Quotulatiousness

May 26, 2017

QotD: The coming of the sexbots

Filed under: Health, Quotations, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Recently I saw online a documentary on sex robots. The reporteress, a short-haired woman seething with quiet indignation, Viewed With Alarm the very idea. Progress is rapid on these love assistants, she said. They move. Some do, anyway. They talk, but not too much. Before long they will have skin-temperature silicone. Today we have all those deplorable men sitting home, lonely and isolated, choking their chickens and pondering suicide. Soon they will instead be rocking and rolling with Robo-Barbie. This worried her. She said.

If this be true, then why, one wonders, do men want sexbots? Aren’t there already women all over the place at skin temperature? Sez me, it’s because women have lived too long in a monopoly economy and so let down quality. It used to be that men had jobs and money, and women had that, so they married to let each get some of what the other had. The woman had to be agreeable as a selling point. Now women have jobs and don’t need men, or to be pleasant. Some are nice anyway, but it’s no longer a design feature. Of course they often end up old and alone with a cat somewhere on upper Connecticut Avenue, but they don’t figure this out until too late. Anyway, they stopped being agreeable. They learned from feminists that everything wrong in their lives was the fault of men.

It is a real problem: American women are inoculated from birth with angry misandry insisting that men are dolts, loutish, irresponsible, and only want sex. (To which a response might be, “Uh…What else have you got?”)

[…]

OK, back to sexbots. The short-aired reporteress wondered why men could be interested in such confections instead of real women, the tone being one of elevated moralism and horror. Beneath the usual factitious objectivity one could hear, “How could…what is wrong with….?” and so on.

In the documentary, the short-haired reporteress talked to an ugly anti-sexbot crusader woman who said testily that using sexbots “objectified women.” (To me it sounded more like womanizing objects, but never mind.) These two dragons continued to the effect that sex was about intimacy and closeness and bonding. I wondered how they knew. But understand: They weren’t worried about competition. Oh no. They wanted to preserve intimacy and bonding. They were worried about those poor miserable men.

Uh…yeah.

In modern America I see no sign that women are concerned about masculine misery, and indeed that most of them rather like the idea.

Fred Reed, “Sally Cone Hits the Dating Scene”, The Unz Review, 2017-05-11.

May 22, 2017

QotD: The nanny state’s ever-expanding reach

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Health, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Royal Society for Public Health is suggesting that unusual, unhealthy or minority pursuits should be criminalised in order to set a good example to others. They want people to be arrested, fined and possibly even imprisoned for being poor role models. In a liberal society, the only appropriate response can be made with two words or two fingers.

Chris Snowdon, “A smoking ban in pub beer gardens? Stop persecuting smokers”, City A.M., 2015-08-14.

May 19, 2017

QotD: Outpatient psychiatry

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Now I am halfway done with my residency. I will be switching to outpatient work. Everyone who sees me will be there because they want to see me, or at worst because their parents/spouses/children/friends/voices are pressuring them into it. I will be able to continue seeing people for an amount of time long enough that the medications might, in principle, work. It sounds a lot more pleasant.

I have two equal and opposite concerns about outpatient psychiatry. The first is that I might be useless. Like, if someone comes in complaining of depression, then to a first approximation, after a few basic tests and questions to rule out some rarer causes, you give them an SSRI [Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors]. I have a lot of libertarian friends who think psychiatrists are just a made-up guild who survive because it’s legally impossible for depressed people to give themselves SSRIs without paying them money. There’s some truth to that and I’ve previously joked that some doctors could profitably be replaced by SSRI vending machines.

The second concern is that everybody still screws it up. There’s an old saying: “Doctors bury their mistakes, architects cover theirs with vines, teachers send theirs into politics.” Well, outpatient psychiatrists send their mistakes to inpatient psychiatrists, so as an inpatient psychiatrist I’ve gotten to see a lot of them. Yes, to a first approximation when a person comes in saying they’re depressed you can just do a few basic tests and questions and then give them an SSRI. But the number of cases I’ve seen that end in disaster because their outpatient psychiatrist forgot to do the basic tests and questions, or decided that Adderall was the first-line medication of choice for depression – continues to boggle my mind. So either it’s harder than I think, or I’m surrounded by idiots, or I’m an idiot and don’t know it yet. In which case I’m about to learn.

