The tabloids have been awash with the news that Marmite can ‘beat’ dementia. The Mail, the Sun, the Mirror all fell for this piece of blarney. More disturbingly, the rather less excitable Telegraph, normally so measured if a bit rightwing for me, carried a headline ‘Marmite key to beating dementia.’

Hmmm. What the study did was, for some reason, measure the effect of daily Marmite consumption affected the brain’s response to visual stimuli.* There is a 30% reduction in response measured by EEG. This was interpreted by the weak-minded as proof positive that Marmite could act to prevent the onset of dementia.

Ahem. Let’s get the opinion of Dr James Pickett. As head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, he probably has a pretty good handle on things. Here’s what he said.

‘This research only looked at how people in their 20s responded to visual stimuli… so there is no way to say from this study whether eating Marmite can affect your dementia risk.’

That seems pretty categorical to me.

On another topic, Professor David Haslam popped out of the woodwork, saying that the concept of three square meals a day is ‘outdated.’ If you want to lose weight, he reckons frequent snacking is a better route to dietetic nirvana. Now that’s a bit odd. Is this the same Dr Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, who last year was the co-author of Eat fat, cut the carbs, and avoid snacking ? Could they be one and the same person?

Indeed they are one and the same person. He blathered on some more about how vegetable snacks contain lower levels of sugar the fruit, and somehow extrapolated this to mean they ‘more nutritious.’

Now the good doctor is also the chairman of NICE. NICE recommended only last year we eat lots of carbohydrate in the form of rice, bread, pasta, and potatoes. You may be of the opinion, as I am, that these three viewpoints of his are mutually exclusive. What on earth could have changed his mind three times in a year?

Call me a cynic, but I think Mammon may just have had a bit of an influence here. Haslam was speaking to promote a company that produces a new range of healthy snacks.

*You’ll have guessed I have no idea why the researchers were interested in the effects of Marmite on brain activity, nor why they chose peanut butter for the control. If I’d been drafted in and found myself in the peanut butter group, I’d have gone and got my coat. Peanut butter is the work of Satan.

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