The scientific method according to Coca Cola

It’s time we stopped calling anything published or PR sponsored by a company with an interest in the outcome science. We have a term for this sort of thing. It is called advertising. I am not saying that big companies don’t do science – I worked in a industrial research lab, and companies sometimes do publish science in peer-reviewed journals, but it’s always worth asking who pays the piper. Particularly if the conclusion is consuming more of something novel and unnatural is good for you. The Escape Artist gives you a rough guide if the simplicity of Michael Pollan’s Eat Food, mostly plants and not too much is too simple –

  • Eat as close as you can to what a caveman / cavewoman would have eaten
  • This means eating real, natural food that used to grow (vegetables, salad, fruit, nuts), swim (fish), fly (birds) and run (red meat)
  • Do not eat things that were made in chemical plants (e.g. margarine) or factories (e.g. Ready meals, Smash, Custard Powder, Vienettas)

As an Imperial alumnus, I received this stirring letter from Professor Alice Gast, current Rector of Imperial. Heck, it makes even this retired Ermine a little teary-eyed to recall the young pup who started Physics in the dog days of the 1970s

Throughout history universities have been founded with the purpose of creating new knowledge and producing educated citizens. Imperial College London is no exception.

Ah those distant days, when the goddamned market hadn’t grabbed our hearts and minds, when institutions like schools and universities had qualitative human values rather than make the fastest buck we can, ASAP. When governments and universities did the blue sky research she was talking about, and when basic science was paid for by governments, and indeed we were not so solipsistic as to fondly believe that 50% of our children are academically gifted, because it’s pretty obvious that they aren’t, now we’ve tried the experiment. Proust made the distinction between involuntary and voluntary memory with his madeleines in In Search of Lost Time and Alice Gast’s letter was an involuntary memory of this more human and less market-centric time. Though let’s not forget the dreadful draughty cold, the insipid food, unreliable electrical goods and cars and then tremendously racist and sexist attitudes of the time Before Thatcher too!

I’m glad that research is still considered important at Imperial – when I went to university academic research into discovering new stuff and how the world worked  was the whole point of a university (in science, I confess I have no idea even now what the equivalent is in the humanities – I was born after CP Snow’s Two Cultures). There was the suspicion that the undergraduates were a bit of a PITA and got in the way somewhat of the real work of the university. Whereas now it seems the point of a university to make shitloads of money out of as many people as possible, some of whom aren’t bright enough to see they’ll never get a return on that investment. This is in the same vein as some other once fine institutions – like the point of a hospital used to be to try and make people better, as opposed to try and stop the marketised and cash-starved company running it going bust, all the while overseen by some prize prick who in other news, wants us to work like the Chinese because work is good for you in and of itself, as opposed to a way of paying the rent.

The scientific method from the Enlightenment to 1980

Anyway, back to science. Science is a methodical process which seeks to determine the secrets of the natural world by using the scientific method. A lot of people miss the boundaries there, which then gives us materialist rationalism – science will never tell us the meaning of what it is to be human, or how to organise our societies or even just plain be nice to each other – these are not its job. Once we have determined the overall aims it can help us with the how, but not with the why. But since I was grouching about the trouble with science now, let’s remind ourselves of the principles of the scientific method, which haven’t really changed that much since the Enlightenment:

  • Observe the natural world
  • Develop a hypothesis as to why things are so
  • Experiment to test the hypothesis
  • Review if your hypothesis matches observations
  • repeat – and modify your ‘king hypothesis rather than your observations where there are discrepancies, people

That’s how it should work. But science costs money, all that Wrangling Stuff, and expensive kit, there are always more nooks to poke an inquisitive snout into than there are resources. So we had the Science Research Council to match this and allocate resources. Now we have the market.

The scientific method from 1980 onwards, a.k.a. market driven science

Ah, civil servants shouldn’t be picking winnners. etc, etc. Let the market decide sounded the battle cry in the 1980s. Now I worked in an industrial research lab for a long time. Industry is perfectly capable of applying science, and obviously they get to pick and choose the bits that are profitable or help them make profitable products.

But industry is shit at doing science1, because science is meant to inform us about our world. And industry wants you to buy its stuff. Let’s take the scientific method according to Coca Cola. The Telegraph is there with a repeat for free

  • Observe your product – water, sugar and flavouring. One of these is bad for people because it makes them fat
  • Develop a story to sell more of it
  • Take a partisan view of the world and amplify the reasons to buy your product as opposed to using a common and cheaper alternative – water
  • if desperate simply lie and falsify results (that’s the VW arm of the decision tree) – in Coca Cola’s case you consumers are fat because they don’t exercise enough, not because they are chugging 35g of sugar per can
  • Obfuscate information, spawn endless organisations such as the European Hydration Institute to add puffery and ways of disseminating your advertising/sponsored factual information, like this example published by Oxford University Press
  • shut down all the council-operated water taps in parks and public places[ref]I totally made that up, but WTF, what’s sauce for the goose is good for the gander. Anyway, there used to be working municipal water taps in Britain when I was a child and I can’t recall the last working one I’s seen recently[/ref]
Once upon a time (before the 1990s ISTR) the local rugrats could get hydrated, for free, in the park
Once upon a time (before the 1990s ISTR) the local rugrats could get hydrated, for free, in the park

Rinse, repeat, collect £loadsamoney in shorter and shorter time increments, for ever. Marvellous, innit? Trouble is we are getting fat bastards and it’s harder to lose weight than it used to be in the 1980s. And I (and more knowledgeable folk) charge Coca Cola and manufacturers of ‘sports drinks’ with a modern lie that many people seem to believe, but was considered garbage when I was a kid. Listen to the winsome Rosie Huntington-Whiteley give us this line

Now ask yourself, did she get to look so sylph-like drinking a couple of cans of Coke a day?

