“Ultra-processed” foods and cancer

So there’s a “study” making the rounds claiming to have found evidence of a link between consuming “ultra-processed foods” and developing cancer. It’s not the first time we’ve heard that processed stuff like bacon and pastrami leads to cancer, but this one expands the range of “processed” to the more scary “ultra-processed” to include the following (handily summarised by the BBC):

Leaving aside what exactly even are “foods made mostly or entirely from sugar, oils and fats”, it’s an excellent example of the kind of rubbish headlines that lead to the worst outcomes of social media, and of the resulting issue of people being rightly confused about what, or what not, to eat,  because it’s so beautifully tweetable, but mostly bullshit (scientifically speaking):

The main issue here is fairly simple to explain, but it unfortunately comes with consequences that are less simple to undo with a few words on Twitter. Continue reading ““Ultra-processed” foods and cancer”

Don’t look now: ugly food!

OK, that was a ruse. I will not show you pictures of ugly food, but if you’d like to see some, you can head on over to the Daily Mail, who today are featuring this ridiculous piece:

Just take a moment to read paragraphs two and three of this “story” again, and behold a wonderful example of non-evidence-based argumentation. I’ll summarise:

Fact 1: Nigella tweets some pictures of ugly food/ugly pictures of food

Fact 2: More than 250,000 followers regularly “gobble” up her recipe posts, including these pictures of ugly food/ugly pictures of food.

Conclusion: She could be in danger of losing followers.

What’s missing here? What sort of thing might indicate that there is an actual danger of her losing followers, and that this might be in any way related to ugly pictures of food/pictures of ugly food?

…???

Yes, maybe some facts and figures about how she actually is losing followers would do it.

Continue reading “Don’t look now: ugly food!”

Thank God It’s No Longer #FollowFriday

Warning: another soapbox moment Twitter rant.

I like Twitter. I like it much more than Facebook, its evil not-so-twin. I particularly like the fact that, unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn’t force you to take part in social politics, like be-“friend”ing someone you went to school with two decades ago and never spoke to, and suddenly you are “remembering” when it’s their birthday and joining their other 500 “friends” to say Happy Birthday! Have a wonderful day!, to which they respond the next day with “Wow! Thanks all for the wonderful wishes. So special to be remembered!”. Yeah right.

#FollowFriday/#FF seems to me to veer dangerously close to this type of inanity. (For those of you with your heads in the sand not on Twitter, go look at How #FollowFriday works).

I understand the endorsement factor. Being included in a #FF tweet tells other people who might not otherwise find you worth following. But like the “friend” situation on Facebook, it messes with natural selection. I don’t want to follow someone because someone else says that I should. I choose to follow people based on discovering that their Twitter activity somehow adds value to my life. Sure, sometimes I’m wrong, and I may miss someone important, but I would rather miss someone important than end up following a bunch of people who haven’t earned my attention.

The beauty of Twitter is that by paying attention, you end up finding the people you want to follow without silly “traditions” like #FF. Like a particular columnist? Start following them on Twitter, and it’s likely that soon enough they’ll re-tweet someone else who you then discover is also worth following, and so on. Or if you retweet them, they may start following you, and so on. It’s the activity of attention that makes Twitter worthwhile – not attention for the sake of attention.

Which is why I also don’t like this “tradition” of welcoming new people on Twitter and asking your followers to follow them. I have good friends in real life who I enjoy having a glass of wine and a natter with. Chefs whose food I happily pay good money to eat. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to start following them just because they join Twitter. Show me that you’re worth following, and you’re in.

And if I then retweet or mention you, please don’t bother thanking me. I get that it’s polite to acknowledge acknowledgement, but can’t we just let the subtleties of interaction be without all the extra noise (“Thank you.” “No, thank you!” “No no, it’s you who must be thanked!”)? My mention of you is (perhaps) an endorsement to my followers to follow you, and you can thank me by continuing to add value to my life by tweeting interesting things. That’s it.

I am by no means a Twitter celeb, and neither is that my aspiration. But I guess some people who read this might get irritated by the grump I’ve got on. Maybe they will even unfollow me. That’s too bad. But if you’re following me for any reason other than the fact that you enjoy what I bring to the table, then you’re following me for the wrong reasons. Sorry, that’s it.

All I hope for is that Twitter doesn’t turn into Twitbook. So #TGINLFF. (And don’t get me started on #woofwednesday.)

Dinner for one

It is rare that I eat alone – and not at all ideal, I might add, simply because try as I might, I cannot by myself conjure up the delightful banter that the Philosophe (co-)provides on a daily basis. Not to mention that it is nowhere near as interesting trying to impress myself with delicious food as it is hoping to impress others. But sometimes that determined path of life leads you somewhere where inventiveness and sparkling conversation have no place, and the next best thing is a big old bowl of popcorn smothered in wasabi butter (no sharing!), and of course a good measure of whisky.

The great thing about popcorn is that it (generally) lasts longer than a plate of food, which makes it ideal if you find yourself watching two hour-long episodes of food competition (basically cues for hedonic hunger). I caught the first episode of Top Chef “Just Desserts” , which is entertaining enough if you enjoy imagining yourself as one of a bunch of hopefuls (each of whom is, gringo-style, *certain* they “have what it takes” to be the best) running around looking for ingredients to make their signature dessert, only to be told 5 minutes into prep that they have to reconfigure it as a … cupcake. (What the hell is it with Americans and cupcakes?). Their next task is to conjure up the “most decadent” chocolate dessert ever, and for a few seconds I felt cold sweat on my neck as I imagined what I would come up with and couldn’t think of anything fantastic. But then I remembered that I will thankfully never be in such a silly contrived circumstance, so I relaxed and carried on chomping my popcorn.

Then I chomped my way through Masterchef USA, which reliably delivers good verbal abuse with Ramsay at the helm (and given that they did their silly cupcake challenge three weeks ago, was fortunately focused on real food again).

Tonight – alone again, alas – I’ll watch the Masterchef season finale, even though Gordon-bloody-Ramsay couldn’t stop himself from tweeting the bloody winner this morning. Sometimes social media sucks (like, when people use it stupidly and spoil the surprise for the rest of us. Or when *some* people apparently can’t refrain from producing ever-more offspring, and must announce it to the whole world).

But I think I”ll head down delicious lane again and do something righteous with a couple of eggs. Because all afternoon I’ve had to deal with the goodness of a kitchen smelling of Ottolenghi’s apple-olive oil-maple syrup (and cinnamon) cake, which promises to be a delicious mess:

I’ll be sticking to Mr. O’s advice to leave it to “mature” for a couple of days before tucking in. Which means this evening, just an omelette and a glass of wine with my Masterchef. And only one more sleep till I can start cooking for two again. As it should be.

Twitter saga with The Awful Poo Lady (#TAPL)

In case you missed it, here follow accounts of the fascinating saga that unfolded over the last few days involving nutrition-nazi Gillian McKeith (“PhD”), and Ben Goldacre (actual PhD, and author of Bad Science). (Short of long, @gm accused @bg of telling “lies” about her in his book. Read the chapter in question for yourself here). This is a story of the great value of social media over bad science.

From Jack of Kent, (a blog “mainly about the misuse and misrepresentation of Law”), “The Integrity and Honesty of @gillianmckeith”

From Cubik’s Rube, “The Awful Poo Lady Loses her Shit

From David Naylor, “Gillian McKeith vs. Ben Goldacre

From BoingBoing, “Pseudoscience’s “Awful Poo Lady” can’t flush twitterings