Letters to the Editor: May 11 to 17

Thomas Cleave and George Campbell warned in 1966 that refined carbodydrates are dangerous. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

Thomas Cleave and George Campbell warned in 1966 that refined carbodydrates are dangerous. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

Unsung heroes warned us of refined carbs

I read with interest your important and somewhat depressing piece “Obesity could be the new smoking”. In 1966, 52 years ago, Thomas Cleave and George Campbell wrote a book,  Diabetes, Coronary Thrombosis and the Saccharine Disease. The saccharine disease was their name for the collection of diseases consequent on the over-consumption of refined carbohydrates.

Campbell, whom I knew well, remains one of the unsung heroes of public health in South Africa. He argued that refined carbohydrates, especially sugars, are addictive, not needed and will eventually kill you and for these reasons they should be included in the list of banned substances.

The saccharine disease may have been one of the first to take a Darwinian view of diet and health and Sir Richard Doll, in his foreword to their book, wrote: “If only a small part of [the predictions made in this book] prove to be correct the authors will have made a bigger contribution to medicine than most university departments or medical research units make in the course of a generation.” Living in KwaZulu-Natal, the main sugar-producing province of South Africa, these arguments did not find favour with Campbell’s compatriots.

In their book Cleave and Campbell considered the effect of refined carbohydrates on diabetes, obesity, dental caries, peptic ulcer, coronary disease and diseases caused by certain strains of Escherichia coli and were invited to make representations to the United States’s Senate select committee on nutrition and human needs chaired by senator George McGovern in 1970.

It would be encouraging if their early studies, now also linked to Alzheimer’s disease, were to bring about a change in attitudes towards refined carbohydrates and significantly improve public health in South Africa and throughout the world. The imposition of a sugar tax with the proceeds to be used to subsidise real food could go a long way towards addressing the problem of obesity as well as the many other medical conditions shown by Cleave and Campbell to be driven by the over consumption of refined carbohydrates. — Brian Williams, South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis


Judges were handed cases, they had no choice

Franny Rabkin’s “The death penalty and judges who had to apply it” was a fair and interesting article. A sentence about my father caught my eye. “Judge John Didcott ... somehow avoided death penalty cases” suggests that he actively avoided taking them, or was just lucky he never got assigned one. This is not true.

Cases were handed out by the judge president of the then Natal Bench, with no choice on the recipient’s part. My father was against the death penalty. (When he later sat on the first Constitutional Court Bench, their first case was to abolish it.) He was given cases in which other judges may well have handed down the death penalty but Dad always went to the nth degree to find extenuating circumstances. This showed me how utterly unfair the penalty was, because it often depended on which judge you were facing. — Sally Goldman (nee Didcott)


Women abuse: Who is to blame?

We men continue to abandon women and break them. We abuse them and kill them, instead of protecting them.

I don’t think we are worthy of women. We men cheat and do all sorts of things but our sisters forgive us and continue to love us. If they cheated we’d never do the same.

A fellow brother can sleep with the entire town and we call him “a real G”, a man among men and we praise him but we harass a sister who does the same and call her all sorts of demeaning names.

We men are weak compared with women. We portray ourselves as being superior because, in fact, we’re hiding our inferiority. We abuse women and deny them opportunities because we seek to have them trapped in our patriarchal way of doing things for our own selfish gain.

I’m scared of bringing a girl into this world where she’ll forever be a target of hate and abuse from toxic young men like me.

The patriarchal society we live in is demeaning towards those who carry us for nine months and bring us into this world. It’s heartbreaking to read stories about how young men abuse and kill women. Who should we young men blame for all this?

Do we blame it on the societies we’ve been conditioned into? Do we blame it on our fathers and uncles? Or on our own culture, which is demeaning towards our sisters and mothers? — Modibe Modiba, Benoni


My words were warped

As a former banned South African journalist and editor of the exile magazine Searchlight South Africa, I protest at the gross and prejudicial distortion by Sean Jacobs relating to an article by me in his piece titled “How do we write about Winnie’s life sympathetically?”.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela received a Christian funeral. It was legitimate to compare her nonrecognition of sin (which I cited in my article) with that of the non-Christians Hitler and Stalin, especially as my article was published initially on a specifically Christian website (Spotlight.Africa).

What was not accurate was to transfer a specific and limited comparison into a general and nonspecific comparison, with no reference to its Christian and limited context. To do so was prejudicial to me. — Paul Trewhela

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