Home > Uncategorized > Supplements are bad for your health – Newspaper supplements that is…

Supplements are bad for your health – Newspaper supplements that is…

“Doctor, doctor, I’ve taken too many supplements and now my life’s a mess…”

A heavy supplement user will archive heavily

A heavy supplement user will archive heavily

“Stop buying the Sunday papers then”

These days, the news is crammed full of… These days, blogs are crammed full of complaints about the news being crammed full of bogus stories hastily based on the latest health research on how a certain everyday food or activity can be detrimental to your health.  (Indeed, this opening sentence itself should have come with a health warning).

The Daily Mail is the favoured and obvious target for these complaints, with countless blogs all claiming to be the first to archive the paper’s fixation with everyday life and its subsequent susceptibility to cancer (here, here, here and here to cite a few).  But there is a certain type of publication that holds a firmer grip on the everyday lives of its readership, with a far more subtle approach than the Mail’s scaremongering.

The newspaper supplement sections of your average weekend newspaper are a bewildering read.  (From this accusation, I will despotically exclude the supplements that are intrinsically interesting or useful.)  They entice you in with healthily smiling mug shots below gently suggestive titles.  They then proceed with some banal and whimsical account of their last parents day experience or tell you what Waitrose wines have temporarily crept into your budget and don’t leave the reviewer’s preened palate overly offended.

The difference between the Saturday and Sunday papers is a bit like the Miliband conundrum.  The one that comes chronologically before the other is obviously the more credible and astute, but the other one seems so much more down to earth, fun and most importantly, more acceptable to the general public.

I’ve stopped buying the Sunday papers if I can help it, but I always find myself in a WH Smith in some Midlands train station eyeing up the bulging Sunday newspaper stand.  Facing a 2 hour journey with no reading material is the greater evil, so I usually succumb.  The best option seems to be the Independent, which seems like a high-brow but disappointingly low-calorie option next to the other offerings which are oozing at the seams of their polythene wrappers with style, food, garden, lifestyle, and kitchen work-top sections.

The Sunday paper... not for the faint hearted

The Sunday paper... not for the faint hearted

To buy a Sunday paper is to commit to a rather arduous and lengthy admin job.  You have to sift through about ¾ of your intended reading material before working out which bits are stapled together, which bits are intended to be read separately, and which bits are clearly not meant to be read by you at all.


Indeed much of it doesn’t seem to be meant to be read by anyone except for married couples with 2.4 children and household incomes that led them to exclaim “what child benefit?” to Osbourne’s axe swings of last month.

But the Saturday papers have been catching up on this bombardment in recent times.  I will often read the extras, but a lot of them stack up in a pile mentally labelled “recycling, or if you have the time, light reading.”

Does anyone really follow the advice contained in these features?  If a reader so wished, their entire life could be dictated by the whims and folly of the dreaded weekend supplement… what food to eat, where to go on the weekend, when and how to exercise and even what attitude to take towards a troublesome mother-in-law.

So, in the interest of public health, I have decided to dip into the strange world of supplements.  For the past week I have offered myself up to the suggestions and ruminations of a pile of newspaper supplements.

Here are the results of my clinical trials:

(NB: I will not dispense any medical advice other than my own tortuous conjecture.)

  • The Independent’s News Review 07/09/10: Emma Townshend How to frost proof your succulents

Due to my deficiency in green space, I loosely interpret the article’s content and place my underwear on the radiator for the next day.  After all, as Townshend says: “If you can get your succulents through the really icy days, they have a delicious habit of looking elegant on all the others.”

Outcome:  A good start to the day, and no doubt more comfortable than Townshend’s practice of covering her own succulents “with newspaper when zero centigrade threatens”.  Repeated practice inadvisable for fertility hopefuls.

  • The Times Weekend 23/10/10:  Sam Leith Write your own prenup

I set about writing a hypothetical prenuptual agreement for my 2 year long pre-wedlock relationship, just to test the waters.

It begins: “In the event of our separation I will leave you with over £10,000 of student debt, and demand the use of your car and access to any children we have in the meantime.”

Outcome: I realise what a catch I am.  Her response is however, less than promising.

  • The Times Magazine 23/10/10:  Carol Midgley I don’t give a monkeys… about dishwashers

In this sinfully banal piece, Carol Midgley tells us why dishwashers are no good and “more trouble than they are worth.”

Outcome:  I continue to wash my plates in the only method available to me, the kitchen sink, and try to feel comforted by the assurance that it’s a lot easier than stacking them into a machine that would do it for me.

  • The Independent Magazine 28/08/10: Dylan Jones The Last Word

Jones advises his readers “if you fancy a day in the country, and can’t be bothered to fire up the old MG and drive down the A303, go on to iTunes and download “Morning: Hiding in the Ha Ha”.  The day will take on another dimension completely.  All you’ll need then is a large glass of rosé and a plate of cucumber sandwiches.”

Outcome: Do you know?  I did fancy a day in the country…  I don’t have an MG, but more importantly, I don’t have iTunes.  I did have a cucumber sandwich though, but as you can imagine, my day remained fairly one dimensional.

  • The Guardian Work supplement 04/09/10: Graham Snowdon 50 side businesses to set up from home

Number 22 of this baffling list is “Teach foreign students”.  It so happens that I had already taken up this advice.   I now teach Korean boys whose parent’s wish for their children to pass the 11 plus and get a foothold in the English grammar school system.  The academy is run by a Korean couple in their terraced house in the suburbs of South-West London.

Outcome: Some of the more surreal hours of my life are now spent on Saturday afternoons reading through strangely worded creative writing pieces about haunted vases and aeroplane disasters, and trying to explain the difference between metaphor and simile.

  • The Times Weekend 23/10/10 Jane MacQuitty This week’s best buys

MacQuitty provides what she must assume is a wine list that will cater to all budgets.  She muses: “Although you pay more per bottle for a big red than you do for a summery white, a little of these cockle-warmers goes a long way.  Indeed budget-conscious drinkers often find themselves spending less on wine of a winter’s night than in the summer with the rigmarole of an apéritif, followed by food wine and digestif.”  I’m sure it was out of compassion that MacQuitty omitted to suggest that the “budget-conscious” sometimes have to leave out the apéritif and digestif as well, but of course it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Outcome:  MacQuitty’s suggestion that I go to Asda to buy a wine costing £10.85 bewilders and upsets me.  So I go to Asda, buy the wine, and drown my sorrows.

  • In conclusion…

It is clear that the unregulated world of supplements is out of control.  I would urge supplement manufacturers to begin printing the following disclaimer.

“The advice offered in these supplements is aimed at married, middle income, middle aged, child rearing and garden pruning adults.  Those reading or partaking in any of the advice offered by national newspaper supplements without the necessary faculties may experience serious side effects.  These include confusion, angst, nausea and a heightened awareness of their shortcomings.  If you do experience any of these side effects, stop reading the supplements and consult your chosen weekday newspaper.”


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