Kids Need Cake … and Other News

      16 Comments on Kids Need Cake … and Other News

Readers and friends frequently send me links to online articles. Some become blog material, while others are interesting or funny but don’t quite merit a full post. I’m busy with programming work for the next few days, so instead of writing a long post, I thought I’d just share a few articles from my stash …

Researchers Nominated For Fat Head’s 2010 “DUH” Award

A group of researchers apparently conducted a 20-year study to reach the following conclusion:

A combination of four unhealthy behaviors — smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet and substantial alcohol consumption — greatly increases the risk of premature death, a new study has found.

I found this study amazing for two reasons: 1) Somebody found it worth funding, and 2) it was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. No doubt the editors believed doctors needed to be informed of these ground-breaking observations as soon as possible. The doctors who’ve been counseling their patients to spend all day smoking and tossing back boilermakers while sitting on the sofa are really going be embarrassed. (For their next project, the researchers will attempt to determine if walking outside naked in the winter is associated with a greater risk of hypothermia.)

The only interesting part of the online article was the sub-headline: People who smoke, drink, rarely exercise, and skimp on fruits and veggies die earlier than usual, study finds.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least twice: Researchers find all kinds of associations between particular foods and health that are essentially meaningless — because all we’re actually seeing is the difference between health-conscious people and people who don’t give a hoot. So skimping on fruits and veggies is bad for you? Maybe, but it’s more likely that the people who ignore the “Eat Five!” advice just have lousy health habits overall. Which leads me to the next article …

Five-a-day has little impact on cancer

So what happens if you conduct a large study on the supposed benefits of fruits and vegetables and actually adjust the data to account for variables such as smoking? You get a conclusion like this:

Eating more fruit and vegetables has only a modest effect on protecting against cancer, a study into the link between diet and disease has found. The study of 500,000 Europeans joins a growing body of evidence undermining the high hopes that pushing “five-a-day” might slash Western cancer rates. The international team of researchers estimates only around 2.5% of cancers could be averted by increasing intake.

The team, led by researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York, took into account lifestyle factors such as smoking and exercise when drawing their conclusions. But writing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, they said they could not rule out that even the small reduction in cancer risk seen was down to the fact that the kind of people who ate more fruit and vegetables lived healthier lives in many other respects too.

The World Health Organization, the U.S. government and governments all over Europe have been pushing various “Eat Five!” programs for years. I don’t have anything against vegetables (except celery), but they’re not some magic bullet to fight cancer. If governments really want to improve health, they should start a world-wide program titled Ignore Everything We Said Previously About Avoiding Fat And Basing Your Diet On Grains.

Do toddlers need cake as well as carrots?

That was the headline for an article published on the BBC News site. Allow me to answer the question posed by the headline: No, for @#$% sake, kids don’t need cake!  Here’s the lead paragraph of the article:

A new survey shows some nurseries are giving children too much in the way of fruit and vegetables, and not enough starchy carbohydrates to meet their energy needs. Have healthy eating messages left us in a state of confusion about what children should be consuming?

I’ll take a stab at that one: yes, people are confused. They’re also scared. As the article points out, some parents are so worried their kids will become obese, they’re trying to make the little tykes get by on lowfat everything. On that topic, at least, the article actually makes several good points:

Parents are aware of the importance of ensuring their child eats healthily to avoid obesity and health problems in later life, but this can sometimes lead to parents making requests that their child follows a strict diet, such as skimmed milk and low-fat foods,” says its chief executive Purnima Tanuku. “Children under five have specific needs, and should not have low-fat diets as their growing bodies need fat and carbohydrates.”

Studies have shown that children burn fat much faster than adults – and so skimmed milk and other low-fat dairy products should remain off the menu until they are much older.

I agree. Let’s not put skimmed milk and low-fat dairy products on the menu until the kids are at least 90.

A nutritionist quoted in the article actually suggests parents shouldn’t be worried about red meat. Yee-hah!  Unfortunately, she also believes that kids need the extra calories from foods like custards and puddings. Why, for Pete’s sake, would kids need anything containing sugar? If they need extra calories, serve them real foods with plenty of fat.

Cocktails For Carnivores

So if we’re going to finally stop worrying about red meat, how can we get more of the stuff into our diets?  Here’s an idea: put meat in our drinks.

