From The 2019 News …

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I’m serving leftovers today: news from 2019 that didn’t make into any of my From The News posts.

Mediterranean Diet Study Recalled

The arterycloggingsaturatedfat! crowd just looooooves to talk about the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. That’s because (according to them) it’s a diet low in saturated fat with lots of vegetables and hearthealthywholegrains!

As you know, there’s no such thing as a single Mediterranean Diet. Some folks in that region eat a lot of pork and cook with lard. Some don’t. Some eat a lot fat, others not so much. Some eat a lot of fish, others not so much. Nonetheless, if you run a search on Mediterranean Diet, you’ll probably come across something like, from the Mayo Clinic:

The foundation of the Mediterranean diet is vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains. Meals are built around these plant-based foods. Moderate amounts of dairy, poultry and eggs are also central to the Mediterranean Diet, as is seafood. In contrast, red meat is eaten only occasionally.

That would be news to the healthy Mediterranean people who eat lots of pork.

Anyway, it turns out there were problems with the Big Study that put the Mediterranean Diet on the map in the first place. Here are some quotes from an NPR article:

Ask just about anybody, and you’ll probably hear that a healthy diet is one full of fruits and vegetables, olive oil, nuts and fish — what’s called Mediterranean diet. A lot of research has suggested people who eat this way tend to be healthier, but it’s been harder to prove whether that is because of the diet or some other factor.

So in 2013, many took notice of a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that seemed to provide some proof. The study found that people eating the Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil were 30 percent less likely to experience a heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular causes than people assigned to a low-fat diet.

It was an observational study and therefore close to meaningless even if the data had been sound. But the data wasn’t so sound, as a dedicated anesthesiologist named John Carlisle discovered:

He read up on statistical methods and looked over more than 160 trials by the researcher, Dr. Yoshitaka Fujii, and analyzed how likely it was that the people had been randomized to different treatments. Randomization is part of the gold standard for clinical studies because it reduces the risk of bias and allows researchers to determine cause-effect relationships.

Carlisle found the odds were infinitesimally small that Fujii had randomized people properly. Since Carlisle’s findings were published in 2012, medical journals have retracted more than 160 papers by Fujii — the most retractions for any one researcher, by a large margin, according to Retraction Watch.

More than 160 papers retracted … and these were peer-reviewed papers. That tells you how well the peer-review system functions.

To quote my own Science For Smart People speech, Scientists are freakin’ liars. We apparently have yet another case of a scientist torturing the data until it told him what he wanted to hear.

Interestingly, the NPR article includes a photo of someone eating beans and whole-grain bread, with this caption below:

Flaws in a study of the Mediterranean diet led to a softening of its conclusions about health benefits. But don’t switch to a diet of cotton candy just yet.

Yeah, that’s what I’ve always found so difficult about adopting a healthy diet: I don’t like living on beans and bread, but the only alternative is to live on cotton candy. I sincerely hope that one of these days, the food industry starts producing meats and eggs.

Anyway, the New England Journal of Medicine has since retracted the paper and replaced it with a version that uses “softer” language, although that paper still concludes that a Mediterranean Diet reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Compared to what? you might ask. The answer: compared to a low-fat diet. So how do they explain that one? Well, it’s the olive oil, ya see …

As far as I’m concerned, we’re looking at people who are healthier than average because their diets are low in processed foods, not low in saturated fats, or high in whole grains, or whatever. Living in a region with lots of vitamin-D enhancing sunshine probably helps too.

Anti-Fat Hysteria Goes Underground

My breakfast today included bacon, eggs and butter. If I were in London, a picture of my breakfast would banned from the Underground, according to BBC News:

An advert designed to run on the London Underground was rejected because it contained bacon, butter, eggs and jam, an online supermarket said. Farmdrop submitted a photograph which included images of the meat, dairy products and spread.

Transport for London (TfL) said it was up to advertisers to make sure any items featured were “high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS)-compliant”. Last month TfL issued a ban on all junk food advertising.

Foods found to be high in fat, sugar and salt are now not allowed to feature in advertisements on public transport.

I dunno … is it comforting to know government agencies overseas are just as stupid as those in the U.S.?

The ban was introduced as London mayor Sadiq Khan said he wanted to tackle the “ticking time bomb” of child obesity in the city.

