As the year draws to a close it is time to reflect on major events of this year and look to what might happen next year. There have been some major myths exploded this year and I predict there will more to come. It is also fascinating to see the fury with which health authorities have reacted to their dogma being questioned.
In February it was again confirmed that the obesity epidemic has been blown out of proportion. Despite the claims that 66% of the population are overweight or obese and that “something must be done” (which is code for our group needs more government funding) only 16% of the population is actually at any risk of illness related to weight.
That is because the body mass index (BMI) is set ridiculously low. Those with a BMI of between 25 and 30 whist being part of the epidemic do not live a day less because of their weight. Indeed those carrying a few excess kilos but who exercise regularly do better than those with a “healthy” BMI but who are unfit.
Whilst many may choose to lose weight for a variety of personal reasons there is no crisis. And hence no need for governments to spend money on pointless programs or to introduce fat or sugar taxes which won’t even work.
Hard on the heels of this was the release of a major ten-year review, which found that sugar consumption NOT obesity was the cause of type two diabetes. The more sugar consumed and the longer the time frame, the higher the rates of diabetes.
The push for low fat diets over the last 40 years has actually been the cause not the solution to the “obesity crisis”. In simplest terms health authorities have scored a huge own goal.
We also had further confirmation that a Mediterranean type diet (not a low fat diet) was the best one for heart health and longevity. A study of over 7000 people with risk factors for heart disease revealed a 30% lower rate of cardiac events in those on the Mediterranean type diet.
Plus we also learned that the original work comparing saturated fats to no saturated fats in the diet omitted one major finding. Those on the saturated fat diet had higher blood cholesterol BUT those on the poly-unsaturated fats had higher death rates.
So having some saturated fats in your diet is not a problem. In fact they are far better for you than most margarines, which have vegetable oils containing pro- inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acids and trans fats.
And then we have the big one. Finally we are having a debate about the use of statin medications to lower cholesterol. I have written previously about the lack of any evidence of benefit from these medications in people who have no history of heart disease and the problems with side effects.
The response of health authorities to the TV program Catalyst that raised the questions was very revealing. They attacked the messenger and then came out with all sorts of alarmist claims. Words like “disturbing”, “terrifying” and “deaths will result” flowed freely. It was like being in the middle ages where if the high priests were questioned the heretics would face death.
Lastly we have seen the beginning of a move towards informing people that mass screening can result in harm. This is particularly the case with prostate and breast cancer where screening has been seen as life saving and with no adverse effects. This will enable people to make an informed decision about screening.
Looking ahead there are questions to be answered about the use of SSRI antidepressants, which work no better than placebo. There are also issues around the use of antipsychotic medications. Running through this are the links between pharmaceutical companies and doctors, which is worst in psychiatry.
The conflicts of interest regarding the mass use of Flu vaccines has still to play out. And also the reality that there is NO demonstrated benefit in mass flu vaccination. There is no effect on hospitalization, time off work and of course mortality.
Problems with medications for reflux and also various blood thinners are just emerging too.
It is also my hope that we will start to see a retreat of the nanny state, which wants to ban sales of cakes at school fetes and interfere with sausage sizzles. We are hopefully reaching a tipping point when the silent majority has had enough of statist interference in our lives. Especially when the statist idea of what is good for us is often wrong.
In 2014 there will be more myths exploding. Hopefully this will lead us to be more judicious in our use of medications.
And in turn it may lead us to take more seriously the only true blockbuster when it comes to health. And that is having a healthy lifestyle incorporating the eight pillars of health. One with a sensible but not Spartan diet. One that includes regular exercise, relaxation and sleep. One with good relationships and fun and purpose. But one that also allows for some treats, some time enjoying the sunshine, and a glass of wine (or your other preferred tipple) in moderation.
Life is to be lived and enjoyed. Christmas time (for most) highlights that.
I would like to thank all readers for their support and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications, is clinical editor at Medical Forum Magazine, and is also a regular on radio and television. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases and is an advisor to Reed Medical Conferences.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma, Chairman of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and sits on the board of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA.