Monthly Archives: July 2019

A FISHY TALE…

The medical profession has lately advised people what to eat to remain healthy through living a lifestyle which is likely to fight off disease, rather than stuffing oneself with medication. For instance, eating fish at least three times a week can cut the risk of bowel cancer by up to 12%, a World Health Organisation study found. Researchers said the 15-year study of nearly 500,000 people showed that those who ate fish regularly were less likely to develop tumours than those who had none, or less than one portion.

Researchers said omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are likely to be behind the protective effect. The three 100g portions could be of any fish, including traditional favourites like cod or haddock which have lower omega-3 levels than oily fish, like mackerel and sardines. Dr Marc Gunter, who led the study, said: ‘Our research shows that eating fish appears to reduce the risk of bowel cancer and should be encouraged as part of a healthy diet. Current NHS guidelines suggest we should eat at least two portions of fish a week.’

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common form of the disease in the UK and has the second highest death rate. More than 42,000 are diagnosed in Britain each year and it kills 16,400 annually. The study was carried out by the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer. Dr Anna Font, of the World Cancer Research Fund, which paid for the work, said: ‘This large study adds to the scientific evidence suggesting that consuming fish could reduce the risk of bowel cancer. The biological reasons by which fish consumption potentially lowers risk are not fully understood but one of the theories include specific fatty acids such as omega-3, found almost exclusively in fish, being responsible for this protective effect via anti-inflammatory properties.’

However, Dr Gunter admitted his team had not tracked whether the people in the study had used fish oil supplements. He said: ‘One downfall is that dietary data collected from participants did not include information on fish oil supplement intake. This may also have an effect on bowel cancer so further studies will be needed to see if fish, or fish oil, influence bowel cancer risk.’

Previous studies have suggested eating fish is a disappearing habit in the UK. The NHS advises that everyone should eat fish twice a week, including one portion of oily fish such as salmon or tuna, but research has shown 64% of people do not meet this target. It found over 55s ate the most fish, with 45% having at least two portions a week. But other groups ate far less.

Young families with children aged between five and eleven consumed the least, with only 25% having fish twice a week. The NHS recommends pregnant women should eat no more than two portions a week of oily fish because they contain traces of mercury which can cause problems if expectant mothers build up too much. Other people are advised to have no more than four portions of oily fish a week.

And there you have it. Everything in moderation where food is concerned augurs well, health wise. Be prudent and you are likely to benefit.

 

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KING OF THE BEASTS – IT’S BEEN DONE BEFORE?

This Saturday’s Daily Telegraph reported a new and increasingly popular wish amongst the rich and status-hungry young men of Pakistan to adopt pet lions who travel with them in their fancy cars and laze around in their private jets. Well, I’ve a story to tell about that phenomenon…

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Once, over forty years ago, I worked from a wonderful location off Knightsbridge, just by the French Embassy. I still continue to look back nostalgically at Wellington Court as the location where everything had begun and the setting in which I had enjoyed true happiness. There the foundation was laid for everything I had achieved so far and was confident I would achieve in the years ahead. Life was fun. Mad ideas came and went. Some were acted upon but others I dismissed because of their implausibility.

A typical example of the latter occurred when I was still operating at Wellington Court. I became obsessed with the idea of owning a puma. It seemed to me that having a puma as a pet would give Wellington Court a certain cachet and would also provide me with a loyal companion. Yorkshire Television had just completed The Arab Experience, and I discussed the question with one of the makers of the programme, my friend Michael Deakin. The idea did not come as a surprise to him for he had always thought I was a bit crazy, and on my behalf he managed to locate a young puma at a private zoo somewhere in the north of England.

When my secretarial team of young women at Wellington Court got wind of the proposal, there was general uproar. They were concerned for their personal safety with a puma roaming freely about the office. It only increased their consternation when I told them they would have to take it in turns to exercise it in Hyde Park. At this point they made representations to my wife Maria pointing out that our son Ramsay, then about ten years old, could be in equal danger. Maria took the whole idea with a pinch of salt. She assured the girls it was very doubtful that Westminster Council would allow anyone to walk a puma in the park, since it would constitute a danger to the public. Her advice was simply to ignore this sudden whim which would probably come to nothing.