In this meat-happy era, when diners serve bacon doughnuts and every menu item comes with an option of adding chicken, one cannot expect to consume alcohol without killing an animal. Fat-washed cocktails, as drinks with meat-infused liquor are called, are popping up at lots of swanky bars. Sirio Ristorante at Las Vegas’ new Aria hotel, for example, makes a $14 vodka drink called Bring Home the Bacon, which contains beef bouillon and is garnished with a deep-fried bacon-wrapped olive. And a prosciutto-stuffed olive. And a cream-cheese-and-bacon-stuffed olive.

Awesome. On hot summer days, nothing tastes better than a bratwurst washed down with a cold beer. The trouble is, there’s a lot effort involved … pick up the bratwurst, take a bite, set it down, pick up the beer glass, take a sip, set it down, pick up the bratwurst … very tiring. It never occurred to me that I could simply put the bratwurst and beer in the same glass. Now if I can just talk my wife into cutting the bratwurst into bites for me, I won’t have to expend any effort whatsoever.

Back to the programming work …


16 thoughts on “Kids Need Cake … and Other News

  1. Michael

    Bet it never occurred to you that combination of bratwurst and beer might run you $14. 🙂

    I suppose it’s the extra labor cost for whoever prepares the drink.

  2. Max

    Oh dear Tom. I sometimes feel you lose focus, or don’t read your own stuff.
    Your DUH award: they shouldn’t have studied the effect of smoking, no exercise, bad diet and booze why? Because it’s obvious?
    Well “it’s obvious” that eating fat makes you fat. Also “it’s obvious” that running will make you thin and healthy.
    The thing about science is assumptions have to be tested. Just last week I learned that thousands of studies have demonstrated that ‘learning styles’ (visual, aural, tactile) DON’T exist. But many teachers still believe they exist, because “it’s obvious”.

    Could be … but smoking, getting drunk, and never exercising … I can’t imagine those are healthy choices.

  3. Kiran

    I gotta ask. What do you have against celery ?

    That was a reference to an earlier post in which I suggested we declare celery a killer and follow the epidemiological results. But I don’t much care for celery … tasteless, stringy, and you can hear it being eaten from a mile away.

  4. mrfreddy

    I tried making a bacon martini a long time ago… sounds like such a great idea… let’s just say it the reality didn’t match the fantasy. That said, I may have to try my own version of the Bring Home the Bacon soon. But I guess I shouldn’t do that before breakfast?

    Not if you’re driving to work afterwards.

  5. Bruce

    I remember, back in the day….

    I remember this from a drink book that my father had on his bar. I believe it was Old Mr. Bostons Bar Guide. It was from the 50’s. The bull shot was in it. I found this on Wiki

    “Bull Shot
    Beef bouillon or beef consomme in place of tomato juice. It may also contain salt, pepper, lemon juice, Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire sauce.” And of course Vodka!!

    Can you imagine our parents paying top dollar (whatever 14 dollars would be equivalent to in the 50’s or 60’s) for this?

    My uncle and father would drink tomato juice and PBR. They called it a bloody awful. If you used V8, each one was a serving of vegetables!!!

    Tomato juice and PBR? Their name for it sounds appropriate.

  6. Felix

    Well, smoking makes you lose weight, alcohol increases the absorption of vitamins and minerals, by sucking it out of the food, and high-powered athletes aren’t known for their longevity either. There you go. 🙂

    I have my doubts about the smoking and sports argument, but I’m pretty sure that alcohol is healthier than teetotalitarianism.

    Seriously, though, you don’t think yet another observational study was going to find anything other than the usual links between those behaviors and a shorter lifespan?

  7. Dave


    I think there’s plenty of research showing that drinking, smoking, and lack of exercise individually have a negative impact on health. Studying it again is just some yo-yo academic’s way of publishing a paper.

    On top of which, it was merely another observational study. Did anyone think the same links wouldn’t be observed yet again?

  8. Dave

    On kids and cake: I wonder where the “nutritionists” think children got their “necessary” carbohydrates before agriculture and industrialized food? Uh, that would be fruits and vegetables. So if that doesn’t suffice today (particularly given that modern domestic varieties have much higher sugar/starch than their wild ancestors), then where on Earth did they get their energy back in the day?

    I never cease to be amazed at people’s inability to connect the dots, even when they’re REALLY close together.

    My girls aren’t on strict paleo diets by any means, but they don’t consume nearly as many refined carbs as most kids. If they don’t have enough energy, it’s news to us.

  9. Dan

    Shades of Marie Antionette. 🙂

    Yep, “5 a day” doesn’t help, but you should do it anyway. I see some people are even pushing “5-9 a day.” Just ignore the science and stick to the dogma.

