Bogus Science is Draining

      35 Comments on Bogus Science is Draining

Over the weekend, I came across this video, courtesy of the British government. Take a look:

Well, that’s it, then. Despite the fact that I love saturated fat, after viewing this disturbing video, I’ve come to a painful and reluctant conclusion: I must stop injecting saturated fat directly into my arteries.

I briefly considered continuing the practice, reasoning that I could minimize the accumulation of grease with proper medical treatment … in this case, a twice-weekly injection of Liquid Drano. But during a brief scan of the medical literature, I discovered that while Drano is effective against grease, it also dissolves hair. I’m bald enough as it is. I don’t want to go through life resembling my baby pictures.

(Rumor has it that when my father stood staring at me through the maternity-ward window, the obstetrician patted him on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, Mr. Naughton. You’ll learn to love him.”)

My wife, who loathes wasting food, is bound to be annoyed with my new restrictions. Just this morning, she concluded the after-breakfast cleanup by funneling leftover bacon grease into two dozen syringes – my own personal party tray for Monday Night Football. I usually wait until halftime to begin pumping lard into my arteries, although if I crank up my appetite with a first-quarter beer or two, all bets are off. I’ve been known to empty every syringe before the second-half kickoff, then call Dominos and order a pint of pepperoni grease. Never again.

Desperate to know exactly which foods won’t clog my arteries, I decided to subject a number of them to the experiment featured in the video, employing the same rigorously scientific methods. My wife was out running errands, so my daughters assisted – partly out of intellectual curiosity, and partly because they were concerned I’d introduce a plunger as an uncontrolled variable and skew the results.

We began simply enough, taking turns stuffing slices of bread down the drain. Since the British government’s experiment specified a month’s worth of saturated fat, we didn’t stop until the drainpipe held a total of 120 slices of bread – half of them toasted.

After the plumber packed up his wrenches and left, we incorporated his expert opinion into our conclusion: bread definitely clogs your arteries, especially when consumed with milk. Or, to use the expert’s jargon, “What the @#$%?! You guys clogged the $#@& out of this pipe!”

With bread eliminated from the heart-healthy list, we moved on to other dietary staples. It turns out that rice and beans don’t totally clog your arteries, but can dramatically impede the flow. So do most vegetables, although the effects are somewhat mitigated by thorough boiling. (This may, in fact, explain the extremely low rate of heart disease in Scotland.) Clearly the theories espoused by the raw-foods advocates don’t hold up to actual scientific research.

On his return, the plumber agreed, noting, “If you’re gonna stick a coupla pounds of brussel sprouts down the drain, you gotta cook the @#$%ing things first!” I promised to include his opinion in the discussion section of our academic paper. Then, so my daughters would stop attempting to steer our research down a blind alley, I answered the question they’d been posing since the plumber’s initial visit: Yes, some men have hair on their buttocks. However, the association with heart disease is statistically insignificant.

As the experiment progressed, we were stunned to realize that a month’s worth of nearly all foods will clog your arteries: hamburgers, chicken wings, pork chops, lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, cheese, cashews, pickles, bananas and apples, to name just a few.  Chunky-style peanut butter appears to be the most artery-clogging of all.

When I called the plumber again, a pre-recorded voice that sounded very much like the plumber’s informed me that the number was no longer in service. I asked for the new number, but the pre-recorded voice replied that it was unlisted. Business must be good when you can rely exclusively on referrals.

When my wife returned home, we began to appreciate the true cost of high-quality scientific research. She spelled out, loudly and specifically, the size of the grant that would be required to re-stock the laboratory. Until we receive such a grant, I’m afraid we won’t be able to determine if the results are repeatable.

But as good scientists like to say, the drain doesn’t lie. We are confident in our preliminary conclusion: nearly all foods clog your arteries. The only exception seems to be ice cream, which apparently can be cleared from your arteries with a steady stream of warm water. If you want to avoid heart disease, we’d suggest injecting ice cream (and nothing but ice cream) into your arteries, followed by periodic injections of warm water.

Or you could try chewing and swallowing your food, thus allowing your digestive system to process it. The effects on your arteries could, at least in theory, be somewhat different.

