Sugar addiction for dummies

torture

Vox just published a Q&A with Robert Lustig (“famous” for his viral “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” lecture), purporting to lay out the case for treating sugar like a dangerous drug.

The hyperbole about sugar (it’s like cocaine!) has become pretty standard fare by now, not least thanks to films like Fed Up, and the whole fat-loving, carb-bashing brotherhood (now with its first ever physical filter bubble conference).

But Lustig made a couple of points I thought might be handy to keep in mind:

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Hammers, sugar and Jamie Oliver

JO taxesThere goes Jamie Oliver again, mouthing off where he has no business, and upsetting the Twitterati:

JO tweetAnd although I briefly jumped on that bandwagon, I’m going to go out on a limb here and defend him for once. Or rather, to try to shift the focus. Because so what if he thinks sugar should be taxed? People much more qualified than Jamie Oliver have already pointed out that the idea of sin taxes is simplistic, unrealistic, and largely ineffective. So until we actually see indications of policy decisions based on the ramblings of a celebrity chef (which yes, has indeed happened in the past), then let him say what he likes.

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A bad rap for sugar

Sugar is so convenient, isn’t it? If you believe the people behind the (predictably challenging-to-watch) film Fed Up, sugar has been a convenient way to hoodwink America into a full-scale obesity epidemic. But even more than that, it turns out to offer a really convenient way to explain away any complexities related to health and eating. Or just as a target for a (simple syrupy) finger of blame.

There have already been several excellent reviews of what’s wrong with Fed Up (very well summarised most recently by Harriet Hall), so I’ll just mention a few points that stuck out for me.

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Porn, the SFW edition

porn

Earlier this year I was delighted to be asked to contribute a short piece for the then-upcoming MAD4 on the topic of this year’s symposium: ‘What is Cooking?’

My take was (unsurprisingly) on some of ways food television influences the way we think about cooking and eating, including that pesky question of “food porn”. Since the good people at MAD have made it available, feel free to go and have a read. (And if you’re interested in food television generally, Chris Cosentino’s much-lauded talk is also worth a watch. But then so is most of the other stuff that’s been posted – let’s just say I’m in extremely good company there.)

The food porn thing does come up again and again, with varying degrees of usefulness.* But perhaps the most logical conclusion of a cultural obsession with food and sex is the porn star who turns his, ahem, gaze, to food. Exhibit A: “James Deen Loves Food“.

And then I’d recommend two interesting interviews with James Deen on the topics of food and sex: on Go Fork Yourself (!) with Andrew Zimmern, and with the slightly more irreverent folks at Eating Disorder. Both good fun.

Or we could just let Charlie Brooker have the last word.

*Anyone with an academic interest in these matters might want to check out my entry on “food porn in media” for Springer’s Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics.

#LCHF never fails. Except when it does.

Move over Big Fat Surprise, ‘Nutritionist, bestselling Author, and Speaker’ Christine Cronau is way ahead of the (ahem) curve when it comes to ‘reporting on the biggest health blunder in history’, and teaching you how to revolutionise your body with fat. But don’t think of any of this as a diet:

LCHF no diet

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GMO: Godawful Modus Operandi

I’ve been avoiding watching the film OMG GMO because I knew it would be irritating. It did not disappoint. It was misinformed and manipulative on so many levels – I mean, this man dresses up his children in gas marks to walk through a field of GM crops. Children of the corn indeed.

GMO

So if you want to learn anything constructive about the GM debate, don’t bother watching this film.

However, it can teach you a bunch of other useful things, as pointed out in a couple of reviews that get it just right.

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It’s the nature, stupid!

Poor nature. It gets so abused. And I’m not even talking about the stuff we humans inflict on it with our cars, industries and nasty habits like smoking. I’m talking about all the bullshit claims people make in its name.

“Nature” is, of course, one of the big motivators for following the LCHF/Paleo diet, despite a fair bit of evidence suggesting that that is more of a paleo-fantasy (including recent findings of “stone age” tooth decay suggesting that hunter-gatherers weren’t very good at following the Paleo diet). But never mind that. Here’s a recent comment from Tim Noakes:

All creatures on this earth (including most humans) eat in response to biological signals that keep them healthy when eating the foods with which they co-evolved over millions of years. Provided humans are eating the foods with which they co-evolved, their brains should be able to tell them how much of the different foods they should eat. We do not need to tell a single animal in the Kruger National Part how much of which different foods each needs to eat. But put them in a zoo and feed them foods which differ by the tiniest amount from that with which they co-evolved, and they rapidly become ill as are most elephants in North American zoos suffering as they do now from obesity, heart disease and infertility. But this does not happen to anywhere near the same extent in the wild.

My opinion is that the same applies to humans – direct them to eat only healthy foods and let them decide how much of which different foods they need to eat.

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Surprise: people don’t eat what they’re told!

I’ll be brief. There is a now-familiar narrative which blames the current obesity crisis on the introduction of dietary guidelines in the 1980s, and specifically with the “liphobia” (fear of fat) introduced by Ancel Keys in the 1970s. The story goes thus: government is led to believe that fat is the root of all fire and brimstone disease, so they issue guidelines telling everyone to eat low- or no-fat foods. Everyone complies, and unknowingly stuffs themselves with sugar, with which all foods are secretly laced, because the government also subsidises the sugar industry.

Three or so decades later, an epidemic of obesity and diabetic children, all because of the sugar! (Or, as the Daily Mail calls it ‘The new tobacco. A ticking time-bomb. The hidden menace‘).

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Cigarettes and chocolate

Yesterday, I tweeted the following:food addict cnn

Perhaps it was a little unkind, given that this writer was sharing rather intimate details about her struggles with self-control around sugar and carbs, like the fact that at the height of her “using” (let’s use the right language now), she was scoffing not just any old ice cream, but some of the ‘Bon-Appetit top-10-rated best-in-the-nation ice cream‘, and that in the second round of “lapsing”, it was those ‘‘50s-style red and white mini-popcorn bags’ being fed from the ‘Satanic butter machine’, aka a popcorn maker at her place of work that got her. After days of resisting, she finally ‘broke down’ and

I grabbed one of those red and white paper bags and the commercial-grade scooper and joined the crowd. I ate one bag and stopped.

Of course the “story” here is that stopping (for her) is so unusual, because her “addicted” brain wanted to keep eating bag after bag after bag.

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