I guess I should have known that a documentary calledÂ 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.
When I first met the Philosophe, one thing that really irritated me about him is one of the things I now most admire him for (and aspire to): his consistency. (If you can’t understand what’s irritating about consistency, just imagine how important it is to logical reasoning, and how frustrating it can be to argue with someone who is completely logical and rational – even when he’s clearlyÂ wrong!)
Of course I was probably annoyed by it because it showed up how I – like many of us, I’ll venture – was/am really bad at being consistent, preferring the “freedom” to be fickle to suit my agenda (“What’s that you say? How can I not eat animals for “moral” reasons but have no problem dropping a wad of cash on a pair of sexy leather boots? None of your goddamn business!”).
I was once again reminded of the huge currency of inconsistency recentlyÂ while listening to an episode of the Stuff You Should KnowÂ podcast (while swimming with my waterproof iPod), this one on “How the Paleo Diet Works.” Having both read and written a fair bit on Paleo/LCHF/Banting/Noakes, I found the podcast to be rather superficial (including a by-now predictable misrepresentation of the work of Ancel Keys), but that’s maybe to be expected. It did manage to describe the key principles, namely that humans were evolved to eat and metabolize a particular kind of food, and that kind of food is not what most of us eat today, which is why the world is so fat and sick. Ergo, eating like your hunter-gatherer ancestors is the only to restore health and vitality. To break it down even further, basicallyÂ don’t eat anything out of a box.
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-fantasyÂ (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 â€“ direct them to eat only healthy foods and let them decide how much of which different foods they need to eat.
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.
Thanks to this post over at a blog called (rather authoritatively)Â Authority Nutrition, which details “6 Reasons Why I do Not Trust The Mainstream Health Authorities“, for providing me with 6 Reasons Why Blogs (perhaps especially those who have the word “authority” in the title) are bad for your brain. Let’s go through them one by one:
1. Many of Them are Sponsored by The Big Junk Food Companies
Summary: The Big Junk Food Companies only care about money, so they cannot be trusted. Plus, they “inform” people that sugar is not toxic to children.
Reason Why ThisÂ Is Bad For Your Brain: Not trusting anyone who has profit motives is not a reasonable, useful, or realistic heuristic (seriously, good luck with that!). Yes, there may be some who have motives that are as evil as that toxic sugar. But guess what, not everyone is corruptible, and it doesn’t serve anyone to walk around with conspiracy glasses on all the time. Plus, sugar isn’t (that) toxic.
I’ve just returned from a few wonderful days in wonderful Copenhagen, thanks to a generous invitation to deliver a keynote address at a conference on Food, Media and Identity. As usual after these sorts of events – by which I mean conferences with lots of cool, thought-provoking talks and probably way too much a bit too much collegial wine following each day’s session – there are plenty of thoughts that need some time to settle and disentangle before they (hopefully) morph into some useful new ideas and directions.
But one issue stood out for me both up to and during the two days that we were at it. This was that what I would normally refer to as food media (ahem) were often described as media food. At first I resisted pointing this out, thinking it would just be pedantic (maybe a lost in translation thing?), but then it occurred to me that there may be an interesting distinction, and one that’s worth making. So, very briefly: when I refer to food media, I’m talking about the various media (television, magazines, www, etc) on or through which food is represented.
What might media food be? Something like fodder for media?