The Real Spermageddon: Are Seed Oils Destroying Our Fertility?

By | Vegetable Oils | No Comments

Sperm counts are in freefall, plummeting by 75% since 1940. The culprit isn’t the weather – it’s in your pantry. Australia’s scorching temperatures might be grabbing  headlines, but they’re a distraction from the real threat to our fertility. Dr Devini Ameratunga, Clinical Lead of Fertility Preservation at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital has urged bosses to protect their workers’ fertility, as climate change, rising temperatures and tight tradie shorts all add to a rapid decline in the sperm quality of Queensland men.  But could the real culprit behind “spermageddon” be something far more common – hiding in plain sight on our supermarket shelves – polyunsaturated, vegetable oils?

Since the 1940s, sperm counts across the Western world have been mysteriously dropping. The situation has dramatically worsened since the 1990s, with modern sperm counts now a mere quarter of those measured in 1940. Our reproductive capacity is in a tailspin, and the rate of decline is accelerating.

Like applying a bandaid to a broken leg, frantically addressing surface-level issues won’t solve the problem. While lowering the heat and making better fashion choices definitely won’t hurt, the real danger lies within: the cheap, industrial seed oils that have ruthlessly infiltrated our food supply. This isn’t about a heatwave, it’s about a century-long war on our reproductive health.

The science tells a chilling tale. Seed oils are laden with highly reactive polyunsaturated fats. When these fats meet with the oxygen we breathe, they create toxic substances – aldehydes. Think of aldehydes as tiny biological bombs, wreaking havoc on our cells. Sperm cells, with their delicate membranes, are particularly vulnerable to these attacks. These toxic compounds attack sperm directly, causing mutations, reduced motility (how well they swim), and decreased fertility. 

Our bodies have natural antioxidant defences to neutralise these damaging aldehydes. But when we flood our systems with seed oils – through deep-fried foods, processed snacks, and even supposedly “healthy” margarine – we overwhelm our protective systems. This creates a state of internal oxidative stress, a biological inferno where our cellular structures, including sperm, are systematically assaulted.

The statistics are alarming. Testicular cancer, a clear sign of DNA damage, has increased fourfold since the 1940s. Meanwhile, the amount of seed oils in our diet has skyrocketed – multiplying by a factor of five. The correlation is too significant to ignore.

Focusing on Australian heat and restrictive clothing misses the bigger picture. This isn’t about swapping tradie shorts for breezy linen pants, but taking a hard look at what’s on our plates. The real issue lies within our bodies, poisoned by a flood of toxic , so called ‘healthier’, seed oils.

Framing this crisis as a mere matter of temperature or fashion is a convenient smokescreen. It shifts the blame onto individuals, absolving the corporations that mass-produce and aggressively market these potentially harmful fats. Don’t get me wrong, working in extreme heat and wearing tight clothing won’t help, but it misdirects attention from the true culprit.

The heat narrative is a distraction concealing the deeper crisis. What lurks beneath the surface is a potential catastrophe fueled by a century of dietary manipulation. To regain control, we need a drastic shift in our food system. We will not accept anything less than:

  • Transparency: Clear labelling of all seed oils in our food supply.
  • Science-backed dietary guidelines: Information that reflects the growing research on the potential dangers of excessive seed-oil consumption. 
  • Consequences for health bodies that continue to recommend seed oils despite the danger: Demand accountability from these institutions and call attention to the potential harm caused by outdated and potentially harmful recommendations.
  • Support for a return to traditional fats: Promotion of healthy fats like butter, ghee, fruit oils (Olive, Avocado and Coconut), and animal fats. Reframing these as a safer and more sustainable option.

It’s time to question the ingredients (and institutions) we’ve blindly trusted. Silence from health authorities is complicity in the deliberate poisoning of our population. 

Our future depends on our ability to demand better from the food industry. It’s time to question the status quo and make the hard choices necessary to reclaim our reproductive health. If not, the consequences could be devastating – a silent unravelling of our ability to reproduce.

Ditching seed oils, rediscovering the joys of real butter and animal fat will give our swimmers a fighting chance. And let’s be honest, a world where good food fuels both a healthy body and a healthy population sounds like a win-win.

