Fondazione Zoé

Our body always tells us how it is, we need only not be tricked into quick fixes and miracles.

Water, water everywhere” is how an interesting article in one of the July issues of the BMJ. I read it thinking about the repetitively of health advice which appears each time the seasons change. If it is cold, we are told we should cover ourselves up (but I’ve never seen anyone going around in their swimming costume in the snow) and if it’s hot, we should drink. And then there’s the need to eat everything in small quantities, do exercise to keep in shape, but not when it’s too hot and the list goes on. The reality is a more serious matter.

Indeed, I discover, even if I’d already imagined so, that the campaign “Hydration for Health” which is talks about was launched during scientific convention in Evian, France, which is coincidentally also sponsored by Danone. The general argument is that children and older people do not drink enough and obviously, being fragile, it would be better if they drank mineral water. The entire event is an example of the intrusion of sponsors even in advice on healthy lifestyles. They is always a small truth from which the argument stems, very small children often cry and it is not easy to understand whether they are thirsty, tired or just bored and trying to get attention. And older people often lose their sense of thirst, eat less and therefore take on less liquids, so they should pay more attention. But as for the rest, it is just another medicalisation of healthiness. We all have a sense of thirst and hunger, if we drink or eat too little (or too much), it is not because we do not realise that we are thirsty or hungry, but simply because we are no longer able to control our physical needs. But this is not the only matter. we all, at least women, have been buying those shoes which promise to work our glutes by just walking for months now. But it is only in the last few days that an authoritative medical journal, the Journal of Physical Activity, has explained that it doesn’t quite work like this and that there is no evidence that one particular shoe can help us to quickly gain physical shape or keep it. We can note this because more or less tricky adverts are part of the history of medicine.

The real problem is disinformation or ambiguous information affects not only the choice of mineral water or yoghurt, but also the decision to undergo or avoid diagnostic examinations and particular treatments. An obvious example of this is the past use of hormone replacement therapies, sponsored by the women themselves, rather than just a preventative or medical intervention because of a cardiovascular risk used to slow down the appearance of wrinkles and skin ageing. In 2006, the Women’s Health Organisation published a broad study which shows how the reality of the use of this treatment produced an increase in heart attacks and breast cancer in women who chose to undergo it. Stopping this treatment has produced, in the countries which have taken it seriously, an extremely significant reduction in breast tumours (40%) attributed to this cause. A small final moral?

We will never make enough use of common sense, neither doctors nor people. Our body always tells us how it is, we need only know how to listen to it and, above all, not be tricked into quick fixes and miracles.

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