Monday, July 29, 2013

Could grain-fed beef liver be particularly nutritious?

There is a pervasive belief today that grain-fed beef is unhealthy, a belief that I addressed before in this blog () and that I think is exaggerated. This general belief seems to also apply to a related meat, one that is widely acknowledged as a major micronutrient “powerhouse”, namely grain-fed beef liver.

Regarding grain-fed beef liver, the idea is that cattle that are grain-fed tend to develop a mild form of fatty liver disease. This I am inclined to agree with.

However, I am not convinced that this is such a bad thing for those who eat grain-fed beef liver.

In most animals, including Homo sapiens, fatty liver disease seems to be associated with extra load being put on the liver. Possible reasons for this are accelerated growth, abnormally high levels of body fat, and ingestion of toxins beyond a certain hormetic threshold (e.g., alcohol).

In these cases, what would one expect to see as a body response? The extra load is associated with high oxidative stress and rate of metabolic work. In response, the body should shuttle more antioxidants and metabolism catalysts to the organ being overloaded. Fat-soluble vitamins can act as antioxidants and catalysts in various metabolic processes, among other important functions. They require fat to be stored, and can then be released over time, which is a major advantage over water-soluble vitamins; fat-soluble vitamins are longer-acting.

So you would expect an overloaded liver to have more fat in it, and also a greater concentration of fat-soluble vitamins. This would include vitamin A, which would give the liver an unnatural color, toward the orange-yellow range of the spectrum.

Grain-fed beef liver, like the muscle meat of grain-fed cattle, tends to have more fat than that of grass-fed animals. One function of this extra fat could be to store fat-soluble vitamins. This extra fat appears to have a higher omega-6 fat content as well. Still, beef liver is a fairly lean meat; with about 5 g of fat per 100 g of weight, and only 20 mg or so of omega-6 fat. Clearly consumption of beef liver in moderation is unlikely to lead to a significant increase in omega-6 fat content in one’s diet (). By consumption in moderation I mean approximately once a week.

The photo below, from Wikipedia, is of a dish prepared with foie gras. That is essentially the liver of a duck or goose that has been fattened through force-feeding, until the animal develops fatty liver disease. This “diseased” liver is particularly rich in fat-soluble vitamins; e.g., it is the best known source of the all-important vitamin K2.

Could the same happen, although to a lesser extent, with grain-fed beef liver? I don’t think it is unreasonable to speculate that it could.

Friday, July 26, 2013

House of Lords special debate on the arts, education, health and emotional well-being

Arts: Contribution to Education, Health and Emotional Well-being
This is an edited version and my reflected highlights on a debate which took place in the House of Lords yesterday afternoon, and not a critique of it. The full transcript is available by clicking on the photograph of a blue cockerel. There is an embedded video further down the page. To get to the debate in the video, move the cursor to approximately 17:13. As I hand over the chair of the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing to Kate Gant for the next 6 months, it feels indeed like we are really growing as a movement.

Yesterday, the 25th July, in the House of Lords, Baroness Jones of Whitchurch asked Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the contribution of the arts to the nation’s education, health and emotional well-being.
She began the exchange by recapping an earlier debate in which the case had been made around the, ‘contribution of the creative industries to jobs, growth and tourism,’ which echoed the recent Arts Council report that showed that there was a four-fold return on every pound invested in the arts.
But Baroness Jones wanted ‘to make a different case—the arts for their own sake, for what they provide to our civilisation and the benefits they impart to our well-being as a nation. This should be a sufficient reason to celebrate, to defend and to invest in our arts culture. It is why I share the concern expressed by many arts leaders that Maria Miller’s recent speech focused so heavily on the economic benefits that could accrue from our arts activities.’ 
She spoke eloquently about what she described as ‘flawed thinking. If we invest only in arts that are guaranteed to make a profit, we damage the very innovation and creativity that has generated our reputation for excellence in the first place.’
Talking about the Culture, Health and Wellbeing conference in Bristol and the ongoing work of the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing, she framed the debate in a way that critically conjoined educational provision and the health and wellbeing of the whole population - on individuals and society.
Opening up the debate to the House, she concluded that: 

‘it would be a great shame if we had to put a price on all those benefits. Art funding should not just be about economic returns, but also the less tangible advantages: that it raises our quality of life, improves our sense of well-being and contributes to our future success as a nation. Ultimately, none of these issues matters as much as a belief in art and creativity for its own sake. However we choose to express it, art is what makes our nation civilised, it shapes our identity and it informs our heritage. If we are always looking over our shoulder at balance sheets to justify expenditure, we risk losing the essence of what makes the UK such a special place to live.’

