Determined to start the year with a good news story I trawled the Internet until I netted this little beauty from a splendid publication called Earthtimes.org. It relates to a German study undertaken by the Technical University of Munich which indicates that xanthohumol - a a natural constituent of hops - can help to kill breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancer. Tempted as I am to put pen to digital paper and send off a request to the Chief Medical Officer calling on him to replace current alcohol guidelines, I hesitate. I should know by now, official health advice is fad and fancy driven rather than research driven. Take for example junk food.
On the 1st January 2008 new rules came into force in the UK banning the advertising of so-called "junk food" during television programmes likely to be watched by children under the age of 16. There are several problems with this nonsensical rule. First, the definition of "junk food" is based on the breathtakingly complex, but scientifically unproven, Food Standards Agency Nutrient Profiling Model. According to this model, cheese is classified as a "junk food". Indeed, if you apply the models' principles to breast milk it must also be classified as junk food. Secondly, the belief that the problem of obesity can be countered by pretending that fish and chips and bacon sandwiches don't exist, would seem to be replacing free and informed choice with a kind of Orwellian smokescreen. "Don't mention the waffle" will become the order of the day.
One almost longs for the idiots in charge of such initiatives to have the courage of their strange convictions and go all the way and ban those things they do not like. At least that would have a kind of puritanical honesty about it. Fish and chip shops could be closed by law. Burger bars could be limited to the half-lit back streets of foreign cities. The carrot would be king and we could all pretend we were happy. Would I be allowed to still sip my cancer-busting pint of best bitter whilst a nibbled a chickpea salad? I doubt it.
I am afraid that my attempts to start the new year in an optimistic way have failed. In case it helps I will leave you with the "nutritional advisory label" from a splendid chocolate pudding that was enjoyed in this household over Christmas. But don't tell the food police.