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Archive for the ‘Opinion Pieces’ Category

Behold buff bodies!

In Opinion Pieces on October 23, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Having spent several weeks traversing Europe – Greece, Spain, Germany and the UK, I am finally back in la la land.

Now I’d quite forgotten that no-one is allowed to have more than 0.7 calories a day and so today (Sunday) I awoke with unease and guilt given that I had imbibed rather heavily last night and feasted like a King.

There was nothing for it but the old LA trick of a run up Runyon Canyon. It’s really beautiful if you make it to the top without having a cardiac arrest or being defibrillated by some kind passer by! And let’s not worry that its 24 degrees and swelteringly hot. Perfect running weather – NOT!

And on top of the hill I was hit with a revelation. For in Runyon, there lives an entirely distinct human species. Toned, buff and bulging. And that’s just the women!  I have never seen so many topless people running. It seems to be de rigeur. Actually you don’t have to run, but you do have to look good and be topless and then you can drape yourself on a park bench or pretend to do pushups whilst all the time the aim is to be seen by as many people as possible.

Now I’m not fat, but up there I felt like Baba Papa (for those of a certain age) or Mr Greedy (for those younger readers). With every pounding footstep I could feel last night’s cocktails plotting their escape.

There was nothing for it but to join in. By this time it was scorching, I was red as a beetroot and about to hail an ambulance to take me home. Desperate times call for desperate measures – so the shirt had to come off.

Then topless, my moist gleaming torso illuminated by the sun, I jogged downhill to the street. Topless with my bluetooth headphones, wearing just shorts, socks, trainers and the obligatory sunglasses – The metamorphosis is now complete

I have turned into a la la Angeleno!

Stop flushing water up your bottom!

In Opinion Pieces on August 6, 2011 at 11:44 am

Why is it that intelligent, articulate people become such utter fools when they start talking about health around a dinner table? Health or Well Being is now the obsession of the middle classes, especially here in Los Angeles. And it is very much ‘de rigeur‘ to dismiss modern medicine as cranky, preferring to rely on Alternative or Complementary therapies instead. Because of course, that’s really sensible – throw away evidence-based medicine that’s been through thorough, rigorous clinical trials and rely instead on lotions, potions and tinctures that have never been tested.

So here’s a snap-shot of conversations this week……

“Well I wouldn’t have those tablets the doctor prescribed you, they won’t work – try tincture of bluebell instead. I got it from my healer”.…. or

“Oh you should definitely try a colonic – it resets your system and flushes out your toxins”

Well you know what? It doesn’t!  It’s a lie! …..

There are NO health benefits to flushing water up your bottom. Colonic irrigation – all the rage here – has been shown to have no health benefits and can have dangerous side-effects.

Colonic cleansing has been carried out for thousands of years and can be traced back to ancient Egyptian society. Although it fell out of practice, it has made somewhat of a comeback, aided by rather vacuous celebrities, keen to promote themselves as ‘holistic beings’.

Well finally a new study from Georgetown University School of Medicine, here in the US, has looked at 20 previous studies published on colonic irrigation and found little or no evidence of benefit. Actually colonic cleansing can be rather dangerous and cause multiple side-effects including

  • stomach cramps
  • stomach bloating
  • nausea and vomiting
  • electrolyte imbalance
  • kidney failure
So now you know – concentrate on eating healthily, doing some exercise and stop blowing water up your bottom!

Potatoes make you fat!

In Opinion Pieces on July 25, 2011 at 9:46 pm

There’s been much written about diets, fad ways to lose weight and the eternal quest for that golden bullet to keep you slim.


I used to be much heavier than I am now and i lost weight and toned up by following five key things:


1. Vanity meant that I WANTED to do something about my weight

2. I THOUGHT about what I ate – looking at calorific and nutritional value, not just what things looked like! (Observing that maxim “a moment on the lips is worth a lifetime on the hips!” ie was it WORTH eating whatever it was? Did the enjoyment of eating it far outweigh the sweat of burning it off again?)

3. I STOPPED  fizzy sweetened drinks and switched to water (why would I want to drink pure sugar?)

4. I STARTED to  exercise

5. I STOPPED eating carbohydrate in the evening. So my evening meal became protein (chicken, fish etc) and vegetables. ie no potatoes


And it would seem Harvard University can back this up, having studied more than 120,000 people over 20 years. It has compiled a league table of foods that will cause you to pile on the pounds! No surprise then to discover that chips and crisps come top followed by those disgusting sugary fizzy drinks then potatoes (boiled, baked or mashed)

But most importantly, it seems the key to keeping slim is

NOT to cut the number of calories BUT to eat the RIGHT TYPE of calories.

It reports

“starchy foods, those containing redfined carbohydrates and processed foods were most associated with weight gain, but eating cheese or drinking full-fat milk didn’t seem to have an impact.” (it was postulated that these higher fat foods take longer to break down and therefore kept people fuller for longer stopping further snacking). “Vegetables, fruit, nuts and whole grains and yoghurt were associated with losing weight.”