That bomb exploded a long time ago, Mr. Mayor. And bacon, eggs and butter had nothing to do with it.

Weight Watchers Finding New Ways To Lose

I don’t mean “lose weight,” either. Weight Watchers hasn’t been doing so well in recent years because of competition from other diets … like, say, those that actually work. So how is the company responding? Here are some quotes from an article in USA Today:

For the first time, the preeminent weight-loss company, which rebranded as WW in 2018, is rolling out three customized plans simultaneously, officials shared exclusively with USA TODAY.

The Oprah Winfrey-backed company’s new plan includes whole wheat pasta, brown rice and potatoes – which have cost points in past WW programs – as “ZeroPoint” foods, meaning they don’t have to be measured or tracked.

Weight Watchers – er, WW now – has been on the low-fat bandwagon for years. That’s why most of their packaged meals are based on rice or pasta. Customers have been abandoning the company because the long-term success rate is abysmal. That’s what happens when you sell foods and meal plans that leave people hungry and miserable.

The solution? Well heck, let’s tell people they can now eat all the wheat pasta, brown rice and potatoes they want!

“There’s no foods off limits on any of our programs, and it’s going to be sustainable,” said Mindy Grossman, WW president and CEO, in an interview with USA TODAY. “It’s easy, it’s simple and I think that’s what people are craving for – something they can really live with.”

No, Ms. Grossman, what people are craving is a diet that works.

Sorry, No Dinner — My Printer Jammed

If there’s one thing the world needs, it’s more fake food. Check out this article in The U.K. Guardian:

After the success of the Greggs vegan sausage roll and the juicy-yet-meatless Impossible Burger, the next new food sensation is coming to a plate near you: 3D-printed steaks and chicken thighs.

Printed meat could be on European restaurant menus from next year as Israeli and Spanish firms serve up realistic beef and chicken produced from plant protein. And, within a few years, the printers are likely to be available to buy so that consumers can produce their own at home.

Layers of material are built up by 3D printers until there is a solid object conforming to very precise specifications. The meat can be produced either from vegetable matter or from animal cells grown in a lab. The printer uses these raw ingredients, which come in a Nespresso-style cartridge, to build up a steak or chicken fillet that tastes like the real thing.

Well, if it tastes like the real thing, it has to be good for you … just like those corn-oil margarines that tasted like butter.

Eshchar Ben-Shitrit, co-founder and CEO of Israeli firm Redefine Meat, said switching to printed meat would have huge ecological benefits. “The biggest reason for going to alternative meat is because of the future of our planet,” he said. “We can recycle, drive electric cars, we can shower less, but these changes can’t compete with reducing consumption by one hamburger per week.”

Stop eating real meat To Save The Planet! I’m sure Walter Willett approves.

If I ever print “realistic beef” at home, I’m going to make sure it includes a big label that reads Hey, Dumbass! Don’t eat this @#$%!

The Impossible Carrot?

Every time I see a Burger King ad for the plant-based “Impossible Burger,” I shake my head. After reading the list of ingredients, I think it’s impossible this frankfenfoood is good for you. So I chuckled when I read that Arby’s is going in the opposite direction:

Arby’s is turning the plant-based meat craze on its head by testing meat-based plants.

The company says it has produced a new meat-vegetable hybrid food category called “megetables.” It’s an obvious troll against its fast food rivals, including Burger King, McDonald’s and a dozen or so others, which are adding plant-based meat alternatives to their menus.

First from the Arby’s test kitchen is the “Marrot,” a meat-carrot made of turkey breast sliced into the shape of a carrot. It’s then sous vide for an hour and rubbed down in a “special carrot marinade” made of dried carrot juice powder. It’s then topped with a maple syrup powder, oven-roasted for an hour and topped with a parsley to “give it the full carrot effect,” Arby’s said.

I wish the Marrot had been around when my mom insisted I eat my vegetables.

Arby’s has publicly vowed in the past to not add fake meat to its menu. The Inspire Brands-owned company said it wasn’t interested in selling Impossible Foods’ products, noting the “chances we will bring plant-based menu items to our restaurants, now or in the future, are absolutely impossible.”

