9 June 2022

The silent pandemics the country refuses to face up to

| Ian Bushnell
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Childhood obesity

The junk food epidemic has created a health tsunami. Photo: File.

When the pandemic is finally laid to rest it is hoped that the lessons health authorities and individuals take out of it extend beyond the “miracle” of vaccines and the war on microbes model.

Because, such has been the focus on the jabs as the front-line in the defence against COVID-19, that what should be the fundamentals of good health may be forgotten.

That includes basic hygiene such as washing hands, and the importance of a nutritious diet and exercise.

COVID-19 may have contributed to the deaths of thousands in Australia but how often did we hear that they were related to underlying conditions such as diabetes, obesity or heart conditions?

Diabetes contributed to about 16,700 deaths in 2018 (10.5 percent of all deaths) according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, while in 2019, cardiovascular disease was the underlying cause of 42,300 deaths (25 percent of all deaths) and the second leading cause of death group behind cancers (29 percent of all deaths).

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It is also estimated that two-thirds of Australian adults are now overweight (35.6 percent) or obese (31.3 percent).

This is exacting a heavy toll on the economy and the country’s health resources but the medical response is still overwhelmingly drug and surgery based.

Despite irrefutable evidence that the modern Western diet of processed food, high meat consumption, and sugary drinks – basically the convenient and cheap junk food that has inveigled its way into our lifestyle – is deadly, health advocates seem to be fighting a losing battle against the might of corporate power, and the politicians who dismiss legislative or tax remedies as “nanny stateism”.

It doesn’t help that the medical profession’s training includes minimal attention to diet and that research is compromised by food and agricultural industry influence and funding.

Like tobacco, there is a lot of money at stake but as many politicians are keen to say there is no free lunch.

We all pick up the tab for the medications, surgical interventions and ongoing care that can be the end result of lifestyle choices influenced by seductive advertising, devilishly addictive combinations of fat and sugar, convenience and and plain ignorance.

Good health

Drug-free: The recipe for good health. Photo: File.

Health authorities will insist that there is more focus on preventative and primary care to keep people out of hospital but how much of that includes educating people on the benefits of a healthy diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts and lean protein and low in sugar and fat, and the importance of exercise.

When it comes to the annual wave of flu, do we see ads saying eat well, stay hydrated, wash your hands and get a good night’s sleep? More likely it’s get a shot.

In any case, the regular PR campaigns are dwarfed by food and confectionery industries’ advertising investment. Suggest that people eat a few more veges and you’re labelled a food Nazi. Just like the self-reinforcing ad for a popular take-away chicken product, they don’t care.

When COVID was sweeping through the world, we rightly limited freedoms to contain the virus, promoted mass vaccination and even mandated it in certain settings.

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Yet, when the lifestyle pandemics take thousands every year we laud the community contributions of the very companies that contribute to them or shrug our shoulders, saying its up to individual choice.

We strip school curriculum of subjects such as home economics that might actually teach people to eat properly.

We build homes with tiny kitchens or none at all, arguing that people eat out more these days, or with hardly any space for children to run or climb.

We expect that when the body breaks down the doctor will have a pill to keep us going, the surgeon can insert a stent or transplant an organ without actually addressing the cause or contemplating that diet could be the cure, despite a catalogue of documented side-effects and complications.

Yes, we should be grateful for the response of Big Pharma and and our public institutions to the COVID pandemic, but let’s not lose sight of what really is the basis of good health and the human organism’s resilience in a world teeming with viruses and bacteria.

Personal choice is important but let it be informed choice – not based on jingles, magical white coats and the delusion of convenience.

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Capital Retro8:21 am 09 Mar 22

When your GP tells you that you are pre-diabetic and explains the consequences of peripheral neuropathy one can re-establish priorities overnight.

First things to go are fruit juices, carbonated drinks and sugar in tea and coffee. Other processed foods high in sugar and salt are next.

It’s a better option than progressively losing your limbs.

Given the cost to the health system its only fair they reduce the price on fresh foods.
Instead the plastic bag bans and other bans like the need to have a coin to go shopping for fresh fruit to use a trolley.

All in all everyone knows the health impacts are but we’re not allowed to point out that fat is unhealthy anymore. Maybe this problem will just solve itself.

Banning all the junk food at school canteens has only made the issue worse as most of them are now closed or only open part of the time. Kids don’t learn, Adults hate the rules.

Gooterz, you will need to explain this, as I buy fruit and vegetables without needing a plastic bag. How does a plastic bag ban effect the ability to buy fruit and vegetables? Interested in this, as I have never found not using a supermarket plastic bag has hindered me from buying fruit and vegetables.

Also, how does needing a coin or token to take a trolley hinder someone from using a trolley? you get the coin back when you return the trolley. Or does this hinder people who want to steal a trolley and take the groceries home in it? Is that the real problem?

It’s an obesity pandemic and we need vaccinations, 1m social distancing, check-ins, contact-tracing, face masks and lockdowns. If you have symptoms, get tested and self-isolate straight away.

Capital Retro3:52 pm 07 Mar 22

Did someone say KFC?

How about the authorities ban the ads for fast food. They did for cigarettes and then added a horror warning campaign. That, together with massive taxes seems to have stopped a lot of people smoking.

We all know there is only one thing that changes people’s behaviours; money. Public health messages will continue to go unheeded. There needs to be stringent taxes on junk food, increase the medicare levy for those over a certain BMI and increased fees on airplanes, concerts and other events where space comes at a premium.

Jenny Graves2:26 pm 07 Mar 22

Poor diet is also associated with about 30% of cancers, which seems to have been overlooked in this article.

Most people DO know how to be healthy, but the problem is that many people want instant food and it’s all about convenience. Many people don’t know how to cook vegetables and/or can’t be bothered. Plus fresh food has to be used up within a certain time and so healthy meals have to be planned and organised in advance. Many people instead will choose easy to cook pasta or frozen processed packaged food they can keep in the freezer and then bang in the oven. It’s all about convenience along with a bit of laziness. Many people buy fried takeaway food which is full of fat and with little nutritional value, but it’s quick and easy.

Government action has made the problem worse over the last two years. The government had people arrested for exercising outdoors, and the US and UK experience is that similar government action there increased obesity and anxiety. Anxiety is also known to depress health, especially if it is treated with alcohol.

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