Living is leading cause of death

24/02/2012 § 2 Comments

The sun rose this morning. Wellington had some weather. Oh, and medical researchers said that food is bad for you.

Once again, we are told that high-calorie, low-nutrient food might not be the best choice. Researchers published a list of 49 foods that we should avoid. What’s more, they published it in the New Zealand Medical Journal, so they get points towards the next PBRF assessment round. The article is here but has restricted access.

The problem, apparently, is people’s knowledge:

“Many people struggle to know what to eat if they have a weight problem,” Dr Elmslie said.

“The advice out there is often complicated and contradictory. It can be quite difficult to understand the relevance of health-related product endorsements and the information on food labels.”

I really, really struggle with this idea that people don’t know what they are eating. We eat all the time. Food is one of the highest involvement products there is. If we don’t know or understand about food, then there is no chance we have good information about anything. Also, it’s a lazy argument that opens us up for any solution: people don’t understand what they are eating, so we should provide advice/limit their choices/feed them in giant public cafeterias/provide standard ration packs (choose one).

A much more interesting question is, what knowledge do people have and how  do they use that knowledge? But, that kind of research is much harder than dividing the number of calories by the number of vitamins and ranking foods by the result.

I found this interesting, too:

[Ria Schroder] and Dr Elmslie said they were expecting a backlash, but wanted to get out the message that there was an urgent need for new strategies or guidelines to deal with the growing problem of obesity.

See how they’ve set themselves up? They are tenacious researchers willing to brave backlash from unnamed sources in order to share their secret knowledge with the masses. This makes them impervious to counterargument. If you agree with them, you support them. If you disagree, then you are part of a ‘backlash’ and can’t be trusted. There is no space for informed disagreement.

The researchers get extra special bonus gold stars for item number one in the list:

1. Alcoholic drinks

‘Nuff said.



§ 2 Responses to Living is leading cause of death

  • Eric says:

    I would totally agree that it is less about knowledge, and more about availablilty & incentives. Here in the US high calorie low nutrient food is well subsidized (so cheap and available) while food that has a better nutrition value is more expensive and harder to find. I also think there is a time quotient- a single parent who has just worked a physically demanding job is much more likely to throw something pre-prepared on the table than someone like me who has the time money and energy to prepare fresh ingredients…

  • Eric says:

    I think the knowledge gap is in the kitchen- if you don’t know how to cook, and can’t afford to ruin a meal, it is pretty hard to convice people to take the risk of preparing something that involves more judgement than boiling water or watching a clock.

    Again, one of the great avantages in my household is that if I totally botch a meal, we can order pizza to make up for the ruined food.

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