Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why Do We Eat? A Neurobiological Perspective. Part III

In the first post, I explained that all voluntary actions are driven by a central action selection system in the mesolimbic area (the reward system).  This is the part of you that makes the decision to act, or not to act.  This system determines your overall motivation to obtain food, based on a variety of internal and external factors, for example hunger, the effort required to obtain food, and the sensory qualities of food/drink.  These factors are recognized and processed by a number of specialized 'modules' in the brain, and forwarded to the reward system where the decision to eat, or not to eat, is made.  Researchers divide food intake into two categories: 1) eating from a true energy need by the body (homeostatic eating), e.g. hunger, and 2) eating for other reasons (non-homeostatic eating), e.g. eating for social reasons or because the food tastes really good.

In the second post of the series, we explored how the brain regulates food intake on a meal-to meal basis based on feedback from the digestive system, and how food properties can influence this process.  The integrated gut-brain system that accomplishes this can be called the satiety system.

In this post, we'll explore the energy homeostasis system, which regulates energy balance (energy in vs. energy out) and body fatness on a long term basis.

The Energy Homeostasis System

Read more »

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why Do We Eat? A Neurobiological Perspective. Part II

In the last post, I explained that eating behavior is determined by a variety of factors, including hunger and a number of others that I'll gradually explore as we make our way through the series.  These factors are recognized by specialized brain 'modules' and forwarded to a central action selection system in the mesolimbic area (the reward system), which determines if they are collectively sufficient cause for action.  If so, they're forwarded to brain systems that directly drive the physical movements involved in seeking and consuming food (motor systems).

The term 'homeostasis' is important in biology.  Homeostasis is a process that attempts to keep a particular factor within a certain stable range.  The thermostat in your house is an example of a homeostatic system.  It reacts to upward or downward changes in a manner that keeps temperature in a comfortable range.  The human body also contains a thermostat that keeps internal temperature close to 98.6 F.  Many things are homeostatically regulated by the body, and one of them is energy status (how much energy the body has available for use).  Homeostasis of large-scale processes in the body is typically regulated by the brain.

We can divide the factors that determine feeding behavior into two categories, homeostatic and non-homeostatic.  Homeostatic eating is when food intake is driven by a true energy need, as perceived by the brain.  For the most part, this is eating in response to hunger.  Non-homeostatic eating is when food intake is driven by factors other than energy need, such as palatability, habitual meal time, and food cues (e.g. you just walked by a vending machine full of Flamin' Hot Cheetos).

We can divide energy homeostasis into two sub-categories: 1) the system that regulates short-term, meal-to-meal calorie intake, and 2) the system that regulates fat mass, the long-term energy reserve of the human body.  In this post, I'll give an overview of the process that regulates energy homeostasis on a short-term, meal-to-meal basis.

The Satiety System (Short-Term Energy Homeostasis)

The stomach of an adult human has a capacity of 2-4 liters.  In practice, people rarely eat that volume of food.  In fact, most of us feel completely stuffed long before we've reached full stomach capacity.  Why?

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why Do We Eat? A Neurobiological Perspective. Part I

As with all voluntary movements, eating food is an expression of activity in the brain.  The brain integrates various inputs from around the body, and outside the body, and decides whether or not to execute the goal-directed behaviors of food seeking and consumption.  Research has uncovered a lot about how this process works, and in this series I'll give a simplified overview of what scientists have learned about how, and why, the brain decides to eat.

The Gatekeeper of Voluntary Behaviors

Read more »

Comment Policy

Over the last year, I've noticed that the quality of the comments section here has deteriorated significantly, with a high proportion of poorly grounded and/or disrespectful comments, typically from anonymous or semi-anonymous people.  This is the nature of the Internet I suppose-- comments sections are rowdy places.  But ultimately I do have control over this, and I intend to exert it to maintain a higher level of information quality and decorum in my corner of the Internet.

