i Editor's Letter: Drop in heart disease


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The Independent Online


Yesterday, i revealed a huge drop in heart disease in England over the past decade.

Deaths from heart attacks have halved since 2002! Opinions vary as to what lies behind this improvement. But, researchers do point to a decline in smoking that may – or may not –be linked to the smoking ban.

Two related stories also gave me pause. Lipitor, the Pfizer statin that had become the world’s top selling drug(!), saw sales halve in the week after patent protection expired last November. Generic drugs appeared immediately, costing one third of the price.

The other story? Frying food is not so bad for you, IF you fry in olive or sunflower oil, not lard or butter. Losing two fathers (they were brothers) and five uncles to heart disease has focused my mind on this. The south London Hatfields knew no better than daily fryups, cups of full-fat-milk tea, and lardy, suet-based meals. They all smoked, some of them non-stop, and never exercised. Ever.

The Quintilianis of Lazio briefly flirted with smoking – at the end of a long cigarette holder during La Dolce Vita. Their diet? Olive oil, coffee without milk, vegetables, garlic and that vital ingredient for health: red wine, in moderation. Throw in the occasional fish when they could afford one, and you have the Meditterranean diet now deemed healthy. I have not lost a Quintiliani yet. Touch wood. Brits know this stuff. You can’t have missed the message. But, a small minority revels in ignoring it. With the addition of chicken (not deep-fried or ready-meal chicken!) it is not an expensive weekly shop. Forget the diets, the boot-camps, and liposuction, just buy smarter, eat less, move more, don’t smoke and enjoy a glass of red.