Sunday, February 22, 2009

Religious Vomit

Some people may imagine that religion, politics or sex are the subjects which involve the most ludicrous bullshit spouted by otherwise intelligent people, but personally I reckon it's food.

The SST today contains the singularly unsurprising news that the foods people buy the most of are the ones that are mainly sugar (and before you write in to complain, as far as your digestive system's concerned white bread and tinned spaghetti just about are sugar). The news is unsurprising because that behaviour's built into us by evolution. For almost the entire period of homo sapiens' existence, our bodies have been laboriously turning meat, eggs, vegetation, nuts etc into glucose. 100,000 years ago, a big direct hit of sugar courtesy of honey or fruit was a rare treat and the fat your body laid down as a result could mean the difference between life and death later on. These days of course, you can have a big direct hit of sugar and the resulting fat deposit every single day, while at the same time never facing the food shortages that would make that fat something useful to have - but as far as your inner critter is concerned, a choice between glucose you have to process for yourself or a direct hit of sugar is still a no-brainer.

Of course, the fact that it's unsurprising people buy big cheap hits of sugar rather than food your digestive system has to process into glucose itself doesn't make it any less annoying. It's not exactly news that hitting your digestive system with a diet consisting mainly of sugar for years on end knackers your ability to produce and use insulin (mainly by constantly spiking your blood sugar levels and working your islets of langerhans to an early grave), and you end up as a type 2 diabetic. Or am I over-rating public awareness of this stuff? Either this isn't the common knowledge I'd imagined it to be, or a large proportion of the population is ruled by their inner critter. Most likely it's a bit of both.

So, yeah - we do want to encourage people to mostly stick to eating stuff their bodies have to laboriously process into glucose, not just constantly eating direct shots of sugar (whether of the Coke or white bread variety). That's a hard sell though, cos your lizard brain has half a billion years of evolutionary training to take the opposite view.

Enter the nutritionists and the politicians. Naturally, Sue Kedgeley's in there, with a proposal to ban something (nothing new there). As Danyl says, she never met a ban she didn't like. Annette King's in there as well, with a statement largely expressing ignorance (nothing new there either):

King said sophisticated marketing techniques fuel human beings' innate addiction to fatty, sugary and salty foods.

Er, this is like talking about human beings' innate addiction to breathing. The requirement we have for basics essential to the continuation of our existence is not "addiction." If Annette's managed to discover a way for humans to live without sugar, salt or fat, she should patent it immediately.

We don't expect any better from politicians, of course. But you could be entitled to expect better fron professional nutritionists. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

For me, the most annoying thing about all this food blather is the constant bollocks about "healthy" vs "unhealthy" food from nutritionists. For the record, "unhealthy" food is food that contains bacteria that will make you ill, is contaminated with something poisonous, etc. However, very little of the food labelled "unhealthy" by nutritionists comes into that category. When nutritionists talk about "healthy" and "unhealthy" food, they're applying moral rather than scientific labels.

Fact: Coke is good, "healthy" food. It's excellent food - so excellent in fact, that according to the nutritionist quoted in the SST, a litre of it provides enough energy for 2 hours walking. The only problem with it is that you basically have no requirement whatsoever for such excellent, top-grade food when you spend most of your time sitting on your arse. It's like putting avgas in your Daihatsu Scirion - excellent, high-grade fuel, but there's not much point when ordinary old 91 unleaded meets your requirements.

In short: the food on that list is "healthy" food. The "unhealthy" bit is you sticking so much of it in your gob that you end up as a mobile lard mountain with a pancreas that just can't keep up any more.

It would help with this stuff no end if we stopped pretending nutritionists and epidemiologists were scientists, and instead put them in the social sciences where they belong. Most of what nutritionists have to tell you about "healthy" vs "unhealthy" food comes from doing studies, identifying correlations, and coming up with theories to account for those correlations - if there is some basis on which this is different from sociology, I've yet to see it.

How about this: instead of a whole lot of moralising bullshit about "unhealthy" food, we just do some education on the connection between type 2 diabetes and a diet based mainly on the excellent, high-grade, "healthy" food on that list? Along with some serious anti-smoking-style horror-show shit about the amputated limbs, impotence, blindness and life on a dialysis machine following your kidney failure that are the eventual outcomes of uncontrolled or undiagnosed type 2?



I still think a bit of what you fancy does you good, whatever it is.
Just don't have too much of it!

Psycho Milt said...

Actually, I'd be interested to know from our readers: among all this bollocks about "unhealthy" food, have you seen information about the effect of long-term consumption of these kinds of foods on your ability to produce and use insulin, and the resulting onset of type 2 diabetes?

KG said...