Baroness (Joan) Bakewell described that earlier debate as being, ‘the economic, nuts-and-bolts argument for the arts, and today we deal with the real core, civilising values of the arts in our lives’, asking, ‘What is the price of joy?’ 
Speak of the more ‘profound rewards of the arts’, she described how the ‘arts teach us what it is to be human, to know ourselves and to know others’. 
She described what I have referred to as the numinous experience of exposure to art and design, citing Wordsworth’s attempts to recall how he had been moved by Tintern Abbey when he had been there five years earlier. ,
“with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony … We see into the life of things”.
She used this idea to describe poetically, what exactly it is that the arts, in all their forms, do. ‘We see into the life of things’. 
‘Empathy matters in the lives we live, one with another. Empathy is the understanding of the other. It is the attribute psychopaths lack—the capacity to understand others. Callousness, cruelty and murder follow. That is why, when the arts go into prison, they make a real difference. Acting companies take the plays of Shakespeare to prisoners and then stay to discuss with their audience, the inmates, what are human motives and what are the feelings of other people. That helps the prisoners grow to see their own lives. It helps them to see into the life of things.’
Critically, to me at least, she suggests that the arts and festivals offer, ‘places of ideas, opinions and cultural exchange’ and concluded her case to the Government on celebration, insight, empathy and intellectual exchange: 

‘The arts lead us to see into the life of things. They deserve a higher place in the school curriculum than at present. As we know, dance scarcely figures and music is neglected. We want our children to see into the life of things.’

