Sunday, February 25, 2007

You are a cornflake

My memories of eating breakfast as a child have unfortunately stuck with me as I have grown up. Not only do I remember trying to swallow sawdust in milk (aka Weetabix), and listening to John Humphrys arguing with someone or another- I also remember the information on the back of the Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes box. This is hardly surprising, as I would read the same message every single morning, until Kellogg’s decided it was time for a change. Unfortunately, it seems the rest of the world has not moved on, and even as I write, I am sure millions of people all over Britain are reading the same message: you are what you eat.

Even as an innocent 6 year old, I could see there was little truth in the statement. Admittedly, at the time I took the phrase rather literally and would spend the day wondering whether I was going to turn into my breakfast, lunch or dinner. However, ten years on, this apparent ‘fact’ only serves to annoy me. This line has been so over-used by health campaigners that its message has been lost- if there ever was a message.

Nowadays, a lot of emphasis is put on the food we eat and the effect it may have on our health. I completely agree that we should try to have a balanced diet but this is not the message that many nutritionists are giving out nowadays. One such ‘nutritionist’ is Gillian Mckeith, who was brought to my attention by this article in G2. Amongst other utterly false facts, she claims that only growing cells contain DNA. Even I, a humble AS-level biologist, know this is not true. Until recently, she was known as Dr Mckeith, yet she was stripped of this privilege when it was discovered that her qualification could be bought on eBay for $60.

To prove a point, I would like to quote a passage from Ben Goldacre’s article:

She talks endlessly about chlorophyll, for example: how it's "high in oxygen" and will "oxygenate your blood" - but chlorophyll will only make oxygen in the presence of light. It's dark in your intestines, and even if you stuck a searchlight up your bum to prove a point, you probably wouldn't absorb much oxygen in there, because you don't have gills in your gut. In fact, neither do fish. In fact, forgive me, but I don't think you really want oxygen up there, because methane fart gas mixed with oxygen is a potentially explosive combination.

The day after I read this, another article on health was brought to my attention, which spoke of the benefits of taking a siesta:

‘People who take short naps during the day cut their risk of dying of heart problems by at least a third, according to a recent study which adds weight to evidence that good sleep is crucial for a long life.’

This seems like a much more simple solution to healthy living than stuffing your face with raw vegetables and DNA all day. Besides food and sleep, we also need exercise. Eat well, sleep well, but if you are not putting your body through its paces every now and again, your health will inevitably deteriorate as scientists frequently remind us. They recommend that everybody should do 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 times a week.

It occurs to me that this article may sound a little bossy, but it is merely an attempt to remove the blindfold which the food industry has neatly placed over our eyes. So next time you’ve run out of chlorophyll- filled greens, spend the half hour it would take you to go to the shops sleeping or exercising…or criticising nutritionists.