Tuesday, 27 March 2012

why Joanna Blythman and Michael Pollan are wrong

This morning I listened to Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4. The food writer Joanna Blythman was talking about her ideas of what we should eat. Her views seem to be similar to Michael Pollan in that she thinks that traditional food must be the best. When asked if she thought that red meat is unhealthy, as recent research has shown, she replied that scientists don't know what they are talking about and that you should go ahead and continue to eat it.

She said that scientists had said in the past that eggs are unhealthy, and they were wrong about that. So why shouldn't they be wrong about red meat too? She doesn't seem to understand how science works. As scientists discover more and more about a subject, their understanding becomes more and more accurate. Scientists don't just believe things and then change their minds and believe something different for no apparent reason. Sometimes there are radical shifts in opinion, but usually scientific ideas progress over time.

Pollan said something similar when he said that scientists used to be concerned about fibre but are no longer. Actually, they are. Soluble fibre, as in oats, are regarded as quite important. Roughage is still regarded as important.

Blythman said that our recent ancestors eat lot of red meat and they seem to have survived. People in the past died earlier, and there was a lot of heart disease. We should let science be the guide as to what traditions are healthy and unhealthy. I will continue to eat red meat sometimes, but I would not eat as much meat as the average British person. I certainly am not going to eat butter in large quantities, which people like Pollan and Blythman think must be OK because it is traditional. I think they have got it wrong about heart disease and saturated fat.

There is nothing more traditional than eating toast with butter and marmalade for breakfast, and a piece of cake with tea or coffee mid-morning. These things will contribute towards obesity, the medical problems that come with obesity, and possibly heart disease too. People don't need to be frightened of food, but they need to think about what they are eating.