Friday, 21 May 2010

L'Cygne Noir**

The beer belly appears to be linked to a risk of dementia,

  • A US study of more than 700 adults showed that being overweight is associated with smaller brain volume, a factor linked with dementia.

I typed 'beer belly', but this could just as easily be described as a 'grain belly'. I wonder how much artery clogging fat there is in beer? I guess about zero. Somehow dementia seems to be tied up with whatever causes obesity:

  • Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "We have all heard how a beer belly can be bad for our heart, but this study suggests carrying excess abdominal weight could also increase your risk of getting dementia.

    "This is not really surprising as a large stomach is associated with high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes - all major risk factors for dementia."

This is interesting. Given the geographical profile of it, it is as if dementia, heart disease and all these other nasties are simply expressions of a common underlying problem.

Now assuming that these small-brained victims of dementia are not disproportionately represented by vegetarians, what we, The Great Unwashed want to know is, 'how can we protect ourselves from this condition?'

Avoiding vegetarianism would appear to be one approach (oh and if you think that vegetarianism leads to a slender physique you should ....well given the readership of this blog I cannot really post a picture, save to say one of the most dedicated vegetarians I know has one of the most prolific 'abdominal cornice' you could imagine). The other recommendation is to follow a 'Mediterranean Diet';

  • Latest work in Archives of Neurology shows sticking to a diet rich in nuts, fish and vegetables significantly cuts the chance of developing Alzheimer's.

    A "Mediterranean diet" containing plenty of fresh produce and less high-fat dairy and red meat has long been thought to improve general health.

Ah yes - they mythical 'Mediterranean Diet'. This phrase sets my BS-detector a-buzzin' along with that other well-worn phrase 'a balanced diet', not least because several studies that come out in support of the Mediterranean Diet were based upon religious orders who undertook periodic fasting. Interesting eh?

When you look at typical 'Mediterranean Diets' you see plenty of wine, meat (goat and sheep), cheese as well as the regularly touted 'nuts, fish and vegetables' that so easily follow any explanation of this diet.

So why the coyness when it comes to mentioning the red meat and saturated fat that is also a significant part of Mediterranean cuisine? Ah, yes that's right, because red meat and saturated fat lead to (ahem), coronary heart disease.

This then, brings us to the French Paradox. Being English I have a natural in-bred enmity towards the French* - I mean they are stubborn and arrogant, put a premium on family life, have great food, an excellent national football team, play some fine rugby, produce superb wine, have fantastic scenery, lots of mountains, some very good music (rapping in French is the coolest), produce great films (eg. L'Haine). Yep, I hate them all right!

But the real reason they get my goat is that they drink wine, eat rich food high in saturated fat and smoke hard....yet seem to have low levels of coronary heart disease. This is known as the French Paradox. Damn those cheese eating surrender monkeys!

In the 16th century the term 'Black Swan' was used to describe an impossible event. This was based upon an assumption in the old world that 'all swans were white' - as could be attested to by the fact that all records of the time only ever spoke of swan-feathers as being white.

In 1697, Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh was sailing on the Swan River in Australia and witnessed the existence of black swans.

Rather than coming up with the philosophical notion of the 'Black Swan Paradox', we have moved on from the redundant idea that 'all swans are white'; we know this statement is actually wrong. We call black swans, black swans.

With so many of the threads of modern ailments leading back to quite common dietary/nutritional profiles, it can't be long before the absurdity of maintaining "Le Paradox de le L'Cygne Noir**" is realised and the term 'French Paradox' is seen exactly for what it is; not a paradox at all, just wrong.

*Joking. Apparently I have French lineage***.

**Apologies for my poor French

***Part English and part French - "means I have bad-breath and I'm shit in bed!" (Ricky Gervais). I am also part Scottish.


Anonymous said...

1697 was in the 17th century

Asclepius said...

Indeed it was. All I wrote was that the phrase 'black swan' was commonly used in the 16th Century to mean 'an impossible event'.

Not that Vlamingh's discovery was 16th Century (which as you correctly point out, is 17th century).