Dr. Iain Corness

Wednesday, 04 June 2014 16:25

WHO calls for a stop to social drinking

I received a memo from the World Health Organization (WHO) which I felt was worthwhile sharing.

Worldwide, 3.3 million deaths in 2012 were due to harmful use of alcohol, says a new report launched by the World Health Organization.  Alcohol consumption can not only lead to dependence but also increases people’s risk of developing more than 200 diseases including liver cirrhosis and some cancers.  In addition, harmful drinking can lead to violence and injuries.

Harmful use is defined as drinking that causes detrimental health and social consequences for the drinker, the people around the drinker and society at large, as well as the patterns of drinking that are associated with increased risk of adverse health outcomes.

The report also finds that harmful use of alcohol makes people more susceptible to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.

The Global status report on alcohol and health 2014 provides country profiles for alcohol consumption in the 194 WHO Member States, the impact on public health and policy responses.

“More needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption,” says Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health.  “The report clearly shows that there is no room for complacency when it comes to reducing the harmful use of alcohol.”

Some countries are already strengthening measures to protect people.  These include increasing taxes on alcohol, limiting the availability of alcohol by raising the age limit, and regulating the marketing of alcoholic beverages.

The report also highlights the need for action by countries including national leadership to develop policies to reduce harmful use of alcohol (66 WHO Member States had written national alcohol policies in 2012); national awareness-raising activities (nearly 140 countries reported at least one such activity in the past three years); health services to deliver prevention and treatment services, in particular increasing prevention, treatment and care for patients and their families, and supporting initiatives for screening and brief interventions.

In addition the report shows the need for communities to be engaged in reducing harmful use of alcohol.

On average every person in the world aged 15 years or older drinks 6.2 liters of pure alcohol per year.  But as less than half the population (38.3 percent) actually drinks alcohol, this means that those who do drink consume on average 17 liters of pure alcohol annually.

The report also points to the fact that a higher percentage of deaths among men than among women are from alcohol-related causes - 7.6 percent of men’s deaths and 4 percent of women’s deaths - though there is evidence that women may be more vulnerable to some alcohol-related health conditions compared to men. In addition, the authors note that there is concern over the steady increase in alcohol use among women.

“We found that worldwide about 16 percent of drinkers engage in heavy episodic drinking - often referred to as ‘binge-drinking’ - which is the most harmful to health,” explains Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO.  “Lower-income groups are more affected by the social and health consequences of alcohol.  They often lack quality health care and are less protected by functional family or community networks.”

Globally, Europe is the region with the highest consumption of alcohol per capita, with some of its countries having particularly high consumption rates.  Trend analysis shows that the consumption level is stable over the last 5 years in the region, as well as in Africa and the Americas, though increases have been reported in the South-East Asia and the Western Pacific regions.

Through a global network, WHO is supporting countries in their development and implementation of policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.  The need for intensified action was endorsed in the landmark 2011 United Nations General Assembly meeting, which identified alcohol as one of four common risk factors contributing to the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) epidemic.

Now, whilst I agree that alcohol can lead to claiming early on your life insurance, is it as bad as the WHO would like you to believe?  Figures from Australia would indicate 2,700 deaths per year from cancer, 3,000 from alcohol and 19,000 deaths from cigarettes.  Where should the priorities lie?

Thursday, 29 May 2014 14:17

Vale Sir Jack Brabham

Sir Jack Brabham passed away last week, aged 88.  “Black Jack” as he was known, had a very rare engineering talent allied with superb driving skills.  He was the only F1 driver to win the Driver’s Championship (WDC) in a car he designed and built himself.  

Thursday, 29 May 2014 14:15

Prince Bira’s 100th

I received an email from Mike Day up in Suphanburi to remind me of another famous driver who has gone to the great racetrack in the sky.

“Greetings from the rice paddies of Suphanburi.  You may recall I last contacted you shortly before Christmas 2010 to report the death of Ceril Birabongse (Prince Bira’s wife).  I wondered if any of your motoring enthusiast readers (who are perhaps VSCC members too) are aware that July 15th will mark the 100th birthday of Prince Bira?”  (Thanks Mike.)

