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Women’s Health

China’s growing problem of eating disorders



Photo credit: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain

At the height of her eating disorder, Zhang Qinwen was the weight of a child. Her hair was falling out, she could not walk, and she could barely see.

“I knew I was seriously ill, but I didn’t dare see a doctor,” the 23-year-old, now a leading activist in China on the issue, told AFP at a landmark exhibition in Shanghai.

While eating disorders can affect anyone, western studies have shown that they are most common in teenage girls and young women, and often in those who are already affected by other mental health problems.

“I was just hit by the Internet and had low self-esteem at the time,” said Zhang, who weighed only 28 kilograms before going to the intensive care unit.

“I thought I wasn’t perfect enough.”

She is far from alone, but while some Chinese hospitals are warning of rapidly increasing cases, recognition in China is limited – as is the availability of treatments.

By way of comparison, Zhang, who studied in the UK, said, “In China, you may be talking to a lot of people, including counselors and non-specialist clinics, and they may not know what the disease is and how they can help us.”

Her exhibition, which aims to shed light on the disease, shows haunting images of a tearful schoolgirl, displays of discarded medication and the word “KILL” projected onto a whitewashed wall.

“Foreign phenomenon”

Although there are no national statistics, hospitals in major Chinese cities have reported a sharp increase in the number of people receiving treatment.

In Shanghai, a mental health clinic said it treated only three cases of eating disorders in 2002 – but 591 people were observed with similar problems in 2018.

Two years ago, the state-run China Youth Daily, citing a Beijing hospital, said the number of ED patients had increased from around 20 per year to over 180 from 2002 to 2012.

In 2011 the hospital opened a specialist department.

The increase in people realizing their eating disorders has led to the belief that the problem is an “alien phenomenon” that has only recently landed in China.

“For my parents’ generation when they were young, being fat was a way to prove that you came from a good family background,” said 21-year-old student Xie Feitong at Zhang’s exhibition.

The state broadcaster CGTN also linked eating disorders with the country’s growing wealth.

“As Chinese society becomes more focused on personal well-being and a higher standard of living, more women are talking about their struggle with obsession with weight loss and flawless body image,” it said.

As in other countries, social media can play a role in spreading the ideal body in China.

Online viral posts – often around challenges showing how thin a person is – can encourage body embarrassment and bullying, and address the prevailing beauty ideal of pale skin and thin bodies.

Offline, ubiquitous beauty standards remain: Earlier this month, a gallery was forced to host a photo exhibition evaluating the attractiveness of women after an outcry.

Strong hearts

Zhang’s exhibition responds to many of these harmful stereotypes, with female participants participating in a performance – parodying marriage – to celebrate and accept their bodies.

Her story of extreme weight loss, psychological torture, and reluctance to seek help was repeated by several young women on the show.

Others described being bullied at school for not being thin enough, white enough, or pretty enough.

Most rejected the notion that eating disorders were “new” to China – although everyone agreed that the topic was only publicized in the last year or two.

Xie believes Chinese women have been encouraged by the global #MeToo movement to challenge traditional notions of beauty in China.

“I’m dark and fat – the opposite of white, young and thin,” said Xie, who had been battling anorexia since she was 13 and was hospitalized.

“But during my recovery, I feel that healthy skin tone, a strong body, and a strong heart are the most important things in this world.”

Zhang, wearing a wedding veil on her head, added, “We always felt that our bodies had many flaws.

“At this ‘wedding’ we want to say that we are really in love with ourselves.”

Teasing people about weight can cause eating disorders

© 2021 AFP

Quote: “Not Perfect Enough”: China’s Growing Problem of Eating Disorders (2021, June 29) Retrieved June 29, 2021 from

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Women’s Health

The next FDA commissioner must address health disparities and barriers to care



As a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist and an advocate for improving access to reproductive and sexual health and resources, I have seen firsthand how our health systems all too often fail those with the greatest barriers to accessing health care and services.

The Biden government has a unique opportunity to appoint a Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who boldly addresses systemic biases and obstacles in health care, advocates evidence-based science, and promotes health equity. The next FDA commissioner will play a vital role in setting the direction of our country’s health care. Administration must take into account the needs of people and communities and their opportunities to access health care. The pandemic has shown the importance of having leaders who are science-driven and committed to justice. however, these principles are also important in ameliorating long-standing, recalcitrant health inequalities.

