Friday, 7 October 2016

Accredited Practicing Dietitians - Humansplained

Dietitians travel through the mainstream nutritional advice system and deliver nutrients and other information to where it is required, and quite often, where it isn’t required. There are two types of Dietitian:

1.    The “bad” Dietitian who delivers advice and nutrients based on outdated, false or biased research, and who doesn’t question the source of this information or even attempt to investigate alternative options to the mainstream consensus. The levels of “bad” Dietitians in the system is indicative of insufficient fat soluble vitamins and animal flesh, which are essential for the brain and logical thought processes.

“Bad” Dietitians are wedded to the hypothesis that the advice they deliver is being ignored because people are “stupid and lazy and eat too much” and this leads to “advice-resistance”. The “advice-resistance” hypothesis is easily disproven by something called “logic and problem-solving ability” i.e. the fact that humans are getting a lot sicker and fatter on their advice.

The “bad” Dietitians over-consume “scientifically proven” nonsense on the goodness of low saturated fat, high carbohydrate foods and this leads to increased levels of “bad” Dietitians accumulating in the halls of the Heart Foundation and Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). Eventually these clogged up hallways restrict information flow and progression of logical thought and this leads to high levels of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and dementia in the general public, as well as massively increased profits for food and pharmaceutical companies.

2.      The “good” Dietitian is one with an open mind, who spends time reading actual research papers rather than Heart Foundation propaganda and understands that advice equivalent to ‘eating less and moving more’ is about as helpful as a suggesting a tube of ringworm cream for melanoma. “Good” Dietitians are typically patronized, laughed at, subject to claims of negligence and condemned for the mass murder of little kiddies everywhere. They are also not invited to DAA Christmas parties.

“Good” Dietitians clear “bad” nutritional advice from the system by listening to their clients, investigating realistic solutions to problems and applying them in a tailored manner instead of a ‘one-size fits all solution’.

The best way to reduce your intake of “bad” nutrition advice is to ignore the “bad” dietitian and listen to the “good” dietitian. Or, even better, do your own research, listen to your body and adapt your food choices to suit.

Listen to less shit, exercise your brain. It’s not rocket science.
indeterminate possum, but it was 'bad' at not falling out of its tree


The whole “good” and “bad” cholesterol thing has been shitting me for years and it’s obviously evolved into a farcical joke whereby “good” can be “bad” and “bad” is only “bad” if they’re ‘small and dense’ or there are ‘too many’ “bad” particles, otherwise, “bad” is irrelevant. And the “bad vs good” paradigm goes completely out the window when you’re discussing Cholesterol Ester Transfer Protein (CETP) Inhibitors. Or just being sensible, for that matter.  
Bad dog, but he's light and fluffy, so he's a good bad dog

Maybe it’s just the inverted commas that are annoying. It’s pissing me off having to type them.

The impetus for this post was an article where the journos were referring to APOE E4 being the “bad” APOE and the E3 was the “good” APOE. It’s not enough that they are full of shit and shouldn’t be allowed to report on anything other than celebrity gossip, but they can’t even be original with their condescending explanation.

It was that article and also the increasingly ubiquitous reference to “good fats” and “bad fats” in mainstream terminology. Of course the inference is that saturated fats are bad and avocados, fish and vegetable oils are good, but they rarely specifically explain what their definition of good and bad is. I get the feeling it’s a conscious attempt to be vague because they're trying to distance themselves from decades of crap advice that all fat is bad. Maybe if they don’t get into specifics, they can change their story later on without feeling embarrassed. You know it's only a matter of time before they’ll have to.
Good fats in a bucket

Have a good one. 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Sheep in wolves' clothing?

When I was physically growing up, if we did have a pet, it was always a cat.

Is that the best start to a blog post you've ever seen? I've been considering shutting this thing down for a while now, and if I was going to go out on a high, now's probably a good time.

Nope, not today. Back to cats. 

