The BBC (cue: Land of Hope and Glory!) has just started yet another series on Chinese food. In Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure, two famous chefs, the illustrious Ken Hom OBE and the rising star Ching-He Huang (黃瀞億) (neither of whom has an entry in Chinese Wikipedia) are travelling around China, and so far have been travelling around the region of Beijing, encountering a Grandmaster of Peking Duck. Crisp skin and moist meat are essential, but the Chinese are becoming increasingly health-conscious, and over half of the ducks they eat are now of a reduced-fat variety from England, maybe the Cherry Valley Duck (櫻桃谷鴨), I guess.
But is this necessary, or even good? An article on Domestic duck nutrition values shows that more than half of the duck fat is unsaturated, and although the table below suggests that a pound of ready-to-cook raw duck contains nearly twice your recommended daily value of saturated fat, much of this runs off in cooking.
And I have long been aware of The French Paradox. To quote:
In the United States, 315 of every 100,000 middle-aged men die of heart attacks each year. In France the rate is 145 per 100,000. However, In the Gascony region, where goose and duck liver form a staple of the diet, this rate is only 80 per 100,000 . . . This phenomenon has recently gained international attention as the French Paradox – They eat more fat in Gascony than any place else, but they live the longest .
Has anti-fat become a religion? Is there another way?
In Ancient Rome, the word fanaticus seems to have been quite a mild one, meaning simply “associated with a temple”. But in the 16th century, fanatic acquired its modern sense. This was the time of the Reformation, and Europe was in turmoil. That was the age when fanaticism would involve religion, and it still retains that association – for example, in the Ulster Protestant household in which I grew up that would imply Roman Catholics. However, it spread its meaning to incorporate political causes, and further still to football teams. And now it encompasses people who strictly limit their carbon footprint or their fat intake, and would compel others to do the same.
But perhaps there is an escape, with the The Power of Intermittent Fasting, tried out by Dr Michael Mosley. According to this:
Scientists are uncovering evidence that short periods of fasting, if properly controlled, could achieve a number of health benefits, as well as potentially helping the overweight, as Michael Mosley discovered.
The human guinea pig continues:
I decided I couldn’t manage Alternate Day Fasting, it was just too impractical. Instead I did an easier version, the so-called 5:2 diet. As the name implies you eat normally 5 days a week, then two days a week you eat 500 calories if you are a woman, or 600 calories, if you are a man.
I stuck to this diet for 5 weeks, during which time I lost nearly a stone and my blood markers, like IGF-1, glucose and cholesterol, improved. If I can sustain that, it will greatly reduce my risk of contracting age-related diseases like cancer and diabetes.
And it’s on Telly. In Eat, Fast and Live Longer, we see him trying these measures on himself. The upshot of the programme was that even 5:2 fasting is sufficient to cause a drop in Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which will turn one’s body from “growth mode” to “repair mode”. This may greatly reduce one’s liability to the degenerative diseases associated with aging.
Much better than ruining Peking Duck, methinks.