For example, despite advances driven by the Affordable Care Act and advances in contraception technology, access to contraception remains a major challenge for far too many Americans. The FDA commissioner will have the opportunity to make a huge leap forward in women’s health and access to contraception by ensuring that birth control methods that have been proven to meet the same requirements as other over-the-counter drugs are available over the counter. It’s been 60 years since the FDA approved birth control for everyone, but people continue to face medically unnecessary prescribing barriers. Access to birth control pills without a prescription would provide a safe and inexpensive method of birth control.

It is also important that the FDA commissioner commit to an evidence-based and timely review of the proposed switch from prescription to over-the-counter (OTC). For years, medical associations and doctors across the country have urged the FDA to investigate the possibility of OTC access to the pill. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has officially approved such access for all ages.

In addition, every candidate for FDA commissioner must have a clear understanding of the inequalities in our health care system and how they affect the reproductive health of people of color, people struggling to survive, and people from rural areas. In fact, people with limited resources who receive medical care through Medicaid are more likely to have gaps in their ability to access contraception. Black women and girls – regardless of their income – are also more likely to have gaps in access to contraceptives. It is important that the Commissioner understand the role of the FDA in addressing these inequalities.

Additionally, women of childbearing potential have been excluded or underrepresented in clinical trials for studies of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease in the past – and that exclusion was even worse for women of color. The lack of inclusion is reflected in incomplete data sets that prevent some people from making informed decisions about their health care. Therefore, each potential candidate must have a plan on how the FDA can improve and modernize clinical trials and ensure the equitable inclusion of people of color and reproductive capabilities.

A potential candidate must trust that people will make their own decisions about their reproductive health – 70 percent of women of childbearing age prefer having the pill on the store shelf. It is long time for the FDA to take the lead and remove unnecessary barriers. We look forward to working with a Commissioner who is ready to face the challenges of all people – especially those who have been inadequately cared for by our health system for far too long.

Raegan McDonald-Mosley, MD, MPH, FACOG, is the CEO of Power to Decide, Senior Medical Advisor to the Contraceptive Access Initiative, and a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist. Follow her on Twitter @DrRaegan.

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Women’s Health

Why are medical journals full of fashionable nonsense?



In August 2018, The Lancet published a curious paper reminiscent of America’s long-forgotten era of Prohibition. The research came to a remarkable conclusion: there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.

The conclusion was largely a product of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (which recently tarnished its reputation by promoting extremely inaccurate COVID models), and the conclusion was contrary to common sense and the scientific literature. Notably, it also contradicted the study’s own data. Figure 5 of the study, pictured below, clearly shows that there is no significant difference in health outcomes (measured as the relative risk on the y-axis) between people who don’t drink at all and people who drink one drink a day to take in.

Source: GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators, Lancet, 2018.

Why a research paper would come to a conclusion that is not supported by its own data would be puzzling if the authors had not stated (to their credit?) Their motivation in advance: need to be revised worldwide in order to revert to the effort focus on reducing the overall consumption of the population. ”In other words, the authors are on a sacred mission; whether the data they support is of minor importance.

The Lancet study points to a larger trend in scientific journals, an increasing prevalence of fashionable nonsense backed not by research but by ideology. Scientific magazines are meant to be the porters of objective facts, not cheerleaders for moral crusades or fashionable ideologies. Adjusting to the political zeitgeist of science is not something a medical journal – or any scientific journal – should do. But that is exactly what they are increasingly doing. This is dangerous. And we can turn to a landmark book for guidance on why this is happening.

Fashionable nonsense

In 1999, physicists Alan Sokal (of Sokal Hoax fame) and Jean Bricmont published a book called Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science. Their thesis was that part of the academic world, generally within the humanities and social sciences, had embraced postmodernism, a philosophy which they defined as follows:

“… an intellectual current that is characterized by the more or less explicit rejection of the rationalistic tradition of the Enlightenment, by theoretical discourses that are beyond any empirical examination, and by a cognitive and cultural relativism, science only as ‘narrative’ ‘Myth’ or a social construction among many others. ”

By their definition, a good example of fashionable nonsense comes from self-help guru Deepak Chopra, who once wrote a book called Quantum Healing – a term that sounds learned but is utter gibberish. The word “quantum” is often used in particle physics to denote the minimal differences in energy levels, but it has no use in medicine. Combining both is nonsense, much like inspiring an audience with a term like “gravitational genetics”.

