One of the great mysteries of modern times is how "researchers" pick their targets.

Do they wander around supermarkets looking at the various items on display and decide that yes, they really must test toilet paper for carcinogens, or whether using a particular type of dish washing brush will cause Spina Bifida?

Picture the scene – a crowd of unemployed researchers have been out scouring the countryside looking for inspiration and they meet up in a pub for a few bevvies to drown their sorrows.  After, they naturally go fo a curry [as one does], and as they sit there fanning their mouths after a grand strong Vindaloo they have a Eureka moment.  "I know", says one.  "Lets see if curries make you live longer!"

Now this is a perfect subject.  They all love their curries [particularly after a few bevvies] so it is a simple case of proving that curries improve longevity, and naturally, that they reduce the risk of cancer.  After all, no study is ever complete without mentioning cancer somewhere along the line.  Even if you are studying the trajectory of asteroids, you still have to give cancer a mention somewhere, otherwise your research is useless.

So they draw out a questionnaire.  We don't want to waste money we don't have on laboratory equipment or any of that shit, and anyway questionnaires are so easily slanted to get the results we want.  Who cares if the respondents lie through the teeth?  We can always "adjust" the figures we don't like to take that into account.  Then all we have to do is bang the numbers into our iPad and Bob's you uncle – research done and all we have to do is write a startling conclusion.

Yes.  Curries prolong life.

People who ate spicy foods three to five and six or seven days a week were at a 14% reduced risk of death.  Note that they don't say "three or more times a week" as "three to five and six or seven days a week" sounds more precise.  And who says researchers have to be literate anyway?

So there you go now.  If you like curries you have a better than one in eight chance of never dying.  Presumably if you munch through two Vindaloos every day you will live beyond eternity?

However we must play it safe.  We don't want to be discredited so we stick in a little note saying that we must caution against linking any of these with lowering the risk of death.

So we have proved something and then tell people not to believe our proof.  What is the point in that?

So, should people eat spicy food to improve health? Nita Forouhi from the University of Cambridge says in an accompanying editorial that it is too early to tell.

She calls for more research to test whether these associations are the direct result of spicy food intake or whether this is a marker for other dietary or lifestyle factors.

Ah!  Surprise, surprise.

Give us more money!

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The secret of everlasting life — 13 Comments

  1. I've been eating curry dishes all my life. I cook curry dishes often – mixed vegetables, diced lamb, diced beef. Sometimes I curry vegetables and empty a can of tuna into the pot ten minutes before serving. I don't know about any connection between spicy food and longevity. One thing I know is that curried dishes are delicious. Another thing I know is that curry seems to clear my nostrils and deter bacterial thingummies that cause the common cold and sniffy noses. I don't have any scientific statistics to back up my impression, nor do I want any.

    • I have always had a fondness for the auld curry, and can lash up a mean one myself, though I usually have to make two as Herself doesn't like 'em as hot as I do.  I too have always maintained they are great for a bit of a head cold.  If nothing else, a drop of flu is a grand chance to dose myself up on a Vindaloo or two.

  2. My only concern with your analysis is that in my experience most food researchers are looking to get enjoyable things banned. I suppose there could be exceptions – maybe finding curries harmful would be considered racist and that over-rides the usual approach? – but otherwise I'm more incllined to think they started out to look for problems.

    • That's a fair point.  Maybe they were thinking of that when they said they wanted the results to be disregarded.  Further financing will doubtless prove that spices account for 198,000 deaths per year?

  3. Seems if you want to use the wifeys advice to do a Methuselah re-run then you may have a fractionally better chance using recipes from Bangladesh. Surprisingly they're life expectancy's about 4 years longer than folk from Pakistan or India. 

    But they're still a good ten years behind Britain, so it rather seems that stress, fried food, pastries and pies as well as overcrowding all play their part in crashing the pension system.  

    • My all time favourite was a recipe from the Punjab region so I suppose that would be classed as Indian?  I just wish someone from that region would come over here to open a curry house in my area.  I'd live beyond infinity.

  4. A 14% lower risk of death? How do they work that one out?  Isn't everyone's "risk of death," in the final analysis, actually 100%?  Or do they mean that rather than a curry-eater's whole body dying off, 14% of it will keep going forever, whilst the remaining 86% will pack up and disintegrate like everyone else's does.  What a very nasty thought!  I wonder if we curry-eaters will get a choice as to which 14% we want to keep going.

    • I would imagine that if curry were to prolong any part of the human body it would be the digestive system?  So all curry snufflers would ultimately end up as a load of arseholes?

  5. As you point out, GD, the most important part of this press release, and the rider that comes at the end of every conclusion (?) drawn by the researchers, whatever it is they're 'researching' is always "More research is needed".

    Well, how else are they going to pay the mortgage?

  6. My wife often makes curry dishes (love the stuff). I don't know how it's actually going to improve my longevity but I'm wondering if I really want to feel this way for a longer period of time?

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