Spreading the word

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By Maxton Walker m.walker@independent.co.uk


You always have to take health advice you find on the Internet with a pinch of salt. This is especially true when a new craze takes hold; the most recent being Viagra. The next big flurry likely to drive health freaks wild will inevitably be the so-called "neutroceutical" revolution - foods that also act as preventative medicines. The first one to hit British shops early next year will be Benecol, a cholesterol-lowering margarine. The Finnish company that created the product, Raisio, has wasted no time promoting its breakthrough on the Internet. The information on the website is fairly dryly presented, and you should bear in mind that it's very much a promotional site rather than an impartial information one. Happily, however, being Finnish, they have no concept of irony: don't miss the hilariously unself-conscious photo of the bloke in a white coat and specs holding a couple of test tubes, looking like someone who's walked straight out of a Fast Show sketch.

One of the really striking things about "neutraceutical" sites on the Internet at the moment is just how many of them are commercial websites promoting new products rather than discussing the pros and cons of such a major shift in the health industry. If anybody comes across a more impartial view of products, I'd love to hear about it.

Kickin' it


As if you needed any confirmation about how sexy the Internet has become over the last few years, look no further. Dennis Bergkamp will be answering questions live on Reebok's website on 30 Nov. You can ask questions live or email them in advance through Reebok's website. Presumably, football players now have standard clauses inserted into their sponsorship contracts requiring them to do this kind of promotional work, though, given the volume of questions he's likely to receive, it's questionable whether this sort of thing brings celebrities closer to their fans. Nevertheless, it's something that has really taken off. The BBC has been especially successful with this kind of thing; its Beeb site was the first high-profile website to attract celebrities to their keyboards. The technique does tend to produce readable and interesting interviews. (The Independent even has its own printed version, which appears on Wednesdays). The Beeb also keeps an archive of all its past interviewees.

Meanwhile, the BBC has also launched a new web service aimed at Asians in this country (www.bbc.co.uk/ networkasia/), which plans to keep abreast of contemporary Asian culture.



Amnesty International is currently aiming to get 1 per cent of the population to sign a petition supporting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which will be 50 years old next month. You can do this electronically via a page on Amnesty's website, which also gives you a chance to read about the declaration and its ramifications. Recently, there has been a chain letter circulating widely over the Internet, which allows you to do the same thing. Sign it and save a life.