How Psychopaths Manipulate: Signs and Tactics

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Have you ever encountered someone who seemed too good to be true, only to discover a darker side carefully concealed beneath their charming exterior?  In his groundbreaking 1941 book, “The Mask of Sanity”, Hervey Cleckley used the term “psychopath” broadly to describe individuals deeply lacking in empathy. This includes what we commonly label as narcissists, sociopaths, and manipulative bullies.  Understanding their tactics is crucial for self-protection. Cleckley outlined the core traits of a psychopath, traits which make them exceptionally dangerous manipulators.

The Facade of Charm and Sincerity

Psychopaths deliberately project an image of likability and trustworthiness. This superficial charm disarms their targets, making it harder to detect their true intentions. They may seem genuinely invested in you, but their interest is purely self-serving.

Self-Serving Lies and Deception

Psychopaths lie effortlessly to achieve their goals. They may fabricate stories, twist truths, or deny wrongdoing, even when faced with evidence. Their goal is to confuse you, so you begin to doubt your own perceptions.

Emotional Exploitation and the Absence of Empathy

Psychopaths lack genuine empathy, making them experts at weaponizing your emotions. They identify your vulnerabilities and twist them ruthlessly. They might seem genuinely supportive, then deliberately undermine you, leaving you feeling foolish for believing in them. Their goal is to undermine your self-confidence and leave you feeling dependent on their approval.

Grandiosity and a Need for Control

Driven by an inflated sense of self-importance, psychopaths manipulate to dominate others. They might use gaslighting to make you question your sanity, or isolate you from your support systems. Their aim is to break down your resistance, maintaining absolute control.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Trust but verify: Approach overly charming individuals with a healthy dose of scepticism. Watch for inconsistencies in their words and actions. Give much more weight to their actions than their words.
  • Guard your emotions: If you find yourself overly apologetic, constantly second-guessing yourself, or feeling emotionally drained, it’s time to take a step back. A healthy relationship should not leave you persistently insecure.
  • Set firm boundaries: Don’t be afraid to say no and prioritise your own well-being.
  • Listen to your intuition: If something feels persistently off or unsettling, don’t ignore it. Your intuition is often your subconscious picking up on subtle manipulation.
  • Seek outside help: If you suspect manipulation, confide in a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. They can offer clarity and help you regain your power.

Key Points

Psychopaths manipulate for their own gain, fueled by grandiosity and a complete lack of empathy. Understanding their tactics and the devastating impact they can have is crucial to protecting yourself. By prioritising your emotional well-being and setting boundaries, you can break free from their control.

Fanta’s Sugar Shuffle: The Sweetness Trap

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Coca-Cola’s sneaky sugar shuffle with its iconic Fanta drink leaves a sour taste. They cut the sugar, got the good press, then hoped we wouldn’t notice when they added much of it back in. It exposes a fundamental contradiction: companies want to appear health-conscious without truly changing their core products.

Back in 2018, amidst growing concerns about sugar consumption and the threat of a sugar tax, Coca-Cola proudly announced a “healthier” Fanta with reduced sugar content. It was a strategic move, calculated to appease health experts and deflect criticism. But the illusion was temporary. Today, a 600ml bottle of Fanta contains a staggering four extra teaspoons of sugar compared to its “healthier” predecessor – a significant increase from 4.5g to 7.2g of sugar per 100ml.

Coca-Cola played on our desire to make good choices. With the threat of the sugar tax looming, they temporarily placated health advocates, buying themselves time. Now, with reduced scrutiny, they’ve quietly upped the sugar. It’s a calculated gamble, banking on the fact that we’re too busy, too overwhelmed, or too deliberately misled to realise they’ve sweetened the deal.

But why the sugar creep? The new Fanta is still a shadow of its 2016 sugar bomb self (with over 11g per 100ml) and remains loaded with barely disclosed artificial sweeteners. Perhaps there’s a nagging truth about sugar addiction: 4.5g just wasn’t cutting it. The point of sugar is, after all, to make products addictive to increase sales. Maybe those extra teaspoons are the scientifically calculated dose to keep us hooked.

This bait-and-switch tactic exposes the limitations of self-regulation within the food industry. Voluntary pledges, like the Australian Beverages Council’s commitment to reduce sugar, have proven largely ineffective with only four manufacturers signing up according to the AMA. While generating positive PR, they do little to change the fact that companies like Coca-Cola prioritise profits over public health, making their drinks as sweet and addictive as possible.

Most consumers are likely unaware of this sugar increase. Outdated nutritional information on supermarket websites and the expectation that we blindly trust familiar brands contribute to this deception. It’s not about willpower; it’s about the deliberate manipulation of our choices, making the addictive option the easiest and most appealing.

