The brighter side of famine

As we've been picking on the Daily Mail a lot recently, I thought it only fair that I should have a go at someone else today. With that in mind I decided to pick on the Guardian.

Cuba special period

As we’ve been picking on the Daily Mail a lot recently, I thought it only fair that I should have a go at someone else today. With that in mind I decided to pick on the Guardian.

Well not really, but then I read this in today’s G2:

“Can a recession be good for health? During the Cuban economic crisis of 1991-95, the average person lost 5.5kg in weight, due to food and fuel shortages, which cut heart disease and diabetes.”

This would be the same economic crisis which saw the daily protein intake for adults drop to a measly 15–20g a day with some people experiencing a loss of 25 per cent of their bodyweight.

During these years of extreme hardship, brought about by the disappearance of Cuba’s Soviet benefactor, the death rate among the elderly also increased by 20 per cent and there was a 60 per cent increase in the direct maternal mortality rate.

But, as the Guardian points out, there was no obesity crisis.

Every cloud.

9 Responses to “The brighter side of famine”

  1. Nymo.

    A great example of the breezy bullshit you find quite a lot in the Graun, usually sandwiched between articles about ‘how to eat cheese’ or some such middle class tosh.

  2. BenSix

    James –

    The letter that you cite, by an anonymous author, does not give evidence that supports the contention that protein made up 15 to 20 grams of peoples’ diets. The paper on Cuban nutrition that it later references, meanwhile, asserts that it made up 10% of peoples’ energy intake. For it to be 20 grams, then, they would have to have been eating 800 calories a day, which would have been a recipe for mass starvation.

    The claim that some people lost 25% of their body weight is also unreferenced. Did they? How many people? And how much did they weigh before? The paper that it writes of asserts that Cubans lost “5%–6% of body weight per adult”, so I’m not sure where your author was getting their information.

    The death rate among the elderly did not increase by 20% during the “Special Period”, even according to the anonymous author, but between 1982 and 1993, so other factors must have been involved.

    The Franco paper does suggest, however, that it rose especially sharply during food shortages, so I agree that the media have been overly blithe about how much some Cubans suffered. There were beneficial health consequences – a large drop in type 2 diabetes is a beneficial health consequence – and there is nothing wrong with drawing attention to them. But unless people are keen to live off a diet that largely consists of rice and sugar they should make it clear that only an idiot or an arse would think about trying to reproduce them through the same conditions.

  3. BenSix

    James –

    The letter that you cite, by an anonymous author, does not give evidence that supports the contention that protein made up 15 to 20 grams of peoples’ diets. The paper on Cuban nutrition that it later references, meanwhile, asserts that it made up 10% of peoples’ energy intake. For it to be 20 grams, then, they would have to have been eating 800 calories a day, which would have been a recipe for mass starvation.

    The claim that some people lost 25% of their body weight is also unreferenced. Did they? How many people? And how much did they weigh before? The paper that it writes of asserts that Cubans lost “5%–6% of body weight per adult”, so I’m not sure where your author was getting their information.

    The death rate among the elderly did not increase by 20% during the “Special Period”, even according to the anonymous author, but between 1982 and 1993, so other factors must have been involved.

    The Franco paper does suggest, however, that it rose especially sharply during food shortages, so I agree that the media have been overly blithe about how much some Cubans suffered. There were beneficial health consequences – a large drop in type 2 diabetes is a beneficial health consequence – and there is nothing wrong with drawing attention to them. But unless people are keen to live off a diet that largely consists of rice and sugar they should make it clear that only an idiot or an arse would think about trying to reproduce them through the same conditions.

  4. BenSix

    James –

    The letter that you cite, by an anonymous author, does not give evidence that supports the contention that protein made up 15 to 20 grams of peoples’ diets. The paper on Cuban nutrition that it later references, meanwhile, asserts that it made up 10% of peoples’ energy intake. For it to be 20 grams, then, they would have to have been eating 800 calories a day, which would have been a recipe for mass starvation.

