SUBMISSIONS TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S
2020 SUMMIT, APRIL 2008
Nos. 1 to 7
FROM THE NATURAL HEALTH SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA (NSW) INC.
28/541 High St, Penrith NSW 2750
1. COMPLEMENTARY HEALTHCARE COVERAGE BY MEDICARE
The whole aim of natural health and natural therapies is to prevent disease in the first place, and, if illness does arise, to remove the causes and facilitate self-healing. With self-healing there are no drugs involved because only living tissue can heal.
Because the orthodox medical approach is based essentially on drug therapy, the costs to Medicare are unnecessarily excessive. There are three reasons for this:
- Drugs don’t treat the underlying causes of disease, they only treat the symptoms while the underlying causes continue unabated.
- Virtually all medications have side effects. Sometimes these are worse than the original disease. When drugs and more drugs are used to treat layers of side effects, the cost escalates further and the health problems are exacerbated.
- The large majority of prescription drugs don’t work. In Autumn 2004, the worldwide vice-president of the UK drug giant, GlaxoSmithKline, admitted that 90% of all drugs work only between 30% and 50 % of the time (www.wddty.co.uk/e-news.asp). Drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, incontinence, hepatitis C and diabetes work for only half of patients at best. The most effective drugs are analgesics which work for up to 80% of the people who take them. However, suppressing pain while ignoring the true causes of the illness is inviting further trouble.
The natural therapies approach involves identifying the causes of an illness and correcting those causes. This may require consultation with a naturopath or wholistic medical practitioner.
The win-win situation of guiding people to better health while reducing the costs to Medicare lies in the fact that the vast majority of Australia’s health problems are to do with lifestyle, particularly nutrition. Many years ago, medical scientists concluded that almost all the health problems in Australia today are ‘diseases of civilisation’, which means diseases of lifestyle. And lifestyle can be changed.
Naturopaths and other natural therapists essentially work on the lifestyle causes of illness and ways of enhancing self-healing. They focus on nutrition, relaxation techniques, exercises and minimising exposure to toxic chemicals.
If Medicare coverage of natural therapists results in higher costs to Medicare initially, this would be temporary and the eventual result would be a lowering of the overall Medicare bill. This could occur quite rapidly.
2. BANNING THE ADVERTISING OF JUNK FOODS TO CHILDREN
The banning of all advertising of junk foods during children’s television viewing times, as proposed by Choice magazine, would arrest a lot of the damage being done to our children by unhealthy foods. (See Australian Consumers’ Association special report, ‘Selling Junk Food to Children’, www.choice.com.au)
With an average of up to 12 junk food ads per hour, parents (even if they were role models themselves) have no chance of neutralising the super-sophisticated persuasion of the professional marketers whose job is to sell products for profit. This would apply even if children were with their parents all the time, which they are not.
The proof that these ads work is that manufacturers keep paying large amounts of money for them. What children see on TV is very authoritative to their unsuspecting minds.
That governments shouldn’t interfere by applying bans, while junk food manufacturers have a free hand to damage children’s health, is either irrational thinking or hiding some agenda. Should we be allowing children’s health to be damaged in order to support industry?
Junk foods are now widely recognised to be significant causes of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Less widely recognised is that they may also contribute to numerous other health problems.
A very high calorie intake causes genetic damage, raising the risk of cancer and other diseases (Research by Michael Fenech, CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition, partially published in Natural Health, April/May 1993).
Deep-frying of foods causes oxidation of fat and cholesterol which are then major risk factors for heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Deficiency of antioxidants allows oxidative damage that can lead to artery disease, nerve damage (motor neuron disease and MS), cancer and other diseases.
There can also be damage to the brain.
Deficiency of the alkaline minerals, potassium, magnesium and calcium, contributes to acidity of the system. 1996 research found that schoolboys with acidic brains had dramatically lower IQ scores that those with alkaline brains. (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 22 August 1996.)