For the foreseeable future, I'll be moderating comments.  Here are my criteria for deciding whether or not a comment will be published:
  1. Value.  Comments should be well thought out, and points supported by research or at least solid logic.  Personal anecdotes are welcome as long as they aren't over-interpreted.  Thoughtful questions are also welcome, although I can't guarantee I'll answer them.  As always, anyone is free to disagree with me in a constructive manner, or simply offer a word of support.  
  2. Respect.  Comments should be respectful to me and other commenters, and composed in a concise manner.  It isn't difficult to disagree in a respectful way.
  3. On topic.  Comments should be at least somewhat relevant to the subject of the post.
  4. Full name.  Attaching your full name to a comment means taking responsibility for what you write.  I'll continue to publish anonymous comments if they add value, but I'll be more likely to publish if you include your full name in your screen name, your profile, or at the bottom of your comment.
  5. No ads.  I will not publish links to commercial sites that do not add value to the discussion, nor will I publish any other link I find objectionable.
Because I'll be moderating, I've decided to remove the captcha word authentication, which many people found difficult to use.  We'll see how that goes.  Since I have a lot on my plate, and Whole Health Source is a one-man show, I may not always moderate comments in a timely manner.  I apologize in advance for the inconvenience.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Announcing the Ideal Weight Program

I often receive requests from people asking for my overall perspective on fat loss and health.  I share my opinions here, but they're scattered throughout hundreds of posts, there's a lot I haven't had a chance to write about, and I rarely give practical recommendations.  However, I knew I'd eventually put everything together into a cohesive fat loss program-- it was only a matter of finding the right opportunity.

That opportunity presented itself in 2011 when I met Dan Pardi, a researcher whose work focuses on sleep and food intake, and the CEO of a company called Dan's Plan.  I was immediately impressed by Dan because he stood out as someone with a high level of expertise in sleep and physical activity, as well as someone who has successfully lost a substantial amount of fat and kept it off for several years.

Dan and his team had developed a set of unique and engaging tools for tracking weight, sleep, and physical activity to help people maintain daily mindfulness over the simple fundamentals of health.  These tools are 100 percent free and incredibly easy to use, particularly if you sync them with an electronic scale and step counter.  When synced with these devices, the Dan's Plan website automatically uploads and displays your weight, sleep, and physical activity score, as well as integrating them all into a single user-friendly Health Zone Score that lets you know your overall performance at a glance.  Even if you have no interest in fat loss, I highly recommend using the free tracking tools on the Dan's Plan site-- I do.

In early 2012, Dan approached me about creating a fat loss program for Dan's Plan that incorporates their unique tracking tools.  This struck me as an excellent opportunity to create a diet and lifestyle program that combines sound science with exciting new technology.  Dan and I both brought science to the table, and Dan also brought the perspective gained from working with others to help them lose fat, as well as his own successful fat loss experience.  Dan and I have been working hard on this project, and we're finally ready to launch.

I'm happy to announce the Ideal Weight Program, an effective new system for fat loss and maintenance.

What is the Ideal Weight Program?

The Ideal Weight Program is a unique system for fat loss and maintenance that draws from the latest science on diet, physical activity, sleep, and behavior modification, and pairs it with engaging tools that help you define your goals and meet them.  It keeps you consistently focused on the everyday factors that really matter for fat loss, and gives you the skills you need to make sustainable diet and lifestyle changes.  Based on your own goals and priorities, you can choose one of two diet strategies for the initial fat loss phase:
  • The Fat Loss and Sustainable Health (FLASH) diet, an intensive high-protein diet for rapid fat loss.
  • The Simple Food Diet, a more flexible diet based on whole, natural foods specifically selected for fat loss.  One important goal of this diet is to teach healthy cooking skills, using recipes and tips provided.
These diets are designed to naturally promote a lower calorie intake and fat loss, without requiring calorie counting.  The Ideal Weight Program also includes important physical activity and sleep components, and explains why these are so critical for fat loss and health.  Dan and I discussed some of the principles underlying the Ideal Weight Program on Chris Kresser's podcast recently.