More than two decades after Sokal and Bricmont’s book was published, the problem has grown exponentially. Rather than just inappropriately adopting the language of science, postmodernism – the inherent indefinability of which appears to be a feature rather than a flaw – has invaded the scientific establishment itself. The “fashionable nonsense” that Sokal and Bricmont originally identified has mutated and grown to embody a wide range of problems, from cynical features to Orwellian changes in our vocabulary.

Medical journals get on political trains

In the weeks, months, and years following the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, it became fashionable for scientists to link their research to bioterrorism, however tangential it may be. This still occurs. An article published in the Journal of Bacteriology in April 2021 reported the discovery that a specific gene (or perhaps a group of genes) for the bacterium that causes Q fever (called Coxiella burnetii) is necessary to make immune cells in mice infect. The authors quickly pointed out that C. burnetti is “classified as a potential biological warfare agent”.

To be clear, the research is perfectly legitimate and important. The Journal of Bacteriology is a very respected journal in the field of microbiology. And yes, C. burnetii has been used as a weapon before and is considered a bio-terrorist threat. But let’s be realistic: Few national security officers lose sleep because of Q fever, a farm animal-borne disease that kills about 12 Americans each year.

The point is, it’s good to hop on a political train to get attention – and then fund it. We are experiencing a similar phenomenon with climate change. No matter how foreign a topic is, researchers try to link it to climate change. Job-stealing robots? Climate change. Revive the woolly mammoth? Climate change. Cancer therapy? Climate change. What could climate change have to do with cancer? The latter article provides an example: “[P]People with locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer [a]They are more likely to die if their radiation therapy [i]s interrupted by hurricanes. “

In this dubious setting – where any fancy link to climate change is simply accepted as scientifically legitimate – the New England Journal of Medicine recently published a perspective on the importance of “decarbonising” the health sector. The opening sentence makes a bold assertion: “Nowhere are the effects of climate change more evident than in human health.” Really? One could argue that satellite images showing melting ice caps and retreating glaciers are much clearer – or perhaps the planet’s remarkable rise in temperature or record breaking heat waves.

While this first statement could be dismissed as poetically hyperbolic, the second sentence of the article cannot read: “Although many people view climate change as an impending threat, millions of people are already dying each year from the resulting health problems.” -Measurable quantity and is either true or false. The authors cited this paper to support their claim, but it seems that none of them got it.

According to the cited study, there were an average of about five million additional deaths per year from 2000 to 2019 due to “sub-optimal temperatures,” 90 percent of which were due to cold and only 10 percent to heat. In addition, as the temperature rises, more people survived the extreme cold than died from the extreme heat, so temperature-related deaths have decreased on a net basis. The cited paper not only does not support the claim of the authors, it even contradicts it.

It turned out that another source cited by the authors contradicted their claim. According to the World Health Organization, “climate change is expected to cause around 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress between 2030 and 2050”. Another paper in Nature Climate Change (not cited by the authors) concluded: “[O]Our overall estimate that heat stress from man-made climate change is responsible for ~ 0.6% of total warm season deaths, if applied globally, would result in more than a hundred thousand deaths per year. “

In other words, the authors’ extraordinary claim that “millions of people” are currently dying from climate change is at least a factor of ten exaggerated.

Orwellian Medicine?

Playing quick and easy with public health data is hardly the only example of fashionable nonsense. Another worrying aspect is the monitoring of scientific vocabulary in a way that is confusing at best and Orwellian at worst.

On September 25th of that year, The Lancet published an issue that rightly wanted to raise awareness of women’s health, a topic that has a long and inglorious past as medicine has been dominated by men for millennia. The cover sheet, which was mostly a blank white page, contained the following text: “Historically, the anatomy and physiology of bodies with vaginas have been neglected.”

Photo credit: The Lancet (September 25, 2021 edition)

The quote, which came from an article in which the word “women” was still used, nevertheless sparked a firestorm. Critics argued that women are being “dehumanized” and reduced to body parts in a way that men never are. Nobody, for example, describes men as “bodies with penises”. The excitement was so bad that Editor-in-Chief Dr. Richard Horton was forced to publish a statement and a pseudo-apology.