"have you seen information about the effect of long-term consumption of these kinds of foods on your ability to produce and use insulin, and the resulting onset of type 2 diabetes?"
Yup--but it's not exactly in-your-face out there stuff.
The key to all of this diet debate is energy in should =energy expended.
Just about all else is bollocks. :-)
Great post PM.

Anonymous said...

Alternatively, the fucking government could just give me my taxes back

and get the fuck out of paying for sickies and bludgers "healthcare" with my money.

Not your money. Not their money. Certainly not some bludging sickies money. My money.

And then - well if the socialist state isn't paying for "health care" for sickies who don't care about themselves, certainly not enough to have private insurance or any funds of their own then they don't need to advertise either

ever bludger or sicky who dies from smoking, drinking, or eating is one less I have to pay for.

LaFemme said...

Milt, get a copy of The Diet Delusion by Gary Taubes.
Many of the food myths we've been force fed (pun intended) are largely political in nature, not scientific. A blurb from the back of the book reads: "...researchers have singularly failed, despite hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars of studies, to demonstrate that eating a low-fat diet will extend our lives of make us healthier." And the same can be said of many other food myths that have become religious cant this last decade especially, or so says the book's author.

Psycho Milt said...

KG: same here - seen it, but no-one's made it obvious. I guess nutritionists figure it's more effective to quack on about "healthy choices" as though they were Sunday school teachers.

Sinner: I'd appreciate it if fascist nutbars didn't comment on my posts, thanks.

La Femme: don't get me started on the low-fat bullshit! I wrote about it a while back in this post.

Barnsley Bill said...

Great post PM, it almost put me off my rum and full strength coke. The anonymong who keeps ranting like hitlers red headed step child is a dickless socialist I think. The gross and ridiculous comments from this idiot are nothing more than a put up. Can we do some digging around as to this idiots IP address and sic Whale Oil on him?

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Good stuff Milt. What a pity it will be pushed out by the daily dross.

Barnsley Bill said...

No it will not. Blogging privileges have been suspended at barnsley manor until tuesday.
Bit late isn't it Rob. I have the ebola strain of manflu, what is your excuse?

Ackers said...

Great post PM. I've always believed that a balanced diet equals the calories you consume and the energy you expend.

I refuse to let the food nazis deny me my daily beer and chocolate bar.

So much bullshit when all people need really do is find an exercise they enjoy and do it regularly i.e. daily and forget about what they are eating.

You soon find you eat what you need, end of story.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Good grief! I'm agreeing with Ackers! Can it be that no election is imminent?

Anonymous said...

I don't know if its just me but..go into a health food store and gaze in wonderment at the ghastly state of those that work there.

You feel like buying them a pie in the forlorn hope they will eat it and get well soon.


Psycho Milt said...

How about that? A lefty, a righty and a doesn't-know-what-the-fuck-he-is-any-more are all in agreement. The political spectrum is united in its contempt for preaching about nutrition!

Psycho Milt said...

George: I'm at a loss as to the pie-hatred that's enveloped middle-class NZ. I call it a failure of national pride.

Barnsley Bill said...

Not quite consensus, I am sick to death of watching enormously fat kids carrying 2 litre bottles of fizz whenever I visit kaikohe. I would happily see it banned in that town.

KG said...

You visit Kaikohe BB?
What are you, an anthropologist or something?

Barnsley Bill said...

A repo man!

MrTips said...

PM: prolonged excess of glucose based food, such as chocolate, coke blah blah ....without sufficient exercise buggers up the ying and yang of your glucogenic and glycolysis systems.

Insulin promotes glucagon formaion and uptake into muscle; eventually you lose the muscle storage capability from sitting for extended periods, hence it tries to drive it towards fat deposition. When that fails, triglyceride and free fatty acids float around in the blood unsequestered or stored. This is bad for your liver, which can't break it down so well and bad for your heart, which gains a large amount of its energy from glucose and FFA, but can't store it well. Hence you start to store it in fat around those organs. And thats when the inflammatory factors like TNF and interleukin-1 get direct access to those organs - not good.

This happens primarily in 45 year old men and woman who have lived said lifestyle for 10+ years. You know this - you see it every day.

Thus, in the last 15 years, cardiologists now see more and more 45 year olds who have had severe heart attacks. 15 years ago this kind of patient was rare.

But like you say, eat what you like, so long as you burn it off.

Psycho Milt said...

My own knowledge of the chemistry involved is at the "acute ignoramus" end of the spectrum, but I get a pretty damn good insight into the effects of different foods on your blood glucose levels courtesy of having to supply the insulin to deal with it manually. From that comes my utter lack of surprise at the increasing rate of type 2 diabetes in Western society - likewise the contempt for the social science blatherings of nutritionists.