Ebola vaccine: a shot of human ingenuity

Monday 3 August 2015

According to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the ongoing outbreak of ebola in West Africa has now sickened nearly 28,000 people and killed 11,279. This is an astonishing death toll from a terrifying disease which, until recently, had only surfaced sporadically, with far fewer deaths. While the number of reported cases has dropped sharply – with just 62 in the past three weeks across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – the potential for future epidemics remains.

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Ribena: the latest casualty in the war on sugar

Thursday 30 July 2015

Oh Tesco, what have you done? This week, the supermarket giant announced that some sugary drinks will be removed from its shelves. One is Capri-Sun. Not a murmur from anyone about its demise. But another is Ribena, a drink – or, at least, a name – that has a long history and still inspires much affection among Brits.

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Incredible diet tip to lose weight! (* May not be true.)

Friday 29 May 2015

A hoax paper claiming dark chocolate can help you lose weight makes a valuable point about the state of science publishing today. But the real problem comes when such papers chime with political agendas.

News stories about the latest AMAZING diet secret are commonplace - and a standing joke. The media has a steady stream of reports that adding this or avoiding that will soon translate into disappearing inches from our waistlines. Most of this stuff is quickly forgotten. Today’s astonishing research finding is tomorrow’s fish-and-chip paper.

So it was no wonder that a team in Germany, working with documentary makers producing a film about the junk science of the diet industry, was able to catapult a story about a wonder food into the mainstream media. The scam closely modeled common practices in the field: the team picked a likely candidate for a wonder food, dark chocolate; they conducted an actual clinical trial that was far too small and poorly controlled to give meaningful results; and tortured the resulting data until a statistically significant result popped up. With an (almost) straight face, they were able to claim that people who ate a low-carb diet but also ate a small bar of dark chocolate each day lost more weight than those who ate a low-carb diet alone.

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There's nothing pukka about Jamie's Food Revolution

Thursday 14 May 2015

The combination of matey celebs and dubious claims is enough to get me reaching for the sickbag.

Serial crusader and mockney cookbook flogger Jamie Oliver is back – and this time he’s got together with his celeb mates to launch a revolution. Will the barricades be going up around our cities? Will the masked ranks of the workers be marching in support of Comrade Jamieski’s plan to overthrow the fattened plutocrats of the global bourgeoisie?

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A junk solution to the ‘obesity crisis’

Tuesday 12 May 2015

People in developing countries are getting richer - and tucking into more processed food. They must be stopped, apparently.

In a widely reported study released this week, the Overseas Development Institute suggests that ‘healthy food’ has become more expensive over the past 20 years, particularly in developing countries, while ‘junk food’ has fallen in price, in real terms. Assuming that people respond to price signals, this would suggest that consumption of ‘unhealthy’ food increases relative to the consumption of fruits and vegetables – and that does appear to be what has happened. Since obesity rates in developing countries have been rising rapidly towards the levels seen in developed countries – and, in the case of Mexico, rising above even the obesity levels seen in the US – it seems reasonable to suggest that the two might be connected.

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About me

I'm a writer and author on a wide range of issues. I'm the former deputy editor of the online magazine spiked and I currently work at the Institute of Ideas. I'm the author of Panic on a Plate: How Society Developed an Eating Disorder (Imprint Academic, 2011).

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