Wednesday, July 27, 2005


It’s official, the medical profession has gone crazy, must be all the late nights thinking up ways to terrify us with pronouncements about every little aspect of our lives, coffee is bad, then it’s good, alcohol bad, nah have a glass or two, here take this pill, bang, oops sorry, says suicide risk right here in font size 2½ on the rice paper leaflet that came in the box. Eat fruit, don’t eat fruit, don’t eat between meals, graze all you want, don’t touch that bread or those oysters, but go ahead and eat as much bacon as you like because magic will melt that lard off your hips. Now we have a new scourge, one Dr. Jarl Flensmark from Malmo (lovely views in every direction) Sweden who says that schizophrenia is caused by high heeled shoes.

The doctor’s explanation is in authentic medicalese :"During walking, synchronised stimuli from mechanoreceptors in the lower extremities increase activity in cerebellothalamo-cortico-cerebellar loops through their action on NMDA-receptors. Using heeled shoes leads to weaker stimulation of the loops. Reduced cortical activity changes dopaminergic function, which involves the basal gangliathalamo-cortical-nigro-basal ganglia loops."

Translated it means the tensing of the calves stop the neuro-receptors setting off the release of dopamine, that feel good chemical we all want more of. Clearly the man has never worn a pair of high heels in his life, how exactly are you supposed to feel good when you’ve got blisters on both heels, your varicose veins are popping out and your toes are tortured into this year’s trendy little pointy shoe (and how much more pointy can those toes get?). No wonder dopamine isn’t surging through your corpuscles, you’re in pain. The good doctor also fails to explain why men become schizophrenic, unless shimmying into a frock and heels is more popular amongst men than commonly believed.

I think this is an entry to the Ig Nobel awards, medical research is a prime target for parody because 95% of public will believe whatever they hear after the words “researchers say”. For instance, researchers say ogling breasts makes men live longer, and fellatio can decrease breast cancer.

I did go onto some of the serious sites and turned up a number of surprising facts. Approximately 1% of the general population become schizophrenic, unless you’re Irish. In Southern Ireland you have a four times greater chance of hearing voices, which might explain the common belief in leprechauns and other little people. Researchers say it may be potatoes because when exposed to light they produce “a keloid called solanine which can cause gastrointestinal disturbances and psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations”. Think about that when you slope down to your local caff for a packet of chips.

Other countries with a high rate of schizophrenia include Croatia, and some of the Scandinavian nations (Sweden perhaps?), but you’re at a lower risk if you live in the countryside.

Some doctors think it has to do with the genes, specifically chromosomes 13 and 6, unless it’s 42 and 17, or even 19 and 29. The University of Toronto says it is an uncommon variant of a gene called Nogo, although it could be a chemical imbalance or the enlargement of ventricles in the brain.

I did mention bread, didn’t I, but it’s even more lethal than you think, celiac disease, the allergic response to gluten, is another factor thought to contribute to schizophrenia.

If your mom was overweight and stressed out during her pregnancy, watch out and if your dad was over the age of 40, your chances of getting schizohprenia are doubled, and tripled if he’s over 50. If you're pregnant, steer clear of x-rays, aspirin and cats, yes some cats carry the Toxoplasma gondii virus and deposit it in THE litterbox, which explains a smell that can strip paint at fifty yards. Exposure to lead is another no-no and this includes some women’s and men’s hair colouring chemicals, so put down that Grecian Formula, you’re poisoning yourself.

If you were born in late winter or early spring, it’s your tough luck, the same publication which carries Dr Flensman has a report (PDF) on the effects of birth date on predisposition to schizophrenia. Maybe there’s something in that horoscope stuff after all.

There is one good piece of news, if you’re over 35 and you’re not schizophrenic yet, you can relax, and if you’re still think somebody’s out to get you, it may be because they really are.

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