The Daily Mail is the most-read newspaper and news website in the United Kingdom. Paul Dacre’s newspaper has a remarkable power as kingmaker in British politics, and an extraordinary ability of influencing its readership.
The comments section gives an idea of the readership of the website, with both comments and like:dislike ratios hinting at what the current climate is.
A single user, Jim, has the following comments, all of which are popular amongst the DM readership:
This is a very important argument, and it is essential for healthcare professionals, journalists and politicians alike to make a concerted and aggressive effort to kick these sugar-peddling companies out of the sphere of academic influence.
The more overt “More Doctors smoke…” advertisements of yesteryear are thankfully a thing of the past, but the covert influence of sugar-saturated food companies is no less a threat to our health. Aaron and Siegel (1) report that from 2011 to 2015, the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo were found to sponsor 95 national health organizations, many medical and public health institutions amongst them. They also lobbied against 29 public health bills intended to reduce soda consumption or improve nutrition.
The British Nutrition Foundation, for example, lists amongst “Sustaining Members” Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kellogg, Nestle, Tate & Lyle and has “Corporate Members” British Sugar plc, Mars UK, KP Snacks, McDonalds, United Biscuits, Weetabix, Ocean Spray and many more. Although it is open to companies and corporations from a variety of backgrounds including healthcare and fitness, the actual members who have provided support read as a Who’s Who of Sugar Salesmen (2), making their promise of a “a focus on objective nutrition science interpretation and delivery” open to scrutiny. The American Society for Nutrition is no different, with an almost-identical list of names cropping up (3) for this group, which publishes the Journal of Nutrition.
Indeed, the editorial boards of top nutrition journals are littered by corporate affiliations with sweetie companies – The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, lists the likes of Mars, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, McDonald’s and Ferrero amongst companies who have a relationship with members of their board (4). The ambassador’s reception may also be overflowing with hazelnut-and-wafer spherical treats at many other nutrition journals, who often home of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, who have eight “corporate patron friends” and four “corporate sustaining friends. (5)
It would be interesting to note how these journals consider submissions which report a detriment to health from these companies’ products, but when some of the largest nutrition journals display such a conflict of interest it must become clear to all that the Honey Pot relationship between “Big Food” and academia is poisonous and needs to be dealt with.
(1) Sponsorship of National Health Organizations by Two Major Soda Companies. Aaron, Daniel G. et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine , Volume 52 , Issue 1 , 20 – 30
On 24 April 2017, the Daily Mail published an article with the title statement “Going to the loo ‘just in case’? Don’t – it could wreck your bladder”. With a daily print circulation of 1.5 million (December 2016) and 100 million unique online visitors per month, the newspaper dispenses alarming and dangerous advice which may encourage people to hold in their urine, thereby risking urinary tract infections and renal impairment.
The article itself, apart from a number of lurid stock photos, is less sensationalist in tone than the headline. However, the focus is so scattershot (bouncing from the volume of urine that a bladder can hold, to a brief differential diagnosis of polyuria, the use of earplugs, men exercising their pelvic floor, and even David Cameron’s Brexit negotiations) that the only “take home message” risks being the first line for the newspaper’s readers. With an average reader age of 58, many of the Daily Mail’s readers will suffer from nocturia and take such advice to heart.
Dismissing tabloid medical journalism as beneath scrutiny is done at our peril, as many patients rely on newspapers to build their knowledge base and engagement can be significantly affected by what is understood to be true. When this message is dangerously incorrect, it should be confronted and disputed.
We don’t need the European Union, the National Health Service, or any other outdated monolithic organisation.
You see, Britain is special, and will ALWAYS remain so. It’s what makes us expats when we move overseas, whereas people who come here are foreigners. The respect that we have means that we will always be lucrative trading partners for Australia, New Zealand, Canada and all our former colonies. If Scotland and Northern Ireland don’t like it, then to hell with them. The union of England and Wales (Wangland) can form strong alliances with our friends overseas and we will once again rule the waves.