Diet is the worst of the four letter words 19



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I’ve come to the conclusion – perhaps sadly, even reluctantly and definitely inevitably – that diet is the worst of the four letter words.

As we get older – well, more mature – food gradually replaces sex until you get to the stage where you can’t even get into your own pants let alone anybody else’s. I console myself by recalling the wise words of George Bernard Shaw who said, “No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good but all you can do is run for public office”.

I maintain that I am not overweight let alone obese. My GP only recently asserted after he weighed me that I could lose some weight and my retort was that, obviously, Earth’s gravitational pull had become much stronger since my last weigh-in. Or, perhaps I’m bulimic and keep forgetting to purge. The bottom line is that there is just more of me to love and that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

Incidentally, this is the medico who prescribed pep pills when I consulted him about feeling lethargic. All they did was make me eat faster.

Once upon a time as I stood at the threshold of middle age – not yesterday I concede – I consulted a dietician. After all, the first consultation was free so I had nothing to lose except, perhaps, one or two kilos perhaps surplus to requirements. She was a very energetic woman and reminded me of the British actress Joyce Grenfell in the “St Trinians” series.

I had been almost shamed into going to this dietician when a lady of my acquaintance once remarked that I had the body of a God. My gracious acknowledgement of this perceptive comment was choked back when I realised that she was looking at a statuette of Buddha.

Anyhow the dietician lady bounced around waving a pointer at several pie charts which, allegedly, purported to show how increasing age equalled increasing weight and thus proved the urgent need to take stern corrective action. I headed home thinking a lot about these pie charts and, by some word association process, stopped at a bakery, bought six lovely round custard tarts and consumed the lot. I never went back to the dietician.

Now in a breakthrough which will come as fabulous news to the sturdier among us, scientists at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute have discovered the gene which causes weight gain. It’s called the MNK gene and, according to head researcher Professor Chris Proud, we all have it.

He said that the role of this gene in obesity and Type 2 diabetes was only triggered when a high-fat diet was consumed.

“By working with mice that do not have the MNK gene and comparing them with those that do, we discovered that MNK plays a role in obesity. With a high fat diet, the mice without the MNK gene are protected from accumulating high levels of body fat, developing diabetes and displaying inflammation in their fat tissue,” Professor Proud said.

“We had no idea that they (the MNK genes) were involved in obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Normally the MNK genes are not doing anything bad in the body but testing in animal models found that they were crucial to weight gain when a high fat diet was consumed,” he said.

The researchers showed that all three of these characteristics were seen in the normal mice enjoying a high fat diet and they are also seen in morbidly overweight humans. They are now looking at the mechanism through which MNK has activity and working out if MNK plays a role in creating new fat cells or expanding those that already exist.

There will be lots of experiments with mice and Professor Proud and his team will co-operate with scientists around the world to try and develop a drug that will block MNK activity in humans.

So, perhaps, at some time in the future you will be able to pop an anti-fat pill then eat what you like while slimming down, looking fabulous and being able to avoid all sorts of illnesses that plague the obese. It may mean a world free of diets and free of crippling exercise programs.

Professor Proud deserves a Nobel Prize, a knighthood and any number of international accolades. He even has a nice turn of phrase – saying that his team is “working with mice” sounds so much better than force-feeding them custard tarts, doesn’t it?

We humans can be a very odd lot. It shouldn’t be any surprise to learn that cookery books are the most popular books sold while the close second in the popularity stakes are diet books so you can learn how not to eat what you have just learned how to cook.

We can only hope that the anti-fat pill is developed soon – in the next fortnight would be timely for me.


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Russell Grenning

Russell Grenning is a Brisbane-based former journalist and retired political adviser who began his career with the ABC in 1968 in Brisbane and subsequently worked on the Brisbane afternoon daily, "The Telegraph" and later as a columnist for "The Courier Mail" and "The Australian". He worked for a string of senior Ministers in the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments as well as in senior executive public relations positions, including Assistant Federal Director, Public Relations, for Australia Post, Public Relations Manager for the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Principal Adviser, Corporate Relations, for the Queensland Law Society.

  1. httpA really enjoyable, humorous article! I will be sharing it with others who will enjoy both the humour and the ironies described therein. Diet is indeed the worst of the infamous four-letter words in English!

    1 REPLY
    • Bless you Hella – And I hope that you treat yourself top a hearty dinner including dessert. Life is just too short as it is.

  2. That word diet is like a swear word,, it,s your metabolism get that sorted & it should be a bit easier,,,
    Excuse the pun,,,
    Im on a Whiskey diet,,, i have lost 3 days already so it must work ,,, lol

  3. Good read – as usual Russell. I am reminded of one of my many expensive diet stints – maybe Jenny Craig? when we were told to walk 15 mins in any direction, then turn round and walk home. It was something I could do. 15 mins walk took me directly to the bakery store – in fact the smell of the fresh bread wafted me along like a cartoon character. I would buy the biggest cream bun there and walk home eating it.

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