I’ve been to an Arby’s in years. I may have patronize them again … unless they start printing their meats.

It’s bucking the trend, as interest in plant-based protein is on the rise. Meat eaters are looking to diversify their diets to be healthier and reduce their impact on the environment.

Uh … no, I’m not.

Take Two Hikes And Call Me In The Morning

This headline from BigThink grabbed my attention: Doctors in Scotland can now prescribe nature to their patients.

Since October 5, doctors in Shetland, Scotland, have been authorized to prescribe nature to their patients. It’s thought to be the first program of its kind in the U.K., and seeks to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and increase happiness for those with diabetes, a mental illness, stress, heart disease, and more.

They’ve been authorized since October 5 … maybe someone from across the pond can clarify, but does that mean before October 5, they were prohibited from prescribing nature? Could doctors get into some kind of trouble for telling patients to go outdoors and enjoy nature? If so, that’s nearly as ridiculous as dietitians in South Africa filing charges against a doctor for tweeting that babies should be weaned onto LCHF real foods.

Anyway, some of the specific advice is certainly interesting:

There is a whole leaflet of nature prescription suggestions that accompanies the program, filled with amusing, charming, sometimes seemingly off-kilter suggestions: in February, you can make a windsock from a hoop and material to “appreciate the speed of the wind”; in March, you can make beach art from natural materials or “borrow a dog and take it for a walk”; in April, you can “touch the sea” and “make a bug hotel”; in May, you can “bury your face in the grass”; in July, you can “pick two different kinds of grass and really look at them”; in August, you can summon a worm out of the ground without digging or using water; in September, you can help clean the beach and prepare a meal outdoors; in October, you can “appreciate a cloud”; you can “talk to a pony” in November, “feed the birds in your garden” in December, and do so much more. All on doctor’s orders.

On any day of the year when the weather allow for it, you can play golf outdoors and look for birdies. That’s the advice I’ve been giving myself — and my blood pressure is outstanding, according to my doctor.

Stand Up For Yourselves, Men

Years ago, my former comedy partner Tim Slagle and I imagined a future world in which eating meat was outlawed. But we also noticed a problem with parodying the loony left’s Grand Plans: give it enough time, and the loony left will turn parody into reality.

We’re not quite at the stage yet where meat is outlawed. But in one of our (ahem) “news” shows, we had a story that in the interest of gender equality, men had been banned from standing while urinating. Total parody, right? It’ll never happen.

Check out these quotes from an article in the Huffington Post:

Male representatives on the Sormland County Council in Sweden should sit rather than stand while urinating in office restrooms, according to a motion advanced by the local Left Party.

Known as a socialist and feminist organization, the party claims that seated urination is more hygienic for men — the practice decreases the likelihood of puddles and other unwanted residue forming in the stall — in addition to being better for a man’s health by more effectively emptying one’s bladder, The Local reported.

But not everyone agrees.

Really? Someone dares to disagree with a Grand Plan? Has he been banned from social media yet? Well, all right, let’s see what this Neanderthal’s objection is.

“Men scatter urine not so much during the actual urination as during the ‘shaking off’ that follows,” John Gamel, a professor at the University of Louisville, wrote while addressing the issue in 2009. “As a result, forcing men to sit while emptying their bladders will serve little purpose, since no man wants to shake himself off while remaining seated on the toilet.”

He wrote about the issue. Sounds like a good use of a college professor’s time.

A representative from the party said he hopes to move toward sitting only bathrooms.

With an armed guard to make sure men don’t stand in front of the “sitting only” toilet to pee in it.

You’re Such An Animal When You’ve Been Drinking

This article from an ABC station in Florida wins the prize for the ultimate “hold my beer” story of 2019.

Two men are facing charges after authorities say they caught an alligator and poured beer into its mouth in Palm City, Florida.

Police arrested Timothy Kepke and Noah Osborne last week. The arrests came in response to an August complaint to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about a video of the incident on social media.

I know their real names are Tim and Noah, but I’m invoking editorial license and referring to them as Bert and Ernie from here on.

“Hey, Bert, I’m bored. Let’s say we catch an alligator and get it to drink some beer.”

“Great idea, Ernie. And then we should post a video of ourselves doing it! We’ll be famous!”

