Friday, August 11, 2017

Why we fell for clean eating

A well researched and written Guardian article on the "clean eating" fad, it's benefits and hazards. E.g.:

"But it quickly became clear that 'clean eating' was more than a diet; it was a belief system, which propagated the idea that the way most people eat is not simply fattening, but impure. [...] By 2015, Nigella Lawson was speaking for many when she expressed 'disgust' at clean eating as a judgmental form of body fascism. [...] Clean eating has been attacked by critics such as the baker and cookbook author Ruby Tandoh (who wrote a much-shared article on the subject in Vice magazine in May 2016) for being an incitement to eating disorders."

"When Dr Giles Yeo, a geneticist at the University of Cambridge, presented an episode of the BBC’s Horizon this year that examined the scientific evidence for different schools of clean eating, he found everything from innocuous recipes to serious malpractice. [...] Hadley Freeman, in this paper, identified clean eating as part of a post-truth culture, whose adherents are impervious, or even hostile, to facts and experts."

"Giles Yeo – who spent some time cooking a spicy sweet-potato dish with Ella Mills for his BBC programme – agrees that many of the clean eating recipes he tried are actually 'a tasty and cool way to cook vegetables'. But why, Yeo asks, do these authors not simply say 'I am publishing a very good vegetarian cookbook' and stop there, instead of making larger claims about the power of vegetables to beautify or prevent disease? 'The poison comes from the fact that they are wrapping the whole thing up in pseudoscience,' Yeo says. 'If you base something on falsehoods, it empowers people to take extreme actions, and this is where the harm begins.'”

"I saw that clean eating – or whatever name it now goes under – had elements of a post-truth cult. As with any cult, it could be something dark and divisive if you got on the wrong side of it. After Giles Yeo’s BBC programme was aired, he told me he was startled to find himself subjected to relentless online trolling. 'They said I was funded by big pharma, and therefore obviously wouldn’t see the benefits of a healthy diet over medicine. These were outright lies. (Yeo is employed by the University of Cambridge, and funded by the Medical Research Council.)"

 "The true calamity of clean eating is not that it is entirely false. It is that it contains 'a kernel of truth', as Giles Yeo puts it. 'When you strip down all the pseudo babble, they are absolutely right to say that we should eat more vegetables, less refined sugar and less meat,' Yeo said, sipping a black coffee in his office at the Institute of Metabolic Science in Cambridge, where he spends his days researching the causes of obesity. Yeo agrees with the clean eaters that our environment of cheap, plentiful, sugary, fatty food is a recipe for widespread obesity and ill health. The problem is it’s near impossible to pick out the sensible bits of 'clean' eating and ignore the rest. [...] Whether the term 'clean' is used or not, there is a new puritanism about food that has taken root very widely."

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