Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Food is good for you. Honest.

I work in gut microbiology and particularly with what are ridiculously called 'functional foods'. Ridiculous, because all food is functional with the possible exception of the pomegranate, which contains fewer calories than you need to get the wretched thing opened and picked apart and then clean up afterwards.

All food is good for you. There, I said it. Things that are bad for you, such as belladonna berries, are not food. Anything that's good for you, taken to excess, can become bad for you but only while you are taking it in excess.

Take those Aberdeen butteries, flat rolls made of lard masquerading as bread and containing 300 calories each. Lovely if heated up and buttered but if you took a blood sample an hour later and spun out the cells, that normally-clear plasma would look like milk. It's best to eat four of them before any cholesterol test because your doctor will have your death certificate filled in and ready for you next time you visit. He'll be mightily surprised to see you.

The thing is, that level of fat in your bloodstream would be dangerous if it was like that all day - but it's not. It only lasts for an hour or so. The effect is not cumulative because you burn off that fat later. You'll only get fat if you take in more calories than you burn - and even if you're burning calories at a steady rate all day, that does not mean you have to eat at the same rate. Your body has a way of stocking up at mealtimes. It's called fat.

I've never liked butter substitutes. They've always made me feel vaguely uneasy and a comment by Alan Douglas at Devil's Kitchen has made me realise why. It's because it never goes mouldy. If even fungus won't touch it, it must be bad. Fungus will grow on the condensation on the sides of your fridge but it won't go near synthetic butter.

I'm not a big consumer of dairy products. Some cheeses, milk in tea or coffee, but I do like real butter. So it was intensely irritating to see a man in a bad toupee insisting that butter must be banned or we'll all die of heart attacks. Better that than dying from plastic-coated intestines, I'd say. The story was tipped by the Lunatic Arms in the comments here.

Others have commented on it in detail. All I'll add is that butter was the only thing put on bread in the old days - apart from beef dripping (pure lovely fat) - while margarine was a disgusting pale block of rubbish that people used for cooking or for lubricating sex toys. Not both at once, I hope.

Nowadays, most people eat things like 'I can't believe I was fooled into buying this crap' and other 'butter substitutes' and hardly anyone eats dripping any more. Therefore, the eminent wig-spinner's pronouncement that heart attacks are on the rise cannot possibly be due to butter. He's lying, by the way, but we knew that already. It's best to default to 'He's lying' when any of these Righteous make a pronouncement because you'll be right 99% of the time.

The only exception I'd make to a blanket 'yeuk' on butter substitutes would be the ones made from olive oil. Olive oil has proven good-for-you-ness in it. I use it a lot. It makes lousy fried bread though, you really need lard for that.

Also in those comments, PJH (no blog yet) gave links to the dumbing down of milk. It has fat in it you see, and that can make you die. Almost as fast as a totally energy-free diet which is where we seem to be heading. As I said, I don't use much milk but I like the whole stuff. I don't want to pay the same money or more for watered down milk.

It doesn't work anyway. I like tea and coffee in a particular shade and I'll add enough milk to get the shade. If I have to have watery milk I just add more of it. Unless it's Chinese tea or espresso, in which case, no milk. Just sugar and not that damned fluffy powdery stuff either, nor the space pill sweeteners. Proper sugar. Guess what? I still have my own teeth.

The people who think they know best for us want to cut out all sugar, salt, meat and fat from our diet. Soon the only thing available will be Pot Noodle with plastic noodles and the flavour taken out but the ubiquitous dried peas left in. We won't live any longer but it'll certainly feel like it.

No kind of food is bad for you. It's all lies. Too much of anything is bad for you but here's the thing - I'll decide what's too much for me and you decide what's too much for you. Sure, I drink what some would consider far too much whisky but I don't have to get up early tomorrow, I can work until 4 am and then sleep all day if I want and I don't drive. Tonight it's Tobermory and I'm nearly done with this bottle so I'll be off to bed shortly. Who is harmed? Me? Who cares, other than me? I don't feel as if I've been harmed and if I have, nobody else did it. I'm not harming anyone and nobody is harming me. Sounds like a good deal to me.