Still, if it’s a disaster, it will be a different type of disaster.

Scott Alexander, “Reflections From The Halfway Point”, Slate Star Codex, 2015-06-29.

May 13, 2017

Psychedelic Drugs: The Future of Mental Health

Filed under: Health, Law, Science, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 12 May 2017

LSD, mushrooms, and ecstasy are finally getting attention from serious medical researchers. And their findings are astounding.
—-
A recent study found that MDMA-assisted therapy could help veterans suffering from PTSD. Another paper from Johns Hopkins presented evidence that therapy in conjunction with psilocybin mushrooms can help ease the mental suffering of terminal cancer patients.

These findings, among others, were presented at the 2017 Psychedelic Science Conference in Oakland, California, where researchers gather every few years to discuss the potential medical applications of psychedelics, including LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and MDMA. The field has exploded thanks to reforms at the Food and Drug Administration that allow researchers, for the first time in decades, to study the effects of these drugs.

The organizer of the conference was the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which is also funding much of this breakthrough research.

“It’s a fundamental right to explore one’s own consciousness,” says MAPS founder Rick Doblin. “We have the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, and the freedom of religion, and all those are based on the freedom of thought.”

At this year’s conference, Reason talked to researchers about the past, present, and future of this controversial and promising area of medical research.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Shot by Alex Manning and Weissmueller. Music by Kai Engel, Selva de Mar, and Lee Rosevere.

May 7, 2017

Deadly Africa

Filed under: Africa, Environment, Health — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Kim du Toit reposted something he wrote back in 2002 about the dangers to life and limb people face in Africa before you factor in dysfunctional governments, terrorists, and continuing ethnic disputes from hundreds of years ago:

When it comes to any analysis of the problems facing Africa, Western society, and particularly people from the United States, encounter a logical disconnect that makes clear analysis impossible. That disconnect is the way life is regarded in the West (it’s precious, must be protected at all costs etc.), compared to the way life, and death, are regarded in Africa. Let me try to quantify this statement.

In Africa, life is cheap. There are so many ways to die in Africa that death is far more commonplace than in the West. You can die from so many things: snakebite, insect bite, wild animal attack, disease, starvation, food poisoning… the list goes on and on. At one time, crocodiles accounted for more deaths in sub-Saharan Africa than gunfire, for example. Now add the usual human tragedy (murder, assault, warfare and the rest), and you can begin to understand why the life expectancy for an African is low — in fact, horrifyingly low, if you remove White Africans from the statistics (they tend to be more urbanized, and more Western in behavior and outlook). Finally, if you add the horrifying spread of AIDS into the equation, anyone born in sub-Saharan Africa this century will be lucky to reach age forty.

I lived in Africa for over thirty years. Growing up there, I was infused with several African traits — traits which are not common in Western civilization. The almost-casual attitude towards death was one. (Another is a morbid fear of snakes.)

So because of my African background, I am seldom moved at the sight of death, unless it’s accidental, or it affects someone close to me. (Death which strikes at total strangers, of course, is mostly ignored.) Of my circle of about eighteen or so friends with whom I grew up, and whom I would consider “close”, only about eight survive today — and not one of the survivors is over the age of fifty. Two friends died from stepping on landmines while on Army duty in Namibia. Three died in horrific car accidents (and lest one thinks that this is not confined to Africa, one was caused by a kudu flying through a windshield and impaling the guy through the chest with its hoof — not your everyday traffic accident in, say, Florida). One was bitten by a snake, and died from heart failure. Another two also died of heart failure, but they were hopeless drunkards. Two were shot by muggers. The last went out on his surfboard one day and was never seen again (did I mention that sharks are plentiful off the African coasts and in the major rivers?). My experience is not uncommon in South Africa — and north of the Limpopo River (the border with Zimbabwe), I suspect that others would show worse statistics.

The death toll wasn’t just confined to my friends. When I was still living in Johannesburg, the newspaper carried daily stories of people mauled by lions, or attacked by rival tribesmen, or dying from some unspeakable disease (and this was pre-AIDS Africa too) and in general, succumbing to some of Africa’s many answers to the population explosion. Add to that the normal death toll from rampant crime, illness, poverty, flood, famine, traffic, and the police, and you’ll begin to get the idea.

