SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – June 2005

Never say diet? Losing weight could increase the risk of dying young, we are told. Margaret McCartney unravels the latest confusing health message. The "worried well" are being given ever more to worry about, their anxieties often compounded by ill-thought-out public health messages...reaching into every part of our lives (sex, dieting, drinking), ladling out oodles of guilt in the process, we’re in danger of forgetting that, in fact, poverty is the biggest predictor of ill health. Guardian

Risky business. Health-scare stories often arise because their authors simply don’t understand numbers. Competence always looks better from a distance, but I have a confession to make: I’m a doctor, and I just don’t understand most of the stories on health risks in the news. I don’t mean I can’t understand the fuss. I mean I literally can’t understand what they’re trying to communicate to me. Guardian

 Obesity: Size isn’t everything. Obesity is the modern health obsession. Every week seems to bring a new warning about the health "timebomb" that threatens to cut short the lives of future generations unless radical action is taken to reduce Westerners’ weight...But could the dangers have been overstated? Recent authoritative research suggests that the obesity epidemic is more of a mirage conjured up by various statistical glitches. In fact, if you’re officially classified as overweight, you may have a lower risk of premature death than those deemed to be a healthy weight. And that’s not the only major obesity rethink underway at the moment. Independent

Disease warnings can be too scary. I am what doctor’s dub one of the "worried well." Physicians’ waiting rooms are full of people with minor ailments and high anxiety. The only difference with me is that I rarely make it to the doctor’s office because I’m too scared to go. It’s interesting that at a time when people have never been healthier and, thanks to medical advances, more likely to be cured of any illness, that we seem so preoccupied with our health...An hour on the SIRC website certainly left me feeling refreshed and reassured. Siobhan Rowe, Canoe Network

Cancer: how scared should we be? Alarmist news stories are making us paranoid about the ‘c-word’. In the past week, there have been several cancer scares in the news. Yesterday, it was reported that eating red meat increases the risk of bowel cancer. At the weekend, we learnt that fluoride in tap water can possibly cause bone cancer in young boys. Living near certain nuclear power stations may increase the risk of leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. And hair dyes that were banned 25 years ago may be responsible for a rise in lymphatic cancer in women who once used them. Telegraph

Have a fag, live longer. "The health zealots have been lying to us. Smoking is not the greatest avoidable danger confronting mankind. Fat is. Research published in The Lancet suggests that obesity accelerates the ageing of human DNA by nine years and smoking by only 4.6. Having gained pounds since giving up tobacco, I am appalled. The saintly may resist both cigarettes and calories, but for those responsible for public health the conclusion is plain. Fat must be stigmatised still more vigorously than cigarettes." Tim Luckhurst in the Times.