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Showing posts from August, 2012

The fridge and the human food chain

I grew up in a house without a fridge but then again I grew up in Ireland which suffers neither extreme cold in winter or extreme heat in summer, thanks to the gulf stream. In summer, we had a cold box which was kept in a shed and was used to store milk and butter. Today, it is impossible to imaging a fridge free house in any developed country. The advent of mass use of refrigeration totally transformed the human food chain. Ice has of course long been a means of preserving perishable food but it was not until the start of the 19th century that the concept of the mass use of ice began to be developed. Frederic Tudor, also known as the “Ice king”, effectively started what was to become a big industry, the harvesting of large quantities of ice from naturally frozen waters and shipping it across long distances[1].As the demand for ice grew, the technology for harvesting it also grew and one of Tudor’s suppliers invented a horse drawn ice plough that cut cut large uniform blocks of ice. B…

The obesity epidemic re-visited

When we measure the prevalence of obesity, it is usually by way of a survey over a defined period. Thus the National Adult Nutrition Survey (NANS) here in Ireland was conducted over a 12 month period in 2009-2010.This gives us a single measure in time but it tells us nothing about the dynamics of obesity. In other words, any individual selected at random from within the NANS database, might have acquired any excess weight at any time prior to being measured and even a subject within a normal weight range might have been fat at some previous time. Thus, there is a growing literature in the use of birth cohorts to gain a more accurate picture of the dynamics of the present obesity epidemic. Such studies seek to examine the separate effects of age, period and cohort (APC studies). We know that as we get older, our body fat rises and our lean body mass falls. The question is, does this happen at an equal rate independent of year of birth or period of life. Birth cohorts are groups of subj…

Book Review: "Panic on a plate"

On my holidays here in Kerry, in between the Olympics and the rain I have been reading several books. Last week I blogged on the “Locavore’s Dilemma” and this week I’m going to cover the book “Panic on a plate” by Rob Lyons. Rob runs a blog (www.paniconaplate.com) which is well worth connecting to. He is deputy editor of Spiked (www.spiked-online.com) which has the magnificent objective of being “...dedicated to raising the horizons of humanity by waging a culture of war of words against misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, Luddism, illiberalism and irrationalisation in all their ancient and modern forms”.Wow, don’t you love it!
“Panic on a plate - how society developed an eating disorder” is an excellent book for those who want to read behind the headlines of doom and gloom or shock and awe stories from the mass media on the dangers of the modern food chain. It is a small book, concise but covering all of the important issues myths that need to be addresses. The chapter which most in…

The Locavore's dilemma ~ review of an excellent book

“The Locavore’s Dilemma - In Praise of the 10,000 Mile Diet” is the title of a new book by Pierre Desrochers, a Professor of geography at the University of Toronto and his Japanese wife Hiroko Shimizy who has worked at John’s Hopkins university. A locavore is someone who espouses the concept of eating locally produced food. The book ends with a quotationof the historian, Paul Johnson who wrote that history “is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance” and the book begins in this vein with a look back to 65 AD when Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella wrote in De Re Rustica (On agriculture): “Again and again I hear leading men of our state condemning now the unfruitfulness of the soil, now the inclemency of the climate for some seasons past, as harmful to crops; and some I hear reconciling the aforesaid complaints, as if on well-founded reasoning, on the ground that, in their opinion , the soil was worn out and exhausted by the over-production of earlier days and cab no longer furnis…