Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Some wide ranging food skepticism from Britain

Extracted from "Global Warming And Other Bollocks: The Truth About All Those Science Scare Stories" by Professor Stanley Feldman and Professor Vincent Marks. It reprises most of what I have been saying on this blog


Received wisdom, repeated by many doctors and public health professionals, says we can remain fit and avoid disease by cutting out certain 'bad foods' from our diets. Indeed, it is variously claimed that 35-50 per cent of all cancers are caused by the food we eat.

But while they are despised by the culinary elite, readily available hamburgers, sausages and pizzas have provided good nutritional value for many low-income families, who in previous days could afford only low-protein, high-carbohydrate, high-fat meals such as bread and dripping, and chip butties.

In fact, fears about hamburgers and sausages in Britain are especially irrational. Most countries have a national dish based on minced or processed meat - and none is suffering from an epidemic of junk food-inspired illness. For example, meatballs are used in many guises in the Middle East, chopped meat on a bed of onions is a national dish in the Balkans, and mince is also used in countless Italian sauces.

The terrines and pâtés of France and Belgium also contain processed chopped meat. Obesity is not caused by these foods, but by those who choose to gorge on them. Studies claiming to show the negative impact of a 'junk food' diet usually have little scientific validity.


A widespread belief has emerged that organic foods are better for you than others because they do not contain 'chemicals' used in large- scale conventional farming.

This dogma is wrong. All plant nutriment comes from the air, in the form of CO2, and from water-soluble chemicals in the soil. The composition of these chemicals is the same, whether they come from a plastic bag or from 'natural' manure or compost. They are certainly the same by the time they are on your plate.


Salt is an essential food. Without it, we would die. Land-based mammals-such as humans control their body temperature by sweating and panting. Sweating is impossible without sufficient salt. In fact, strenuous exercise in a person depleted of salt causes overheating and death.

The Government has caved in to the anti-salt zealots in its advice to reduce salt intake. However, there is, in fact, very little, if any, truly scientific evidence that cutting back on it will do you any good.


The much-disparaged Turkey Twizzler, bugbear of TV chef Jamie Oliver, is made of recovered turkey meat and provides the same amino acids as normal turkey breast.

Corned beef, now an unfashionable meat product, is also no less nutritious than any other beef, although, like Turkey Twizzlers, it is also a reclaimed meat product.

Turkey Twizzlers are fine: The recovered meat provides the same amino acids as regular turkey breast meat


The medical (and social) consensus is that cardiovascular disease is caused by being overweight, by having a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet and by unhealthy activities such as smoking.

While being morbidly obese, eating nothing but lard and smoking 60 a day will probably lead to an early grave, there is nevertheless a lot of confusion about the precise link between lifestyle and this, the biggest killer of all.

Many people with high cholesterol levels in their blood do not get heart disease. Many people with very low levels do.

The very low levels of heart disease recorded in some populations, notably the Japanese, may have more to do with cultural variation and prejudice than with medical reality (in many societies, what are, in fact, heart attacks are often listed on death certificates as 'strokes').

Furthermore, some of the lowest levels of cholesterol and arterial sclerosis are to be found in populations such as the Inuit and Siberian hunter-gatherers, who live on a diet which is incredibly high in saturated fat.


Everything seems to be bad for you these days, but there is also plenty of scientific evidence to the contrary. Eggs seldom contain salmonella, even if some chickens do. Cholesterol in the diet does not cause fatty deposits in your arteries. There is probably little difference between the effect of saturated and unsaturated fats.

In those with normal kidney function, salt does not cause high blood pressure. Those with a body-mass index of between 25 and 32 live as long as or longer than those with a lower BMI. And avoiding the sun causes vitamin D deficiency; a suntan is nature's natural sun block, although sunburn is to be avoided.


Anti-mercury campaigners believe that the mercury used in dental fillings will make you ill (mercury is a potent poison).

But a single amalgam filling provides just 0.03 micrograms/day of mercury, which is almost 3,000 times less than the safety level permitted for persons with occupational exposure to mercury, and is too small to be responsible for any symptoms.


Stupid and incomprehensible thinking behind EU rules on low-alcohol wines

It's just power-mad bureaucrats who get their jollies by saying "No'. There is no rational reason behind it

For years New World vineyards have been reducing the alcohol content in wines through technology - and, for years, their European counterparts have sniffily rejected such methods. Now French research has shown that the Americans and the Australians had it right all along.

Tests have proved that techniques previously dismissed as unworthy of European tradition can enable vineyards to lessen alcohol levels by as much as 3 per cent without putting off drinkers. Producers on the Continent are ready to market their bottles in Britain but there is a hitch: officials in Brussels appear intent on banning the new generation of de-alcoholised wines being developed by scientists and vineyard owners.

"It's absolutely absurd for Europe to prohibit this at a time when health officials are trying to persuade people to consume less alcohol," said Claude Vialade, who has developed a wine with 9 per cent alcohol, called So Light, on her Domaine Auriol estate in the South of France.

Traditionalists and modernisers continue to disagree over the two main methods for producing wine with a diminished alcohol content. The first involves harvesting grapes which are immature and have a low sugar level, giving rise to a wine naturally low in alcohol. It is authorised in the European Union, but produces bottles dismissed widely as imbuvables (undrinkable). The second uses fully matured grapes to produce a normal wine, from which alcohol is extracted through techniques such as reverse osmosis. This method - de-alcoholisation - is common in Australia and California, but banned under the EU's arcane winemaking regulations.

However, pressure for reform is building after work conducted by 12 scientific teams co-ordinated by Jean-Louis Escudier, director of the wine unit at the French National Institute for Agronomic Research. His study contradicted the belief that only wines containing between 12 and 14 per cent alcohol were acceptable, suggesting that Europe's dismissal of New World methods was based on little more than snobbery. Mr Escudier says tests on more than 1,000 people demonstrated that producers could reduce the alcohol content by up to three percentage points without an ordinary drinker noticing. "In blind tastings, French consumers like quality wines with a reduced alcohol content as much as standard wines," his report said.

"In other words, you can go from 14 per cent to 11 per cent or from 13 per cent to 10 per cent without a problem," Mr Escudier told The Times.

The issue is sensitive at a time when French wine consumption has slumped to 43 litres per head in 2008 - down from 47 litres the previous year and 120 litres in 1959 - largely as a result of health and drink-driving campaigns.

Andre Barlier, sales and planning director at FranceAgriMer, the French agricultural statistics office, said: "The situation ...can now be described as depressing and worrying."

Brussels is proposing a small change in EU regulations to authorise dealcoholisation for the first time - but only by a maximum of two percentage points.


1 comment:

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