Belfast Telegraph

Why all this advice about what not to eat is bad for my health

By Claire Harrison

Oh, it's been a confusing time for us butter lovers. After 30 years of avoiding one of life's greatest pleasures, particularly when ladled on some hot toast, we're now told it was not such a guilty activity after all. After 30 years of tolerating tasteless, dull margarine, we're now told that the guidelines scaremongering us to avoid butter and full-fat milk should never have been introduced in the first place.

The article in the British Medical Journal's Open Heart argues that the advice was based on flawed data, "very limited evidence", and the experiences of a small number of unhealthy men.

But that didn't stop it standing - backed by both the US and UK governments - for three whole decades before a food boffin said 'hang on a minute'. And it wasn't just governments who scared us off butter. It was also backed by the medical professionals who, from 1983 until now, told us we were risking heart disease if we loved it too much.

I grew up in a butter-loving household until my father suffered a stroke at the age of 57 and was ordered to radically change his diet. So the pound of Golden Cow went out the window, along with a few other things, and being a supportive bunch we all gave it up in solidarity with him. So began my years in the margarine wilderness when a slice of toast was pleasant enough, but not quite the same heavenly experience. Butter became a treat to be enjoyed at Christmas. Oh what fools we all were.

And now beloved butter is not the only scientific advice we're having to rethink this week. It's also been a confusing time for women who are either trying to conceive, are pregnant or breastfeeding - and keen on a drink. Here's a rocket science alert: updated advice now tells us the only way to be certain that a baby is not harmed by alcohol is not to drink at all. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists previously stated that mothers-to-be should not drink more than two units once or twice per week. But that has now changed to complete abstention.

With no proven safe amount agreed on how much pregnant women should drink, most of us would agree that the best course of action is to avoid. But it would help if women were being given advice which isn't constantly changing or varying depending on the medical professional telling you.

The NHS, for example, still recommends that if you're pregnant you should avoid alcohol altogether. But if you do fancy a tipple, you should stick to one or two units (equivalent to one small glass of wine) once or twice a week. So which is it? Nothing or two units?

Then there's dark chocolate. It can actually stave off heart disease, apparently, makes you feel good (no scientific consensus required for that claim), and increases your levels of alertness. But wait ... it also causes acne, tooth decay and mood swings.

Red wine? Good for reducing the risk of heart disease, slows the ageing process, and halves the risk of prostate cancer. But it can erode your teeth and give you migraines.

So it seems the best advice doesn't really need to come from a scientist. Enjoy a little of everything that you fancy and it won't do you too much harm (unless you're with child).

Enjoy your hot buttered toast every once in a while and it will significantly increase your intellect and allure to the opposite sex. (Okay, I made that last bit up).

The only way is up for celeb Joey

Clever thinking by Channel Four in putting six celebs through to the final of The Jump and therefore staving off a repeat of last year's thrills and spills which left the only contestant not hospitalised, Joe McElderry, the winner.

This year's jumpers - largely a mixture of accomplished sports people and posh totty reared on skis - left the series a bit of a dull affair given how good they all were (ie not falling over a lot which of course is the show's key entertainment value). Well done to TOWIE star Joey Essex, a novice who is neither posh nor a sportsman and yet managed to stuff them all - all while listening to Davina McCall bellow and slap her thighs. Patient and semi-talented.

Myleene's lack of Klass over tweet

Myleene Klass probably thought she was past the age of being scolded by a school principal for not playing fairly with her peers. But the singer got a stern telling off from her daughters' head teacher after she ridiculed other mothers and their demands over birthday presents.

Myleene had a point in being exasperated by a round robin email requesting donations towards a little girl's Kindle. But she maybe wasn't thinking of the potential fallout on her children who might now find a few less party invites in their bags. After the musician made the quibble public on social media, the school head hit back with sage advice. "If you can't tweet anything nice, don't tweet anything at all."

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