The video obtained by WPBF appears to show Kepke attempting to get the alligator to bite his arm. When it does, Kepke pours beer down the animal’s throat.

“How we gonna get a beer into this big fella’s mouth, Ernie? We gonna stick it inside a ham or something?”

“No, that’s too derned expensive. I got an idea. I’ll just wave my arm around in front of his big, powerful jaws. Then when he opens his mouth to bite off my arm, I’ll pour in the beer!”

“Sounds like a good plan, Ernie. But we should be smart about this and ask ourselves if anything could go wrong. Can you think of anything?”

“Hmmm … well, if he’s trashing around trying to bite off my arm, I could miss his mouth. That would be a waste of a good beer.”

I’m trying to figure out why in the heck anyone would want to get an alligator drunk. How would you even know when the alligator is drunk? As far as I can tell, when alligators aren’t swimming underwater looking for things to kill and eat, they sit around slowly opening and closing their eyes and generally being inert. Toss in picking up a TV remote now and then, and that’s pretty much what I do when I’m drunk.

“What’s he doing now, Bert?”

“He’s just sitting there.”

“Boy, we really got him @#$%-faced, didn’t we?”

I can only assume one of these guys has high blood pressure and, after visiting a Scottish doctor, was told to go out and enjoy nature.

Titans Stun The Ravens

The Tennessee Titans shut down the highest-scoring offense in the NFL on Saturday night and won 28-12 to advance to the AFC Championship game. That has nothing to do with diet or health, and it’s not news from 2019. I just never get tired of saying it.

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35 thoughts on “From The 2019 News …

  1. Kathy from Maine

    “I dunno … is it comforting to know government agencies overseas are just as stupid as those in the U.S.?”

    No, but it does sound ever so much better with a British accent.

      1. Firebird7479

        Many people have spent a lot of money on products advertised through infomercials for that very reason.

  2. June

    Another fun fact about the Mediterranean Diet that Nina Teicholz pointed out in her book Big Fat Surprise. You know when our buddy Ancel Keys surveyed the Greek population to determine what their diet consisted of? During Lent. You know what good Catholics avoid during Lent? Red meat. You know what they eat instead? Vegetables, beans, and fish. Wanna guess what percentage of Greeks are Catholic? Currently, 98%. Couple that with a Greek tourism push that offered nutritionists conferences on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in the sunny Mediterranean during the middle of winter and here we are.

    If you have not read Big Fat Mistake you must rectify this and read it immediately. Teicholz goes back and reviews all the studies that have been used to justify dietary guidelines and regulations and unsurprisingly the study results don’t necessarily support the regulations.

  3. Wayne Gage

    In my younger days facing concern from someone that I should lower the seat after visiting the john ( I would take faucet water and sprinkle it on the toilet seat. ) I would explain that is not a problem, I did not raise the seat to do my business.

  4. Lori Miller

    Lab-made meat…hope it works out better than lab-made hormones have. BTW, are they putting any nutrients into the “meat”–like vitamins and minerals?

      1. Walter

        We know the trouble caused by adding folic acid to flour and hence all flour products. For example, not only is folic acid mildly toxic and if you are bad at metabolizing it can build up and cause a B12 deficiency, but masks symptoms of B12 deficiency.

        There is some more evidence of adding vitamins and minerals to food can be dangerous as people eat widely differently amounts of the supplemented foods etcetera.

        One man’s meat is another man’s schismatic, conversely the other mans gift is first mans poison.

  5. Jan

    RE: Mediterranean diet:
    I loved the old Splendid Table NPR Podcast with Lynn Rosetto Caspar. She once explained that when Italians produce olive oil, they sell it as a valuable commodity. They USE mostly lard as their cooking fat because it’s cheap and plentiful.

    If you watch travel shows about Italy, they almost always show a market or store selling pork preserved in hundreds of ways–in the meat cases, hanging from the rafters. in the store window. Think about all the different Italian forms of preserved pork you know off the top of your head. Proscuitto, salami, mortadella, bologna, pancetta, sopressa , etc. and multiply by 100. The list goes on and on. Why would they preserve it if they weren’t going to eat it???

    I always wondered if these epidemiologists trying to classify the Mediterranean diet thought the animals were there for decoration, since nobody was apparently eating them.

