Whose Life Is It Anyway>

Yet another about turn on government guidelines regarding health. Today NICE has produced draft guidelines stating that after the first three months of pregnancy there is no evidence to show that drinking up to 1.5 units of alcohol a day causes any damage to unborn children, contradicting earlier advice from the Department of Health.
Of course fifteen to twenty years ago and beyond women were actively encouraged to drink alcohol, particularly stout as this helped to prevent anaemia, quite common in the later stages of pregnancy.
Who listens to this advice anyway, certainly not alcoholics whose babies are the ones at risk of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.
It’s the same with all government advice. Eat five pieces of fruit a day. Why five? Where did that figure come from? If you eat more is it bad for you? If you eat less will you still be at risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and an early death? Is it quantifiable, if you only eat three pieces of fruit a day will you live two fiths less long that someone who eats five? Will vegetarians live forever?
Take more exercise. What counts as exercise? According to a recent campaign anything active no matter how moderate, a gentle stroll, gardening, sex – this featuring an older couple, can they really actively bonk for thirty minutes or does foreplay count which isn’t really that active, just hands and mouths?
How many people are now more active than they were before the smoking ban because they have to go outside for a fag? Does that count?
The government continually identifies a problem, which may or may not be transient and/or confined to a small section of society and then berates everybody with expensive advertising campaigns. This leads to a general trend to
a) ignore government advice on the grounds that its so bloody obvious and we do it anyway,
b) take it to heart and try to follow the guidelines strictly, resulting in guilt and stress, contributing to high blood pressure, heart disease etc. or
c) ignore it because everybody is always banging on at you anyway.
Shouldn’t the advisory bodies be targetting the specific groups that need help, doctors and midwives offering help and support to those pregnant women who do have a problem with alcohol for instance, whilst encouraging those that are more than capable of making their own choices to do so?
Giving peple responsibility makes them more responsible whilst taking away accountability seems to encourage the idea that somebody else will do it for you.

5 thoughts on “Whose Life Is It Anyway>

  1. And so you approach the reason I had so much fun bailting the boy – scientists at Bad Science forum. Their cult leaders Ben Goldacre (not his real name I’m sure) likes to bang on about there being “no scientific evidence” things like acupuncture work and echoing Dawkins, that it is gobsmacking so many people are taken in by superstition and what he calls “magical thinking.” Yet the “science” that comes out of “government experts” is as ridiculous and without foundation as anything Gillian McKeith or the tame nutritionists at health food companies come up with. The point the government scientists and the boy scientists (lab technicians hoping to curry favour I’d guess) miss is that though there will always be gullible people who will fall for anything (otherwise how would Mr. Chukawamba Solobo who mailed me last week to say he was absolutely desperate to pay millions of pounds into my bank account if I would only give him my details still be in business.

    I blame Margaret Thatcher of course, but also in this case Comprehensive Education. One of the boy scientists mailed me to explain that I do not understand scientific reasoning because I am not a scientist. And to help me he directed me to a Wikipedia page that explained how post hoc ergo propter hoc is the root of fallacious thinking.

    Except of course it isn’t. After which therefore because of which is most often true. So would it be scientific to say that we cannot prove last summer’s floods happened because of the torrential rain in the preceding few days.

    So the scientists rule should be “after is not necessarily because of,” a warning to examine sequences of events just as caveat emptor is a warning to us to look carefully at what we are buying. And most of us do, especially when givernment scientists tell us it is good for us.

    Just to finish, the “safe limit” for alcohol consumption, it was revealed sometime last year although I’d heard it before was, according to the doctor who led the study, arrived at like this. The team decided it was impossible to define a safe limit as perople’s tolerance differes so widely. So they made up limits for men and women. Then, predicting correctly that nobody would stick to the limit they halved it.

    The science of licking your finger and holding it in the air really innit?


    1. “And to help me he directed me to a Wikipedia page that explained how post hoc ergo propter hoc is the root of fallacious thinking.”

      In my world, anyone who tries to use a wikipedia page in support of their assertions immediately loses the argument.



  2. Ian,

    For once you and the scientists are probably in agreement. for example in this page ( http://www.badscience.net/?p=538 ) Ben talks about fish oils, one of the latest must have products for youth acheivment, and takes the council (in effect a representative of the government) to task over the lack of effect.

    I think the statement “Giving peple responsibility makes them more responsible whilst taking away accountability seems to encourage the idea that somebody else will do it for you” is entirely inkeeping with what many scientists think, it is also curiously reminiscent of Michael Howard’s 2005 election slogans.