The beverage industry would probably argue that consumers have the right to choose. But, when corporations deliberately obscure the addictive contents of their products, choice is an illusion.

So, what can we do?

  • Don’t fall for marketing claims or misleading packaging. Be informed about the sugar content of the products you consume.
  • Hold food companies accountable. Demand transparency in ingredients and marketing practices and vote with your wallet.
  • Advocate for healthier food environments. Support educational campaigns, clearer food labelling, and restrictions on marketing sugary drinks.

The Takeaway

The Fanta sugar shuffle is a microcosm of the challenges we face. Real change won’t come from corporations suddenly prioritising our well-being over profits. It requires informed consumer choices and collective action to create a food environment that truly supports our health.

Don’t be fooled by deceptive marketing tactics. Take control of your health and demand better from the food industry. Real change happens when we challenge the status quo and demand a system that puts our well-being above the corporate bottom line.

Parkinson’s Disease: The Dietary Time Bomb the Food Giants Want You to Ignore

By | Big Fat Lies, Vegetable Oils | 2 Comments

Imagine watching a loved one’s hands tremble uncontrollably, their steps falter… This heartbreaking reality confronts the families of over 200,000 Australians battling Parkinson’s disease. In Australia, someone is diagnosed with Parkinson’s every 27 minutes. These aren’t just numbers – they’re stolen futures. This isn’t a mysterious affliction, it’s a mass poisoning, and the culprits line the aisles of every supermarket. Today, April 11th, World Parkinson’s Day, isn’t just a day of awareness – it should be a day of defiance against the seed oils they’ve spent decades normalising.

Imagine your body as a battlefield. Every cell, every organ is under relentless attack by an invisible enemy called oxidative stress. This normal biochemical process is turbo charged by seed oils, and your brain’s command centre, the pars compacta, is a prime target.  The pars compacta is your body’s dopamine factory.  Think of dopamine as the fuel that powers smooth movement, thought, and  coordination. If the neurons responsible for producing dopamine are damaged, Parkinson’s disease is the result.

Our brains are incredibly resilient. We can lose around 50% of our dopamine-producing neurons before those first tremors appear. But once those neurons are gone, they’re gone forever. That’s why Parkinson’s is so insidious.  As the destruction  continues, even the best medications can only squeeze a little more dopamine out of those remaining neurons –  a temporary fix at best.   Before medication was introduced in the 1970s, a Parkinson’s patient was expected to live just 9.5 years after diagnosis. The drug-assisted life expectancy is now around 15 years. Still, Parkinson’s steals years, independence, and ultimately, lives.

Forget the myth of Parkinson’s as an inevitable consequence of ageing.  Researchers in Olmstead County, Minnesota meticulously tracked cases for decades, uncovering a shocking truth: new diagnoses nearly doubled between 1944 and 1984. And it hasn’t slowed down. A recent global study revealed a staggering 86% increase in Parkinson’s cases in the US alone over the past 30 years.

Even more alarming, Parkinson’s is striking younger people.  The incidence in the 45-49 age group has skyrocketed by 167% in the last three decades. This dramatic acceleration coincides perfectly with the rise of processed foods and the explosion of seed oil use.

The connection isn’t a coincidence. Populations who consume traditional, whole-food diets have far lower rates of Parkinson’s. In Italy, for example, the incidence has actually decreased over the last 30 years. The message is clear: Parkinson’s isn’t an inevitable fate. It’s a disease fueled by the modern diet.

The primary weapon in this assault is deceptively mundane: seed oils. Canola, sunflower, soybean… they sound harmless, almost healthy. But the reality is far darker. These oils overflow with unstable omega-6 fats, turning your cells into battlegrounds of oxidative stress. This relentless assault breeds a molecular toxin called 4-Hydroxynonenal (4-HNE) – a toxin that zeroes in on the dopamine-producing neurons that Parkinson’s systematically destroys.

This isn’t a fringe theory; it’s backed by disturbingly clear science. Yet the deafening silence from the health authorities and the Big Food corporations they protect makes them complicit in this crisis. The seed oil invasion has been nothing short of brilliant from a profit perspective.  These oils – think canola, sunflower, soybean – carry an undeserved aura of healthiness. This has helped them become the backbone of the processed food industry.  They’re endlessly malleable, incredibly cheap, and we can’t taste the difference, making us easy targets. This is how Big Food gets away with poisoning us for profit. They flood every aisle with products overflowing with hidden seed oils, fueling a wildfire of inflammation within our bodies.

