|Friday, 4 January 2002|
by Professors Rohan Jayasekera and Herbert A. Aponso
Two Sri Lankan professors feel that consumption of genetically modified food could have serious consequences on human health, and lead to the emergence of a host of hitherto unheard of new diseases in the near future.
Today we lead with an article on the subject sent to us by the two professors concerned Prof. Rohan Jayasekara (Director Human Genetics Unit, Faculty of Medicine University of Colombo) and Prof. Herbert A. Aponso (Emeritus Professor in Paediatrics, University of Peradeniya) where they warn the people thus.
"When the DNA of a food is altered there are consequent changes to the proteins of that food. The human body would then be dealing with a 'foreign' protein. "There is thus the possibility of unanticipated allergic reactions to the new proteins, resulting from effects on the immune system.
"There is so far no evidence that the DNA of the cells of the recipient (Person consuming the genetically modified food) would be altered and give rise to disease.
"However there is the fear-a reasonable fear-of the unknown repercussions (on health and disease) which cannot be either predicted or evaluated accurately at present. All that can be evaluated are the effects on the immune system and the occurrence of allergic disorders".
A chapter on the effects of genetically modified diseases on health is being included in the new edition of "Your child your family"
Here's the article in full
Genetically Modified Foods Scientists in the field of Genetics have been successful in bringing about changes in the genetic composition of organisms by a biotechnical process called genetic engineering, which is capable of altering the DNA of cells. Such changes in plants have been used to produce new strains, to a degree not possible with traditional methods.
It is thus possible to develop new strains of plants with beneficial characteristics such as increased yields, increased resistance to pests, herbicide tolerance, and less dependence on artificial forms of manure.
However, health-care providers, agriculturists, economists, and ecologists have expressed their concern about the possibilities of resultant harm and risk from these capabilities of genetic engineering. These fears are in the field of health and disease and other areas such as the spread of pest resistance and herbicide tolerance to wild plants, inadvertent toxicity to benign wild life and increasing control of agriculture and agricultural economics by biochemical corporations. Some say that the net gain would be mostly to the makers and breeders and not to the farmers and consumers.
GM foods that are of greatest concern include potatoes, rise, corn, soya and tomatoes. If the seeds of these agricultural plants are from a stock within a country, where genetic manipulation is not being carried out, or is imported with a certificate that they are free from genetic modification, such foods could be basically considered to be free of risks.
The health implications
When the DNA of a food is altered there are consequent changes to the proteins of that food. The human body would then be dealing with a "foreign" protein.
There is thus the possibility of unanticipated allergic reactions to new proteins, resulting from effects on the immune system.
There is, so far, no evidence that the DNA of the cells of the recipient (the person who ingests the GM food) would be altered and give rise to disease. However, there is a fear-a reasonable fear- of the unknown repercussions (on health and disease) which cannot be either predicted or evaluated accurately at present. All that can be evaluated are the effects on the immune system and the occurrence of allergic disorders.
There is currently a controversy regarding the ban of GM foods. A ban would mean that no food product could have even a trace of a GM food. The practical implications could be categorised into three groups:
Food products containing corn, soya, tomato, potato, etc: these would include imported items such as corn flakes, tomato sauce, TVP or fried potato chips. Thus, there would have to be a drastic change of eating habits to which the people would have to adjust themselves; these foods can be said to be dispensable-we can do without them.
The International Rice Research Institute has announced that it is developing a genetically modified "golden rice" which has a high yield, and more importantly is enriched with vitamin A, iron and zinc. A ban on foods such as these would certainly be detrimental.
The third group of food products are those that can be said to be very important and necessary in the management of disease conditions. Soya milk ( soya milk preparations such as Cow & Gate S, Nursoy, Prosobee is indicated in:a) situations where the lactose in cow's milk or even breast milk ( all animal milks contain lactose) cannot be digested, giving rise to a chronic diarrhoea b) in conditions where there is an allergy to cow's milk, causing diseases such as bronchial asthma, eczema, other skin disorders, or other manifestations.
It is being suggested that all foods that contain any of the suspect GM ingredients should carry a suitable explanatory label.