Actually, there was the time our family thought it was a brilliant idea to bring a wild rabbit, from our uncle's farm, into suburbia. As you can imagine, that didn't end well.

The absence of dogs suited me fine because school holidays invariably involved a visit to one of my Uncle and Aunties' sheep farms, where the border collie working dogs provided enough dog exposure for me to realise that city life for an active dog would be mind-numbingly boring unless they had some sheep to round up. I loved those dogs and their names and faces are burned into my memory – as well as their speed and intelligence and their bright eyes that exposed their zest for life.But they were not born for city life, something that was clear, even to a little kid.
A dead-ringer for "Scottie"
My wife, on the other hand, always had at least one or two mutts in her family, which is probably why she’s been very keen to expose me and our progeny to the wonders of dog-ownership. After years of stalling, because I like to think I'm not stupid, and realised that I would probably end up feeding them and cleaning up their shit (I am clearly psychic), nearly 2 years ago I succumbed and we bought a little black spoodle* and a brown one followed about a year later.

No, I'm not about to blather on about the pros and cons of dog ownership, how cute our dogs are and what funny things they get up to, or discuss whether, like cats, dogs simply pay us attention because we feed them. 

No, this is another food and nutrition thang. As a virgin dog owner, it became obvious very quickly that vets are on par with General Practitioners in terms of what they say should be entering a particular digestive system. I would have thought vets have less of an excuse for being idiots, because any person with intelligence greater than a handbag full of bubble gum should realise that a dog…is not even remotely close to something resembling a herbivore. 

The teeth should be a dead give-away here, with not even the most ardent militant vegan being able to suggest, with a straight face, that dog’s teeth are suited to rice and broccoli. I'm clearly not a canine anthropologist, but I thought most, if not all, domestic dogs evolved from the Grey Wolf, and I don’t believe they were considered a pest by early man because they ate everyone's potatoes.

I admit, I may be full of shit and totally wrong there, but it suits my argument and desire to put a post up, so...on we go.

One of the most confusing instances of being a new dog owner occurred when, on coming home from a visit to the vet for routine needles, my wife presented to me some dog toothpaste and a thimble-like instrument for brushing our dog’s teeth. 

My darling spouse is not known for elaborate jokes, but I had to stop and consider the possibility for a minute. No, apparently the vet thought it vital that we torture our puppy by sticking our fingers in its mouth on a daily basis. 

I'd never heard of the concept of brushing dogs' teeth, but my confusion was allayed to a certain extent when I realised what the ingredients were in the ‘vet recommended’ dog food.

Cereal, vegetable fibre and vegetable oil doesn't sound like something a dog would eat voluntarily, but I s'pose there must be enough animal product or flavour in there somewhere to resemble 'food'.

Just as it is with human nutrition internet content, you can't get too far without some expert suggesting processed bullshit is essential for your dog, otherwise they will not get their required nutrients. It all sounds terribly familiar.

I'm pretty sure the sheep dogs on my Uncle’s farm were fed mostly kangaroo and lamb off-cuts and you couldn't stop them from lapping up the blood when a ewe had been freshly slaughtered. I can’t remember them eating food from a tin, but I s'pose they did from time to time. All had great looking teeth and were in peak physical condition – they had to be to do their job.

So, call me negligent and an animal hater, but I resisted the urge to brush our dogs' teeth. I don’t stick my fingers in their mouths and we are all quite happy about that. Incidentally, one of my boys has this strange habit of picking the sleep out of their eyes. Yes, they hate it, but a kid's gotta have hobbies.

Our dogs' diet consists of raw chicken necks and hearts and some biscuits with the least amount of rubbish we could find. 20% fat, 28% protein and I imagine the rest is probably nonsense. Believe it or not, but that's about as good as you'll find. 

Look, a dog is not a human, and what they eat isn't terribly high on my list of things I like to think about, but when it determines whether I have to dodge sloppy shit in the garden or get the hose out to help relieve a constipated animal, it becomes a priority. The quickest way to clog up our dogs' digestive systems is to feed them some lean meat when I've not had a chance to get chicken necks from the shop. No fat or bones = clogged up sphincter. 

