Music: Forever Changes by Love (opens in new window).
We usually drive to get any great distance; in fact we’re high in the stats for vehicle ownership thanks to our acceptance of cheap, excellent quality, second hand Japanese car imports. Consequently the roads get a bit busy and, now and then, unsafe on holidays.
Last Monday was Anniversary Day, and I was driving back to Auckland after enjoying sun and surf at Papamoa near Tauranga. The weather was hot, the road still not so busy, as I cleared the Karangahake Gorge and headed into Paeroa. Suddenly, I found myself in a thick stream of traffic that had slowed to a crawl on the outskirts of Paeroa.
"The tradition of men not buttoning the bottom button of waistcoats is said to be linked to Edward, who supposedly left his undone due to his large girth. His waist measured 48 inches (122 cm) shortly before his coronation. He introduced the practice of eating roast beef, roast potatoes, horseradish sauce and yorkshire pudding on Sundays, which remains a staple British favourite for Sunday lunch."]
Some minutes later we could see the cause of this obstruction: a police checkpoint. This would normally be expected to relate to testing for alcohol, or checking vehicles and warrants of fitness for roadworthiness, or investigating a recent crime. Police business.
My car was waved over and stopped. With the clear sense of innocence that comes from imperfect recall, I wound down my window and listened to the police officer.
A campaign against driver fatigue; would we like a bottle of water for each person in the car, and a leaflet on avoiding fatigue? Yes please, and I drive off.
In other words, the New Zealand Police were detaining motorists to give them a leaflet printed by another arm of government, the ACC, that contained “healthy eating”
No reference given. My God, I thought, what truck fleet has so many serious crashes that these sorts of statistics are able to be generated? Whatever they eat, this company sounds like a public menace.
On the face of it, there are other flaws in the argument; most accidents involving trucks are not the trucker’s fault, and there are increased accident rates at certain times of day, due to circadian factors, which may coincide with meals. Did they separate sugar from fat, from starch, from total calories?
The study is mentioned online in terms suspiciously similar to those in the leaflet, but never referenced, and seems to be immune to my normally productive search style. I am only able to learn that it took place in the UK.
This called for a phone call to ACC, then an email to their statistics department, which received a prompt acknowledgement and began a wait for information. Meanwhile, I checked out references to driving safety in David Benton’s “Food for Thought”. Too much or too little blood glucose is associated with accidents. Lowered cholesterol levels (by drug or diet) are associated with a doubled risk of death by vehicle accident, homicide, or suicide (pdf), probably due to increased aggression (I suspect this might not be the case if increased fish consumption caused the drop, but only if it was due to polyunsaturated seed oils, or statins and other drugs).
This would seem to contradict the message in the leaflet if the first part of the lipid hypothesis were to actually be true (I suspect that cholesterol and diet are not so predictably linked at the individual level).
My advice for safe driving would be to avoid foods that cause blood sugar slumps (refined starch and sugar), skip anything deep fried, go for a little protein (cold meat, smoked fish, boiled eggs, cheese), raw vegetables and fresh fruit if you’re hungry on the road. Eat a filling breakfast like I did but otherwise don’t fill’er’up till you get where you're going. Drink plenty of water, if for no other reason than to make you stop and stretch your legs whenever you pass a toilet. Drink coffee, black or with cream, rather than uber-sweet energy drinks, but not too much too soon . And, over the longer haul, unless you are under the care of a competent cardiologist for good and proper reasons (perhaps time to reconsider whether you should be driving precious or heavy loads on long trips at all), avoid the temptation to tamper with your “cholesterol”. That’s a form of self-abuse with the potential to lead to mental and physical degeneration.