On 1st January 2013 the British got off to a flying dysological start with a prime time national TV broadcast of a shameful excuse for a documentary that claimed to name 50 Shocking Facts About Diet and Exercise. The production company and broadcaster Channel 5 TV published the following promotional blurb about this new year's day broadcast:
‘Scientists, industry experts and exponents discuss the pros and cons of fad diets, 'healthy' foods and extreme exercise regimes. We all know about the benefits of exercise, good diet, looking good and living a healthy lifestyle, but most of the things that are good for us can bring side-effects that are precisely the opposite. Incontinence, infertility, infected genitalia, energy drink madness, hip replacements and even death are commonplace among the beautiful people – as are botched surgeries, extremely dangerous self-harming diets and bizarre exercise programmes.
In this worryingly inaccurate British documentary we hear from Harley Street Specialist Carolyn Leigh (BSc N. Med). Leigh, the expert on nutrition, who is deployed by the Shocking Facts documentary makers as they deliberately set out to sensationally rubbishthe currently expert orthodox nutritional wisdom that '5 a day' of vegetables and fruits should be veraciously recommended as likely to deliver a balanced diet.
Channel5's 25-a-day- fallacy documentary no longer in public domain
This dreadful and arguably dangerous Channel 5 "documentary" was withdrawn from Channel 5's replay website within five days (despite orignal promises of a 30 day replay period) and then posted on YouTube here for public consumption. Shortly afterwards, I posted a comment on the YouTube site hosting the documentary video replay - stating that I will be reporting Channel 5 to Ofcom (the broadcasting controller in the UK). Thankfully, the video was then, within a few hours, rendered for private use only.
*Postscript 7th Januray 2013
Regarding the image below, the YouTube site for this Channel 5 documentary has now deleted all the comments on it - including my own where I wrote that I will be reporting Channel 5 to the industry regulator Ofcom. Among the deleted comments is a reply to my Ofcom threat comment. I have published the reply below (remember Channel 5 in the communications age delete never means delete). The comment begins "As will I ..." (Note: Click on the image below if you have trouble reading it):
Channel5's 25-a-a-day fallacy video comment on YouTube Janury 2013
On Channel5’s own website we can see below evidence of the broadcasting industry maintaining internet forum governance by way of Channel5’s moderator, who appears to eventually be won over to include at last a comment that they have been repeatedly deleting, so that it is at last allowed to follow one of my own published comments.
As you don't seem to like people complaining when YOU have broadcast THEIR face without asking their permission (my comments keep getting removed by the moderator), I shall persist in placing this comment on this forum until it left alone. Copy paste is my friend. Over to you five - can you handle a bit of genuine criticism? You did after all have no problem alleging that what I do is liable to give people meningitis (with absolutely zero evidence, incidentally). Every time you remove this post, I will add it again, so eventually this thread will be entirely 'this comment was removed by the moderator". I will not be silenced when you have so blatantly used my face to spread scaremongering lies.
Thankfully Channel 5 have pulled their post-broadcast of this so called "documentary" - more like "spuriomentary" - from this website within 4 days of broadcasting it on new year's day. I would be good to see prime time retraction of their dreadfully bulloneous 25-a-day fallacy.
- Postscript ends -
Introducing the Channel 5 25-a-day-fallacy
Here is how the degradation of minerals and vitamins in vegetables pre-supermyth was created by deploying an expert to use a myth dressed up in the spirit of healthy skepticism in order to refute orthodox knowledge :
The documentary narrator says:
“Everyone knows about their five a day right? Well no actually, its more like twenty five a day because the shocking news is that our fruit and veg today has a fraction of the nutritional values that it did when we lived in the days of black and white"
In relation to the narrators question: “So exactly how less nutritious are our veggies these days?” Footage of Carolyn Leigh is used to first describe what she sees as a tailspin in the calcium content of cabbage and then she turns her expert attention to the amount of iron in spinach:
”…look at the iron content of spinach? 64 milligram in 1914, 2.70 milligrams in 1992.”
