Tag Archives: obesity

Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in….

The lyrics come from a very famous Fifth Dimension song, but this is not a post about music.

The Fifth Dimension

It’s a post about Covid-19 and an update on its spread, and how to live with it. And guess what? Sunshine really does make a difference, in ways that are not immediately obvious.

First up I’m going to start with some research conducted by the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, Geelong, VIC, Australia. As some of you know, my state of Victoria is at the centre of the largest outbreak in Australia. And we’re not over it [completely] yet.

What the Australian study did was to measure the infectiveness of the virus – ON SURFACES – in a rather unusual way. As the UV in light is known to kill viruses, the researchers conducted their study on the virus in the dark. They also controlled the temperature of the environment in which the virus was studied. Their results are interesting to say the least.

The following is a direct quote taken from those results :

‘viable virus was isolated for up to 28 days at 20 °C from common surfaces such as glass, stainless steel and both paper and polymer banknotes. Conversely, infectious virus survived less than 24 h at 40 °C on some surfaces.’


For a more in-depth explanation of the study and what it found, please check out Dr John’s video.

For me, personally, these results are both good news and bad because we’ve been ‘isolating’ dry goods bought from the supermarket in the boot of the Offspring’s car. As the boot is dark, I immediately worried about how effective this isolation had been, especially as it’s been a cold winter here in Melbourne.

Then I realised that as neither one of us has become sick, the decon in the boot probably worked. A little later I realised why. The car is parked in the open so, although dark, the temperature in the boot would probably drop to about 5C at night and heat up past 20C during most of the day [the virus dislikes extremes of heat and cold]. Phew. Plus…masks have been mandated for most of this second wave so the chance of someone sneezing on my shopping before it arrives is that much less.

Keep all of that in mind as I tell you about the pandemic in Japan. A study conducted on working people in Tokyo found that despite the tiny death toll – under 2000 for the whole of Japan – close to 50% of those tested may have already been infected by the virus. For more on this please see Dr John’s video here or you can go direct to the study here.

There’s a lot to explain so I’ll try to keep it to the most important details. Firstly, the study was conducted during the summer months and the low death rate is partially backed up by data from the Western world where infection rates have also increased but without a corresponding increase in the death rate.

Doesn’t make sense, or does it?

If dark and temperate conditions keep the virus alive, the conditions in summer would do the exact opposite because people spend much more time outdoors…in the sunshine…with good ventilation. So even when they are exposed to the virus, their VIRAL LOAD is likely to be much less. And viral load determines how sick you’re likely to get.

But still, even taking the sunshine and heat and ventilation and viral load into consideration, why would the Japanese results be so extremely good despite no major lockdowns?

In Japan, the answer seems to be mostly cultural:

  • Wearing masks is normal.
  • Bowing instead of hugging or shaking hands is normal.
  • Not shouting and speaking quietly is normal.
  • Opening windows [good ventilation] is normal.
  • Supervised 14 day quarantine is strictly enforced.
  • And finally, obesity is very low in Japan. Obesity has been shown to be a major co-morbidity with the virus – i.e. you’re likely to get much sicker if you get the virus and you’re obese.

Putting it all together, cultural good practice means that the viral load is kept very low. And that means that the people who are infected are far more likely to have few symptoms, or no symptoms at all. Thus, lots of spread, but most people do not actually get sick, and those who do are much less likely to die.

If this is all true, and I think it is, then we here in Australia are going to get a reprieve over the summer months. Unfortunately, it also means that the northern hemisphere is going to be hit hard, again, especially as Western cultural practices make the virus so happy.

I can’t do anything about the northern hemisphere, but I can ask the people here in Melbourne two very simple questions:

  1. Even if you don’t believe the pandemic is real, would it really kill you to wear a mask? Not just now, when the State government has mandated that all of us must wear one in public, but after? Couldn’t you err on the side of caution, if not for yourself, then for the sick, the elderly and the disabled?
  2. Could you really live with yourself if someone you loved died, or developed a long term health problem because you put your convenience ahead of everything and everyone else?

Wearing a mask is such a small thing when compared to the horror of watching someone die.


We are what we eat

My post today is inspired by a funny little book called Evertaster. I think Evertaster is a children’s book because it reads like a modern day fairytale but behind the light hearted fun there is a subtle message about the food we eat that started me thinking along gastronomic lines. Is margarine as good as butter? Are all sugars the same? Is organic really that different to conventional? And the big one – is genetically modified food really that bad?

I was born in Hungary – a very small country in eastern Europe – and like all Hungarians my mother was passionate about good food. Everything she cooked was made from scratch and she spent a huge part of her life thinking about, buying, preparing, cooking and serving delicious meals. And she was not alone. Most women of her generation did exactly the same thing because there was very little in the way of convenience food and they had the time to prepare food the old fashioned way [they could stay at home while the Husband went out to bring home the bacon].

