Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Food and fatness

Well I was going to blog about this article in which a Japanese TV chef utters the idiotic Nihonjinron nonsense that Japanese people have "DNA more suitable for rice than bread."

But then I read this article which claims that British people can't help eating too much and not doing enough exercise. And I can't honestly poke fun at some Japanese TV Celeb spouting rubbish when whole committees of scientists are saying things like that.

Here we have Sir David King saying "What we have to do is pay an enormous amount of attention to how much we exercise we take and how much food we eat." As just about anyone who cycles a modest distance to work can tell you, that is simply nonsense. If I didn't like beer I'd waste away. Maybe it's not fashionable to take a modest amount of exercise most days, but neither is it remotely difficult for the vast majority of the population (and while I'm in Japan now, I cycled in the UK in 3 different towns and 4 jobs).

In unrelated news, Mr Peter Bonehead (MP Wellingborough) is trying to criminalise any child who rides a bike without a polystyrene egg-tray on their head. As usual, his "argument" is the same old discredited lies and nonsense regularly trotted out by those whinging interfering do-gooders Be-Hit, and the Dept of Get-those-pesky-cyclists-off-the-roads^WTransport has fallen for it hook line and sinker (read instead for some rational analysis). Shame the hand-wringers can't start up a campaign about something meaningful where they might do some the rapidly increasing rate of obesity among schoolchildren for example. I dunno, maybe some exercise would do them cycling, perhaps?


andrewt said... seems to have a pre-determined position.

We've had compulsory helmet laws here for about 15 years. I've read newspaper articles with good signs about in cycling participation in Sydney in recent years - strong growth in bicycle sales and in commuters using particular bike paths (from a very low base though). Maybe more people would cycle without the helmet laws - I don't know.

But when says a local council bike plan from ~1993 is "good quality evidence" that helmets are deterring people from cycling here (in their commentary on a recent cochrane review) - I do know not to trust their analysis.


James Annan said...

I agree is a bit overzealous, and I would always recommend looking at evidence with a mildly sceptical (not denialist) eye. But in comparison, Be-HIT are clearly dishonest. After a complaint to the UK Advertising Standards Authority, they undertook to not repeat the long-discredited "prevents 85% of head injuries" lie (which even the helmet-industry-funded researchers who published it, now accept is wrong).

So instead they just push it out through "tame" MPs who can propagate it outside the jurisdiction of the ASA...

DWPittelli said...

I don't think it's necessarily absurd that Japanese DNA favors their consumption of rice, or that English DNA favors bread, etc. We see, for example, that lactose intolerance is common among -- and only among -- peoples who have not been keeping cows for the last few thousand years.

Most notably, almost all sub-Saharan African people, except for members of a few herding tribes such as the Masai, cannot drink significant quantities of milk without getting sick. (I believe the lactose intolerance figure for African-Americans is about 50%, due to some combination of European ancestry and/or the Darwinian fitness advantage of drinking milk in America.)

Other enzymes allowing efficient digestion of various caloric sources and nutrients, as well as food allergies, are likely to have genetic variants, and these will be favored or disfavored in response to available diet, especially, but not only, in times of hunger.

James Annan said...

I agree it's not a priori impossible (and both lactose and alcohol intolerance are relatively common here), but in fact it is quite clear that neither race has any difficulty in digesting either form of these starches. It is a political, economic and cultural argument dressed up in spurious science.