Here's what you get when you sign up:
  • Detailed documents that walk you through the program
  • Weight, sleep, and physical activity tracking tools tailored for fat loss
  • Simple recipes and cooking tips that work with almost anything in your fridge
  • Videos that explain the key concepts behind fat loss and maintenance
  • An e-book explaining the scientific rationale behind the program
Signing up for the Ideal Weight Program gives you lifetime access to everything.  We've discounted the initial price, because we want to hear your feedback so that we can continue to improve the program over time.  If you follow the link below, first you'll be prompted to sign up for a basic Dan's Plan account, and once you have your account set up, you'll be able to purchase the Ideal Weight Program:

Ideal Weight Program

Financial disclosure: I will receive a portion of the revenue from the sale of the Ideal Weight Program.  I do not receive revenue from the sale of other products associated with Dan's Plan or the Ideal Weight Program (such as the Fitbit, cooking tools, and other programs).

Sunday, January 27, 2013

...over and done

Fresh winds are blowing - a distant, subtle fragrance in the air - flux and evolution - all good. No more to add this week other than the events, exhibition, funding, commission and training offered below.

A reminder that if you want to come to the Networking Event at MMU on Thursday 7th Feb that has input of guests from Italy and Turkey and a focus on the arts in relation to recovery, you have to register at and details of the venue and other information, will be sent early next week.

The following short film is another eye-flickering response to some of the conversations I’ve had with people about re-imagining this arts/health field in relation to the here and now. (see previous blogs) Please don’t click on the film if you react badly to flashing images. 

Birth Rites Collection
The shortlisted entries for the Birth Rites Collection’s bi-annual art prize will be showcased at the University of Salford’s MediaCityUK campus on Saturday 2 February. The Collection was established by Helen Knowles, an artist and curator who aims to encourage a wider debate about the politics and practice of childbirth through the use of art. It was inspired by Helen’s contrasting experiences of giving birth to her first child in a hospital by cesarean and her second born at home. The exhibition at MediaCityUK will feature the drawings, films, photographs and sculptures of 15 shortlisted artists from all over the world. The prize is a month at artistic retreat The Trelex Residency in Geneva (including the cost of flights and a stipend) plus a place in the Birth Rites Collection.

The short-listed artworks include Emma Lazenby’s BAFTA-winning short animation about a midwife, Mother of Many (see below), photographs of women's faces at the moment of birth by Dominika Dzikowska, "illegitimate hallucinations", by Giorgio Sadotti and YouTube videos of childbirth flanked by photographs of people watching them by Claire Lawrie. 

The winner of the competition will be announced at the event by curator Helen Knowles and fellow judge Hermione Wiltshire, an artist and senior lecturer in photography at the Royal College of Art.

Helen said: “The taboo and under-represented subject of birth has been shown to be of great importance as a topic for artists to explore. We have had a great number of excellent submissions to the competition and this show presents a broad spectrum of works which were found to be the most poignant. Imagery on this fundamental life-process is a great way for people to get to grips with what it means to give birth today." 

The Birth Rites Collection is housed at the University of Salford in the midwifery department and the Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians in London. Birth Rites, Saturday 2 February, 11.00am – 5.00pm, The Egg, University of Salford, MediaCityUK. Prize to be awarded at 2pm.

Music in Healthcare Settings Training
We are proud to announce details of our next Music in Healthcare Settings training programme for musicians, to take place on 11, 12, 15, 16 and 17 April 2013 in Derby, UK. More details and an application form are available from our website here: Places are limited - applicants are advised to send an application asap. 

Tesco Charity Trust Community Awards (UK)
Deadline: Sun 30 Jun 2013
The Tesco Charity Trust Community Awards Scheme has announced that its funding programme for children’s education and children’s welfare will re-open for applications on 1 December 2012. The scheme awards one-off donations of between £500 and £4,000 to registered charities, schools and not-for-profit organisations. The funding they give can go towards providing practical benefits, such as equipment and resources for projects that directly benefit children living in the local communities around Tesco stores in the UK.

Applications should be made between 1 December – 30 January and 1 May – 30 June. The deadline for applications is Wednesday 30 January and Sunday 30 June 2013. To find out more about the Awards and how to apply, please click on the carrier bag below. 

