So all these health rules are entirely bollocks. So here\’s some new made up ones.

We get confirmation of the fact that the \”safe drinking guidelines\” are bollocks:

This is what Dr Smith has said on the matter: “David Barker was the epidemiologist on the committee and his line was that ‘we don’t really have any decent data whatsoever and it’s impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t’. So the feeling was that we ought to come up with something. So those limits were really plucked out of the air. They weren’t really based on any firm evidence at all. It was a sort of intelligent guess by a committee.”

Their numbers — 21 units a week for men and so on — were subsequently adopted by the Government and repeated as mantra by GPs and health experts both in the UK and abroad.

So they\’ve all been lying to us for decades.Good Oh.

So what are the true limits?

The new evidence, much less well known, is that tiny amounts of alcohol increase your risk of cancer. If a woman gets through only a very reasonable one bottle of wine a week, her risk of breast cancer goes up by 10 per cent. There is a “sweet spot”, balancing these risks, and the study found that it was incredibly small, at half a unit a day. Given that people are also chronically confused about units (wine strength and glass size are increasing), this means about a quarter of a very modest glass of wine.

Dr Scarborough is at one point heard describing half a glass of wine as “bingeing”.

I don\’t think that\’s going to work you know. I just really don\’t.

Sir Ian Gillmore, former president of the Royal College of Physicians, who appears in the documentary, said: “I think the best evidence is that, taking [into account] all the risks and the potential benefits to older people, the best health option is not to drink at all.”

Who let the Methodists gain control of public policy?

It was a revelation to Dr Mosley, which then became almost wearily predictable when he started researching guidelines on food. The five-a-day mantra on fruit and vegetables, when traced back to its roots, was again a figure plucked out of the air in California to promote the state’s fruit-growers.

The idea took hold because doctors wanted to reduce the public’s cancer risk through diet, although subsequent research suggests that eating fruit and vegetables has remarkably little effect on your cancer risk. And people, especially children, now guzzle vast quantities of juice when all they really gain is a sugar hit.

Dr Mosley is convinced that vegetables are where it’s at: low in sugar, high in all kinds of mysterious compounds that improve our health.

Since they appear to not actually know anything at all perhaps we should just ignore them all?

For given that they now admit they\’ve been lying to us their \”Ah, but now here\’s the real truth!\” isn\’t all that convincing, is it?

27 thoughts on “So all these health rules are entirely bollocks. So here\’s some new made up ones.”

  1. “It was a sort of intelligent guess by a committee.”
    There is no such thing as any sort of intelligence out of a committee.

  2. So Much For Subtlety

    Since they appear to not actually know anything at all perhaps we should just ignore them all? For given that they now admit they’ve been lying to us their “Ah, but now here’s the real truth!” isn’t all that convincing, is it?

    Remember that all the evidence that a high fat diet causes heart problems is the personal observation of one American doctor who was on holiday in the south of Italy. And a large number of trials where people have been put on a low fat diet have resulted in higher mortality – largely by suicide admittedly.

    But no, they don’t know a damn thing and we ought to ignore everything they say.

  3. Let’s see now. Breast cancer incidence about 80 per 100,000 in Western Europe.

    So your chances of getting cancer have increased from 0.08% to 0.088% if you drink. Scary, innit?

  4. Who let the Methodists gain control of public policy?

    They put themselves there. Broadly speaking, the “Public Health Movement” is a puritan front. Hence the New England Journal Of Medicine, and all that.

    One way to look at it is that historically the radical protestants were fundamentalists in the truest sense of the word. They wanted to get Christianity back to its Jewish roots, and one important aspect of that is to have a stringent ruleset administrated by a small clique of Wise Owls. What to eat, what clothes to wear, how when and why to have sex, what you can read or watch, all of that. The Islamic equivalent of course is the ulama. So, over time it moved over from religious zealots to “secular” zealots; thus spawning that most odious creature, the “Scientific Progressive”. But the injection of this character into our society traces right back to the fallout from the Reformation.

    Which is why you tend to find that the hardcore of these dangerous lunatics tend to have a heritage in the nutball wing- Calvinists, Quakers, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc etc.

