Sorry, why should the NHS treat people for being fat?

Rather noxious little piece today by Amanda Platell. To summarise briefly, we shouldn’t waste money treating fat people, because they deserve their fatness.

“Ah, say the fatties, but you can’t deny us medical treatment, any more than you can refuse to treat an alcoholic who needs liver surgery, or a smoker who develops lung cancer. I agree that these, too, are the result of individuals choosing an unhealthy lifestyle.

But the crucial difference is that you cannot cure cancer by stopping smoking, nor replace a liver by becoming teetotal. The vast majority of the chronically overweight, by contrast, could ‘cure’ themselves simply by following a healthier lifestyle.

Quite simply, with a cash-strapped NHS that can’t even afford to treat the dying, we must stop indulging the self-indulgent.”

And, to summarise again, what the column misses is the fact that the similarity between the clinically obese and the alcoholically is often precisely that they didn’t choose their unhealthy lifestyle. This is something Amanda edges round the side of in her anecdote about her doctor friend and the patients completely unable to follow a healthier lifestyle, but then totally misses:

“I have a friend who runs a weight-loss clinic at a London GP’s surgery, and she tells me that at times, it’s the most soul-destroying job. ‘I have patients who come in and swear blind that they eat a healthy diet, and can’t understand why they’ve been piling on the pounds,’ she says.”

When said doctor asked them to list what they were eating, the patients reported “fizzy drinks, fried food, snacks throughout the day”. Amanda concludes from this that they were lying when they said they were eating a healthy diet. Not they were telling the truth, but weren’t aware that the junk food was bad for them, which would seem to be the more obvious conclusion to draw from the guileless admition that they were eating unhealthy food after initially saying that they weren’t. Presumably Amanda is keen to avoid  the trap she subscribes to ‘liberals’:

“I laugh outright when I hear the oh-so liberal lament that the obesity crisis is due to the gap between the rich and the poor. The poor, we’re told, eat junk food because it’s all they can afford. The rich have the ‘luxury’ of a healthier diet.

Set aside, for one moment, the monstrously patronising premise contained within this theory, which implies poor people are too stupid to take care of themselves.”

This is a straw man¹. We can happily accept that the patients above are not stupid while still seeing them as ill-informed. Which is unsurprising, when papers like the Mail actively agitate against health education schemes as redolent of nannyism. Amanda may well be able to take care of herself, watching ‘Jamie’s Ministry of Food’ and having been brought up in an Enyd Blyton novel:

“We swam, ran, climbed trees, played football. We ate healthily and lived healthily.”

but for those living on council estates, situated in the middle of food deserts, attending schools whose playing fields have long since been sold off, whose benefits do not stretch to free access to the local swimming pool and free lessons to enable them to use it, whose habit of processed food makes healthier options taste bland, things are a lot harder. It’s fine for Amanda to claim that the gap between rich and poor doesn’t cause obesity, but she’ll have to explain the very solid link between poverty and obesity (here’s the Office of National Statistic’s most recent dataset) by some other means. The idea that it’s self indulgence alone is less convincing than the more nuanced view that it’s to do with the lack of ready access to healthy food, a cost disencentive to buying healthier, less processed food, a lack of access to sporting and recreational facilities, a lack of education about healthy foods, the generational compounding of the above, co-incidence of contributary factors like alcohol consumption and smoking, a lack of employment and incentive to self-development, and a lack of social support. Especially since it conveniently ends up concluding that the best course of action is one that serves the interests not of the poor and obese, but of Amanda Platell and her middle class friends:

“In principle, I’m against any form of NHS rationing. The great joy of the health service is that it is free at the point of use, regardless of the medical condition that necessitates it. But obesity isn’t an illness. It’s a self-induced condition.”

Frankly, if you’re against any form of NHS rationing then you’re a fool – there are, and always will be, treatments whose benefits are so marginal that they are not worth the expense. Obesity treatments do not fall into this category – they give a chance to people society have failed. It’s easy to call for things to be taken away from people we don’t know, and don’t spend time with. It’s easy to say:

“The fact is, the current politically correct non-judgmental policy is not only failing to solve Britain’s obesity crisis, it is actually fuelling it. What’s needed instead is some tough love.”

when you don’t feel any love for the people in question. That’s self-indulgence; having someone else take the hit so you don’t have to. Only these people will be paying with their lives. This is repugnant.

