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 …