Lord Cormack reflected that ‘the arts are, in every possible sense, priceless. To equate them with commercial calculations is doing us all a disservice. You cannot quantify it; if you want to start quantifying it—I am sorry I could not take part in the debate of my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft—you can provide a very good justification. After all, the thousands of tourists who are flocking here this to see our fine buildings, to go to our wonderful galleries, and to listen to the music at the Proms and other concerts. The arts bring in to this country enormous sums of money—a fact that no Government of any political persuasion have ever fully recognised.’ 
Lord (Robert) Winston explored the potency of music in humanity, describing it as ‘a basic civilising influence on our population’. Providing the House with a scientific framework for understanding the impact of music on the human brain, Winston disputed the myth that ‘musicians are born and not made, it turns out that this is not the case. Recent evidence in a beautiful German study clearly shows that pretty well anybody who is given enough time and practice can compete with the best opera singers, and that their brain can expand in the areas that are needed.’ His point here, that music education should be available to everyone throughout their lives.
Lord Rea, poignantly reminded us of the WHO definition of health, which considers it to be not only the “absence of disease” but also,
“complete physical, mental and social well-being”—
Citing Sir David Weatherall, when the regius professor of medicine at Oxford University more than a decade ago, explained how scientific medicine, which dominated the last century, changed the emphasis in healthcare from the whole patient and whole organs to diseases of molecules and cells. This caused many to feel that medicine had become reductionist and dehumanising. Although himself a molecular scientist, Professor Weatherall said that,
“we will now start putting the bits … together again … The old skills of clinical practice, the ability to interact with people, will be as vital … as they have been in the past”.
Reflecting on events in Mid Staffs, Lord Rea emphasised the need to see the whole person and focused much of his contribution on the determinants of health and the importance of conjoining the ‘three components of health—physical, mental and social—are not separate entities.’
Importantly, Lord Rea stressed the importance of popular culture as well as the ‘fine’ arts and he placed an emphasis on the importance of design and architecture.
As an artist, the Earl of Clancarty began by suggesting that, ‘artists make and publicise their work as best they can and it is for others to draw conclusions about the wider social effects that work may have.’
He reminded the House of the recent speech by Scottish Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, on 5 June at Edinburgh University, in which she said:
“It is our job … to create the conditions which enable artists to flourish … I don’t need or want the culture or heritage sector to make a new economic or social case to justify public support for their work. I know what these sectors can deliver because I see it in action. I visit hardworking artists and practitioners who are exploring new ways of working; and who are creating dynamic and exciting new ways of enjoying and sharing their work and the work of our ancestors”.
Pivotally, he suggested, that the ‘key thing here is the facilitation of artists, which I believe is a good in itself, whatever the specific effects may be, because the artist’s work is the contribution to society. The Government’s primary job in relation to the arts is—or should be—to do just that and must of course include encouraging the potential for creativity from all classes of society.’ 
Rather powerfully, he suggested that ‘from this, everything else should proceed. Indeed, in the short term, good art may not give a feeling of well-being at all but may be disturbing and highly critical of society, as much of our best post-war drama was. It is a healthy society which allows artists to have their say, encourages that criticism and, all importantly, offers spaces within which that can happen.’
Lord Sawyer used the emblem of Billy Elliot to talk about aspiration and the arts. How a miner’s son became a ballet dancer. Describing the film’s success, he suggested that this illustration of ‘the transforming power of art—in this case, dance—and its ability to bring joy and happiness, which have the power to actually change lives,’ is at the heart of the debate.
Billy Elliott, he suggests, tells us about the power of community, of solidarity and art as activism. Stressing the importance of arts being at the heart of our communities, he warned, 
‘If we slam the doors, we slam them not just on aspiration but also on knowledge, confidence, communication and language—and we are just not prepared to see those doors slammed. We are going to keep them open, and we shall have to fight to do that. That is our job, no matter what the funding issues are, no matter what the trials and tribulations of the Government of the day are. It is incumbent on all of us who care about future generations to keep those doors open and to keep fighting for our arts. We should work to protect the space, and we need to work hard to help people understand the benefits that they bring to all, and to our nation’s education, health and well-being.’
Staunch advocate of arts and health and keynote at the recent international conference in Bristol, Lord Howarth of Newport opened his contribution by suggesting that ‘the greatest contribution that the arts can make to education is to offer young people the opportunity of beauty, and an understanding of it, and to take them into new imaginative realms.’ He spoke of literature and its place in helping us explore how we live our lives and the value of the arts not being measurable; ‘it is over and beyond the utilitarian calculus.’ His speech stressed the importance of imagination, ‘linguistic precision, authenticity and power…(as)...a preparation for their participation in democracy.’
He emphasised the good work across the country and highlighted, the ongoing work of the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing and noted the work that is happening further afield internationally. He reflected on the rich research work underway across the field and echoing Lord Rea, expressed concern, ‘that orthodox, specialised medicine, based on clinical science, is insufficient. What he (citing Sir David Weatherall) calls “patch-up medicine” is “reductionist” and “dehumanised”. He also observes that it is prohibitively expensive and fails to address the causes of malaise. He says we should do more to prevent people falling ill through promoting lives of well-being.’
Concluding that ‘the recognition that GDP is not a sufficient measure of national progress and that “getting and spending”, to quote Wordsworth again, is insufficient.’ He acknowledged The Office of National Statistics index of national well-being includes a new category under arts and culture.

Lord Storey added some pertinent reminded us that, ‘the great and the good can go to the opera, visit art galleries and hear symphony orchestras, but how do we make sure that children living in abject poverty on council estates also have the joy and benefits of the arts?’
He told about work in his own city of Liverpool, ‘where every primary school child—not just some, every single primary school child—learns a musical instrument. They form an orchestra, which has performed within the community, with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and here at the Royal Festival Hall, and when they leave their primary school a second orchestra is formed at secondary school level. That has been hugely significant for those young people.’
Baroness Northover, concluded the debate, responding to the speeches that had been made, reflecting Lady Bakewell’s early comment, that ‘involvement in the arts is quite simply part of what makes us human.’
She commented that, ‘We fully recognise that engagement and participation in the arts generates a range of social benefits to individuals and society. It is not simply what makes us civilised. It goes beyond that; it is, indeed, what makes us human.’  She quoted Arts Council chairman, Sir Peter Bazalgette saying:
“The arts are a demonstrable source of health and happiness, no matter what age we are”.
She acknowledged the importance of mental health, commenting, ‘In addressing physical health, it is important to address mental health and that sense of well-being, which is why we emphasise that healthcare must be person-centered. We have given mental health a new priority, enshrining it in law for the first time as having equal importance with physical health.’
Again, she stressed the ongoing advocacy work of the National Alliance for Arts Health and Wellbeing and the recognition that Public Health England is looking closely at well-being, recognising ‘that arts activities can promote that well-being.’  