Greggs Foundation Grants
Deadline: Mon 18 Feb 2013
Local not-for-profit organisations can apply for grants of up to £2,000 through the Greggs Foundation regional grants Programme. The programme is administered by committees of volunteers from Greggs shops, bakeries and offices who are based in England, Scotland and Wales.  They use their knowledge of the local area to make small grants to local organisations, in particular those that make a difference to people in need in the heart of Greggs’ local communities. The Greggs Foundation prioritises local organisations that help people in need in their local area, with previous funding helping towards trips, activities and equipment. Additionally the Foundation prioritises the following people:

  • Voluntary carers
  • People with disabilities
  • Homeless people
  • Older people
The deadline for applications is Monday 18 February 2013. Read more by clicking on the pies. 

Grants to Help New, Innovative Visual Arts Projects (UK)
The Elephant Trust has announced that the next deadline for applications is the 15th April 2013.  The Trust offers grants to artists and for new, innovative visual arts projects based in the UK. The Trust's aim is to make it possible for artists and those presenting their work to undertake and complete projects when confronted by lack of funds. The Trust supports projects that develop and improve the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the fine arts. Priority is now being given to artists and small organisations and galleries who should submit well argued, imaginative proposals for making or producing new work or exhibitions. Arts Festivals are not supported. The Trust normally awards grants of up to £2,000, but larger grants may be considered. Read more at: 

Public Art Commission: Liverpool & Sefton Health Partnership Ltd in co-operation with Mersey Care NHS Trust
Liverpool & Sefton Health Partnership Ltd (LSHP) Art Commission
(in co-operation with Mersey Care NHS Trust)
LSHP is calling for applications from experienced and suitably qualified artists/artist teams for the commission of a high impact piece of art at the entrance of the mental health facility which provides a message of hope, optimism and wellbeing for Mersey Care NHS Trust’s service users, staff and neighbours. 

The local community and service users will be at the heart of this project and the selected artist/artist teams must demonstrate how they will work with the community and service users to develop a sense of ownership of the building and its surrounds. Therefore the artist/artist team must also outline the approach they will take to engage and work with the local community and mental health service users. LSHP will expect applicants to showcase previous commissions where they have experience of successful public engagement.
Applicants are requested to read the full contents of the  Artist Brief and Application Process document carefully as it contains important information about the application process and terms of reference. Deadline: 12.00noon, Friday 22rd March 2013. full details by clicking on the Olympia Theatre below.

Is Photography inherently racist?
Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin  
To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light 
The Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg is presenting two new related bodies of work by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin. The following text is taken from the gallery website. In 1970, Caroline Hunter, a young chemist working for the Polaroid Corporation, stumbled upon evidence that her multinational employees were indirectly supporting apartheid. With the collusion of local distributors Frank & Hirsch, Polaroid was able to provide the ID-2 camera system to the South African state, to efficiently produce images for the infamous passbooks. The camera included a boost button designed to increase the flash when photographing subjects with dark skin. Alongside her partner Ken Williams they formed the Polaroid Workers Revolutionary Movement, and campaigned for a boycott. By 1977, Polaroid finally did withdraw from South Africa, and the international divestment movement – which eventually crippled apartheid – was on its way. The radical notion that prejudice might be inherent in the medium of photography itself is interrogated by the artists Broomberg and Chanarin in this presentation of new works produced on salvaged polaroid ID-2 systems.

Early colour film was known to be predicated on white skin and in 1977 when Jean-Luc Godard was invited on an assignment to Mozambique, he famously refused to use Kodak film on the grounds that the film stock was inherently ‘racist’. The title of Broomberg and Chanarin’s exhibition was originally the coded phrase used by Kodak to describe the capabilities of a new film stock developed in the early ’80s to address the inability of their earlier films to accurately render dark skin. In response to a commission to ‘document’ Gabon, Broomberg and Chanarin recently made two trips to the country to photograph a series of rare Bwiti initiation rituals, using only Kodak film stock that had expired in the late 1970s. Working with outdated chemical processes they succeeded in salvaging just a single frame from the many expired colour rolls they exposed during their visit. In this wide-ranging meditation on the relationship between photography and race, the artists continue to scrutinise the photographic medium, leading viewers through a convoluted history lesson; a combination of found images, rescued artifacts and unstable new photographic works.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Comment Published in Nature

I recently read an opinion piece by Gary Taubes in the scientific journal Nature, titled "Treat Obesity as Physiology, not Physics", in which he promoted NuSI and repeated the statement that obesity research is a "house of cards" because it focuses on calories in/out, at the expense of studying the "hormonal regulatory disorders" underlying obesity (1).  I wrote a letter to the editor in response to Taubes's commentary, which has been published in Nature (2).