In the statement, Horton stated that the quote was inclusive and a compelling call to empower women, along with non-binary, trans, and intersex people who have experienced menstruation, and to address the myths and taboos surrounding menstruation. “Inclusivity is a necessary and admirable goal, as is the breaking down of taboos about female physiology. However, this requires clarity of thought and wise communication. Refusing to spotlight “women’s health” when the obvious goal is to spotlight women’s health really fails. It also undermines Horton’s admonition that “serious problems” […] call for serious action. ”It is difficult to take The Lancet seriously under the circumstances, which thwarts one’s goal. This is bad not only for The Lancet, but for the entire biomedical community.

The deadly effect of fashionable nonsense

When Sokal and Bricmont wrote their book, the fashionable nonsense they complained seemed largely limited to abuses by the humanities and social sciences. But this newer fashionable nonsense has infected other parts of the campus, most notably the public health sector. At the same time, the trend is increasingly threatening society as a whole. It is one thing to publish fashionable nonsense in an art history journal; it is a matter of life or death when it is published in a medical journal.

Why? Because public health officials use medical journals to guide decision-making. Doctors too. Journalists broadcast the conclusions of published research to the general public. And if the public believes they can’t trust medical journals on simple things – like advice on drinking alcohol – why should we expect people to trust them on anything like the safety of MMR and COVID vaccines? The credibility problem faced by the biomedical and public health facility is, at least in part, a product of its own manufacture.

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Women’s Health

More firms supporting female entrepreneurs in Japan



To foster a more diversified society, more and more Japanese firms have begun supporting women entrepreneurs in hopes of revitalizing the economy with services and products designed from the perspective of women.

Some businesses target investing in businesses founded by women in a country where women entrepreneurs face greater challenges in starting businesses than elsewhere.

One such example is coly Inc., an online gaming company for female users. The company, in which women make up more than 70 percent of the employees, has started a project to invest up to tens of millions of yen each in newly founded companies with a female executive.

The photo shows Mizuki Nakajima, CEO of coly Inc. (front) and her sister Anna, co-founder of the company, on June 22, 2021. (Kyodo)

The Tokyo-based game developer was founded by twin sisters shortly after graduating from college in 2014 and debuted on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Mothers market for emerging companies in February of that year.

As part of the project, coly plans to support around 10 companies, among other things with management consulting, staff induction and the provision of jobs as well as investments.

“Women entrepreneurs face hurdles because there are few senior women who can advise them on starting and running businesses,” said the company’s CEO Mizuki Nakajima.

Meanwhile, major venture capital firm ANRI, founded in Tokyo in 2012, announced in November last year that it would increase the share of investments it directs in women-owned companies in one of its operational funds to over 20 percent.

Also in the spotlight as a supporter of women entrepreneurs was the MPower Partners Fund, a venture capital fund that was founded by three women in May of this year.

One of the founders is Kathy Matsui, former vice chairwoman of Goldman Sachs Japan, who advocates womenomics, or the idea that women’s economic participation contributes to overall economic growth.

Its working capital is likely to reach around 16 billion yen ($ 140 million) after being backed by large corporations like a life insurance company that has an emphasis on environmental, social and corporate governance.

According to a survey published last year by US credit card company Mastercard Inc., Japan ranked 47th out of 58 economies in its index, which examines the work environment of women and what each economy does to promote female entrepreneurship.

The index reflects factors such as cultural perceptions when starting a business, conditions to support such endeavors, and the visibility of female leaders as role models for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Japan ranks lower than other Asian countries such as Thailand and Taiwan, which were ranked 11th and 12th, respectively, according to the poll.

The steps to support women entrepreneurs are in line with the expansion of a concept called “femtech,” a term that describes products and services that use cutting-edge technology to provide solutions to women’s health problems.

Not only private companies but the Japanese government has shown great interest in femtech in the hope that it will lead to greater participation of women in society.

This year, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry set up a fund for companies involved in femtech-related companies.

The 20 government-selected projects include developing custom bra inserts for women diagnosed with breast cancer, providing telemedicine to women undergoing infertility treatment, and providing gynecological advice to working women.

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