NHS at risk from American trade deal!

So it’s finally happening. The UK is in meltdown and Boris Johnson and his criminally insane cabinet ministers are out to create havoc and destruction for the common folk of this country. For regular readers of my column I would like to assure you that I will not focus on this anymore but highlight something much worse that is creeping on these islands and no one seems to be paying much attention to it. Our precious NHS will be up for sale to the Americans to be privatised and controlled by the 1% after Brexit. A select group of present and past members of parliament will extensively benefit from this sale and all this started in 2000 by the then Labour health secretary Alan Milburn who in order to tackle the problems of the NHS went for help to a most unlikely individual, Richard Branson!

Prompted by this request, a team from Virgin visited GP surgeries and hospitals over a three month period and in a 31 page report concluded that the NHS needed to adapt and change quickly in order to survive and thrive. Not the words they actually used in the damming report, but you get my point. The virgin boss was a very successful entrepreneur by then running various businesses from music to airlines. A very clever and shrewd businessman who is now reaping the benefits financially through government contracts not only in the UK but globally. He has politicians and bureaucrats in his pocket while charming the world with his down to earth attitude and smile!

Almost two decades later, Virgin is claiming billions of pounds of tax payers money to boost its profits while the NHS is neither improved or better! Virgin Care has won over £2bn of contracts since 2010, the year the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition escalated the agenda to benefit private companies like Virgin Care all in the name of  reducing the cost for tax payers. Since 2013 Virgin Care has spread its tentacles in these areas; children and immunisation, community and sexual health, treatments, prisons and multiple other services across England. At the heart of this empire is Virgin Group Holdings Limited, a holding company based in the British Virgin Isles, a convenient tax haven! It has also managed to sue and win a £2million pay-out from an NHS Trust for loss of contract. So much for the good guy image portrayed by its founder.

It really beggars belief that so many supposedly educated and well-informed people in this country are blinded by headline news from politicians and tabloids and fail to see the obvious truth of what really is happening. In Scotland the NHS is still under public ownership and thankfully its budget is currently ring-fenced by the SNP government. The NHS is already on the road to complete privatisation in England by contracts given out to private firms to supply services and other associated contractual work.

What will happen to the NHS in Scotland if the Tories win at Holyrood next?

Published in the Peeblesshire News on 20th September 2019.

Aspartame! Hidden danger in our drink.

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

In this column I will be tackling one hidden ingredient; Aspartame! What is this ingredient and why is it so valuable to corporations? In a nutshell, aspartame is a substitute for sugar or in other words an artificial sweetener that was accidentally discovered by a scientist researching an anti-ulcer medication in the mid 60’s and is composed of two amino acids; aspartic acid and phenylalanine. If you see any drink that has “Sugar free’ be warned, as for a majority of us, this could be worse than sugar itself.

Aspartame is mainly found in a number of sugar free food products like fizzy drinks, cereals, ice cream, chewing gum, diet cola’s, etc. to name a few. Chances that you are having this in your daily diet is probably very high and unavoidable in many cases. So what is this magic  ingredient? To give you an example aspartame is 200 times sweeter than refined sugar! 1 gram of aspartame has roughly 4 calories while 8 grams of sugar has 32 calories! That’s a huge saving if you only look at the headline grabbing banner. Unfortunately for the general public this sweet con has one big downside, i.e. bulging waistlines and links to obesity.  One way aspartame and other non-nutritive sweeteners may affect body weight is by increasing people’s appetite, which may lead to a higher food consumption. News reports over the last few decades have claimed that aspartame causes or increases the risk of headaches, dizziness, seizures, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, cancer, etc, and the list continues. Currently there is insufficient scientific evidence to confirm or refute these claims of aspartame’s role in the above mentioned associated risks.

In July 2017 a systematic review was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal which should make us stop and think twice before consuming any sugar free products.  The researchers also noted an increase in diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and cardiovascular events in those who used sugar-free sweeteners like aspartame. Evidence found did not clearly support the intended benefits of non-nutritive sweeteners for weight management, and observational data suggest that routine intake of non-nutritive sweeteners may be associated with increased Body Mass Index (BMI) and cardiometabolic risk.

The primary outcome of the research showed change in BMI while the secondary outcomes included changes in body weight; adiposity; glucose metabolism; and incidence of overweight/obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and other cardiorenal outcomes.

Some of the alternates to sugar free sweeteners are stevia, which is plant based and is 200 times sweeter or monk fruit extract which is calorie-free and up to 250 times more sweeter than sugar. Both these are natural sweeteners but care should be taken to have them in moderation and if you have a sweet tooth like me try eating fruits and alternatively don’t skip or delay any meals as this will also contribute to you losing the battle to keep in check your sweet desires and increase your snacking habit.

I know!

Published in the Peeblesshire News on 6th September 2019.