Motherhood in Western Europe

Insights from Western European Mothers

The changing face of motherhood — Western Europe

The accompanying reports combine a review of existing literature with an analysis of original quantitative data derived from a poll of 9,582 mothers from 12 countries in Western Europe, making it one of the largest studies of this kind ever conducted

Child Obesity and Health

An analysis of the latest available data from the Health Survey for England (HSE)

Child Obesity and Health — download the full report in pdf format

In this ‘National Childhood Obesity Week’, the SIRC report, Children, obesity and heath: Recent trends, holds up a true mirror, accurately reflecting the trend towards slimmer, healthier children. more

The Future of Freemasonry

An examination of the role of Freemasonry in the 21st century


This report is, as far as we know, an account of the first ever study that has been commissioned by Freemasons from a non-Masonic body. None of the SIRC members involved in the project are Freemasons, a fact that evoked surprise and welcome in equal measure from the Lodge members we met. more

The Changing Face of Motherhood

Insights from three generations of mothers


The report seeks to answer some specific questions about the changing face of motherhood and determine the extent to which modern ‘solutions’ to motherhood are more or less beneficial than the solutions of the past. more

Between the dentist and the dietician: a rock and a hard place

Amidst all of the politically correct advice on diet and health which occupies so many column inches of our newspapers, an article by Angela Dowden in the Evening Standard catches our attention: Now Apples are bad for you!. At first this seems like a candidate for our Scares and Miracles column. But no. It is in fact a nicely worked piece which challenges many of the 'myths' of what passes for dietary guidance these days.

The problem with apples, according to the Standard and the British Dental Association, is that they may encourage tooth decay. Given that we are now almost force-feeding them to children in the new National School Fruit Scheme, so eloquently revealed recently as nonsense by Professor Tom Sanders in these pages, dentists around the country may be looking forward to fuller waiting rooms.

Angela Dowden takes a closer look at a few other misguided assumptions – 'chocolate gives you spots', for example. Well, in fact, it doesn't. Nor is spinach a particularly good source of iron. Someone misplaced a decimal point and exaggerated its value in this respect by a factor of ten. Neither, it seems, does sugar cause diabetes in adults. Eggs do not clog arteries – in fact they generate higher levels of the 'good' type of cholesterol. And no, vitamins do not give you energy.

So why is it that these myths surround us in the first place? Everybody from the Food Standards Agency to the quack 'dieticians' of popular magazines purports to know what is best for us to eat. And most of the time they are wrong. There is no such thing as a perfect diet. There are no intrinsically 'good' or 'bad' foods. What we eat certainly has an impact on our health and our weight. But the rise of obesity and other eating disorders has occurred during a time when a myth-laden, moralising dietary correctness has replaced proper evidence-based advice.

What is missing from all of the propaganda is consideration of the nature of the relationship we have with food – the role it plays in our lives not only as a source of nutrition but also of enjoyment and pleasure. Instead of celebrating the joy of eating we surround it with warnings of hidden dangers and disease. In generating faddist anxieties we sow the seeds of unhealthy states which may be far worse than the occasional excess of fizzy drinks and cheeseburgers.

13 February 2002