You have the power to turn the tide, but it starts with brutal honesty. The neurons you’ve lost won’t magically return. But with every bite, you decide whether to keep feeding the enemy within. Every bag of chips, every restaurant meal where you don’t ask the hard questions about how the food is prepared, every “healthy” snack bar laced with seed oils – they are all acts of surrender.

Don’t. Eat. Seed Oils. This is your fight, your body, your future on the line.

The Battle Cry: No More Business as Usual

  • Support independent farmers and small businesses committed to real, unprocessed food. Use your wallet to fuel a food revolution.
  • Demand a change in Parkinson’s research – one that dares to examine the role of diet and seed oils in the disease.
  • Hold Big Food accountable. Demand they remove seed oils from their products or face consumer boycotts. Push for clear labelling of all products containing seed oils, giving you back the power of choice.
  • Spread the word. Educate yourself and those around you. Expose the truth they don’t want you to know.

Let’s make sure this World Parkinson’s Day isn’t just about awareness, but a declaration of war against a preventable disease.

Your Grandma Wouldn’t Eat This: The quiet disappearance of real food and the hijacking of our health

By | Big Fat Lies, Sugar, Vegetable Oils | No Comments

Have you ever looked closely at the ingredients in your so-called “food?” Odds are, your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize half of them as edible, let alone healthy. In an incredibly short span of time, we’ve outsourced our meals to corporations whose main goal isn’t our well-being – it’s profit. The history of how we got here is a shocking tale of backroom deals, twisted logic, and the slow death of real food.

The Rise of “Imitation”

In these days of regulation, it’s easy to forget how recently food was routinely adulterated. To stretch profits, milk was watered down, bread bulked up with sawdust, and you were lucky if your jam contained actual fruit. These practices weren’t just dishonest, they were dangerous.

The US took action first. In 1938, the FDA was given the power to create “standards of identity” for common foods. Think of them as legally binding recipes. If you wanted to sell jam, your product had to meet specific requirements for fruit content. This wasn’t about gourmet standards; it was about ensuring a baseline level of quality and preventing outright fraud.

By 1950, almost half of US food had a standardised recipe. This meant that if you wanted to make something resembling real food, but cheaper, you had to clearly label it “Imitation.” And that wasn’t a great marketing strategy.

The War on Fat and the Death of Standards

The food industry didn’t love this system, and their grumbles grew louder in the 1970s. The low-fat trend was taking off, spurred by groups like the American Heart Foundation in their ill conceived fight against saturated fat. The problem? Traditional food descriptions rarely included vegetable oils, and fat content was regulated.

What followed was a classic case of unintended consequences. After relentless lobbying, legislation changed in 1973. No longer did “fake” foods require the “Imitation” label – they just had to provide the same level of nutrients as the original. Calories and fat were exempt, opening a loophole you could drive a truck through. The stage was set for a massive shift in what lined our grocery shelves.

The Disappearance of Everyday Foods

Want blatant examples? That little carton of “Up&Go” markets itself as a healthy breakfast which describes itself as having “The protein, energy and fibre of 2 Weet-Bix and milk”. But look closely – it doesn’t contain a single Weet-Bix! Its primary ingredients are water, skim milk powder, sugar, and a disturbing list of chemicals. Sure, it might have similar protein to real food, but so would a sawdust and offal smoothie. It’s a classic bait-and-switch, designed to appeal to our desire for convenience and the illusion of health.

And how about those mayonnaise jars? If yours doesn’t list eggs and olive oil as the first ingredients, it isn’t mayonnaise – it’s a carefully concocted emulsion of sugar, water, and who-knows-what. The same goes for countless other products. Things we once took for granted have been quietly replaced with cheaper, cleverly engineered imitations.

The Health Fallout

We’re paying the price for this deception. Skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease aren’t just about eating too much – they’re about eating the wrong things. Our bodies weren’t designed to run on the seed oil and sugar infused highly processed, nutrient-poor concoctions that now pass for food. Mass-produced “food” is addictive, unsatisfying, and disastrous for our long-term health.

The Loss of Control

Bring back the “Imitation” label! It would be a wake-up call, exposing the sheer amount of factory-made substitutes we’re consuming. This change wouldn’t lead to perfectly healthy aisles overnight, but at least we’d have a fighting chance to make informed choices.

