Saturday, 19 January 2013

It's time to rein in the Health Police

It’s time to rein in the Health Police.

Never have humans lived such long and healthy lives. And yet, never have we been so paranoid about our health and never have we consumed so many utterly useless and expensive vitamin pills and ‘natural’ remedies.

And never have the health police had such an over-the-top control of our lives.  

Sun Cancer Prevention:

The sun has supposedly become so toxic that we must not show ourselves unexposed at all, ever. Hats, coverup clothing, sunscreen (50+ of course)  Otherwise, we will undoubtedly get skin cancer – Melanoma. There used to be other forms of skin cancer spoken of – but these days, it’s only Melanoma, the killing variety.

We are told to have annual checkups. If we take up that advice, we will almost certainly wind up with scars where ‘cancers’ have been cut out. And at least half of us will be told that on biopsy it was proven to have been Melanoma, and very likely that early detection has ‘saved our life.’

But wait a moment – the figures just do not add up. In a lifetime, I’ve only ever known one man who died of skin cancer, and that was decades ago. If so many diagnoses are made, we should be seeing a lot more deaths than one in forty years.

So now, we are so frightened of exposure to the sun, that there’s a new apparent problem – that people are Vitamin D deficient, and need to take supplements such as ‘Wild Krill Oil.’ (Ever known tame krill?)  So instead of spending just a little time in the sun, people are gulping down more unnecessary and expensive ‘natural’ supplements. It is enough to make one wonder if the vitamin supplement manufacturers are behind the fear of the sun – or maybe those in the skin clinic industry, the ones who want us to have an annual check of every mole or spot on our body. Maybe they haven’t noticed that it is normal to develop more blemishes as we age.  


There is an ‘obesity epidemic’  and it costs billions in healthcare every year.

Yes?  I haven’t noticed it myself. Given prosperous times, there have always been one or two fatties in a classroom of children, and in middle age, men and women have always become more solid, the same as other animals do, and more and more of us are surviving into middle and old age. With the way that ‘overweight’ is always lumped in with obesity, it is hard to know whether there are indeed more obese people than there used to be.   

But also, is it so bad for our health? Or is it rather that it has become an aesthetic matter or even a moral matter. Thin is good, fat is bad. And yet, we look at old films, and the women who were admired then had substantial figures. Marilyn Monro would never have made it in today’s Hollywood – she’d probably be told she was ‘borderline obese.’

The male stars? An old James Bond film shows Sean Connery quite substantial around the middle, not like Daniel Craig’s ‘washboard abs.’ Male film stars have to work far harder to be heart-throbs these days.

Sometimes what we are told by the health police flies in the face of the actual evidence:  

The Independent: 
Jeremy Laurance
Jeremy Laurance is Health Editor at The Independent
Wednesday 02 January 2013