This was a highly encouraging debate and I urge those of you interested in the arts and health agenda to take time to read or listen to this contribution to our expanding field and our growing movement. C.P.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


I’m writing a paper around the thorny issue of what constitutes evidence in our field of inquiry, particularly in light of our sometimes-desperate attempts to rigidly align ourselves to science. I am keen to gather insights into just how those notions of ‘evidence’ and ‘the gold-standard’ have been influenced and misused by the free-market and particularly the pharmaceutical industry. If you can direct me to any examples of where evidence has been exposed as being spurious, or even worse shown to be conflated or damaging, I would be very grateful.

I’d also be interested to hear about particular examples of research around the impact of creativity, culture and the arts on health and wellbeing that positively eschew attempts to measure and embraces participatory methodologies and the arts themselves as the significant factor. My final request: cast your net far and wide. I’d like to hear about the diverse and unusual, particularly where it allows us to question notions of authenticity and authority. Please feel free to get in touch about anything and a bog thanks to those of you who already have. Remember, those of you who read this blog in Mexico, in Pakistan, China, Russia, Germany and Belarus last week - I’d be very interested in your thoughts!

         WARNING: Video contains flashing imagery
The UK Arts, Health and Wellbeing Research Network held its first Seminar at the University of Nottingham in March this year. Its focus was on, Existing knowledge, contested approaches and future agendas, and it aimed to map the terrain of existing Arts, Health and Wellbeing research across different disciplines, identify consensus and conceptual tensions and building an academic agenda for cross-disciplinary research for the future. For those of you interested in the research agenda, you can now access the keynotes and extra materials from a dedicated web page, including my own spontaneous and incoherent gibberish. Be warned!

For those of you interested in those thoughts on global approaches to the arts and public health, which I explored at this event, I'm pleased to say that Mike White and I have been working up some of those ideas for a new paper to be published very shortly under the title, Inequalities, the arts and public health: Towards an international conversation. More of that, very soon.

A date has been set for the next research seminar on September 12th in Bristol. The ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) are very keen that investment in researchers of the future and with this in mind, 10 places will be allocated for registered Doctoral students specifically studying Arts, Health & Wellbeing topics. So if you are a PhD student and you want to know more, please email More details about these seminars and the multi-media downloads are available at:

The Small Delights of Turkey
Arts and Health Training...
I am regularly asked, when is Arts for Health running its next 6-week training course for arts/health practitioners, and whilst I’d love to be able to offer these courses more regularly, its just difficult carving the time up to do this. But this week I received an email from colleagues in Sefton, Merseyside who are running something very, very similar. Whilst I can’t vouch for the content as I’ve not participated in it, the people who are running it are great, the project is a good one and I think it will be a really useful arts/health course. Check it out by going to the Creative Alternatives website

Arts & Health Presentation at the National Eisteddfod
An Arts in Health presentation and discussion will be delivered at the National Eisteddfod (Pabell y Cymdeithasau 1) at 2pm on the 6th of August. For more information, contact Robyn Tomos: 

(Where you, the people, can apply to take on the role of police, libraries and so much more whilst nurturing the spirit of competitiveness and market greed in our young entrepreneurs and saving our bankrupt country buckets of cash at the same time.Welcome to the 21st Century world of funding)

Government Announces £4.3 Million Fund for Local Communities to Deliver Services 
The Government has announced that it is making £4.3 million available to help 100 local communities within England to design and deliver local services that focus on local priorities and reduce costs.  The expansion of the ‘Our Place’ programme builds on the success of the Neighbourhood Community Budget Pilots that for the past year have been pioneering new ways to improve local services in 12 areas. The 12 pilots range from inner cities and suburbs, to housing estates and small towns. They have all taken very different approaches, but all of them have seen partners working together to tackle the issues which matter most locally.  For example, In Balsall Heath, Birmingham, police officers and the community are developing fortnightly street patrols with residents, and priority policing actions to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. Their analysis has shown that at a cost of £35,000 per year, over 5 years, potential benefits of over £500,000 could be produced.  

