Alf applauds the Public Health Association and Agencies for Nutrition Action for pressing the government to take concrete steps to reduce the cost of nutritious food – particularly the basics like bread, milk, fruit and vegetables.
He will support them, provided they include whisky (above all) on their list of healthy foods along with other alcoholic beverages with health-enhancing properties.
He enthusiastically goes out to promote whisky, which by the way happens to be one of his favourite tipples, although this is neither here nor there when it comes to the serious business of legislating in the public interest to improve the nation’s health and nutrition.
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Drinking whisky can help protect you against cancer, a conference of international scientists have heard. Researchers have long hailed the anti-cancer properties of red wine due to its antioxidant content.Delegates at the EuroMedLab 2005 conference in Glasgow have now been told that whisky contains significantly higher levels of a powerful antioxidant that kills cancer cells.
The push from the food zealots to lower food prices – correction, the push to lower healthy food prices – follows the defeat last night of Maori Party MP Rahui Katene’s bill to remove the Goods and Services Tax from healthy food.
The bill didn’t get past first base and was defeated at its first reading, although Alf would have considered supporting it if it had included booze among the foods to be exempt from GST.
So the PHA is now taking another tack.
“If the government won’t look at removing GST from the basics, it must examine other ways of making it cheaper and easier for people to maintain their basic health. This will inevitably save money because healthy people aren’t repeatedly admitted to hospital at taxpayers’ expense,” says PHA National Executive Officer Dr Gay Keating.
Ministry of Health research1 shows that the members of about one in five households, particularly low income, Maori and Pacific households, live in a state of low food security – in other words they regularly do not have enough nutritious food to eat. If this happens often enough they cannot sustain basic health, now or into the future.
ANA Executive Director Nicola Chilcott says food prices overall have risen more than a fifth in just a few years, while real incomes have risen only slightly.
“Strategies to reduce the cost of the basics help everyone, but particularly those on low incomes who spend a larger share of what they earn on food, and who also often suffer poorer health. If removing GST is deemed unworkable, other avenues should be explored.”
She said one alternative worth examining is Otago University’s research on an electronic Smartcard – a pre-paid card issued to low income families to spend on healthy food.
“When shoppers are struggling to pay the bills, they are understandably going to opt for a 2-litre bottle of soft drink at $2 rather than milk at $4.The same goes for choosing cheaper processed items over fruit and vegetables. We know from other research2 that sugary drinks are often discounted where plain milk rarely is. This is the case for many processed food items that are cheaper to produce. Finding ways to make quality nutritious products affordable would simply level the playing field”.
Chilcott said the cost of making healthy basics cheaper “will be nothing compared to what will have to be paid out to support people with associated diseases in years to come.”
Alf accepts this.
Moreover he draws Chilcott’s attention to the case for counting wine among healthy foods.
First, there were scores of positive studies related solely to the healing powers of resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red grape skins and therefore in red wine. However, now they’re finding just as many benefits from white wines.
As a matter of fact, winemakers worldwide are even altering their production processes in order to boost the health benefits in white wine. All kinds of new findings still frequently bombard the media today.
Alf then pushes the case for alcoholic drinks generally.
Moderate drinkers tend to have better health and live longer than those who are either abstainers or heavy drinkers. In addition to having fewer heart attacks and strokes, moderate consumers of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine or distilled spirits or liquor) are generally less likely to suffer hypertension or high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease and the common cold.
And finally, Alf goes out to bat for whisky.
Dr. Jim Swan, an independent consultant to the worldwide drinks industry, discussed the art and science of whisky distilling, as well as its possible health benefits.
“There has been much inthe news about the health benefits of antioxidants in red wine.
“By contrast, very little has been said about malt whisky distillery science.
“However, research has shown that there are even greater health benefits to people who drink single malt whiskies. Why? Single malt whiskies have more ellagic acid than red wine.”
Alf invites Katene to pop over to his office for a chat.
He will try to persuade her to put booze on her healthy foods list when she has another go at lowering food prices.
It will be hard going, he imagines, because she has as good as declared she is a wowser.
As a member of the church of the Latterday Saints, alcohol has never featured highly in my life priorities – but the impacts are never far away.
Approximately three in every four Maori over eighteen years of age with identify as drinkers; with about one third of these identifying themselves as binge drinkers. This profile translates into a relationship with violence that occurs at many levels – violence against oneself; violence against one’s family; violence against one’s community.
Obviously some work needs doing to persude these Maori drinkers that alcohol is medicinal, and they should not binge on it, just as they would not binge on cough tonic.
Al least, Alf supposes they would not binge on cough tonic.
The only thing now is to reconcile his views on the health benefits of booze with his well known views on the drinking age, which he reckons should be much, much higher than it is now.
He will pour himself a scotch then sit back to think about it.