Now ask yourself, did she get to look like that drinking a couple of cans of Coke a day? Probably not…

The Exercise Myth

“Exercise is the key to losing weight”

This is bullshit. It is one of those things that is true in theory but not in practice. In theory you could do enough exercise to compensate for drinking a 330 ml can of Coke at 140 calories, but the truth is that Britons don’t generally do that – you have to walk about 45 minutes. Coca Cola want to sell us more sugary shit, so they tell us exercise is the way to get fit. Well, it helps, but you’re always better off not drinking the Coke in the first place. That’s the sad truth about losing weight – stopping the calories getting into your gob is by far the easiest win. You cannot outrun a bad diet.

Eat less and for God’s sake don’t drink Coca Cola. The retired Ermine weighs less than the in work Ermine. One day I would like to have the same waist size as when I was 21, but it’s going to be a long way coming. Yes, I probably do more exercise than when I was working, but it’s of the order of Mike Evans with occasional bursty peaks over at times

It’s eating less that made the difference, and it kinda just happened. There are all sorts of minor second-order things about life that improve when you control your own time, and it so happens eating less is one of those things. The amount of calories consumed by half an hour’s walking is jack shit, about 120 calories, about a slice of bread. It’s irrelevant – it’s about 5% of the daily calorie consumption.

Exercise over your normal level does use calories, but it hardly shifts the needle on the dial. This was brought home to me when I discovered that the 13-mile round bike trip to work and back consumed less than the 220 calories in a Mars Bar of the time. A man on a bicycle is an incredibly efficient transportation system – the bike journey used about 140 calories. The next problem with exercise is that it makes you hungry, particularly if you are unfit. The exercise only helps you slightly lose weight if you fight that urge to eat more, and don’t even think about consuming sports drinks to replace the calories you worked so hard to try and lose.

We took a big wrong turn in the 1970s when we decided fat was the enemy rather than sugar, because there’s another dark truth – it’s much easier to overeat sugary calories that fatty calories. Let’s take a Coke at 140 calories a can – it is more calorific than beer by volume, so I’d go for the healthy option, better for your teeth, too. Looking at how people use it, it’s not unreasonable to imagine someone getting through four of those in a day, particularly if they are doing some sort of sport 😉 That’s like eating an extra Big Mac that day. If you wanted to eat those 140 calories as butter that’s about a tablespoon and a half, it’s easy to drink two cans of coke in one go but you’d be queasy on three tablespoons of butter. Six? I battle tested this with crackling. The crackling you have to eat first as it comes out of the oven, else it draws water from the air and becomes a soft dog treat. You can only eat about three square inches of crackling before you just can’t physically do it any more. That’s probably 500-800 calories, we aren’t talking healthy living, but you wouldn’t reach the same total endstop after troughing a whole one of TEA’s Vienettas

Now somebody like TFS can make a dent in that 500 calories in half an hour and five miles. But he’s running a bloody marathon, and he’s not your average Brit, who apparently does a lot less exercise than me! I am definitely among the idle bastards of the PF community compared to all those marathon runners and mountain cyclists, and yet despite having never, ever, been inside a gym for my entire adult life I am in the upper half of British adults physical activity by a long chalk

It found that just over 8% of adults who could walk had not – with the exception of shopping – walked continuously for five minutes within the previous four weeks, while 46% had not walked for leisure for 30 minutes continuously over the same period.

Now I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t matter if your walking is for shopping or for going to work or just for the hell of it, and indeed I am a utility cyclist and walker. I walk to the shops, and I walk to the library for instance, but half of British adults not walking for half an hour in four weeks? C’mon guys! Anywhere less than 1.5 miles away is walkable, and a bike more than doubles that. Anyway, if these guys want to lose weight they should start by eating less. And hydrating using water, or tea and coffee, or if push comes to shove drink beer, not Coke.

My mother2 had a simple motto on diets: Friss die Hälfte  – eat half. It’s not about what you do eat, just eat less. Having said that, do be careful of sugary stuff, because the energy in it is so concentrated you can trough down a lot very quickly. Take a Starbucks Frappucino with cream and caramel  It sounds truly disgusting, and note Starbucks make it pretty hard to find out the calories in their stuff because you have to download a PDF and cross-correlate it, but order any of these in Venti size3 and you’re north of 400 calories.

Thatcher was no fool - she opened Mickey D's HQ but she didn't take a bite out of this Big Mac :)
Thatcher was no fool – she opened Mickey D’s HQ but she didn’t take a bite out of this Big Mac, the whole body language is “what the heck can I do with this to get rid of it ASAP?” 🙂

For comparison a Big Mac is 550 calories, but the thing is, you’re unlikely to be able to chow down two Big Macs in one session, whereas sit in Starbucks for an hour with your iPad and you could quite easily get through two of those.

This so-called coffee is food, not drink. The clue is that the surface isn't level, which is uncharacteristic of liquids in Earth gravity
This so-called coffee is food, not drink. The first clue is that the surface isn’t level, which is uncharacteristic of liquids in Earth gravity. The second clue is in the excess sweetness, but you’ve already lost the fight at that stage

Let’s take a look at sports drinks. This again is not something I know from experience because a) I have avoided sports ever since school, which made me hate it with a vengeance which hasn’t faded in 30 years and b) such sports drinks as I have tasted tasted like disgusting sugary shit. So I took a look at this from the Guardian as research and came to the conclusion I am on a different planet. I am okay with doing exercise to do something, like chopping wood, or to get somewhere useful cheaply like cycling, or to see something interesting in the case of walking. I can understand going to a gym to lose weight, but to do it for fun beats me. Anyway, apparently a sports drink is there to replace the calories you use while exercising, and here is where I lose the point totally. Why? And when I see a large individual come out from a gym and glug down a sports drink I ask myself WTF are you doing this to yourself?

there is something wonderful about watching Bolt run, desp[ite my school experiences of sport
If you look like this, then maybe you have a use for a sports drink
If you’re Usain Bolt, you may have use for a sports drink. If you went into that stinky gym because you are too fat, then you just paid the sports drink maker good money to sabotage the whole reason you paid the gym operator to go there. The terrible conversion rate of calories to exercise is the reason you feel shit, and feeling shit is the whole point, to rip some of the fat out your lardy flesh, not go replace the stuff you sweated buckets to use up. Just save the money on the gym and the drink and do something else with your time.

Given the level of physical activity of Britons, there is no need for supermarkets to stock sports drinks, because not enough sport goes on to make that sort of demand. Just. Say. No. to fizzy drinks. Oh yes, and parents – don’t do it to your kids.  As a measure of how far Coke has advanced, yes I did have Coke as a child – but only on birthdays and maybe Christmas holidays – you can get away with 35g of sugar a few times a year. You just look at the pallets of the stuff in Tesco to see a lot more is being shifted. My mother did me a great kindness early on when she suggested knocking out the sugar in tea (nearly everyone seemed to add sugar to their tea in the 1960s). It was a fight for two weeks, and has served me for getting on 50 years.

The british Sugar plant in Bury St Edmunds. We still subsidise sugar production
The British Sugar plant in Bury St Edmunds. The taxpayer subsidises sugar production for some bizarre reason, Britain grows half its sugar consumption, 3/4 of which is sold directly to industrial users such as manufacturers of food, soft drinks and confectionery according to DEFRA

The Escape Artist has a nice piece on this – basically follow Michael Pollan on food. I disagree with TEA regarding science that used to be funded by governments – the UK used to have government agricultural and hydrological research labs that published some good stuff which is still to be found in obscure places but since 1980 this is increasingly done by the big ag chemical and biotech firms which seem to have infested Defra, and surprisingly the ‘evidence based research’ so happens to point towards we need to get bigger, more high tech and use GM. Obviously some of these chemicals end up in the watercourses, but hey, some other bugger can pay for that, eh, and we have to ram our big scale factory farm animals with antibiotics to control disease, but again, pfft, your children can deal with the problem of antibiotic resistance but at least you can buy a chicken for £2 so it’s all good.

Keep it simple, and go easy on anything your great grandmother wouldn’t have recognised as food. That includes puffery like vitaminwater which is also brought to you by Coca Cola. The bastards are at it again – adding 65 calories of sugar to every bottle of something marketed as ‘water’.

Coca Cola screwed up selling real water in Britain in 2004. When I was in the US I observed Americans are perfectly happy paying for purified tap water. Now it has to be said that some of the water I got from motel rooms on that trip was worth paying to avoid, but in Europe we are only happy to pay for water if it has been purified from a natural source coming out of the ground. Of which Britain has plenty – every supermarket seems to be able to find a source. Coca Cola decided to try and sell us Dasani purified tap water from Sidcup in south London, and it didn’t go right for them at all.

What is now often reported as ‘science’ is nothing of the sort

The trouble with saving money by not doing science as a country is that you lose impartiality, and increasingly you just can’t tell what the bloody hell is what in a ghastly echo chamber of special interest pleading masquerading as science. It applies in many fields, but nutrition seems to be a particularly bad case – as Scott Adams said, pretty much everything about nutrition and diets is 100% Science Fail. Doing science on living things is hard because it’s difficult to separate the variables, and it’s a lot easier to do science on things like fruit flies that only live for a short time than on a beast that lives for 70 years and gets ornery as soon as you try and control what it does. It’s particularly hard when you’re doing the science like an A level student where you know the result – Coke is good for you – and have to munge the experimental results to give you that answer and ignore any counterfactual evidence. That’s advertising, not science. It’s done by “scientists” working for firms like this

The European Hydration Institute (EHI) was founded in response to the need expressed by a number of scientists, nutritionists and health care professionals, for a one stop shop relating to hydration where: All hydration science and knowledge could come together; strategies for further advancing understanding in the area of hydration could be developed and support for efforts designed to ensure people across Europe are properly hydrated could be provided.

What need was that? If you’re thirsty, drink water, tea, weak beer. How did previous generations ensure people across Europe were properly hydrated? They provided municipal water fountains in the 1960s and 70s FFS. When was the last time you heard on the news that somebody going about their daily business died of thirst in Britain? It’s just not a problem that needs a hydration institute to sort out. There are parts of the world where hydration is an issue. That is what Water Aid is for.

Why can’t we do science any more?

We can. Although there are some who ascribe the dropping of productivity and the return on capital as being due to the wellsprings of science and technology running dry, it does still go on. The problem is that the quality control department has downed tools and gone AWOL. So much crap is being published that you can’t tell the science from the puffery, and because even those doing research are incentivised by publications and citations we get exactly what we incentivise – these are bright people, after all. We get loads of publications and citations, but unfortunately nobody is making any more time for people to keep up with this or referee the papers properly. The signal stays roughly the same but the noise increases.

Companies have jumped to the fact that the modern creed is science but few people can actually recognise science, so they are incentivised to create spurious rubbish that looks like science, and since everybody needs to pay off their student loans they can hire scientists with the right credentials to write claptrap that looks like science and pollutes the scientific literature and tell us great big porky pies like that you can exercise your way out of eating too much. Marion Nestle (author of Big Soda) has been collecting sponsored studies and their sponsors and has found that 95% of the results favour the sponsors. How, er, tremendously odd that is. Looks like it is game, set and match though – a 95% confidence interval is a commonly accepted benchmark of a clear result, so yes, sponsors do fix the results of their studies, either by selective hypotheses or by more nefarious means. The piper really does call the tune. I’m shocked.