In Ilfracombe, Devon, “One Ilfracombe” is working with its district council to transfer a £1 million budget, alongside an aligned budget from health, Jobcentre Plus, police, fire, housing and councils to work with the private sector and community to improve the health, economy, and living environment for local people. To express an interest in becoming an Our Place! neighbourhood, email or click on the officer of the law, above.

Government Launches Enterprising Libraries Programme 
The Department for Communities and Local Government has announced that Libraries across the country can now bid for additional funding to help budding local entrepreneurs. The funding will help entrepreneurs enter the business world by transforming them into catalysts for local economic growth and social mobility.   Ten libraries will be awarded up to £45,000 under the Enterprising Libraries programme which aims to bring together and develop existing business and intellectual property support. Winning bids will develop their own approach to supporting local enterprise but the range of services could include:
· Free access to business and intellectual property databases and publications
· Market research, company data and information on patents, trademarks, design and copyright
· Provision of dedicated space within the library building
· Advice on funding, setting up and running a business; etc.
The Enterprising Libraries grant programme is the second stage of the £1.3 million Enterprising Libraries project, a partnership between the Department for Communities and Local Government, Arts Council England and the British Library. Applications must be submitted by 5pm on Monday 29 July 2013. Read more by clicking on the shocked reader above!

Tycoon in Schools Competition Launched 
The Peter Jones Foundation has announced that the Tycoon In Schools 2013 Competition is open for entries. Launched in 2012, the aim of the competition is to support schools in England to run their own business.  In addition to the funding provided by  the Foundation, the competition has received backing from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, with a funding injection of £50,000 to help roll out the campaign and encourage more school children to take part.  Secondary schools are now being invited to register their interest in taking part. Pupils will pitch their business ideas to their tutors, who will submit the best business plans to the Peter Jones Foundation in the hope of being granted seed funding to launch the ventures. Trading kicks off on Monday 4th November for a four-week period, with the overall Tycoon in Schools winner being announced in January 2014.  Over 500 children and 100 teams competed last year with business concepts ranging from a cure for arthritis in horses, to solar panelled phone socks for charging mobile phones. The closing date for entries is 5pm on the 9th September 2013. Read more by clicking on the tycoon above.

Goodbye for now and thanks for dropping by...C.P. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

How can carrying some extra body fat be healthy?

Most of the empirical investigations into the association between body mass index (BMI) and mortality suggest that the lowest-mortality BMI is approximately on the border between the normal and overweight ranges. Or, as Peter put it (): "Getting fat is good."

As much as one may be tempted to explain this based only on the relative contribution of lean body mass to total weight, the evidence suggests that both body fat and lean body mass contribute to this phenomenon. In fact, the evidence suggests that carrying some extra body fat may be healthy for many.

Yet, the scientific evidence strongly suggests that body fat accumulation beyond a certain point is unhealthy. There seems to be a sweet spot of body fat percentage, and that sweet spot may vary a lot across different individuals.

One interesting aspect of most empirical investigations of the association between BMI and mortality is that the participants live in urban or semi-urban societies. When you look at hunter-gatherer societies, the picture seems to be a bit different. The graph below shows the distribution of BMIs among males in Kitava and Sweden, from a study by Lindeberg and colleagues ().

In Sweden, a lowest mortality BMI of 26 would correspond to a point on the x axis that would rise up approximately to the middle of the distribution of data points from Sweden in the graph. It is reasonable to assume that this would also happen in Kitava, in which case the lowest mortality BMI would be around 20.

One of the key differences between urbanites and hunter-gatherers is the greater energy expenditure among the latter; hunter-gatherers generally move more. This provides a clue as to why some extra body fat may be healthy among urbanites. Hunter-gatherers spend more energy, so they have to consume more “natural” food, and thus more nutrients, to maintain their lean body mass.

A person’s energy expenditure is strongly dependent on a few variables, including body weight and physical activity. Let us assume that a hunter-gatherer, due to a reasonably high level of physical activity, maintains a BMI of 20 while consuming 3,000 kilocalories (a.k.a. calories) per day. An urbanite with the same height, but a lower level of physical activity, may need a higher body weight, and thus a higher BMI, to consume 3,000 calories per day at maintenance.

