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Robert Verkerk

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About

Robert Verkerk PhD is the executive and scientific director of the Alliance for Natural Health International, a consumer group that aims to protect our right to natural healthcare and information. For more information and to get involved, please visit: www.anh-europe.org

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Archive

2017

2016

Blue zone thinking - The politics of health

August 29th 2017, 19:12
208 views      

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Dr Michel Poulain in Guernsey, a small island off the coast of northern France that is a self-governing British crown dependency. Poulain was there to talk about his groundbreaking work with National Geographic writer and bestselling author Dan Buettner. Over the last decade or so, they’ve famously identified five communities around the world that are extraordinarily long-lived—as well as being healthy and happy. Poulain and Buettner refer to these communities as ‘blue zones,’ named as such because blue happened to be the color of Poulain’s pen when he was locating centenarians in the first ‘blue zone’ community in Sardinia back in the 1990s. When I met Poulain, an astrophysicist turned demographer, he was still working his way through the registry data in Guernsey. His preliminary view, based on the data he’d already reviewed, suggested it was unlikely that Guernsey would make the grade as a blue zone—at least for now. But the island state could follow, in time, the lead set by the five existing blue zone communities: Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Ikaras (Greece), Nicoya (Costa Rica) and the Seventh-Day Adventist community of Linda Loma, California. This mission could be catalyzed by Guernsey’s tight-knit, 64,000-strong population and a nationwide desire to achieve this status after the launch earlier this year of the visionary ‘Journey to 100’ project, which brought Poulain to the island in the first place. Poulain and Buettner identified nine criteria that these communities have in common. Plant-based diets with little or no processed food and consistent moderate physical activity are just two of them. Possibly even more important are factors like purpose in life, a sense of community and family values being prioritized over other concerns. These are ideas that are increasingly absent from urban dwellers in the industrial West. The social cohesiveness of the blue zone communities is particularly interesting. They’re not experimenting with gene therapy or anti-aging medicines, let alone cosmetic surgery. And they certainly have no obsession with social media followers. Yet, by sharing vital information about healthy living among each other, they do better than most of us despite our being surrounded by all sorts of information technology, health experts and gurus. Does this mean that those of us outside blue zone communities are locked out of the human potential they offer? Based on the most recently available statistics, just seven countries have average lifespans at birth that exceed 80 years, these being Switzerland, Iceland, Sweden, Japan, Spain, Australia and Norway. England just misses the cut at 79.3, and the USA, which spends more money on healthcare than any other country, languishes down in 23rd place, with an average life expectancy at birth of just 76 years. In defiance of our countries’ average lifespan or health status, many of us know people who are doing far better than average. That includes people in their 80s or 90s who are entirely drug free, lead fully independent lives, are active for most of the day, still prefer to walk or ride a bike than jump in a car or bus and, above all, continue enjoying life and being part of contemporary society. At the extreme end of this variance are the real outliers—individuals who meet all, or almost all, of the attributes of the five recognized blue zone communities. Few of us are interested in a long life if it’s not a happy one. Most of us don’t want to spend the last one-third of our lives riddled with chronic, degenerative diseases or dementia—yet this is an increasingly common prospect in the industrialized West. Over 50 percent of people in the West are on ‘polypharmacy’—using four or more prescribed medicines. And the drugs being used to treat specific conditions don’t actually cure them but simply treat the symptoms. The conditions then worsen, and as more drugs are brought on board, more are needed both to treat related conditions and to try to lessen the side-effects. A downward health spiral is then inevitable. Creating societies where human beings are able to sustain themselves naturally should be a priority given the mayhem that will ensue in the coming years if we don’t get on top of the ballooning costs of healthcare and the burden of chronic diseases. Human beings, like all living things, have exquisite capacities to self-heal. What is needed, as Poulain and Buettner discovered from the blue zone communities, is the right environment to allow this to happen. Look around you to see what you can learn from those who appear to be winning in the efforts to maintain their health. Look at what really makes them tick, at their attitudes, their social connections, their priorities in life—as well as how, what and when they eat, sleep and move. Chances are, the information you could learn from these people in your community—those who form part of your local ‘blue microzone’—will be more useful to your long-term health and well-being than any disease prevention suggestions you’re likely to get from your time-challenged physician

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All brawn and no beef

June 26th 2017, 21:51
294 views      

I recently visited the BodyPower Expo at the NEC in Birmingham, billed as the "world's number 1 fitness expo". I wanted to learn more about those interested in powerful bodies and the commercial sector that provides products for them, and to see how far things have moved on since the early days of bodybuilding supplements—which were sometimes laced with questionable ingredients and steroids, and almost always loaded with synthetic additives, colours and sweeteners.