I had a chauffeur then named Frank who lived with a wife much older than himself who he claimed was very domineering. According to him, she regularly intimidated him. As a peace-loving man he bore it with graceful resignation. Frank drove a long-base Rolls-Royce to ferry me about town and was never far from my elbow. He was like his master’s shadow and hardly ever complained. By now I had had the idea of converting the front passenger seat of the Rolls-Royce to accommodate the puma and asked Frank for his suggestions. Perhaps we could purchase a suitable rug for the purpose? The normally sanguine Frank became distraught. How, he demanded, could he be expected to drive the car with a wild animal seated beside him? I appealed to his masculinity, putting the view that no real man would ever allow an animal to put him off his stroke. The puma would warm to him in no time, I reassured him; they would soon become inseparable.

mammal-3231840_1920.jpgMy dream Puma

Frank was a simple fellow who lacked sophistication and liked his job. He wasn’t going to lose it over the small matter of a puma. By the time our conversation ended, he seemed to have simmered down and promised he would think about it seriously over the weekend. On Monday he arrived for work a different man. He was jubilant and full of confidence, entering the office with a slight swagger. By all means, he said, he would be happy to have the puma riding beside him in the car, but he had one request to make. Would it be possible for him to take the puma home one weekend? I was so taken aback by this complete turnaround that for a moment I was speechless.

When I had recovered my equilibrium, I casually asked him the reason behind such a request. He laughed as if it should have been obvious to anyone. If he took the puma home, he explained, his bossy wife was sure to start pushing the animal around and with any luck would get herself eaten by the beast. This macabre sense of humour was something Frank had kept under wraps until then; or was it that I had underestimated him? At last he had shown how he could rise to the occasion when challenged. Sadly my wife was right. The City of Westminster would not countenance the idea of having a puma as a resident of the borough, let alone allow it to be promenaded in Hyde Park.

Another dream bit the dust, for the enthusiasm of youth in its early stages of success can be very exciting and lot of fun, but is not always wise.

A NEW ERA OF JITTERS, THE WORLD OVER…

Despite Boris Johnson’s spectacular entrance into 10 Downing Street and his promises to make Britain great again, the pound nevertheless fell to its lowest level for more than two years amid growing fears that his pledge to leave the EU could conceivably take place. It comes as his unimpressive cabinet was announced, where the majority of its members believe Johnson to be the new messiah, following in the footsteps of his hero, Donald Trump.

As a reaction to the new prime minister’s seemingly aplomb rhetoric, Jean Claude Juncker, President of European Commission, insisted last Thursday that the EU would not renegotiate the existing withdrawal agreement. As a result the news knocked Sterling, which fell 0.7% to $1.2374, the lowest level since April 2017. It later recovered to $1.2384.

Investors have been rattled by Mr Johnson’s appointment and they seem to lack faith in his ability to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, given his over the top temperament and the liklihood that he would get carried away by his sudden elevation to power. Their concerns are being amplified by his insistence that he will take Britain out of the EU in October, with or without a deal, to great applause from his adoring gaggle of cohorts.
Analysts at Oxford Economics said that Mr Johnson’s new cabinet, which includes a great number of hard-line Brexiteers, had amplified risks of a no deal outcome and an election. It said that this would increase asset price volatility with Sterling likely to weaken further ahead of October 31.

The pound’s weakness against the dollar was made worse by strong US economic data. The American economy expanded more than the forecast in the second quarter, with GDP climbing by 21%. This was slower than the 31% growth revealed in the first quarter, but ahead of economic forecasts of a 1.8% gain. The dollar climbed by 0.1% against a basket of major currencies after the announcement. President Trump said on Twitter that the latest figures were not bad considering ‘we had the very heavy weight of the Federal Reserve Anchor wrapped around our neck’.

In the meantime Mr Trump has been putting pressure on the US central bank to cut interest rates to stimulate the economy. What is also worrying is Mr Johnson’s belief that the support of the US in the event of our leaving the EU without a deal will adequately make up for any losses incurred by our action. The special relationship between Britain and US is, to many, rather mythical. Trump cannot be relied upon to bolster our new prime minister if by doing so it contradicts his policy that first and foremost America must rule the world as long as Trump is in supreme power. He will do anything to maintain his popularity with the mob that supports him, come what may. Although Johnson and Trump have much in common, it could at some point turn sour.

