“What’s Ireland Eating?” – All your queries answered #whatsirelandeating

I have been swamped by the response to What’s Ireland Eating. My inbox runneth over and my Twitter account has almost frozen with the volume of queries. So if you’ll excuse me not responding to everybody individually I thought the following points are worth blogging by way of reply.

Sugar is not evil.

I saw this point come up quite a lot on twitter, and sugar is a fashionable dietary bogeyman now. A lot of people have been persuaded by the arguments of Robin Lustig that “sugar is toxic”. Rubbish. Were it not for sugar humankind would not exist.

But if you don’t burn off what you consume the fructose (50% of ordinary sugar) gets laid down in the body as visceral fat. Visceral fat does not (so far as researchers know) cause cancer but it will speed up the growth of existing cancers. It’s not just a beer belly, it is almost an organ in itself and the body’s immune system treats it as an inflammation diverting its energies from fighting other infections.

Sugar in sufficient quantities also increases your bad cholesterol levels, your muscle fat and your liver fat. This is not a reason to swear off sugar, no more than you should remove any other major food group from your diet. Just watch your intake and try and burn off what you consume. Which leads me to  ….

Why didn’t you say that we need to excercise more?

The programme was called “What’s Ireland Eating?”. It was not called “What’s Ireland not doing enough of?” Several contributors to the programme pointed out how need to better balance our personal “Energy In : Energy Out” equation.

I’m not qualified to offer dietary advice but as a general rule if you want to lose weight – Eat less and excercise more – is a good place to start.

That said this is probably a fertile area for future programmes as a shocking number of people (can’t remember the statistic and I’m not going to make it up) recently said that they wanted to lose weight but were not prepared to consider exercising more as a means to achieve that. Wow!

Beware Snake Oil Salesmen

There were a lot of people on twitter attaching their brand or diet to the hashtag on twitter last night. I’m not going to get in to a bun fight with any of them. Instead let me borrow a bit of wisdom from one of my college mate Dara O’Briain’s stand up routines. He correctly reminds us that the term Nutrionist is meaningless. Dietician is the protected term. “Nutrionists are to Dieticians as Toothyologists are to Dentists”

Every single human being’s metabolism and related medical conditions are different. Following the advice of some of these quacks can be very dangerous.

Breast is best

We need to put our hand up to a small slip up here. From the conversation with Roslyn Tarrant some people have inferred that we were in some way dismissing breast milk as the best option for infants because we didn’t mention it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I pointed at a bottle of formula and called it what it was – formula. It was sitting on the table in front of us to indicate the amount that a 6 month old should be getting. We were not prescribing formula over breast milk. The point that Roslyn was trying to make was that parents who are feeding fizzy drinks and fruit juice to 6 months old shouldn’t be. My apologies that I didn’t specify “breast milk, formula milk and cool boiled water” – but my eye was really on communicating what shouldn’t be fed. Remember Roslyns survey found two thirds of six to ten month olds had been given sugary drinks!

A lot of La Leche league supporters and breast feeding advocates were disappointed that we did not make the point that breast feeding has a role in combatting childhood obesity. Roslyn’s own work has established this. But I have to say again the programme was called “What’s Ireland Eating?”, not “What Should Ireland Be Eating?”. We had 52 minutes to make what basically amounted to 6 points. We simply couldn’t include every point that every viewer wants to hear made. Advocates of fat free, carb free, dairy free,  sugar free and scratch cooking diets have expressed similar disappointment. Sorry, but you just can’t make all of the people happy all of the time.

“I’m not fat”

We broadcasters are fond of sweeping  statements. And a lot of people reacted to the statement “Ireland is an obese and overweight country” as if I had stepped out of the telly and into their living rooms to accuse them individually of being fat.

And if there isn’t an extra ounce of fat anywhere on your carcass you have my heartfelt congratulations. But when the majority of adult males are overweight or obese, when the majority of expectant mothers are overweight or obese, etc etc clearly the statement “Ireland is an obese and overweight country” is as correct as “Ireland is a country with Irish people living in it”.

If you think that the obesity epidemic is something that doesn’t touch you, think again. I have talked to senior officials in the Department of Health who are very worried about the projections for obesity related illness and the ability of an already groaning system to cope with them. So well done on being a skinny-minny but don’t think this has nothing to do with you.

“I know all of this already”

Well done you. Look back over the #whatsirelandeating timeline on Twitter though and you’ll see the huge numbers who don’t. That is who we make these programmes for.

“How did you get the cameraman in the fridge?”

Pushed really hard.



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2 responses to ““What’s Ireland Eating?” – All your queries answered #whatsirelandeating

  1. Renee Barrett

    Thank you for an excellent programme.

  2. Great programme – important info, good to address points like breast milk here too. So many things come to mind, like the fact the the best foods for us are the ones that companies make the least money on – unprocessed and natural. We have a battle on our hands dealing with their advertising budgets! However programmes like this and Operation Transformation are really good. I think that the point should be made that low-cal options are almost worse for you as sweeteners can have very scary effects.

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