I suppose we all want to live a long and healthy life so any health news in the media is bound to catch our attention. But over the years I have come to realise that so much of the advice contradicts what has been said before that there is probably little point in taking any of it very seriously.
For example, for many years we have been warned of the dangers of exposing our skin to the sun as we could be putting ourselves at risk of skin cancers. But by keeping our children in and smothering them in sun cream, vitamin D deficiency is on the increase meaning doctors are seeing more cases of rickets. Having low levels of vitamin D it is claimed in the press today could also ‘raise your risk of high blood pressure.’ Sunshine accounts for 90 per cent of the body’s vitamin D supply and it is essential for the immune system, healthy bones and teeth, and the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D is also found in oily fish and the Mediterranean diet has long been advocated as a beneficial regime to a healthy lifestyle. Yet today, heart attack survivors have been, for the first time, advised against eating too much oily fish, taking omega-3 supplements or food fortified with omega-3. Heart attack survivors had previously been advised to eat two to three portions of oily fish – such as herring or mackerel – a week. The draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) says new treatments have made this approach redundant.
And do you remember when taking a single aspirin a day was supposedly sensible preventative action against heart attacks, in healthy people any protection against cardiovascular disease, we later learned, may be outweighed by an increased risk of internal bleeding. Suddenly aspirins were bad news. I have always been puzzled by alcohol advice; “Alcohol is good for your heart—but too much is a health hazard.” However, if one were to follow the Mediterranean diet as recommended by physicians and doctors all over the world as being the best diet for all-round good health, one would consume two to three glasses of red wine per day. This is surely above the current permissible number of units of alcohol that is accepted as the safe amount of alcohol to drink weekly. More contradictory advice.
How does one differentiate the good advice from the bad? Firstly, in my opinion, one has to look at the newspapers reporting the story. In my experience, the red tops and the other tabloids sensationalise and print a story on the smallest premise. Time and again, health-care and lifestyle articles are reported on barely a shred of evidence and on further investigation, it proves almost impossible to establish the source of the information.The media must take a responsible lead in the way that it informs us of these issues. The current situation is totally unacceptable with so much contradictory advice reported that the baby is being thrown out with the bathwater. We urgently need a single source of medical and lifestyle advice. Is Public Health England the answer?