Monday, May 4, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

In the last few years I have learned a lot about nutrition. My first foray into that controversial cesspool of knowledge was a book called The Longevity Diet. The idea goes something like this:

In the 30s, an Italian researcher needed dwarf mice for an experiment. So he starved them and sure enough they were tiny. However, a strange thing happened: they lived 50 to 60% longer than normal lab mice. Nobody really paid much attention to this til years later. Now there have been experiments performed on a variety of different types of organisms and it turns out that if you greatly reduce the amount of food a creature eats, it lives longer. Unfortunately, as primates tend to have long lifespans, it's hard to say yet whether this effect actually carries over to humans.

I usually get one of two reactions to this: 1) you are insane; 2) it only feels like you live 50% longer if you don't eat a lot of food. However, living longer is not the real reason I think this book is important. If you eat only the very minimum amount of food required to survive, you have to be extremely careful about what that food contains: simply starving yourself is going to have the opposite effect. So the calorie restriction people have done a lot of research into what things are very important in human nutrition and done an excellent job of compiling that information in the Longevity Diet.

Not a day goes by that I don't hear about the obesity epidemic. I'm never really sure what causes it: ignorance, stupidity, or laziness. I expect the reason varies on an individual basis and exists as a continuum. The internet, however, is perfect for fixing the first cause and so, many people have put up blogs and suchlike in the name of educating people about what they're actually eating, or, in some cases just guilting people into eating better.

If I'm busy, I forget about food. Then, along comes one of these delicious looking links and bam, I'm drooling all over my keyboard thinking "mmm.... blizzard." Or worse, wandering down the hall to the snack machine wishing I had some gravy and cheese curds to put on my overpriced bag of doritos.

I suppose the one consolation in all this is that, whether or not they are helping curb the obesity epidemic, they are at least helping to spur the economic recovery, one chili-cheese-pizza-dog at a time.

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