    While writing about race, rather than food, the university Leninist Andrew Marr put it thusly-

    And the final answer, frankly, is the vigorous use of state power to coerce and repress. It may be my Presbyterian background, but I firmly believe that repression can be a great, civilising instrument for good. Stamp hard on certain ‘natural’ beliefs for long enough and you can almost kill them off.

    That same heritage cuts through our masters and is the ultimate source of political correctness of all kinds.

  5. “her risk of breast cancer goes up by 10 per cent”: the probability that epidemiologists can really spot a 10% difference is a bloody sight less than 10%. (I’m assuming that he isn’t discussing a double-blind randomised controlled trial, because I think the chances of that are also a bloody sight less than 10%.)

  6. The truth about alcohol is quite well known. The risk of some cancers increases with any alcohol consumption (this is not new). The risk of heart disease falls with moderate alcohol consumption, and rises thereafter.

    Combining these two, minimum mortality for the average person seems to be at about one unit a day, but it’s a broad minimum, and it depends on age and sex. Plausibly, people with low risk of heart disease should drink less, and people with high risk should drink a bit more. If mortality is all you care about, you should probably drink no alcohol, do a lot of exercise, and eat a lot of vegetables and not much meat.

  7. The question of long life as a good thing is a difficult one. The puritans of course always insist it is better to live a long life than a short life. But the problem is, we still age at the same rate; so, we can only add years on at the crap bit at the end instead of the better bits earlier on.

    I personally take a (perhaps optimistically utopian) view that, if there is the will, this can be the century when genuine life extension can be achieved- that is, slowing down the actual ageing process. I take a longer term view that, ultimately, immortality is an inevitable development (simply because the human body is a mechanical system, and any mechanical system can be arbitrarily redesigned subject to the laws of physics).

    But for now, it is difficult to actually see any merit in policies that allow you to be an old wreck for more years and decades.

  8. The truth is that regardless of how many more women die of cancer due to drinking, it will be small compared to the number that die from infections they caught in hospital, or from poor diagnosis, or poor treatment.

    Physician heal thyself.

  9. Such calls for abstaining from alcohol for health reasons make the same mistake Tim has pointed out on here regarding smoking: there is a utility aspect of drinking, as there is smoking, and in some cases the net effect might not be negative with doing either. There is a reason active soldiers, nurses, and other professions smoke (it keeps the perhaps more deadly stress levels down), and there is also a reason (the same one) why most married men drink.

    In other words, how are we expected to live with our wives if we can’t drink?!

  10. Ian @ 7
    Interesting, but even mechanisms get old. We are more properly described as chemical processes, not machines. These also are not eternal, being driven by reversible oxygen transformations.
    Each time O2 becomes O + O a tiny amount of ionising radiation is released at the cellular level. This eventually degrades that which it acts in, the cells.
    Ionising radiation is a prime cause of cancer. If we live long enough we’ll all get it. And breathing oxygen is maybe the prime cause of cancer.
    Your remarks may be immortal but bad luck mate, you’re not.

  11. Ah, BIF, but we’re unusual machines with self-repair mechanisms. With regards to the wear-and-tear issue, it’s partially a matter of beefing them up. You must remember after all that one part of us, our germ cells, is immortal. Under the evolutionary dogma, the rest of our cells accept eventual desctruction in order to ensure their immortality.

    Damaged cells can be identified and removed by apoptosis. Perfect new cells can be created. That’s the unique characteristic of a living machine.

    It’s not at all hopeless. It’s not an easy engineering problem, but neither is it impossible.

  12. Ian
    “Under the evolutionary dogma, the rest of our cells accept eventual desctruction in order to ensure their immortality.”

    WTF does that mean? You’re not a creationist, are you?

    Yes we do have self repair mechanisms. But these in turn are eventually degraded and do worse and worse repairs.

    Noone has yet lived as long as the upper limit to human life, and you can argue about whether it is 150 or 160 years. But that there is an upper limit is uncontroversial.

    In the far future we might achieve immortality by bypassing O2 at the cellular level and getting everything we need by tube. But would we be human then?

  13. has anyone suggested how drinking alcohol might cause breast cancer? I can see that there might be connections between ingesting nicotine and throat or mouth cancer but….?

  14. There are far too many different and interesting ways to die for immortality to ever be a practical prospect, but assuming you can banish rather a lot of them, I don’t see why living to a biblical age would be a problem. At that point, probably everyone will die of a stroke when too far from a hospital with a declotting and brain-repairing team on standby.