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35 thoughts on “Bogus Science is Draining

  1. Herman

    You should try the exact experiment they did: Take some lard from the fridge and pour it in the drain.
    If you succeed in doing this, you should probably check the temperature in your refrigerator …

    I wondered why the meats were going off …

  2. jon w

    even if I wasnt a fathead, that’s pretty bad. take liquid fat out of a cold fridge, then it hardens up at room temperature?

    I’m guessing they were trained by the McGovern commission.

  3. gallier2

    Funny, the last time my drain was clogged, it wasn’t saturated fat. After opening the S (sorry for not using the right plumbing terms, specific jargon is always the most difficult to use in a foreign language) I collected not far from a cupfull of rice.
    Since that day I do not inject rice in my arteries could be bad! (Just for the anecdote, my wife is african and cooks a lot of rice, but uses recipes from there (lot of sat fat used for cooking it), and the rice sticks always to the cookingware because it is cooked dry. Washing the pans is always a lot of work and quite a lot of rice particles get to the drain.

    I remember cleaning the rice pot during my vegetarian days. That’s some serious sticking.

  4. Natalie

    I’m holidaying in Scotland right now actually – greetings from the misty Orkney Islands! – and I admit I’m shocked at the UK government. The government here releases public warnings and announcements about every little thing. If there’s a bandwagon to get on, the UK government gets on it and lectures and coddles and wags its finger at the people. And they don’t even have the right idea!

    The ‘healthy heart tick’ is on every breakfast cereal and margarine tub I’ve seen and the shelves in the supermarket are filled with complete and utter crap. I’ve never eaten so much vegetable oil in my life as here (it’s unavoidable) and newsagents stores are filled with crisps, chocolate and perhaps a newspaper. Despite the British Isles being filled with game meats, venison, all kinds of fowl, rabbit, pork, mutton, lamb and gorgeous Scottish and Irish salmon and seafood, the most widespread meats are bacon and sausages and you can’t get a decent steak for love nor money and if you did it’d come with chips anyway. Everything comes with chips. (What youwould call fries, I imagine).

    I’m not surprised the UK, especially Scotland, is in ill health. No one eats the fruits, veg and meat grown here and tea cakes, scones, sweets, sugary drinks, sandwiches and potatoes abound.

    The government should not be making alarmist ads like this one, instead it should be saying “This is the average amount of saturated fat a person eats in a month. It’s not nearly enough. Go and get some much needed exercise and hunt yourself a deer. If more people in the UK hunted, we would not be facing such unprecedented numbers of heart attacks. Saturated fat – love it, chase it down, kill it and eat it.”

    Words to live by.

    I don’t know if you’ve been to the States lately, but I’m sorry to say your description of the typical diet applies here as well. If you removed all the products that contain corn oil, corn syrup or soybean oil from the grocery stores, they’d be nearly empty.

  5. Phyllis Mueller

    A friend clogged her kitchen sink drain when she decided to dispose of some leftover black-eyed peas by putting them through the disposal. They formed a gelatinous mass that neither hot water nor plunging could budge, and she had to call a plumber. I’ve never seen a public service announcement about that, but she did warn all her friends.

    Only people who never cook would believe one could actually pour refrigerated saturated fat (descriptive definition = solid at room temperature, very solid when chilled). Who thinks up these things? Ad agency types who don’t cook, perhaps?

    That’s a good a guess as any.

  6. Amy Dungan

    Ok, so are they saying that if we drink bacon grease, straight from the pan after cooking, we will clog our arteries? Or is it just the cold stuff? C’mon people! Do your experiments properly! Show us some variables!

    I believe they’re saying refrigerated grease is a liquid, but turns solid at room temperature, so you can eat saturated fat as long as you keep your air conditioner set at 40 degrees.

  7. Josh Goguen

    Soda doesn’t clog the drain, so I guess it’s okay to drink as much of that as I want.

    We didn’t have soda in the house, so I’m relying on anecdotal evidence, but yes, that sounds right. Amend my suggestion to include injecting ice cream floats.

