The British are leading the way. This week we learned that we buy more “ultra-processed” food than any other country in Europe. Well done us. Instead of settling for what the natural world has created for us, we support our industries and their shareholders by consuming their artificial concoctions. Mr Kipling, Batchelors, McVities, Kellogg’s and Cadbury’s are all thriving on the fat of the land. Literally.
We know all this courtesy of a study recently published in the journal Public Health Nutrition. Here comes the ironic bit. The research team behind this study are from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Brazil is still what is defined as a “developing” country. Yet they pity us. The lead researcher, Professor Monteiro, was clearly shocked by the findings and told the Guardian newspaper of his “deep concern” about the state of our diet. “The honest answer is we don’t know what is going on,” said the Prof, as he attempted to fathom how an entire nation took leave of its senses.
Commenting on these results, a senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation remarked that our diet was “putting us at greater risk of heart attack and stroke”.
Too late! That risk is already a reality. Only a week before we received the “ultra-processed” news, we learned that the average age of having your first stroke has dropped significantly over the last decade. Between 2007 and 2016, the average age for first-time strokes for men dropped from 71 to 68, and for women from 75 to 73. Worse still, the number of people aged 40-69 having their first stroke rose from 33% to 38%.
Hats off to Public Health England, supreme masters of the art of putting a positive spin on anything. Their explanation for what looks to all intents and purposes like catastrophic news was that getting a stroke when you’re younger meant that fewer people were having their first strokes when they were older. This good fortune “appeared to be due to better healthcare for the elderly.”
We eagerly anticipate hearing how Public Health England big-up the latest news that eating lots of “ultra-processed” food is associated with increased risk of getting cancer. The more junk you eat, the more likely you are to develop the disease. That’s according to French researchers, who this week published their findings in the British Medical Journal. We saw images of junk food on the news, and it was all yellow. Carbohydrate yellow, heavy on sugar, though no one dared actually mention that C word. The official guideline is still that we base our diet on… carbohydrates.
A diet of yellow carbs was unheard of when we first populated these isles. Perhaps the most interesting news to make it to our media this week was the story of “Cheddar Man”. Fossil experts dated this skeleton, found in 1903 in the Cheddar Gorge, to almost 10,000 years ago. Everyone seemed surprised that recent DNA reconstruction revealed he had dark skin and blue eyes. But it’s not surprising at all: we can trace the origin of our species to Africa. Equatorial East Africa, to be precise, where we once enjoyed wall-to-wall sunshine and ran about naked as newborns. Then we took it upon ourselves to migrate to colder climes (why?) which necessitated losing skin pigmentation, in order to absorb more sunlight to make vitamin D.
No modern diseases, and no crazy carbs for Mr Cheddar, who had perfect teeth. Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London explained that 10,000 ago early Brits were still hunter-gatherers, and had very healthy diets. There’s your clue. Today, we know that most people in the UK not only lack vitamin D (see this earlier AYCE article), they have very poor diets and rotten teeth. That’s progress for you.
But never mind all that: did anyone else notice that Ol Blue Eyes was rather easy on the eye, considering his age?
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