    On the demon drink, here is the perpetual confusion between averages and what happens to the individual. Assuming for the sake of argument that long life (as opposed to a shorter one with more of your favourite pleasure) is the goal, I suspect the optimal level of alcohol consumption is basically zero – the trace amounts you might get in fruit that’s been hanging around a bit too long. The thing is, for most people drinking more than zero makes no difference, and the point at which drinking becomes life-threatening differs for each individual.

    It’s a game of chance, so the effects show up in averages, but he who wins the games (boozes all he likes and still makes it to 94) doesn’t care for the average, Are you one of those 10% of heavy drinkers who will eventually succumb to liver failure? Only way to find out is to try.

    @bloke in France, not ionising radiation, rather free radicals. But damage nonetheless. There is however no reason in the laws of physics why this is not reversible, if you can do engineering on the molecular level in something as large as a human, that is. The fact we exist, in diametric opposition to entropy, means there is no reason in principle why we can’t continue the effectice growth and repair processes we had as children into adulthood.

    Evolution does require death. Imagine a world with one self-replicating single-celled immortal species. Before long all available resources are monopolised by the maximum possible number of individuals of this species, there is nothing left for other species to arise.

  15. @Diogenes, alcohol (as nicotine) gets everywhere in the body via the circulation. The reason smoking doesn’t cause (much) breast cancer in the way alcohol might plausibly (though I also don’t believe talk of 10% increases in risk) is that nicotine isn’t much of a carcinogen.

  16. Dearime has it right – 10% increase in relative risk is just bullshit.
    A relative risk has to be higher than 200% to be worth even vaguely worrying about – determining relative risk is very error-prone.
    And a professional would know this – so anyone bandying a 10% increase in relative risk is motivated by something other than science.

    My suggestion is that we hang all the public health doctors as well as all the politicians…

  17. Diogenes: there’s a suggestion that alcohol damages folic acid, thereby increasing the risk of DNA transcription errors. There’s evidence that women who take folate supplements don’t have an increased risk of breast cancer from drinking alcohol.

  18. Ian
    “Under the evolutionary dogma, the rest of our cells accept eventual desctruction in order to ensure their immortality.”

    WTF does that mean? You’re not a creationist, are you?

    No, and I’m not sure why I used the word “dogma” there either. What I meant is that an organism is a community of cells who accept eventual death in order to preserve the immortality of the germ line. Which evolution found for some reason (not entirely settled) to be the best strategy.

    The point is, just because that system was good for us as animals in the past, there’s no reason to feel obligated to continue it now we can do some re-engineering.

    The repair systems we have are, like everything else evolved, “just good enough” to get us to reproduce reasonably optimally. There is no reason for not upgrading them, and no reason to think there is a bound on how much we can improve them. As I said, it’s not an easy project, but it’s do-able and, I would argue, inevitable.

    I’m 46, and I’m already way past my best. There’s no reason to condem the future generations to a life so miserably short. Twenty years of development, ten years at your peak, and then decades of decline. We can intelligently design a better system than that.

    The gerontological researcher Aubrey de Grey (who may be a pioneer, or a crank, we cannot yet know) has noted that many people seem to be irrationally opposed to life extension, using a “we can’t do it, so we shouldn’t do it” type argument. Currently, as beings who suffer the horror of ageing and death, and apparently stuck with it, we make all sorts of justifications for why therefore it must be a Good Thing in some way. It isn’t. It’s fucking horrible. Let’s fix it.

  19. Teetotallers die younger than moderate drinkers (up to about 40 units a week, I think). There was a study done on this, I’m sure Christopher Snowden at the Velvet Glove blog has covered this.

    ‘Public Health’ is now dominated by prohibitionists and general authoritarian nutjobs, few of which are actual medical doctors. This isn’t surprising, as motivated extremists will eschew actually healing people and instead work their way into positions of influence and power.

  20. Until the transhumanists figure something out I’m definately going with the “short happy life” principle. I can’t see the point in livin any other way

    Happy New Year!

  21. James V
    One free radical = one alpha particle.
    Maybe only semantics, and unworthy of the high minded bollocks we pretend to on this blog, but I prefer the ionising radiation thesis, because it annoys the hell out of the anti-nuke nutjobs.