Being overweight can extend life rather than shorten it, according to a major new study that runs counter to widespread medical assumptions and years of warnings about the fatal implications of Britain's expanding waistlines.
It sounds too good to be true, coming at the end of the season of excess, but after one of the largest reviews of research ever conducted, doctors say that carrying a few extra pounds may actually reduce the risk of premature death. Experts have repeatedly warned that obesity would soon exact a greater toll than smoking and the current generation could be the first to die before their parents.
Only yesterday, the Royal College of Physicians called for more to be done to tackle the UK's obesity epidemic, criticising the NHS's "patchy" services and inadequate leadership on the issue. However, the new study shows that people who are modestly overweight have a 6 per cent lower rate of premature death from all causes than people of ideal, "healthy" weight, while even those who are mildly obese have no increased risk. Overweight is defined as a body mass index above 25 but below 30. For a man of 5ft 9in, that is between 12 stone 4lb and 14 stone 6lb, or for a woman of 5ft 6in, it is between 11 stone 3 lb and 13 stone 4lb. Ideal, healthy weight is defined as a BMI between 18.5 and 25.
Mild obesity (those with a BMI between 30 and 34.9) brings a 5 per cent lower premature death rate, according to the study. Although this was not statistically significant, it suggests there is no increased risk of premature death attached to that weight range.
The news will seem heaven sent to those contemplating a new year diet, and contradicts the received wisdom that being fat reduces life expectancy. It is the second time that research studies led by Katherine Flegal, a distinguished epidemiologist from the National Centre for Health Statistics at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Maryland, US, have studied the link between obesity and mortality.
In 2007 the same group caused consternation among public health professionals when they published the results of a similar analysis that also showed being fat does not shorten life. Walter Willett, professor of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, dismissed the finding as "rubbish".
Dr Flegal told The Independent she had decided to conduct a second, larger, study on the same theme to counter the sceptics. She and her team examined results from 100 studies from around the world, involving three million people and 270,000 deaths.
The results are published in the respected Journal of the American Medical Association, which also published the earlier study. They show only the severely obese, with a body mass index above 35, have a significantly increased mortality, up by 29 per cent. Otherwise, extra weight appears to be protective. Underweight people, meanwhile, have a 10 per cent higher rate of premature death than those of normal size, according to earlier research. "There is already a lot of literature showing that overweight is linked with lower mortality," said Dr Flegal. "It is not an unusual finding. But authors tend to shy away from it. They tend to underplay it or try to explain it away."
There were warnings last night that the research should not be taken to mean that there were no negative health implications associated with being overweight or obese. Tam Fry, spokesman for the UK National Obesity Forum, said: "Katherine Flegal is an extremely good researcher and I would respect her. But I am flabbergasted. The sum total of medical expert opinion cannot have got it so wrong. The consequences of people taking this research and deciding 'let's eat and be merry' will be catastrophic. Mortality [the death rate] is one thing but morbidity [the disease rate] is another. If people read this and decide they are not going to die [from overeating] they may find themselves lifelong dependents on medical treatment for problems affecting the heart, liver, kidney and pancreas – to name only a few."
Dr Flegal herself stressed that findings are not a licence to eat cream cakes. "We were only looking at mortality – not health. We are absolutely not recommending people overeat. We intended our research to give a little perspective – to counter the view that if you weigh a bit less you will live forever or if you weigh more you are doomed. The relationship between fat and mortality is more complicated than we tend to think."
Possible explanations for the findings are that fat – adipose tissue – may protect the heart, carrying a few extra pounds may help individuals withstand periods of illness or hospitalisation when they lose appetite, and the distribution of fat on the body is more important than the amount, with extra on the hips being good while extra on the stomach is thought bad.
It may also be that the health risks of being overweight are declining with advances in medicine. Drug treatments to lower blood pressure and cholesterol have contributed to a dramatic fall in heart disease deaths. Fitness, too, may be more important than fatness. People who are overweight, smoke, eat junk food and take no exercise are heading for an early grave.

So the full article: The evidence is that overweight is not bad for people.
The conclusion by medical ‘experts’ -  that no matter the evidence, fat is bad. It becomes fairly obvious that the health police have no intention of looking at evidence – maybe they just don’t like to look at fat people – in other words, it is an aesthetic rather than a medical judgement.


All right, taking smoke into our lungs has to be bad for us. It is still legal. But now there are new regulations in force (Australia) that a father can’t sit on a bench beside a playground and light a cigarette for fear of being fined – not just a small fine, but a $550 fine, more than someone gets for knowingly violating qurantine laws. He can’t light up near a public building of any sort, and most hospital grounds – the whole of the hospital grounds, are also off limits.  

But hey, this is in the open air! Unless a non-smoker is directly downwind from a cigarette, and close, the smoke is dispersed very quickly. It may still harm the smoker, but it is not harmful to anyone else. And it is not harmful to children, even if he is within five metres of a playground. I am not a smoker, never have been, and I am pleased that smokers can no longer pollute the atmosphere inside a room, but it’s gone too far when outside is also off limits for them.

There is another thing that must also annoy smokers, but is also a real annoyance for the whole population. We are attacked with ghastly images of diseased body parts – green, rotting teeth, gangrenous toes, an eyeball staring, apparently prepared for an operation. These sickening, sickening images are not just put on cigarette packs, but whenever a news item speaks of the new ‘plain packaging’ laws, they are shown large, colourful and far too clear on our TV screens.  If only they were plain packaging. That would be bearable. I can’t count the number of times I’ve quickly averted my eyes from those ghastly images.  

