is one that feathers many global nests. Similarly, the nutritional supplements industry enjoys the very same benefits, fanning another popular notion, which is that you can continue to eat whatever you like so long as you pop a few vitamin pills with it. I would take a lot of convincing to change my opinion that vitamin supplements are not more about marketing and profit than they are about improving health. Every individual fruit and vegetable is made up of a symphony of nutrients, all working in perfect unison to deliver their benefits: this is what ‘whole food’ nutrition is all about, not swallowing a handful of vitamin pills. And by the way, would you like fries with that? CARRIE STEELE