Up with chowing down

“The second day of a diet,” observed Jackie Gleason, “is always easier than the first. By the second day you’re off it.”

The Great One never was one for taking his own advice: in the spring and summer of 1969, he went on a super-strict diet and lost about 100 pounds, only to discover that a skinny Ralph Kramden is not a funny Ralph Kramden. Ratings declined, and CBS, looking for any and all excuses to make over its lineup, canceled Gleason’s TV show.

Forty-five years later, we know much more about dieting than we did in Gleason’s time, and what we know is this:

[H]ealthiest diet isn’t a specific diet at all. It’s the absence of a diet.

This is not a sudden, world-changing, mind-altering finding. It is not well suited to a blaring news headline. It is not share fodder on social media. What it is, however, is a realization that surfaced gradually and methodically: Science will never conclusively prove that a single diet is the best diet.

You want to live longer, you say?

The University of California-Irvine’s 90+ Study has tracked thousands of Americans who’ve made it to age 90 and beyond, yielding an unprecedented wealth of information about their lifestyle habits. For lead investigators Claudia Kawas and Maria Corrada, the most surprising finding they made is that most participants didn’t seem to be too concerned with their health. Generally, the 90-year-olds said they didn’t really keep to a restrictive diet. Nor did they abstain from alcohol, quite the opposite actually! The researchers found that up two drinks a day — no matter the type — was associated with a 10-15% reduced risk of death. They also discovered other things that might disturb ardent dieters. Vitamin supplements did not affect lifespan in any way, and being a little overweight starting in middle age positively affected longevity.

This will not, of course, cause the promoters and the haranguists to back off: as Upton Sinclair once noted, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

(Via Cold Fury.)


  1. fillyjonk »

    28 October 2014 · 7:09 am

    I suspect the feeling of having a purpose, of having a meaning for being here may contribute something to longevity. I see a lot of people who do volunteer work up in to their 90s. Or who paint. Or who are very involved with their grandkids/great-grandkids.

    There’s also some evidence that “conscientious” people live longer than people who are more carefree. Which gives me a tiny bit of smug satisfaction….

  2. Tatyana »

    28 October 2014 · 8:26 am

    Who wants to live long and suffer various degrading illnesses and humiliations of incapacity? Not me.
    I’d rather NOT be “slightly overweight”, NOT self-medicate with 2 drinks a day and NOT be a “social activist” (hate the word and people it describes) – and not live up to horrible 90s.

  3. Tatyana »

    28 October 2014 · 8:28 am

    On a 2nd thought: it might be I’ll not be given even a nominal chance to test the theory.

  4. CGHill »

    28 October 2014 · 8:59 am

    With prospects like that, it’s hard to justify eating kale.

  5. Tatyana »

    28 October 2014 · 9:01 am

    …or eating, period. What’s the point?!

  6. CGHill »

    28 October 2014 · 9:04 am

    I’m just spiteful enough to want to outlive certain individuals who shall remain nameless.

  7. McGehee »

    28 October 2014 · 9:51 am

    Well, if the requirements include being a “social activist” I’ll pass (see what I did there?) — but my grandmother (lived to 93) and my uncle John (still living, 96) sure as heck never marched against fracking or in favor of a $15 minimum wage.

    Come to think of it, I don’t imagine Grandma cared one way or the other about being able to vote until she was able to do it.

  8. Roger Green »

    28 October 2014 · 11:34 am

    There is NO justification for kale.

  9. fillyjonk »

    28 October 2014 · 12:02 pm

    At the Grand Bloggers’ Banquet, I want a seat at Roger’s table. (I also feel there is no justification for kale.)

  10. Tatyana »

    28 October 2014 · 4:02 pm

    How does it taste? I never tried.

  11. CGHill »

    28 October 2014 · 5:08 pm

    Broccoli sautéed in battery acid.

  12. Tatyana »

    28 October 2014 · 8:27 pm

    A dietician will find it a great dish

  13. fillyjonk »

    28 October 2014 · 8:38 pm

    It tastes like Dietary Righteousness, with an aftertaste of Smug.

  14. jsallison »

    30 October 2014 · 7:29 pm

    I’d just like to figure out how to make kudzu palatable. The way to deal with invasive species is to make them tasty and eat them.

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