Let us hope that the world can become a better place to live in, with real democracy, not one viewed through the rhetoric of new leaders whose political ambitions are in question and who surround themselves with second-rate nincompoops who constantly nourish the ego of their masters.

Contrariness is often the Mother of Invention

The more one reads what the experts say, the more one is baffled by their new findings.

Many contradict each other to the point where one is no longer able to choose what to eat to maintain a healthy body capable of fending disease and boosting fitness especially in old age.

It has long been the advice from global health chiefs in the battle against heart disease for instance for people to replace bad saturated fats like butter and cheese with good unsaturated fats such as avocado and olive oil.

But, to the surprise of many, top experts have now insisted that many foods high in saturated fats like dairy products can actually boost health.

Last year the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued official advice saying everyone should cut down on milk, eggs and red meat to maintain a healthy heart.

However, scientists around the world have penned a joint article criticising that advice. It said if people reduce either cheese or eggs, it is unlikely to prevent disease and could actually damage health. They stressed many foods thought of as ‘bad’ due to their high saturated fat contents are dense in important nutrients and not associated with higher risk of heart disease.

The article, published recently in the British Medical Journal, warned that cutting down on dairy products could lead to calcium deficiency and the bone disease osteoporosis, adding that red meat is a vital source of protein and iron.

Co-author Professor Ian Gibbons from Reading University said, ‘Not all saturated fats are equal – and not all fatty foods are bad. We have to look beyond a simple message that saturated fat is bad and think about the food as a whole and what other nutrients it contains. You can’t compare foods like hamburgers to yoghurt and eggs.

‘Blanket advice against all saturated fats means people will miss out on vital nutrients. For most people, dairy products are the biggest sources of saturated fat, but these are also vital sources of calcium and iodine. Cutting them out puts people at risk of osteoporosis.’

He added, ‘Scientists are often accused of changing our minds, but we have actually been very consistent of the last 10 years about the beneficial effects of dairy products.’

The advice comes after labour deputy leader Tom Watson, 52, lost 7 stone – down from 22 stone to 15 stone – after increasing the amount of saturated fat in his diet. He cut out sugar, and refined carbohydrates, but ate full fat dairy.

Mr Watson claimed the strict diet reversed his type 2 diabetes.

The BMJ article was responding to advice issued by WHO last year saying adults and children should limit saturated fat to 30 grams a day, equal to a large bar of chocolate and 6 slices of cheese. Experts said too much saturated fat could increase cholesterol, raising the risk of heart disease.

But the BMJ article said, ‘We think that recommendations to reduce intake of total saturated fat without considering specific fatty acids and food sources are not based on evidence and will distract from other more effective, food-based recommendations.’

Tim Chico, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Sheffield University said, ‘The authors of this opinion piece point out that recent studies have shown not all saturated fats are as harmful as others. It is challenging to prove scientifically what exact diet is best to reduce heart disease.

‘I advise people to be reassured about what we already know with great confidence – that a diet high in vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and olive oil and low in processed foods, coupled with regular physical activity slashes the risk of heart disease.’

Tracy Parker, of the British heart foundation said, ‘Eating too much saturated fat is linked to raised cholesterol levels which in turn increase a person’s risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases.’

Well, all this mumbo jumbo is hard to comprehend. All I know is that a mixture of good food from marginally saturated fats, vegetables, fruits and the best of a Mediterranean diet is perhaps a safe way of avoiding disease. The rest I leave in the capable hands of the Almighty.

Discipline in eating is truly the key…

A lot of diseases can be avoided or controlled by a healthy lifestyle, or cut down to their minimum, most experts tell us.

Even those who genetically had a high chance of developing dementia in particular can offset this risk cutting their odds by 32% if they keep fit and eat well.

Experts at Exeter University said as little as 20 minutes of cycling a day, eating plenty of fruit and veg and limiting drinking to a large glass of wine a day would be enough to reduce someone’s chances.