A high intake of refined carbohydrates upsets blood sugar levels, leading to hypoglycaemia in which the brain is driven ‘crazy’ by sugar deficiency. As the US paediatrician, the late Dr Lendon Howard Smith explained, the person then operates from the reptilian part of the brain which is selfish, mean and anti-social. The result can be aggressiveness, irritability, tantrums, sleeplessness, poor concentration and delinquent behaviour. (Smith, LH, ‘ADHD and ADD – the hyperactive child’, New Vegetarian and Natural Health, Spring 2005, page12.) Anti-social behaviour, especially by adolescent boys, is now common in Australia.
An argument used against the banning of junk food advertisements is the difficulty of determining what is and what is not junk food. This could be achieved by setting upper limits for added amounts of fat, refined sugar, salt and artificial food additives, and also by assessing the extent of loss of vitamins, minerals and fibre caused by processing. This challenge would pale into insignificance against the benefits of protecting immature, vulnerable minds from the disastrous brainwashing to overdose on harmful foods.
3. INVESTIGATE AND REGULATE THE LEVELS OF TRANS FATS
IN PROCESSED FOODS
Trans fats, which have as their building blocks trans fatty acids, are now being considered to be the most harmful of all fats, even worse than saturated fats.
Trans fats occur widely in processed foods as a result of the process of hydrogenation of vegetable oils. Manufacturers use hydrogenation to improve the stability of vegetable oils and to convert liquid oils into solid fats for use in processed foods such as margarines, chips, pies, cakes, pastries, biscuits, buns and snack foods. Hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils is the food manufacturer’s answer to using less saturated fat while still producing the right textured product with a long shelf life. These oils are also less expensive than saturated animal fats.
Many deep-fried fast foods also contain trans fats.
Trans fats have been shown to raise the levels of triglycerides, lipoprotein(a) and other harmful fats in the blood, and may increase inflammatory reactions within the body. Studies have linked trans fats to increased risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease. In breastfeeding women, the levels of trans fats in breast milk fluctuate in accordance with the consumption of trans fats, creating a risk of harm to the infant’s brain. (Marsh, K, ‘Trans fatty acids – the worst of their kind’, New Vegetarian and Natural Health, Spring 2006, page 22.)
The US National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine has suggested that there is no safe level of trans fat consumption. The WHO recommends that trans fat intake be limited to less than 1% of overall energy intake. The Australian Heart Foundation tick program requires trans fats to be less than 1% of total fat content.
Many countries have placed limits on the amounts of trans fatty acids allowed in processed foods. These include the United States, Canada and some European countries. Denmark has banned the sale of foods in which trans fats are more than 2% of the total fat content.
It is recommended that the Federal Government make it mandatory to list the levels of trans fats on the labels of processed foods, and also follow Denmark in banning the sale of processed foods containing trans fats at levels of more than 2% of total fat content.
4. A REVIEW OF THE SAFETY OF FOODS ADDITIVES
A close look at permitted food additives shows that many are potentially harmful. In addition, possible synergistic effects have never been investigated, and, considering that there are billions of possible combinations, never can be.
The literature indicates that many additives have the potential to contribute to health problems. These include hyperactivity, skin rashes, breathing problems, asthma, headaches, migraine, liver problems, digestion problems and many other conditions. Some are, or are suspected to be, carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic.
The classes of additives that need most scrutiny are artificial colourings, preservatives, antioxidants and artificial sweeteners.
Some of our permitted additives are banned in other countries, suggesting a somewhat lax approach by our authorities. Taking artificial colourings as examples, we find the following anomalies.
- Quinoline Yellow (no. 104), a synthetic ‘coal-tar’ dye, is banned in USA, Japan and Norway.(Sources: Hanssen, M with Marsden, J, The New Additive Code Breaker, Lothian Books, Melbourne 1997; Treffers, S, Food Additives, Mastercorp Pty Ltd, Mt Gravatt Qld)
- Carmoisine (no. 122), a synthetic AZO dye giving a red-blue colour, is banned in USA, Japan, Norway, Sweden and Austria.
- Amaranth Red (no. 123) is banned in USA, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Austria and Russia.
- Allura Red (no. 129) is banned throughout the European Union.
- Green S (no. 142), a synthetic ‘coal-tar’ dye, is banned in USA, Japan, Norway, Sweden and Canada.