My favorite African story actually happened after I left the country. An American executive took a job over there, and on his very first day, the newspaper headlines read:
“Three Headless Bodies Found”.
The next day: “Three Heads Found”.
The third day: “Heads Don’t Match Bodies”.

You can’t make this stuff up.

April 30, 2017

[p-hacking] “is one of the many questionable research practices responsible for the replication crisis in the social sciences”

Filed under: Health, Media, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

What happens when someone digs into the statistics of highly influential health studies and discovers oddities? We’re in the process of finding out in the case of “rockstar researcher” Brian Wansink and several of his studies under the statistical microscope:

Things began to go bad late last year when Wansink posted some advice for grad students on his blog. The post, which has subsequently been removed (although a cached copy is available), described a grad student who, on Wansink’s instruction, had delved into a data set to look for interesting results. The data came from a study that had sold people coupons for an all-you-can-eat buffet. One group had paid $4 for the coupon, and the other group had paid $8.

The hypothesis had been that people would eat more if they had paid more, but the study had not found that result. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, publishing null results like these is important — failure to do so leads to publication bias, which can lead to a skewed public record that shows (for example) three successful tests of a hypothesis but not the 18 failed ones. But instead of publishing the null result, Wansink wanted to get something more out of the data.

“When [the grad student] arrived,” Wansink wrote, “I gave her a data set of a self-funded, failed study which had null results… I said, ‘This cost us a lot of time and our own money to collect. There’s got to be something here we can salvage because it’s a cool (rich & unique) data set.’ I had three ideas for potential Plan B, C, & D directions (since Plan A had failed).”

The responses to Wansink’s blog post from other researchers were incredulous, because this kind of data analysis is considered an incredibly bad idea. As this very famous xkcd strip explains, trawling through data, running lots of statistical tests, and looking only for significant results is bound to turn up some false positives. This practice of “p-hacking” — hunting for significant p-values in statistical analyses — is one of the many questionable research practices responsible for the replication crisis in the social sciences.

H/T to Kate at Small Dead Animals for the link.

April 29, 2017

“Don’t count fat; don’t fret over what kind of fat you’re getting, per se. Just go for walks and eat real food”

Filed under: Health, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Earlier this week, Colby Cosh rounded up some recent re-evaluations of “settled food science”:

Their first target was the Sydney Diet Heart Study (1966-73), in which 458 middle-aged coronary patients were split into a control group and an experimental group. The latter group was fed loads of “healthy” safflower oil and safflower margarine in place of saturated fats. Even at the time it was noticed that the margarine-eaters died sooner, although their total cholesterol levels went down: the investigators sort of shrugged and wrote that heart patients “are not a good choice for testing the lipid hypothesis.” Their data, looked at now, shows that the increased mortality in the margarine group was attributable specifically to heart problems.

The team’s reanalysis of the Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-73) is more hair-raising. This study involved nearly 10,000 Minnesotans at old-age homes and mental hospitals. The investigators had near-complete control of the subjects’ diets, and were able to autopsy the ones who died. But much of their data, including the autopsy results, ended up misplaced or ignored. Some of it disappeared into a master’s thesis by a young statistician, now a retired older chap, who helped with the 2016 paper and is named at its head as one of the authors.

In the Minnesota study, replacement of saturated fats with corn oil led, again, to reductions in total cholesterol. This finding was touted at major conferences, and it became one of the key moments in the creation of the classic diet-heart myth. This time nobody but the guy who wrote the thesis even noticed that the patients in the corn oil group were, overall, dying a little faster. The 2016 re-analysis uncovered a dose-response relationship: the more the patients’ total cholesterol decreased, the faster they died.

The Sydney and Minnesota studies themselves may have caused a few premature deaths, which is a possibility we accept as the price of science. But the limitations and omissions of the researchers, and the premature commitment of doctors to a total-cholesterol model, helped create a suspicion of saturated fats. This flooded into frontline medical advice and the wider culture, and it put margarine on millions of tables, pushed consumers toward deadly trans fats, and put millions of people with innately high cholesterol levels through useless diet austerity. The scale of the error is numbing, unfathomable.