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¹ While we’re talking about straw men: “Consider, instead, a simple truth: it is no coincidence that the poorest nations on Earth do not suffer from an obesity crisis – only the rich ones.” Which must be a joke inserted by a mischevious sub-editor.

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Torture is wrong but why, in the name of sanity, should we allow those who hate us to live here?

Nicely dovetailing into my last post comes an opportunity to discuss the rights and wrongs of torture, courtesy of Max Hastings:

“It is a wicked thing, if Binyam Mohamed has indeed been tortured during his seven years’ confinement, latterly at America’s Guantanamo Bay, and equally wicked if Britain has been complicit in that torture.”

Which, as opening paragraphs go, is quite a good one. It establishes, from the off, that some things are bad, are that being complicit in them is also bad. We can all agree with this, we can be friends. But wait:

“The pit in which Britain, more than any other Western nation, finds itself stuck is that our courts and the human rights industry reject removal from our shores of anybody to their own nation if it lacks ‘acceptable’ standards of justice and freedom.”

Suddenly Max wants us to be complicit in bad things. Here we disagree, and fall out. What happened between the first paragraph and that one? Why can we not assist in torture, but can send someone back to a country where they will be tortured? Max thinnks it’s sufficient to say:

“The right of residence is discretionary.

Why should it be extended to a man about whom there seems little doubt does not want to live here as a law-abiding person, committed to our values and way of life?”

Take a parallel example: You want to kill Max. I know you want to kill Max. You ask to borrow my sharp knife; while I can’t be sure you don’t just want to evenly divide your freshly made fudge for the orphans, the look in your eye, and your comment about needing it to kill Max,  suggests strongly that your motive is less friendly. I lend you the knife. You kill Max. You are now a murderer and I am an accessory, because I knew what you wanted to do and enabled you to do it. I didn’t kill Max, it’s true, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything wrong, morally or actually. Even if I really wanted Max out of my spare room, or I felt Max’s journalism undermined my way of life. We should be able to agree.

If w can, we shuold also be able to agree that it is completely unimportant whether Binyam Mohamed left the UK because he didn’t want to live here (which he denies), it’s completely unimportant that he harbours resentment to the UK (although his statement on arrival certainly didn’t indicate that to me), it would be completely unimportant if he followed Max’s recommendation and built a bomb factory in Southall (although it would be fine to arrest him, try him and, if found guilty, imprison him).  If we can agree that torturing him is wrong, it is wrong to enable his torture by sending him back to Ethiopia.

Either Max has missed this inconsistency, or he’s ignoring it. That’s poor – to paraphrase his conclusion, he has ‘displayed pitiful weakness‘ in failing to consistently condemn or support abetting torture and, arguably ‘merits our contempt‘.

Strange Ontology: Week beginning 16th February

Original research

17th February

Menopause drug once thought safer than HRT ‘could raise risk of breast cancer relapse’

A report on: Kenemans et al. (2009) Safety and efficacy of tibolone in breast-cancer patients with vasomotor symptoms: a double-blind, randomised, non-inferiority trial The Lancet Oncology 10:135-146

19th February

An apple a day helps beat breast tumours, scientists say

A report on: Liu et al. (2009) Fresh Apples Suppress Mammary Carcinogenesis and Proliferative Activity and Induce Apoptosis in Mammary Tumors of the Sprague-Dawley Rat Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 57:297-304

How using Facebook could raise your risk of cancer

A report on: Seligman (2009) Well Connected?: The Biological Implications of ‘Social Networking Biologist 56:14-20

20th February

Cancer screening ‘blights ten lives for every one saved’

A report on: Gøtzsche et al. (2009) Breast screening: the facts-or maybe not BMJ doi:10.1136/bmj.b86

22nd February

Men could live as long as women in just two generations as life expectancy gaps closes

A report on: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (2009) Health, United States, 2008 Washington:Government Printing Office

and (I believe): Office for National Statistcs (2008) Life expectancy at birth and at age 65 by local areas in the United Kingdom London:ONS

Causes in brief

16th February

‘Space helmet’ that can tell you’ve had a stroke

“Only cancer and heart disease kill more people [than strokes].”

17th February

‘Jade Goody effect’ sees cervical screening soar by more than 20%

“Cervical cancer is the most preventable form of cancer but is the second biggest killer of women in their 30s in the UK”

18th February

Jade Goody calls five friends to hospital bedside and asks them to be bridesmaids at her £1.5m wedding

“‘By raising awareness for cervical cancer Jade Goody’s plight could save thousands of lives by encouraging more young women to have a smear test.'”

