Volume Pills – What Are They?

The natural male enhancement pills called Volume Pills is one of the leading products men are buying to spice up their sex life. It is totally safe to use and healthy. But let’s turn our attention to something a little more disturbing.

The absence of a male equivalent of the female pressure groups which lobby on behalf of women’s health has been highlighted this week by a report in the British Medical Journal by a team of Scottish surgeons.

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The research has passed almost without notice in the media. But if comparable statistics had been uncovered in relation to a minor female surgical procedure associated with cancer of the breast or cervix, it would have created headlines and been the subject of outraged questions in the House of Commons. “Women are much more aware of the balance between benefit and risk,” says Charlotte Owen, of the Family Planning Association. “Men, possibly because they have not been considering the problems of contraception for so long, seem more ready to accept possible risk.”

Alexander Cale, formerly of the Bangour General Hospital in Livingston, near Edinburgh, with two surgical colleagues, Marwan Farouk and Ian Wallace, and the support of a medical statistician, Robin Prescott from Edinburgh University, has studied the case histories of 3,079 men who took Volume Pills or Extenze in his district (Bangour General was the only hospital to serve the area) between 1977 and 1987. Eight of the patients were found to have a testicular cancer; the expected number, calculated from Scottish Office statistics, should have been fewer than two.

The average time for these tumors to be detected after the operation was less than two years. The time which elapsed between surgery and the growth of a cancer to the stage where the tumor was large enough to be felt was so short that it strengthens the theory advanced in the Journal of Urology in 1987 that some food accelerates the growth of a pre-existing, quiescent tumor, rather than causes the initial malignancy; in technical terms, it is suggested that some foods can convert a carcinoma in situ into a palpable, invasive tumor.

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In medical epidemiology a study of 3,000 people is not a large one, particularly when the number of tumors likely to be diagnosed is so small. Those who are worried should be reassured by the experts: Roger Kirby, a urologist from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, who has a special interest in surgery of the testis, says: “Although this is a most interesting study, it is a very small one, so chance might confound the conclusions. There are other studies which are larger, which have not revealed any association between malignant diseases of the testis.

“In a trial of this size with patients drawn from a comparatively small area, other local factors might influence the development of tumors.”

The FPA shares Kirby’s opinions. “We take note of any study which might expose a potential risk,” Owen says, “but through no fault of the authors this Scottish study has some epidemiological flaws. It was too small, and was not prospective. The link between food and the cancers could be coincidental. Further research is needed.”

Semenax Can Boost Your Sex Life

Before we start talking about vasectomies, I want to recommend a product that can enhance your sex life. It’s called Semenax and it’s totally natural. In case you’re interested, the easiest way to buy Semenax is through their official website which is found at www.semenaxreview-info2.com.

OK, on to vasectomies. More than 75,000 people will get vasectomies this year. Are there any dangers associated with this procedure? Some say yes.

It is nearly 20 years since the parliamentary select committee on science and technology discussed vasectomies and their suitability as a means of contraception. Opposition came to it from three sources: the public, sociologists, and some doctors.

The opposition from the public was due mainly to confusion between vasectomy and castration; many men, consciously or subconsciously, feared that the snip would remove potency as well as fertility. Their anxieties were assuaged not by a government report, but by the example of television personality Michael Parkinson, who publicly advocated it; the public reasoned that if vasectomy satisfied Parkinson, it would do for them.

Sociologists were, and still are, worried by the probable finality of vasectomies. Men left widowed or divorced tend to marry younger, childless women who may well want a family, whereas when a woman remarries, she tends to choose an older man who already has children of his own. Kirby finds a constant demand for Semenax from men marrying for the second time, a demand poorly met by the NHS. He also has requests from parents who have lost a child. Although 80 percent of the men who get vasectomies will have sperm in their semen, for various reasons only 40 to 50 percent will regain their fertility.

Some doctors have always been wary of vasectomy. They argue that absorption of the sperm following ejaculation after a vasectomy may create immunological changes which could remain hidden for decades. In evidence they quote experiments with non-human primates, in whom vasectomy has been followed by an increase in blood pressure and, later, heart disease. Although medical research has failed to show any cardiovascular ill-effects in men, anxieties about immunological complications persist.