    In order that people can make responsible choices it is necessary to give them as much information as possible, then help them to correctly interpret that information. But what do you do when new potentially contradictory information becomes available?
    The general inclination of the public seems to be to assume that it is all wrong and rather than re-evaluate their previously held opinion they write the whole thing off and ignore the valient efforts of scientists and doctors trying to help them.
    The trouble is that a lot of science is complicated, and serving it up for public consuption is a diffciult job, which is badly managed by both the government and the media.


    1. I’m not in agreement at all, and neither is fatsally (who is not fat.) What we have a problem with is the conflicting advice we get from different sources.

      Now as for fish oils (or rather Omega 3 fatty acids which may be derived from fish oils) it is well known that in certain cases they improve concentration.

      Thick – boy Goldacre loves banging on about diet supplements of course but as usual he does not but his brain in gear before letting his fingers lose on the keyboard. Supplements are a very valuable diet addition for SOME people.

      fatsally and I (we’re siblings BTW) were given a vile concoction called cod liver oil and malt as infants, courtesy of the Government. This is perhaps why we are such superintelligent, well balanced individuals now. The Milk Snatcher put a stop to all that of course. So supplements are not a new idea. It is the Grantham Gorgon’s “Victorian Values” that are responsible for reintroducing rickets and other malnutrition related dideases to British society.

      Now for thick boy Goldacres benefit (and if you are in touch, tell him if he is going to mail me asking advice on how to be a human being, not to use false names. Is he really so arrogant as to delude himself I can’t spot his verbal style?) here is how the diet ladder works.

      The typical British diet is low on Omega 3, an essential nutrient. I like most oily fish, salmon, trout, mackerel, herrings, sardines plus I occasionally have soya milk on my crunch nut corn falkes so no prob. for me, memory good, no arthritis etc. But it is not so for everyone.

      My wife does not like oily fish so being a lady of a certain age she takes a supplement. No prob, memory good, no sign of bone shrinkage.

      Fresh is always best, fresh fish, nuts, fresh veg…

      Processed is less good but more affordable. Tinned fish, tinned or frozen veg etc.

      But we can’t make people eat stuff they hate (bananas in my case, chicken for my wife and fatsally has her fads too)

      Now adults are responsible for themselves, if they chhose to spend all their money on booze and fags or Mills and Boon romances or recreational drugs, or music CDs and neglect their diet it is their business.

      But children affected by the irresponsibility of adults cannot make their own choices. So in the absence of a balanced diet a supplement is better than nothing. Now with schoolkids, means tested benefits are not an option. It would take the average class of 9 year olds about thirty seconds to work out the classmates being given pills were from dysfunctional families. So they all get the supp.

      What fatsally is saying is we are all sick of being told what is good and bad for us when:
      a) for all us grown ups it is nobody’s business but ours
      b) the people giving the advice, government ministers, experts from quangos or half witted egomaniacs like Ben Goldacre, are barely qualified to wipe their own arses
      c) no two groups offering “scientific” advice seem able to agree on anything.
      d) We know the “safe” booze limit, the five portions a day and most other recommendations are made up or just downright lies.

      and the list is endless. So what my sister is saying is this:
      “Will all the experts, particularly the self appointed ones, shut the fuck up and try using a bit of common sense, their egomaniacal “advice” is just getting science and the heathcare indistry a bad name.”

      I shall be crucifying thick-boy in this blog very soon. He has pissed me off too many times now. Scientist my arse, he acts more like a lab technician.


  3. First I should apologise as I hadn’t realised that fatsally wrote the first update I assumed that you were the only writer on this blog – It is that first statement that I agree with, particularly the statement “Giving peple responsibility makes them more responsible whilst taking away accountability seems to encourage the idea that somebody else will do it for you”

    I am afraid I am not an expert on fish oils and can not contest the bulk of your second post – I just used that post by Ben to provide evidence that practicing scientists and doctors aren’t the same as government ‘experts’.

    Many Scientists think that government experts should probably not make so many pronouncements as they are all too frequently not backed up by good science.
    I also accept that the British diet is poor, and that taking supplements might under some circumstances be necessary, though I question the value of omega-3 supplements for children.

    In order for someone to take responsiblity and make a well informed judgement it is necessary for them to have all the information available – If I had good evidence that consuming a certain chemical would radiacally shorten you life would you want to know?

    What if I had evidence that a treatment you were spending hundreds of pounds on, did nothing – would you want to know? would you want science to find a treatment to work?


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