It is also suggested that there should be an up-to-date laboratory to
test all the incriminated foods for allergic as well as long-term effects.
Our Centenarian List is now 31
When we started our Centenarian study programme in April last year in association with Prof. Colvin Goonaratna who was then the Chairman SPC in addition to his work at the Colombo Medical Faculty where he is the Professor in Physiology, we were somewhat doubtful whether we could get enough living centenarians in the country to do even a basic study.
But quite surprisingly for us information started coming in somewhat slowly but steadily and today we have in the list names and addresses of 31 living centenarians in this small country of ours.
The latest to come in was from Galle the informant one Mr. P. K. Senadeera from 190 B, Richmond Hill Road, Galle giving the name and address of the Centenarian - G. P. Haramanis, states:
"I came to know of this Centenarian at a wedding I attended, where some of us in the course of a long chit chat touched on your Centenarian Study Project. A person who overheard our conversation came to us and said that his father is also a Centenarian of 101 years, and wanted to know how to contact you, and give the information. I told him that I'll do it myself, as a way of helping him, as I am also interested in the project".
So far our Centenarian Medical Study Team has visited 21 of the 31 Centenarians in our list.
We will begin our study for this year 2002 on Sunday, January 6th by visiting P. K. Haramanis in Homagama, who is 101 years old.
Our medical team will comprise
Dr. Viraj Peramuna (M.O. Study Team)
Dr. Ranesh Wijesinghe
Dr. Dennis J. Aloysius
Mr. Shankar Rajgopal (Fitness Officer)
Increase of tension in Executive Officers
by Prof. Marcus Vinicius - Sports/Fitness Consultant
The check - up tests are the great thermometer to measure the level of tension that the executives are subjected to lately. There are lots of reasons for this; globalisation, loss of employment, third party contracting, and, to make things worse, the weather of recession brought to the world after the terrorist attack in USA.
The demand for the joint check - up / scientific exercise program has increased lately among the executives with a pure original objective to find out about their daily health and the exercise program that has to be introduced to diminish future risks of developing diseases.
Tense Christmas - Normally, at the end of the year, people are generally in a cheerful and happy mood with the advent of Christmas, however, at the same time executives now do not know if their job will still be secure in the coming year.
In the 11 years of research conducted with 20 thousand executives, men and women occupying top positions in industries, companies and in the business areas, it has been proved that a great number of them are suffering from a variety of sicknesses, and what is worse is that modern times enhances the risks to accumulate. They are high blood pressure, respiratory problems, insomnia, gastritis, tobacco smoke, and regular use of alcohol beverage leading to an unimaginative cocktail of high risk.
During the questionnaire applied to the executives, results showed numbers that ring the red alert alarm: 80% had unbalanced diet, 70% was presenting a high level of stress, 60% were leading a sedentary life (no exercise at all), 45% were diabetics, 20% with lung problems, 18% with gastritis, 16% with high blood pressure. " The stress is very high and very few of the executives have a health life "says Dr. Galileu Assis. The habit of doing the annual check - up and following a scientific exercise program prescribed by professionals is the solution for the issue.
That was what saved the life of Mr. Muriti, 57 years, a businessman and owner of three restaurants. Around five years back during his first annual check - up tests, he discovered that he was diabetic. Soon after the tests results he went searching for the scientific exercise program prescribed by professionals in the area (Personal Trainers and or Gym Academies) and had to abandon the banana split and pizzas following a scientific program of health diet and exercise in a daily base.
This year, his check up identified 20 stones on his kidney, he was operated and said " Never again I will miss the annual check - up. I might be missing the deserts and my pizzas but I do have a family to sustain and finish their education, so I need and want to live longer. Also the scientific exercise program made my life much more health and longer. My moods and tiring days are over. At least 90 minutes of my day I spend with my Personal Trainer and that recharges me to face the daily duties of my life".
It is not only men who are suffering with ups and downs from the working market, the women too are facing problems with their health. After achieved important posts in the market, they feel the pressure on their jobs whilst facing the mentioned sickness and stress. Mrs.Wald, 36 years, 3 kids and working for a Broker Company in the area of new flats, is a classic example of how stress invaded a woman's life.
