Monday, 30 March 2009

New Wonder Drug A Panacaea For The Middle-Aged?

If it wasn't so sad I would almost be laughing.

The concept of a "polypill", effectively a magic bullet to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, is not new. In fact the idea of a miracle pill was first bandied around in the news as early as 2003. Now fresh talk has been triggered by the results of a major trial in India which reveals that for a mere 50p a day, hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved.

What had me shaking my head this morning was the lead-in by one news caster talking of "a new pill (which) could cut heart attacks and strokes in half in healthy people". Sorry ... in healthy people! If people are healthy, why on earth would they need to take a pill with aspirin, a statin (to reduce high cholesterol), three different blood pressure drugs and folic acid thrown in for good measure. It must be cheaper to treat people for diseases they don't even have because they're bound to get them anyway!

Sounds like an excellent way to change a healthy person into a patient!

In fact, this report pretty much exemplifies just how broken the health (and minds) of "developed" nations has become. In my humble opinion, "good health" should not mean an "absence of disease". It should mean "brimming with vitality, mental clarity and positive energy".

Health and Wellness Centres should be places where people can go to exercise and consume organic, whole natural foods ... instead of doctor's offices where tired people go to top-up medical prescriptions and find remedies for their constipation.

The idea of this miracle pill "for everyone over 55" was mooted 5 years ago. Does nobody see the correlation between this paradym for "health" and an increasing burden on the NHS?

Perhaps the most ironic twist to this whole story is that the magic pill will only cost 50p per head to manufacture ... and that's precisely why drug companies aren't tripping over themselves to get on the bandwagon. It's cheap and effective! Or so we're told. Not even any notable side effects. How about that?

A band aid that will delay the inevitable. If people don't stop living the way they do, the next step will be to make it mandatory for all adults to pop stroke prophylactics!

We are losing the plot!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Retailers Just Don't Get It.

Today should reveal the outcome of what lawyers are calling "the largest group consumer compensation claim ever seen in British courts".

What happened? Well, China is a humid place. And Britain buys cheap leather sofas from China. But, because they're cheap and because of the muggy air ... sofas in transit were developing so much mould they were unsaleable on arrival.

Of course the Chinese were unhappy about having their sofas rejected. And so they solved the problem by stapling sachets of DMF, a chemical that inhibits mould, into the frames ... and even embedded them into the cushion covers.

Guess what? Not only is DMF toxic to fungus ... it is so toxic to humans it causes serious rashes and even burns in some of the people that purchased these little beasties. This all came to a head when a customer of one of the three prominent retailers that sell the offending articles developed a nasty rash and persisted in her quest to solve the problem. Eventually a dermatologist from Liverpool recognised the common denominator was recent purchases of cheap leather sofas and dug deep enough to reveal the cause.

It seems that, when the sachets were exposed to heat, the chemical evaporated and created serious injury. The retailers involved very responsibly advertised the possibility of more extensive related suffering ... and this led to more than 3500 other people coming forward. All these unfortunate souls were offered refunds or exchange.

Then the European Union took more decisive action to contain the damage and prevent this from happening in the future. Of course the legal situation is ongoing as a result, but it appears that one of the retailers is in administration.

Seems like the retail sector as a whole is really battling to stay viable. One wonders why?

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Economic Viability Blights School Food Initiative

I listened with interest to a report on BBC Breakfast this morning warning that new strict targets for nutrition in secondary schools will lead to a crisis for school caterers.

Apparently meals on offer over any three week period will have to provide a "grab bag" of 14 "essential" nutrients. It is feared that the new system will be too complicated to implement in a cost-effective manner ... and that children old enough to be permitted to leave school premises will exercise that option and head to the nearest local chippie.

This of course will defeat the purpose of the whole exercise.

I have mixed feelings on this. First, I come back to what I spoke about in my last post, which is that human nature is such that you can't impose other peoples' standards on anyone without resistance. These are teenagers we're talking about!

Second, we are again reinforcing a message of deprivation associated with healthy eating. Isn't this the reason why millions of people globally struggle with dieting and the psychology that surrounds it?

Third, fat is once again the bad guy. I see no meaningful distinction being made between the artificial fats in crisps and baked goods ... and fats that are healthy for you. I'm not a nutritionist, but I defy any quailified expert to justify with anything more than just regurgitated bluster, exactly why skim milk is any better for all kids than whole milk.

Cutting calories in isolation still appears to be an over-ridng focus. And we surely must have figured out by now that there is more to the obesity equation than the first law of thermodynamics.

