Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Do You Crave Bread All The Time?

Someone very near and dear to me mentioned recently that this blog always "had a go" at other people ... and that wasn't always pleasant.

So I thought for today's post I'd be nice and find something interesting to say that didn't involve disrespecting anyone, or any one thing. I'm not sure how long I can keep this up, but here goes anyway.

If you ever wondered why there are times when we become fixated with grain-based foods like pasta or bread ... well, I think I stumbled upon the reason.

You're probably thinking that bread and pasta are carbohydrates ... and so they turn to sugar and that's pretty addictive. But I'm talking about whole wheat granary bread and durum wholewheat pasta. You know, the healthy stuff. The complex carbohydrates that release their sugars into the bloodstream at a much more sedate pace.

So, if sugar isn't the culprit (and I don't think it is), then what else could it be? Well the answer I think will surprise you. Grains (particularly wheat, rye, oats and barley) contain a protein called gluten. And gluten is far more notorious because of all the bad press about food intolerances.

But get this ... gluten does not digest properly and along the way it turns into a host of chemicals with structures not too disimilar to an opiate. You know, like morphine or heroin!

So your addiction to grain products starts to make sense after all. We are told that cravings have psychological roots. Perhaps that's why they are so powerful. What better answer to an itch that is never satisfied than a food that metabolises into one of the most powerful sedatives known to mankind.

At least for a while.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Superman Sells Viagra!

Today I thought I'd pick on a post I came across on the BBC by a certain gentleman named Dr Richard Barker, the "Director General of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry".

You can find the article here.

In short, Dr Barker suggests that the contribution of the pharmaceutical industry is diminished by the perception that it is a greedy giant profiting at the expense of sick people. He suggests that the industry does not receive the recognition it deserves and goes on to talk about "unsung heroes" working on the front line "on a mission to address human disease."

Readers of this article could be excused for becoming quite choked up by the unfairness of it all. First Dr Barker puts a very human face on the nebulus giant. Then he tugs at the very roots of British pride by outlining medical accomplishments from Alexander Fleming (the Scot who discovered penicillin in 1928) to today's cutting edge UK research.

And I quote ... "Personally, I believe we are living in a very fortunate age. Since Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, enormous advances have been made in terms of improving public health."

An indisputable contribution, no doubt. Anyone suffering from acute injury or disease, or anyone requiring palliative care has to be profoundly, enormously grateful that we live in modern times. Likewise, infectious diseases of the past have indeed been virtually erradicated ... and we have modern medicine to thank for that. No issues there, Sir.

But has the "public health" really improved? Chronic degenerative diseases resulting from preventable causes are now at unprecedented levels. "Adult-onset diabetes" has been renamed "Type 2" because it is such a huge factor in children now. Dementia in middle-age. Obesity and metabolic disorders ... the list goes on and on. And yes, we have ways of alleviating the symptoms. And yes, this means less suffering and fewer premature deaths.

But is the state of public health something any industry should be crowing about? The pharmaceutical industry is a master at symptom alleviation. You can buy medications for diarrhoea, constipation, pain, depression, weight-loss, sexual dysfunction, high cholesterol ... the list is endless. And every one of these conditions is largely preventable by lifestyle change.

About altruism, not money? Sure, why not? We need another hero. And we'll buy anything. But when will this industry start funding initiatives that show people how they can live healthier lives and avoid the need for symptom relief altogether? And not just cosmetic gestures?

I didn't think so.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Orlistat: Emergency Contraception For Fat

First, a quick thankyou to regular readers of this blog for your patience. Some of you may have noticed I have taken a breather from writing. I apologize if I was missed ... but I'm still not sure there's too much danger of that yet!

As this is somewhat of a comeback and I know people are starved for sarcastic rhetoric, I thought I'd choose a soft target for today's slaughter. Orlistat, or "alli" as this obesity pill is known commercially is now available for sale over the counter in the UK.

Yes folks, not only can you purchase emergency contraception from your friendly pharmacist for those remorseful morning afters when you realise a baby isn't convenient, but now when you eat your favourite treats, you can bind that pesky fat and block it from being absorbed by your body. Pizza prophylactic if you will.

Of course there's a small price to pay. A little gas, maybe some diarrhoea (did I spell that right?). But the drug company that manufactures the pill has actual clinical trials that say that adding orlistat to "a reduced calorie, lower fat diet" can help people lose 50% more weight than dieting alone! How cool is that? Statistical vindication by double-blind studies no less.

Man ... I actually don't know where to start on this one. Even such salubrious institutions as the Royal College of GP's don't seem to see anything more wrong with this mentality than side-effects. They suggest this remedy should be used with "support and dietary advice". There's sage counsel indeed!