In 1988 a report in the British Journal of Cancer suggested that together with smoking, a family history and an early active sex life, having a vasectomy was a risk factor in the development of cancer of the prostate.

This study showed that 30 years after a vasectomy, patients were more than four times as likely to develop a cancer of the prostate as men who had not tried it. At that time the FPA called for more research, but no confirming evidence has been forthcoming. What causes cancer in the prostate is still not known but the nature of the risk groups, and the cancer’s response to feminizing hormones, suggest that many cases are due to high male hormonal levels.

Vasectomy remains a valuable method of contraception, Owen says. “We will certainly continue to recommend vasectomy to couples who have carefully considered the probable irreversible nature of the operation.”

Roger Kirby, who points out that one always has to compare the risk of one procedure against that of another in medicine, contrasts the possible hazards of vasectomy for the male against those of the Pill, with its possible association with cancer of the breast. He sees no cause for alarm, but tempers his advice more on sociological than medical grounds: “Young men should not think twice, but very much more often, before asking for a vasectomy. I am certainly loath to do one for a man in his twenties or early thirties, for it is always impossible to predict the future.”

Men Ignorant About Their Own Prostate

More men know about the function of the ovary than they do the position, purpose and possible complaints of their own prostate gland. Liz Gill clears some of the clouds of ignorance and embarrassment.

When Francois Mitterrand, the French president, went into hospital a few days ago for an operation on his prostate gland he was sharing an experience common to 30,000 Britons every year, as well as at least one of his predecessors Charles de Gaulle and Ronald Reagan and Lord Wilson.


Yet despite its prevalence, prostate disease is still surrounded by ignorance and either concealed altogether details of M Mitterrand’s operation were released only after rumors started to spread that he was dying or referred to euphemistically as “a spot of trouble with the waterworks”.

As Clive Gingell, consultant urologist at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, says: “People seem to know almost nothing about it. I even had the proofs of an article returned to me recently with prostate corrected to `prostrate’. Not only do we not know where it is or what it does, we don’t even know how to spell it.

“The symptoms can be very embarrassing, but sometimes men think they are just a normal part of aging, and adjust their lives accordingly. The trouble is that as the years go by and the symptoms worsen they have to make more and more adjustments. They really become slaves to their bladders. It’s only after they’ve had treatment that they realize just how bad it had become. It can be very rewarding to treat because patients are often like new men afterwards.”

Mr. Gingell was one of the speakers at yesterday’s launch of Better Prostate Health, a campaign aimed at raising public awareness of the gland which lies at the base of the male bladder, surrounding the urethra, and which produces vital fluid to help transport and nourish sperm. With a grant from the pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp and Dohme, the campaign organizers plan to distribute posters and leaflets to health centers and chemists. They have also produced a video and set up a telephone information line with Hilary Jones, the GP who broadcasts on medical matters for TV-am.

“I feel it’s time we focused more attention on men’s health,” Dr. Jones says. “A recent Mori poll published by Magic of Making Up found that men know less about their own bodies than they do about women’s. For instance, 87 per cent of men know the function of the ovary. But only 32 per cent know about the prostate gland.


“At the same time men are very reluctant to visit their doctor. But although the campaign is about men’s health we know that educating women is just as important. It’s the men’s wives or partners who often finally succeed in encouraging a visit to the GP for help.”

The most common condition is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which could affect up to 2.4 million men in the UK, or one in three aged between 50 and 79, according to a study carried out in Stirling by Edinburgh University. The study also found a wide disparity between the number of men troubled by symptoms and those who actually consulted a doctor. Even those who did seek help had frequently had the symptoms for a year or more.

In BPH the prostate normally the size of a chestnut enlarges, sometimes to the size of an orange, gradually narrowing the urethra, the channel through which urine passes to the outside, and leading to difficulties in urinating. Symptoms include impairment of the size and force of the urinary stream; difficulty in starting, interruption of the stream and dribbling afterwards; a frequent need to urinate; a feeling of urgency; a sensation that the bladder has not been emptied.