The FT’s Izabella Kaminsky roughs out the wider problem

For what Rogoff is saying is that if we are experiencing technology stagnation, it’s not because humanity has suddenly become less innovative. Rather, it’s because incumbent interests now have the biggest incentive ever to impose artificial scarcity, which is stopping the speed of innovation.

One of those artificial scarcities incumbents need to create is in information. It’s become much easier to disseminate information, so they do it by flooding the information space with false information. It’s a propaganda war – all advertising is propaganda along the lines of We want to make You buy Our Shit and Believe Our Story. There aren’t any principles beyond the love of money, so if it’s bad for you then we start with propaganda to make you believe the bad effects are due to something else you’re not doing, and dress it up as science.

Reference for Coca Cola’s denialists:

The European Hydration Institute

downloaded on 9 Oct 2015 at

Founding Partners:

The Coca-Cola Company

In 1886, Coca-Cola® brought refreshment to patrons of a small Atlanta pharmacy. Now well into its second century, the Company owns more than 500 brands which are enjoyed in more than 200 countries. Innovation and solid science are the foundation of everything the company does, from the development of new sparkling beverages, juices, waters, sports drinks, energy drinks, coffees and teas, to the environmentally-friendly packaging and refrigeration equipment and the new (and the world’s largest) plastic-bottle-to-bottle recycling plant and other actions to support recycling in the U.S.

The Coca-Cola Company is committed to advancing scientific knowledge, awareness and understanding of beverages, and recognises the importance of an active, healthy and balanced lifestyle. Initiatives like the “Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness” are part of this commitment, serving as a valued resource for health professionals and others worldwide on the science, safety and benefits of beverages and their ingredients, as well as the importance of diet, nutrition and physical activity to health and wellbeing.

The Coca-Cola Company is also committed to local markets, paying attention to what people from different cultures and backgrounds like to drink, and where and how they want to drink it. With its bottling partners, the Company reaches out to the local communities it serves, believing that Coca-Cola exists to benefit and refresh everyone it touches.

The Coca-Cola Company has been instrumental in supporting the establishment of the EHI. It is providing funding to the EHI as part of its commitment to a better scientific understanding of human hydration and related societal issues.

More information at


  1. now – arguably some of the great industrial research labs of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s did do science and advanced knowledge, but this started to fade by the 1990s as timescales shortened 
  2. she is German 
  3. That’s huge, for those of us who don’t frequent Starbucks. It’s a pint. When was the last time you drank a pint of coffee at home? I have never, ever, seen a reason to buy a large coffee unless there are two of you and you want to split one 

50 thoughts on “The scientific method according to Coca Cola”

  1. I always love the irony of personal finance bloggers with big shareholdings in consumer goods companies raging about the marketing practices of consumer goods companies

    Still I did chuckle when I read imperial college’s mission statement, what would it be now? “Take on £40,000 of debt to get a 2.1 to get on a corporate training program to meet a girl to get married to take on £200,000 more of debt to buy a flat that might cover as much as 750 Sq ft”


  2. Having spent my working life in industrial food “research and development,” I agree with you in most cases. Some margarines – low in saturated fat and hence lowering cholesterol – are better for you if you must spread fat on your bread. But hey, you don’t have to.
    When you mix Marketing in with Nutrition and Food Science things always go south. I once had to develop a version of Becel with olive oil which was nutritionally inferior to generic low saturated fat margarines – because olive oil is good for you, don’tcha see? Recently I saw a box of Jell-O Instant Pudding – with all that sugar, starch and phosphates – describe itself as “high in calcium” because you add milk to make it (Duh!)
    I would say that as far as food is concerned, the junk science goes back to the 1950s when “convenience food” was coined as a Marketing term. Things got worse when Nutritionists got into the game, though. That’s when the BS really came front and center.


    1. Interesting – I didn’t realise it started so early. I guess until the 1970s there weren’t really that many convenience foods in the UK, or I didn’t know people rich enough to eat them.

      We used to boil the hell out of our veg then, though _ it’s be surprising if there was much nutritional value left. Raw foods, particularly fruit seemed much better from a taste angle, however, but they were also more local – from Kent in SE England rather than from halfway round the world.


      1. Call me old school I guess, but having grown up with canned veggies I like my carrots cooked.
        You are going to lose Vitamin C in cooking – but we don’t have a big deficiency in that these days. The other nutrients are by and large there since you break down the cellulose a bit by cooking.
        The key is to enjoy the veggies without adding a lot of salt or fat to them after they are cooked.


  3. I was hoping you’d pick up on the crap that came out of Jeremy Hunt’s mouth. Why oh why did we elect these dickheads into power – I don’t understand it, I really don’t.
    Though as he’s also pissing off all the training grade doctors in England, we’re hoping they’ll all up sticks and move to Wales and solve our recruitment problem!


  4. I wouldn’t drink anything produced by Coca-Cola or Starbucks on taste grounds alone – disgusting in both cases – prefer water out of the tap.

    Re the exercise question, I sometimes wonder if age isn’t a factor – I lost a hell of a lot of weight when I was in my early twenties purely through exercise, or so it seemed to me – I did ye olde aerobics pretty much every day but didn’t alter my eating habits much, scarfed down choc brownies whenever I fancied, yet the pounds still fell off. Thirty years on I find that improvement from exercise seems to happen much more slowly and I do have to be stringent about what I eat (despite the fact that I have some clue now and eat a lot more healthily). Obviously not much science there though, those are just my impressions. However, whenever I read that you can’t lose weight through exercise, I tend to think: “When you’re 20, yes you can.”


  5. I’ve started to see much more media focus on sugar content in the past couple of years. Some high profile programs have highlighted just how many foods contain abnormal levels of the stuff, so perhaps public perception is slowly switching from fat to sugar?