For example, what ever happened to reinforcing the value of organic whole foods derived from plants grown in healthy soils, or meats from healthy animals? All produced by knowledgeable, local farmers? This of course would be totally impractical and non-viable. Or would it? Long term?

I think it's safe to say that if existing catering structures can't make a profit without selling add-ons like crisps, sweets and fizzy frinks ... then what chance will our kids ever have of learning the full truth about healthy eating.

Mind you, what chance do they have now, when experts working for the powers that be conveniently choose to ignore proven nutritional fundamentals like biochemical individuality in spite of mounting evidence that current initiatives just aren't getting results.

But then again, what do I know?

Friday, 20 March 2009

Obesity And Smoking: Leave Us Alone!

Pointing out that fast food is killing people is akin to doing the same with smokers ... guaranteed to make people more resistant.

So why on earth does everyone in the health industry keep trying to do it?

Leave people alone. If they are happy going down this road ... let them. Since when did any of us become the custodians of anybody's health other than our own and that of our kids?

Ah ... but who's going to pay when things go wrong? Simple. The same people that pay for everything else. The tax payer.

But something must be done! Yes ... get off their case. Stop bothering them and let them get on with it.

Let's get back to good old-fashioned "survival of the fittest".

Why? Because what we're doing now clearly isn't working. In fact it's achieving the opposite. MacDonalds has plans to open more than 1000 new outlets this year. In this economy! Some of them in Walmarts.

When we learn that we can't control the way people manage their own affairs anymore than we can control the whims of Mother Nature, then we may start to get it.

Get what Don? There are over 6.5 billion people on the planet right now. An increasing percentage of these human beings are in crisis.

Do the math. Before Mother Nature does it for us.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Price Increases Cure Addictions

Unsurprisingly, I got a few comments about Dr David Walker's suggestion that chocolate should be taxed like alcohol or cigarettes.

Since this last post the UK Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, has come out and pressed for a minimum per unit price on booze "to change Britain's binge-drinking culture". Seems this will protect young and irresponsible heavy drinkers.

To be fair this proposal did not receive support from #10 ... but the fact that it was even tabled speaks volumes about how far out of whack things have become.

At what point will we stop protecting these miscreants and start bringing them to account? They don't care a rat's about the price ... and they don't care who they insult, offend or abuse. And they won't ever take responsibility for the havoc they cause unless we stop holding their hands and excusing their behaviour. Oh, I forgot, they're children (or at least they're under 18)... which means they can't possibly be responsible for anything. It must all be society's fault. What was I thinking?

Or have I missed the point completely and this is all just another clever way to drum up more indirect tax revenue under the guise of social responsibility?

I think I'll have another chocolate Easter Bunny. I'd better wind my neck in.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Obesity And Chocolate Tax

Here's a sign of the times.

Between 2004 and 2008, Fire Departments in England where called out 1784 times ... to help move seriously obese people!

Turns out a special 27 stone (378 lbs) dummy has been custom built for training specific to this purpose. There are also reinforced beds designed to support people weighing up to 42 stone (588 lbs) available to those in the need. This is putting strain on existing resources (I'll bet).

And only yesterday on BBC Breakfast a report covered the opinion of a Scottish doctor who has suggested that the government tax chocolate. The logic behind this is that people would think twice and view chocolate as a "treat" instead of a daily habit. Apparently we have been guzzling 10kg per person, per year ... and that's just in the UK.

Do we really need a tax to get the message that excess chocolate consumption is a destructive habit? I suspect such a move will be about as effective a deterrant as the tax on booze.

But it sure would raise enough to bail out another bank!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Please Stop Smoking

Dragon's Den star Duncan Bannatyne was on BBC Breakfast this morning talking about his new anti-smoking initiative in schools.

GBP 2,111 (the average annual per capita cost of indulging the smoking addiction) is on offer to the youngster deemed to have the most novel way of persuading his/her parents to kick the habit.

Of course, in the spirit of true fairness, part of the discussion's entertainment was provided by "Sue", a die-hard smoker and campaigner for the rights of adults to make an informed decision. And she, predictably, was fiercely opposed to this new assault on the sensibilities of adult addicts.

Having been a smoker for many years ... and knowing how annoying it was to constantly be badgered to give up ... I remain fascinated by the mentality of smokers.

The right to control our own fate is the logic that always surfaces in the face of evidence that smoking will kill you in a most undignified manner. Oh, and the mythical auntie who smoked all her life and reached the ripe old age of 90-something.