  22. Maka
    With you all the way there.
    Just wondering if there is a split between those with children and those without. Without, you get a bit more ambitious for long life. Maybe my selfish gene has got dominant but I don’t fear death so much as incontinence, chronic pain and boredom. Not there yet, but…

  23. So Much For Subtlety

    Ian B – “One way to look at it is that historically the radical protestants were fundamentalists in the truest sense of the word.”

    Which is not surprising as the word fundamentalist was coined specifically to describe them.

    “They wanted to get Christianity back to its Jewish roots”

    Well no.

    “and one important aspect of that is to have a stringent ruleset administrated by a small clique of Wise Owls.”

    And definitely not. Whatever else you can say about the Puritans and all their off shoots, they wanted to broaden and democratise authority. Which they did. They did not want to replicate the Catholic Church’s hierarchy. And they didn’t.

    “The Islamic equivalent of course is the ulama.”

    Christianity has no equivalent because it does not have the same obsession with ritual and law. The only equivalent to the Ulama are the Rabbis.

    “So, over time it moved over from religious zealots to “secular” zealots; thus spawning that most odious creature, the “Scientific Progressive”.”

    I probably do agree with that but you are missing the importance of the puritan. No one studies for an extra decade, putting off relationships, marriage and children, for the money. They do so because of that puritan legacy that screws up their attitude to women. To these people we owe everything. Communities that are not puritanical do not produce such people. Just compare Jewish Americans (until recently boys were told not to even touch their peckers) and African Americans. Even back in slavery AAs had a less puritanical interpretation of their faith. The result is you are much more likely to be operated on by a Jewish doctor and a lot less likely to be mugged by a Jewish thug.

  24. I’m sorry to say it, but here we go again.

    There’s a vast difference between the corpus of medical science, and slogans which the public may find useful. I see no point in criticising slogans, which by their very nature are simplifications of complex medical phenomena, on the grounds of inaccuracy – “they’ve been lying to us for decades”.

    By way of a sidelight, Bernard Williams used to point out a similar difference in terms of moral philosophy – what he called the Oxford and the Cambridge schools. The Oxford school tried to answer the question of what’s right and what’s wrong; the Cambridge school was interested in what we should tell our children. So, to take a simple example, the Cambridge lot would say that it’s right to say to our children that killing people is wrong. To which the Oxfordians would reply no, not necessarily, because for example war may throw up situations in which killing people may be justifiable – in short, it’s complicated.

    By the same analysis, “five a day”, or BMI, or “safe drinking guidelines” don’t for a moment encapsulate the totality of medical science, as this site likes to point out. But that doesn’t mean to say that they’re not useful recommendations, or that they’re the result of wilful mendacity.

  25. So Much for Subtlety

    PaulB – “is there any subject on which you’re unwilling to introduce a racist analysis?”

    Not sure. We will have to see. Notice that this was not a racial analysis. It used two different communities at either end of a spectrum who happen to be racially distinct to introduce a point about culture. You see race where you want to see it.

    26 Churm Rincewind – “There’s a vast difference between the corpus of medical science, and slogans which the public may find useful. I see no point in criticising slogans, which by their very nature are simplifications of complex medical phenomena, on the grounds of inaccuracy – “they’ve been lying to us for decades”.”

    I see. So medical scientists dumb down their message and then shoulder no responsibility for what is done in their name? They remain silent but it is not their fault?

    “By the same analysis, “five a day”, or BMI, or “safe drinking guidelines” don’t for a moment encapsulate the totality of medical science, as this site likes to point out.”

    I like that “encapsulate the totality of medical science” when what you mean is that they have no basis in evidence-based medicine at all.

    “But that doesn’t mean to say that they’re not useful recommendations, or that they’re the result of wilful mendacity.”

    The fruit marketing campaign probably was. And by definition if someone says “Science tells us … ” when they mean “My best guess is …” they are being mendacious. But I agree it does not mean they are not useful. People probably should eat more. If they drink less though, they will not only be less happy, they will probably die earlier. The anti-fat message of the last few years may be responsible for the explosion in obesity. So these things do have actual real world consequences. Which means the doctors mendating should be careful that their mendaciousness does no harm.

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