Rethink Health - March 2012

News through the GoodHealthKeeping lens

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Health in Scotland - a Smoking Gun?

It is now exactly six years since smoking was banned in public places in Scotland. They celebrated by drawing attention to improvements in the health of new babies, which made the front pages on 6th March.

There have been considerable efforts ever since March 2006, to check the effect of the ban. The first was a comparison of non-smoking (sic!) primary age children six months before and six months after the ban, showing a reduction of nearly 40% in the level of a smoking chemical in the saliva. Reduction was just over half in children from smoke-free homes. Later findings for non-smoking adults were almost exactly the same. These results are quite an achievement, and can certainly be attributed to the ban.

Subsequent findings have involved more faith and guesswork. The first was not confined to Scotland, but a worldwide review study published in the journal Heart. This acclaimed, on the basis of hospital statistics, a reduction in coronary artery disease in communities that had banned public smoking. However there was no way to allow for the general halving of coronary disease since 1960, in the UK at least, regardless of smoking. It is plausible, but by no means proven, that banning public smoking may reduce heart disease. Anything that improves access to vitamin C reduces coronary damage, and smoking certainly uses it up.

Far more likely is that children wheeze less if they inhale less smoke. This was supported by an elegant study in New England Journal of Medicine showing an 18%pa reduction of hospital admissions for asthma since the ban, after a 5% annual increase before it. The time line is very convincing.

The most recent evidence highlighted a consistent reduction (10%) in premature  births and a less confident 5% reduction in births underweight for age. The relationship to smoking is more tenuous, since both smoking and non-smoking mothers benefited, and the improvement started before the ban. Many pregnancies occur in young disadvantaged women, around a third of whom are still smoking as they start their antenatal care (a big chunk of their deprivation) - about double the current average. 

This interpretation illustrates a fundamental weakness of studies like this. You have to ask the right questions. You will get answers, but they will only be as good as those questions. 

Scotland is naturally focussing on the smoking ban, and is glossing over other issues over which they have less control - such as  personal smoking habit, nourishment and social deprivation at one end of the social spectrum, and mothers who feel they must work up to the birth at the other. 

Smoking bans have surely improved the breathing of people of all ages, especially bar staff. They may have helped improve coronary health, though more residual vitamin C is probably responsible. However, an effect on the outcome of pregnancy, desirable as that may be, is harder to credit.

Proper nourishment before and during pregnancy (to include no tobacco  and no alcohol, and as few other drugs as possible), settlement within a functional family, appropriate exercise and adequate rest during the last few months, will together achieve what a smoking ban cannot, and has not.

Not Yet Spring!

Saddening news has reached us of catastrophic illness, which is much more common in these winter months. Pamela and I spent three days in bed in mid February, being reminded of the joys of proper 'flu. The sun is rising higher each day, but we are not out of winter yet. 

Make sure your diet includes living food, every day. Sprouts on a stalk may just qualify but cabbage and fruit does not - good as they are otherwise. Sprouted seedlings, whole nuts, onions and garlic are particularly valuable. And carry some propolis in case you feel a tickle in your throat, or find yourself in a coughing crowd. Extra vitamin C and perhaps cod liver oil seem also to be valuable.

Reinforcements will arrive in April-May with stronger sun and the new harvest. Meanwhile, hang in there!

Parkinson's Disease? Lift Weights!

Exercise has long been recommended to slow the progress of this disease, but it now transpires that weight lifting (rather than aerobic exercise) does the most good. Better still, the benefit continues for years - not months, the previous expectation with walking, cycling etc. Worth investing in a few dumbbells, I'd say! - less than a gymn subscription in the long run.

Prices

I did warn last Autumn of a second tranche of price rises next month. We have since been notified of a change in terms for bulk supply of  propolis, so that our next consignment will cost us more. The price remains the same until our existing stock is exhausted. Progesterone is not immediately affected. The 20% discount at Cytoplan remains in force.

This Is Planet Health 

We have hit a snag in developing this website, which should have been visible by now. The original developer chose a tool which has proved unequal to the task. We have however just appointed a new developer who will migrate our work to date to a more suitable vehicle, and make the visual effects and their functions much more exciting. It should become a game, as well as a resource. I will keep you up to date with progress under this new regime.