April 26, 2017

The End of Play: Why Kids Need Unstructured Time

Filed under: Education, Health, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 25 Apr 2017

“School has become an abnormal setting for children,” says Peter Gray, a professor of psychology at Boston College. “Instead of admitting that, we say the children are abnormal.”

Boston College Psychology Professor Peter Gray says that a cultural shift towards a more interventionist approach to child rearing is having dire consequences for the well-being of kids. “Over the same period of time that there has been a gradual decline in play,” he told Reason‘s Nick Gillespie, “there are well documented, gradual, but ultimately huge increases in a variety of mental disorders in childhood — especially depression and anxiety.”

Gray believes that social media is one saving grace. “[Kids] can’t get together in the real world…[without] adult supervisors,” he says, “but they can online.”

For more on Gray’s work, follow his blog at Psychology Today.

Edited by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by Todd Krainin and Jim Epstein. Music by Broke for Free.

April 25, 2017

QotD: Coca-Cola seen as harmful

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I hate sweet drinks — Coca-Cola et al. — so passionately that I grow angry whenever I see someone buy or drink one. I hate their taste, I hate the horrible plastic bottles in which they come; to see people carry them around with them as if they were dolls or comfort blankets infuriates me. It appalls me worse that anyone actually likes them. The drinks don’t relieve thirst, they merely create it and make their drinkers wish for more: a perfect recipe, from a certain unscrupulous commercial point of view.

I was therefore secretly pleased to read in a paper published recently in the British Medical Journal that those who drink these disgusting concoctions are more likely than others to develop type 2 diabetes — the type that is increasing throughout the world at an alarming pace, and in some countries even threatening to reverse the increase in life expectancy to which of late decades we have grown accustomed as part of the natural order of things and now think of almost as a human right. Such diabetes is not only the wages of sin — gluttony — but of something that affects our everyday lives even worse, namely mass bad taste.

Of course, the paper in the BMJ can be criticized. A statistical association is not by itself proof of causation, though I should be surprised in this instance if the relationship were not causative. Again, in my heart of hearts I hope that it is. It would restore my faith that the universe is just.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Gluttons for Punishment”, Taki’s Magazine, 2015-07-25.

April 24, 2017

QotD: Introducing socialized medicine in Europe

Filed under: Europe, Health, History, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There are things left behind, in that past I came from, things I can easily live without. First there’s the lack of access to medical care. Most Europeans who are happy with socialized medicine are happy because at the time it was introduced it was a huge step up over what was available at the beginning of the century — when it was introduced there. If all you have in the way of treatment is a local nurse who administers shots, the local pharmacist which (say, apropos nothing) will change dressings on the back you completely skinned while seaside-cliff climbing (or rather falling from. I managed to turn around and take the slope on my back. I still don’t remember/have no idea how we kept mom from seeing the dressings) and the occasional overworked, over harried doctor who will do house calls at a prohibitive price if you’re seriously ill, yeah. Socialized medicine is an improvement over that. I don’t think the progressives (I almost typed primitives — curse you, auto-correct mind) who push for socialized medicine understand that it’s not an improvement even over the f*cked up bureaucracy of the US. They tend to live in a state of envy of the fact that France has a pony and imagine that pony neither craps nor eats.

Sarah A. Hoyt, “Being a Time Traveler”, According to Hoyt, 2015-07-12.

April 23, 2017

The “transformation of mental illness into a fashion accessory”

Filed under: Health, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Brendan O’Neill on the mainstreaming of mental illness as a status marker for “respectable society”:

One of the great media myths of the 21st century is that there’s a taboo against talking about mental illness. Please. Then how come I can’t open a newspaper or flick through my TV channels or browse social media without seeing someone go into grisly depth, often replete with sad selfies, about his latest bout of mental darkness? Far from taboo, having a mental illness, and talking about your mental illness, is all the rage. It’s the latest must-have. You’re no one unless you’ve had a mental episode. And I find this transformation of mental illness into a fashion accessory far worse than the old treatment of it as a taboo (which was very bad).