I'm not a vet. I'm not an expert in dog genetics or nutrition. I'm just reasonably observant. I'm not expecting anyone to pay for a study on the incidence of obesity and diabetes in dogs any time soon, but I imagine the results wouldn't be particularly surprising.

Of course the obvious solution to the canine obesity and diabetic epidemic should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway - feed your dog smaller portions of the celebrity-vet-recommended food and make them exercise more. 

Or perhaps...feed your dogs food. Not too much. Mostly plants. 

Carn, it's not rocket science. 

*A spoodle aka cockapoo are a mix between a poodle and a cocker spaniel. Being new to dog ownership, I was a little surprised at the nastiness that certain dog ‘lovers’ can spew in regard to this and similar designer breeds. Apparently selectively breeding a dog is cruel and we should only buy unwanted dogs from the pound. To those people I say "I'm not responsible for all the dogs at the pound, so go fuck yourself". We paid a shitload of cash to have dogs that don't shed hair everywhere and I'm quite OK with that. 

Dragon Fruit Farm at Sunset - totally relevant

Friday, 26 August 2016

Having the appropriate credentials to speak

Every now and then I feel the compulsion to throw something (anything) on here to keep it ticking along. This is one such moment.

People who quote their heroes on a regular basis are almost always incredibly annoying - as an example, venture into the world of amateur finance and see if you can avoid quotes from that stupid old prick, Warren Buffett. Spend any time reading mainstream health and you will inevitably get hit with that ridiculous Michael Pollan quote. 

It's fucking infuriating.

This is why, despite being very tempted to quote Voltaire on occasion, because he was clearly a genius, I have resisted that urge. Today, at the risk of being a tiresome wanker, I am giving in, and provide the following from Noam Chomsky. 

I found it interesting because, apart from the obvious, it could easily be applied to one of my other interests - the often bizarre world that nutritional authorities inhabit. 

So here you go:

“In my own professional work I have touched on a variety of different fields. I’ve done work in mathematical linguistics, for example, without any professional credentials in mathematics; in this subject I am completely self-taught, and not very well taught. But I’ve often been invited by universities to speak on mathematical linguistics at mathematics seminars and colloquia. No one has ever asked me whether I have the appropriate credentials to speak on these subjects; the mathematicians couldn’t care less. What they want to know is what I have to say. 

No one has ever objected to my right to speak, asking whether I have a doctor’s degree in mathematics, or whether I have taken advanced courses in the subject. That would never have entered their minds. They want to know whether I am right or wrong, whether the subject is interesting or not, whether better approaches are possible… the discussion dealt with the subject, not with my right to discuss it. 

But on the other hand, in discussion or debate concerning social issues or American foreign policy…. The issue is constantly raised, often with considerable venom. I’ve repeatedly been challenged on grounds of credentials, or asked, what special training do I have that entitles you to speak on these matters. The assumption is that people like me, who are outsiders from a professional viewpoint, are not entitled to speak on such things. 

Compare mathematics and the political sciences… it’s quite striking. In mathematics, in physics, people are concerned with what you say, not with your certification. But in order to speak about social reality, you must have the proper credentials, particularly if you depart from the accepted framework of thinking. Generally speaking, it seems fair to say that the richer the intellectual substance of a field, the less there is a concern for credentials, and the greater is the concern for content.

One might even argue that to deal with substantive issues in the ideological disciplines may be a dangerous thing, because these disciplines are not simply concerned with discovering the facts and interpret them in a manner that conforms to certain ideological requirements, and to become dangerous to established interests if they do not do so.” 

This steak's credentials were obvious

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Using drones on smart-arse kids.

The first half of 2016 has been busy.