Other

17th February

Health News: Hopes the humble mushroom could stop cancer recurring and stem cells could reverse lung damage

“Button mushrooms are being tested as a treatment to stop breast and prostate cancers recurring.”

19th February

Drinking just one glass of wine a day can INCREASE risk of cancer by 168%, say the French!

A report on: National Cancer Institute (2009) Nutrition et prévention des cancers : des connaissances scientifiques aux recommandations Paris: NCI

21st February

At last we’re talking about the Big C: Cancer specialist says we can all learn from Jade Goody

“Cancer affects one in three of us. When I started in oncology in the Seventies, we didn’t mention the C word to patients. We talked about cysts and inflammation and used codes such as ‘new growth’ or ‘mitotic activity’ on ward rounds. It is hard to imagine how we got away with this delusion when people had extensive surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. They just trusted us.”

22nd February

‘Tears and laughter’ as Jade and Jack tie the knot… after she keeps him waiting for 45 minutes

“Meanwhile, the happiness of her wedding day could give Jade Goody’s health a bigger boost than any medication, cancer experts say.”

Cancer deaths ‘to DOUBLE by 2050’ in ‘catastrophic’ rise driven by obesity crisis, warns expert

“Cancer rates are increasing so fast in Britain and across the world that they will soon be as big a problem as climate change, an expert has claimed.”

Under this rule, even Osama Bin Laden is British

Although to the outsider sometimes disturbing, I’m starting to see some comforting familiarity in Richard’s columns. Take this, from today:

“Some years ago, in the wake of the Afghan hijack fiasco at Stansted, I invented a spoof game show called ‘Asylum!'”

which reminded me of a story I’d previously touched on, in which Richard reminisced:

“Around the time of the hijack, I even invented a spoof game show called ASYLUM!, which is still doing the rounds on the internet.”

which made me think there might be more, and indeed there are, such as this gem:

“A few years ago, after the Afghan airliner hijack at Stansted, I invented a game show called ASYLUM! in which contestants from all over the world merely had to set foot in Britain to be showered with benefits, free homes and cars.”

or this:

“A couple of weeks after the Siege of Stansted, I invented a spoof game show called Asylum! Hijack An Airliner And Win A Council House.”

Although I still don’t find the concept amusing, I can at least now greet it as a part of the furniture – it’s an anecdote Richard and I share, because like him I know the punchline. Now, far be it from me, who has never invented a spoof game show in my life, to mock another man’s pride in what is clearly, to him, a beautiful child, but it seems to me that the punchline is somewhat flawed.

The thing about asylum, which should be obvious from the name¹, is that it is a type of refuge. We offer it to people fleeing persecution, war or threat to their persons. Such people tend to have trouble fleeing – if what your government really wants to do with you involves spark plugs and water, they’re unlikely to issue you with a passport or let you across the border as a substitute. If what you really want to avoid is your government having fun at your expense, a different tack must be taken. Since the legal ways are not options, the only options are illegal. The fact that you have needed to forge your passport or hijack a plane to escape almost guarantees you access to asylum – firstly because the fact you’ve gone to the trouble suggests something was up with you in the first place and secondly because, if your government did like you originally, they’re unlikely to look on you so kindly after you’ve been publicly on the run. Part of the problem with Richard’s putative game show, and his asides at Abu Qatada later in his article, is that asylum isn’t granted in these cases in spite of the illegal means by which the country was entered, but partly because of them.

The second problem again relates to the nature of asylum as flight from persecution, warfare, or threats to the person. All three of these make the hiring of a removal company to get your property out in good order, and the access to your bank accounts to do the same with your finances, somewhat difficult. Not only do you lose your country, livelihood and lifestyle, but you also lose everything you owned and had spent a lifetime building up. Even an asylum seeker who’d lived a life of Littlejohnian prudence and accumulation would arrive unable to support themselves. Throw in any problems with the language, the fact that qualifications may not be readily transferable and a sometimes unwelcoming local community and the alternative to a council house is homelessness and beggary. That is not my definition of asylum, and it is an unattractive alternative to winning Richard’s game.