I'm used to seeing these kinds of claims in the popular press at this point, but to see it published in a scientific journal is galling (even if it's in the opinion section).  This is the equivalent of a person who has never held an ax telling a group of lumberjacks they need to focus on cutting trees.  It's part of a disturbing trend of popular writers in the low-carb and Paleo world attacking researchers, and even entire fields of research, they have little understanding of.  Of course this only applies to a minority of the community, but this argumentation style smells of desperation and reflects poorly on the community as a whole.

Read more »

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dogs Eating Carbs

Five years ago, I had an interesting conversation with a veterinarian friend about dog food.  We were talking about diabetes in one of the dogs she was treating, and I remarked "that's what happens when you feed a carnivore carbohydrate".  She gave me a funny look.  At the time, I was seeing the world through the low-carb lens, and I remember thinking how bizarre it was that she didn't yield to my impeccable logic.  As they say, live and learn.

The journal Nature published a fascinating paper on the evolution of the domestic dog today (1).  Researchers compared the genome of wolves and domestic dogs to see what genetic changes accompanied domestication.

Read more »

Sunday, January 20, 2013


This week I took on the role of chair of the National Alliance for Arts, Health & Wellbeing and it promises to be an interesting period of development in the field. More of that very soon. Not entirely unconnected, I would like to talk to anyone who has had experience of mentoring in this arts and health world. I’m particularly interested in exploring reverse mentoring, whereby people who are slightly (hmmm) ‘long-in the-tooth’ like me, might benefit from a younger and dynamic arts/health person, perhaps someone who didn’t knowingly start out on this path, but finds either their health or arts journey has led them to thinking about this work - or perhaps someone whose start in life hasn’t been ‘conventional’. So, a two-way street in mentoring to benefit both partners. Get in touch if you’ve ideas on this.

People laughing their heads off at a Networking Event 
The first networking event with a focus on arts and recovery is set for Thursday 7th February and details of timings will be sent out to those of you who have registered a few days before. As though that’s not enough for February, I’ll be holding another session on Thursday 28th February between 6:00 and 8:00PM! I’m exploring how we define this arts and health thing that we do, and talking with friends and colleagues in Lithuania, we’ve been unpicking a very early John Angus Arts and Health Framework that he produced for the Health Development Agency back in 2002. It’s got me started exploring how we can better tell our story in words and ‘pictures’... What on earth do I mean? Well, how are we evolving? Is it just the same old synergies, divisions and silos, or are we thinking differently? SO - I’ll have done some preparatory work for the session, but it will be an interactive evening where we all contribute to visualising where we feel the field is at this ever-evolving moment in time. The little film at the top of the page, is a starting point for me. To take part in this event, you’ll need to register here 

Did you know that Manchester boasts at least 153 languages, making it one of the worlds most diverse places? According to University of Manchester linguist, Professor Yaron Matras the list could get even higher! He comments that “Manchester’s language diversity is higher than many countries in the world. It is very likely to be top of the list in Europe, certainly when compared to other cities of its size, perhaps only outflanked by London and Paris. We do know that around two thirds of Mancunian schoolchildren are bilingual  - a huge figure which indicates just how precious its linguistic culture is.” To find out more click on the animals below.

Celebrate Chinese New Year
Thursday 7th February 8pm 
On the evening of the first networking event you can follow all the excitement and celebrate the Year of the Snake with a fusion of Chinese music, jazz, beats and inspiring tunes featuring the amazing Yin Ng. This renowned composer, arranger and performer was the “musician of the Year” in Hong Kong in 2012. Yin has worked with More Music for over 6 years which included working on the inspiring LONG WALK project in Hong Kong in 2009. This piece was created by Artistic Director of More Music, Pete Moser, as a response to the Morecambe Bay tragedy of 2004 and was made and performed in Morecambe, Gateshead, Liverpool and Hong Kong. More details about this event can be found by clicking on this Ai Weiwei snake made in response to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing. Many of the victims were students who died when their poorly constructed schools collapsed on them.  Called "Snake Ceiling", it is made of hundreds of backpacks latched together in the shape of a snake. These are meant to represent children's backpacks left behind after the earthquake. Ai said he saw numerous piles of backpacks outside schools when he traveled to Sichuan following the disaster. 