And why would someone want to consume 3,000 calories per day? Why not 1,500? The reason is nutrient intake, particularly micronutrient intake – intake of vitamins and minerals that are used by the body in various processes. Unfortunately it seems that micronutrient supplementation (e.g., a multivitamin pill) is largely ineffective except in cases of pathological deficiency.

Urbanites may need to carry a bit of extra body fat to be able to have an appropriate intake of micronutrients to maintain their lean body structures in a healthy state. Obviously the type of food eaten matters a lot. A high nutrient-to-calorie ratio is generally desirable. However, we cannot forget that we also need to eat fat, in part because without it we cannot properly absorb the all-important fat-soluble vitamins. And dietary fat is the most calorie-dense nutrient of all.

Why not putting on extra muscle instead of carrying the extra fat? For one, that is not easy when you are a sedentary urbanite. Particularly after a certain age, if you try too hard you end up getting injured. But there is another interesting angle to consider. Humans, like many other animals, have genetic “protections” against high muscularity, such as the protein myostatin. Myostatin is produced mostly in muscle cells; it acts on muscle, by inhibiting its growth.

Say what? Why would evolution favor something like myostatin? Big, muscular humans could be at the top of the food chain by physical strength alone; they could kill a lion with their bare hands. Well, it is possible. (Many men like to think of themselves as warriors, probably because most of them are not.) But evolution favors what works best given the ecological niches available. In our case, it favored bigger and more plastic brains to occupy what Steve Pinker called a “cognitive niche”.

Even though fat mass is not inert, secreting a number of hormones into the bloodstream, the micronutrient “need” of fat mass is likely much lower than the micronutrient need of non-fat mass. That is, a kilogram of lean mass likely puts a higher demand on micronutrients than a kilogram of fat mass. This should be particularly the case for organs, such as the liver, but also applies to muscle tissue.

While gaining muscle mass through moderate exercise is extremely healthy, bulking up beyond one’s natural limitations may actually backfire. It could increase the demand for micronutrients above what a person can actually consume and absorb through a healthy nutritious diet. Some extra fat mass allows for a higher level of micronutrient intake at weight maintenance, with a lower demand for micronutrients than the same amount of extra lean mass.

Some people are naturally more muscular. Their frame and underlying organ-based capabilities probably support that. It is often visibly noticeable when they go beyond their organ-based capabilities. A common trait among many professional bodybuilders, who usually go beyond the genetic gifts that they naturally have, is an abnormal swelling of internal organs.

What complicates this discussion is that all of this seems to vary from individual to individual. People have to find their sweet spots, and doing that may not be the simplest of tasks. For example, even measuring body fat percentage with some precision is difficult and costly. Also, certain types of fat are less desirable than others – visceral versus subcutaneous body fat. It is not easy differentiating one from the other ().

How do you find your sweet spot in terms of body fat percentage? One of the most promising approaches is to find the point at which your waist-to-weight ratio is minimized ().

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Stars hide your fires...

A BIG THANK YOUThe biggest thanks to Claire Ford and Sarah Lawton who braved the masses to present their work around the arts and dementia at Culture Shots. Feel free to get in touch to suggest more networking events.

I went to one of the Manchester International Festival (MIF) events at the weekend. It was Massive Attack vs Adam Curtis, and it was a real treat. Curtis is a sublime documentary maker. Quite unique stuff in this world of consumer rubbish. I had to smile reading the MIF brochure for this event though. Tickets were £36, but if you were a citizen of this fair city, there were limited tickets at £12, but of course, 'a transaction fee applies'. HA! Imagine - you've just got your payday loan, but your phone's been disconnected and you don't have a credit card. Personally, I'd have liked to have seen it performed at Old Trafford, free of charge...better still, at that temple to the consumer, the Trafford Centre. Hey Ho. Of course, our Mortality exhibition is completely free of charge, as have been any events to which the speakers and performers have given their time gratis too.

For those of you who were unable to attend the Mortality event so wonderful facilitated by Sam Guglani and Molly Carlile, I can only say it was brilliant! Thank you so much to you both for all your input. Alas, no recoding exists of the spoken sections of this event, but to keep you satisfied, I have a recording of the sublime Victoria Hume and Chris Reed performing Skeletons from Delirium. Thank you both for a simply beautiful set.