There is no need to have a ‘fatalistic’ view of dementia as even those at the highest genetic risk can do something about it, they told the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles last week.

Researcher Dr David Llewellyn said ‘Some people believe it’s inevitable they’ll develop dementia because of their genetics.

‘However, it appears that you may be able to substantially reduce your dementia risk by living a healthy lifestyle.’

The take home message is that if you live a healthy lifestyle, that is associated with a reduced dementia risk – regardless of your genetic risk.

The study, published in the JAMA Medical journal, involved tracking nearly 200,000 British people, all of European ancestry and aged 60 and older. The participants’ DNA was analysed and they were grouped into high, intermediate and low risk groups for dementia, depending on their genetic makeup.

They were then tracked for eight years, in which time 1,769 developed dementia. Over all it was found that genes alone made a three-fold difference in the likelihood that someone will get dementia.

But those who had a healthy lifestyle were able to substantially reduce this difference – though they were not able to obliterate the risk all together.

Within each genetic risk grouping, those at high risk could cut their odds by 33%, those at intermediate risk by 20%, and those at low risk by 31%.

The researchers defined a healthy lifestyle as not smoking, eating a balanced meal of three portions of fruit and vegetables a day, eating fish twice a week, and generally avoiding processed meats. It involved doing moderate exercise, for example cycling at a normal pace for 2 and a half hours a week, or 20 minutes or so a day.

And it would involve drinking no more than a pint of beer a day, or a large glass of wine.

Researcher Dr Elzbieta Kuzma, also of Exeter, said the study was the first to analyse the extent to which genetic risk can be countered by lifestyle.

‘Our findings are exciting as they show that we can take action to try to offset out genetic risk for dementia’.

Dr Maria Carrillo, Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer’s Association which host the conference said, ‘While there is no proven cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s, a large body of research now strongly suggests that combining healthy habits promotes good brain health and reduces your risk of cognitive decline.’

Dr Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said, ‘While we can’t change the genes we inherit, this research shows that changing our lifestyle can still help to stack the odds in our favour.’

Dementia is a big problem in countries where people live longer and are inclined to drink alcohol and eat processed foods without much regard to the health risk they face.

I regard that fruit and vegetables are necessary for a good diet in old age and excess drinks are a health hazard, and eating a big meal at night is something which I religiously avoid.

 

A CRIME AGAINST THE ELDERLY

It seems that elderly women are likely to feel the brunt of the BBC’s decision to strip millions of pensioners of free TV licences. In fact, women are two and a half times more exposed than men to be dragged through the courts after failing to pay the 154.50 pounds annual charge, according to 2018 statistics disclosed under the Freedom of Information act. They are also far more likely to end up in jail. Recently, licence fee abolition campaigner Caroline Levesque Bartlett said: ‘There is something deeply wrong with the system that routinely punishes women more than men, despite overwhelming evidence that men commit more crimes. The TV licence is a regressive tax and a deeply sexist one.’

The BBC’s own research into licence fee reform has revealed the Corporation knew that elderly women and other vulnerable groups such as disabled and dementia sufferers would be the worst hit by its decision. ‘Any decision other than copying the existing concession would affect more women than men, more of those from BAME [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] background, and more disabled people and those with long term health issues like dementia,’ the BBC’s equality impact assessment said.’Any decision other than copying the existing concession will also adversely affect more women than men as women tend to live longer. The decision to strip TV licences from 3.7 million over-75s not on pension credits will also have a more significant qualitative effect on women than men because women, especially older women, are more likely to be single and so be reliant on TV for information and companionship,’ the BBC’s research added.

Figures obtained by the Daily Mail show that of the 139,719 people prosecuted for licence fee evasion last year 100,725 were women. Around 9,300 were found not guilty, meaning they suffered the ordeal needlessly. The vast majority of evicted evaders got a criminal record and a court fine of up to 1,000 pounds. But in 75 cases people were jailed after they failed to pay the fine, spending an average of 19 days each behind bars. Of those sentences, 40 were for women – more than 60% of the total. By contrast, less than 5% of the general prison population is female, Ministry of Justice figures show.