Musical Spaces in Medical Places
A one-day training & workshop opportunity following our Music & Wellbeing agenda, in conjunction with the Royal Northern College of Music.
Published on: 10/01/2013 A fantastic Making Music training opportunity at the RNCM for musical groups who would like to take their music into hospitals or other medical places. Led by experts in this field, Ros Hawley and Mark Fisher, the day will equip you with new skills to enter this rewarding sector. Read more and register your interest by clicking on the sublime Musique et Sante musician, Dédé Saint-Prix.

Developing Supportive Design 
for People with Dementia 
There is growing awareness of the importance of the environment within health care. The King's Fund's Enhancing the Healing Environment (EHE) programme encourages and enables nurse-led teams to work in partnership with patients to improve the environment in which to deliver care. This publication seeks to provide practical, value-for-money examples to encourage and inspire staff and their organisations to provide an environment of care that better supports people with dementia. As well as case studies with before and after photographs from participating sites, Developing Supportive Design for People with Dementia includes information about the development and evaluation of the EHE assessment tool; overarching design principles for creating a more supportive environment for people with dementia; and a project directory detailing the artists and designers involved in each scheme along with costs involved. Click on the graphic below for more details.

Family Friendly Arts Campaign MA Contracts available, The Family Friendly arts campaign is inviting tenders for two major pieces of work:

The Big Venture Challenge (North West)
The Big Venture Challenge, a national competition seeking to find the 30 most ambitious social entrepreneurs in England, has announced that it is open for applications.  Big Venture Challenge is looking for people:
• With big ideas to transform disadvantaged communities across England
• Who have got what it takes to build credible ventures
• Who have the ambition to be scaled up fast.

To be eligible to apply applicants must be 16+, be founders of the venture, and be based in England. Those selected as one of the 30 Big Challenge Award Winners will participate in an intensive 12 month programme that is designed to help raise external investment (debt or equity) of between £50,000 to £250,000.  The Big Venture Challenge will run themed and regional cohorts every year in order to build deeper, more relevant strategic support networks around each cohort. In 2013 the themed cohort will be in Health and Social Care and the regional cohort will be in the North West of England.  The applications closing date is 9am on the 8th February 2013. Read more at:

People's Postcode Trust Small Grants Programme 
(England, Scotland & Wales)
The People's Postcode Trust has announced the first funding round for the 2013 small grants programme is now open. Through its small grants programme, the People's Postcode Trust offers grants of between £500 and £10,000 to small organisations and community groups for projects lasting up to 6 months in the areas of:

  • Poverty Prevention
  • Advancement of Health
  • Community Development
  • Public Sports
  • Human Rights
  • Environmental Protection.
This funding round is open to organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern England.  The closing date for applications is the 22nd February 2013. For further information on this and future funding rounds please click:

New Grants Programme for Gypsy Roma & Traveller Groups (UK)
The Travellers Aid Trust has announced the launch of a new grants programme for Gypsy Roma and Traveller groups.  Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the programme will make grants of between £5,000 and £20,000 to Gypsy Roma and Traveller groups to help skill up young people, improve literacy and work with offenders.  The Travellers Aid Trust expects to award between 7 and 10 grants a year over the next two years.
The closing date for the first round of applications is the 8th February 2013. Read more by clicking the image above.

...and a song to keep you bemused with slightly creepy tigers and rabbits cycling into an inky dark place...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Environmental Racism

“...lead poisoning could be the major cause of the rise and fall of violent crime.”

In a compelling article by George Monbiot of an even stronger piece of research published by Mother Jones, the story of environmental impact on health and wellbeing takes an insidious turn - one that is new to me and worthy of sharing, if our arts and health agenda is to evolve with the times and take account of the wider determinants of heath.

