Saturday, August 19, 2006
Much as I admire the spirit of American capitalism, I have always been wary of letting the great Kellogg company get its hands on my intestines. Yet that is what is wants to do with all its fibre-rich cereals. Lately, however, the yoghurt companies with products like Yakult have been attempting to wrest our bowels from its grip with claims about their "probiotic" products which are said to fill our guts with "friendly" bacteria. These claims about yoghurt date back to the time when the Russian Nobel prizewinner Elie Metchnikoff convinced himself that certain Bulgarian peasants lived to a great age because of their consumption of yoghurt. In fact, the longevity of the peasants was a myth. Metchnikoff, however, was convinced that yoghurt was good for "arresting putrefractions and pernicious fermentations." He was, in short, anti-shit. The current claims for probiotic yoghurt seem to be foundering because the acidity of the stomach kills those amiable bacteria. This allows Kellogg's and the other cereal companies to strike back with "prebiotic" food that makes the intestine a more congenial place for nice bugs to live. Again, this seems to me to be anti-shit in that it claims to make our defecations somehow more pleasant. In fact, almost all food fads are simply coprophobic fantasies. Even those calorie restrictionists who try to live longer by eating less are, I suspect, in the business of shit-avoidance. There is one great, shining truth of life which we all acknowledge and yet, in our dietary fantasies, strive to deny. Shit happens.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 3:48 pm