There is a book to accompany the exhibition, which is available from the Holden Gallery, from Arts for Health or Cornerhouse books who are our distributors. The text that accompanies the selected works for the exhibition is critical if you want to get the most out of the works. there’s also an essay from Steven Gartside called The Coffin Route and a new piece of work I’ve written that in parts, explores the numinous potential of the arts asks how we can achieve some kind of wellbeing as we face our mortality. It’s called Present-Tense and this little film is an oblique ‘teaser’ to whet your appetite. Go on, you know you want to read it!

New Fund to Develop the Careers of 
Artists & Bands 
PRS for Music Foundation and Arts Council England have announced the launch of the Momentum Music Fund.  This is a £500,000 fund to develop the careers of talented artists and bands.  It is anticipated that grants of between £5,000 and £15,000 will be awarded to between 50 and 75 artists/bands over the next 2 years.  Applications can be submitted by the artists themselves or those who are working on their behalf, e.g. a manager, an independent label or publisher.  Priority will be given to those that haven’t been funded by PRS for Music Foundation in the previous 12 months. The next application deadline is the 30th August. Read more at 

Wellcome Trust -Arts Awards 
The Wellcome Trust is inviting organisations and individuals to apply for funding through its Arts Awards. The Arts Awards support projects that engage the public with biomedical science through the arts including dance, drama, performance arts, visual arts, music, film, craft, photography, creative writing or digital media. Applications are invited for projects of up to £30,000 through their small & medium-sized grant programme, and for projects above £30,000 through their large grant programme. The aim of the awards is to support arts projects that reach new audiences which may not traditionally be interested in science and provide new ways of thinking about the social, cultural and ethical issues around contemporary science.

The scheme is open to a wide range of people including, among others, artists, scientists, curators, filmmakers, writers, producers, directors, academics, science communicators, teachers, arts workers and education officers. The next application deadline for small & medium sized projects is the 1st November 2013, and for large projects the application deadline has now passed. Read more at 

Do you ever read the comments on youtube? I saw these under the little song below and had to share them.

"I work nights in a nursing home. Four o'clock in the morning i'm giving a cup of tea to Ivy, an 84 year old lady with advanced Alzheimers who cant sleep when this song comes on the BBC2 nightscreen and we both just stare at the T.V. speechless. enjoying the music. it finishes and she looks at me and says 'that was lovely' Just shows that real music transcends everything and can bring about obscure and beautiful moments and connections like this."

Be happy, be safe and only good things...C.P

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Dr Iona Heath + MORTALITY 2013

For those of you who weren't able to make the symposium on Friday, I am thrilled to be able to share the opening speech by Dr Iona Heath which so eloquently framed Mortality: Death and the Imagination. The exhibition opens to the public on Monday and runs until the 16th August at the Holden Gallery. Iona's paper is in titled Memento Mori and is available here. I thank Iona for such a sparkling and stimulating start to the exhibition. I'd also like to extend my personal thanks to all of you that have worked behind the scenes to curate and install the exhibition. Seriously - a huge thank you.

On Monday afternoon Dr Sam Guglani from Medicine Unboxed will be giving a free public talk alongside Molly Carlile around themes that their work around oncology and palliative care and the exhibition bring up. This will all kick-off in the gallery just after 2:00 in the afternoon and will be followed by a performance of work created as a response to people who have experienced delirium following time in intensive care. Singer songwriter Victoria Hume will be performing this new work exclusively for us. The session will be finished before 6:00, but to take part, you'll have to be at the Gallery before 2:30 and its all absolutely free.

Finally, the exhibition catalogue contains an essay by curator of the Holden Gallery, Dr Steven Gartside and your blogger CP. This is a new piece of writing from me is called Present Tense and it expands on ideas around the numinous, starting with Dennis Potter and taking us on a ride on the ultimate Euthanasia Roller-coaster. I hope it develops some of our understanding, or at least begins a dialogue around the relevance of the arts and wellbeing in relation to how we live and how we die.

What a beautiful photograph. I respect Elham Asghari and if you click on the photograph, you will see why.