We’ve all been aware of the impact of our industrialised and market-responsive consumer lifestyles on the planet for decades. Yes, there’ll always be those with vested interests who argue against climate change - twisted and self-interested. Research from Mother Jones exposes an entirely new slant on the impact of pollution on a significant public health issue - that of violent crime.

Taking into account numerous scientific papers and exploring the rise and fall of violent crime during the second half of the 20th century and first years of the 21st, it’s proposed, that it wasn’t changes in policing or imprisonment, single parenthood, recession, crack cocaine or the legalisation of abortion, but predominantly by the rise and fall in the use of lead-based paint and leaded petrol, that has had significant impact on violent crime!

Monbiot himself admits that until you read the well-cited evidence, the whole thing sounds completely implausible. The research between “cities, states and nations show that the rise and fall in crime follows, with a roughly 20-year lag, the rise and fall in the exposure of infants to trace quantities of lead,” with Monbiot being able to find only one critical attack of the evidence - and that was “sponsored by the Ethyl Corporation, which happens to have been a major manufacturer of the petrol additive tetraethyl lead.”

The premiss is this: lead has been withdrawn first from paint and then from “petrol at different times in different places (beginning in the 1970s in the US in the case of petrol and the 1990s in many parts of Europe), yet, despite these different times and different circumstances, the pattern is the same: violent crime peaks around 20 years after lead pollution peaks. The researchers have taken great pains to correct for the obvious complicating variables: social, economic and legal factors. One paper found, after 15 variables had been taken into account, a four-fold increase in homicides in US counties with the highest lead pollution. Another discovered that lead levels appeared to explain 90% of the difference in rates of aggravated assault between US cities. A study in Cincinnati finds that young people prosecuted for delinquency are four times more likely than the general population to have high levels of lead in their bones. A meta-analysis (a study of studies) of 19 papers found no evidence that other factors could explain the correlation between exposure to lead and conduct problems among young people.”

I wonder, how many of us were told as children, not to chew on our pencil because of the lead, or else grew up wary of lead paint? We’ve known about lead poisoning for decades, so is it “really so surprising that a highly potent nerve toxin causes behavioural change?” The thought of my own drinking water through lead pipes for the first 18 years of my life fills me with a little shudder. My parents constantly naively prompting us, even then with, ‘let the water run before you drink any.’

Lead is so toxic that it is unsafe at any level, its impacts are permanent and devastating. “Behavioural effects were first documented in 1943: infants who had tragically chewed the leaded paint off the railings of their cots were found, years after they had recovered from acute poisoning, to be highly disposed to aggression and violence.”

With the reduction and removal of lead based products from our everyday lives, this may seem like old news, or an irrelevant story, but this reporting offers us interesting food for thought - one around inequalities: the other about the only producer of tetraethyl lead on the planet - based here in the North West.

Monbiot describes the inner city lives of people living in un-renovated, inner city housing in the US, where people lived by busy roads and in degrading property, citing research that shows “African Americans have been subjected to higher average levels of lead poisoning than white Americans. One study, published in 1986, found that 18% of white children but 52% of black children in the US had over 20 milligrammes per decilitre of lead in their blood; another that, between 1976 and 1980, black infants were eight times more likely to be carrying the horrendous load of 40mg/dl. This, two papers propose, could explain much of the difference in crime rates between black and white Americans, and the supposed difference in IQ trumpeted by the book The Bell Curve.” The implications of this research for crime statistics, public health and prejudice are huge.

Finally, Monbiot points the finger to the last global producer of tetraethyl lead, who he alleges export to Afghanistan, Algeria, Burma, Iraq, North Korea, Sierra Leone and Yemen, “countries afflicted either by chaos or by governments who don’t give a damn about their people.” The company Innospec is based right here in the North West at Ellesmere Port. 
Banned from sale in the United Kingdom. Furthermore he reports that, ”in 2010 the company admitted that, under the name Associated Octel, it had paid millions of dollars in bribes to officials in Iraq and Indonesia to be allowed to continue, at immense profit, selling tetratethyl lead. Through an agreement with the British and US courts, Innospec was let off so lightly that Lord Justice Thomas complained that “no such arrangement should be made again.” God knows how many lives this firm has ruined. The UK government tells me that because tetraethyl lead is not on the European list of controlled exports, there is nothing to prevent Innospec from selling to whoever it wants. There’s a term for this: environmental racism.”

