Friday, January 30, 2004

Teaching media studies to infants

Advocates of media studies want to teach even young children to understand better what they are watching. They see it as the equivalent of developing confidence in reading. But the payoff in this article is that what they really need to know about is product placement - it's the hidden persuaders all over again. This then leads to a discussion of advertising junk food to children.

What is going to give way in the curriculum for this crap? Our children don't get a proper education as it is without devoting time to watching TV - especially when justified on the basis that it will stop them shovelling sugary and salty snacks down their throats.

BBC NEWS | Magazine | Media studies: the next generation

DVT and computer gaming

A young boy spent 10 hours kneeling down playing games on a Playstation, and suffered a thrombosis in his leg. Obviously, sitting in a stupid position that restricts your blood supply is not good for you. This story has no wider lessons.

A sensible response by his doctor, though:

"Dr Russell Keenan, a paediatric haematologist from the Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool, said that it was extremely unusual to see DVTs in otherwise fit and healthy children. He said: 'I would expect to see a DVT in a child perhaps once every few weeks - but the vast majority of these involve children who are very seriously-ill in other ways. The only risk factor we could find in this case was the fact that Dominic had sat on his legs for 10 hours playing computer games without moving. If you fold the leg, you are basically folding the vein in the leg and causing the blood supply to stagnate. That is what might be causing the clot. However, it doesn't mean that the government should be putting health warnings on Playstations.'"

BBC NEWS | Health | Computer game teenager gets DVT

Thursday, January 29, 2004

A bird-brained panic

According to WWF, common chemicals are building up inside the bodies of animals such as domestic birds, causing ill-health and possibly death. But actually, there's no evidence that budgies are keeling over from frying pan fumes. It's just a press release designed to panic us over new EU regulations.

Remember: man-made is bad (e.g. "chemicals"), natural is good (e.g. "trace elements").

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Frying pan fumes 'kill canaries'

Salt again

Yet another example of a truth becoming fixed when the evidence of the effect of salt is still ambiguous. Salt is essential for life and flavour. Reducing salt intake does not make much difference to blood pressure. There may be a marginal effect on health in reducing salt intake, but what if people actually enjoy the salt?

BBC NEWS | UK | 'Hidden' salt is damaging health

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Obesity and moderation

The answer to the problem of obesity is to develop social conventions about moderation. We need to learn not to over-indulge all the time. As the famous quote from Terence suggests 'Moderation in all things'. However, this is best tempered by W. Somerset Maugham's point: 'Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.'

Perhaps Thomas Paine sums it up best: 'Moderation in temper is always a virtue, but moderation in principle is always a vice.'

Here's some more thoughts on moderation: Quotation Search - Quote Search - The Quotations Page

They love a fat lass in Mauritania

Some young girls are still sent by their parents to be fattened up before marriage. But attitudes are changing.

BBC NEWS | World | Africa | Mauritania's 'wife-fattening' farm

Parents responsible for children's diets

The Food Standards Agency produce a new survey which suggest that 88 percent of people think parents are responsible for children's diets.

Remarkably similar results to an earlier survey conducted by YouGov for Spiked, which found that 94 percent of respondents thought that parents were responsible.

BBC NEWS | Health | Child diet 'is down to parents'

UK public: 'Let parents decide what to feed their kids', Spiked, 11 November 2003

Monday, January 26, 2004

More on abortion and breast cancer

Further contradiction to the pro-life line, which is an opportunistic reliance on figures which suggested a link between abortion and breast cancer. A new Swedish study suggests that there is no link, and while it is unwise to rely on any one piece of research, it does seem to fall in line with better research done previously.

Abortion 'no breast cancer link', BBC News, 26 January 2004

Obesity: what's so complicated?

Yet another story about how obesity is due to some kind of psychological or physiological change in our bodies due to what we eat or how much we eat.

Could it simply be that people get fat because they enjoy eating food? Satiety isn't everything - sometimes we all like to shove a bit more in because we're enjoying it. Sometimes, being utterly bloated after a top meal is a matter of pride. Often, food provides oral entertainment when we're bored. Why do we need another research study to utterly fail to explain obesity?

BBC NEWS | Health | Could obesity be all in the mind?