    I agree about your points on exercise; unless you’re really gunning for it.. most casual joggers are only going to burn off the calories from a few slices of pizza. I personally found a change in diet to have the biggest impact, last January I went on a low-carb diet for the month and lost almost 2 stone in that time with absolutely no additional exercise.


    1. > I went on a low-carb diet for the month and lost almost 2 stone in that time with absolutely no additional exercise.

      Oh to be young 😉 Carbs seem to be a half-way house between the sugar and fat problem – you can eat a lot more calories as carbs than as fat. Though I do take TEA’s point that perhaps we are in some way maladapted to carbs as a relatively recent development


  6. @Sarah

    Marvel’s of UK electoral system:

    – number of people voting conservative in May 2015

    – number of people watching great british bake off final 14.5m

    – adult population of uk c. 48m in 2011


  7. I think for the first time in my life I can say of an article: ‘I agree with everything you wrote’. What a glorious day. I love saturated fat (from grass-fed cows, olive oils, coconut oil etc) and hate, HATE sweet food. It is a curse on society. I often go to bury St Edmund’s and I truly despise the output of the big factory…


  8. Science and nutrition makes me think of the wonderful eccentric Dr Magnus Pike; his involvement in WW11 nutrition and his entertaining TV programmes in the 1970’s. I still follow his 2 rules of nutrition. This is the only video I can find now – an interview in Imperial College TV studio:
    Dr Magnus Pike – February 1980


    1. That was a laugh – and reminded me of the amateurishness of ICSTV. Why couldn’t they get him to look at the camera!

      “Eat Food, not too much, and mix it up” – 30 years before Pollan!


  9. I think you put your finger on it when you said that things like fizzy drinks used to be an occasional treat, rather than an everyday ‘staple’. I grew up in a world where ate and drank whatever we liked, and nobody knew about calories – we were very active and nobody was overweight (or underweight, either).

    But then we didn’t expect to have sweets, crisps or cake every day and – crucially in my view – portion sizes were moderate. If we wanted another helping of pud, we were likely to be told ‘no – you’ve had enough’ and if we said we were hungry between meals we were told to have some bread and butter. Which made us realise we were not hungry, but just bored The result was that we were pretty relaxed around food, enjoying treats but assuming that most of our meals would be fairly plain.

    Food is generally way more exciting now, but the dark side to all this is that ‘regular’ now means ‘massive’ and if you want to buy popcorn at the cinema you get given a bucket the size of a small car…



    1. a lot of food particularly eating is more exciting now, but sadly not our basic ingredients and shop-bought veg which seem to taste of less and less. It’s also kinda scary how commercial tomatoes seem to last about two weeks, how the heck to they do that?

      It seems snacking rather than portion size is the bigger contribution to more calories consumed over time. Which is one of the easy unsung wins of early retirement – taking more time and sitting down to eat reduces this, though there’s much to be said for keeping snacks in the shops or other people’s baskets where they belong too!


  10. First thing cyclists do after a long stage of a big tour? Chug a can of Coke, or Fanta, or something similar.

    What does an office worker do after a particularly tough Excel session? Chug a can of Coke. Only without having burnt through the 6,000 calories the cyclist did.

    On another point, A PINT OF COFFEE? I would end up speaking to Cthulu after that.



    1. ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

      That sort of cycling is well hard. ’tis not for civilians. After 6,000 you can drink what you damn well like 😉 43 cans of Coke, maybe? Cthulu is waiting for you on the other line after that!


  11. Ah, moderation in all things. On exercise, I bought a Fitbit (pedometer) nearly two years ago. Your target is 10,000 steps a day. In a normal office day, I’d rack up about 3,000 steps, so it’s quite a stretch to triple that. But I’ve averaged 10,000 a day since I bought it. And haven’t shifted a pound. But, within reason, I eat and drink what I like and I think the Fitbit allows that. Walking is also quite easy to fit into your day.
    I honestly think that we won’t address obesity until it becomes shameful, like smoking almost is or drinking and driving has become. But as ever we’re looking for easier targets to blame apart from ourselves. Somebody or something else has made us fat, nothing to do with us, eh?


  12. My experience is that a combination of diet and exercise is the best way to achieve weight loss at a sustainable rate – about 1 pound per week.

    Each pound of fat represents around 3,500 more calories consumed than expended, so if your weight is stable then losing 1 pound a week just needs you to consume less and use more at the rate of 500 calories per day. For me the weight came off and mostly stayed off when that was done through roughly 70% diet and 30% additional exercise.

    The diet part was almost entirely achieved by cutting out some snacks and sweets, thus restricting the intake of refined carbohydrates, and eating more fruit and veg instead. The additional exercise may have helped reduce the amount of muscle that was lost at the same time as the fat.


  13. In my 20s, I could eat and drink what I wanted (including lots of alcohol, ‘full fat’ Coke every day and having two sugars in my tea and coffee) and with moderate exercise, was able to maintain my weight, shape and fitness.

    Now that I’m older, I have to work out that much harder and keep a closer eye on what I eat (and cut back on my drinking) to maintain the same weight, shape and fitness. I rarely have fizzy drinks and if I do, it’s a ‘diet’ one and I don’t add sugar to any of my drinks.

    Who knew that carbs could be so troublesome, yet cutting them down (smaller portions and no bread during the week) has meant that I’m a lot leaner than I was when I was younger.

    One good thing is that these days, I have very little appetite after I’ve exercised so I don’t pile on the calories that I’ve just worked so hard to burn off!

    Anyway, was it just me who saw something really wrong about leading health professionals pleading for the government not to scrap free school meals for kids, not because the poor little mites would starve but because not having the free nutritional meals would mean that the kids would become obese….