  8. Nick

    No kidding. I have a four pound tub of lard in my fridge right now (local, non-hydrogenated), and it has to be scooped out like ice cream. I also had a dutch oven with 1.5 inch deep lard in it from cooking some carnitas yesterday, completely at room temperature, and it wouldn’t even jiggle or come out if turned upside down, so I had to scoop it into the trash with a spoon.

    Let’s not get started on the ghee or the tallow, which I have to break pieces from like you would a bar of dark chocolate.

    I guess the British government would recommend putting those in the fridge to return them to their liquid state.

  9. Angel

    Straw is also bad for the heart. A few months ago, hubby had to fish some clumps of straw from our very slow sink drain. (We get eggs from my in-laws, and the eggs often have straw stuck to them that needs to be scrubbed off.) However, I now always use a good strainer to prevent straw from going down the drain. So I suspect a simple solution to straw-induced heart disease is to stick a strainer in your throat. A little uncomfortable, perhaps, but good health always has its costs.

    I’ll try that. Do the strainers require a prescription?

  10. fiona

    its pretty disgusting the ads i see in scotland *sighs* – the latest campaign, to be honest, it terrifies me that people will belive these videos

    i dont understand it though. in america the low fat campaign was started to help agriculture, which makes sense as so many americans relied upon it./ but in brittian it seems to be that the main exports are meat and animal products, aberdeen angus, chedar cheese, jersey milk/cream, beef, yorkshire lamb, ect. it dosent make any sense

    I don’t know the politics there, but I would guess you’ve got some large companies that sell grain-based foods, whether or not they import the grain.

  11. monasmee

    I worked as a maintenance man in an urban high rise building and was called to clear a clogged kitchen sink that was interrupting a group of caterers working a rather posh party. Plunging the drain had no effect, so, off came the pipes below, thus revealing an eight foot tube of solid white paste. Turns out the cooks shoveled five pounds of leftover sauceless spaghetti into the garbage disposal to avoid attracting unsavory cockroaches. The moral of the story being that pasta can cause heart disease.

    No more Italian restaurants for me.

  12. Andrea

    Wow I absolutely love this post, your movie and the rest of this blog! I thought I would pass along to you some more misinformation, just this morning on my city’s newspaper website, this article is posted:
    Excellus report: 43 percent of tested Central New Yorkers have high cholesterol

    Nutritionists caution that people with cholesterol problems should still watch their egg intake and limit high-salt, high-fat foods. An Excellus report found that about 43 percent of Central New York adults who get tested have high cholesterol.

    THIS IS WHY America is FAT & UNHEALTHY! Because of misinformation coming straight from the insurance companies to the newspapers and then to the people. It’s so sad. Make it stop!!

    Ridiculous report. The top end of “desirable” was (of course) 200. Last time I had mine checked it was 203, which is classified as “borderline high” and would put me in that 43 percent.

    Average cholesterol around the world is about 220. As Dr. Malcolm Kendrick put it, only when measuring cholesterol do doctors consider it a sign of disease to have a normal reading.

  13. Tinamemphis5

    Wonder what will happen if I pour a pound or so of Lipitor tablets down the drain?

    The pipe would receive an impressive score on its next cholesterol test, but soon have a problem with going soft at inconvenient times.

  14. KD

    I am so sad all that good, delicious looking fat was wasted in that sink. I also appreciate your scientific method.

    A month’s worth of saturated fat down the drain. I agree, what a waste.

  15. cashion

    Be careful mentioning “bogus” and anything involving Britain. You don’t want to get Simon Singh’d:

    Yee-ikes! I guess I’d better start calling it dumb science.

    In the first episode of Penn & Teller’s Bull@#$%, they explained why they used that term: their lawyers informed that them all kinds of words can have libel implications (charlatan, quack, ripoff artist, scam, etc.) but not Bull@#$%. Go figure. I’m guessing libel attorneys don’t want to repeat that word over and over in court while trying to keep a straight face.

  16. Susie

    We have complained long and loud to the Advertising Standards Authority here in the UK about this ad but to no avail. Here is the reply that a member of a forum got to their complaint:

    I’ve had a reply from the ASA saying they have considered the objection but decided there are no grounds for further action.