I think we should all raise a glass for Sir Jack and Prince Bira, two drivers who made their mark in history.

Prince Bira

Thursday, 29 May 2014 11:55

Driving in Thailand

Many international companies will not let their expat employees drive cars in Thailand, figuring it is cheaper to employ drivers than have employees missing in action.  Of course there is one very different aspect to driving in Thailand that has to be got used to very quickly, and that is the ubiquitous motorcycle.  

Thursday, 29 May 2014 11:54

What did we learn from the Monaco GP?

Well we learned that Nico Rosberg can stand all the pressure that his Mercedes team mate can give him, and we also learned that Lewis Hamilton is not above childish threats.

The race started under a cloud, generated by memories of Michael Schumacher’s consolidation of pole position in 2006 by stopping on the circuit and making it impossible for another driver to get a clear shot at pole.  Rosberg’s last lap ended up down the escape road producing yellow flags and an irate Lewis Hamilton uttering not so veiled threats of retribution a la Senna and Prost.  Unfortunately he did not get close enough during the race to wield his threatened big stick.

Lewis also went for the ‘sympathy vote’ after practice, proclaiming that he came from a poor background and Nico’s family was rich.  Oh dearie, dearie me!  Hamilton has changed very much from the polite youngster he was who started with McLaren, and that change does not sit well with many fans.  His constant public bickering with his race engineer is also very juvenile.

But you will be as thrilled as we were about how fuel efficient Hamilton was compared to Rosberg.

But back to the race.  It was not an exciting one, but then Monaco never is, despite the announcers talking it up.

Red Bull had a catastrophic failure when someone pressed the “Webber Button” when it was accidentally plugged in to Vettel’s car to produce a DNF for the man once known as “The Finger”.  On the other side of the Red Bull garage, Daniel Ricciardo continues to impress, out-qualifying his World Champ team mate yet again and driving solidly to a well deserved third place.

Kimi Raikkonen remains an amazing enigma.  Woke up at the start, does a blinder round the outside on the first corner getting up to third, then when things went bad returned to the taciturn Finn in sleep mode to the end.  I hope the Ferrari pit crew had his ice cream ready for when the race ended.

Alonso (Ferrari) was strangely subdued, running in 4th for most of the race, perhaps inadvertently taking one of Raikkonen’s sleeping pills dissolved in the ice cream.  Or perhaps it was just the cameraman who was asleep and missed the Spaniard.

Hulkenberg (Force India) was also covered in invisible paint, as was Jenson Button’s McLaren, Massa (Williams) and Grosjean (“Lotus”).

Rosberg lapped the entire field after Alonso backwards, and eight drivers failed to finish, the high attrition rate producing anomalies such as Bianchi (Marussia) ending up ninth, just through being there, not through some particularly brilliant driving.

There is absolutely no truth in the rumor that the other drivers paid for Pastor Maldonado’s fuel pump failure at the start, as it was cheaper to do that than to pay the repair damage he could produce in the rest of the field if he got going.

The next race is June 9 in Canada, and let us hope we can see some racing.  At least the track is conducive to excitement, even if Monaco isn’t.

Thursday, 29 May 2014 11:53

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what car is this?  A postwar car it had a pre-war chassis, the engine came from a tractor, the suspension and rear axle from a failed sedan and it had a simple wire mesh grille.  It had a top speed of 107 mph, Americans loved it, but it was made in the UK.  It was the Triumph TR2.

So to this week.  A 14 HP Bean was the first to make the trip London to Sydney.  It took nine months.  Who was the driver?

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Wednesday, 28 May 2014 15:56

Diet for healthy seniors

If you are one of the lucky ones, you are getting older.  (The alternative is that you are already dead!)  The average age of westerners is increasing.  The more developed countries in Asia are also showing the same trends.  Grey power is becoming an important factor, with the marketing of goods and services designed for this increasing niche market.  We (me included) are becoming important people.