  14. Excellent rant – an A+ this week Sir !

    I agree with everything in it – the powers that be tend to damn those few who see through their propaganda as conspiracy theorists, but I know everything in this article is true because it is common sense, something that used to be common. It’s astounding how brainwashed people are today in that they can’t see these simple truths all around them due to the corporate infantilisation of the general population, when I was a kid, it would have been sh*t-obvious to all. It’s like walking around in the valley of the blind today ….. ”Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall have no fear because I seem to be the only b*stard who can see” 🙂

    I have a parent who worked in the NHS for many years but left because of the insidious, slow-burning sabotage inflicted through creeping extremist ideological politics – they spent more time ‘doing forms’ than seeing to patients ….. I’m surprised they’re not called customers now instead of patients, like the railways do with passengers.

    With the obesity epidemic issue, Corporations have targeted the sheeple’s basest instincts, laziness & a refusal to accept personal responsibility, with respect to preparing natural food from scratch – they call this ”the convenience factor” in polite company, ”for our busy lifestlyes.” That’s the ugly truth, so it only may change when the present generation diabetically waddle off this mortal coil from where they currently are, in the queue of the departure lounge of life. Hopefully their kids might think ”Maybe there’s a better way”, or ”maybe we can change this”, or ”Yes we can!” [not believe corporate bullsh*t lies] ….. but might just also succumb to thinking it’s the natural order of things.

    I had a still-born first career in science because I realised I could only work on areas that someone with commercial interests would sponsor in return for any potential future financial returns. This realistically meant you ended up working for the likes of Norfolk ‘n Scruples Inc., selling glorified placebos to people who didn’t need it for invented diseases which were actually just feelings related to the human condition. [I recently found out there was a pill for nausea – until now my reaction to that feeling was to try to think of something else – ironically healthier, cheaper & goes for a lot of ‘ailments’]

    As for our ‘leaders’, you just can’t make it up any more, they’re even putting comedians & political cartoonists out of work too now. Honestly, coming out with stuff like ”work ’til ya drop, ya know ya want to, ya love it really” ….. at this rate, when will all surviving Govt. buildings have the motto “Arbeit macht frei” inscribed above the entrances?


  15. normally find your posts quite informative and balanced but not sure about this one. Coke do have low and zero calorie options with the ‘same great taste’ which many people chose to purchase as they know the good stuff has so much sugar in it. At the end of the day the original is a great tasting drink which sells itself (you don’t thrive in business for over 100 years with a bad product and great marketing). I always have a supply in the garage for a treat because it tastes great, whilst at the same recognising the detrimental effect on my teeth/waistline. I’m not sure what you want coke to say about there product?…its the devil incarnate…stay away from it…. i actually tend to agree that exercise is the best way to stay slim. Cave men were skinny, they exercised lots and ate little. modern mans eats lots and exercises little, he is fat. Also to say cycling 13 miles only burns 140 calories is somewhat simplistic. I’m sure bradley wiggins would burn more than 10 times that that during a WR attempt and like wise if i barely touched the pedals with a strong wind behind me on a super efficient lightweight bike on the flat i would probably burn less than 140 calories. the point is that kind of mis information is what generally perpetuates the myth to people who struggle with weight that exercise is hardly worth the effort….(ironic mis -information given the slant of your post) And to say exercise increases your appetite. Errr , well yes… if you sweated a lot during your cycle you also find it makes you thirsty. Going back to your living like a caveman analogy thats because your body is short on energy/water so demands more. The way you suggest it, it seems that you are implying when you exercise you will have an increased appetite over and above the norm, exercising will thus paradoxically make you become even fatter than you are already.??? when you exercise it raises your metabolism for a sustained period afterwards as well as numerous other physical/metal benefits.Ultimately Humans have brains and if people are to lazy or stupid (or both) to engage them then you will get people who are fat cos they drink too much coke, sit in the car all day etc…. If i had my way i would ban gambling/booze/fags due to the detrimental effect it has on some peoples lives, but we live in a free society where people have choices.


    1. Not quite sure if you’re a shill for Coke and I claim my £5 but:

      I don’t want to ban Coke, if people want to drink sugary water good luck to them. I was opposed to advertising masquerading as research. It’s devilishly hard enough as it is to determine cause and effect on an animal that lives for 70 years and the experimenter can’t control properly, and which shows significant natural variation across individuals. Adding deliberate obfuscation for commercial ends is dire, but we are seeing the effect of the industry in aggregate health.

      IMO (and experience) exercise doesn’t help people who want to lose weight do that unless they do lots of it and fight the increased appetite. That lots is really lots, it’s just not realistic to fit into your average Brits day. So Coke asserting that we are getting fat bastards due to a lack of exercise is victim-blaming of the first degree, and it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m using Coke as a proxy for the convenience food and soft drinks industry, who cynically use the natural human fondness for sweetness built in a time where sugar was a scarcity to make their products more attractive, while at the same time denying this is bad for you.

      > The way you suggest it, it seems that you are implying when you exercise you will have an increased appetite over and above the norm, exercising will thus paradoxically make you become even fatter than you are already.???

      See here here and here

      There are good things about exercise, but it’s not the easy win to losing weight unless you really work at it. If you look at the BHF study of Britons’ physical activity Wiggins and any professional sportsman are extreme outliers irrelevant to the general problem

      The one thing I will give you is that it appears my cycling estimate was way too low. From here it seems that I used about 400 calories cycling 13.5 miles in 80 minutes on average. I got the cardiovascular health benefit but it didn’t help me lose weight because I was stressed in those last years and the exercise made me eat more 😉 Coca-Cola themselves figure a little bit less, asserting two cans of Coke for that journey


