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Adam Curtis - The Vegetables of Truth 

This article by British journalist and filmmaker Adam Curtis suggests that for some people sensible eating might actually mean paying less attention to what they eat, rather than more. It deals with the changing role of how science is presented in the media, the rise of Ulrich Beck's risk society, the ignoring of the correlation/causation problem, and 'residual confounders'. It confirmed some of my suspicions, and explained a lot about the bizarre way the media pushes health-scare science, and junk diet breakthroughs. Some excerpts:


Which bring us to the vegetables.

Seven months ago a scientific report came out that illustrates this danger very clearly.

It was from University College London and it said said that people who eat seven or more portions of vegetables every day - rather than the recommended five - live longer. And it wasn’t just a little bit longer, one of the authors of the report said that the effect was “staggering.”


I asked Professor Tom Sanders, who is Professor of Nutrition at Kings College London, about the research behind the report.

He was pretty scathing. The data was dubious he said - because there is no way of finding out if the respondents had lied. He had a good line - “Men lie about smoking. Women lie about vegetables”.


There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating healthily. And it is very sensible to eat fruit and vegetables regularly.

But something else is going on here. The scientists behind the report are playing on our anxieties and saying you must eat even more healthy food so as to avoid dying early. When in fact the data might be pointing to the very opposite.

That the way to avoid dying early is to reform and restructure society so poor people have more access not just to better food - but to all the kinds of opportunities that richer people do. These are a range of social factors from health care and housing and education to social isolation, stress, unemployment, and higher-risk occupations. These are the sorts of things that also affect how long people live.

To lump it all onto vegetables is unfair.

Science and scientists do all kinds of wonderful things. But when they venture into the social and political world they tend to get bent the way the ideological wind is blowing.

Once it was to support politicians trying to expand their power by remaking society. Now - in an age of individualism - it is to keep us in our place by promoting the idea that we should just focus on ourselves and our bodies.

I think Adam has obviously missed the importance of movement in health and longevity, but I find a lot of his arguments and explanations very convincing.

Then again, I could just be using this essay as an excuse to be lazy about my diet, I'd be interested in the thoughts of forum members.


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  • 2 weeks later...
On 22/1/2017 at 2:36 AM, Kit_L said:

I have written two or three substantial articles on what to put into the body; all have stood the test of time and have weathered the storms of public (and scientific) opinion moving between high-cab, low-fat, high protein, high fat, and no carb diets. Most people don't realise, for example, that a full-on ketogenic diet (no carbs) is still the recommendation for children and teenagers with epilepsy—there are no "essential carbohydrates". Food for thought, right there.

This topic is so broad I don't think we'll ever have definite answers; I also believe there isn't a “one size fits all” approach here, as it is with many things in life. For instance I recall reading milk is best to be avoided, but at the same time there're populations who have high lactose tolerance because they have evolved to consume it, since it is an important source of nutrients in their regions. I'm from a country of pasta eaters, I wonder if our genetics is better equipped to process carbs because of this reason. I'm just speculating, though.

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