Saturday, 28 May 2011

Experts and Other Gods

Whenever I see a phrase such as 'formulated by experts' or 'formulated for athletes' on packaging, I actually tune in to the underlying driver; 'formulated for profit', and latterly, 'formulated by politics'. 

I see the tail wagging the (usually nutritional/medicinal) dog.  Predators adapt to their prey.  Prey does not adapt to be tastier, more wholesome and healthier for the hunter!  (And in fact inate inability to adapt leads to extinction.  At the other end of the spectrum, anything that can quickly change its colours in a chameleon-like fashion, should also be treated with suspicion - especially if the change reflects the latest nutrition/exercise trends).  The foraged 'may' become tastier, but this will be a Faustian pact in favour of the grazed.

Nutrition is an interesting area.  Maybe experts can formulate optimal nutrition, but our requirements are rarely static.  I suspect that important signalling from hormonal cascades generated by the ebb and flow of micro and macro nutrients may also be blunted by 'static' nutrition; something akin to a hormetic effect perhaps?

Pharmaceuticals also offers interest.  We have so many diagnoses.  The range of human behaviours and conditions are medicalised, behind which comes therapy and remedy - all at a price.

Then there is the emphasis on extending lifespans.  A lot of 'expertise' is devoted to this.  Again it hinges on an axis of profit and politics.  In Greek mythology, Tithonus fell in love with Eos, goddess of the dawn. Eos realised that Tithonus, a handsome mortal, was destined to age and die so she begged Zeus to grant Tithonus immortality.  Zeus granted Eos's wish, giving Tithonus immortality, but not eternal youth. 

We seem to have stumbled in to a Tithonusian world.  Profits lie in extending lifespan, not healthspan. Does 'do no harm' apply if you maintain a harmful state?


J. Stanton said...

Exactly. Healthy people are not profitable for the medical industry.

The simultaneous increase in absolute lifespan, and decrease in functional lifespan, is exactly what we should expect when health advice is dispensed by the medical-industrial complex.


Asclepius said...

We know how these guys roll.

The greatest profits are to be found in that branch of the pharmaceutical industry that enables people to 'manage their disease' (or their 'numbers'/health markers). Better still if they can sell us the 'condition/disease/syndrome' AND then the cure.

Neither the healthy, nor the cured and nor the dead are particularly profitable. Much better to 'farm the sick' and gently milk them of their cash.

And let's be honest, you don't even need to be sick to be sold a cure. If you are not careful, the tentacles of medicine will reach in to your life simply by virtue of age rather than ill-health.

You need to be watchful that your life is not 'medicalised'!