Monday, 25 February 2008

Cake or Death?

It was the great philosopher Izzard who first raised the question "Cake or Death?"...a question which forces us to look deep inside ourselves and consider what we really want.


For those of us who aren't emos (or very sensitive diabetics), the answer is easy. Cake. We all like a nice bit o'cake don't we?

Marjorie Dawes says we do, and who are we to argue?

As Marie Antionette never said, let them eat cake!

But one man has overcome the either / or choice presented by the "Cake or Death" question. He has had both:

"An inquest is to be held on a man who died during a contest to see who could eat the most fairy cakes."

We all know that too many cakes can kill us, but we usually expect it to be a fairly slow process of weight gain, heart strain and sweaty breathlessness, rather than cake and death in immediate succession.

This man was not just a glutton though, eating cake because he couldn't resist its sweet, spongey charms:

"The man, thought to be from Birmingham, collapsed at a Swansea nightclub during the event at the end of a party to raise funds for an art exhibition"

This raises some interesting questions.

Firstly, although I'm not much of a clubber, the notion of fairy cakes at a nightclub seems a little...unusual. In my limited experience, nightclubs are well supplied with warm lager, spiked Bacardis and patches of 50%-proof vomit dotted liberally around the floor and tables, but typically lacking in the "baked goods" department.

Secondly, what kind of art exhibition raises its funds in a nightclub? Call me prejudiced (because I am), but surely there's not much overlap between the nightclub crowd and the art appreciation crowd? A little, sure, but not much. Someone who appreciates art is surely likely to view staggering around a dancefloor, flapping their limbs to the beat of some dodgy too-loud euro-techno in what their drunken brain considers to be a sexually alluring way, with a large dose of disdain?

Thirdly, and perhaps most interestingly, how did he die of cake? Possibly he ate so much that he distended his stomach enough to tear it, but that seems a bit unlikely to me.

Although the BBC article doesn't provide any suggestions on the cause of death, I think the most likely one would be a sugar overdose - fairy cakes are certainly at the sweeter end of the cake spectrum and my CSI: Sugar-rush skills give a strong indication that the killer would appear sweet, but full of hidden danger.

One of the effects of consuming too much sugar is that it wrecks your immune system for 4-5 hours (see ), but unless there were some pretty fast-working microscopic murderers around then this couldn't explain the rapid death.

I guess the most likely cause culprit would be the plummet in blood sugar levels after the initial sugar rush - the more intense the sugar hit, the more the body is likely to over-compensate when trying to bring sugar levels back down to normal, resulting in them dropping dangerously, or in this case fatally, low.

UPDATE: The BBC story has now been updated and it appears the actual cause of death was choking. Its tragic, but its another example of our "go on...just one more, it'll be a laugh" culture where people (often in Nightclubs) push each other to have "one more" drink (or cake) and mock those who don't. Remember folks, quality > quantity! If there's any fans of "Intelligent Design" reading this, please explain why the supposed Intelligent Designer thought it would be a good idea for our only breathing tube to be the same one our food goes down.

So next time you find yourself presented with the choice "cake or death" beware - the two options might not always be so different after all.

Statistically though, cake is the safer option, so don't have nightmares!

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