Glorifying gluttony

If being a “foodie” means enjoying reading about what other people get to eat – often in some of the best restaurants in the world – then I will reluctantly admit to being one. (If it just means being obnoxiously obsessed with food, then no. Definitely not!)

But when such an account begins with the line ‘Last night, I vomited in a great restaurant‘, and goes to on to list a menu of glorious-sounding food punctuated by burps and an ultimate reversal of fortune, then I think I draw the line between pleasure and disgust.

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The Perfect Human Diet

I guess I should have known that a documentary called The Search for the Perfect Human Diet (subtitled “The Answer to the Obesity Epidemic”) would end up in a very predictable place. But just see how ground-breaking it sounds!:

The Perfect Human Diet is the unprecedented global exploration for a solution to our epidemic of overweight, obesity and diet-related diseases – the #1 killer in America. This film, by broadcast journalist C.J. Hunt, bypasses current dietary group-think [ding ding!] by exploring modern dietary science, previous historical findings, ancestral native diets and the emerging field of human dietary evolution – revealing for the first time, the authentic human diet. Film audiences finally can see what our species truly needs for optimal health and are given a practical template based on scientific facts.

Am I right? If only this synopsis wasn’t actually written by … C.J. Hunt.

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No, actually don’t try this at home

“When I see a picture of someone who’s really hugely fat,” Nigella Lawson once told a talk-show host, “I don’t think ‘how hideous’. I think how delicious it must have been to get there”.

Not so Katie Hopkins, who earlier this year embarked on her very own ridiculous “Fat Story“. The conceit*: put on 3-4 stone (that’s about 25 kg) and lose it again to show how easy it is – or rather, that all fat people need is a kick up the arse.

If you haven’t heard of her, this is all you need: she calls herself the biggest bitch in Britain, and was apparently ranked the second most loathed person in the world, after Vladimir Putin. Perfect person for the job, right?

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Watson gets it all wrong

So Watson the computer has just released a cookbook. Or rather, you can now buy a cookbook full of weird pairings generated by Science.

Now Watson’s been hanging out in the [bon appetit] kitchen for quite some time already, where (s)he/it has been “learning” about which foods go together for the purposes of helping to inspire chefs and other people who like to play in kitchens about surprising combinations that apparently work. As I wrote in the Mad Dispatches on the topic of “What is Cooking”, the idea behind Watson isn’t to ‘render the human cook obsolete, but rather to put the superior speed and memory capacities of a computer to the service of human creativity by analysing, for example, similar compounds in a multitude of flavour-pairings. In theory, Watson could then come up with combinations that make complete sense but might have taken us another several decades to discover in the kitchen.’

So how exactly does it work?

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Eat this now, before you die (or, some schizo[hive]phrenia)

As I pointed out the other day, Twitter is really a place of diverging views.


Which is nonsense, of course. Because my Twitter is only what I’ve decided to make it, and here I will pat myself on the back for choosing not to live in a filter bubble where I only see things that please me.

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Sugar addiction for dummies


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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Science or fiction?

In the “Science or Fiction” segment of the (then) latest Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast (where host Steven Novella serves up one fake and two real news segment(s) for his panel of skeptics – or “rogues” – to figure out), the one that turned out to be fiction involved the recent approval of a genetically modified potato designed to contain up to 40% less calories than conventional potatoes. One of the rogue’s reasoning as to why this must be fake is that there is so much research going into making foods that are more calorifically dense (think Plumpy’nut, or peanut butter “amplified”) to treat malnutrition that it would make little sense for scientists to be working on something to contain less calories than necessary.

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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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