Just think about the implications of this research - the reality of people’s lives affected yet again by poverty, by greed and by prejudice. Monbiot points to the greater crime - that people’s lives have been destroyed by crime, both as perpetrators and victims. How much violence - lives imprisoned and lives destroyed, could have been avoided.

Please click on the lead symbol above for the full Monbiot article. The film below is a different, but nevertheless related and important story.
I am indebted to Dr N for drawing this one to our attention.

Networking Event
RECOVERY: Creativity, Culture and the Arts
Thursday 7th February 4:30 till 7:00

This is the first free networking event of 2013 here at MMU and I’m thrilled to say that European partners from the I AM - art as an agent for change! will be present to share something of their stories, plus you’ll have the opportunity to share some of your practice!

If you’re interested in recovery from substance misuse as an artist, health professional or if you’ve been through an arts based process as part of your own recovery and you’d like to share your practice or experience, register for the event by emailing us at  I imagine that people can share their stories for about 10 minutes each. For regular attenders, you’ll be shocked to know, I’ll be offering food and drinks too!!! SHOCKER. 

Registering your interest doesn't guarantee you a place and we’ll be in touch with you nearer the time with confirmation and venue details.

But, I hear you ask, what on earth is I AM - art as an agent for change! ? It’s a three year project that brings together people involved in the recovery movement from the UK, Italy and Turkey to explore how the arts might just play a part in recovery from substance misuse. The brainchild of curator Mark Prest and funded by Grundtvig, the project was born as a response to the European Health Commissions revelation that "Europe has the highest proportion of drinkers in the world, the highest levels of alcohol consumption per capita and a high level of alcohol-related harm. Harmful and hazardous alcohol consumption is a net cause of 7.4% of all ill-health and early death in the EU.” In 2010 the UK Government released its new recovery focused Drug Strategy - a move away from previous maintenance provision. Recent UK National Treatment Agency figures show an increase of people deemed as “in recovery”: some 27,969 people were classed as recovering in 2010/11; 18% more than the previous year.  Accompanying this is an emerging recovery movement, as illustrated by the inaugural Welsh Recovery Walk in September 2011 in which an estimated 2,000 people participated. In Liverpool, the city’s first alcohol-free recovery bar, The Brink, opened with 75% of staff themselves in recovery.

The European monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction (EMCDDA) estimates that drug abuse in the EU accounts for 6500-9000 deaths (by overdose) a year. Addiction is high on the political agenda, particularly the impact of alcohol abuse and its societal impact, so the time is right to re-imagine how art and culture might be used as a catalyst for change to explore new pathways to recovery and develop new models of good practice. This arts project will explore how creativity, culture and the arts can be offer us a universal language.  I AM is a European Lifelong Learning project that looks at different cultural experiences of addiction and recovery using art as a universal language. Alongside Arts for Health the partner organisations include:

Portraits of Recovery
Portraits of Recovery is an innovative, unique and new visual arts organisation with a core belief that arts, culture and creativity can be transformational in and of itself and can act as a new tool for recovery from addiction. 

The Italian Federation Department's Operators and Addiction's Services is advancing addiction as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education, prevention and human welfare. 

Cooperativa Incontro offers a full service of drug treatment programs and follows an individualized approach to drug and alcohol rehabilitation. This means setting each patient up with a drug treatment program that has been created and based on their particular needs and addiction issues. These programs will integrate a balance of individual and group therapy sessions, holistic healing therapies, social activities, and diet and nutrition courses.

Kütahya Green Crescent Branch is a non-profit and non-governmental organization that empowers young people and adults with factual information about drugs so they can make informed decisions against different kinds of addictions including alcohol, tobacco, drug, gambling etc. that erode the mental and physical health of young people and the community. 
So if you want to share something and lear about other peoples practice - and find out a bit more about the I AM project, register now at 

Thank you as ever for stopping by...C.P.