Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fatter but living longer?

A strong hint that the obesity "crisis" is a load of garbage

Britons are living longer than ever before despite concerns about obesity and health problems, a leading scientist has claimed. Average life expectancy has soared to 80-years-old - an incredible eight years more than it was in the 1970s.

The figure is even higher than the U.S.- the country with the highest spending on health care - where people live to on average 78.4 years. [The U.S. figure includes blacks -- where the leading cause of death among teenage males is gunfire]

Increasing life expectancy proves that as a nation we are eating more healthily than ever before [So why is obesity increasing??] and paying more attention to our bodies, professor David Leon says. But Professor Leon warns that unless more is done to tackle obesity among the current generation of youngsters life expectancy could slip back into the 1970s.

'The message here is really to look at how well we have been doing and not squander it. Contrary to what people believe, the USA does not have better life expectancy. 'Despite what many may have assumed, and without being complacent, current trends in European life expectancy are in a positive direction.

'But while the European experience since 1980 underlines the centrality of the social, political and economic determinants of health, many intriguing and important questions remain unanswered about the drivers of these extraordinary trends.'

Professor Leon, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, concluded that in the last five years, most European countries have been improving for the first time in decades - although the gap between East and West remains entrenched.

He added deaths from cardiovascular disease in the UK had seen 'some of the largest and most rapid falls of any Western European country, partly due to improvements in treatment as well as reductions in smoking and other risk factors'.

Fewer infections during childhood thanks to immunisation and better nutrition are also believed to have helped people grow taller and stronger.

Writing in an editorial in the International Journal of Epidemiology, Professor Leon compares life expectancy in western Europe with eastern Europe and the US. He said that the US was at the same level as the lowest of any Western European country, despite spending more per capita on health care than any other country in the world, with the rate for women increasing at a much slower pace than Western Europe.

In 2007, average life expectancy in the US was 78 years compared to 80 in the UK. In 2008, British male life expectancy stood at 77.9 and female life expectancy stood at 82.0, while Russian men could expect to live to 61.8 and women to 74.2, data from the World Health Organisation and the Human Mortality Database revealed.

Professor Leon praised the higher life expectancy and said it was partly due to some of the good work of the NHS. But he warned that long-term effects of obesity on cancer rates and children have yet to be seen. 'The big uncertainty is what will be the health impact of a generation of chubby kids growing into obese adults and what happens when they get to 60', he told the Daily Express. 'That is an experiment that has never been done before.'

Professor Leon said that longer life expectancy heralded certain problems such as an added burden on the state through pensions and the NHS. There are also concerns on a global level about the increasing population combined with a shortage of food, space and natural resources.

Life span can also depend on several factors including location. Although the average Briton now lives to 80 this can be much lower in poorer areas where the average life expectancy was 75.8 in 2008 compared with 80 for wealthier regions.

And earlier this week it was revealed that on the Gurnos estate in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales the average life expectancy for men is just 58.8 years. There was found to be a ‘culture of despair’ in the former iron and coal town where men don't care about living long healthy lives - because their quality of life is so poor. The grim figures revealed by the local Public Health Board are blamed on poor diet, heavy smoking and a high suicide rate due to unemployment.


Peanut terrorists must be stopped!

Despite protests by angry parents, a school in Florida is standing behind its decision to implement new regulations to protect a first grade student suffering from a severe peanut allergy.

Students at Edgewater Elementary are required to wash their hands and rinse their mouths out before entering the classroom each morning and after lunch. Teachers, who monitor the daily rinsing, must also ensure that desks are being continually wiped down with Clorox wipes. The school has banned all peanut products, eliminated snacks in the classroom and prevented outside food at holiday parties. And last week a peanut-sniffing dog was brought into the school.

District spokeswoman Nancy Wait of Volusia County Schools said the school is legally obligated to take these safety precautions because of the Federal Disabilities Act. “It would be the same thing as putting a handicap ramp for a student that is physically disabled. The only difference with this is that is affects other students,” she told

But some parents are saying it is taking away from their children’s learning time.

“On average, it’s probably taking a good 30 minutes out of the day. That’s my child’s education. Thirty minutes could be a while subject,” Carrie Starkey told

On Thursday she and other parents protested outside the school, picketing with signs that said, “Our Kids Have Rights Too.”
Experts say the school may have gone too far and that there are easier ways to protect the child.

“I have never seen anything like this,” said allergist Dr. Scott Sicherer with the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network or FAAN, an organization that monitors national food allergy issues. “There are many guidelines on how to manage food allergies in schools… things like no food sharing. There are plenty of relatively simple things the school could put in place that aren’t burdensome,” said Sicherer.

But David Bailey, the father of girl with life threatening food allergy, says that if his daughter even smells peanuts, her reaction could be fatal. "We've fought very hard to put certain things in place… to keep her alive… in school," he told MyFoxOrlando. "She's already a cast-out. She can't do things that most kids can do."

While the school’s actions may seem drastic and invasive the school says it must protect the health of the student. “It may seem like an inconvenience but this student registered her disability at the beginning of the school year and we have to do these things to give her a safe learning environment,” said Wait.

Since the protest was held last week, parents will be looking for some sort of compromise from the school administration. “We understand that they need to protect this girl, but these measures are just extreme. Procedures need to be set in place, but not procedures that will take away from our children’s education,” said Starkey.


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