Which is also a long way of saying that Richard’s prescience:

“It was supposed to be a joke but, as always, was based on fact. I can remember writing that none of the hijackers would be deported and they’d all end up living here permanently, courtesy of the mug British taxpayer.”

is not so prescient after all.

For Richard, this long interlude is merely a way of introducing his main subject, the ‘undesirables’ who were granted refuge. Now there are two obvious problems with this – the one raised above that hijacking a plane doesn’t make you an undesirable but merely someone desperate enough to hijack a plane, but also the simpler point that refuge is not immigration. The people who we would normally want to keep out, and Abu Qatada seems as objectionable as any, arrive fleeing persecution. To send them home is to condemn them to whatever it was they were trying to avoid. If that thing is sufficiently bad that we would take them if they weren’t ‘undesirable’, it is hard to see how we can morally send them back to it. To put it simply, there are some things you would not wish on an enemy. As soon as that’s the case, we’re stuck with them, and in our benefit situation previously outlined. It’s not ideal, but it’s the right thing to do.

Which brings us to:

“To add insult to injury, a panel of European judges has awarded Qatada £2,500 in damages for the brief period he spent in Belmarsh prison after 9/11.

Another ten foreign terror suspects held at the same time also received payouts ranging from £1,500 to £3,400 each.”

and the idea of the ‘right thing to do’. Having people such as Qatada, who we would normally send home but can’t, presents something of a problem. We need to find a way of preventing him from causing harm while at the same time being unable to deport him as we would normally. In such a situation, the Law is normally a good rule of thumb to follow. Were he not a refugee, but a UK national, he would be free to go about his daily business until he had done something which was against the law, be arrested for that illegal act, given an opportunity to offer a defence for his actions, and then tried in accordance with the evidence available. He wouldn’t just be banged up on the suspicion that he’d done something wrong before he’d had a chance to consider the charges. Were that to happen, he’d be entitled to compensation. Again, the facts that Qatada is here on a charitable basis and is not someone we’d have chosen to have on any other terms makes this compensation unfortunate, but those facts don’t make his claim for compensation any less compelling².

Which leads us to Richard’s crashing finale on who Britain should defend, citing the case of Binyam Mohammed:

“Binyam Mohammed is an Ethiopian citizen who was granted leave to live in Britain. In 2001, he decided he’d rather live in Afghanistan.”

Were these facts the case in full, Richard would probably have a point. However, I have not found anyone else asserting that he left to live in Afghanistan – Binyam himself says he went to see what the Islamic state looked like, and because he wanted to kick a drug habit away from his familiar haunts. He was arrested less than a year later, trying to return to Britain from Pakistan. Although born in Ethiopia, he’d lived in the UK since he was 15, and had been resident for 7 years. He’s worked here, paid taxes here, had leave to return here and was trying to return here. There is currently no evidence that he planned to commit any crime on returning. This is not quite the same as Osama Bin Laden, Richards reductio ad absurdum. This is just another example of someone who has been accepted under Britain’s protective umbrella  – and so someone who should be accorded the same treatment as anyone else under that umbrella, such as Richard himself. Again, even if we believe that Binyam is an ‘undesirable’, we would have reason to protest him being arrested without charge, tortured, detained without the access of a lawyer and slated to be tried in a kangaroo court that had the power of the death sentence. These are not things that should happen to someone Britain had offered to protect.

Fundamentally, this all comes down to the fact that foreign people are just as worthwhile as people who have always paid taxes here. You don’t buy fair treatment under law, you don’t buy the right not to be tortured abroad or have a foreign government persecute you. There are things that cannot be done to you, and that means there are things we cannot send foreigners home to have done to them and things that we cannot do to them here just because they’re foreign. That’s not the crazed punchline to a game-show themed joke, that’s consistency.

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¹ The derivation I have of it is from the Greek ‘sulon’, referring to the right of seizure, ‘a-sulon’ meaning ‘no right of seizure’. Even without this derivation, we have a long history as ‘asylum’ as a practical synonym for ‘refuge’, as in mental hospitals – refuges from mental illness.

² As a slight aside, it’s worth noting here that this has nothing to do (as Richard suggests in: “And until Britain repeals the pernicious ‘yuman rites’ act, here they’ll stay, indefinitely.”) with the Human Rights Act. Rights to asylum and treatment on reception are enshrined in international law and rights to a fair trial are traditional and would be mourned by Richard if they were ever threatened.