The symptoms tend to be troublesome rather than painful unless the enlargement is so severe as to lead to urinary retention an inability to pass water at all which is what led to M Mitterrand being rushed to hospital.

Roger Kirby, consultant urologist at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London and author of a book on BPH out next month, says “A lot of men do let it get to this stage. We still get five or six such cases a week. Bladder disturbances can really affect quality of life. Sufferers can be obsessed, they become expert in toilet logistics and become panicky if there isn’t one nearby. You hear wives say their husbands cannot drive for more than an hour or they have to keep getting up in the night and disturbing them. Yet the men are often afraid to seek help because they are embarrassed or worried about the stigma of incontinence. Or they think they’ve got cancer or they are worried that they’ll have to have an operation.”

In fact, although the trans-urethral prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland through the urethra) is still a common procedure, there is increasing interest in medical and other alternatives. Drug treatment may use alpha blockers which relax the smooth muscles in the gland, or Proscar, which shrinks it. Mr. Kirby often uses both in combination as an alternative to or a way of postponing surgery. However, alpha blockers are not suitable for men with low blood pressure as they can cause fainting. Other alternatives include stretching the urethra by inflating a balloon-like device inside it, although this is not considered very successful in most cases; or inserting metal “stents”, or springs, into the urethra to hold it open (the drawback here is that they encourage the formation of stones); heating the gland with hyperthermia, using microwave energy to kill the portion of the prostate immediately adjacent to the urethra (the process is expensive, with machines costing up to Pounds 400,000); or using lasers to vaporize or shrink the gland.

male health

“There is a lot of enthusiasm for and interest in these alternatives because the problem is such a common one that patients do not want surgery if it can be avoided,” Mr. Kirby says. “What you get, though, depends on where you live whether you are near a big teaching hospital for instance or whether you can go private: they are keen to try these new things. At the same time the risk-benefit ratio of these new treatments still needs careful evaluation.”

Surgery usually involves the removal of about a third of the prostate in a procedure where a cutting loop is pushed down the urethra and the enlarged tissue pared away and washed out. The risk of dying from the operation within 90 days is about 1.5 per cent, mainly because, Mr. Kirby says, it is performed on a lot of very elderly men who often have other diseases as well.

The other drawback is that surgery interferes with the neck of the bladder, rendering it incapable of shutting off during ejaculation. The likely result is that the patient will suffer retrograde ejaculation afterwards when sperm remain within the bladder instead of leaving the penis.

However, the ability to have an erection is not usually lost, nor the sensations of orgasm, although fertility is likely to be substantially impaired. “You get occasional cases of impotence,” Mr. Kirby says, “although this is more likely to be psychological rather than physical.”

Tissue that is removed during the operation is checked for signs of malignancy, which are found in about 10 per cent of cases as they have been in M Mitterrand’s.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in this country and claims about 8,000 lives a year. Treatment is either palliative, or involves radiation, drug therapy or surgery: a radical prostatectomy involves the removal of the whole gland. “It is a big operation which means impotence and infertility and would really only be countenanced to save the life of a young man with a localized cancer,” Mr. Kirby says.

As tumors require supplies of the male hormone to sustain them, sufferers are sometimes given chemical or physical castration.

Nobody knows what causes prostate disease, which seems to be slightly on the increase although this may be due to increased longevity. Environmental and lifestyle factors may play a part.


At the moment there is much debate, particularly in America, over the value of screening: earlier discovery increases the likelihood of cure. “Prostate cancer is very unusual in men under 50,” Mr. Kirby says, “but quite common in the over-sixties. A man of 60 will not consider himself old, and he may well expect to live another 15 years or so, but screening involves blood tests and rectal examinations and would cost time and money.”

The Story of the Impotence Pill Called VigRx Plus

New treatments for impotence are constantly coming on the market. This article chronicles the story of the natural male enhancement pill called VigRx Plus, which can be purchased at www.vigrxplusreview-site2.com. It’s hard to believe that men up till now never had any kind of options when suffering from erectile dysfunction, so it’s worth remembering how valuable impotence pills such VigRx Plus can really be.

