Thursday, January 29, 2009

Now Greenies don't like tidal power, either

It might upset the fish, you know. So: Coal, nuclear and hydroelectic are positively EVIL; windmills are no good; tidal power is no good. There's just no such thing as a happy Greenie

Whichever, if any, tidal scheme is built on the Severn, it is sure to anger some environmentalists. Being a renewable source of electricity, tidal generators might be assumed to be popular with the green lobby. Yet there are serious reservations over the environmental costs of a barrage or lagoon in the estuary - and they have split the environmentalist movement.

On the one hand there is the appeal of doing something positive about climate change by turning to a renewable, rather than burnable, source of energy. Environmental activists have been urging governments, power companies and the public to embrace renewable energy because it is cleaner than fossil fuels and nuclear power. On the other hand, thousands of hectares of shoreline will be destroyed as a feeding ground for birds - an internationally important feeding ground, no less. There are also deep concerns about the impact on the fish and invertebrates in the Severn. Barrages and, to a lesser extent, lagoons form a physical barrier to species such as salmon and eels as they migrate. The dilemma is balancing the potential damage to habitat against the gains made in combating climate change.

If measures such as the Cardiff-Weston barrage are not taken, how much of the river will be claimed anyway by sea-level rises from melting ice caps and how many creatures will be forced to find somewhere else to live because temperatures have become unbearable?

Some of the projects that missed the shortlist are regarded as having less of an impact on the environment but they are the most unproven schemes and, however attractive their merits, their effectiveness is questionable. When coming to their decision on tidal schemes for the Severn - and perhaps one day the Mersey, the Wyre and the Thames - ministers will have plenty of factors to weigh up. There will be the jobs created - the bigger the scheme the bigger the job creation prospects - and there will be the economic damage caused by limiting navigation of the Severn and access to upstream ports. There will be the attraction of plumping for a huge barrage that will be a monument to their tenure in office, to be set against the affordability of constructing such an edifice.

But most of all they will have to judge whether the wider environment will best be served by sacrifice or preservation.


British watchdog bans Christian advert claiming that a vaccine leads to infertility

Again we have censorship arising from just one complainer
"A Christian advert which suggested the cervical cancer vaccine would make teenagers sterile has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Christian Voice believes the HPV vaccine will increase teen sex and cause a surge in sexually-transmitted infections that cause infertility. It placed an advert in New Statesman magazine which claimed: `Now we have the disaster of teenage infertility. Every Government initiative, including the HPV vaccine, will increase it, but as all the targets revolve around pregnancy, no-one in power knows how many young people they are making sterile and nobody cares.'

The advertising watchdog began an investigation after one complaint. It found the advert breached codes on truthfulness, substantiation and principles.


Chlamydia is a very common sexually transmitted disease and it does cause infertility. So anything that makes women feel that it safer to have indiscriminate sex DOES expose them to the risk of infertility. The Christian ad is perfectly factual.

Diet pill side-effects

For years I've been searching for the next quick fix - the miracle diet, the revolutionary gym class or the ultimate fat-busting pill. In fact, I'll do anything to lose weight. Anything, that is, except eat less and exercise more. That's why I was so excited when I first heard about the fat-busting pill Alli, which has just been licensed to be sold over-the-counter in Britain.

A year ago the Daily Mail told how this medically proven obesity drug was already on sale in the US. I couldn't wait to try it. It seemed like the answer to my prayers - finally a little pill to take with every meal that would help me lose weight without any effort. But there was one problem - it was then available only in America. So when a friend suggested a long weekend in New York, the tickets were booked before you could say 'obesity epidemic'.

Arriving in Manhattan, Alli tablets weren't hard to find. The first pharmacy I went into had them. I chose the 90-capsule pack - enough for a month - which, with the exchange rate being so good at the time, cost around 25 pounds. The pack was full of little booklets offering advice on diet, exercise, how to take the pills and their side-effects. They explained that Alli is produced from the drug orlistat, which prevents your body absorbing some of the fat in the food you eat. The undigested fat is then flushed out of your body in your bowel movements. It's a half-strength version of the weight-loss drug Xenical, which is available both in the US and Britain and works in the same way but is only available with a doctor's prescription.

Alli, medical tests had proved, helped increase weight loss by about 50 per cent. So if I went on a diet and lost 2lb in a week, it could be increased to 3lb with the drug. Fantastic! Or so I thought until I read about the side-effects both in the leaflets and in all the testimonies online. Flatulence, diarrhoea and stomach pain were quite common. But I was desperate. I've been 2st overweight for as long as I can remember. I've done every diet known to man, from the Cabbage Soup Diet (great for a week but impossible to sustain any longer) to the Atkins (incredibly difficult for a strict vegetarian like myself). And I'm an emotional eater - if I'm feeling a bit low, I use crisps and biscuits to cheer myself up. So nothing short of risk of death was going to stop me taking Alli tablets.