Finally, Jade’s sad life has a purpose

It takes a while to work out exactly why this column from Alison doesn’t sit right, and it’s almost entirely the fault of whoever wrote the headline.

“Finally, Jade’s sad life has a purpose”

suggests one of two things. Either it claims an insight into Jade’s internal world that it couldn’t possibly have by asserting that, for example, the raising of her children or the connecting with her public was not considered a purpose for her; or it claims that Jade, and by extension all public figures and possibly every individual, only has value for others (Jade’s being as some sort of memento mori or cautionary tale). The first is a slur, the second a denigration of humanity. Given the implausibility of the first, we seem to be driven to the second and we could, being charitable, see it as an easy trap to fall into – Jade has lived her life since appearing before the public eye essentially as a fictional character, a communal writing project which started with the producers of Big Brother and continues down to Alison’s column. Fictional characters serve some sort of narrative purpose – count the number of times Jade’s life is compared in the next few days to a soap opera, pantomime, tragedy or morality tale – and so it is easy for the headline writer to slip into to the narrow grooves her story has been run along to date and rejoice, as they seem to be, in the fact the story finally has a conclusion and a moral. The reason it sits so badly is that Jade is not fully fictional, which is one of the things that has made her story so compelling for those writing and reading it. Jade is a human being. Human beings determine their own values and the values of their own lives. Which is what makes the headline so horrible.

By and large, Alison admirably fails to live up to the headline, favouring instead the narrative approach that casts her as an observer rather than an author. As an approach, it’s innocuous enough, until we get to:

“We may all have thought we were nothing like Jade Goody. Now we know what we have in common. She cares about her kids more than anything in the world.”

Now, although this is getting at what the readers should have realised all along, the way this truth is presented is “You know what – she was human all along”. It’s the reveal in the novel when you realise that the supposed villain was actually the person funding the orphanage – and it’s too late to feel guilty for your persecution of them. Instead we’re meant to feel touched that we finally realised the error of our ways.  Notice the emphasis: “WE may have thought that WE” – Alison is thinking in the same terms as the headline writer, of what Jade does for us. The divide between the reality of Jade as human and Jade as character carried through from the headline is painful. The very fact that she is and always has been a human being exactly as we are demands empathy, all we are given is a too-easy, saccharine moral that reinforces the sense of superiority that we had all along.

While Alison talks about legacies, she misses what should have been the most obvious and is the most pressing – to reconnect us with the reality of our own shared humanity. She misses it because she can’t let go of the fiction, or worse, see that it is one. Jade’s story will end, and we will have Lindsay Lohan’s, and Madonna’s, and celebrities’ as yet unknown to take her place. We will vilify or adore them in exactly the same way. We will learn nothing, because the story-tellers have learnt nothing.

Facetious jests … it’s about all these drug ‘experts’ are good for

A veritable potpourri of negativity today from Peter Hitchens. Take this, on the Bafta winning Brit-flick Slumdog Millionaire:

“Be warned. This is not a ‘feelgood’ film and should never have been sold as one.”

Which is quite a claim for someone who hasn’t seen the film, advised by people who haven’t seen the whole film. I would heartily recommend to anyone thinking of going to see a film that they check with the BBFC – the British Board of Film Classification – before they go. Had Peter’s correspondents done so, they would have discovered the reason why the film has been given a 15 certificate (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is a drama about a young street lad who wins the Mumbai version of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’. It has been classified ’15’ for strong language and violence. “), and might have been less surprised by the strong language and violence they saw. They might not have liked it any more, but it’s probably better to inform yourself and decide not to see a movie than it is to go in ignorant and leave less than half-way through, deciding on the basis of the bit you’ve seen what the general feel of the film is.

Talking of ignorance:

“I’m quite prepared to consider the possibility that his [Darwin’s] theory (welcomed by all kinds of nasty people because it licensed their genocidal projects or freed them from guilt) may conceivably be true. But I do get tired of bossy people ordering me to believe in it. I also get cross when I’m told by Darwinist bigots that if I dare to doubt Darwin, then I must believe in the literal truth of the Bible. I don’t. Like everyone else, I have no idea how the realm of Nature took its present form.”