Sadly, that’s never going to happen. Too much money, too much power, stands in the way. That in itself reveals how far we’ve fallen. In less than one lifetime, we’ve surrendered control of our most basic need to profit-driven corporations.

Taking Back Our Kitchens

We don’t have to accept this. While we can’t undo a century of changes overnight, we can start reclaiming our kitchens. Make changes now:

  • Learn to read a label ruthlessly. If the ingredient list includes ‘vegetable oil’ or sugar, put it back.
  • Shop the perimeter of the store – that’s where real food usually hides.
  • Cook at home, even simple meals. It’s an act of rebellion against the industrial food system and the pervasive use of seed oils in everything.
  • Last but certainly not least, ditch the sugar, the poison lurking in everything, labelled or not.

This fight isn’t just about better health. It’s about reclaiming the very act of feeding ourselves and our families – an act too precious to outsource.


Emotional Manipulation in the Workplace: A Survival Guide for the Sane

By | Psychopaths | No Comments

The modern office, with its cubicles and passive-aggressive emails, is a Darwinian nightmare. Nowhere is this more evident than in the delicate art of emotional manipulation, a practice as commonplace in today’s workplaces as lukewarm coffee and pointless meetings.

From the whining victim to the psychopathic boss, every office has its share of emotional puppeteers. They guilt-trip you, gaslight you, and toy with your sanity, all in the noble pursuit of a fatter paycheck or a corner office. But fear not, there are ways to combat these cretins without resorting to throwing your stapler through the cubicle wall.

Spotting the Workplace Psychopath

These emotional parasites come in many noxious flavors, but the tell-tale signs are always there:

  • The Perpetual Victim: Their incompetence is everyone else’s fault. They whine and moan, transforming their every minor inconvenience into a Shakespearean tragedy designed to make you feel responsible for their failures.
  • The Tantrum Thrower: These emotional toddlers resort to theatrics, threats, and veiled hostility to bully others into doing their bidding. It’s like working with a spoiled brat who just discovered the word “no.”
  • The False Charmer: They heap on the praise and saccharine smiles, like a used-car salesman trying to unload a lemon. Beware: that flattery is a smokescreen for their relentless scheming.

Your Defence Against the Darkness

Remember, you are not their therapist, babysitter, or emotional punching bag. Arm yourself against their toxic antics with these simple strategies:

  • Trust Your Instincts: If their behaviour makes you feel uncomfortable or suspicious, pay attention. Your gut is often wiser than your guilt-ridden conscience.
  • The Power of “No”: Learn to say it. Practice it in front of the mirror if you must. “No” is a potent weapon against manipulators, who thrive on agreeable sheep.
  • Don’t Feed the Beast: Emotional explosions and crocodile tears are meant to hook you. Disengage. A calm, rational response will short-circuit their histrionics.
  • Document with Bloody-Mindedness: Keep a record of questionable interactions – the gaslighting, the veiled insults, the sob stories. This isn’t petty, it’s self-defence.

A Final Word of Warning

Psychopathic manipulators erode office morale, destroy trust, and leave a trail of collateral damage in their wake. Don’t be a casualty in their war against sanity. Stand up for your right to a workplace where hard work and actual talent are what get you ahead, not a well-timed meltdown or expertly faked back pain.

The Hidden Ingredient: Vegetable Oil & the Cancer Crisis

By | Big Fat Lies, Vegetable Oils | No Comments

Has there been a rise in younger people getting cancer? In short, yes. And it’s a terrifying reality that Princess Kate’s recent diagnosis tragically underscores. The news that someone seemingly vibrant and healthy is battling cancer at just 42 is a stark reminder that this disease doesn’t respect age, fame, or fortune. Sadly, her experience mirrors a disturbing trend.

We’ve become accustomed to thinking of cancer as a disease of old age, something to worry about if we’re lucky enough to reach our later years. But the latest statistics paint a deeply disturbing picture. For those aged 25-49, cancer rates aren’t just creeping up, they’ve exploded in just two decades. This translates into over 300 diagnoses a day in Australia alone. But even that number hides the true horrors:

  • Kidney cancer: up by a mind-boggling 51%
  • Uterine cancer: a devastating 45% increase
  • Colorectal cancer: up by a shocking 42%
  • Even breast cancer, heavily researched and discussed, is impacting younger people more often.

These aren’t random fluctuations. This is a full-blown crisis unfolding right in front of us, stealing away parents, partners, and friends who should have decades ahead of them. Princess Kate’s battle puts a human face on these grim numbers, reminding us that no one is immune.