  6. Don

    I mentioned this before, but I spent some time in the Mediterranean in my youth. The amount of processed meat consumed was astounding. Of course, it wasn’t packaged junk like you get in the local supermarket, but made fresh in local shops with local meat and tons of fat. It was delicious! You couldn’t have talked me into giving it up and going vegan if you’d held a gun to my head, lol. I actually don’t remember consuming much Olive oil except for dipping bread, but butter, cream, and lard were ubiquitous. Lots of bread but usually with a tomato crushed into it and dipped in garlic infused Olive oil. Lol, I would say labeling something a “Mediterranean” diet would be like sampling New England clam chowder and claiming it was a staple in New Mexico. Silly, really.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Never. I root for both. But after living here for 10 years, I feel more connected to the Titans. They play each other in 2020, so that will play hell on my emotions.

      1. Firebird7479

        Happened to me when I lived in Connecticut. Became a Hartford Whalers fan by virtue of the market, but when the Philadelphia Flyers came to town, no contest…Flyers fan all the way!

  7. Trish

    I know a couple of people who are doing WW. Just for poops and giggles, I checked out the website. Did you know that beans are considered a zero point food–as in “you can eat as much as you want”? And then people wonder why they’re not losing weight …

    Also, kudos to the Titans for knocking off the MFing Patriots AND the Ravens. The AFC championship game is going to be GOOD.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I hope it’s a good game. I happen to really like and respect Andy Reid and sincerely hope he wins a Super Bowl before he retires, so if the Titans are going to lose this year, I’d much rather they lose to the Chiefs than the MF Patriots. And if they win … well, that would be awesome.

    2. June

      And potatoes. Those are zero points along with brown rice and whole wheat pasta. I’m pretty sure fruit is zero points. Yep, pounds are just going to fall off.

  8. Tim

    Tom, I stumbled upon a book written back in 1898 by Elma Stuart. “What Must I do to Get Well and How Can I Keep So”. It’s about Dr. Salisbury’s Treatment. I never knew that the Salisbury Steak was probably the first Carnivore diet way back in the 1850’s. It goes on and on about the benefits of eating 8oz of minced beef 3 times a day with 4 pints of hot water in between. She has a section about the crazy vegetarians. She shares how she really tried to go vegetarian several times and it always ended up in disaster. It sounds like it could have been a blog post today. She shares a letter she got from a guy who went vegetarian on moral grounds and really got messed up over the years. Then after 3 months of meat he was better than ever. It’s amazing that all this nutrition talk has been going on for 150 years and I don’t think it has moved forward very much.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Wow. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Is that book still available?

  9. RT

    Hi Tom, and Happy New Year. I was having trouble with the “Contact” button on the site, so I’ll post this here. (As it’s also news, though of this month rather than 2019.) It seems like something you’d want to comment on, though I suppose you’re probably already aware of it.

    Several members of David Katz’s ironically-named True Health Initiative attempted to get The Annals of Internal Medicine to retract a paper *before* publication. Not surprisingly, it’s subject is the weak evidence that red meat is allegedly dangerous. Here’s an article about it on JAMA:

    There’s also a short piece about it over at Diet Doctor:

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      No surprise there. The Anointed will, if they can, happily silence those who disagree with them.

  10. Tim Maitski

    You can get it online as one of those Google archive books. The vegetarianism part starts on page 156. You’ll get a kick out of it.

    Also, you should check out Strong Medicine by Dr. Blake Donaldson. He wrote it in 1961 but it’s about how he treated patients in the 1920s with a all meat, with lots of fat, diet. It’s probably the first “caveman diet”. He describes how he concluded that our ancestors probably lived primarily on meat and that’s what our bodies are made for. It’s also an online book.

  11. Chris Lytle

    Great to read a long post of yours again, Tom. My wife and I moved from Chicago to Chattanooga last April. Loving living in the Scenic City.

    Quick quibble:

    Mayo Clinic says, “Moderate amounts of dairy, poultry and eggs are also central to the Mediterranean Diet, as is seafood. In contrast, red meat is eaten only occasionally.” You wrote, “That would be news to the healthy Mediterranean people who eat lots of pork.”

    Isn’t pork “The Other White Meat,” though?

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