Fries and Salad

Blowing Up the Internet with “Starch Bombs”

Bless his heart. No doubt Harvard epidemiology professor Eric Rimm meant well. But his casual comments about potatoes being “starch bombs” have blown up the internet. The New York Times published his starch bomb comment and quoted him as saying:

I think it would be nice if your meal came with a side salad and six French fries.

Depending on how fries are served, said the Times, the starch bomb can become “a weapon of dietary destruction.”

Over to You, Twitter

Just those comments were enough to make the internet explode. Celebrity cook and model Padma Lakshmi garnered more than a hundred thousand likes and thousands of comments by simply tweeting:

Peter Gleick, a scientist and MacArthur Fellow offered some friendly advice: “Dude, you are seriously not helping the public perception of scientists…” Comedian Mike Birbiglia helpfully speculated: “It must be a typo. They probably mean 600.” Esquire ran a commentary with a headline that said it all:

A Harvard professor suggests limiting yourself to six french fries might help you live a longer life.
But what kind of life is that, anyway?

Health reporter Jessica Glenza aptly described a restaurant serving portions of only six fries: “Least successful restaurant ever.”

Do Epidemiologists Make Good Dietitians?

No doubt, professor Rimm is good at his chosen profession – epidemiology. However, dispensing dietary advice is a tricky business. “Don’t” and “you can’t” has a way of being counterproductive. It’s a great way to promote food cravings. Just look at the pushback that Rimm generated.

It’s one thing to look at dietary patterns in a large population. It’s quite another to translate that into dietary guidance and help people find healthier patterns for themselves to follow over a lifetime.

For that, we need dietitians.

Click here for the article in the Times. For further perspective on the reaction it generated, click here and here. Finally, if you want a broader perspective on potatoes, click here and here.

Fries and Salad, photograph by Suzy Hazelwood / flickr

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December 6, 2018

4 Responses to “Blowing Up the Internet with “Starch Bombs””

  1. December 06, 2018 at 10:48 am, Mary-Jo said:

    But, the memes and comments were hilarious and so they should be. Everyone’s just so frustrated and trying to find that one thing to make a difference, to get the biggest bang for the buck, so to speak, that it borders absurdity. Not helpful in garnering trust and being taken seriously when it’s hard enough to get folks onboard with effective, reasonable recommendations.

    • December 06, 2018 at 2:43 pm, Ted said:

      So true, Mary-Jo.

  2. December 06, 2018 at 9:03 pm, Cochran Neva said:

    As usual, Ted, you are right on target! Thanks so much for the shout-out for dietitians. I was incensed by this article, too, and as a registered dietitian nutritionist posted by own blog about it yesterday:

  3. December 11, 2018 at 5:17 am, Jade Dobson said:

    Spot on about why we need dietitians! Flimsy attention-seeking comments like Rimm’s just add to the confusing muddle of ‘information’ my clients get bombarded with. Not helpful!