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Marmite and nuclear fallout

Marmite and nuclear fallout

Sir Peter Medawar, Nobel Laureate in immunology and philosopher of science once wrote: “If politics is the art of the possible, then science is the art of the soluble”. The great trick in science is to manipulate the experimental conditions in such a way that the potential solution becomes accessible. Today, I will document two examples of discovery in nutritional science showing indeed the ingenuity of the mode of discovery but also the happenstance of scientific discovery. Lets begin with the ingenuity.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide is comprised predominantly by the stable form of carbon, designated 12C. Radioactive carbon is a heavier for designated 14C. Above ground nuclear testing began in 1955 and continued until a limited nuclear test ban treaty came into effect in 1963. During this period, atmospheric CO2 became more enriched with 14C than normal and when the ban was enacted, those levels plummeted, not because of the decay of the radioactivity (14carbon…

Scientific integrity

Scientific integrity
That a society trusts its scientific community to be truthful in all its manifestations is a given in any civilised society. We are all aware of scandals involving sometimes young and sometimes prominent scientists being disgraced for having falsified scientific data in peer-reviewed scientific publications in scholarly journals. That is the newsworthy end of this thorny issue but beneath that headline-catching level lie some equally challenging issues of scientific integrity. The first of these relates to the belief of many MEPs that scientific advisers to the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) should be, as George Smiley, would have said “Persil grade”, clean as the driven snow with no links to the food industry.That pressure has led to several high level confrontations between EFSA and the European Parliament plus a plethora of NGOs in the food area. Now an expert in the biology of the lactating yak is unlikely to be considered as a likely expert for a panel of …

Fitting into your genes

Fitting into your genes
Some years ago, I was given the honour of delivering the opening plenary lecture to the First World Congress of Public Health Nutrition and I had carte blanche as to the content. I chose to talk about nutrition and genetics and when I finished, I was set upon by the doyens of the subject to whom the idea that genes could play a role in such chronic diseases as obesity was verging on sacrilege. The argument was simple but fundamentally flawed. Obesity rates, they argued, have rocketed over the last 50 years[1]during which time the gene pool has remained constant so how could genes be involved.Recently, I gave a similar talk to the Polish EU Presidency gig and got the same reaction. So here is how it happens. Imagine you could take 1000 extremely muscular Maasai tribesmen from the utterly non-obesogenic Kenyan plains and re-house them with a decent disposable income in any western city awash with obesogenic facilities. Some would resist weight gain. Some would sho…

Taxing the fat and sweet

Taxing the fat and sweet
There is at present a considerable media interest in the taxation of both fat and sugar in an attempt to control the epidemic of obesity. In a typical Western diet, fat and sugar combine to contribute about 55% to 65% of our total caloric intake. To contemplate putting a tax on more than half our energy intake is palpably absurd so the target is then moved toward specific foods which merit taxation based on (a) their fat and sugar levels and or (b) their putative contribution to obesity. The problem regarding the latter is a total lack of any evidence linking very specific food groups to obesity.Across time(decades of research) and space (all continents) there is no universal single pattern of food choice uniquely associated with obesity. Consider a solid example of how this works. Across time and space, every study that has sought to examine the link between dental caries and diet has found that it is the frequency of sugar consumption, which is important.When…

Welcome to gibneyonfood

The media is today awash with articles on all aspects of food and health and some are so non-sensical that I thought I'd start my own blog to provide an alternative medium through which an informed view on food and health can be delivered. The blog will be a weekly event coming live every Monday morning, beginning on Monday November the 8th and will cover a wide range of topics.