That’s the up side.  Unfortunately, there is a down side (there always is, isn’t there?) and that is just simply that the longer you live, the more parts of you that end up wearing out.  Knees, hips, ankles, wrists, fingers come straight to mind.  And if you didn’t look after yourself some years ago, your past indiscretions can surely come round to bite you now!

And talking about ‘biting’, one of the organs that can show the ravages of time, is your digestive organ, the gut.  As the body ages, the gastrointestinal tract changes and people tend to develop more problems with constipation for one.  The pundits will tell you a high-fiber diet can prevent that, but many elderly people, especially those with dentures, do not want to eat the seed-filled or crunchy food that is typically high in fiber.  They go for soft food that is easily chewed, but is often high in fat.

So where can we get some fiber?  Try some cooked or baked vegetables, fresh fruit and high-fiber breakfast cereals as these are some denture-friendly ways to get fiber in the diet.  Beans and black-eyed peas are also nutritious and inexpensive.

Another problem, especially in hot climates such as in Thailand, is insufficient intake of water.  The elderly have a decreased thirst and often do not get enough fluids in their diet.  Getting plenty of fluids helps prevent constipation, because the bowel is a water absorber.  The constipation decreases when fluids are taken generously.  Milk, tea, coffee, soda, ice cream and soup all count as fluids.

Exercise plays a part here too.  Get more physical, not less.  The amount of exercise needed depends on the person, but in general, people need to step up their activity as they get older.  Elderly people often do the opposite, because of bad knees or arthritis.  Instead of becoming a couch potato, they need to walk, bicycle, swim, garden and find other ways to stay on the move.

As we age, our calorie needs decrease due to a drop in muscle strength from taking less physical activity (see above).  However, vitamin and mineral needs may stay the same or even increase if the body absorbs them less efficiently.  The daily calorific requirement varies from person to person, but as a very rough guide, males need to drop their calorie intake by around 20 percent after the age of retirement (2,500 cals down to 2,100 cals) and women from 2,000 down to 1,800 cals.

There are many foods and ingredients needed to retain optimum health, including those high in Vitamin C, such as blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, peaches, mango, cantaloupe melon, and apples.

Vegetables high in Vitamin A (beta-carotene) and Vitamin C including carrots, squash, sweet potato, tomatoes, spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions, leeks and avocado.

Fish should also be included as many are rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids and high in Vitamin E, like salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, tuna and trout.  It is also a good idea to substitute white fish in place of red meat.

Some nuts and seeds are also rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids and high in Vitamin E, including unsalted nuts, walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts and almonds, and seeds such as poppy seeds, sunflower, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds.

Proteins are also important in the diet for seniors and should include eggs, white fish, milk, cheese, yogurt, lean meat, chicken, beans and lentils.

Fiber can come from lentils, chick peas (garbanzo beans), brown rice, whole wheat bread, wheat germ, whole wheat cereals and whole wheat crackers.

A good spread of items, different dishes every day, plenty of water and moderation in all things seems to be the answer.  A glass of red wine gets my nod of approval too.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014 15:52

AFG holds open forum

The AFG (Automotive Focus Group) appears to be going from strength to strength with the May meeting, held at the Amari, having around 60 members and friends present to participate in an interesting forum.

Thursday, 22 May 2014 13:55

Monaco Grand Prix this weekend

Following on from the win for Lewis Hamilton and another 1-2 for Mercedes in Spain, is there anyone willing to hazard a guess for the winner at Monaco this weekend?  With the limitation in passing opportunities round the Monegasque houses, pole position becomes very important.  The most critical part of this Grand Prix will then happen on the Saturday.  And that’s qualifying.  He who is on pole, has a greater than 75 percent chance of winning.  So who will be on P1?  So far, all the money is on Hamilton.

Thursday, 22 May 2014 13:54

Fastest Production Motorcycle

Lightning Motorcycle revealed the LS-218 electric Superbike at the Quail Motorsport Gathering held in Carmel, California.

Lightening claim it is the most technologically advanced and highest performing street-legal production motorcycle in the world - the Lightning Superbike LS-218!

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