Take home message.

Cut out the spuds and processed foods especially at night. Increase fruit and Veg. Enjoy looking in the mirror!

Spitting Blood!

In Opinion Pieces on July 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Seeing Red

Sometimes here in the madness of LA LA land, it’s comforting to know that back in Blighty there is always a sense of ordered calm and general reasoned behaviour. We take it for granted that the decisions taken by our elected officials are built on experience and general good practice.

But this morning I nearly choked on my low calorie museli and almond milk (who says I am untouched by the LA lifestyle!) when I read in the British Telegraph Newspaper that British police officers have been instructed NOT to stop people spitting in the street because it is “a cultural expression of working-class frustration and powerlessness” Officers attending diversity courses were taught that young men spat in the street to “mark their terirtory” according to a police blogger.


WHAT?!  Now I am a big fan of diversity training and cultural integration but this is bonkers or as the middle class are often accused of saying it’s “political correctness gone mad”

As a doctor, let’s make two things clear.



This has nothing to do with where you’re from, or the colour of your skin. This has to do with common decency and standards of hygiene.

Unlike China, spitting in public in the UK is not illegal. It’s only an offence if you spit AT someone.  In India, they are trying to stamp it out with the Spit Free Campaign. So if they are doing it in the developing world, why can’t we do it ?

We don’t just ignore it, we seem to revel in it. It’s become a rite of passage for footballers and other sporting stars. I for one am sick of watching footballers showing off their spitting prowess on the pitches, but it seems I”m not alone because finally they have been warned to cut it out by the Health Protection Agency.

We have known for over 100 years that spitting carries disease risk. The mucus can carry mycobacteria which cause Tuberculosis (we are seeing an increase in this especially in immigrant communities); as well as viruses that cause swine flu, bird flu and other ear nose and throat infections.

In the outbreak of TB in the 1940’s there were signs prohibiting spitting in public. And it was illegal until 199o in the UK until some bright spark changed that.  So good for Councillor Chris Bond in Enfield who has asked Justice Secretary Ken Clarke to allow local authorities to introduce by-laws to prohibit the practice.

People say spitting was common in Victorian England, which it was. It was also common to urinate out of your window, throw your faeces into the street and vomit liberally over someone you didn’t like. I suggest that English society should have moved on somewhat since then. This isn’t about diversity and tolerance, it’s about common standards of decency.


Merkel and Sarkozy in Emperor’s New Clothes

In Opinion Pieces on July 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Bull's Eye!

In a modern re-telling of The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy have climbed naked into the carriage called the European Single Currency. Fawning admirers lie prostrate at their feet proclaming that their decision to countenance a 2nd bail out of a mere 115billion euros to Greece is inspiring and the only way to keep the dream of the European Single Currency alive. No-one dares tell them that the fiscal clothes they’ve chosen are purely imaginary.

Now I’m no economist but clinging to the Euro in its current form seems to be like trying to stop sand leaching out of  bucket which has been peppered with holes. Each hole has a sticking plaster  applied to it (in this case in terms of monetary support) but its a false economy as it will only prolong the time before the bucket loses all its sand i.e. the inevitable collapse of the Euro. We don’t need plasters. We need a new bucket or maybe two new buckets.

And that’s my prediction. I can’t see how the Euro can survive in its current form. One set of interest rates across the Eurozone is inflexible and has become a noose around the neck of some of the current Southern members.

Clearly there are two different types of economies in Europe. The Northern European countries such as France and Germany are strong and dictate fiscal policy. But this has been disastrous for the Southern states creating an artificial boom and bust. The troubled Southern European countries such as Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain have remarkably similar economies to each other but they are so wildly different from their Northern counterparts.

I spend a lot of time in Southern Europe. Spain has been wrecked by what’s been going on. Unemployment sits at 21%,(the highest in the Eurozone), huge swathes of land have the beginnings of housing developments but the cranes lie dormant. And shops close on a daily basis. The current situation is untenable. Spain and the others have become too expensive for the likes of the Brits and Germans. Why would you go to Mykonos on holiday when a gin and tonic is 14 euros? Eating out in Spain is no longer a daily ritual – it is a luxury. And so the Northern Europeans are taking their suncream, their beach towels and their money and heading further afield where it’s cheaper

It really is crunch time for Europe and it will need decisive management. Even the markets are sensing a European break up. They are now demanding huge returns on any loan in case the currency is devalued.

So what can be done? Well if the leaders of Europe weren’t so pig-headed, it would seem that the most sensible solution would be for France, Germany and other strong fiscal countries to adopt a new currency – let’s call it the Pean (as in Euro-pean) which can then set it’s own fiscal policies and interest rates. That would leave the weaker countries (the so-called PIGS) in the Euro which they can then devalue and set interest rates that would suit their economies. They can drop rates, encourage growth, make the cost of living cheaper and woo the all important tourists back to the beaches of Benidorm.