"It is not easy to deal with so much of pressure, the instability in my working place plus the responsibilities of my house and my kids was driving me crazy." Two years back she started doing the annual check - up and was surprised with the result of having high cholesterol. With the help of a Gym Academy she changed drastically her lifestyle. Now she follows a prescribed balanced health diet given by her Personal Trainer and meets him 4 times a week doing exercises of her taste. She says, "It is my exhaust pipe".
When to start
It is wrong to think that the first check - up has to be done after the pains in the chest. The ideal time for the executive to start doing the annual check - up is 30 years, followed by a prescribed scientific exercise program with the Personal Trainer or the Gym Academy as well from this time.
Doing so, will enable one to discover early any problem and to control and diminish them. Dr. Galileu Assis says that the new policy from top Companies is to send their executives in the average age of 40 to 55 years old for a complete check - up followed by the scientific exercise program prescribed by the Personal Trainer. Also some of these Companies invested some thousands dollars building gyms on their premises for their staffs workout during the off duties, managing so to control the stress levels and the sedentarism (lack of exercise).
Exercises are essentials - if you smoke, hate to exercise, are stressed with the excess work, suffer from insomnia and have an unbalanced diet ...take care... you might be coming in for a nervous attack, a stressed lifestyle and also might be having serious health problems.
"The people must understand that there is nothing more precious than our own life" says Dr. Galileu Assis.
The recommendations to avoid in maximum to face these medical disorders are; Develop the habit of exercise (preferably with a professional from the area for the safety of the activity). Have a balanced diet (prescribed by a specialist). Avoid to work more than the necessity (developing priorities in life) and always when possible entertain yourself with your family.
Warning Signs of Cancer
We had a question sent by a 60 year old retired teacher from Galle (Mrs. K. Batagoda) last week. Where she wants to know what the warning signs of cancers are. She says "Not that I am worried about cancer so much, and fear to find myself being a cancer patient, if that is going to be my fate, I will accept it."
"I am having a persistent cough for the last 3 to 4 months I have been taking home remedies all this time and my children are now insisting that I should consult a doctor. I have heard several times my daughter and son-in-law, discussing between them that I may be having cancer. So I just want to know what the warning signs are.
Reply by Dr. Mrs. Cybil Wijesinghe:- For your information we quote from a medical manual: 'Care of Older Persons' written by a Task Force of Doctors including Dr. Mrs. Wijesinghe who has sent one of the copies to us for reference, when replying to questions relating to the topics covered.
The warning signs for cancer given in this document are as follows.
* Nagging cough or hoarseness
* Sore throat that does not heal
* Obvious change in want or mole.
* Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere
* Unusual bleeding or discharge
* Change in bowel or bladder habits
* Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
* Blood in the urine
Even if you have any of these signs, it does not mean that you have cancer, until you are examined by a doctor, who will carry out the necessary investigations and then make his judgement.
No layman can decide on these matters. So now one should just panic by reading these warning signs unnecessarily.
The idea of publishing these warning signs is to make the public aware
about them so that they will not ignore these preliminary signs.
No SIDS in our country
Dr. Terrance Perera (Consultant Paediatrician and former Senior Advisor WHO) in a letter to us on - Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) says that this refers to infants dying in playpens due to suffocation caused by soft bedding or extra mattresses in playpens. Ann Brown Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission in America in a communication to Paediatricians in July 2001 on this topic states:
"Since 1988 there have been more than 200 cases of babies dying in playpens in America.
In about half of these cases it has been found that soft bedding or extra mattresses were present in the playpens which may have caused the deaths.
Parents and caretakers generally use playpens today as places for infants and toddlers to both, play and sleep. For that reason we want to alert parents all over the world to this possible hazard of using soft bedding or extra mattress in playpens.
Dr. Perera adds:- "In this regard Professor Lamabadusuriya, Head of the Department of Paediatrics of the University of Colombo, to whom I casually mentioned about this, informed me that as far as he was aware not a single case of SIDS has been reported in our country for some reason or another. This to me is an interesting observation.
Health Watch - In any case, we feel that it is good for parents to be made aware about this. Thank you Dr. Perera for writing to us, and we take this opportunity to wish you a happy new year.
Produced by Lake House