There you are, peacefully walking down the street, when suddenly a government paid busy body apprehends you, manhandles measures you in public, and orders you to attend weight watchers.

Yes, it’s the UK National Health Service telling you how to live your life.

We just walk up and speak to people. We will be looking at the men with the paunches or women carrying external body fat who are an ‘apple shape’, as we know they are at higher risk of disease and cancer.

The problem?

Would you want to be humiliated like this in public?

We frequently would hold health fairs or have booths that checked blood pressure and even blood sugar, while giving out pamphlets with recipes and advice on diet and exercize. But the coercion in this case intrudes on people’s privacy.

On the other hand, once you have socialized medicine, your health care choices costs the state money, so they see nothing wrong  ordering you to lose weight.

The problem? Obesity is very hard to treat. People lose weight but gain it again. The “cure” rate is about ten percent. Of course, if you eat correctly, exercise, and lose ten percent of your body weight you’ll have better health. But you still will be overweight.

But the real question is why there is a world wide epidemic of obesity. Is it that we don’t work hard and walk everywhere? Is it that we have lots of food to eat? Is it that good tasting food tends to be high fat and high sugar?

Or is it because our cans and water bottles have chemicals that cause some people to get “metabolic syndrome” with obesity and diabetes and heart disease?

This week’s “diet” in medical journals is to eat like the Italians or the Japanese.

And the vitamin of the week is Vitamin D. 

The UK Daily Mail has this headline:

Poor weather to blame for Britain’s obesity epidemic, scientists say

Vitamin D is created when the sun is exposed to light. The amount of Vitamin D in the blood influences the functioning of a hormone called leptin, which tells the brain when the stomach is full.  The obese produced a tenth less vitamin D than those of average weight.

Hmmm…maybe there is a reason that Russian doctors order tanning beds for those living in the far north. Sunlight allows the body to make vitamin D, and those working indoors all day may have a low grade vitamin D deficiency.

And low Vitamin D levels are found in the obese (perhaps because fat stores and hides Vitamin D). Low Vitamin D levels are also found in those with aches and pains, high blood pressure, certain forms of arthritis, and heart disease.

So which came first? Low vitamin D, with aches and pains that make it hard for you to exercise, so you get fat, or is it the obesity that causes the low Vitamin D?

So is it the way to stay healthy and slim to eat olive oil and fish? Is it the low protein diet? High protein diet? Is it the exercise? If we live in northern climates, should we all get a tanning bed like Governor Palin? And should those NHS nurses in Scotland be handing out certificates for health spas with tanning beds along with prescriptions for weight watchers?

(One word of caution: You can overdose if you take too much Vitamin D by mouth.  And too much sunlight or tanning bed exposure can cause skin cancer).

My philosophy is that living in a family and eating as an enjoyable part of life, instead of constantly worrying about what foods and how much you should eat, is the best medicine.

As for longevity, the Answer has been known since the days of Hippocrates: a light diet and exercise was know to be associated with a long and healthy life.

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Thanks for the headsup from CoffeeCatholicBlog.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs at Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket, and writes about medicine at HeyDoc Xanga Blog.

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