SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – November 2002

 Bad medicine. Homeopathy is based on a 300-year-old mistake and magnetic therapy is simply fraudulent. As for oxygen-fortified drinks … Christopher Wanjek debunks some popular medical myths. Guardian

US troops are losing battle of the bulge. As American troops prepare for war in Iraq a report is about to reveal that more than half of them are overweight. A panel of nine medical experts commissioned by the Pentagon is expected to say that 53.9 per cent of US military personnel over the age of 20 would be classified as too fat to fight under federal obesity standards…Admitting such flabbiness would be embarrassing and costly for the Pentagon, which would have to take remedial measures and discharge the incurably fat. Times

The covert biotech war. "The president of Zambia is wrong. Genetically modified food is not, as far as we know, "poison". While adequate safety tests have still to be conducted, there is as yet no compelling evidence that it is any worse for human health than conventional food. Given the choice with which the people of Zambia are now faced – starvation and eating GM – I would eat GM." George Monbiot in the Guardian.

Take Lentilists' advice with a pinch of salt, says Dr James Le Fanu. "The Food Leninists (or Lentilists, as they like to style themselves) have been lying low recently – no doubt only too conscious of the indifference with which their tedious admonitions are received nowadays. But they surfaced again last week to warn parents that they must reduce the amount of salt their children consume by 'a half or more'. So, it is down, or preferably out, for crisps, nuts, bacon, cheese, pickles and other salty foods … [But] God, in his infinite wisdom, designed the kidneys to ensure a constant level of salts in the body. So, if parents cut their children's salt intake, the kidney excretes less in the urine, just as after a very salty meal, the excess is excreted in the urine. This is a biological fact of life that the Leninists – being mere mortals – are quite unable to do anything about." Telegraph.

Gardens 'greater threat than GM'. The leader of the UK's scientific establishment says genetically modified (GM) crops are a lesser threat to biodiversity than some imported garden plants. He says some "fundamentalist" lobby groups opposing GM crops dismiss scientific facts as irrelevant. The charge comes from Lord May in an address to the Royal Society, the UK's national academy of sciences. BBC.

Food for Thought … it is not just changes in diet that have created many of our pervasive health problems but the interaction of shifting diets and changing lifestyles. Too often modern health problems are portrayed as the result of eating "bad" foods that are departures from the natural human diet--an oversimplification embodied by the current debate over the relative merits of a high-protein, high-fat Atkins-type diet or a low-fat one that emphasizes complex carbohydrates. This is a fundamentally flawed approach to assessing human nutritional needs. Our species was not designed to subsist on a single, optimal diet. Scientific American.

An argument that keeps Africa hungry…some governments are blocking the delivery of emergency food relief needed to head off starvation. Their excuse is the debate over biotechnology, spurred in part by the bias against biotechnology of certain European lobby and pressure groups…It does not take a lot to calculate the impact of these arguments by well fed experts. As the region heads for famine, vulnerable people will perish. Financial Times

Doctors issue 'telly belly' alert. British doctors are warning of a new virus spreading throughout the country. The so-called 'telly belly' virus appears to be infectious and is clogging up GP surgeries up and down the land. According to doctors, the condition occurs immediately after watching a health item on television news or a health storyline in a soap opera. 'Telly belly' sufferers believe they have similar symptoms and turn up at their local GP surgery seeking medical assistance. BBC

MMR and autism not linked, finds giant study . A study of more than half a million Danish children has significantly boosted claims that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine does not cause autism. New Scientist
The retrospective nature of the study may be its strength, Dr Madsen told the BMJ. Recall bias, such as when parents whose children are given a diagnosis of autism recall events that occurred around the time of the diagnosis, was absent. In this study, data on vaccination were recorded separately from data on diagnosis. MMR vaccination protects children against disease, Dr Madsen said. "Measles kills one in 3000 children, even in developed countries. It causes encephalitis in one in 2000 and pneumonia in one in 20. People tend to forget." BMJ

Organic farming shunned by food watchdog. Britain's top food safety watchdog has defied ministers for months by refusing to back a government drive to promote organic food and farming … Last week Sir John [Krebs] added fuel to the fire by claiming that manure caused much more air and water pollution than do chemical fertilisers. After delivering the annual St Andrew's Prize Lecture in London,he explained that his purpose had been to "undermine" claims that organic farming is more environmentally friendly than conventional agriculture … The FSA stressed its independence and said that it was "not in the business of promoting either organic or conventional food". Independent on Sunday.

Demonising drink. "The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. The French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. What kills you is speaking English." Mike Fitzpatrick in Spiked!.

Lethal injection: a stain on the face of medicine. 'Throughout modern history, doctors have helped various governments to develop new and "humane" ways to perform capital punishment. Dr Guillotin was perhaps the first doctor to advocate "humane" executions; he later became disgusted that the device bearing his name was used for political, not judicial, executions. The electric chair was conceived by a dentist, but its debut which was bungled and horrifying was attended by many doctors. The gas chamber was also developed with medical expertise.' An American doctor describes parallels between America's use of lethal injection and Nazi Germany's "euthanasia" programme in the BMJ.