Is this the addiction talking, or are millions of otherwise sentient adults profoundly immature and delusional? Of course it's the addiction.

And, as non-smokers, we understand this. Sort of.

What I don't understand is how selfish people can be. OK, so one can't reason with an addict who is grasping at straws ... but surely these folk must understand just how antisocial the habit is? Don't they care about the smell? Most embrace personal hygiene. Most hate the smell of garlic, or halitosis ... or body odour.

So why don't they recognise that the smell of stale cigarette smoke is every bit as offensive to non-smokers?

As with dieting and weight-loss, all common sense yields to far more powerful psychological forces. Let's hope that we can begin to understand a little bit more about these so that more people can become free ... and so the rest of us don't have to put up with the stench just to interact with people we care about.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Should Trans Fats Be Banned?

Well it's Friday again and now that my dad is an internet celebrity I would not dare miss this post!

Drum roll please ... as promised, here's the link to my new blog Follow Me Slim

Of course I will continue to post bi-weekly here as I really have become quite attached to Health Essentials and find that writer's block is never a problem for me.

I came across an article in Zest magazine recently on trans fats, the gist of which was an argument for continued, heightened lobbying of the UK government to ban trans fats. Apparently they are banned already in Denmark, Switzerland, New York, Boston and California.

For those of you who have been fast asleep, trans fats are chemically altered vegetable oils that are ubiquitous in processed biscuits, confectionery and fast foods. The devil of the fat world ... a shortcut to heart disease and a regular feature in many shopping carts.

Some high profile food manufacturers and retailers (including Tesco, M & S and McVitie's) have voluntarily removed them from their products, prompting the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to advise government last year that a ban was unecessary.

My position? I'm against banning anything that doesn't involve abuse of humans or other creatures. If segments of the British population want to eat themselves into an early grave, that's their perogative. No one's going to ban booze, which is every bit as harmful to people's health in the quantities most are imbibing ... and has the added bonus of causing offensive behaviour.

Then there's cigarettes, fumes from manufacturing, vehicle fumes, industrial chemicals, air fresheners, soft drinks ... should I go on?

Banning things is like dieting. It won't change the mentality of people any more than a magic bullet will teach people healthy consumption habits.

But we'll still keep looking.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

For My Dad

My Dad complained yesterday that I hadn't updated this blog on Friday, as is my usual routine.

So Dad, this post is just for you!

I was delighted actually to hear that he still follows my writing even though I know he's really busy. Now if I could just persuade him to start walking again ...

The reason I didn't update at my usual time was partly by design (I wanted to leave the previous post up to let people know about my new blog) ... and partly inexcusable (I was pre-occupied and uninspired, so took the easy way out).

My new blog is turning out to be a lot of fun!

First, my computer skills are shocking, so accomplishing even the most basic of tasks is quite daunting for me. I'm also too much of a perfectionist and want everything just right before I "go public". I know, that's sad. But hey ... in spite of these tiny obstacles, I'm getting really excited.

The whole idea behind my new venture is to paint myself into a corner. Since moving to the UK, I have put on a few pounds. I came over from Zimbabwe last year, so seeing all this organic food, fresh salmon and prawns has been a culture shock. And an irresistable temptation.

Actually, I shouldn't use Zimbabwe as an excuse as I was "rather large" even on my arrival, in spite of living on eggs, the odd can of smuggled tuna, rice and cauliflower. I think I may have overdone it on the rice? What can I say, I was slightly stressed.

Anyway, I'm in a good place now and have resolved to resculpt myself into a leaner, healthier version of what I was ten years ago. My vision is to have the body of a fit 30 year-old, with the wisdom (hah!) of a 40-something-ish person. It would also be nice to re-acquaint myself with my feet when I look down.

By recording all this, including some rather ghastly photos, I figure I'll have no choice. Slim down ... or embarrass myself profoundly in front of my online audience. Along the way, I'm going to be recording my daily slog, warts and all.

I may even throw in the odd bit of useful information about how to lose weight safely and how to hone a healthier existence. You never know.

I'll give you all the link in my next post on Friday, even if I have fallen far short of perfection.

I'm hoping to attract a bunch of people who have similar aspirations for 2009 and who want a daily source of inspiration. And a good laugh.

And I want to get my old man to start moving again. For those of you who don't know ... he's 80 years old, works like a dog, enjoys the odd Johnny Walker and gets concerned when his son misses a post.

How cool is that!