[…]

It’s dangerous firstly because it springs from and reinforces the weird 21st-century trend for actively inviting people to define themselves as mentally ill. Everything from exam stress to general anxiety to feeling up one day and down the next – which used to be called ‘moods’ but is now called ‘bipolar disorder’ – is being recategorised as a mental illness or disorder. Everyday emotions and experiences have been co-opted into the field of mental health. You think you’re shy? Nope, you have social anxiety disorder. Do you have an awkward friend? Maybe he has Asperger’s. Finding it hard to cope with your workload? Check out this Workplace Stress and Anxiety Disorder Survey to find out if really you are mentally ill.

Virtually all of life’s struggles and people’s personality quirks are being medicalised. And in some cases treated: Britain is said to be in the grip of a ‘psychiatric drug epidemic’, as the number of prescriptions for mental-health drugs rose by an astonishing 500 percent between 1992 and 2014. It’s like something out of Huxley’s Brave New World, in which people are given a mind drug that suppresses their ‘malice and bad tempers’. And people actively seek a diagnosis. A few years ago, a psychiatrist told the BBC that patients come to her saying, ‘I want to be bipolar’. She said the desire for a mental-illness diagnosis often reflects ‘a person’s aspiration for higher social status’. Yes, you can now boost your standing in respectable society by having a mental illness. This is how cool it has become to be mentally ill.

The dire impact of the must-have mental illness is most clear among the young. I can’t remember the last time I met a student who didn’t claim to have a mental illness of some kind. A few weeks of stress over their exams and they think they’re Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They post long social-media confessions of mental ill-health and everyone says ‘How brave’, overlooking that it’s really not brave to do something everyone else is doing; to say ‘I am mentally ill’ in a world in which you can’t swing a tote bag in Waterstone’s without hitting 20 books about being mentally ill. Everyone’s mentally ill; you aren’t special – you’re boring.

Just how many calories are you burning during your exercise program?

Filed under: Health, Humour, Technology — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

At The Register, Alistair Dabbs gets around to talking about the next flying car fantasy after first getting his knob squeezed (it’s not what you think) and then trying to do a bit of measurement:

A short while ago, at the end of another 45 minutes of relentless, sweaty knob-tweaking, one of my fellow gym members asked how many calories she could expect to burn at each class. Aha, I like a challenge, and so I decided to use my access to various wearable tech devices in order to find an answer to this question.

Well, I suppose it was a bright idea: the difficult bit was in implementing it.

Bound up by a host of bands and straps, I looked like a cross between a Running Man baddie and a punk reject hanging around Vivienne Westwood’s shop on the King’s Road in 1976. Yet I am tech gladiator incarnate, I told myself. I am Ali-Stor of Bromlar, son of Al-An, defiler of words, wearer of strap-ons, tweaker of knobs!

Maybe the developers of these fitness trackers thought it would be a good idea too. As it turns out, their implementation leaves a little to be desired. Every device measured and calculated my physical effort in a different way, producing wildly different results.

One heart-and-respiration monitor strapped across my chest reckoned I had burnt around 800 calories during the spin class. Another tracker reported a more modest 500 for the same session, with others suggesting various figures in between.

Best of all was my trusty Fitbit, which told me I’d been sitting down and doing nothing for those 45 minutes. No problem, I can simply use the app to log this period in my exercise record as a spin class and let its online database calculate a typical burn for the period.

172 calories.

Oh thanks a bunch, Fitbit. That’s the same as for a 20-minute stroll between my house and the local train station. Next time I consider attending a spin class, maybe I’ll go full-on and nip out to the newsagent instead. It’ll use up more calories and my tender knob can be left unsqueezed.

April 22, 2017

QotD: Vanilla isn’t

Filed under: Health, Quotations, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

One last, minor thing: Vanilla is a deeply rich flavor that has unfairly become shorthand for boring, basic, and sexually unadventurous. Merriam-Webster’s second definition includes the sad phrase “lacking distinction” to explain the term “vanilla.” I’m not arguing that we drop this secondary use of the word — we’re too far gone for that — but I do want to remind people that vanilla is actually an extraordinarily complex flavor. Chocolate is far more vanilla than vanilla.

Caitlin PenzeyMoog, “Salt grinders are bullshit, and other lessons from growing up in the spice trade”, The A.V. Club, 2017-04-06.