    The claim that some people lost 25% of their body weight is also unreferenced. Did they? How many people? And how much did they weigh before? The paper that it writes of asserts that Cubans lost “5%–6% of body weight per adult”, so I’m not sure where your author was getting their information.

    The death rate among the elderly did not increase by 20% during the “Special Period”, even according to the anonymous author, but between 1982 and 1993, so other factors must have been involved.

    The Franco paper does suggest, however, that it rose especially sharply during food shortages, so I agree that the media have been overly blithe about how much some Cubans suffered. There were beneficial health consequences – a large drop in type 2 diabetes is a beneficial health consequence – and there is nothing wrong with drawing attention to them. But unless people are keen to live off a diet that largely consists of rice and sugar they should make it clear that only an idiot or an arse would think about trying to reproduce them through the same conditions.

  5. BenSix

    James –

    The letter that you cite, by an anonymous author, does not give evidence that supports the contention that protein made up 15 to 20 grams of peoples’ diets. The paper on Cuban nutrition that it later references, meanwhile, asserts that it made up 10% of peoples’ energy intake. For it to be 20 grams, then, they would have to have been eating 800 calories a day, which would have been a recipe for mass starvation.

    The claim that some people lost 25% of their body weight is also unreferenced. Did they? How many people? And how much did they weigh before? The paper that it writes of asserts that Cubans lost “5%–6% of body weight per adult”, so I’m not sure where your author was getting their information.

    The death rate among the elderly did not increase by 20% during the “Special Period”, even according to the anonymous author, but between 1982 and 1993, so other factors must have been involved.

    The Franco paper does suggest, however, that it rose especially sharply during food shortages, so I agree that the media have been overly blithe about how much some Cubans suffered. There were beneficial health consequences – a large drop in type 2 diabetes is a beneficial health consequence – and there is nothing wrong with drawing attention to them. But unless people are keen to live off a diet that largely consists of rice and sugar they should make it clear that only an idiot or an arse would think about trying to reproduce them through the same conditions.

  6. BenSix

    James –

    The letter that you cite, by an anonymous author, does not give evidence that supports the contention that protein made up 15 to 20 grams of peoples’ diets. The paper on Cuban nutrition that it later references, meanwhile, asserts that it made up 10% of peoples’ energy intake. For it to be 20 grams, then, they would have to have been eating 800 calories a day, which would have been a recipe for mass starvation.

    The claim that some people lost 25% of their body weight is also unreferenced. Did they? How many people? And how much did they weigh before? The paper that it writes of asserts that Cubans lost “5%–6% of body weight per adult”, so I’m not sure where your author was getting their information.

    The death rate among the elderly did not increase by 20% during the “Special Period”, even according to the anonymous author, but between 1982 and 1993, so other factors must have been involved.

    The Franco paper does suggest, however, that it rose especially sharply during food shortages, so I agree that the media have been overly blithe about how much some Cubans suffered. There were beneficial health consequences – a large drop in type 2 diabetes is a beneficial health consequence – and there is nothing wrong with drawing attention to them. But unless people are keen to live off a diet that largely consists of rice and sugar they should make it clear that only an idiot or an arse would think about trying to reproduce them through the same conditions.

  7. mikems

    The Guardian really is a dreadful paper that redeems itself occasionally with some decent investigative reporting. Like last week’s revelations about tax havens, now swept out of public debate by the Thatcher death. Whether this is ever mentioned again, or the one linked with the other, is a different matter.

    And the way they run their comments seems to be based on how to provoke the worst sort of argument and bile.

  8. Pardeep Singh

    “brought about by the disappearance of Cuba’s Soviet benefactor” and the 40 year blockade imposed on Cuba by America, I’m sure that is what you meant to say.

  9. James Conohan

    Completely false, the embargo does not prevent the regime from buying what they want. Also “the United States is Cuba’s largest food supplier. Cuba purchases American food on a cash-up-front basis and has maintained a strategy of spreading such purchases around various U.S. states so as to spread influence with regards to lifting the embargo.”

    http://babalublog.com/2009/04/02/embargo-myth-1/

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