My kids are going through a smart arse phase. At least I hope it’s a phase - I'm probably being hopelessly optimistic there. But I’m finding it hard to be angry with them because I feel somewhat responsible and just a little guilty about setting the wrong example. If you’ve read anything at all of mine, one of the first things you’re likely to notice is that I’m a natural born smart arse. Maybe it’s genetic and not really my fault at all. Maybe it’s their mother’s fault.

Maybe. But probably not.

Sitting down for dinner invariably results in one or more progeny talking. They definitely don’t get that from me. The talking then results in one of the others mocking the first speaker, justified or not.

For example, our youngest was saying something about learning from mistakes. Which led to one of the others claiming loudly, in a mocking tone, “you don’t learn from your mistakes, Jonah”.

Heavy, sarcastic emphasis on the “Jonah”. My kid’s name isn’t Jonah, but you get the idea.

The point that I’m working my way around to, very slowly and ineffectually, is that my wife and I would like to teach our children that there are no silly questions in our house. And even if the answer to the question asked is rather obvious, if the person asking actually thought about it before opening their mouth, we’d like to foster a helpful and encouraging atmosphere among the team we call family.

Ask questions. Don’t just accept what you’re told as truth. Ask yourself if it sounds reasonable, and even if it does, and the subject is important enough to spend time on, research it yourself and come to your own conclusion.

In a world dominated by propaganda-infused media, social or traditional, I feel this is becoming increasingly important in a world of constant electronic stimulus and unfiltered information.

To insert a prelude my next tangent, I would like to reiterate that there are few topics of conversation that I hate more than politics. Paint colours and interior decorating is a close second, which no matter how unsubtle the hint, my wife stubbornly refuses to acknowledge, but politics is just bullshit. 

Which makes 2016 a rather unfortunate year for me because I’m currently being subject to a perfect storm of nonsense in the form of three elections being shoved in my ruggedly handsome face. Yes, three. I shit you not.

The Australian Federal election is today, the Northern Territory election next month, and one in another country that I have no idea when it will actually happen, but the lead up is both breathtaking in its inaneness and unabated ridiculousness. 

The parade of dickheads with no shame, and the journos who write about them, is seemingly unending.

More First Dog here
Which leads me to the role of the US President, which is  a strange one for me to comprehend. Partly because, to get elected, it seems you just need to be rich and popular, or at least know a lot of rich people who can fund your campaign. Australian politicians may sometimes be rich, but they are almost never popular, charismatic or likeable, nor do they inspire admiration or respect. Sure, I understand that there are a lot of Americans who do not like Barack Obama or what he’s done, but in my country he’s seen as the perfect role model; the coolest dude to ever sit in the White House and someone who you’d trust with your kids’ lives.

Perhaps not if you live in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Libya, or any other country where he’s sending drones to kill whoever his ‘intelligence’ deems not worthy of living. But here, in a country where drones simply watch you rather than blow you up, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t think he’s a ‘great bloke’ and has done great things for humankind.

I don’t get it, and am simply in awe of the journalistic orchestra that has, consistently and without a flat note in 8 years, played an ode to his awesomeness. Someone made a comment to me once, when Obama was on TV making a typically cool and well-spoken speech, “he’s done really well, hasn’t he?” My reply was quite simple, “what has he done?”. I didn’t get a response

I don't believe Obama, as POTUS, is alone in this. The very little attention I’ve paid to the other dickheads that have sat in his chair leads me to believe being a prick is a prerequisite.

But…under his leadership:
  • He's presided over the endless and borderless war "on terror", with all the damage and ongoing repercussions this entails, and with no end in sight. 
  • US debt to GDT has climbed at least $7 trillion in his tenure. Yes, trillion, which in case you're wondering is more than an other president by a fair margin.
  • After the initial shock of the stock market crash in 2007-09, he did precisely the opposite of what a sane person would call ‘fixing things’ – he oversaw the bailout of investment banks so that the bankers could get richer and the taxpayer would carry the debt. No banker went to jail (apart from one very minor patsy), but I don't remember any of the normal people having their debts forgiven.
  • He said he would close down Guantanamo. It is still holding people who have not been charged with a crime and may never be.
  • He makes lovely speeches about reducing global nuclear weapons, while simultaneously pursuing the development of small nukes, that are more agile and target sensitive.
  • And what I think is the most damning of all, is his breathtaking mass slaughter of anyone, in any country, who he thinks is not fit to breath oxygen on any given day.