It wouldn't be so bad if they did care. They don't care about me or you at all. They care about their budgets and their incomes and they care about being in control. They like being paid to watch the puppets dance and that's really all there is to it.

We cannot be trusted to regulate our milk intake so milk must be watered down until adding milk to tea will turn it stone cold. We cannot be trusted with butter - we might just get a fork and eat the whole slab! We cannot control our drinking so the price must go up. And so on.

I'm not obese. I haven't been ill enough to trouble a doctor in decades. Last time I went I had a boil that had burst and produced brown stuff and a big hole so I thought I'd better get it checked. He was more interested in telling me to stop smoking. I never went back. I don't need my blood pressure or cholesterol checked. They'd only declare me dead and while it would be fun to point that out to the taxman and claim on my life insurance, it would be inconvenient being buried. And yet I smoke, drink, eat fatty foods, load up with salt and sugar and meat and count no calories.

I also eat fruit and veg. After some work I did on Salmonella, I eat a lot more apples than I used to and planted two apple trees in the garden. Remember Granny's old saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away? She was right, as it turned out, and it didn't depend on how hard you threw them after all. I make excellent apple and/or rhubarb crumble (real butter in the crumble and loads of sugar). Served with custard and it's not diet custard either. Diet custard exists but I've never worked out why.

It's all about balance and what works for me might not work for you. Yet the Righteous treat us like clones. One size fits all - but the size they've chosen fits nobody.

Some become alcohol dependent if they take too much of it. Some never do. I don't touch the booze if I have to work to a nearby deadline and it doesn't trouble me. The next deadlines are two weeks away - there are four - so I'm relaxed about them tonight.Some eat far too many pies and don't burn off the calories. Some eat bread dipped in melted lard and have jobs that burn off all those calories. If I had butteries every day I'd get fat. I don't. So I'm not.

It's the same as Labour's attitude to the internet. They talk about 'the people' as if it's one homogeneous unit of things. They educate children to be all the same but that doesn't work because they're not and Labour cannot grasp that. They pronounce that all men are potential rapists and/or paedos, that all women are unfairly jailed, that all smokers are out to puff your child's face full of smoke, that all drinkers are potential George Best clones, and that one diet will suit everyone.

I work in a lab and at a computer. A diet of constant fry-ups would turn me into a cross between Davros and Cartman. I would look disconcertingly like a badly-moulded Weeble. The friend's son (the one whose child was stolen but is still at Granny's at the moment) has a very physical job that involves digging big holes and laying drains. He could eat fry-ups every day and he wouldn't get fat. He's never been fat as long as I've known him and that's since he was about five.

We are not all the same and we are not all as uncontrolled in our eating habits as Spewy Prescott. Just because you Labour drones can't think for yourselves, you assume nobody else can either. And you really hate it when we do, don't you?

I'd like to see some indication that it will be different under the Tories, that we will get some measure of self-determination and personal responsibility back.

Cameron does not fill me with confidence in that respect. So far he looks like being Blair Lite.

The Tories should really consider an alternative leader, you know. One who can say things like 'I don't think it's government's place to regulate people's private lives.'

Is there one?


Ayrdale said...

Ahhh, lard, chips fried in...fried bread. Tastes of yesteryear.

I grew up in Preston, then emigrated with family to NZ, and the lard filled chip pan and lard fried bread, bacon and eggs were a staple, together with copious ammounts of NZ butter. That, with the hiss of the pressure cooker were mealtimes. The problem now is I think, that the traditional old diet like that is possibly quite wrong for the non-western gut. Hence the morbidly obese Polynesians etc.

Whaddya think ?

Stewart Cowan said...

I was talking to the lady in the health food shop yesterday (I go there to buy their big choc-chip oat bars!). Her mother smoked twenty a day and had a fried breakfast every morning. She lived to be 97.

NB Results may vary!

Leg-iron said...

Ayrdale - I recall the chip pan with the basket even Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn't have pulled free when it was cold. (Does his name really translate to Arnie Blackblack? How un-PC!)

But then we played outside all the time, had rare TV, occasional chocolate and no computers or games machines. It's different now but it's up to people to adapt. It's not up to government to dictate how they cope.