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Scan or scandal?

May 24th 2017, 13:36
674 views      

You're running late for a flight and when you get to security, you hope to get diverted to the manual security channel. But it's not your day—and you can't face the stress of trying to explain to the security officers why you want a manual pat-down—you're going to be bombarded with the new-fangled millimeter (mm)-wave technology. The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the presumed global experts in airport security, considers the devices safe. But are they?

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A sharp jab at safety claims

March 31st 2017, 12:27
1,793 views      

Vaccination is possibly the single most controversial issue in public health. Western medicine has devised a number of key strategies for managing health, and the three most widely used are drugs, surgery and vaccines. Drugs and surgery have thousands of years of historical use, but until around 70 years ago, most drugs were derived from plant-based or natural inorganic compounds.

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Grains of truth

February 23rd 2017, 18:08
645 views      

The BBC TV series Horizon has been exploring scientific issues affecting the British populace since 1964. It exposed whale meat in pet food in 1972, and examined the question (sadly, with insufficient evidence) of whether the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) jab causes autism.

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When dying is right

January 24th 2017, 15:28
752 views      

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is rated the fifth largest employer—not in the UK and Europe, but in the world! A remarkable 1.7 million people are employed by what is sometimes referred to as the ‘jewel in Britain’s welfare crown’. The only bigger global employers, in decreasing order of size, are the US Department of Defense (3.2 million), the People’s Liberation Army of China (2.3 million), Walmart (2.1 million) and McDonald’s (1.9 million).

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Medical terrorism

December 29th 2016, 14:26
774 views      

In the last six weeks, I’ve met with leaders of ketogenic dietary approaches for cancer in Melbourne and London who were targets of personal and professional attacks, I’ve met families in California who plan to leave the state because they don’t want their kids vaccinated, yet still want to send them to school, and I’ve met doctors in Australia and the US under threat of having their licences revoked because they exempted children at high risk of adverse vaccine reactions.

Yes, cancer treatments and vaccination are still the two most controversial areas between mainstream and so-called alternative medicine—which is strange, as mainstream medicine has not had unparalleled success in treating cancer or protecting people from the diseases targeted by vaccination. And while the available data are neither convincing nor reliable, with remarkably few pharma-independent attempts to pool these data and publish findings in peer-reviewed journals, the status quo is maintained.

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The Trump effect in healthcare

November 30th 2016, 08:15
545 views      

At 35,000 feet over the Pacific between Sydney and LA, I’d hoped this view of our troubled planet offered greater objectivity—but then I read the latest news about the US elections, more reactions to the High Court’s decision re Brexit, the political strife—and bushfires—in Australia . . . with more to come.

I doubt I’m alone in sensing the greatest level of social disquiet since perhaps WWII. I celebrate people’s distrust of governments and big corporations—but it’s the apparent absence of any popular wisdom that might in the past have resulted in an orchestrated rebellion to unseat evil or immoral authorities to replace them with something better.

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Brexit means Brexit...

October 27th 2016, 09:47
405 views      

The Conservative Party conference of early October marked the decision by British PM Theresa May to reveal her true sovereign colours following the June referendum. But committed Europhiles won’t like it, as she’ll be doing deals with the likes of Canada, China, India, Mexico, Singapore and South Korea, all of which are willing to engage in free-trade negotiations with the UK—and the excitement in the British air has been palpable.

Even Brexit doubters have raised eyebrows at the prospect of getting rid of the EU-derived red tape that has for years unashamedly strangled many small businesses and their capacity to innovate. The natural-health sector was particularly hard hit, given the precarious legislative balancing acts that many products were forced to endure on the legal borderline between foods and drugs.

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Don’t believe the HPV hype

October 14th 2016, 14:10
665 views      

One week last September, the headlines exclaimed to the parents of young children that it was imperative to get their daughters, and even their young sons, vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV).

Behind the headlines was a seemingly weighty scientific paper, published in the journal Clinical Reviews of Infectious Diseases, headed by one of the world’s leading HPV experts, Prof Suzanne Garland of the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Supporting her were 14 other HPV experts.

The newspapers echoed various snippets, including that the study involved 187 to 205 million or more doses of HPV vaccines in 129 countries.

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