Gas and diarrhoea ... that folks is a tip off that your digestive system is complaining. Then I suppose I should talk about this current fetish for low fat. Hasn't anyone of these highly qualified geniuses seen a correlation between "low fat" and obesity. Isn't obesity unprecedented because of refined carbohydrates and chemically altered fats? Or should I become a nutritionist first before I have enough credibility to voice the unspeakable?

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society "welcomed the drug" according to a report by the BBC. Which I guess pretty much sums up where we're at. The real concern is not to teach people how to take care of themselves. That's way too complicated and profoundly naive of me, I know.

The real concern is not even to alleviate suffering. No ... what really drives this is money. Money for the company that manufactured this miracle of modern pharmaceutical technology. And money that the NHS would inevitably have to fork out down the road when people guzzling man-made "food" become dependant on even more miracle drugs, sooner than expected.

So great news for epicurians! You can now have drunken reckless intercourse without consequence and we can continue to eat whatever we choose, so long as we have access to counselling and a qualified custodian controlling availablity. After all, it's not your fault!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Fast Food Is Nutritious Now: It's All In The Numbers.

I noticed a report the other day that a large fast food retailer (who shall be nameless) was now publishing "nutrition" stats on the "food" they were selling.

People who know me will know that, when I do a road trip, I always indulge in at least one burger. And guess what? I enjoy every mouthful ... even though I know that it is not contributing to my health goals in any way. But I digress ...

So I pulled in to check out how this potentially damaging information was being handled ... and whether I could learn exactly how much my penchant for the odd burger was hurting me.

The outlet I visited had a tiny little stand hidden off to one corner, with a bunch of rather non-descript brochures crowing that the company in question was "Proud To Show Off Our Figures". They then went on to trademark the name of their nutritional and allergen guide. Marketing ... or social responsibility? Whatever it was, it must be important.

Imagine ... you can now eat yourself senseless knowing that the food you are guzzling is both nutritious and free from the specific allergens that may not agree with your delicate constitution. How good is that?

I paged through the brochure eager to begin my nutritional education and realized that it was a good thing that I had thought ahead and bought my reading glasses. The print, though neatly presented, was so small (microscopic almost) that it was readable only by kids and diamond graders.

But there they were. Detailed statistics on weight, calories, macronutrient breakdown, fibre, sodium, saturated fat and every potential allergen you could think of. Perfectly targeted to the average fast food consumer who of course will now instantly realize the implications of that extra slice of cheese and reign in their hedonistic impulses.

Here's the kicker though ... in all of this analysis the crafters of this document of truth and transparency had conveniently left out any mention of hydrogenated fats. You know, that ones that aren't nutritionally beneficial to us even in small quantities. But didn't that newscast I saw feature some company spokesman banging on about how important it was for their consumers to be able to make an informed decision?

Who are they kidding?

Oh, sorry ... their entire customer base. Well that's something to be proud of. Yeah, I know, the supermarkets are doing it too. And we have to be proactive in sculping public perceptions. And then there are those beastly labelling laws, which are actually going to be understandable soon ... and then what?

Caveat emptor!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

We Are Killing Our Children

There is never a shortage of issues to talk about whenever I watch the news.

Today was no exception. I won't go into the specifics, but the gist of what was being discussed was that charity groups were calling for an extra 3 billion pounds to be spent on feeding low income families.

People were considered vulnerable to rising costs associated with a "typical" basket of 33 goods. But here's where the madness begins. The first 4 items flashed onto the screen were:

- baked beans ... fibre drenched in sugar and artificial chemicals

- pork sausages ... a high fat treat from unhealthy, force-fed pigs

- refined breakfast cereal ... hold on, haven't we been told that's a "health" food?

- pasteurized milk ... raw, organically produced milk from healthy grass-fed cows of course would be too expensive, even if it was available

No doubt, the rest of the basket would have included beauties like chocolate, chips and baked goods ... all guaranteed to flood our systems with refined sugar, hidden salt, hydrogenated fat, stimulants and low fibre, refined carbohydrates.

At what point will someone realize that we are creating a nation of dependant people who are virtually guaranteed to be a huge burden on the NHS by the time they are middle-aged ... because they simply don't know any better?

When will education replace handouts?

And when will just one of these so called nutrition gurus stand up and tell people what they really need to know ... that we're not just over-feeding our kids, we're killing them with shockingly bad food and drink choices.

I walked into a supermarket the other day. There was no bottled water for sale and yet there were aisles and aisles of soft drinks, biscuits, chips, chocolates, booze, TV dinners, processed meats, white bread, exotic cheeses ... and cosmetics!

Turn on the television and any station that shows commercials will be seductively extolling the virtues of chocolate, chips and just about any other processed treat you can think of.

So why do we all wonder why childhood obesity is an issue? Why do we create task forces and recruit high profile chefs, doctors and dieticians to "come to grips" with the problem ... when the problem is absolutely, patently obvious?

No-one is prepared to tell the whole truth, because people just don't want to hear it.