Sunday, March 01, 2009

Coke's no joke, says cancer research report

This is pure ideology. Coca Cola is attacked because it is popular. I know of no double-blind study which shows a significant connection between Coca Cola consumption and cancer. There have been various scare theories but evidence always seems to be regarded as superfluous. The World Cancer Research Fund is in any case a corrupt body that finds only what it wants to find -- as we see here and here. I imagine that scares are a great help in raising money for "research". WCRF representatives certainly put out scares with great frequency

A "war on Coke" should be part of a global push to fight cancer, according to a report from the peak international anti-cancer body. Cutting the consumption of sugary drinks by half is a key recommendation of the World Cancer Research Fund report.

It says almost a third of cancer cases are preventable and are caused by sedentary habits and an unhealthy diet. It recommends that people drink less alcohol and eat less meat and more vegetables.

It also comes out against dietary supplements, despite their anti-cancer claims, because not enough is known about their effectiveness or side effects.

The report was welcomed by Craig Sinclair, director of the Cancer Council Victoria's Cancer Prevention Centre. He said it was the most authoritative advice yet on how to cut cancer rates. Mr Sinclair estimated that up to 5200 cases of cancer a year in Victoria could be prevented by simple improvements to lifestyle and diet.


The Mediterranean diet no longer prevails

The writer below notes that Italians are fat and blames it on their deserting their traditional diet. But I am not sure that the Mediterranean diet was ever said to be slimming. I grew up among Italians and in my 65-year-old recollection, Italians both male and female have always been mostly barrel-shaped from middle-age on. It was always attributed to the fattening qualities of spaghetti

How many times have you heard of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet? Been told that if you eat like the Italians you will live forever, be healthy and - more importantly - fit into that size 10 dress that's been in your wardrobe for the past 20 years? When I moved to Tuscany I hoped to be let in on the secret, but if I'm honest I just expected to be continuously in competition with the thin and beautiful Italian women, envying their clear skin and glossy hair. I strongly believed that the sight of chubby teenagers rammed into skinny, hip-hugging jeans and builders' bottom cleavage had been left behind with the rain and the smog of London. Was I in for a shock!

The truth of the matter is that 42.5 per cent of Italian men and 26.6 per cent of Italian women are overweight: 10.5 per cent and 9.1 per cent respectively are obese. But the most unpalatable aspect is the data for children. A survey of Europe last year by the International Association for the Study of Obesity showed Britain at the top of the chub charts, but closely followed by Mediterranean countries (Cyprus, Malta, Italy and Spain). One third of Italian children aged six-nine are overweight or obese and 25.4 per cent of the 10-13 age group. And the future does not look good: by 2025 the Italian Obesity Society estimates that child obesity will triple, arriving at 12.2 per cent overall.

So where have we gone wrong? Why is everyone recommending the Mediterranean diet when the Med is the second-highest area in Europe for child obesity? The sad truth is that not even the Italians are following the Med diet, having traded in their olive oil and salads for burgers.

In July 2008 a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared the Med diet with two other diets: the low-carb and the low-fat. Out of the 322 participants (86 per cent of which were men) the Med diet resulted in a loss of 10lbs, compared to the 12lbs lost through the low-carb. Among the women however the Med diet resulted in a weight loss of 8.4lb more than the low-carb one.

The traditional Mediterranean diet, high in legumes, cereals, fruit, vegetables and fish and low in meat and dairy products, combined with cholesterol-lowering olive oil and antioxidant red wine, was regarded as the ideal way to eat. I say "was", as the new generation, used to convenience foods and hamburger chains, has started counteracting the many years of good eating. And with the added stress of the credit crunch the average family simply cannot afford the "luxury" of healthy eating.

Mum needs to work, meaning she no longer has time to fulfil the traditional role of "mamma", taking time and paying attention to cooking healthily for her family. And this isn't the only culture change that has had an effect. Contrary to popular belief the overweight and obese Italians can be found mainly in the South. This has been found to be due to their inactivity, and perhaps to the fact that despite that inactivity these are the Italians most likely to still be eating as much as their field-working grandparents did. Only 20.9 per cent practise a sport. Only 28.2 per cent take any physical activity at all, while 39.8 per cent lead completely sedentary lives. While the North has more readily embraced the lifestyle of the 21st century as far as office jobs and long commutes are concerned, they also seem more likely to join a gym or take up a sport.

Any 30-year-old English woman like myself shudders at the distant memory of freezing on a wet and windy netball court wearing nothing but navy knickers and a T-shirt, being told that jumpers are for wimps and that cold builds character. PE lessons may have seemed merely a form of torture dreamt up by sadistic head-teachers, but it is sadly lacking in Italian schools.

The government is trying to turn the tide, but it's not an easy job. Schools, places of employment, and most importantly, parents need to take responsibility to make a change. Italy, a country that so far has tried to hold onto its history, culture and tradition is finally bending to the will of a gluttonous and lazy future, and all the negative aspects that today's lifestyle brings with it.

The days of red-faced farmers' wives cooking delicious home-made, fresh food from dawn, cleaning the house all day while their husbands toil the land, easily burning off their wine-soaked, olive oil-fuelled long lunches, are being replaced by long, stationary office-hours, frenetic commuting and a quick sandwich for lunch. And in the meantime, I will continue cycling, walking and taking my Pilates lessons - even if it is just to feel smug on the Tuscan beaches in summer!



Lola said...

I reckon the "Mediterranean diet" is not the answer. But the "Mediterannean attitude" may have some thing going for it. There have always been plenty of fat Italians, Greeks, southern French, Spanish, etc. They just don't seem to have the same rates of heart disease and stroke as certain other cultures, in my opinion, because they don't seem to stress and worry about things in the same way. Traditionally at least it was perfectly acceptable for people to get fatter as they aged, being slim and pretty was for young people and the very rich! Instead of worrying about whether every mouthful will make them fat or sick, or if the food is Perfectly Healthy or morally virtuous, they just enjoy the food and wine, expecially in social settings.

I believe there was a study published in the last couple of years that showed that worrying about your weight contributed more towards chronic illness that simply being fat - fat people who had good self esteem and weren't constantly dieting were very healthy.

John A said...

"Mediterranean diet"

Those who thought the likes of Italian city dwellers and rural populations were never overweight had childhoods deprived of films depicting those populations, especially in old pre-war newsreels.