Yet, the standard health advice feels tragically out of touch. Quitting smoking, reducing drinking, and managing weight are important, but they don’t address the elephant in the room. Why this explosion in younger people, even among those who seemingly do everything ‘right’? Could our modern food supply hold a devastating answer?

Here’s where things get chilling: a massive eight-year controlled trial found that men who replaced saturated fat with vegetable oils experienced a twofold increase in cancer deaths.  The study, considered the gold standard of medical evidence, assigned participants to either a standard diet or one where saturated fat was swapped for vegetable oils. While the vegetable oil group did have fewer heart-related deaths, overall mortality remained the same.  The shocking twist?  Cancers became the leading cause of death in the vegetable oil group, with nearly double the number of fatal diagnoses compared to the control group. Yet today, those same oils are pumped into nearly every processed food on the shelf. We’ve been sold a story that they’re “heart-healthy”, but a growing body of research suggests they might be anything but.

In fact, a recent re-analysis of decades-old data casts serious doubt on the very foundation of our modern dietary advice.   For years, we’ve been told that replacing saturated fats with vegetable oils lowers cholesterol and saves lives.  But this study found the opposite:  lowering cholesterol did not reduce deaths from heart disease, and in some cases, might even increase the risk. If the very basis of the “healthy” push towards vegetable oils is flawed, it raises urgent questions about their long-term safety.

The processed food industry, focused on maximizing profit over our wellbeing, won’t give us easy answers. They’ve spent decades and billions vilifying natural fats while pushing cheap, chemically-altered oils as the solution. It’s a classic tactic: create the problem, then sell us the ‘cure’ that only exacerbates the issue. This isn’t a conspiracy theory – it’s the cynical reality of a food system designed to enrich corporations, not nourish the population.

Could this be more than a tragic coincidence? Could our obsession with ultra-processed, factory-made “food” be fueling this cancer epidemic? It’s a question we can no longer ignore. We owe it to ourselves, our children, and to the memory of those lost to this disease far too soon. It’s time to demand a radical shift – food that truly heals, policies that prioritize our health over corporate greed, and research that dares to challenge long-held assumptions about what ‘healthy’ means. Our lives literally depend on it.

The Calorie Count Con

By | Sugar, Vegetable Oils | No Comments

Tired of “eat this, not that” advice? Brace yourself for the UK government’s latest “solution”: calorie counts that won’t solve anything and might even make things worse.

This feel-good trend swept through the US and much of Australia over the last decade. Since 2011, many Australian jurisdictions have mandated kilojoule (calorie) counts on menus at chain restaurants. They tout it as a weapon against our obesity crisis, but haven’t the numbers on the scale budged? Nope.

Proof it doesn’t work? A recent Australian study found fast food calorie content hasn’t changed a bit since menus started showing them in New South Wales in 2013. Turns out, those labels do nothing to make the food healthier, they just shift our focus to the wrong problem.

No less than four other Australian jurisdictions have fallen for the same empty promise. They insist this will magically fix our obesity crisis. But there’s one huge, inconvenient fact: calorie counts are useless when our broken appetites are the problem. So why are politicians so eager to embrace this idea?

Here’s the deal: most food provides a predictable amount of energy per gram. That’s why a calorie difference often just means more or less fat. Our bodies handle those calories just fine… until sugar enters the picture. Sugar hijacks our appetite hormones, making us crave more and more, regardless of calories. Slapping a number on a burger doesn’t fix that. Worse, it makes us feel like we’ve done something healthy when we haven’t.

Of course, science rarely stands in the way of flashy pronouncements. Which brings us to New York City, the pioneer of mandatory calorie counts. After years of this policy, guess what? A major study revealed absolutely no change in what people ordered. In fact, they stuffed themselves with even more calories once those numbers were staring them in the face! This complete failure should have sent governments scrambling for a different approach.

Instead, the copycat syndrome has kicked in. The US, most Australian states and now the UK have leapt on the bandwagon, desperate to look like they’re doing something, anything! And why not? It’s political theater at its best. Politicians get to feel virtuous, nutritionists feel ‘heard’ even if their advice is wrong, and food companies? They win twice. Calorie counts neatly focus our attention on fat, obscuring the true villain – the mountains of sugar they’re adding to everything – and they let them replace fat with even more sugar without blowing up the calorie count. A cynical strategy, but effective.

