Saturday, July 26, 2008

Confused British minister

Says people should not be told that it is their fault for being fat -- which is fair enough. Geneticists would say the same. But he then goes on to warn people (falsely) that fat will shorten their lives. So it appears that he DOES expect people to take responsibility for their own fatness and reduce it

Alan Johnson sparked a political row over obesity last night by accusing David Cameron of holding “Victorian” views that blamed people for being fat. The Health Secretary called for a national movement to tackle obesity after complaints that ministers had not done enough to reduce the nation’s growing waistlines. This month the Conservative leader suggested in Glasgow that the obese should take more responsibility for their lifestyles, attacking the notion that some people were “at risk” of obesity through no fault of their own.

In a speech in London to the Fabian Society, Mr Johnson said that “hectoring and lecturing” the public would not work. “Vilifying the extremely fat does not make people change their behaviour and the healthy eating message has to be delivered more intelligently,” he said. “It’s easy for politicians to stand on the sidelines accusing the impoverished, the fat and the excluded of only having themselves to blame. But before we evoke the Victorian notion of the deserving and undeserving poor . . . we should take a moment to consider how complex these issues really are.”

Instead, parents should be told that children could have their lives cut short by 11 years because of dangerous levels of fat in their arteries or around their organs, he said. Mr Johnson argued that obesity was not just an issue for Government and that everyone, from individuals to big supermarkets, should do all they could to help people to lead healthier lives. The Health Secretary said that the Government had rejected both the “nanny state” approach and the “neglectful state”, which “wags the finger in the direction of the most vulnerable families in the vague hope that they will do as they are told.”

“The Conservative Party have apparently chosen this approach,” he added. The Government was criticised last month for slow progress in tackling obesity, as well as alcohol abuse. Despite England having the most obesity among adults in Western Europe, a government strategy on the issue was published only this year, the Healthcare Commission and the Audit Commission noted.


IVF turns 30 amid steady improvements

As Louise Brown cuts her birthday cake today, chances are she won't be thinking of the 3 million babies across the world, including more than 80,000 Australians, who have followed in her footsteps. Ms Brown, who works for a shipping company in Bristol, made history when she became the world's first baby born by IVF 30 years ago, but the mother-of-one has always preferred the quiet life, and has no plans to celebrate. "I might go out with my friends or I might have a meal with the family. I'm planning on having a quiet one," she said yesterday.

But for Australian fertility experts, her birthday is cause for celebration. In three decades, IVF has evolved to the point where doctors now predict pregnancy rates could double within five years and the genetic make-up of eggs could be scanned to guarantee their success.

Within 30 years, babies could be conceived with artificial sperm and grown in man-made wombs and genetic diseases, such as Huntington's and cystic fibrosis, could be switched off using artificial chromosomes while the embryo is still in the laboratory. "The technology has been significantly refined to a point where our success rate has doubled in the past 10 years and I see it hitting 50 per cent within another five," the director of IVF Australia, Michael Chapman, said yesterday. About 41,000 cycles of IVF are performed in Australia each year, resulting in about 10,000 babies - or one in every 33 children. "When this lot of babies grows up, we will have about eight federal politicians who are IVF-lings," Professor Chapman said. "It has become so routine now and soon it will be commonplace."

The next giant leap in IVF will involve screening eggs using polarised light to assess their molecular make-up before fertilisation. About 50 per cent of eggs lack miotic spindles, preventing the cells dividing properly. The eggs can be fertilised but will never become viable pregnancies. "At the moment, we can't tell which eggs will make it and once we start routine screening, the success rates should rise and miscarriage rate drop," he said.

Poppy Kougellis, 40, was told she would never have children because her ovaries did not produce enough healthy eggs. Now a mother of 11-month-old Thomas, she spent three years trying to conceive naturally, followed by two years on IVF. On her 11th cycle of treatment, she produced only one egg and was told it had a 5 per cent chance of success. "That egg, our lone ranger, became Thomas," Ms Kougellis, now pregnant with twins, said. "We had been put in the 'too hard basket' by so many doctors that we bought a dog and resigned ourselves to it just being the three of us forever. Now we are about to become a family of five. All the heartache, tears and injections have been worth it."


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