Stewart, there was a story in the local paper here, years ago, about how a 90-year-old chainsmoker's canary had died of 'passive smoking' even though the bird was well over its species' standard age and the woman was 90. We all thought - when the canary dies, it's time to open a window.

As you say, results may vary. it's an individual thing and that is what Labour will never grasp.

banned said...

Re confronting the milk issue, last time I looked
"A pint of milk a day greatly reduces your risk of developing heart disease and suffering a stroke" a study has revealed.

milk is good for you after all

mind you, that was back in July so things may have changed.

JuliaM said...

"We cannot be trusted to regulate our milk intake so milk must be watered down..."

And then there's the baked beans...

Just Peachie said...

An apple a day keeps Salmonella away? Explain please.

Anonymous said...

This is what I like about this blog LG, you restore my faith in science.

Sadly, the smarter we get as individuals, the dumber we get as a species.

All the Shysters about is proof of that.

Letters From A Tory said...

I'll never forget the day that I bought 'Flora extra light' on the assumption that it would be healthy.

Only did I realise later that gelatin is one of its main ingredients and it has so little fat that it doesn't even melt on hot toast.

What a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

I had a slice of bread and dripping the other day. Lovely!

The Righteous do have a problem with milk. They say you should eat low fat things and approve (somewhat) of things that claim to be 95% fat free. Yet with milk, if you so much as look at a pint of whole milk, your arteries will silt up before you can blink. But whole milk only contains 3% fat, so should be considered as ok. The dairies love it and go along with it, as the cream is where they make their biggest margin. Wiseman's dairy even have the cheek to sell 1% milk as a healthy alternative to semi-skimmed and then to charge you extra for it, despite having removed te best bit! Bastards.

Man with Many Chins said...

Well, my grandfather smoked roll-ups for 60 years, nearly every day had a slice of bread and dripping.

What killed him at the ripe old age of 93? Lung disease? Heart disease?

Nope, falling over on a bit of pavement dug up by the bastard fucking council to get his recycling bin back in that they hadnt collected as he was worried about it, and he broke his hip. The shock was too much and killed him a week later.

He also loved butter, fried bread, milk etc. One thing he wouldn't do is buy any food that was processed, it all had to be either grown in his garden or locally produced.

He also didnt believe in all the fancy chemical cleaners people use now - window cleaner was white vinegar and newspaper!

Anonymous said...

we used newspaper in the army. best thing to clean mirrors and avoid beastings

microdave said...

"Guess what? I still have my own teeth." - Yes, but how many of them!!

"The Tories should really consider an alternative leader" - Dan Hannan - PLEEEEEESE...

Man with Many Chins said...

microdave said:
"The Tories should really consider an alternative leader" - Dan Hannan - PLEEEEEESE..."

I second that motion

Newby said...

Ayrdale said...

The problem now is I think, that the traditional old diet like that is possibly quite wrong for the non-western gut. Hence the morbidly obese Polynesians etc.

I suspect you've hit the nail on the head there.

Lactose intolerance. There is a book I cannot recall the name of, that suggests that proto-Europeans spread all over the place because they were able to digest milk type stuff. Whereas Africans, Asians and even some Southern Euros can't.

Therefore, what diet suits you probably depends on your ethnic background.

Maybe there'll be a DNA test for it someday.

Anonymous said...

Hey Man with Many Chins. I am lactose intolerant. A bloody pain in the arse in more ways than ten. I am of Eastern European extraction and absolutely no one else in my family has the same problem. Life is a lottery.
Eat what you like, it is good for you to be happy.
I have this image of dozens of people at death's door at some, undetermined time in the future, all asking themselves if they will be happier corpses for not having had that bowl of double chocolate ice cream.
Live life while you can. Dead is forever.

Pierrepoint said...

On the bottom of my butter block wrapper it says ingredients: butterfat & salt.
On the bottom of a tub of Flora Light is a chemistry set.
Now choose which one you'd want on your toast.

Anonymous said...

Some years ago, I was on a very, very strict food-allergy diet to try and establish if any food sensitivities were causing chronic and quite extensive eczema (zero success, but some years later totally cured by commencing smoking, I might add – but that’s another story!). Anyway, one of the “rules” of this diet was that all artificial spreads of all kinds were totally, completely and utterly disallowed, although butter was re-introduced as one of the “probably OK” foods at a later stage of the diet. The reason? Well, just compare the “ingredients” panel on the side of any “spread” tub with the same panel on the wrapper from a pack of butter. Speaks volumes. And they say that stuff’s good for us???