It is recommended that all additives that are capable of causing significant harm be removed from the permitted list and banned in Australia.
5. MAKE EXERCISE PROGRAMS TAX DEDUCTIBLE
A vast amount of evidence over many years shows that regular physical activity improves health and wellbeing. It is particularly effective against obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
We propose that tax deductibility be available for an exercise program for which there is evidence that it has actually been carried out. The program would have to be designed by an exercise professional who is registered and accredited with Fitness Australia (or one of its State bodies). The program could be conducted in a gymnasium or elsewhere, but it must be designed and overseen by the professional.
Evidence that the course has been completed could be in the shape of a form letter signed by the exercise professional.
6. GUIDE AND ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO LOOK AFTER THEIR
Marketing by the food industry, based on satisfying its vested interests, undoubtedly has an enormous influence on people’s eating habits. The common pattern is that foods are processed and then marketed for their flavour and appeal rather than nutritional value. The result is that some people, especially children and adolescents, are choosing diets that predispose them to the obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other diseases that are causing so much concern in Australia today.
The only agency capable of neutralising the propaganda of the food vested interests is the government. The government is perceived by the public as being authoritative and objective, and it has the necessary money.
It is proposed that the Federal Government conduct an extensive advertising campaign to guide and encourage people to look after their own health. The greatest emphasis would need to be on nutrition, outlining a balanced diet of unprocessed foods.
Significantly, the most disease-preventive foods are those that are the least marketed – the fresh vegetables and fruits. These foods are low in calories, high in antioxidants and other vitamins and rich in minerals, especially the all-important alkaline minerals, potassium and magnesium.
A way of putting Australia’s nutrition into perspective is the fact that the starving peoples of the world are dying from deficiencies of protein, carbohydrate and fat. In contrast, we Australians are dying from surpluses of fat, refined carbohydrates and protein.
To be effective, such a marketing program would cost millions of dollars, but the savings in terms of Medicare costs could be many times this. In other words, it would be a good investment in the country’s health and economy.
7. ENCOURAGE WELLNESS CENTRES WHERE MEDICAL AND
COMPLEMENTARY PRACTITIONERS WORK TOGETHER
There would be enormous advantages in having medical practitioners and naturopaths and other natural therapists working together in ‘wellness centres’. However, professional jealousy would probably make this impractical, at least in the near future.
A more practical solution would be to install such centres in public hospitals. This would be a major project, but could be commenced with a trial centre in a hospital where the existing staff are sympathetic to less drug oriented methods of healthcare.
A long-term solution would be to install courses of clinical nutrition in all medical schools in Australia. This would equip doctors to be ‘wholistic’ in their approach and much less dependent on drug-based treatments for illness.
The current situation in which clinical nutrition is absent from most or all medical degree courses in Australia is something we regard as a great anomaly.
The Australian population could be much healthier.
There are numerous habits and practices or lack of practices in people’s lifestyles that are contributing to disease. For many of these, the individual is unaware that they are ‘bad’ habits or practices. A major factor in the wrong information and harmful habits is the persuasive marketing of vested interests.
If people were given the correct information in regard to healthy lifestyle and given authoritative encouragement to put it into practice, a significant proportion of the population would have the opportunity to be healthier and much less dependent on drug therapy, with huge savings for the public health bill.
There is no disease caused by age alone. It is only the accumulating effects of harmful lifestyle habits that make illness more common as we get older.
Given the right lifestyle – without fanaticism – it is possible to be healthy, have good longevity and enjoy life much more so than the present generation of sickly aged people.
ABOUT THE NATURAL HEALTH SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA
The Society is a not-for-profit health educational organisation that was founded in 1960. Its objective is to promote better health for individuals on the basis that prevention is far better than cure.
Natural Health focuses on identifying the lifestyle causes of illness and dealing with those causes. It recognises that the body has powerful defences against disease and has powerful self-healing capabilities, and it takes steps to support self-healing.
The Society regards fanaticism as negative and counter-productive, and offers the philosophy, ‘It’s not what we do 5% of the time that governs health, it’s what we do 95% of the time that counts’.