Doctors tell all about damaging and dangerous prescriptions

Friday 13th June 2014 

  • The experts finally speak the truth

  • Raise Food Awareness

  • Wise up to the threat clever marketing poses to your families health

My old Nan was forever telling me that I had closed the stable door after the horse had bolted - a quaint old saying that many could learn a lot from here and now.

The recent past has been dominated by stories about why we should all be taking a daily dose of cholesterol lowering drugs to protect out health, following publication of the latest NICE draft guidelines which calls for the use of statins to be extended to all over the age of 50.

On Wednesday though I woke to an absolute media storm about statins again, however, these stories were all about a growing concern that doctors and experts have about being asked to prescribe drugs to healthy people that they don’t need...

...and for which there is increasing concern over their harmful side effects.

My favourite quote was from cholesterol specialist Dr Malcolm Kendrick who said “using statins might change
what it says on your death certificate, but not the date is gets written.” Powerful stuff!

He goes on “Statins have a lot more side-effects than opinion leaders state. To say they have no side-effects is ¬complete and utter nonsense.”

This is a man who is definitely on my Christmas card list this year.

But let’s think about what Nan Collins wise words were shall we?

Shouldn’t we be thinking about how we should be avoiding increased risk of heart disease from the outset and therefore dodging the need to make decisions about statin usage.

Prof Simon Capewell, an expert in clinical epidemiology at Liverpool University and one of the experts expressing concerns over statin use says that by condemning adults to a lifelong prescription for drugs they may not need we are robbing the HNS of funds.

He also states that an over reliance on drugs “steals attention from the major responsibilities that government and food industry have to promote healthier life choices for ourselves and our children."

Another man in line for a festive treat from yours truly.

He is absolutely correct the national diet has to come in for scrutiny as in my eyes there are four basic areas of concern; the things we eat, the way we eat them, the place we get them from and how we use food in our lives.

Much is made about the first three of these, usually in a negative fashion.

Take an idiotic piece written by Alison Phillips in the Daily Mirror a week ago when she said we were ‘Doomed to die fat because we’ve lost the will to say no.’

This type of comment misses the point, and means we are looking at a rapidly disappearing horses bum once again!

It isn’t the consumers fault Ms Phillips; it has little to do with will power or lack of self respect, and every thing to do with pernicious marketing and commercial interests.

I loved a comment I saw from celebrity chef René Redzepi in an interview for the Times magazine when he said “my family ate seasonally because we had no money. Now people pay hundreds of pounds for meals based on the same principles.”

We have all lost control of what we eat and suffer criticism crass media commentators as a result.

We are told that too much fatty food, eaten on the run and bought from cheap takeaway shops is bad for us – which is correct but very few commentators factor in the last aspect of my comment above – how do you use food in your life?

Think back over the last few weeks – how many times have you used food as a reward to yourself?

Had a busy day in the garden so a slice of cake and cup of sweet tea will boost your spirits again; maybe that bar of chocolate is payback for a morning spent trudging around the shops, or what about a guilty double chocolate muffin in a coffee bar whilst you’re out.

If we’re honest we all fall foul of a food bribe every now and again – the box of chocolates, promise of sticky sweet puddings or a robust bottle of wine for helping a neighbour out.

But how did we come to view food as such a powerful reward?

A hierarchy of needs

Abraham Maslow was a renowned professor of psychology at several US universities and described the concept of how humans fulfil their innate needs according to a set of priorities.

This so called hierarchy of needs has basic physiological ones at its base which include breathing, water and food; then progresses through safety factors such as shelter, onto community and belonging; then self esteem where we crave the respect of others, and finally culminates in what he called self-actualisation, which sees us free of prejudice and able to solve complex problems to everyones benefit.

As you will notice food is one of those basic factors, a necessity – but the modern world has actually made much more of it than that.

By carefully marketing produce, food companies have pushed their foods much higher up the pyramid of needs.
A willowy, wistful girl sucking a crumbly chocolate bar isn’t about basic need it is designed to raise the
Flake to a status symbol, enabling it to lift your self esteem and be the envy of others.

This programming of our brains to recognise certain foods as power starts in early life where sweet and sugary dishes are promoted as treats or special occasion fare.

Birthday cakes, jammy biscuits and fresh cream éclairs are jewels in the crown of a developing palate so that our bodies chemically crave sugar and our brains see it as a powerful statement of how important we are.

Logically we should perceive sweet carrots and fructose rich fresh fruits as desirable things, but we get conditioned to look for more artificial sources of sugar – don’t forget a Mars bar will help us work, rest and play.

We associate sweetened ‘isotonic’ drinks with athletic performance, and we are told they are even better than water at rehydrating our bodies.

We seem to fall for it every time.

An ice cold drink on a hot summers day sounds like heaven doesn’t it – what if that was a caffeine rich iced frappucino for less than £4 from Starbucks...

...mmm nice – but probably deadly!

Their large mocha cookie crumble frappucino with whipped cream apart from being a daft name for an iced coffee actually contains four times your daily limit of sugar, which isn’t good, if you’re a diabetic it’s a fast track to body meltdown.

Steps being taken to stop damaging advertising to our kids

Very slowly there is a move to stop overly sweetened foods from being advertised on TV, especially when children are likely to see it.

Like most such initiatives this has been handled in a half-hearted manner, and seems more about not upsetting the food companies rather than stopping their trash food from hitting the streets.

However, the latest news has shown that even though junk food can’t be shown on TV before nine o’clock at night the companies who make it are now hitting children through a variety of other online channels.

Channel Four's programme ‘Dispatches’ went undercover with reporters pretending to be children and found that they started to get messages and games through from the companies.

These were all explicitly promoting high sugar foods and breakfast cereals directly to the children who innocently access them.

Gerard Hastings, a professor from Stirling University is quoted as saying ‘this is about subterfuge to get into the kids’ lives.’  Whilst Dr Haiming Hang of Bath University has called upon the government to ban these promotional methods entirely saying that ‘companies are manipulating children into wanting food and drinks that are high in salt, sugar and fat.’

Interestingly the companies behind this are not small organisations but include the real giants of junk such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola, who say they were not targeting younger children but wanted to introduce their brands to those over the age of thirteen...

...oh that’s OK then!

As I said last Friday I think it is time that companies such as these, and the retailers who share the benefit, were taken to task.

By using strict controls on what goes into our food, making sure it comes from local producers and is in season, will go some way to address the problems our national diet is causing...

...but putting a stop to the overtly sensationalised publicity that the huge corporations use to push their unhealthy wares would be an even better way for our politicians to act.

Trouble is too many of them are trousering the benefits of their associations with big business to risk challenging them.

Maybe we need to take the initiative more with elections on the horizon. 

Yours, as always


P.S. I have raged against the horrors of statins over many years but if you missed my latest comment on the Five Statin Facts That Everyone Needs To Know click here to see what I was saying at the end of last month.





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