And now they're being used in anti-smoking ads as well.  It's hard to get away from them. Not sure if they're on billboards outside as well. I'd not be surprised, but I have not seen any yet.

And yet, if we sent those images by email to someone, it would probably be a criminal offense. úsing a carriage device to cause offense' or something like that. But here, the Health Minister is pleased when anyone complains – ‘It means they are effective.’ I doubt it. They are only effective in offending people. I do not think they have a right to offend us like that. I will not show any of the pictures. I think it is wicked to thrust them into anyone's faces.

Thursday, January 03, 2013 » 04:29pm

The federal health minister has warned tobacco companies not to attempt to circumvent plain packaging laws.
Tobacco companies that try to circumvent the government's cigarette plain-packaging laws with branded tins or stickers that hide graphic health warnings will face legal action, the federal health minister warns.
'If people deliberately flout these laws, then we will consider and potentially take legal action against them,' Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said on Thursday.
The world-first laws to make all cigarettes be sold in drab olive-brown packs came into force on December 1.
Ms Plibersek said early anecdotal evidence revealed the new packaging was having a psychological effect on smokers.
As part of the government's goal to prevent smoking-related cancer deaths in Australia, the Commonwealth was willing to take companies to court to make sure they complied with packaging laws, the minister said.
'Where we're able to educate and change public behaviour - with shopkeepers, for example - then there's no need for legal action,' Ms Plibersek said.
'But if we have large companies that deliberately look for ways to circumvent plain packaging, then I'll have no hesitation in taking legal action against them.'
Individuals who do not comply will face fines of up to $220,000, while companies risk penalties of up to $1.1 million.
Since the new packaging requirements began in December, after the big tobacco companies lost a High court challenge, the health minister has received 14 complaints, all about retailers.
Ms Plibersek's office has also received calls from smokers who believe the new laws affect how cigarettes are manufactured.
'They call and complain about the taste of cigarettes, but that's a sign that plain packaging is working,' she said.
'Nothing has changed in the formulation of cigarettes but people are finding they are enjoying them less.'
The fact that people felt the need to complain or cover up graphic health warnings showed plain packaging was working, the minister said.
'I'm not pleased to see that people are, commercially, producing stickers,' Ms Plibersek said.
'But I am pleased to see that the graphic health warnings are so effective that people are looking for ways to cover them up.'  (This makes me think a very rude word.)

And the new tyrannical laws:

New anti-smoking laws take effect in NSW
The bigpond home page article:  Monday, January 07, 2013 » 07:33am

Smokers can no longer light up at many outdoor locations like public pools and transport stops, with new anti-smoking laws in NSW coming into effect.
The state government said on Monday that smoking was now outlawed at locations such as children's playgrounds, public transport stations, sporting fields, public pools and entrances to NSW public buildings.
Cancer Council NSW's manager for policy and advocacy, Anita Tang, said the reforms would help to protect people from second-hand smoke.
'These new measures will protect children, parents and the whole community from toxic second-hand smoke,' Ms Tang said in a statement.
'The new laws will be a help in reducing community exposure to second-hand smoke and reducing the likelihood of future generations taking up smoking.'
She said smoking was one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in Australia, with more than 15,000 Australians dying from tobacco-related illnesses each year.


It’s another strange thing how exposure to tiny amounts of asbestos is absolutely lethal these days. There is a fuss if a few bits of ‘fibro’ board are found at the back of a school. The area will be roped off,  and men in protective suits and face masks will very carefully remove it.

Note that this is just a pretty school. As far as I know,
there is no asbestos within miles.
 But it’s just fibro!  90% of the population have handled fibro, 60% of us have probably lived at some stage in a house made of fibro. It is certainly taking a long time for exposure to that form of asbestos to wipe us out.
Yes, fibro dust is bad, and very dangerous to inhale. Workers in asbestos mines are definitely at risk of developing the disease of Asbestosis. And it’s a terrible disease. It is so lucky that it normally takes at least twenty years to develop. But do we really have to go to such extremes about normal exposure to small amounts that are not even in dust form?  It costs a fortune now to renovate a house that may  have some form of asbestos in its construction or maybe used as insulation around pipes.


