Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Eat Nuts, Live Forever

I believe that Anonymous is one of Archdruid Eileen's more regular followers. He or she is always commenting on a range of topics on this blog, although she or he does appear to have a wide range of experience and views - surprising in one person. Perhaps Anonymous is a Renaissance Man or Woman?

But I am indebted to Anonymous for drawing my attention to the Sky reporting of the Red Meat Increases your Chance of Death story. Taking a wild Google of the contents - for my life is nothing if not lived on the edge - I found a similar story with ITV News - and a much better reporting of the details from the Guardian.

Let us compare the passages. First the sober, considered, wise words of the Guardian:
"The findings show that each extra daily serving of processed red meat – equivalent to one hot dog or two rashers of bacon – raised mortality rate by a fifth.Conversely, replacing red meat with fish, poultry, or plant-based protein foods contributed to a longer life. Nuts were said to reduce mortality rate by 20%, making a case for swapping roast beef for nut roast."

And now the wild-eyed ravings of ITV:
"Each additional daily serving of processed red meat, equivalent to one hot-dog or two rashers of bacon, raised the chances of dying by a fifth.
Conversely, replacing red meat with fish, poultry, or plant-based protein foods contributed to a longer life.
Nuts were said to reduce the risk of dying by 20% - making a case for swapping roast beef for nut roast."

As Anonymous points out, the implication if I were to take ITV seriously would be that if one ate nuts five times a week, one would be immortal - unless it were a compound reduction, in which case one's chance of dying would still be less than 50%.

And to turn Anonymous's argument on its head, if I ate two rashers of bacon a day, I would be dead by Friday night.

The problem with science reporting, it seems to me, is that reporters do not do it very well. Although the Guardian recognised it is the rate of death, rather than death itself, that is being measured - it still does not help a lot. We could do with the time factor. Is that an increase of a fifth over a day, a year or a century? If a century, given one's chances of dying are all but 100% anyway, then eating bacon every day of the week gives you more or less a 200% chance of dying. You might think that worth the risk.

But I have to conclude that somewhere in there may be a grain of truth regarding vegetables being healthier than red meat. After all, it was a godsend for Daniel.  I shall in future eat a diet of vegetables only. It may make me pale, skinny, uninteresting and a martyr to wind - but at least I shall live forever.


  1. Vegetables are good but add a bit of chicken and fish. Otherwise it's not worth losing any sleep over. Last year's poison is this year's health food. Fads come and go: I remember when Oat Bran was big in the news, you couldn't buy it anywhere for a few weeks and when I found it I bought 4 boxes, two for my family and two for a co worker. Now you never hear about it. The best thing is not too spend too much time thinking about it. Let's get back to long leisurely conversations over a meal, you know, discussing the important things in life. Food can become an obsession.

  2. Sorry BD I wasn't suggesting that you are obsessed!

  3. May I join the debate by adding (wearily) that the information about red meat and processed meat and indeed all processed foods being generally bad for health, has been around since Adam was a lad. (as indeed have I).
    A non-meat eater for almost forty years, and yes, nuts do play a part in my daily diet, I am not uniquely qualified to comment as there are many such as I.
    I will be 77 on Friday and confidently expect to reach my century (God willing), but that has nothing whatever to do with the amount of red meat I do or do not consume.
    Simply a question of a well-balanced diet and inherited good genes.
    You could say, the luck of the draw.

  4. The solution seems obvious, eat bacon AND nuts then they cancel each other out and you live exactly how long you were going to live anyway... no?

  5. How many peanuts do I have to eat before I can have a bacon sarnie without dropping dead on the spot?

  6. Surely you need to eat red meat and chocolate (but not at the same time) and drink wine and coffee (sequentially, not simultaneously) in order to be able to give them up for Lent...


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