I'm (unsurprisingly) no stranger to diet pills. I've tried lots of natural ones like Hoodia, a plant which claims to suppress your appetite, and LIPObind which, like Alli, reduces the amount of fat your body absorbs, but with no success. Around four years ago I was even so desperate that I bought appetite suppressant, Reductil, a prescription-only drug, online. I filled in a form and a doctor who didn't know my medical history happily prescribed it for me.

I lost 4lb in the first week - and certainly didn't feel as hungry as normal but the side-effects put me off. At first I felt a raging thirst and had a dry mouth. After a few days, I felt tense, ratty and was unable to sleep. I lost a stone but, even so, I didn't want to repeat the experience.

But Alli seemed different. Most of the side-effects seemed tolerable and there was a chance I might not even suffer them. Most importantly, it had been passed by America's Food And Drug Administration as safe to sell over the counter. Plus I'd read countless testimonies on line of women allegedly `achieving the impossible' with this drug. I dared to hope that I too may be one of them and swallowed my first little blue pill - one to be taken with each meal that contained fat.

The 90-capsule tub lasted about five weeks and the pills seemed to work well. Side-effects were minimal - a few stomach cramps, a little flatulence but nothing I couldn't cope with - and I lost 6lb, more than I'd normally expect to lose without going on a really hard-core diet. It seemed I'd finally found the solution to my weight problems. But Alli still wasn't available in Britain and although by now it could be bought off the internet, I couldn't stretch to 100 pounds for 60 tablets. It wasn't until last summer that I managed to get back to America to buy some more. Again I had only mild side-effects to begin with but, as the first month ended, I realised the weight wasn't coming off.

Even though I was eating about the same as last time - typically non-sugary cereal with low-fat milk for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and Quorn and vegetables for supper, with fruit snacks - I lost only a pound or two in four weeks. I would have expected to lose that amount anyway, given the amount I was eating. Yes, I'd have bad days when I'd give in and scoff a muffin, but to be honest, I expected better results.

Towards the end of October the drug's side-effects really began to kick in. Every morning I suffered from diarrhoea and agonising stomach cramps. The advice from Alli is that such problems can be controlled if you reduce the amount of fat you eat to around 15g per meal. I genuinely think I did this most of the time, but I still suffered. It got to the stage that I was so afraid of the side-effects, if I was going to eat something that I knew had a bit too much fat in, I wouldn't take the tablet. But still I was suffering from the side-effects.

By December the diarrhoea had cleared up but by then, I'm mortified to say, flatulence had become a real problem. If it wasn't for the fact I work from home and have no colleagues to worry about, I think I would have thrown the Alli in the bin. Plus there was the chronic discomfort. Each night, my stomach was incredibly bloated, like it was pumped full of gas. And each week it got worse. But last week I got on the scales and finally had to face facts. Since November, I've lost only 4lb. In the meantime I've suffered horrible side-effects and my social life has been totally disrupted. I've been in denial, but the truth is, for me, with Alli the problems far outweigh the benefits. So I've stopped taking them and am waiting for my body to get back to normal. Three days on I'm still getting cramps and wind.

Upset at why Alli didn't work for me I did a bit more research. What I discovered made me wish I'd never taken it in the first place. Judy More, a registered dietician, struggled to mask her exasperation when she told me: `If you're prepared to stick rigidly to a low-fat diet, then Alli (or orlistat as it is also known) might help you. `But if you're not, you have to be prepared for some very disagreeable side-effects. `Now it is going to be available over the counter, I have to assume the company has done the necessary research into the potential long-term health implications. 'I can see how it might help some people, but if someone really wants to lose weight, you need to motivate them to change their habits, giving them a pill isn't going to be the magic bullet that I have no doubt this will be marketed as.'

Dr Sidney Wolfe was even more direct. He says: `The drug works by inhibiting absorption of fats, and as a result the absorption of critical fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A and E. Unless these are replaced, a patient could become vitamin deficient. `And, aside from the really unpleasant side-effects, which mean the company itself advises you to wear dark clothing and carry a change of clothes, we have many concerns about the long-term health implications.

`Not least is the fact that Roche's own data showed a correlation between the drug and the formation of pre-cancerous lesions in the colon. Furthermore, randomised control trials on orlistat also suggested there was a link with breast cancer, something that has still not been resolved.

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