    But we’re not surprised, are we?

  10. The Cheap Vegetable Gardnener

    Regarding the “Researchers Nominated For Fat Head’s 2010 “DUH” Award” the funny thing is my daughter’s teacher would have rejected that hypothesis for her 2nd grade science fair project due to “too many variables” Funny how people would actually fund this…

    That suprised me as much as anything. Who read that grant proposal and was impressed?

  11. Felix

    “Seriously, though, you don’t think yet another observational study was going to find anything other than the usual links between those behaviors and a shorter lifespan?”
    It’s usually that they find what they want to find. If the study should prove X, then the study will do just that. It’s like a Rorschach ink blot, really. The data is objective, but it seems to mean different things to different people, even if some of these meanings make no sense.

    They’ve “found” that saturated fat kills you, that protein destroys your liver, that you can’t gain weight on carbs, and all the other nice things people have believed for decades. If you do enough studies, statistically, you’ll at some point get the result you like, especially if you interpret the results in your favor. Then you just ignore the null-studies and the inconvenient evidence to the contrary and push your favorite study to the press.

    Health-wise, I’m pretty much agnostic by now. But I have that strange idea in my mind that if I like to eat it and if I feel good after eating it, it can’t be that bad. I just doubt that my body is out to kill me.

    Always listen to your body. In retrospect, I feel stupid for trying to live on lowfat diets, given how they made me feel.

  12. Steve Parker, M.D.

    I haven’t read the full Archives of Internal Medicine article, but I read a report of it at MedPageToday. Here’s a quote from them:

    “The effect on all-cause mortality was weakest for poor diet with a nonsignificant 10% elevation in risk after adjustment for age, sex, body mass index, the other three health behaviors, and many other factors.”

    So trying to eat even three servings a day of fruits and veggies doesn’t look all that healthy, according to this study.


    Of course, their definition of a poor diet would differ from mine.

  13. Jenn

    Here is another article for you.
    The wisdom is starting to leak out, but it is amazing and scary what the media does with it. I agree in principle with most of what they say in the headline when they are busting the myths, but then in the following paragraph, they recomend things that make me cringe.

    By the way, I work with some veterinarians that wouldn’t eat organic meat on a bet. They said they prefer to know they are eating meat from a cow that has been wormed, and that was treated if it got sick. In order to get an organic label, the cattle can’t have been given antibiotics, and some farmers just let their sick cattle suffer rather than lose the chance to label them.

    Take home message, if at all possible, get to know your producer. Responsibly managed is more important than a govt issued organic label.

    It’s definitely a mixed-message article, but it’s better than the usual “artery-clogging saturated fat!” nonsense.

  14. T

    This link explains the large Veg and Fruits study far better than your bias rubbish.
    200 grams of fruit and veges decreased the risk of cancer by 3%, which is only an about one medium to large size apple.
    Its obvious that these people main sources of fruits and veges were most likely foods such as white potatoes and bananas, which can never compare to dark green leafy vegetables and berries. It also seems they may have grouped foods such french fries and ketchup as veges as well. So if you actually examine the study carefully it actually shows that the benefits of fruits and veges to be quite impressive.

    This is also a good article showing the benefits of foods such as green leafy veges, other non starchy veges, beans, nuts, seeds and fruit. It also talks about the demerits of refined carbs, french fries, salt, butter and cheese, and pickled, smoked, barbecued, or processed meats, and provides several references to studies that show the relationship of these foods with several diseases including cancer.

    The average person does not have much knowledge of the worlds medical literature and do not actually read the studies themselves and instead come to sites like this and read the extremely bias interpretation of the studies.
    Though I guess a lot of people will be happy to believe black is white and white is black if it allows them to indulge in their comfort foods.

    You’re quoting a vegan nut-case as the authority on how vegetables prevent cancer? A guy who tells people not to eat meat or saturated fat, despite no scientific evidence whatsoever that saturated fat is harmful to our health? You honestly believe Joel Furhman isn’t biased?

    The researchers had it right: they pointed out that this was an epidemiological study, not a clinical trial. So the slightly lower cancer rate associated with intake of fruits and vegetables could merely indicate that people who eat more veggies consume less sugar, for example, because they’re more health-conscious overall. Vegetables may protect against cancer, but there’s no proof. That’s the point.

    As for encouraging people to induldge in comfort foods, have you actually ready any of this blog?


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