Am I the only one who is not only bamboozled by but utterly sick of the plethora of medical/health-related news headlines with which we are bombarded on a daily basis. I decided to look back over the last 2 weeks and see exactly what I am supposed to be doing or not supposed to be doing if I were to follow the advice and findings of various reports and it is quite astounding how much tripe there is out there.
Firstly, let’s take the word of the moment: obesity. This is undoubtedly an increasingly large (no pun intended) problem for this and future generations but it is this very subject which gives rise to some of the most ridiculous studies and conclusions. My favourite groundbreaking study, the results of which have been recently released, is that which comes to the startling conclusion that those living or working near to ‘clusters’ of takeaway outlets are more likely to eat unhealthy food and become obese. No s*** Sherlock. How much time and money has been wasted in carrying out such an extraordinarily informative study? Another equally useful study of recent weeks concludes that the activity levels of a mother and her child are directly linked – i.e. the more physically active a mother is, the more active her child will be….wow, that is quite astounding. Surely there can’t be a link between a mother who sits on her sofa watching daytime TV all day, only moving to switch channels and her equally lazy offspring whose ambitions extend to appearing on Jeremy Kyle. I hate to be the bearer of bad news to those conducting this study but it does seem blindingly obvious to me that this would be the case. Teaching your grandmother to suck eggs springs to mind.
Apparently according to another study, childhood obesity is partly caused by strict parenting. How convenient, yet another reason for us to pander to our children and to feel guilty for setting any boundaries. So as not to appear strict, saying “Yes, darling, of course you can have another 6 packets of crisps and 2 cans of coke,” is clearly going to help prevent the obesity epidemic.
According to the newspapers this week, our 5 a day of fruit and vegetables is not enough and we should be aiming for 10 a day. I can’t work out if that is one of those reverse psychology tricks that the nanny state is playing on us (after all it was April Fools Day this week) or whether this is a genuine piece of advice. Perhaps by overstating the amount we should eat it will push us into increasing our intake and therefore move us towards actually achieving our 5 a day ( a bit like when I tell my husband that a party starts at 8pm when actually it starts at 9pm but as he is always late, we have got some chance of being on time if he believes me). However, if the advice is genuine, I am already hyperventilating at the prospect of providing 50 portions of fruit and vegetables daily to my family of 5.
Other than obesity, the most oft reported ‘breakthrough’ studies seem to refer to exercise. Now I realise that doing exercise is a given (or at least in my case wearing sports clothing to mimic taking exercise) but no-one is able to agree on how much, what type and with what intensity. Take two health headlines in the last week or so: aerobic exercise in your 20s may protect the brain in middle age and jogging can be harmful if done for more than 2-3 hours a week. As you can imagine, I have paid scant attention to the first as sadly I am so way past my 20s that protecting my brain is really not an option. Although what I am not sure is whether the study means that aerobic exercise is pointless in your 40s – I suspect not, but I can live in hope. The second headline is music to my ears. Not only is running, to my mind, the most boring exercise known to man (I realise that I have now alienated scores of you who are running-obsessed) but I have to admit to a feeling of smugness that all those people who have run religiously for hours every week and made me feel unfit and lazy could in fact being doing more harm than good. Exercise in moderation – always been my motto – although I don’t think my definition of moderation and some others would be commensurate .
These are only a small proportion of the findings reported in the press in the last few weeks. Clearly, many studies are extremely important and represent true medical and health progress. However it seems to me that far too many are plainly ridiculous, with patently obvious conclusions that only serve to contribute to an already overwhelming degree of health anxiety amongst this generation. In fact, for me, all this conflicting advice leaves me with no option but to ignore it all. It is not really feasible for me to eat 10 portions of fruit whilst jogging (not too much) but not outside due to pollution from a Saharan dust storm and certainly not in the vicinity of a ‘cluster’ of takeaway outlets and be nice to my children (not strict in the least) all at the same time.