Rethink Health - June 2012
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Wealth, Fat and Fitness
The 60 stone young woman who had to be broken out of her home recently because she could not get through the door, sparked off a lengthy debate. Society had let her down, said the commentators - but it was her mother, not Society, who presented her with fish and chips on her return home from a diet camp, where she had lost 14 stone (from 33). It went straight back on, with interest.
We are, on average, getting larger as well as fatter. Women in the 50s spent a considerable amount of energy on daily housework, particularly on Monday which was generally washday. Thanks to automation washday has vanished, but the average waist of a middle aged woman has gone the other way - from 28 to 34 inches. And it's not just the middle aged. By their twenties, many young women have established themselves as fat, and some even seem rather proud of it. Young men do so more seldom, perhaps because many still work physically in connection with their jobs, or play football in the lunch-hour or at weekends.
Excellent as the Welfare State may be, it has also made a contribution by encouraging some of us to think that the world owes us a living. I expect the numbers are exaggerated, but there is undoubtedly a small minority who play the benefits system and do very little else. Some youngsters have never worked, and have never known their parents work either.
Many of these young people are the products of second generation over-eating, as well as under-acting. There may even be a link with the higher rate of Caesarian Section births in recent decades, according to an American study published last month. And of course there is the inevitable link with poverty. The age to which we can expect to remain free of disability is now about 55 for the worst off. For the rich it is nearly 70.
Britain certainly remains a classified society, despite decades of social levelling which began with the First World War. My father, born into the middle class, was educated only as far as the School Matriculation Certificate because his family needed him to work.
However I, and many of you, come from the generation who had the opportunity of a more extensive education at state expense, thanks to the Butler Education Act. This set a new meritocracy alongside our ancient aristocracy. Graduates from the 60s capitalised on their abilities, prospering in the professions and in businesses new and old. They applied their intelligence to their parenting too, and mother was usually a full-time parent for several years after her children were born. Nurseries were not yet widespread, though mother may have had a nanny or hired help at home.
It is inevitable in this light that eleven-plus graduates have become richer and better favoured generally. The weakening and levelling of secondary education since the 60s has lessened that social mobility, and made it harder to break into a better life. Meanwhile the availability of welfare benefits has reduced the incentive to try. It now takes a great will, hunger and tenacity to break out of a two-generation culture of under-achievement and distrust.
I do not know what the solution to this is. People certainly have to take back responsibility for their own lives, and stop blaming bankers for their misfortunes - and this will at first be painful. A return to respect for education, in particular technical education and apprenticeship, must be part of the mix. And the worst forms of food and drink may have to be outlawed. The only other future I can see is the collapse of the Welfare State, and of those who depend on it.
I am of course addressing the converted. But some of you may see things differently, and in a less gloomy light. If so please correct me. Meanwhile let us give our children our full attention, replace quantity of goods with quality of time, feed and water them well and encourage them to learn hard and play hard. Early lessons must include self-respect, self-reliance and risk management. And parents, you are in charge - not your offspring!
At last someone has noticed that the calcium supplements prescribed for osteoporosis considerably increase the risk of heart disease - double, according to a large long-term German study published last month. A diet naturally rich in calcium had the opposite effect. Of course! And so do food-state supplements.
We should be able to rely on food but face the systemic deficiency of minerals in conventionally-grown land crops, amounting to 30-40% compared to the 1940s. Seafood helps to redress this but does not plug the gap, unfortunately. Which is why we produced Replete ten years ago, a compound of food-state minerals that replaces the lost 30%. We have lobbied successfully for its continuance into the future. In fact the new Replete will be a considerable improvement on the old, thanks to new research in the interval. I suspect we all need it - especially the disadvantaged and overweight amongst us.
Full details of the new product will be available next month.
I am pleased and proud to tell you that I now possess an ABRSM Grade Eight Certificate in piano performance. Gaining it is not an experience I wish to repeat, but I am pleased with the skills I sharpened along the way. I think my age, and late entry into the exam lists, may have earned me some respect but no leniency: I feel I deserved my pass. I can now consolidate my repertoire of decent music suitable for background entertainment. Recitals to a silent, attentive audience are definitely not my style. I am, however, even less likely than before to pass a grand piano without lifting the lid!