If the information that this Harley Street expert cites is veracious evidence that vegetables are losing their nutritional value then such a nutritional nosedive would indeed be shocking dis-confirming evidence of government and wider expert advice to eat five portions a day to get sufficient vitamins and minerals. But it's complete bullony. Not least because Western government advice (e.g: Britain here and USA here) about the nutritional value of vegetables and fruit is not based on old figures at all, because it is widely known in scientific circles that some such old figures – such as the ones cited by Leigh - are completely wrong.
Without a shadow of doubt, the figure of 64 mg in 1914 - cited by expert nutritionist Carolyn Leigh - is either based upon bad science that has been known to be bad for over 100 years or else she has most embarrassingly been filmed quoting a slightly too high, though not totally unrealistic, old figure for the iron content of dried spinach (concentrated because it contains no water) and then compared it with a modern figure for fresh spinach. An alternative explanation is that it could be that the footage of Leigh (which may have had a longer and diifferent original context) was unfairly edited by the Channel 5 team in order to mislead the public.Whatever the case behind Channel 5's deployment of an expert in nutrition, the modern and quite reasonably reliable figures for dried spinach are around 44.8 mg of iron per 100 g (e.g. Jackson 1938) and for fresh spinach around 3.8 mg per 100g (e.g. Sherman 1907).
Facts about the iron content of fresh spinach
As long ago as 1892, Esthonian scientist Gustav von Bunge, whilst working as professor of physiology at Basel Switzerland, produced a reasonably accurate figure of 4.3 mg per 100g of raw fresh spinach. And in 1907, the esteemed US bio chemist Sherman produced an accurate finding for the iron content of raw fresh spinach at 3.8 mg per 100g. See Sutton (2010) for an in-depth article on the subject of my spinach and iron supermyth busting.
‘These group changes are nearly independent of random errors in the source data, but they are potentially confounded by systematic errors and uncertainties of interpretation, …for example, listed uncertainties concerning known or possible changes in:
1. Sampling (geographic and seasonal breadth of sampling, how much outer leaf or stem is considered edible). More garden crops were home-grown or produced locally in the 1940s than now, and in recent decades international sources have become important for some foods.
2. Cultivars used (usually selected for yield, disease resistance, adaptation to local environments, etc., not for nutrient content).
3. Analytical methods (improved analytical specificity and reducedcontamination from equipment, reagents and clinging soil tend to yield lower results, especially for minerals; e.g., early values for Fe tend to be high).
4. Environment (changes in climate, distribution methods, location of production and other potential factors.’
Death by Dysology? Do people die prematurely as a direct result of swallowing claptrap presented by experts? Should certain reckless supermyth spreading be criminalized?
So what if Channel 5 got their ‘veggie’ facts wrong and so set about creating a supermyth in the making? Well, how about the danger that many people watching it will now believe that the recommended 5 a day program is proven to be rubbish by Channel Five’s appointed experts? The fallout of that would be that many credulous viewers will now reason that since they can now neither afford nor bother to stuff themselves with 25 portions of fruit and vegetables a day that they might as well abandon any further attempts at healthy eating of the five officially recommended portions. That will result in premature death from heart disease, stroke and cancer for an unknown number of people.
Not wanting to be alarmist without due cause, I do think it’s a serious question to ask whether or not it is possible and indeed probable that people will, in the worst case scenario, die prematurely from various dietary linked diseases as a direct result of having watched this Channel 5 documentary and believed the nonsense it broadcast on January 1st 2013 on British TV about vegetable nutrition? If so, perhaps we should consider whether it should be a criminal offence to negligently or recklessly broadcast such seriously misleading information on national television. Moreover, in this case, Channel 5 are likely to have reached the maximum number of victims with their dysological nonsense, dressed up as veracious nutritional advice, since its deliberate broadcast timing on the 1st of January will have been designed to impact on those making new years resolutions to eat healthily.
