Frontlines – Fashions in Health Advice

One of the most annoying health studies yet declares that moderate alcohol consumption has more obvious benefits for men’s health than for women’s. All over the country there will be women finding it’s their turn to drive, even more than before, as men suddenly become concerned for their health.

And as Charles hands Camilla the car keys after a night on the razzle, he will doubtless worry about the shortage of funds for research on complementary medicine and the evident contempt for it shown by scientists in their letter to NHS managers. He’s not the only one.

Menopausal women have been rejecting hormone replacement therapy because of worries about breast cancer, and turned to soya products to ward off the hot flushes. That was before we found that soya adversely affects our brain function. Now it’s too late, we don’t know enough to care about the osteoporosis that HRT could have prevented.

Some say it’s a good thing to stick candles in our ears, Hopi Indian fashion, to cure our ills. This takes me back to my days of studying sociology, and the teleological argument demonstrated by the Hopi Indian rain dance: they danced, it rained, therefore the dancing caused the rain.

I have been known to have acupuncture for sciatica, which did improve shortly afterwards, so I’m prepared to accept that there could be a connection. I was only slightly alarmed that the acupuncturist turned out to be a social worker who I’d last seen at a particularly difficult case conference 10 years earlier. I think one of the most worrying things about complementary medicine is that many people do it almost as a hobby. A bit like having open-heart surgery done by a plumber.

I also had a great uncle who lived to 102. He had regular acupuncture and lived with prostate cancer for many years. He also had whisky in his tea every morning, so what kept him going is anybody’s guess.

So I’m off to let a moonlighting social worker stick needles in me, before I reach for the omega 3, which I’ve just found is no good for my heart after all, but will help restore some of the brain power I’ve lost from drinking all that soya milk.

Jennifer Harvey is a day services co-ordinator working with people with learning difficulties

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