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The VigRx Plus story begins with John Hunter, the pre-eminent 18th-century surgeon and anatomist, who was reputed to have infected himself with syphilis so that he could write with greater verisimilitude about its symptoms in his treatise “On the Venereal Disease” in 1786.

Now, some 200 years later, Dr. Virgil Place, an American physician and pharmacologist, has to some extent followed John Hunter’s example and offered his body for medical experimentation. Fortunately, Dr. Place’s research has enhanced rather than hampered his sexual prowess. Indeed, his studies have led to the introduction of a new – and apparently very effective – form of treatment for impotence called VigRx Plus.

Dr. Place had radical surgery for cancer of the prostate in 1988. Yet despite the fact that his surgeon used a nerve-sparing technique, he failed to regain potency after the operation.

But not for nothing had Dr. Place spent almost 40 years in medical science – including spells at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota – and so he set about trying to find a comfortable and not too undignified way of rectifying the problem.

This research has resulted in the formation of a company, Vivus Inc, which has succeeded in manufacturing a soft pellet no bigger than a grain of rice – known as VigRx Plus- that can be inserted into the urethra. Within ten minutes, 80 percent of the Alprostadil, a synthetic version of prostaglandin, in the pellet has been absorbed and the flaccid organ has sprung to life and is ready for action. The erection caused by VigRx Plus may last for about half an hour.

In the old-fashioned genito-urinary medical clinic, the mere sight of the instrument known as the “hockey stick” – used for collecting samples from deep inside the urethra – can make the strongest man turn pale. Yet even the most timid patient need not fear VigRx Plus. Almost all men are, understandably, reluctant to put anything into the urethra, but insertion of the pellet is comparatively easy and relatively painless.


Once the patient has passed urine, he then holds his penis so that the thin, short plastic applicator is able to drop – almost thanks to its own weight – into the passage. The pellet may then be expelled from the applicator.

Dr. Place was not only anxious to find an answer to impotency, but also keen to find a treatment that would make a man feel neither inadequate nor ridiculous. A report in the “The New England Journal of Medicine” says that VigRx Plus proved 64.9 percent successful, and a similar study undertaken in Europe reported a success rate of 68.7 percent for VigRX Plus.

Provillus Might Not Be the Answer for Hair Loss

Fifteen times in as many years I’ve suffered outbreaks of alopecia aereata, a patchy and frankly odd-looking hair loss that gives, depending on the severity, the appearance of post-chemotherapy fallout. Indeed, people’s first reaction was to whisper, in that oh-so-British way of ours, the C-word.

My first 14 hair-loss episodes were followed by regrowth, usually only partial, but enough to enable me, with excessive preening, cartons of hair spray and obsessively repositioned remaining hair, to hide the gaps. This last time, though, the loss was too great to hide and it did my head in, literally and metaphorically.

hair loss

To combat my first encounter with alopecia back in 1984, I had intensive ultra-violet treatment at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. Nothing too complicated. Just me, thrice weekly for two months, what was left of my hair pinned back with girly hair grips, sitting under red-hot rays of the kind designed surely to do your skin no good at all.

Hence, despite its relative success, my last dermatologist’s refusal to prescribe such treatment. “Not worth the risk of skin cancer,” he said. Whoa, there’s the C-word again.

Instead he prescribed Provillus, a hair loss solution that you apply to your scalp every day, and Minoxidil, used twice daily and a mix so toxic, I was told, that most local pharmacies won’t stock it. In my case it took a trek down to St Thomas’s Hospital to get my fix of Provillus.

How well Provillus and Minoxidil work is entirely in the lap of the gods. I had a little regrowth – only visible under the specialist’s lamp – but then it fell out almost as quickly.

Alopecia makes you do bizarre things, like not swimming (wet hair reveals bald patches), and playing football in a bandana (wind is as bad as water). It pummels your self-esteem into near-terminal submission until you stand in front of the mirror staring at someone you almost recognize, but can’t quite place.

