Are the Food Police killing us?

by Kerry Cue

 Sibylesque diet Quote

Who are the Food Police? Epidemiologists. They juggle statistics and advise governments. They do good work with diseases. Where? Why? How?

But their diet advice is often iffy.

‘At best they can show only association, not causation. Epidemiological data can be used to suggest hypotheses but not to prove them.’

Nina Teicholz, The Government’s Bad Diet Advice, NYT, 20 FEB, 2015

So what are some of the backflips in Government dietary advice in recent years:

  • salt is not that bad
  • red meat is not that bad
  • fat is not that bad
  • and now, guess what, cholesterol is NOT THAT BAD.

See Why we eat ourselves crazy on this blog.

Sibylesque desserts

The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s hysterical fear of fat in recent decades gave support to low-fat foods, which, because of their high-sugar content, may have significantly contributed to obesity and therefore other chronic diseases.

‘Over the past 50 years, we cut fat intake by 25 percent and increased carbohydrates by more than 30 percent, according to a new analysis of government data. Yet recent science has increasingly shown that a high-carb diet rich in sugar and refined grains increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease — much more so than a diet high in fat and cholesterol.’ Mark Bittman, How Should We Eat?, NYT, 25 FEB 2015.

Meanwhile, cholesterol has come in from the cold. All those eggs you didn’t eat and all those egg white omelets you did eat have not helped your cholesterol levels. The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has recommened that dietry cholesterol is not much of a problem. Mark Bittman, How Should We Eat?, NYT, 25 FEB 2015.

In other words, when dealing with the Food Police take their recommendations with a grain of salt, a lashing of cream, a scrambled egg and some leafy green vegetables (everyone thinks they’re a good idea).

Photo source: unsourced


They fly forgotten as a dream

by Maren Rawlings

 sibylesque e e cummings quote

On my walk, if I come round the corner quietly I find the path through the park is occupied by a flock of galahs and tufted (native) pigeons. The galahs greet me raucously and fly into the pines but the pigeons stubbornly walk ahead of me in single file with short busy steps like matrons making for the bed linen department in Boxing Day sale. Finally the one at the back takes to the wing with a high, soft fluted cry and lands at the front of the formation as they turn off the path and then stop to look at me with a disapproving air.

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My mind goes back to a teacher in secondary school with a grey high French roll just like a pigeon tuft. Her legs, under her ample “pouter” torso, were thin and bird like and she moved with the same strutting business. On her way from Assembly to classes she would sing with the honesty of a deeply religious woman. Her mind, however, was not tidy, so that we would come from reedy renditions of “Brightest and best of the suns of the morning, Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid…” to hear her intoning “Time like an ever rolling stream, Bears all its sons away, They fly forgotten as a dream, Dies at the opening day”. Phew, thank goodness we were daughters, we laughed, ignoring her spinster state, a fault no doubt, of someone’s son.

filmstrip pigeon

My sister-in-law, a lorikeet, can not only sing, but she can play the piano at the same time (even standing up), so when she disappears to “practise” there is no possibility of recalling her from the realms of angels.

Music, it is said, originated probably with the imitation of bird calls. There is evidence that perception of the octave might be shared among species, but the number of distinct notes between that tonal recurrence is a matter of culture or taste. Music of itself is not judged to be positive or negative, although particular assortments of notes may not be pleasing (especially when my husband sings). It can be a subversive and highly satisfying mode of expression.

filmstrip beehive hair do

The first song I taught my granddaughter, “Cry baby bunting, Daddy’s gone a-hunting, Gone to catch a rabbit skin to put the baby bunting in”, was my childish response to having to procure and prepare meals for my ethically vegetarian son-in-law. I knew he had the higher moral ground!

Give the galahs and other birds a serve of their own


Maren RawlingsMaren Rawlings is a fabulously diverse educator and music devotee. She has taught at city and country schools including a 22-year stint at MLC, Melbourne. She has lectured in psychology at RMIT University and Melbourne Uni, written Psychology textbooks and, in 2011, graduated PhD in “Humour at Work” at Swinburne University where she currently tutors.

Maren is President of the Star Chorale, a community choir and this year they sing Verdi’s Requiem with the Zelman Orchestra.


Photo Source: Unsourced


Eat Meat and Die. Oops! Got the maths wrong.

By Kerry Cue

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maroon quote-1Be a vegetarian. Give peas a chance.maroon quote-2

        Coffee MugSibyls Signature maroon

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Every time a study finds this or that food is good or bad for you they usually make one huge error. It’s called a SAMPLING BIAS. ( See Ben Goldacre @ TED Talks.)

Red wines good for you. Red wines bad for you. Red wine causes cancer. Ditto coffee etc. What’s going on?

Sibylesque Paleo Diet

One newspaper article screamed ‘Cancer a risk for lovers of red meat’. So Real Men Eat Meat and Die. There are many good arguments for being a vegetarian, this does not include health statistics.

This claim was made but the article did not explain the maths. Big meat eaters tend also to be big drinkers and smokers, who are obese, unfit and the rest. This study has tried to separate out meat eating from other unhealthy lifestyle choices using the Cox Regression. Mathematical wizardry has produced these numbers but they don’t mean much.

If the study used a control group of unfit, drinking, smoking, obese vegans then comparing mortality rates over 10 years would be interesting. But where do you find half a million of them????????


Photos: Vintage Circus Photo Blog



At my age, doctor, John Glen was an astronaut!

by Kerry Cue

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dark red quote 1 The United States contains more people aged 65 and older than the total population of Canada.dark red quote 2

…………………………….The Demographics of Aging Report

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At your age, what do you expect?

When consulting with your doctor about some illness or injury, you may hear the words, “Well, at your age, what do you expect?” In other words, your illness is ‘your age’. You may want to respond, “At my age, Doctor, John Glen was an astronaut”. John Glen went into space at 77 years of age! Unfortunately, your health provider would more than likely mumble [under their breath], “You’re no John Glen”.

Pelvic Floor Exercises on Beach Now imagine you are a 70-year -old American with a painful knee. What does it actually mean if your doctor glibly comments ‘Well, at your age, what do you expect?’ According to the statisticians there are 18 million Americans in your 65 – 74-year-old age group. As there are 18 million Americans ‘your age’ does that mean they are all limping about the place because of painful knees? The flaw in this logic is simple. You cannot make assumptions about the health of one person from group statistics. When the sample size is 18 million, such assumptions become a joke.

If your doctor thinks YOUR AGE is the disease, he or she might miss a more specific diagnosis. How do you respond to this type of comment by a medical practitioner? One 70-year-old had the answer. In her book, [published over 30 years ago!], ‘Mirror, Mirror, The Terror of Not Being Young’, author, Elissa Melamed, tells the story of a 70-year-old who visited her doctor with a painful right knee. “You’re 70 years old, what do you expect?” he insisted. “My left knee is 70 too”, she replied, “and it’s fine”.

Photograph from USA Social History Archives