Some people jailed in Northern Ireland for failing to pay their fine went to prison more than once because of the issue. Age UK director Caroline Abrahams said: ‘Many older women are missing out on pension credits and are therefore set to lose their free TV licence, despite living on a very low income. A big extra bill on top of the other challenges that many will be facing by this age will be a bitter blow; for many, the possibility of being taken to court for non-payment will be a source of huge anxiety.’

A TV licensing spokesman said: ‘Individuals cannot be imprisoned for licence free evasions, only for non-payment of court ordered fines. The number of women imprisoned in England and Wales in 2018 was four, a 50% reduction from eight women. Prosecutions in England and Wales have fallen by 6% from 138,000 to 129,00 over the same period.’

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It is truly a scandal that the BBC was allowed to cancel TV licences for over-75s when the Corporation spend vast sums of money as if they have a printing press licenced by the existing government to pamper a vast number of their celebrity staff, where limits are not a consideration.

Theresa May should have intervened and stopped the BBC hierarchy from this madness, given that elderly people, especially women, are likely to suffer given the expected recession which I believe is likely to hit us hard as a result of her mismanagement over the last three years. The BBC should also be made to eat humble pie, be punished for their meanness and for inflicting misery on people who cannot fight back.

A MISHMASH OF TORY CONFUSION

Whenever world economies are in crisis, the price of gold surges to an unexpected high and various currencies lose their popularity when governments slash down interest rates so as to fork out the least possible returns to investors.

Last week panicked investors sent gold prices to a six year high after tensions flared in the Middle East.

Jitters over the growing risk of a conflict between the US and Iran pushed the value up to $1452.60 per ounce – its highest level since May 2013.

Earlier in the week I’ve noticed that the more we talk about Brexit, the more Stirling faces a crisis which is likely to get worse if we fail to convince Brussels to amend their stance by agreeing to many of our demands which they refuse to budge upon despite all the efforts which Theresa May exerted during her tenure as PM for the last three years.

Boris Johnson, who is not particularly popular with the EU is certainly not in a better position to succeed, given his threats which have so far infuriated the hardcore of the European hierarchy with his contention that come what may we are leaving the EU at the end of October.

Listening to him on many occasions I am convinced that his day-dreaming of securing a better deal is doomed.

Last week Stirling fell to fresh lows below $1.24 as jitters grew that the UK will leave the European Union without a deal.

The pound dropped to as little as $1.2380, a level it hasn’t hit in more than 2 years, amid fears that Brussels is not disposed to reopen negotiations over a departure which Boris harps upon by 31st October.

Stirling also slid 0.1pc% further against the Euro to 1.1057.

Travellers have already found at some airport exchange kiosks they area getting less than a euro for their pound, with some being handed about 98 cents.

John Goldie a foreign exchange dealer of Argentex Group said, ‘If the market truly buys into the rhetoric that Boris will take us out of the EU in October come what may then there is clearly room for the pound to continue to sink.’

However, the pound was to recover some of its losses when MPs passed an amendment designed to stop the next Prime Minister from being able to suspend parliament to ensure Brexit happens by October 31st.

17 Tories defied the government to back the move including Margot James who resigned as a Junior Minister. And four Cabinet Ministers – including Justice Secretary Mr Gauke, Chancellor Mr Hammond, Business Secretary Rory Stewart – abstained despite a three-line whip ordering them to vote against. The commons backed the move by 315 votes to 274, a majority of 41.

Andrea Leadsom had the tenacity to say kick out Brexit non-believers. What a stupid remark.

Many believe that Stirling, despite its marginal recovery, is braced for further weakness if as expected Boris Johnson takes over as Prime Minister this week.

The pound’s fall, which took it below $1.24 last week, briefly halted over hopes that Conservative party rebels would be successful in averting a no-deal Brexit in October.

Analysts warned however that a ramping up of the no deal rhetoric by a new Prime Minister would take its toll on Stirling.

‘We concluded that despite the bad news already being reflected in Stirling, there is still scope for further decline said ING financial markets.’

What  a disastrous outcome awaits us if these Brexiters continue with their present policies which are not based on facts but are twisted in order to satisfy their ego which is unravelling as the day of reckoning will soon show.

Let us pray that the public will no longer put up with this masquerade once and for all. Hallelujah.