A public challenge to Channel, 5
Dear Channel 5, if you would ever like to try to put things right and make a documentary on the menace of supermyths, and pre-supermyths such as the one you are responsible for broadcasting on the nutritional depletion of vegetables, I’m available to assist so long as you give me full editorial rights to delete any of your bullony before the final cut is made prior to broadcast.
Davis, D, (2004) Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999Journal of the American College of Nutrition: http://www.jacn.org/content/23/6/669.full.pdf+html
’‘When you make an appointment at one of our clinics, you will be seen by Harley Street specialist Caroloyn Leigh BSC, N. Med. Carolyn graduated from University of West London with a BSC degree in nutritional medicine, medical science, named diseases, pathophysiology, optimum nutrition and diet. … Carolyn also contributes health articles for Mens Helath, London Metro & for 2013 Channel 5 – 50 Shocking Facts about Diet and Exercise."
Supermyths, of which braced myths are a sub-type - are ironic unintended, or else a deliberate and disingenuous, consequences of fallacy dissemination. Supermyths have three very specific components:
the creation of a fallacy, myth or error by an orthodox expert
it being used by another expert who in turn promotes it as being ‘true’ and
whilst still thinking that it is true, promotes it as a good example of the need to be healthily sceptical of bad scholarship. Moreover, fourthly:
Braced myths are supermyths that have been pointedly deployed by orthodox scholars in order to bust another specific myth or fallacy. The braced myth hypothesis is that using one myth as a specific mythbusting device in this way braces the supermyth to make it further entrenched and therefore more difficult to prevent it being credulously disseminated as veracious knowledge.
I saw the Channel 5 program yesterday and showed it to a friend with PhD. We were both amazed at the spinach claim. Although I am no scientist I have been interested in nutrition and health for over 30 years. The more so since being diagnosed Type 2 diabetic three years ago.
I decided to check the spinach claim and quickly discovered Dr Suttons blog. I take great pride in my non-scientific curiosity and skepticism!.
1) I heard/read a number of years ago that the 5 a day fruit and veg recommendation to the UK government by scientists was 9 a day but this was rejected as being too unpalatable for the UK population. Do you have any comment?
2) Any thoughts on the carbohydrate/insulin/diabetes quagmire?
That's interesting to know. This web site is very good at getting content up the Google rankings. I'm glad my efforts at mythbusting are getting a little attention.
I'm not a natural scientist either. My first degree is law and my PhD is in criminology (a branch of social science). It is this fact that makes me particularly outraged when natural scientists are so incompetent in their own discipline that they create and spread myths and fallacies.
I've not heard of the 9 to 5 a day story. If its true (which is possible) then government experts in both the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the British NHS (and no doubt many other countries) would have all needed to agree to this approach - which seems a little implausible. Researching such things and possibly realizing they have no easily discoverable original source is extremely difficult - its probably as close as we can get to proving a negative. Busting the spinach myth took me over a year... and others had been at it for longer.
My father was a type 1 diabetic for over 50 years - I'm not sure what the carb/insulin quagmire is. I have heard however (but not checked the veracity of the claim) that having a gastric band fitted has cured some type 2 diabetics through the weight loss.
January 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm
Thank you for replying. I think my 9 a day query is of limited importance to the outside world! I will just have to live with a niggling doubt.
The diabetes/carbohydrate quagmire for me is the continued advice to diabetics to eat plenty of catbs. I was surprised to learn on gently researching diet for diabetics three years ago that DiabetesUK, the UK authority roughly comparable to the American Diabetes Association advised following the standard eatwell plate popularised by the National Health Service. This advises that a third of your daily third intake should be potaoes,bread,cereals rice and pasta. Another third should be fruit and vegetables further increasing your carb intake.
This seemed odd to me given the increse in blood sugar that carbs cause. I found myself more in agreement with the low carb theory of Dr. Richard K Bernstein.
DiabetesUK no longer refer to the eatwell plate as far as I can tell and the ADA seem to be backtracking on their previous stand against low carb diets.
I never followed a specific diet and am not a conspiracy theory addict but I can't help feeling that there are a few received wisdoms out there that could be damaging our health.
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