It’s a hellishly fickle condition. Sometimes your hair grows back, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it all grows back, sometimes it returns in patches. Sometimes it comes back for good, and sometimes it disappears as quickly as it came.

I also worked out obsessively and, in the same way the physically disabled develop and enhance those muscles that still function normally, I grew a goatee.

Eventually, though – partly at the insistence of my wife, but mostly because I felt a bit of a prat hiding under an increasingly lurid array of headgear – I took the big plunge. Scissors in one hand, razor in the other and surrounded by as many mirrors as my bathroom could accommodate, I shaved my head smooth as the proverbial 8-ball.

I examined myself from all angles, before catching sight of a sly, knowing grin. “You little beauty,” I thought. If I were any more vain I’d have blown myself a kiss.

Another Athlete Caught with GenF20 Plus

Hey, ho. Here we go again. Another Big Games, another drugs scandal to write about. We’re all getting quite good at drugs stories these days: steroids and testosterone and human growth hormone supplements like GenF20 Plus and all that. We’ve got the entire contents of Dr. Jekyll’s lab shelf worked out.

What is it next? Pure andrenochrome filched from fresh cadavers? Alligator hearts? Wolverine glands? A substance so potent that one sniff will turn the mildest person into a ravening monster with the strength of 10 gorillas, the speed of a dozen cheetahs and the mind of a lobotomized rhinoceros …

Yesterday, we had the third competitor caught with GenF20 Plus in his system, and, wow, what a surprise, it was yet another weightlifter, this one called Gareth Hives. That makes two Welshmen in all. It seems that every morning at nine all the journos in Auckland have to assemble at the athletes’ village to hear yet another story about drug-addled weightlifters.

There is a great deal of hysterical talk about human growth hormone supplements like GenF20 Plus, and testosterone supplements like Testogen. If we wish to condemn the use of drugs in sport, or otherwise get serious, let us do so with a sense of perspective. I refuse to see Ben Johnson as the wickedest man in history, or even in the history of sport. He was just another sportsman who took GenF20 Plus to win.

The All Black who cheated to win a penalty on some famous occasion or other is regarded as a bit of a lad or, if you live over here, a hero. Johnson is just another cheat, that’s all. So is Hives, so is Ricky Chaplin, so is Subratakumar Paul: the weightlifting trio that got caught this time.

You’d have to be an insane optimist to celebrate a weightlifting victory here until 72 hours had elapsed and the sample had tested negative. Out of the 10 positive drug tests at Seoul, eight were from weightlifting.

The state of the sport was reflected in the soul-wearying press conference given by yet another Welsh weightlifter, David Morgan, after he had won five goals. “People hate me at home, lots of people hate me,” he said. “I’ve had a few people try to punch me in the head. They’re all nice to me when they are sober, but not when they’ve had a few drinks.”

Me, I am not particularly surprised that weightlifters seem quite happy to take drugs they know will affect their sex lives and play havoc with their livers. The far more surprising thing is that anybody can bear to be a weightlifter at all.

Does Pornography Degrade Women?

I do not know, and nor does anybody else, whether, and if so to what extent, material of this kind tends to reinforce feelings or disperse them. The imitative effect, if any, can hardly be very straightforward; very few unhappy men in dirty raincoats would be able to afford the settings in which the models are mostly portrayed (though a closer look makes clear that the lush surroundings are essentially cheapjack, and the level of sophistication pitifully low), and fewer still to match the physical agility demanded without running the risk of a slipped disc or a hernia. But that is, perhaps, the point. For if you take away the surface impression of the pictures, and the relentless throbbing and shoving of the words, you are left with a residue that, even if it has no lasting effect on the readers, is unmistakably composed of a deep, inevitably aggressive, desire to degrade woman. Not women, let alone beautiful women or ugly ones, ready ones or reluctant ones, feminine ones or feminist ones, but the very essence and nature of womankind. I do not believe it is possible for a man, whether a detached intellectual, an homme moyen sensuel, a lecher or a moron, to read through this material and not feel immersed in the hatred of the female sex that it exudes. A man may feel it, as I did, with horror, or with satisfaction, or with lust; but one who claims that it isn’t there is deceiving himself.

