Thursday, 7 February 2008
The Year of the (stronger) Rat
A rat story for the Year of the Rat.
It may surprise you that there are over 800 compounds present in coffee aroma.
But it will surprise you that all of them are poisonous and probably carcinogens.
Before you switch to dandelion tea, let me put it to you that everything is a poison and a carcinogen.
Cancer is not a result of a chemical, it is a result of your genetic processes 'stumbling' under pressure, often (though not always) from a chemical load.
Consider the grain of sand. If a single grain of sand falls on your shoulder, it will most probably bounce off. If not, you can brush it off. No harm done.
But what if a truckload falls on you? Bluntly put, the system can't cope.
So it is with chemicals. Your liver is taking small amounts of chemicals from your system every day, without a problem. That is part of the liver's job. But overload the system, and what happens?
Two things happen. If it is a massive overload, you get poisoning. If it is a persistent lower level load, then the likelihood of the system operating correctly will suffer. Have you ever had the situation when you knew you could do something, play the piano for example, but up on stage, under pressure, you made mistakes?
Cancers are your body making mistakes under pressure.
This brings us to the laboratory rat.
The scientists test chemicals on rats, specially bred weak, milksop rats, rats with a pre-existing disposition to develop cancers. They then feed the rat a diet of 5% of the chemical being investigated. Apart from water and sugar, no single compound makes up 5% of your diet. The rat, not surprisingly, will develop cancers.
You see, they can't wait 75 years to see if there is a problem with normal consumption levels so they increase the level administered to try to speed up the process. This makes as much sense as putting your pizza in a blast furnace to cook it quickly and then complaining that the pizza is prone to burning during the cooking process.
The scientists then draw a long bow and say that, because a weedy rat consuming five percent of its diet as compound x every day for a year developed cancer of the gonads, it follows that a human consuming 0.1 parts per million occasionally will also develop this cancer.
What we really need are stronger rats.
And smarter scientists.
Note: I am not in favour with many of the various artificial compounds being introduced into our diet but, in this post at least, my issue is with the flawed testing regime; not the need, or otherwise, of the additive. That can be another post.
Have you ever seen that ad where the little girl asks her Mum:
"Mum? How do you make butter?" "Why, dear you take cream and churn it."
"And how do you make margarine?"
"I don't know dear, ask your father. He's the chemist."
Well, I'm that chemist. Look out!