Thursday, January 24, 2013

'You can tell somebody's background by their weight': Health minister says poor people are likely to be obese

Some surprising frankness from Britain

Health Minister Anna Soubry  has risked controversy by claiming that she can spot poor people in the street because they are usually overweight.

The Conservative MP, who has responsibility for public health, said a culture of unhealthy TV dinners and junk food has eroded family life and that many homes no longer even have a dining table.

The MP for Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire, said: ‘When I go to my constituency, when I walk around, you can almost now tell somebody’s background by their weight. Obviously not everybody who is overweight comes from deprived backgrounds, but that’s where the propensity lies.’

Speaking at a conference hosted by the Food and Drink Federation, which represents UK manufacturers, she warned them that they should voluntarily cut the amount of fat, sugar and salt in their products or ministers may have to force them to act through legislation.

She said it was ‘heartbreaking’ that the poorest in the country were those at greatest risk of obesity.

‘A third of our children leave primary school overweight or obese,’ she said. ‘When I was at school, you could tell the demography of children by how thin they were.’

But now, in a ‘deeply ironic’ turnaround, poor children tend to be overweight because their parents supply them with ‘an abundance of bad food’, she told the Daily Telegraph.

Miss Soubry put the responsibility for properly feeding children firmly with their parents, who should ensure that they have family meals. ‘What they don’t do is actually sit down and share a meal around the table,’ she said. ‘There are houses where they don’t have dining tables. They will sit in front of the telly and eat.

‘It doesn’t mean to say you can’t ever sit in front of the telly and have a meal, but I believe children need structure in their lives, they need routine.’

According to Department of Health figures, the poorest children are almost twice as likely to be obese than the wealthiest.

Government figures published last month showed that 24.3 per cent of the most deprived 11-year-olds in England were obese, compared with 13.7 per cent of children from the wealthiest homes.

Miss Soubry warned in October that the food industry was fuelling the obesity crisis, when she told supermarkets that the cakes and other bakery products it makes were too big.

She said: ‘I’m old enough to remember that when you went into a store and you bought a cake or a croissant, or some other product like that, a bakery product, it was probably half the size of what it is today.’


When hugging can lower your blood pressure and boost your memory

Sounds reasonable

Hugging a loved one isn't just a great way to bond - it has several physical benefits as well.  Scientists found that the hormone oxytocin was released into the blood stream when you hold a friend close. This lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and anxiety and can even improve your memory.

However, you have to be selective over who you hug. Giving a polite embrace to someone you don't know well can have the opposite effect, according to research from the University of Vienna.

Oxytocin, a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, is primarily known for increasing bonding, social behaviour and closeness between parents, children and couples.

Increased oxytocin levels have been found, for example, in partners in functional relationships. In women, it is also produced during the childbirth process and during breastfeeding in order to increase the mother’s bond with the baby.

Hugging can also soften your personality. The researchers said someone who hugs loved ones often become more empathetic over time.

Neurophysiologist Jürgen Sandkühler, said: 'The positive effect only occurs, however, if the people trust each other, if the associated feelings are present mutually and if the corresponding signals are sent out.  'If people do not know each other, or if the hug is not desired by both parties, its effects are lost.'

When we receive unwanted hugs from strangers or even people we know, the hormone is not released and anxiety levels rise.

'This can lead to pure stress because our normal distance-keeping behaviour is disregarded. In these situations, we secrete the stress hormone cortisol,' Sandkühler said.

He added that: 'Hugging is good, but no matter how long or how often someone hugs, it is trust that’s more important.'

Sandkühler therefore cautioned against the worldwide 'free hugs' campaign - a social movement involving individuals who offer hugs to strangers in public places.

He said people would only have a beneficial effect 'if everyone involved is clear that it is just a harmless bit of fun.'

Otherwise, it could be perceived as an emotional burden and stress.

'Everyone is familiar with such feelings from our everyday lives, for example, if someone we don’t know comes too close to us for no apparent reason.

'This violation of our normal distance-keeping behaviour is then generally perceived as disconcerting or even as threatening,' he said.


No comments: