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Planning Retirement Online

Beyond the Headlines

April 2014


By Jeanne DavisJeanne Davis

Each month our resident writer and commentator Jeanne Davis goes behind recent news stories to comment on various ideas and subjects that have special resonance for our age group.

Written in her usual thought provoking and entertaining style, we know you will enjoy this addition every month

To view all of Jeanne's articles visit the Interest Index.





Contradictory advice about what is good for our health is regularly reported. Cut back on salt. Don’t worry about salt. Screen for prostate cancer early. Um, never mind the screenings.

A new study suggests that a surgery performed about 700,000 times a year in the United States, at an estimated cost of $4 billion, works no better than a fake operation for a torn meniscus, the cartilage that helps cushion and stabilise knees.

The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted in Finland on subjects who all had incisions for an arthroscopy, though some did not have the surgery performed. A year later, most patients in both groups felt better.

“Take 100 people with knee pain; a very high percentage have a meniscal tear,” says Dr. Kenneth Fine, an orthopaedic surgeon who also teaches at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. “I tell them, Number 1, I’m not so sure the meniscal tear is causing your pain, and Number 2, even if it is, I’m not sure the surgery’s going to take care of it.”

But there‘s a lot of pressure to operate. This mentality is part of the reason the United States spends more money on health care than any other industrialised country, though Americans aren’t any healthier. In addition, Americans spend about $30 billion a year on supplements, and half of adults take a vitamin pill daily.


In an editorial in a recent issue of The Annals of Internal Medicine, five doctors had some advice for those taking supplements: “Stop wasting money.”

For healthy people, there is no evidence that vitamins and mineral pills are helpful, the doctors said. And in some instances they may be harmful. “The message is simple," the editorial reported. “Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided.”


Jennifer B. was a devotee of health food “before it was cool,” she wrote in The New York Times. Her diet was full of juiced kale and cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts and collard greens. When the culture caught up with her two decades ago and her friends who had called her a health nut were asking for advice on whether to eat organic or local, or how to germinate sprouts, she felt some satisfaction about being ahead of her time.

That is until she went to her doctor and he told her that she had hypothyroidism, which is common in women over 40. She looked up a list of foods to avoid and found kale at the top, followed by cruciferous vegetables she ate regularly. Flax seeds, high in omega 3s, which she sprinkled on cereal and in strawberry almond milk smoothies, were out. Also forbidden: almonds, strawberries, soy, peaches, and peanuts.

The second blow came when she went to the dentist, who found five cavities and asked if she ate candy and drank soda every day.

“I was insulted. Indignant," she wrote. “No, I answered. I don’t eat sugar and drink only fresh vegetable juices –no longer kale, of course. And filtered water with lemon.” Her dentist said the natural sugars in fruit and vegetable juices cause decay, and lemon, though high in vitamin C and cancer preventing-substances had eroded the enamel that protected her teeth.

Her dentist told her: “You’d be better off with chocolate and cola.”


For decades, it’s been drummed into us that saturated fat is the greatest dietary evil, so it seems hard to believe that sugar is actually worse. But there’s a growing body of expert opinion that, in fact, it’s sugar that’s to blame for so many deadly illnesses, from heart disease to type 2 diabetes to Alzheimer’s and some cancers.

And it’s not just in cakes and chocolates, there’s hidden sugar in our so-called virtuous healthy foods. One popular anti-oxidant green smoothie (per 450ml bottle) contains 51 teaspoons of sugar, recent tests have revealed. Yeo Valley 0 per cent natural yogurt, per 160ml serving , hides 12 teaspoons and Copella Cloudy apple juice (200ml serving) an astonishing 20 teaspoons.


Now too much protein, too, is being blamed for the deadly diseases. People under 65 who eat a lot of meat, eggs and dairy are four times as likely to die from cancer or diabetes , a research study has found. The study throws doubt on the long-term effects of the popular Atkins and Paleo and the Dukan Diet. I have two friends in their late 50s who are devotees of the Dukan. She has lost three stone and he almost two stone. I wish them well.

The good news is that the same diet seemed to protect people’s health in old age. So eat a low-protein diet until old age, when you start to lose weight and become frail, and then boost the body’s protein intake to stay healthy.


Perhaps the best advice is what our mothers and fathers and GPs used to tell us. For most of us, eat a balanced diet, the vegetables, the fruits, the meat, the fish, the breads, but in small portions. Even have the biscuit or chocolate when you want it. If you deny yourself the sweets you’ll end up craving them and gobble down far too large a portion.

And from time to time add a bit of exercise!


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The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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