Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Food: Musings On

If you didn't know, today is the international muse about food day...

No, of course it's not. I was just pulling your leg. It was still interesting to learn two things: Google is not aware of any page with the exact phrase "international muse about food day", and the first link offered has very little to do with food at all. The former proves, for all intents and purposes, that there indeed is no "international muse about food day", the latter only that searching for a near random collection of words will produce an equally random result. Which is not very useful knowledge (neither of the two).

But still, I mused a little about the food today (I wont' tell you where exactly that happened, but I think you can guess now), mostly about all the silly dietary regimes people inflict upon themselves (and worse, usually also on their unsuspecting children). Yes, vegetarians, vegans, and even to some extent pescarians (the most famous of which - or at least the most attractive - is BBC's Susanna Reid), too.

Why exactly I find all these silly (with the exception of medically warranted ones, of course)?

It's evolution, stupid!

As most of us would realise if only we gave it a little bit of thought (not really much more than goes into deciding that all meat is bad for you - just a little bit more): a) we have evolved through millions of years in a setting that offered quite well understood mix of foodstuffs, and b) evolution is a marathon, not a sprint, i.e., a few thousands of years in which we began (over)thinking this diet thing is nowhere near enough for our bodies to adjust to any of the latest dietary fads.

The ones willing to stretch their (highly evolved and capable) brains a teeny bit more will have also looked at human digestive tract as well as some of our animal relatives' ones and figure out all the similarities and differences in both form and function.

From these three pillars it should become amply clear that our bodies are evolved to run on a mixture of foodstuffs, and that this mixture includes pretty much any food group you care to think about. For those with lack of mental energy to come up with enough (probably due to malnourishment through being, say, vegetarian) I'll list just two: animals and plants.

For those a little bit more scientific minded, let me also point you to the fact that of 21 amino acids required for normal functioning of a human animal, at least one cannot be synthesised inside the human body, and has to be consumed - from meat (or fish, I cannot be bothered to check the details right now, but feel free to use your own Google-fu).

So, essentially, at least the vegetarians are wilfully (if not consciously) depriving their organisms of an essential nutrient. Which may not be too bad for an otherwise well-nourished and already fully developed adult, but those who subject their children to this particular torture should think again. And feed them some burgers, or at least fish. Luckily for them, child protection agencies have not yet cottoned up to this fact.

To repeat, the rant above (and it is a rant) is in no way aimed at those who suffer a medical condition that indicates limiting the amount and types of food they can (or at least should) consume. I am talking about notionally healthy people who think they are cleverer than millions of years of evolution that produced them. But, having mentioned evolution so many times, I am also sure that it will eventually weed out those who are in the wrong (and I sure hope it's not omnivores!). Sadly, I won't be around to see for myself (but then, who knows!) - but neither will today's proponents of silly dietary fads.

Finally, it may just happen that science renders this whole question quite moot by providing ways to either supplement the diet of fools in ways (or by treatments) they find acceptable. Sadly, I have a feeling neither will be the case. The diet Nazis have a way about them that makes me think they'll flatly reject either - and probably quote "being unnatural" as a defence. As if humans, or at least human science was somehow magically removed from the Nature.

OK. It is here that I invoke Godwin's Law - upon myself (see the deliberate Nazi reference above)...