 He recently announced the civilian drone death count which, for anyone with a head on their shoulders, is laughably unbelievable, and then came up with this pearler:

“As a Nation, we are steadfastly committed to complying with our obligations under the law of armed conflict, including those that address the protection of civilians, such as the fundamental principles of necessity, humanity, distinction, and proportionality,” .

And people swallow this nonsense.

You could argue there are excuses to be made for all of these failings. You could even deny they are failings. My point is that a man who is ultimately responsible for, what is currently the most powerful country on earth, has had 8 years in the top job. He will most likely be remembered as a great president, who tried hard and made great speeches but was held back by people who refused to get on board with his brilliant ideas.

The message to my children is simply - don't believe what you see in the media or what the smooth-talking important person says on TV. Don't blindly go along with the consensus. Whether it is politics, guidelines on nutrition or what their teachers tell them in school - if it's important to know the truth, and it usually is, then find it yourself.

The white noise coming from the many screens that our kids watch is deafening. They have constant encouragement to believe certain things, to buy certain things, to want things and to want to be a certain type of person.  Sure we had those types of pressure when we were young, but the source was limited to a couple of tv channels (not 25+) and whatever our parents and teachers told us was true.

Now, excuse me while I go and tick boxes on a voting form, in order of who I hate the least, to who ever is likely to keep torturing asylum seekers in tropical gulags.


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Ractopamine Hydrochloride - the diet wonder drug

For fat pigs.

Any cook or chef worth listening to knows that fat is flavour. You can dress a chicken breast up any way you like, and cook it perfectly - but unless you stuff it with cheese or butter, wrap it in bacon, or find some other way of injecting fat into it, I think you're unlikely to truly enjoy the experience of digesting it. 

That is, of course, unless you have developed a great talent for deluding yourself.

And when you think about it like that, that is, logically, using chicken breast at all is ultimately a pointless exercise. Don't get me started on turkey meat. I imagine that people do eat it for the 'healthiness' of it, but when your idea of healthy eating is ultimately fallacious, I really can't be bothered arguing with this kind of delusion. 
A blatant atrocity committed in the name of 'eating healthy', 
I believe that the need for fat in preparing tasty food is expressed most profoundly in one of my favourite food items, the humble sausage. The problem with using lean meat to make sausages, isn't just that you're minimising the oleogustus, but you'll most likely end up with a dry-as-sawdust tube of protein. 

As it happens, I recently embarked on a session of sausage-making, subsequent to a long hiatus instigated by the reluctant realisation that I was crap at it. My first two attempts were pretty good, but then something went seriously astray and I wasted many hours producing inedible rubbish. I’m sometimes accused of being a sook, usually by the other adult in our household, and while I would argue that is a bald-faced lie on almost all occasions, it was probably fairly close to the mark here. I took my bat and ball and went home, so to speak.

Enter Mr Kenji Lopez-Alt, a bloke who sits alongside Heston as one of my two culinary man-crushes. His recently published book - The Food Lab – explained to me exactly why I was fucking it up so badly. The reason isn't important for this post - my point is that I had the motivation to give it another whirl and I set out to find some fatty pig meat.

slabs of beautiful piggy deliciousness - shoulder and belly
Now, one would think this would be relatively easy, but it has become surprisingly difficult, and I figured it was because pigs are working out a lot more or something dodgy is going on in the form of selective breeding, genetic engineering or steroid abuse. 