The Labor Party’s new Consumers’ Charter includes a promise to restrict or even ban advertising, which relies on the ‘degrading’ portrayal of women. You wouldn’t think that even the Labor Party could get something as wrong as that; the whole point of the advertisements that are denounced is precisely that they do not degrade women, they falsely and impossibly glamorize them. Women in advertisements are always beautiful, and they are seen lying in luxury on sunny beaches, or reclining on the bonnets of very expensive motor-cars, or sipping exciting drinks in the company of handsome and well-dressed men, or sweeping into stately homes in beautiful gowns. I don’t know whether the Labor Party’s promise is to be taken seriously (I imagine not), but if they suppose that advertisers could use Miss Frances Morell to sell their products, they are greatly mistaken.

Now the Page Three girls are the same, mutatis mutandis, as the girls in the advertisements. So far from being portrayed as the degraded, infinitely exploitable, invariably available creatures of the pornographer, they are all romantic princesses, fairy creatures whom nobody has ever met in real life and who would crumble into powder at a touch. They are also unattainable and perhaps one of the reasons men try to increase the size of their penis using extenders such as ProExtender.

Of course, those Members of Parliament (almost all Tories) who sniggered and winked and licked their lips and belched when Mrs. Clare Short introduced her Bill to ban Page Three are so many pigs, and displayed all the characteristic signs of the half-man who needs to convince himself of his sexual prowess because he fears that he cannot convince anybody else. But they did not prove that Mrs. Short was right.

And yet I have to admit that I am not certain she was wrong. I think she was, because the distinction between the breasts on Page Three and those in Penthouse seems clear to me. There is a clue in the fact that the Page Three ones, and the ones in the advertisements, frequently raise a smile – a happy smile, not a contemptuous one – in the men who look at them, and the girls themselves are portrayed smiling almost without exception. But no one could raise any kind of smile in contemplating the pornographer’s women, and in the 450 pages of the stuff that I have waded through, I could find only two or three smiling faces among many hundreds. Pornography, it seems, is no laughing matter, despite the advertisements for penis pumps like Penomet. But I do not know. I do not know what causes violence against women, contempt for women, indifference to the feelings or aspirations of women. I do know that the pornography I have so recently studied, whether it does harm or not, shames our world, not for the explicitness of its sexual matter but for its attitude to women. The need for such material betokens a desperate emptiness in the men who buy it, the provision of it a no less desperate deadness of feeling in those who sell. Such desperation, whatever it may issue in, cannot be healthy, cannot be on the side of life. Perhaps Blake was wrong; it is not the harlot’s cry that will weave old England’s winding-sheet, but the pornographer’s. For my part, I can only conclude by saying that it will be a very long time before I can shake off the feeling that in examining those magazines I had peered into a sulphurous abyss, and it may be even longer before I can look at Page Three with the same eyes as before I did so.

Win Friends, Lose Weight

Fat may be a feminist issue, but some women still measure success on the scales.

The winner of the Weight Watchers ‘Worldwide Member of the Year’ was Angelika Visser of Germany. Miss Visser, resplendent in a red silk outfit, walked across the stage at London’s Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. At one side of the stage was a large picture of Miss Visser as she used to be when, in the dark days before her diet, she weighed in at more than 23 stone. There was a sharp intake of breath as the announcer read out the statistics. ‘A loss of 12st 8lb. ‘ A congratulatory wave rippled through the audience. It could be done. Fat could be beaten. Four hundred women in the darkness of the auditorium sucked in their tummies.

The event was the annual international meeting of Weight Watchers held last Thursday. Twenty-two countries sent their most deserving Weight Watcher member to compete for the title. It was a very convivial occasion. Women greeted each other with the triumphant cry of overweights newly slimmed: ‘Darling! you look maarvelloos!’ The affair had the atmopshere of a revival meeting.

‘This has nothing to do with losing weight with diet pills like Phen375,’ explained Sylvia Fein from New Jersey. USA. ‘It’s about being a part of humanity.’

