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Health News

The week of living dangerously

If you value your life, don't read the papers. There are perils around every corner – particularly if the corner shop sells killer kebabs

Drinking too much can kill you. Freak weather conditions can kill you. Too much love can kill you, if you can't make up your mind – torn between the lover and the love you leave behind. For the careless and the uninformed, death lurks around every corner. The end of the world is nigh; global warming may be irrevocable; Boris Johnson is the mayor of London. Now, we discover, a simple kebab can be fatal.

The headlines in last week's papers were unequivocal. "Doner Goner" read the Daily Mirror. "Killer Kebabs", warned the Daily Star. Two kebabs a week, they reported, could be fatal. Did they mean that two inadequately-spaced doners are equivalent to an instant overdose? Or are these two specific deadly kebabs, fed into the market weekly by crazed Turkish separatists? Does extra chilli sauce provide no protection?

Leafing through the papers, though, kebab death seemed just the tip of the iceberg. Elsewhere, The Sun revealed that "working in an office may be slowly killing you". The Daily Mail discovered that "desk work can result in fatal DVT". Too much TV is bad for you, as are high heels, flat shoes, fat tummies and joss sticks (they're as bad as passive smoking). But exercise and the pursuit of health are equally risky. Cycling without a helmet is near-suicide, Boris Johnson's advisers have told him, advising a chauffeur-driven limo instead. But traffic fumes are a serious health risk. Going on holiday is bad for you. Going to hospital could prove fatal. So can pole dancing: "Irish performers are being struck down by ugly, blotchy rashes, scales or even warts," seems to be the problem.

This, then, was the week of living dangerously. I had to find out for myself just what kind of dangers we all face. One kebab, apparently, contains the equivalent of a wine glass full of saturated fat, or 1,000 calories. I had my first on Thursday evening, after first lining my stomach with health-giving white wine. Did I feel my pulse quicken – or was that just the raw chilli?

Cycling without a helmet was scarier. Unlike Boris's advisers, my advisers suspect that drivers give lady cyclists a wider berth if they teeter along with a baguette in their basket and a floppy hat. But that was lost on the man in Greenwich who squashed me into traffic, mobile phone to one ear as he pulled out without indicating. "Chill out," he tutted as I squeaked, "Look where you're going!" Cycling without a helmet was not fatal – telling cyclists you have nearly run over to "chill out" could have been fatal, if I had been able to pedal faster.

It's definitely the chauffeur-driven limo for me in future – but even if I do get driven to work, I am putting my life in danger by being here. Aside from deep vein thrombosis, as I sit here writing this I risk sick building syndrome, electronic smog, computer vision syndrome, laser printer-induced lung damage and E. coli from the bacteria in my keyboard. And that's not all: "Smiling too much at work is bad for you," says a headline in the Daily Mirror. Good job I'm not smiling. Time for another kebab.

Weirdly, the local east London fast food shop was packed at 12:15pm. Don't these people read the papers? "Hmph, if they were true I'd be dead by now," said the owner, Hassan. I tuck into the house special (spicy). I wash down lunch with a Marks & Spencer Vanilla Velvet smoothie. It's lethal, apparently – it contains more calories than a McDonald's double cheeseburger. Somehow, the McDonald's double cheeseburger has become an international unit of measurement for calories.

By this time, though, I am struggling. Not with my dodgy heart or lungs, but in trying to find any more ways to kill myself in E14. It's a bit late for underage sex, and opportunities are limited anyway at Independent House. I would marry my cousin, which is very risky, but it's short notice and she's stuck in the office. I apply some lip gloss (it "attracts the sun's rays", causing cancer, apparently) and am feeling invincible.

But hang on... beneath the "Doner Goner" headline, in the small print, scientists reveal that kebab suicide can only be achieved if you eat two a week "on top of an already unhealthy diet of fry-ups and pies... for 10 years". Sorry, readers. My dedication is real – but I'll already be dead at my desk by then.