April 15, 2017

Federal marijuana bill “is about as good a framework as we had any right to expect”

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Chris Selley looks at the Trudeau government’s marijuana legalization framework, as revealed on Thursday:

The fact is, though, this is about as good a framework as we had any right to expect from the Canadian government. The feds will insist upon a safe and controlled supply chain, with licenses and inspections; you may keep four plants at home — an indulgence I would have bet against; promotional materials will be severely restricted in much the same way as for tobacco; the minimum age will be 18; and the maximum limit on the amount of dried flower you can carry around in public will be 30 grams — same as it is in Washington state and Colorado.

Retail and all the questions that go with it are the provinces’ problem, just as they should be. (In theory, a buzz-kill province could set the legal age at 105 and the public possession limit at zero, though the government says mail order would be available in provinces that don’t have a retail sector.)

The feds will balance out all this wanton permissiveness with tough talk of putting “organized crime” out of business and protecting our children from weed. (The maximum sentence for giving marijuana to a minor is 14 years in prison!)

And now we see whether it actually happens — by summer 2018, or at all.

The news Thursday was full of worries and concerns and potential reasons why it might not. They range from legitimate-but-surmountable to downright silly.

Yes, the science of THC impairment behind the wheel is inexact. So I guess pot-consuming car-drivers had better take that under advisement. THC-impaired driving is already illegal, after all.

There is the bewilderingly persistent supposed issue of Canada’s obligation to prohibit drugs under UN conventions on narcotic and psychotropic substances. This week, the University of Ottawa’s Global Strategy Lab released a 27-page paper explaining “how Canada can remain party to the conventions without either withdrawing … or amending them.” It’s all very interesting, but why not just withdraw from the damn things?

[…]

Frankly, I’m amazed the Liberals have come even this far at a time when they’re walking on eggshells around the Trump administration. To the extent it has articulated a pot policy, it has been the opposite of the relatively laissez-faire approach the Obama administration took toward states that decided to legalize. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions talks about marijuana the way General Ripper in Dr. Strangelove talks about communists.

That will make legalization all the more impressive an achievement if the Liberals pull it off — and all the more damaging a self-inflicted wound if they don’t.

QotD: “Healthy” food choices

Filed under: Britain, Business, Health, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Whenever I find myself choosing my next meal I always like to look out for the sign that says “healthy option.” In this age of variety and abundance it can often be hugely difficult making up your mind as to what to eat next. “Healthy option” makes things so much easier. It tells me: “Avoid like the plague.”

Good news, then, for takeaway customers in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. No fewer than six local fish and chip shops have taken on board the advice of their local council’s Healthier Choices Manager and introduced special, non-greasy, low-fat menu options. So now when customers find themselves torn between the battered sausage, the chicken nuggets and the “rock salmon” at least they can be sure of what they don’t want: that insipid-looking fillet of steamed cod on a bed of salad, with so few chips they barely even qualify as a garnish.

“It’s too early to say if steamed fish will be a hit,” says an article on the council’s website. And I’ll bet when they know the answer they won’t tell us. That’s because this well-meaning scheme is doomed to flop like a wet kipper. Of course it is. No one in their right mind goes to a takeaway as part of a calorie controlled diet. You do it when you fancy a treat.

And the reason it’s a treat is precisely because that food is so deliciously greasy. As the late Clarissa Dickson-Wright, the generously girthed cook from TV’s Two Fat Ladies, once explained to me, fry-ups, sizzling bacon, battered fish, and so on will always taste nicer than the “healthy option” because fat is a great carrier of flavour.

Clarissa (who was as big an expert on the science of food as she was on cooking and eating it) remained, to the end, a great defender of butter, cream and full-fat milk. She claimed they were much better for you than most of the supposedly healthy, low-fat alternatives. And it turns out she was right. Recent studies have shown that it’s the “trans-fats” in artificial health products like margarine that are the killer, not natural animal fats you find in butter.

What’s more, the evidence increasingly suggests, that it’s sugar not fat which is most responsible for our supposed obesity epidemic. So by trying to stop customers eating fried fish in Rochdale, the council is barking up the wrong tree. It’s the cafes pushing sweet cakes and doughnuts they should be investigating.

James Delingpole, “I prefer my cod in batter, thanks very much”, James Delingpole, 2015-08-15.

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