Intriguing point about the apples. Can you enlighten us further in easy words of one syllable, or would that take much too long?

Anonymous said...

Fully agree that butter is best. I recall reading about scientists (e.g., those working for Lever Brothers) warning that bottle-fed babies were better off and that mothers who breast fed were killing their babies.

It later turned out that (apart from Lever Brothers making a fortune), breast-fed babies had better immunity and did not suffer constipation in later life.

We'll probably discover that Shyam Kolvekar is a vegan. I wouldn't be surprised if he has some connection to the UN.

Labour's stance on the Internet probably comes from the EU, which is becoming more oppressive. For instance, Italy (thanks to an EU directive) has decreed that videos can't be uploaded to the Internet without government authorisation.

It will be a test of iDave's euroscepticism - will he write it into law or will he oppose it?

paulo said...

Another cracking post LI. And a subject close to my heart.How long has Northern man been eating butter I wonder? Margarine is about 150 years old only I believe.

Funnily enough Rose Prince in Saturday's Telegraph makes some similar comments-check out "The New English Kitchen" if you're interested. Apparently there appears to be some research showing that feeding the body low fat and low cal actually does more harm than good - sort of making the body excited but then letting it down with the nothingness.

Anyway, I' waffling...

Tobermory-lovely whisky, one of my favourites.


Leg-iron said...

On the apples -

The results are commercial and patented, and there's more than just apple in the Stuff but it's all natural products.

You don't get a Salmonella infection form one bacterium. You need to take in thousands at once. How many you need depends on what else is in your gut and how well you feel at the time.

Apples don't make you Salmonella-proof but they increase the number required to cause a problem - so you'd need to swallow a lot more Salmonella than if you weren't eating apples.

They also speed the removal of an existing infection from the gut. It's a direct effect between the apple fibre and the Salmonella. I'm still working out the exact mechanism that produces the effect.

Apple juice won't work. It has to be the solid part of the fruit.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, L-I. So granny was right - well mostly - all the time!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...gut microbiology, hey? I've recently wondered about two things, which you might be kind enough to give an opinion on (if you have one).

First, probiotics - useful, or a con?

Second, gastric bypass surgery to cure diabetes. Anything in it?: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2009/2554683.htm#transcript

Just Peachie said...

Thanks for the apple info. Will restock.

Chalcedon said...

We used to eat spread with olive oil in it, but moved on to real butter again after a few years. My it has taste! We only use it to ligtly butter bread, not pile it on. None of us are fat. As you say with a modicum of exercise you burn it off. My old dad loved a dripping sandwich and he made 85 years. Don't these government twats realise that food and eating are related twin pleasures? It is gluttony that is bad for you. That's what they should address...........no, they should leave people be. It's up to the individual to be a glutton or not. I just wish parents tried to educate their children about actual cooking using fresh ingredients instead of microwaving some crap out of a packet laced with far too many chemicals (as if frozen foods with a consequent low Aw needed them anyway!)

Frank Davis said...

Well said. I agree with every word.

P.S. If you're interested Simon Clark on Taking Liberties has been asking for comments on e-cigs. A bit of a row has broken out in the comments.


Leg-iron said...

I went over and left a comment. There are some rabid militant smokers on there as well as some sneaky attempting-to-be-subtle antismokers.

I don't know why they think those who have gone totally Electrofag are from ASH though. ASH want them banned because they're too much like smoking.

BTW, funny you should pop up just as I referenced an old post of yours. Ears burning perhaps?

Frank Davis said...

funny you should pop up just as I referenced an old post of yours. Ears burning perhaps?

No, actually. It was just when I was reading Simon Clark's request and the comments that followed, I found myself thinking: "I'm sure Leggie would have something to say about this."

I've only just noticed the link in your latest piece to my Columbo thing. Thanks for that. But I knew you'd read it, because the next day after I posted it you mentioned Columbo in something you wrote.

Funny place, the interthingy, eh?

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