Sunday, June 27, 2010

Methodists 'live more than seven years longer than the rest of the British population'

Staying off the booze probably avoids a lot of harms but a tendency for Methodism to be a religion of the middle class is probably also involved.

Note also that we are comparing churchgoers with a generally irreligious overall population and religious belief does have stress-reducing effects. It would be interesting to see another study of churchgoing Presbyterians. Church of England churchgoers don't count as they rarely believe in anything religious at all

Methodists live more than seven years longer than the rest of the population, according to an academic study. Men belonging to the famously clean-living denomination live to the ripe old age of 83.9, research has found, compared with a national average of 77.

For women the difference in longevity was even greater with female Methodists dying at 91.1 on average – nine years longer than the 82 years enjoyed by most British women.

Last week Stanley Lucas died in Cornwall aged 110, having become not just the oldest male member of the Methodist Church but the oldest man in Europe.

Dr Richard Vautrey, vice president of the Methodist Conference, said, “I’m sure there are many different factors at work for Methodists to attain these numbers. “But I would guess that our emphasis on caring for our spiritual as well as physical health, avoiding excess, engaging with people in our communities and being good neighbours all help.”

Methodism, an evangelical Christian movement that split from the Church of England at the end of the 18th century, is known for its focus on social justice and for many years was at the forefront of the temperance movement that preached “total abstinence” from alcohol.

The increased life expectancy of its followers, who now number 265,000 in Britain, was calculated by researchers working for British Religion in Numbers, based at the University of Manchester.

They studied family announcements placed in the denomination’s newspaper, the Methodist Recorder, which found that the mean age of death for Methodist men and women in 1973 and 2008 was far higher than that of the general population as recorded by the Office for National Statistics.

Study of obituaries for Methodist ministers appeared to confirm the trend, with a mean age of death of 83.4 for men who died in 2009 – again more than six years older than the British average of 77.

The Methodist Conference, currently meeting in Porstmouth, begins each year with a rendition of a hymn called “And are we yet alive?”, written by one of the movement’s founders, Charles Wesley.


Fad diet leaves actress with brittle bones


HOLLYWOOD star Gwyneth Paltrow was a pin-up for "healthy" living but her extreme dieting may have given her the bones of an 80-year-old woman. The 37-year-old actress - who has followed a macrobiotic diet for 11 years and exercises up to three hours a day - has revealed that she has been diagnosed with osteopenia, an illness that can lead to the serious bone disease osteoporosis.

"I suffered a pretty severe Tibial plateau fracture a few years ago (requiring surgery) which led the orthopaedic surgeon to give me a bone scan, at which point it was discovered I had the beginning stages of osteopenia," she wrote on her popular online newsletter, Goop. Osteoporosis - a common ailment among the elderly - increases a person's risk of fractures and is more prevalent among women.

"My doctors tested my vitamin D levels, which turned out to be the lowest thing they had ever seen [not a good thing]," Paltrow said.

She said she was put on prescription-strength vitamin D and told to spend more time in the sun, but some nutritionists believe her diet was also to blame for her brittle bone problem. The macrobiotic diet, which is popular among celebrities, including Madonna, requires followers to eat plenty of vegetables, wholegrains and fruit and small quantities of fish while discouraging dairy and red meat. Alcohol, chocolate, hot spices, sugar and coffee are also off limits as part of the diet.

The mother-of-two and wife of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin relaxed her eating regime between the births of her two children Apple, six, and Moses, four, but has since been following a less severe version of the macrobiotic diet.

"A macrobiotic diet is often lower in protein than a diet that includes dairy foods and meat so if she's doing a lot of exercise but not getting enough protein, she's not getting enough to build her bones either," Sydney nutritionist Sharon Natoli said. "Plus, vitamin D helps calcium absorption so if you're not getting enough calcium but getting enough vitamin D and vice-versa, you really need the two to be working together."

Ms Natoli advised people against following diets that excluded essential food groups. "We don't recommend fad celebrity diets," she said. "If you leave out a whole food group, then you're going to be low on something."


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