    “Our concern when assessing ads is how they will be taken by those who see them. ….We have viewed the ad a number of times and found that it says only that a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries can increase a person’s risk of heart disease.
    “As the emphasis of the ad is specific to saturated fat and the damage it can do to human arteries, rather than on the many and various causes of heart disease we would not expect the advertisers to identify every contributory factor within the confined space of a TV ad. The ad directs viewers to the FSA’s Eat Well website which gives further nutritional information…..On this basis we don’t think the ad’s focus on saturated fat alone is likely to cause harm or miselad consumers to their detriment.”

    and here is that wonderfully unbiased advice from the Eatwell site.

    Another load of bologna from the wise folks in government. The focus on saturated fat will indeed cause harm by scaring people into switching to frankenfats.

  17. mezzovoice

    The British government and its advisers appear to be in a carbohydrate-induced stupor. Check Barry Groves’ website – he is battling against the FSA as well and has been fighting the good battle of the saturated fats for these thirty years. However, the British government makes shopping for the low-carber dead easy: Just don’t eat anything that has a “healthy” sticker on in and you are on the safe side!

    I treat the American Heart Association’s seal of approval the same way.

    1. Walter Bushell

      Anything with a health claim on it is very suspect.

      The American Heat Association has IIUC taken its seal off Calvin’s fav — chocolate coated sugar bombs, but we are still by law feeding school kids low fat and high sugar “milk”.

  18. kris

    Hilarious Tom. Maybe these British government officials aren’t as old as I am, so they never made plaster of paris as a kid in grammar school; and maybe they never tried baking either, so they never wiped all the spilled flour into the sink, as I have countless times; but if they had ever tried either of these things, they would know exactly what happens when flour hits a little water — concrete — strong enough to build your basement out of. (I guess that’s why you had such trouble with the bread.)

    PS I only bake very occasionally… like holidays and birthdays. 🙂

    I remember making both plaster of paris and paper mache in school. It’s one of the reasons I stopped eating newspapers and starchy foods at the same meal.

  19. Chris

    The British sure go all out to demonstrate the science of fat build up, don’t they? Tom, this is a very funny post. However, the misinformation that the government is putting out there is deadly serious.

    Our USDA Food Pyramid for example advocates six to 11 servings of grain, 2-3 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, and 3 servings of skim milk. Now that the American Heart Association says it’s probably a good idea to cut your sugar to 10 teaspoons per day, you would find yourself at 600+ grams of carbs once you took our government’s advice.

    Considering that the American Heart Association has been putting its stamp of approval on sugary foods simply because they’re low in fat, I don’t know whether to laugh or scream.

    Nice analysis showing how quickly the carbs add up.

  20. Chris


    Thanks for taking a look at the blog. Found your film when I got back from vacation with a 20 extra pounds. You led me to Gary Taubes book and lectures. That started a very interesting journey. My wife has lost 30 pounds on homeopathic hCG diet and has reset her metabolism after 40 years of yo-yo dieting (She’s tied with Oprah for pounds lost and gained back.) It is liberating to be able to understand the science of weight loss and gain and to be able to ignore the expert advice.


  21. Kate

    Very funny post! And a very Dad way to entertain your young daughters (ok, so I know you didn’t REALLY do it, but still a funny thought.)

    Something no one ever points out is in the sat-fat hysteria is that if your body is room temperature, you have much bigger problems that the sat-fat being solid.

    That’s what makes the video doubly ridiculous. Let’s heat up that pipe to 99 degrees and then see if the fat is clogging it.

  22. Jeanmarie

    Hi Tom, I’m a fan of your movie and blog. I just made my boyfriend watch it the other night and he also enjoyed it (my third time or so). I liked the simple (cheap!) graphics and clear explanations. Keep up the good work! I’m still making my way through Good Calories, Bad Calories. It would be faster to just watch Fathead again I suppose. Keep it up!

    I appreciate the compliment, but I hope you read Good Calories, Bad Calories. A film can only cover a fraction of what’s in a book.

  23. Estoril

    I am so sad all that good, delicious looking fat was wasted in that sink. I also appreciate your scientific method.

    A month’s worth of saturated fat down the drain. I agree, what a waste.

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