Yes, excessive alcohol is not good, but again, they’ve gone overboard. A pregnant woman is not allowed to drink at all?  How many babies have been harmed by occasional social drinking? I think probably none. Foetal Alcohol Syndrome?  Alcoholic women can have babies with a certain physical look to them, and with mild retardation. This is known as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Alcholic women should not have babies, but they are not the ones listening to the health police.

Binge drinking: a problem, sure. Binge drinking is when idiots, usually young, drink far too much in order to get drunk. They are disgusting objects, always make fools of themselves and occasionally damage their own health. They will almost certainly damage their health if they do it regularly. Luckily few do it regularly, and most don’t do it at all.
BUT:  redefine ‘binge drinking’  as just three drinks in an evening, and suddenly almost all of us are ‘binge drinking.’ Three standard drinks would be a normal amount to have in the course of a party that lasts three or four or five hours.  This was put forward as the definition of binge drinking a few years ago. I don’t know whether such a ridiculous definition is still accepted, but probably, since we keep getting told how HUGE the problem is.

Again, I think that here we have a moral judgement rather than one based on evidence of harm to health. And maybe an additional factor is bureaucrats wanting to exaggerate a problem in order to enlarge their own empire.

Statistics, statistics and damn lies:

So many statistics, and most people just accept them. Here are some of the more ridiculous statistics that I have heard, given as fact:

1.      25% of Australian farmers commit suicide every year. That was around ten years ago. They should be just about extinct by now.
2.      A city of around 40,000 residents has a festival.  One million visitors!  we are told with vast enthusiasm.  What nonsense. The city would not cope with that many visitors.  Did they even stop to think that a million visitors would mean a full twentieth of the population of Australia? 

And then there are the statistics with some very dubious methodology, but presented as fact and backed by influential government organisations.

1.      One in nine women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. It used to be one in eleven, but they increased the rate a few years ago. Now this one is based on what, I think, they call ‘ lifetime risk.’  In other words, they count all the women who get breast cancer when they are 40, do not count any who die of other things, then add on all the women who get it when they are 41, do not count any who die of other things, then add on all the women who get it when they are 42, do not count any who die of other things, then add on all the women who get it when they are 43, do not count any who die of other things, then add on all the women who get it when they are 44…  Maybe the increasing rate is because so many of us are living to great old age.

It’s why this one in nine supposed rate is far higher than we actually see. I personally know one who died of it, and there was a cousin of my father’s when I was just a kid. Two, in other words. I personally know a lot more than eighteen women.  Breast cancer is a rare disease, and it's a question whether Breastscreen services, like some other screening services, wind up doing more harm than good.  

2.      There are similar statistics for many other diseases – one in two of us are now ‘affected by’ cancer. I suppose they use ‘affected by’ so they can include all of us who’ve ever known someone with cancer.

If you believed these sort of statistics,  each one of us would have to have three or four diseases in order to keep up. And add in ‘some form of mental illness’ as well. I think that’s supposed to be one in two of us.

BUT: we are healthier and living longer than we ever have in history. We need to stop being so paranoid, and the health police should look for better ways of making themselves useful, because right now, I, personally, am sick to death of them.


  1. Amen, Marj. We must all tend to our own bodies. I am obese and will willingly comply with the first doctor who can actually tell me how *not* to be obese. I'm currently not eating carbs (which was definitely not my doctor's recommendation) and not only am I losing weight, I am experiencing fewer migraines.

    1. Obesity is a far more complex thing than is generally allowed, and almost never due to gluttony.

      There was an acquaintance who'd moved away, so we hadn't seen her for years. She was always large enough to be called 'obese,' but was happy and confident, and seemed to have no trouble attracting men.

      But then we saw her on TV. She'd had a stomach stapling op. and was complaining that she'd had ill health ever since and definitely did not recommend it. She looked haggard, looked 10 years older than she was, but she was thinner. Did she improve her quality of life? No. Did she improve her health? Obviously not. Did she improve her appearance? It depends if you think looking 70 and haggard, but thin, is better than looking 60 and fat.

      Thank you for your comment.