LAST night I spotted an ad about a margarine that looks and tastes like butter. It had all the hallmarks of marketing trickery – hot potatoes and crusty rolls dribbling yellow liquid that isn't butter but could be, right?
And, if margarine people would have you believe them, it's better to eat the spread that looks like butter, but isn't, because supposedly, it's healthier for your heart.
If I were still a health journalist, I'd give you a quick summary of the facts behind the fiction, but instead, I'll just be opinionated, as usual. This ad – and the many ads before them, as well as latest "studies" and "science-backed recommendations" – are increasingly looking like a jolly waste of time. And time, for women such as you and me, is more precious than a Sunday lie-in.
I sometimes wonder if corporations and governments deliberately scramble our brains in relation to health and nutrition. Because, if you took a screen shot of then and now, you'd ponder how it is possible for the rules to have changed so fast – and with such fanfare and fuss – over only a few decades.
As children, my grandparents grew plump and able on spoonfuls of lard, jacket potatoes and butter (real butter, from cows). As grandparents, they never touched butter again, swapped full-cream milk for fat-free and, confusingly, ate only white bread, which supposedly was easier on the stomach and prevented ulcers. This is what they were told and so, as we do, they listened.
When I grew old enough to make food choices, I labelled white bread evil and only ate brown. Then, I was told that wheat may be my weight problem, so I switched to rye. But oh! There's gluten in rye too, so that had to go – since perhaps gluten, not wheat, was the culprit. That left me with corn bread, which won't toast.
At some point, I embraced the organic movement, which is hard when you live in the sticks. I also figured that if a product didn't say GMO, that it was probably not genetically modified and so reasonably okay to eat. But then they told us that 70% of all processed food was GMO, including my son's favourite "bad" chips – the ones that keep him content during shopping.
I worked up a sweat finding the remaining 30% of non-GMO goodies that might keep my testy toddler happy, only to discover that probably anything containing corn – and there's a lot containing corn – was GMO. That left me with grapes; but these apparently contain such a high load of chemicals and pesticides that I'd be better off with fresh air and water.
Except, there's no such thing as properly fresh air, they say – or pure water, unless you install one of those osmosis-type thingies in your kitchen, or buy it in recyclable plastic bottles (which themselves may or may not be harmful, according to various sources which contradict each other).
A wise Chinese guru once said that laughter was the best medicine and, sheesh Louise, he has to be right.
As I dare to sip from the bottle of water on my desk, knowing fully well that if I drink too little, I'll die, but if I drink too much, I'll die too, I comfort myself with the knowledge that for every research study against wine, there are 12 others encouraging me to have two glasses a day.