Admission Free
Saturday 07 September - Sunday 03 November 10am - 5pm
Djanogly Art Gallery
Uncovering fascinating stories, this historical overview provides insight to the diagnostic and therapeutic use of patient artwork, its influence on the development of humane psychiatric practice, and its wider recognition by artists associated with Art Brut and so-called Outsider Art. Art in the Asylum presents the first examination of the evolution of artistic activity in British psychiatric institutions from the early 1800s to the 1970s. With over 100 loans from national and international archives, the exhibition traces the historical shift from invasive treatments of mental disorders to a more humane regime in which creativity played a significant role.

There will be a full range of events running parallel to the exhibition and more details can be found by clicking on the flyer above.

Time to Change Grants 

The Mental Health charity, Time to Change has announced that its grants programme will re-open for applications on the 17th July 2013.  Through the programme, grants of up to £100,000 are available to constituted not for profit organisations for projects that bring people with and without mental health problems together to challenge discrimination in their communities. 25% of the fund is for projects run by and for people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities and 20% is for projects that work with an audience of children and young people, in specific regions. Read more at 

BIG - Local Paper Initiative
Big Lottery Fund is joining forces with eight local newspapers across England to award a huge £250,000 of Lottery good-cause cash to community projects in each area.  The Local Paper initiative is aimed at encouraging communities to think about how funding could benefit their area and bring real improvements to the lives of local people.  Readers of the local papers will vote to help decide which projects will get the cash. The Local Papers initiative will be delivered by UK Community Foundation working with its local offices across England.  The fund will provide grants of up to £30,000 per project and is open to community groups, not for profit groups, parish or town councils, health bodies and schools. The application dates will vary from area to area. Read more at: 

British Academy Small Research Grants 
The British Academy for the Humanities and Sciences has announced that it is planning to issue a call for a further round of Small Research Grants in September 2013. Under the Small Research Grants programme grants of up to £10,000 over two years are available to UK research institutions to support primary research in the humanities and social sciences. Funds will be available to facilitate initial project planning and development; support the direct costs of research; enable the advancement of research through workshops; and visits by or to partner scholars.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

An illustration of the waist-to-weight ratio theory: The fit2fat2fit experiment

In my previous blog post, I argued that one’s optimal weight may be the one that minimizes one’s waist-to-weight ratio. I built this argument based on the fact that body fat percentage is associated with lean body mass (and also weight) in a nonlinear way.

The fit2fat2fit experiment (), provides what seems to be an interestingly way to put this optimal waist-to-weight ratio theory to test. This is due to a fortuitous event, as I explain in this post.

In this experiment, Drew Manning, a personal trainer, decided to undergo a transformation where he went from what he argued was his fittest level, all the way to obese, and then back to fit again. He said that he wanted to do that so that he could better understand his clients’ struggles. This may be true, but it looks like he planned very well his experiment from a marketing perspective.

His fittest level was at the start, with a weight of 193 lbs, at a height of 6 ft 2 in. That was his fittest level according to his own opinion. At that point, he had a waist of 34.5 in, and looked indeed very fit (). At his fattest level, he reached the weight of 264.8 pounds, with a 47.5 waist.

As he moved back to fit, one interesting thing happened. Toward the end of this journey back to fit, he moved past the level that he felt was his optimal. He dropped down to 190.1 lbs, and a 34 in waist; which he perceived as too skinny. He talks about this in a video ().

As a self-defined “fanatic” personal trainer, I figured that he knew when he had gone too far. That is, he is probably as qualified as one can get to identify the point at which he moved past his optimal. So I thought that this would be an interesting way of putting my optimal waist-to-weight ratio theory to the test.

Below is a bar chart showing variations in waist-to-weight ratio against weight for Drew Manning during his fit2fat2fit experiment. I included only three data points in this chart because I would have to view all of his video clips to get all of the data points.

As you can see, at the point at which he felt he was too thin, his waist-to-weight ratio clearly started going up from what seems to have been its optimal at 34.5 in / 193 lbs. This is exactly what you would expect based on my optimal waist-to-weight ratio theory. You probably can’t tell that something was not right at that point, because he looked very fit.

But apparently he felt that something was not entirely right. And that is consistent with the idea that he had passed his optimal waist-to-weight ratio, and became too lean for his own good. Note that his waist decreased, and probably could go down even further, even though that was no longer optimal.