So here we are, the unwitting participants in a grand charade. A charade where we’ll keep getting fatter and sicker, armed with information that not only doesn’t help but gives us a false sense of control. But hey, at least we’ll know exactly how many calories are in that milkshake we shouldn’t be having… as if that’s ever stopped anyone. Bon appétit! After all, the worse this crisis gets, the better our leaders look for pretending to address it, while the food giants rake in the profits.

On Chickens, Cottonseed, and the Curious Case of Ashkenazi Ailments

By | Big Fat Lies, Vegetable Oils | No Comments

Jewish grandmothers. Those benevolent despots with the power to guilt-trip a scorpion into submission. Their cooking? Weaponized love in the form of brisket and blintzes, all bound together with liberal lashings of glistening schmaltz. Schmaltz, the rendered essence of a chicken’s corpulence, is the liquid gold of Ashkenazi cuisine. But schmaltz was a compromise forced on the Ashkenazi. There were no olive trees in northern Europe. Butter, that unctuous nectar of the Gentiles, was strictly off-limits to anyone trying to keep kosher. Lard – well, that’s a hard no, folks. Then there’s rendered beef fat. Good luck finding a reliable supply of that in the shtetls of 12th century Poland.  So chicken fat it was.

But schmaltz, like any precious resource, is subject to the laws of supply and demand. And for the Jews who fled pogroms and poverty in Eastern Europe to the tenements of turn-of-the-century New York, those laws were positively draconian. Picture, if you will, a pious Yiddishe mama attempting to raise a brood of chickens in a cramped Brooklyn apartment. Imagine the clucking, the feathers, the stench of kosher poultry mingling with tenement squalor… It’s a scene out of Kafka on acid.

No chickens meant no schmaltz, and that meant a culinary crisis for the Ashkenazi. This culinary pickle is where the good folks at Procter & Gamble, purveyors of fine soaps and industrial lubricants, seized their moment. Those corporate Einsteins realised that their newly concocted Crisco– a greasy, white brick of cotten-seed oil – could play the part of ersatz schmaltz. It was odourless, shelf-stable, and more importantly, pareve (i.e., neither meat nor dairy, and thus kosher-friendly).

Crisco became the manna of the masses. Rabbis were recruited to bless it, Yiddish cookbooks sang its praises, and before you could say “Oy vey!”, Jewish households were frying, basting, and baking with industrial zeal. Crisco was the culinary equivalent of Esperanto – a neutral zone where tradition met convenience, where Old World tastebuds could assimilate into the American melting pot.

But fate, that fickle mistress, had other plans. While Ashkenazi Jews were deep-frying their latkes in Ohio, a seismic shift was taking place. Israel was born, and with it, a wave of Sephardic Jews from the Mediterranean and North Africa crashed onto its shores. These sun-kissed Semites didn’t know schmaltz from schmutz. Their culinary tradition revolved around olives and their blessed oil, a world away from the pale ghettos of Europe.

And – bless their healthy hearts! – It seems that their seed oil free diet might hold the key to a rather puzzling paradox: why is testicular cancer so staggeringly common among Ashkenazi Jews, yet virtually unheard of among their Sephardic brethren? Scientists mumble about genetics and other such nonsense, but could the answer be staring us in the face? Could it be as simple as ersatz schmaltz vs. olive oil?

The irony, of course, is delicious. Just as Crisco solved one culinary dilemma for the Ashkenazi, it may have unwittingly created another far darker problem. It’s a lesson in unintended consequences, and a sobering reminder that even the most seemingly innocuous of dietary choices can have echoes down the generations.

What if parenting doesn’t change who your kids are?

By | Psychopaths, Teens | No Comments

In 2021, a group of researchers set out to determine whether parenting style had any effect on the personalities of their children.  They wanted to know whether it mattered if you show physical affection, whether you are consistent, whether you are predictable, whether you are encouraging and attentive or whether you are more likely to be scolding and controlling. They were shocked to discover the answer was a resounding – no.  When it came to the most well known and widely used model of personality type, parenting style made no real difference.

The study used data from almost 4,000 students in 99 German schools who first undertook personality testing in year 5 and were then followed up for each of the next three years.  Their parents also answered questionnaires designed to categorise their parenting style. The personality trait measure used was the Big Five model, the most widely accepted personality theory in psychology today.

The Big 5 personality traits are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (often remembered using the acronym OCEAN). Each trait represents a continuum between two extremes, such as introversion and extraversion.