      1. (its fractionally off topic but i will continue my rant)…..I agree that exercise is not the easy way to losing weight. and that is precisely the problem… its difficult!!! and yes, for it to work you have to do lots of it …(or do less at a higher intensity)…..everyone wants to be thin but not everyone wants to put the effort in to get thin. at the end of the day its easier to go out for a beer with friends or maybe stay in and have a dominoes watching the champions league (poss with a nasty coke too) than it is to do exercise…esp with our climate in winter time. Its also very easy to blame someone else for you eating too much and not exercising enough. Ref. your ‘here,here,here’ As with any small sample size scientific research ( see sports drinks) it is possible to suggest that exercise can produce a myriad of effects and hence twist results to your own ends. All I will say on the science is, when I watch a lot of runners on TV at the world athletics champs (ie. individuals who are engaging in high intensity aerobic exercise on a regular and frequent basis… non of them are obese……and i do appreciate they have a natural ectomorphic body type to begin with etc…but the general rule as a whole applies to all humans, calories in vs calories burned = weight gain/loss). Draw from that your own conclusions. To say that its not realistic to fit a decent enough amount of exercise in to your average brits day is totally defeatist rubbish…and again redolent of joe publics attitude to blaming someone else for the problem…. thats not to say it is EASY to fit enough exercise into your daily life… but people do have a choice, its just that most of them chose to sit in a car in a nice warm metal bubble where they can listen to ken bruce insulated from UK’s nasty weather and travel that way. As for Rosie huntington W. , she says she does lots of exercise and tries to keep a balanced diet when she can, this i assume includes the occasional coke ‘LIFE’ (which contains roughly half the calories of a normal coke BTW, so a step in the right direction in my eyes) . I would say RHW gives sound advice for a healthy lifestyle, and i don’t have a problem with that coke advert in any way. I am lucky, i happen to have always liked sport/exercise, am naturally a skinnier body type and have always enjoyed it as well as being good competitevely….I get that other people don’t receive the same enjoyment from exercise as me, and find it more difficult but hey, as ol blue eyes would say… thats life. I commute everywhere by electric bike. its quicker in the city than a car,more environmentally friendly and also cheaper….and of course burns calories. Many people would be quicker to cycle to work….or drive then cycle, or drive then walk..or run…or brompton off the train or whatever, just to integrate some activity into their daily routine…but most people don’t ….for many reasons. (weather, road congestion/pollution, ball ache required to pack a bag with work clothes etc, lack of showers at work ….). Trying to blame Coke etc big for selling sugary food is not really going to defeat the obesity epidemic. Modern man has more leisure time than ever before, more money, cheaper food, cheaper everything almost, but he generally choses to get fat!


  16. Very entertaining rant that chimed with my experiences at many points. This in particular:-

    “The problem is that the quality control department has downed tools and gone AWOL. So much crap is being published that you can’t tell the science from the puffery, and because even those doing research are incentivised by publications and citations we get exactly what we incentivise – these are bright people, after all. We get loads of publications and citations, but unfortunately nobody is making any more time for people to keep up with this or referee the papers properly. The signal stays roughly the same but the noise increases.”

    Funnily we’ve had pretty parallel career trajectories – I may well have been a post-grad demonstrator when you did the 2nd year labs at IC. I stayed in academic science though, but after the last REF, and having started to read about the FI movement, the idea of checking out a bit earlier than I’d imagined as a yoof became increasingly attractive, especially once the university pensions review got under way. I closed the book on all that last Monday. In the last few years I read a lot around the the current evidence crisis (for want of a better term) in medicine and psychology (my research area was neuroimaging), which basically results from the funding and career drivers you mention. Check these out if you can be bothered:

    Ioannidis, JPA (205) Why Most Published Research Findings Are False
    “…for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true”

    Open Science Collaboration “Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science”
    “”…about one-third to one-half of the original findings were also observed in the replication study”. i.e. 1/2 to 2/3 weren’t…


    1. Congratulations on your recent manumission 🙂 And blimey – I had no idea it was this bad (from your first reference)

      There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false.

      Most? Flippin’ heck, perhaps we have an alternative explanation for secular stagnation: something is destroying the golden thread of truth that guides the quest for knowledge in the natural sciences 😦

      We need to round up those gatekeepers and get them back on the job, or find a decent alternative!


  17. aldi sell coke for 17p for 2litres. I pour a bottle down my toilet every now and then, leaving it overnight, and it gets rid of the limescale very well


  18. @ The Rhino

    Seriously Man? Does that really work? I could use it, I have 2 toilets in my place & they both get this irritating grey [50 shades depending on the time of my cleaning regime cycle] rim at the water/air boundary that’s a b*tch to get rid of normally.

    I don’t even use the one near the front door, so it’s all the more galling that it gives me this hassle too ! So would the coke trick work on that? – I heard the stories about shining up metal by just leaving it in coke a while…..

    I was getting so frustrated at not being able to solve this issue [because it looks like you don’t clean enough] that I was starting to wonder if there was some sort of mini-sanding tool I could use that didn’t damage the enamel/porcelain surface. Come to think of it, would the acidity chow through the gunk in pipework too, like when the water goes down the sink a little slow, or is that another biochemical mechanism?


    1. You need a water softener, and in the case of the unused bog, to fix the slight leak in the cistern that lets a slight trickle of water dribble down the end 😉 Citric acid (sold for brewing – see ebay) works a treat on limescale without being too aggressive.

      The water going down the sink a bit slow is a different issue usually cause by slime moulds. The solution to that is pour some sodium hydroxide dissolved in water down it, leave half an hour, and follow through with a kettle of hot water. Take care when dissolving the sodium hydroxide, though I don’t, I add it to hot water to pump up the bang for the buck, but you really shouldn’t do that casually…

      Sodium hydroxide is cheap on ebay, and Boots use to sell this as drain cleaner for 50p/kg. Whereas now you can buy Cillit Bang drain cleaner ready diluted for £6 a litre. Ain’t progress marvellous? Note modern drain cleaners often use sulphuric acid as the active ingredient as opposed to the alkaline sodum hydroxide. You really don’t want to use both together at the same time!


