Saturday, 6 March 2010

Slimming pills and toxic juice

The Express have got several of their favourite things on the front page today - a health scare, weather, and lots of very resistable offers. Those huge red numbers are enough to make your eyes bleed.

But what of their main story Warning over slimming pill?

It's not immediately clear where this story has come from. Various agencies are mentioned but the details are rather vague.

Journalist Victoria Fletcher even refers to Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum as 'she' which he definitely isn't.

She mentions the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority but their only recent press release on the drug in question is about the dangers of counterfeit Alli bought over the internet.

There have, apparently, been warnings about possible side-effects with the genuine product, but these appear to have been around for a while so it's not clear why it needed a front page now.

But the Express story doesn't quite match the sub-headline which says:

Drugs used by thousands has serious side-effects

But inside:

Drug safety watchdogs fear the slimming tablet Alli could trigger a raft of issues, including pancreatitis, kidney stones, liver problems or severe fits in people with epilepsy.

New figures show there have been 31 reported cases of adverse reactions since it went on sale at high street pharmacies in January 2009.


US health watchdogs are investigating links to liver disease, though European researchers disagree.

But whether true or not, the main problem with the Express' 'warning' is that it looks a little bit hypocritical coming less than a year after this:

The Express was selling it hard in April 2009:

Alli helps slimmers lose 50 per cent more weight than willpower alone.

The £1.50-a day drug – the first to be sold without prescription – works by ­stopping the body absorbing fat.

In trials dieters lost 10lbs in six months – the equivalent of one dress size. But some battling the bulge lost more than five stone.

A few months after that, the Express published an abridged version of a Men's Health article which followed one man taking Alli for a month. Sorry, not Alli:

This wonder pill called Alli

The journalist concluded:

Alli does help you lose weight. Yet as the manufacturer and the NHS point out, any weight-loss drug should be part of a change in lifestyle.

All of which suggests, once again, that you shouldn't get your health advice from the tabloid press.

And the Express did another eye-catcher on Monday with 'Poison' drinks health scare (the Mail had their own version of this too).

They wrote:

A poison as harmful as arsenic is ­contaminating fruit juices and cordials drunk by millions of people every day across Britain, scientists revealed last night.

The toxin called antimony, which is lethal in large doses and has been linked to cancer, was discovered in 16 of the most popular brands of juice and squash.

Arsenic in your juice? Juice causing cancer? Are you scared yet?

As it turns out, things aren't quite as presented. It was based on a piece of peer-reviewed research which, as Behind the Headlines explained:

...found that most of the juices (34 out of 42) contained levels of antimony within the acceptable limits for European Commission (EC) drinking water, with eight drinks exceeding the threshold.

However, all of these eight contained levels below the World Health Organization threshold for drinking water.

And, predictably:

neither newspaper reported that none of the drinks exceeded the threshold levels for drinking water set by the WHO.

Moreover, by mentioning '16 drinks' in their headline:

The Mail did not point out that only eight of the 42 drinks tested contained antimony amounts greater than the EC guidelines.


This study did not look at whether consumption of the juices tested was associated with any adverse health effects.

Oh, and:

the researchers were unable to determine exactly what chemical form the antimony took in the juice. Different forms will vary in their toxicity.

Not to mention:

None of the brands were named in the report, and it was unclear exactly how many are available in the UK.

All of which means:

These findings should not currently be a cause for undue concern, but anyone who is concerned should avoid drinking juices past their expiration date and dilute cordials according to instructions on the label.

But that doesn't sell papers, does it?

1 comment:

  1. *recoils* Bleeeaaah, that top picture looks like a fucking website made by a 12 year old. God damn.


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