Friday, December 18, 2009

The health freaks are now gunning for Santa

One wonders if this is entirely serious. Anybody who talks of "giant multinational capitalists" is probably cross-eyed with hate, however

SANTA Claus has been accused of acting in ways that could "damage millions of lives". As the mythical man in red zooms around the planet delivering gifts, he is an unwitting promoter of obesity, unhealthy products, disease and even drink driving, according to an Australian academic. "Other dangerous activities that Santa could be accused of promoting include speeding, disregard for road rules and extreme sports such as roof surfing and chimney jumping," said Dr Nathan Grills, public health fellow at Monash University's Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine. "Despite the risks of high speed air travel, Santa is never depicted wearing a seatbelt or helmet."

In a paper published by the British Medical Journal, Dr Grills said Santa Claus' contemporary image became cemented in the public consciousness through a series of Coca Cola advertisements that began in the 1930s. His image was subsequently used in tobacco advertising and, while most countries had moved to ban this, it was common to still see Santa pictured on Christmas cards with a pipe in hand.

A study found Santa Claus was the only fictional character that was more highly recognised by US children than Ronald McDonald. "If Ronald McDonald can be so effective at selling burgers to children, we might expect Santa to be equally effective at selling other goods," Dr Grills said. "... Public health needs to be aware of what giant multinational capitalists realised long ago, that Santa sells and sometimes he sells harmful products."

Dr Grills said countries like India were increasingly celebrating Christmas, and Santa's image could again be used to sell harmful products where there was less regulation of advertising.

Santa's "rotund sedentary image" also had the effect of making "obesity synonymous with cheerfulness and joviality" around the world, he said. Children were also encouraged to leave out brandy, or other hard liquor, for a man who had to do a lot of travel and visit a lot of houses all in one night.

Amid a global swine flu pandemic, Dr Grills said most people who stood in as Santa impersonators were not required to undergo a health check - and they get "kissed and hugged" by a succession of "snotty-nosed kids". "We need to be aware that Santa has an ability to influence people, and especially children, towards unhealthy behaviour," he said. "Given Santa's universal appeal, and reasoning from a public health perspective, Santa needs to affect health by only 0.1 per cent to damage millions of lives."

Instead using a sleigh, Santa should be "encouraged to adopt a more active method to deliver toys - swapping his reindeer for a bike or simply walking or jogging", Dr Grills said.


Soy products may help 'prevent breast cancer returning'

Just the old social class effect again. The workers wouldn't be seen dead eating all that tofu crap

A study on women with breast cancer found those with the highest consumption of soy foods had lower recurrence of the disease. The finding is controversial as some studies have suggested soy foods, which contain chemicals which mimic female hormones in the body, may encourage cancer or interfere with medicines used to treat it.

Lead author Dr Xiao Ou Shu, M.D., of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, in America, found patients with the highest intake of soy protein had a 29 per cent lower risk of death during the study period, and a 32 per cent lower risk of breast cancer recurrence compared to patients with the lowest intake of soy protein.

An accompanying editorial by Dr Rachel Ballard-Barbash, of the National Cancer Institute, in Bethesda, Maryland, and Dr Marian Neuhouser, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, wrote: "Even though the findings suggest that consumption of soy foods among breast cancer patients is probably safe, studies in larger cohorts are required to understand the effects of these foods among diverse clinical subgroups of breast cancer patients and survivors.

"In the meantime, clinicians can advise their patients with breast cancer that soy foods are safe to eat and that these foods may offer some protective benefit for long-term health. "Moreover, the potential benefits are confined to soy foods, and inferences should not be made about the risks or benefits of soy-containing dietary supplements.

"Patients with breast cancer can be assured that enjoying a soy latte or indulging in pad Thai with tofu causes no harm and, when consumed in plentiful amounts, may reduce risk of disease recurrence."

The study, carried out on 5,042 patients aged between 20 and 75 who were diagnosed between 2002 and 2006. They were followed up for an average of four years. High soy intake was defined as 11 grams per day.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


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