  19. Thank you Sir, you’re an Officer & a gentleman.

    I knew about the NaOH from my lab days, but what you buy in the various retail outlets can be so hit & miss ….. sometimes they seem to work & others nothing at all.

    Then I have a plumber buddy who also cautioned against too much gung-ho DIY chemistry like you have, by regaling me with a couple of amusing but hairy stories of domestic plumbing his apprentices had accidentally blown up ….. or blocked when what they used improperly set like a gel in the pipes. Funnily enough, my courage faltered after that 🙂


    1. If you take a butcher’s hook at the P&G statutory info for viakal which is a proprietary limescale remover the #1 and #2 ingrediets are water and citric acid

      Citric Acid
      Formic Acid
      C9-11 Pareth-8
      Xanthan Gum
      Sodium Formate
      Hexyl Cinnamal
      Benzyl Salicylate

      Viakal is a dear way of buying citric acid and water :;) Okay so the gum keeps it sticking around for longer and the perfume makes it smell a bit nicer, but it’s toilet limescale cleaner for gawd’s sake, not a bubble bath!

      The active ingredient (from a limescale cleaning POV) in Coke is phosphoric acid ISTR which apparently has the edge on citric acid for acidity. Dunno what the concentration is, and I’m sure Aldi’s version ain’t The Real Thing. Plus sugar is a hellaciously good bacterial food, both aerobic and anaerobic, which I’m not sure is A Good Thing down the bog, though it’ll get diluted soon enough.


      1. for sure, if i’m feeling flush (fnar) i’ll spend upwards of 60p in the asian supermarket on a bag of citric acid, and that is even more effective than aldi cola. either way, my point still holds that it is far better to pour it down your toilet than to drink it


  20. W.r.t. to “scientific” studies : be sure to check out this gem !


  21. >95% of the results favour the sponsors. How, er, tremendously odd that is. Looks like it is game, set and match though – a 95% confidence interval is a commonly accepted benchmark of a clear result, so yes, sponsors do fix the results of their studies, either by selective hypotheses or by more nefarious means.

    The nefarious means is that you conduct a large number of studies where there is absolutely no causation behind the correlation. About 5% of these junk studies will produce significant correlations at the 95% confidence interval. You bury most of the studies which don’t produce significant correlation or the correlation shows the opposite of what you want. Don’t throw all of these undesired results away, because 100% favoring the sponsors looks suspicious. And thus you eventually come up with things like: “People who drink Coca-Cola are 50% more likely to get heads when they flip a coin than people who don’t, based on a study conducted at the Desperate Grad Students Willing to Do Anything for Money Institute, with results at the 95% confidence interval.”

    You’re right that exercise does nothing for weight loss for most people. And this coming from someone who exercises a lot, as in burning 4000 Calories/day. The real secrets to weight control are: keep the danger foods out of the house (chips, chocolate, cookies, ice cream, cheese, nuts, etc); eat once a day or at most twice but within a five hour interval; make sure you get adequate protein, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, since otherwise the body will demand more food until it does get these essential nutrients; make sure you get enough water, since otherwise you might mistake thirst for hunger. Doesn’t normally matter what you eat if you follow these rules, though anecdotal evidence is that high-protein, moderate-carb, low-fat is what works for most middle-aged and older people. I eat a lot of processed sugar myself as part of my carb component. The daily sugar treat is eaten completely as soon as I buy it. Better to pay more on a cost per ounce basis for single serving sizes than test my willpower by buying a large size and trying to eat only part of it each day.


    1. > The nefarious means is that you conduct a large number of studies where there is absolutely no causation behind the correlation. About 5% of these junk studies will produce significant correlations at the 95% confidence interval. You bury most of the studies which don’t produce significant correlation or the correlation shows the opposite of what you want.

      That’s scary. So simple, and so favours the vested interests with the money. And saddens me a little for the starry-eyed young ermine 30 odd years ago who believe we could make things better with better science…


    1. Nice summary indeed – but looking at the date I was probably focusing on the immediate plan of how to fix this money malarkey to get the hell out of working. And maybe drinkign too much for it to matter 😉

      But six years later and three out of The Firm and i can play with it. I am definitely the idle bastard of the PF community, and used to be of the friss die halfte method that was the only one that works for me.

      I was totally unaware of your point 5 , though having said that, I haven’t lost that much brute force over the years as people seem to think happens as you get older, I can still break up wood rounds with an axe more than folk 10 years younger. And I’ve never seen the inside of a gym since schooldays.

      There certainly seems more to this than meets the eye – I have learned much to investigate from the comments – thanks all!


  22. Muscle is key! I forget the exact numbers (I know, Google, but I’m on the move) but it burns something like 4x the energy of fat. So people think at 30 “hey, I’m only a stone heavier than when I was 20” but in reality they’ve gone from body fat 15% to 25% (for men) and are a metabolic time bomb weighting to go off!


  23. There’s a rather glaring weak point in your argument that everything was better when science was paid for by the taxpayer. “We took a big wrong turn in the 1970s when we decided fat was the enemy rather than sugar” came from exactly that era. The disastrous bogus science that decided that fat was the enemy, and the keenness of politicians to propagandise that message, has shortened God knows how many lives.

    The problem is, at root, that the age of mass-science, of science-as-an-industry, has provided us with too many scientists-as-crooks. Note too that the great Global Warming fraud has been funded by the taxpayer. If there is an answer, it presumably is that the scientific malefactors go to jail.


    1. > There’s a rather glaring weak point in your argument that everything was better when science was paid for by the taxpayer.

      Aw, c’mon. You can do better than a reductio ad absurdam. Science makes its progress through error and testing, and challenges take varying amounts of time to fruit. The problem now is not so much that commercial interests choose the questions – it’s that they spike the guns of the testing of the answers!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s