Openness emphasises imagination and insight the most out of all five personality traits. People who score high on openness tend to be curious, creative, and adventurous. They enjoy trying new things and learning new skills. They also have a broad range of interests and are not afraid to express their opinions. People who score low on openness tend to be conventional, practical, and conservative. They prefer routine and familiarity over novelty and change. They may also be more sceptical and critical of new ideas.

Conscientiousness describes a person’s ability to regulate impulse control to engage in goal-directed behaviours. It measures elements such as control, inhibition, and persistence of behaviour. People who score high on conscientiousness are organized, disciplined, detail-oriented, thoughtful, and careful. They also have good impulse control, which allows them to complete tasks and achieve goals. People who score low on conscientiousness may struggle with impulse control, leading to difficulty in completing tasks and fulfilling goals. They tend to be more disorganized and may dislike too much structure. They may also engage in more impulsive and careless behaviour.

Extraversion represents a continuum between extreme extraversion and extreme introversion. It reflects how sociable, outgoing, energetic, and assertive a person is. People who score high on extraversion are friendly, talkative, enthusiastic, and enjoy being around others. They seek stimulation and excitement from social interactions. People who score low on extraversion are reserved, quiet, thoughtful, and prefer solitude or small groups of close friends. They seek depth and meaning from their experiences.

Agreeableness refers to how people tend to treat relationships with others. Unlike extraversion which consists of the pursuit of relationships, agreeableness focuses on people’s orientation and interactions with others. People who score high on agreeableness are kind, cooperative, compassionate, trusting, and helpful. They value harmony and avoid conflict at all costs. People who score low on agreeableness are suspicious, uncooperative, competitive, distrustful, and manipulative.

Neuroticism often involves sadness or emotional instability as well as anxiety or nervousness about various aspects of life such as health or work performance . People who score high on neuroticism experience negative emotions more frequently or intensely than those who score low on neuroticism . They also tend to be more sensitive to stressors , criticism , or rejection . People who score low on neuroticism are calm , confident , resilient , optimistic ,and emotionally stable.

Your position on the scale for each of these five main traits can help you figure out if you have other additional personality traits. These other traits are usually divided into two groups: positive personality traits and negative personality traits. Positive traits include being creative, friendly, co-operative, humble, optimistic, insightful and thorough. Negative traits include being aggressive, arrogant, deceptive, egotistical, intolerant and judgemental.

Using this model other researchers have found that most people fall into one of four personality types.

  • Average – the most frequent type, marked by high levels of extroversion – friendliness and enthusiasm – and neuroticism – nervousness and anxiety – and low levels of openness – not open to new experiences)
  • Self-centered – Self-Centered people score very high in extraversion and below average in openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. These are people you don’t want to hang out with.
  • Reserved – emotionally stable, but not open or neurotic. They are not particularly extraverted but are somewhat agreeable and conscientious.
  • Role models – low in neuroticism and high in all the other traits. These are people who are dependable and open to new ideas. They are good people to be in charge of things. Life is easier if you have more dealings with role models.

The parents were asked to rate their involvement in the child’s school on a 4 point scale with questions like “I have enough time and energy to get involved in my child’s school.” They also had to rate their level of structure and cultural stimulation with questions like “I make sure that my child does his homework at fixed times every day,” and “How often do you go to a museum with your child?” Lastly they were asked to rank their parental goals from 1 to 17 from a list that included “order and discipline”, “intellectual curiosity”, and “righteous and helpful behaviour”.  The questionnaires also included controls for the parent’s socioeconomic status and where each of the parents rated in the Big 5 model themselves.

After the data was in and some serious maths was performed the results were, well, surprising. In short the relationship between parenting style and children’s personality types “were not statistically significantly different from zero.”  Being a supermum (or dad), hugging the kids constantly, turning up to every parent teacher night, helping them with their homework, being encouraging, not scolding, would not change the type of kid you raised.  If they were a self-centred brat at Year 5, they still were by the time they hit Year 8.  And the same was equally true of parents who didn’t get involved with the school, didn’t encourage their kids to experience culture and had no particular parenting goals.  The kid will be who they are going to be regardless of parenting style.

This study didn’t look at the extremes of parenting.  There are definitely types of parenting which are more about chaos and neglect which would seriously affect the way a kid grows up, but even so, this study suggests that we are who we are wired to be from birth and whether our mum helps us with our homework or not is unlikely to change that.