Thursday, January 11, 2007


Or the Japanese diet, for that matter? Countries that seem especially healthy in one way or another often have their characteristic diet promoted as the secret to a long life. On the figures below, I expect the Australian diet will now be similarly promoted -- a diet heavy in big Macs, KFC, chips (French fries), fried food generally, Coca cola and everything that the food faddists deplore. When will the world discover the health-giving wonders of fat-heavy meat pies and Vegemite sandwiches -- to say nothing of Lamingtons and Iced VoVos? Pardon me while I duck out for a nice sausage roll -- encased in flaky pastry that's greasy with fat! You can get them anywhere in Australia

Figures recently released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that Australians are among the longest-living people in the world, with an average lifespan of 78.5 years for males and 83.3 years for females born "Down Under."

But the figures drop by around 17 years for indigenous Australians, whose average life expectancy in 2001 was 59.4 years for males and 64.8 for females. Several factors, including poverty, discrimination, substance abuse [including pervasive alcohol abuse] and poor access to health, are believed to affect the lifespan of these original Australians.

For the rest of the nation, the capital Canberra -- often derided as boring and soulless -- is statistically the best place to sustain a long life. The lakeside city's 325,000 people enjoy the longest average lifespan, with women living to 84 years and most men to 79.9. Built to resolve a bitter 1908 dispute between Sydney and Melbourne over which should be capital, modern Canberra has the wealthiest and best-educated population in Australia. The city's unemployment rate hovers at barely 2.8 percent, while weekly wages are well above the Australian average at A$1,208 (US$941), backed by a booming information technology industry and government salaries.

At the other end of the scale is the sparsely populated outback Northern Territory, cinematic home to "Crocodile Dundee." The territory accounts for only 1 percent of Australia's 20 million population. Men there live to 72.5 years on average, while women live to 78.2. More than a quarter of the population are aboriginal Australians, who often live on remote communities with poor access to jobs, health and education services and have one of the lowest life expectancies.

Australia's nationwide average life expectancy for males is exceeded only by Iceland and Hong Kong while the female life expectancy is exceeded by Japan and Hong Kong.


Natural remedies seen as stab in the dark

Reaching for the aloe vera next time you are sunburnt may be a waste of time, according to the consumer magazine Choice. In its latest issue, the magazine reviewed international medical journal articles on the effectiveness of aloe vera and other natural healing products such as tea-tree oil, St John's Wort, lavender oil and honey. It found that despite generations of folklore promoting their benefits, many natural remedies were yet to be scientifically proven as effective first-aid treatments. "There is such a wide variety of so-called natural remedies out there, we thought it would be timely just to see how the body of scientific evidence was stacking up in or against their favour," said a Choice spokeswoman, Indira Naidoo. "There is a lot of information out there but a lot of it is reaching the conclusion that it is too early to prove [or that] there needs to be more research."

Of the eight natural remedies examined, all have been said to protect the body against infection, while four have been promoted for their ability to heal wounds.

Professor Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist, said that while some natural remedies, such as tea-tree oil, could help clear minor skin infections, it could prompt some to use them on serious infections, with unknown results. "We need to be careful we don't rush in with too much enthusiasm for something that doesn't have enough data to show it works . and secondly that it doesn't cause toxicity that we're not aware of." Professor Collignon and Choice called for more research into natural remedies. The president of the National Herbalists Association, John Baxter, said there was plenty of clinical research to prove they worked as a first-aid treatment.



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter? It is just about pure fat. Surely it should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


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