A couple of things strike me about this. Once more it seems I have missed one of the dictatorial memos that so circumscribe poor Peter’s life – I can’t recall ever having been ordered to belief in the literal truth of the Theory of Evolution. However, if forced to choose between a viable, evidence-based theory which is central to our understanding of molecular biology, genetics, epidemiology, conservation biology, horticulture, biogeography and many if not all other areas of the applied biological sciences and any other theory, I know which one I would opt for. Given that we can observe evolution in cell cultures, so can be absolutely certain in individual cases how Nature (sic) took its current form, I think we can fairly safely claim knowledge in general. Peter is right that refusing to accept Darwin’s theory as correct does not leave him obliged to accept Biblical literalism as the only alternative, but I would be more comfortable with Lamarkism¹ than with his professed gleeful obtuseness. It’s one thing to say the Earth is flat, quite another to say that the evidence doesn’t allow you to call the debate either way.

Just to round things off, how does that brave defence of open-mindedness sit next to this:

“That’s the reason for his [Professor David Nutt, Charmian of the Government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs] babyish scribbling, facetiously comparing people who swallow poisonous Ecstasy tablets with people who ride horses. … Anyone who thinks this is a subject for facetious jests ought, in my view, to go to Hell.”

It’s worth remembering that the comments Peter objects to are the evidence-based position of a Government appointed expert and leader in his field, made in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Peter’s not quite ordering the scientific community to believe in his position, but if discussing risk now merits eternal punishment he’s not offering much of a choice. I realise it must be hard to be consistent across two separate 100-word mini-articles, especially on a weekend, but it’d be nice if Peter could be inconsistent without being rude.

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¹ Sorry, sneakily corrected a typo yesterday without flagging it up, and have felt a little guilty ever since. This was originally spelt ‘Lemarkism’, which is wrong. Apologies for the error, and for trying to correct it on the sly.

Strange Ontology: Week beginning 9th February 2009

Original research

9th February

Smoking cannabis ‘increases the risk of aggressive testicular cancer’

A report on: Daling et al. (2009) Association of marijuana use and the incidence of testicular germ cell tumors Cancer doi: 10.1002/cncr.24159

10th February

Vitamin pills ‘won’t make you live longer’, study reveals

A report on:Neuhouser et al. (2009) Multivitamin Use and Risk of Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease in the Women’s Health Initiative Cohorts Archives of Internal Medicine 169:294-304

11th February

New test offers fresh hope in fight against prostate cancer

A report on: Scher et al. (2009) Circulating tumour cells as prognostic markers in progressive, castration-resistant prostate cancer: a reanalysis of IMMC38 trial data The Lancet Oncology doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(08)70340-1

12th February

How walking can cut your risk of colon cancer by 25 per cent

A report on: Wolin, Yan, Colditz and Lee (2009) Physical activity and colon cancer prevention: a meta-analysis British Journal of Cancer doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6604917

Breast cancer rates drop as women turn their backs on HRT

A report on: Parking (2009) Is the recent fall in incidence of post-menopausal breast cancer in UK related to changes in use of hormone replacement therapy? European Journal of Cancer doi:10.1016/j.ejca.2009.01.016

Causes in brief

10th February

Boy with baffling illness so rare it does not have a name is cured by his PARENTS

“‘There are about 100 children suffering from DBA [Diamond Blackfan Anaemia] in the UK, and one of the features of this condition is that they have a great risk of developing cancer, particularly leukaemia and bone cancer but also many other cancers.”

Just one carrot could change a tubby child’s life

“Obesity leads to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and unhappiness.”

Children as young as 10 offered shopping vouchers to give up smoking

“The campaign group [Ash] welcomed the voucher scheme, with a spokesman insisting: ‘Although it is encouraging that smoking rates are going down with youngsters the younger the person taking up smoking the higher the risk of disease such as lung cancer.”

11th February

Indian inventors create a ‘healthy’ soft drink… made from cows’ urine

“The cow is sacred to Hindus and the RSS [‘Hindunationalist’ organisation] has already promoted its urine as a cure for everything from liver disease to cancer.”

13th February

She was fat, facing 40 and wanted her husband to fancy her again. So how did Rachel turn her life around in three months?

“As the doctor explains that the fat I’m carrying around my middle (my waist is 36in) is potentially life-threatening, I feel sick with worry. It seems your waist is the most dangerous place to carry fat, because it can eventually fur up your vital organs, causing diseases such as diabetes and cancer.”

14th February

‘Will you marry me?’ asks Jack, as Jade Goody is told she has only months to live

“Only 15 per cent to 30 per cent of women with stage 4 cervical cancer will live longer than five years.”