18 September 2011

Dr. Foot v the Daily Express

My Grandmother was a reader. She had shelves stuffed with every genre of book imaginable. As a small child, one in particular held a particular morbid fascination for me: 'Dr. Foot's Handbook of Health Hints and Ready Recipes.' It was printed in the late 19th Century and Gran's copy had hand-drawn illustrations of 'humours' as well as the outward manifestations of smallpox, consumption and the like. I'd spend long minutes staring at these with an almost delicious frisson of fear, unable to resist their lure.

The book was published long before the appearance of the modern Desmond-owned Daily Express, but even though it would now only be considered useful as an interesting, amusing historical document, it probably held between its covers far more reliable information and remedies than those to be found between those of that paper!

As a fully paid up, card-carrying hypochondriac, easily convinced whenever a symptom of the latest disease is mentioned that I have it and am about to shuffle off this mortal coil, the frequently sensationalist and misleading front page headlines of the Daily Express are cold comfort. 

Headlines like the one below from September 17th:

Is new radical treatment offered? It seems not judging by the article itself which quotes from a medical source:
'Taking more exercise, eating more fruit and vegetables, reducing alcohol intake and slashing the amount of saturated fat in our diet could drastically reduce the toll of Britain’s biggest killer and save the NHS up to £3billion a year.'
Jo Willey, Health Correspondent
 Really? Good Heavens! Who would have imagined such a simple course of action might do the trick? Thankyou Jo Willey, 'am forever indebted...

And then there are the contradictory statements, in this case in articles by Jo Willey and Jeremy Wright:
'Every year 17,500 people die in the UK from cardiovascular disease and strokes caused by eating too much salt...'

'SALT is safe to eat – and cutting our daily intake does nothing to lower the risk of suffering from heart disease, research shows.'
July 6th 2011 Jo Willey, Health Correspondent

One wonders if they often meet to bicker over health scares by the newsroom coffee machine......

Speaking of health scares - below is a very small sample of the often lurid, usually scaremongering, always exaggerated and misleading headlines which have probably caused palpitations in the hearts of even the most stoic, fatalistic of readers: 

How on earth, one might ask, did people all those years ago manage without the Express to discover a new threat and then the cure for it?

Dr. Foot, for all his failings, was writing well over a hundred years ago and could at least plead lack of scientific evidence - what's the Express' excuse, I wonder?