The lean shoulder - too many deltoid side raises in the barn?

the belly wasn't too bad, and saved the day
Now the pork I bought was most likely steroid free, so you could have blown me down with a feather when it was suggested, by the internet no less, that pigs are commonly on the juice. 


I’m not shitting you. 

Apparently the pork farmers in America, Canada, Australia and a few others got together and decided that feeding pigs with a beta agonist was a great way of quickly giving the animals muscle growth while reducing fat.

The beta agonist of choice is called Ractopamine hydrochloride, and the brilliantly apt brand name for the product is Paylean® and it will not surprise you to learn it’s marketed by a large pharmaceutical company, namely Eli Lilly, who sell it through their subsidiary Elanco. Elanco, according to their website, "markets a range of well-known products that improve the health, performance and well-being of livestock and companion animals."  

While that is all very nice, if the use of a drug to make your pigs put on muscle at an unnatural rate doesn't concern you, particularly if you're a pig farmer, that there are about 160 countries* that ban the use of it in raising pigs and cattle, should leave you without a shadow of doubt that the practice is highly questionable, if not downright disgraceful.

*I kept seeing this number but didn't actually bother to see if it was accurate. I did notice that Europe, China and Russia were among those that ban it, so let's just say that the number of countries that think it's a bullshit thing to feed our swine friends is 'a lot'. Unfortunately my country is among the immoral pig-haters.

As I mentioned, Ractopamine is a beta agonist, which are "medications that relax muscles of the airways, which widens the airways and results in easier breathing.” Running through the list on wikipedia, I saw a name I recognised from my youth – Clenbuterol. While Clenbuterol is apparently used for conditions such as asthma, I remember it as something body builders injected themselves with to, you guessed it, put on lean muscle. Apparently it is damn effective and is definitely not something you want to have in your system if you plan on competing in the Olympics. Or living to a ripe old age, for that matter. 

Eli Lilly and the pork industry reps that defend the use of Paylean®, appear to base their arguments on: 
  1. Without Paylean®, pigs take longer to get to butchering stage, and this leads to higher costs, more feed and less efficient farming.
  2. There’s no evidence that Paylean® pork will harm humans that eat it.
If you are looking at those two points and think there is one fairly large and obvious topic that is missing, well, congratulations, because you clearly have a sense of morality and a functioning conscience.
A fairly big motivation, and they're not ashamed to admit it
I’m not suggesting that Clenbuterol = Ractopamine, exactly, however if you’re silly enough to inject the former on your quest to be leaner and larger, you’re at a real risk of turning into a very muscular patient at your local emergency ward. 

Similarly, it didn’t take me very long to find anecdotes of farmed pigs, that have been fed Ractopamine, that have some very serious health problems. In fact, a recent paper by Lui et al would suggest that Ractopamine is a full agonist, remarkably similar in structure to methamphetamine, and that the research to date on the safety of eating Paylean® Pork is very flimsy indeed.
Sounds safe, doesn't it?
All this very brief and amateurish research leads me to believe that the whole situation is seriously messed up, and can, in part, be blamed on the human nutrition industry that peddles lies and misinformation about the goodness or otherwise of lard. The other parts of the blame, of course, belonging to the pharmaceutical industry and the pig farmers. Which came first and who is bullshitting who, is probably arguable.
I think they're trying to say that it's all cool because humans are ignorant.
TLDR: the more Paylean you feed your pigs, the better you are at pig farming
Australia’s grocery market has two main players, Coles and Woolworths. Thankfully Coles has used its power and influence to put a stop to their suppliers using Ractopamine in their pigs’ feed. Woolworths, on the other hand, has been eerily quiet on the issue, so one would have to assume they have no problem with its use.  I contacted them for a comment and will publish their response when or if I get it.

So while I initially felt inconvenienced by the fact that all the pork I buy is usually too lean, I now feel pretty shitty for being so blasé about how my pork has been raised. I love pigs, and I don't know what I'd do without their delicious flesh, but even if I didn’t, the practice of abusing these wonderful animals has to stop.