ashwednesday: (Ticktock)
For my readers outside of the UK, Dr Ben Goldacre's analysis of the problem with Gillian McKeith will not seem very compelling. However, Goldacre's discussion of how McKeith is essentially a charlatan offers him the opportunity to open up a much more interesting and wide-ranging topic for discourse: how socio-economic inequities are what actually pose the greatest threat to health in this country (and within other nations). Here is a pertinent extract from the article.

In reality, again, away from the cameras, the most significant “lifestyle” cause of death and disease is social class. Here’s a perfect example. I rent a flat in London’s Kentish Town on my modest junior doctor’s salary (don’t believe what you read in the papers about doctors’ wages, either). This is a very poor working-class area, and the male life expectancy is about 70 years. Two miles away in Hampstead, meanwhile, where the millionaire Dr Gillian McKeith PhD owns a very large property, surrounded by other wealthy middle-class people, male life expectancy is almost 80 years. I know this because I have the Annual Public Health Report for Camden open on the table right now.

This phenomenal disparity in life expectancy – the difference between a lengthy and rich retirement, and a very truncated one indeed – is not because the people in Hampstead are careful to eat a handful of Brazil nuts every day, to make sure they’re not deficient in selenium, as per nutritionists’ advice.

And that’s the most sinister feature of the whole nutritionist project, graphically exemplified by McKeith: it’s a manifesto of rightwing individualism – you are what you eat, and people die young because they deserve it. They choose death, through ignorance and laziness, but you choose life, fresh fish, olive oil, and that’s why you’re healthy. You’re going to see 78. You deserve it. Not like them.
ashwednesday: (Academic at work)
Why must British people complain so much when the weather gets warm?! Especially since they complain a lot when the weather sucks. It seems to be part of the British condition to be constantly bemoaning the weather. I myself enjoy the fact that the weather is over 20C. Admittedly over the weekend the grey skies and humidity of approaching 100% made the warmth quite uncomfortable, but the skies are fairly clear today. As someone who finds English winters pretty depressing - it's not the cold, but the lack of light - I am glad for dry, warm days with daylight from 4am to 10pm! I must soak up the Vitamin D while I can. But at least the "heatwave" does give the BBC an opportunity to wheel out an article about how we can defend ourselves from the sun, accompanied, appropriately, by pictures of Africa and the Mediterranean.

In more sensible health news, ovarian cancer remains worryingly difficult to spot. As someone with PCOS, I am apparently at slightly higher risk of this form of cancer, so it's something I'm interested in. Unfortunately symptoms of ovarian cancer are non-specific and can be mistaken for many things, so it's often not diagnosed until very late. Only 30% of women diagnosed with it are alive after five years, which is a sobering statistic. Breast cancer has a far better survival rate, perhaps partly because it has a far higher profile. No one talks about ovarian cancer. That needs to change.

And since I'm apparently doing some kind of health round up, here is a ridiculous article that claims overweight celebs make "dangerous weight gain appear normal". Yes, the vast swathes of fat celebrities all over British TV are encouraging us to eat more! Very few overweight people appear in the public eye. The increased rates of obesity are a result of poor diet and increasingly sedentary lifestyles, not celebrities apparently making fat "cool". This sort of article just underlines the notion that if you're fat you should apologise for it. I am certainly not a fat activist; medical evidence strongly suggests that being very overweight shortens life expectancy, contributes to health problems, and reduces quality of life. However, unhealthy weight varies from person to person - and the kneejerk reaction against fat in the media has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with appearance. You can be a token fat person on TV, so everyone can see how marvellously accepting your producers are. Or you can be one of hundreds of skinny people. If you have larger than average breasts, you get to be "curvy" and to be heralded as some kind of realistic model of femininity. (Apparently Nigella Lawson, a size 8, is "curvy" for this reason.) If you're "curvy", you'll get to give lots of interviews to magazines where you're encouraged to say how much you like being a down to earth example of a healthy body shape. If you're one of the rare fat people, you will be expected to make humorous remarks defending your body size - but you'll also be expected six months down the line to lose a lot of weight and to talk about how much better you feel, ideally on some sort of Fat Camp TV show. If you're very thin, expect that magazines will frequently post candid photographs of whenever you lose or gain weight. You will be criticised for the former, and you will be "congratulated" on the latter, but in tones that suggest that really your photo is there to make people feel glad that the skinny bitch has bloated up. If you're a woman who doesn't fall into any of these categories, well, you won't be on TV, will you? So no worries there, then.

I close with a picture of Crystal Renn, one of only a very small number of women who are famous for being plus size models. She looks fabulously high fashion, even though her thighs aren't fabulously thin. The sad thing is that this is seen as a notable fact.


ashwednesday: ocean (Default)

January 2013

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