Coconut oil controversy, Lady Bird, and a few other thoughts and links for the week:
Is coconut oil the fountain of youth?
Do you like coconut oil? I do because I love the flavor—especially in coconut rice, dal, and brownies. But unfortunately I can't make myself believe that cooking with it is akin to drinking from the fountain of youth.
Apparently the folks from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health are with me on this one. Last week I attended the CIA's Worlds of Healthy Flavors, which gathers nutrition experts and foodservice people from around the country to talk about how to make food systems healthier. One of the topics was how it's become common for self-proclaimed health gurus to cherry pick research to fit their viewpoint. And then share it on Instagram. Or their blog. Or their YouTube channel. The trouble comes when some of the research is pulled from super-small sample sizes (say, 8 people), wasn't long enough (2 weeks or so), or didn't have a control group to compare the results.
Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard, admitted at the conference that it's tough to cut through misinformation because people can find literature for anything they want to prove. The only "diet" that has been thoroughly studied enough to say that it does increase life expectancy is the Mediterranean Diet. But the Mediterranean Diet sounds so '90s, and it's hard to sell Instagram followers on old news.
Back to coconut oil. Is it bad for you? Good?
According to Hu, several older studies showed a rise in cholesterol coincided with coconut oil consumption. Other studies showed that coconut oil consumption can lead weight loss, but at least one of those studies had credibility issues. Another study showed that coconut oil can destroy tumors. The caveat is that the study was performed in test tubes, not on humans. Basically, more long-term studies are needed before we can say definitively that coconut oil has super powers.
My reaction? I'll treat coconut oil like butter: use it for its flavor and richness and because I like it. But I won't eat it by the spoonful just because. I also won't put coconut oil or butter in my coffee to become bulletproof.
Lady Bird and Sacramento accents:
I haven't seen Lady Bird yet, but I will soon. Over the weekend, I listened to Bill Simmons interview Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan on the BS podcast, and other than it being a fun conversation about the movie, a couple of things got me thinking:
Have you ever thought about the creative differences between creating a TV show vs. creating a movie? Greta Gerwig says the biggest difference is the narrative arc—with TV, you're always looking to leave a hook to bring people back for the next episode. This got me thinking about how something similar happens with when writing nonfiction. With books, you have more freedom to figure out structure. In comparison, magazines force you to be economical with words and fit into specific capsules of text. I would imagine TV would be like this too, since you have defined time slots. Books and movies don't require as much structure, and this isn't always a good thing (as everyone who has read a too-long book and watched a too-long movie knows). Conclusion: maybe I should think a little like a magazine editor when I'm writing or editing books.
Did you know that there's a Sacramento accent? I probably have that accent. Like Gerwig, I say "Sacramenno," not "Sacra-menTo."
Switzerland joins New Zealand as the only two countries to have banned boiling lobsters alive. What you need to do first is take a knife and pierce it between the eyes. This is supposed to sever the main nerve so the animal won't feel pain as it dies. This is also what I learned how to do at cooking school, though IRL I've seen chefs jam rods up lobster tails while still alive to ensure the tail doesn't curl when it cooks. We're a ruthless species.
On a good note:
And speaking of fountains of youth, in Cuautla, Mexico, there's an Olympic-sized swimming pool that fills with water from the area's sulfur springs. Its name? La Fuente de Juventud. I've been there, and it's delightful.