The western world has changed a great deal since the 1950’s but one of the biggest changes is not the prevalence of computers but the role of women. Nowadays very few men earn enough to support their families on a single wage so the majority of women have to go out to work. When they come home at night dinner is not waiting for them so takeaways, frozen meals and every other brand of convenience food has taken over from the fresh food their parents used to eat. Home cooked meals are generally something they may do on weekends as a ‘treat’.

Please note the words ‘generally’, ‘mostly’ etc. I was extraordinarily lucky in that I could stay home with The Daughter and cook the same kind of meals my mother used to make. Because we ran our own small business I had the option of working from home, a luxury not many women cannot afford. The flip side of this luxury of time was that we lived rather frugal lives – no wide-screen TVs, new cars or expensive holidays [I did say it was a small business]. Nonetheless we were happy and could afford to be foodies because, irony of ironies, fresh food is actually a lot cheaper than processed food… if you have the time to cook it.

The payoff for me is that at 59 I’m not as fashionably thin as I’d like to be but I’m not overweight, I don’t have type II diabetes, my cholesterol levels are near perfect, my blood pressure is dead on normal, my vitamin and mineral levels are great… and I eat pretty much whatever I like. I cook with cream and sour cream, I put real sugar in my coffee and we put real butter on our bread.

According to the pundits my way of cooking should be terribly unhealthy but the truth is that it’s the exact opposite because it’s all fresh and unprocessed.

So what’s wrong with processed foods? Well, for starters most processed foods now contain a great deal of pure, refined fructose. In its natural form, i.e. in fruits and vegetables, fructose [or fruit sugar] is bound to glucose and all the sugars are balanced by vitamins and fibre which means that the body processes the fructose in a healthy way. When fructose is extracted and used in isolation it can only be processed by the liver and this is bad with a capital B because it is linked to obesity, diabetes [type II], high blood pressure etc. This article from Harvard Health gives a good explanation for those interested.

Now a little bit of fructose is probably not that bad but when you realise just how much of it is in all the processed foods we eat then the picture starts to get very scary. You will find fructose in soft drinks, biscuits, cakes, breakfast cereals, bread, ketchup, fruit juices, sauces and even savoury foods. This link will take you to a list of most common sources of fructose. You can see how ubiquitous it has become.

Yet if we accept that fructose makes processed foods dangerous to our health then what exactly can we do about it?

Clearly no-one can turn back the clock. We can’t go back to living the way we did in the 1950s but we can make healthier choices in the food we feed our families. At the very top of the list should be a ban on soft drinks and fruit juices. These two items are very easy to consume in huge quantities. If we stop drinking them, or at least only consume them as ‘treats’ then a big chunk of fructose will be eliminated from our diets.

But what of food? We can’t just stop eating!

Given the pace of the lives we lead convenience foods are here to stay but I’ve noticed that the supermarkets now stock a lot of convenience foods that are not processed to death. I can pick up salads ready to go, organic soups ready to reheat, and even pre-cooked meals that don’t contain too much of the bad stuff. So there are choices now that are ‘better’ than that frozen pizza. All you need to do is become a label reader. Check what goes into your food before you buy it and choose foods that contain less of the things that are bad for you – such as fructose. But wait, there’s more!

Every time I go to the supermarket and end up waiting in a queue at the checkout I browse the magazines and what I’ve noticed is that quite a few of them contain recipes you can cook in minutes. Some magazines are even devoted to ‘fast food’ cooked at home. Why not give one of these ‘fast’ recipes a try?

I haven’t bought any of these magazines myself but starting next week I’m going to begin posting recipes for the meals I make when I’d rather not cook at all. [Yes, I’m a foodie but after 30 years of cooking the glam has worn off and I’d rather write than cook, so trust me, I know quick recipes as well!]

For now though I’ll leave you with a question – do you know what’s in the food you eat? If the answer is no then please, please have a look at the labels on the foods you buy. Just a few, small changes in what you choose to put in your mouth could make a huge difference to how you feel and long term those changes may also stop you from developing one of those horrible lifestyle diseases that are plaguing our affluent world.

As a final word I ask you to consider ADHD. It is a ‘disease’ that seems to be in epidemic proportions amongst young children. Yet what if the answer to ADHD lies not in medication but in restricting the amount of fructose in their diets? This article is scary and so was the horrible video I saw recently of a six year old beauty ‘queen’ who was nothing if not hyper. In the video this tot boasted about the special juice her mother made for her. This ‘juice’ was made from Mountain Dew and… Red Bull. Why? Why would you do that to your own child????

Much love,

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