It's time to moderate these pointless studies

AS you may know, there is a new killer out there.

He is not skulking in a darkened alley. He can be found skulking inside bread rolls and his name is bacon. Singling out bacon for heightened public concern makes as much sense as telling people that Emmerdale is single-handedly destroying British culture. While that programme's perpetual series of unlikely plots and less-likely characters - mixed with a habit of giving legs to acting careers that should long have been black-bagged and thrown in the canal - is upsetting, Emmerdale is but one of a huge number of regrettable transmissions.

Let's be clear. The science behind headlines like Bacon: The killer in your fridge seems pretty clear. Bacon contains all the same nastiness that a lot of modern, manufactured foodstuffs contains and - surprisingly - nastiness ain't good for you. But the naming of bacon as somehow being the Osama Bin Laden of processed meat is not going to result in a healthier population, anymore than having Diet Coke with your Happy Meal makes it the choice of athletes everywhere.

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The latest survey - the one that highlighted bacon, ham and so forth - is one in a long line of studies that all say the same thing as every other study. There cannot now be anyone walking the planet who doesn't know that being fat isn't good for you. Interestingly there is only one career where being fat is essential and in this respect it appears that Scotland is single-handedly trying to satisfy total world demand for sumo wrestlers for the rest of the century.

Every six months or so a bunch of scientists get together and decide to administer what are called LD 50 tests to a population of animals, such as rats, monkeys or beagles. This is done to determine the level at which a Lethal Dose (LD) of any substance will kill 50 per cent of the population. This then allows the same group of scientists to issue pronouncements such as "Eating 50kgs of marzipan is not good for you and/or may result in death"

These tests can "prove" that anything is bad for you, including such ordinarily safe items as water, bread and Tunnock's Caramel Logs. The tests are particularly good at proving animals can suffer. But the main thing about such tests - ignoring my flippant summary of their workings - is that ordinary common sense should be enough to tell you what is and isn't a safe amount of anything to consume.

Common sense tells you that five litres of Advocaat is probably too much of a good thing, and that a Mars a day will help you work, rest and keel over if consumed in sufficiently elephantine quantities.

Yet unless I am mistaken not one of all the studies and reports improves on something first articulated over two thousand years ago.

That's right. In terms of basic healthcare, we have not really improved on what Aristotle said all those years ago, and he wasn't even talking about healthcare specifically.

Aristotle strutted about Greece between 384 and 322 BC, inventing things like logic, biology and psychology, and letting everyone know what he thought on a wide variety of subjects. A lot of the philosopher's life was about finding the ethical life. In this respect a truth Aristotle arrived at was that we should avoid extremes of all sorts and seek moderation in all things. Apply this to our daily diet and that is pretty much all you need to know. Although it needs to be accompanied by a similar approach to exercise, that is, sitting around like a hippo is an extreme to be avoided.

So little of what is termed "startling, new research" is "startling" or "new" or in some cases even "research". For the most part we seem to be going round and round in decreasing circles, zeroing in on a truth that was known to us, without millions of pounds of investigation, a long time ago. The issue is not a lack of findings or a lack of knowledge about what is good for us. We have known this for centuries. The issue is doing something about it. Admittedly Aristotle does not have anything specific to say about bacon, but many of his works were lost, so he might well have covered it in one of the missing treatises. That said, I'm sure that his advice would have boiled down to not eating too many - or too few - bacon rolls.

Researchers are drunk on power

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ANOTHER new study says that mixing alcohol with high-octane sugary drinks increases the chances that you will fall prey to physical injury and/or physical assault. Really?! Knock me down with a can of Red Bull! Well done Professor Scientist Sherlock Holmes - apparently drinking in a manner that will maximise your state of intoxication is likely to result in a state of maximised intoxication. Modern drinking culture is all about obliteration of senses, perception, judgement and responsibility. Young people drink precisely to get into such a state. A weekend in the average city centre would tell you this.

City's been taken to the cleaners

AM I the only one touched by the tale of school cleaners getting limousine treatment to and from work every day, courtesy of Edinburgh Council? While on a purely financial level it might seem slightly excessive to provide X Factor semi-finalist level transportation to a bunch of cleaners, surely we should simply view this as an exercise in equality. The photograph in yesterday's Evening News of the cleaners waving cheerily as they head for home brought a lump to the throat. At last - soon every worker in Scotland will enjoy private transportation to and from their workplace that will make us the envy of Europe. If you want to know when this service arrives at your workplace - just give Edinburgh Council a call.