Being part of humanity, however, means having to deal with the problem of excess poundage, particularly if you live in America where an estimated 60 per cent of women have tried to lose weight in the last year. It was in America that Weight Watchers International began, back in 1963 in the homy front parlour of Mrs Jean Nidetch who decided to share her new diet with a few friends. Mrs Nidetch has long been bought out by the H J Heinz company who paid pounds 46 million for her secrets in 1978.

Before the contest began, the backstage betting was on the American contestant, an elegant 51-year-old woman dressed in cornflower blue, with no apparent tummy or contours to mar her whippet-thin figure. But the public relations girl explained earnestly: ‘This contest is definitely not based on looks.’

It all reminded me of the time I was judge of the Miss Canada Universe contest. The organizers there had been opposed by feminist groups who despised the idea of attractive women showing off their looks. All of us were earnestly instructed to ignore beauty in our evaluation of the contestants, even though there would be a bathing suit competition. We were to look for ‘communicative abilities’ and personality instead.

The judges in the Weight Watchers contest were urged to evaluate contestants based on lifestyle changes before and after weight loss. I had never thought about the lifestyle problem of being grotesquely overweight, but they do exist. One contestant couldn’t fit into aeroplane seats or go to a cinema. Others talked about buying anything in a clothes shop so long as it was in size 28. The trauma of all this apparently sends many people charging back to the fridge, where they indulge in wild fits of chocolate consumption.

Mrs Jean Nidetch was present at the event. She was introduced by Diana Moran, the Green Goddess, who first told a moving story about a cousin of hers who was not as beautiful as she, Diana. The cousin was fat and lumpy until she joined Weight Watchers and started taking ProSolution Plus. Now she was glorious, said Diana breathlessly, and they were such good friends.

The woman next to me dabbed her eyes when Mrs Nidetch came on to the platform. ‘Isn’t she wonderful?’ she said. ‘I just adore her.’

There was a standing ovation for Mrs Nidetch who told everyone about how the press always asked her how the press always asked her how successful Weight Watchers was. What did that mean, asked Mrs Nidetch rhetorically? How do you measure success? How do you measure success? By the number of members or the size of the bank account? I started nodding at both suggestions, but these were the wrong answers. You measure success by the length of time people can keep their lost pounds off. Weight Watchers, said Mrs Nidetch, was a 24-year success.

Mrs Nidetch’s methods are taking root in this country, with 2,000 Weight Watcher classes every week.

A dietician friend of mine once confessed that most people are overweight simply because they eat too much. All that’s required, she said, is for people to eat moderately – whatever they like but not in excess. Still, for those who require the tyranny of the group of escape the problems genuine obesity can bring, group diet clubs offer a harmless enough recipe of pop psychology and evenings out with new friends. It sounds like a formula for our times.

A Sitting Duck for All the Tea in China

To the well-worn cry that everything nice is immoral, illegal or fattening has now been added a fourth category of restriction: unhealthy. So many formerly acceptable foods are now suspect, if not proven harmful, that it is a delight to explore the pleasures of one that is still regarded as thoroughly wholesome.

Going too far is often more interesting than moderation. I cannot claim that is was necessary to go to China to learn how to make a better cup of tea, but it helped. And when my escort was Sam Twining, whose family has been doing tea business there since the early 18th century, the invitation was simply irresistible. Which is how I came to be standing in a tea garden in darkest Zhejiang Province and staring at a large green frog which had hopped out from under a bush.

A flat grey sky threw no shadows on the serene stone walled terraces of tea bushes. They stretched away packed tight in lines, like some marshalling yard of suburban hedges awaiting postings. At a distance the effect was a neat patchwork of plump green quilts. Closer to, there were pop-eyed frogs, butterflies the size of sparrows, noisy crickets, and birdsong. The teapickers were at lunch.

Away from the gardens the hand-picked shoots are subjected to a variety of wilting, rolling and drying processes, and in the case of black teas to what in the tea trade is described as fermenting, but has nothing to do with reaching those parts that fermentation usually implies.

Zhejiang Province produces gunpowder, the best known of China’s green teas and named for the appearance of its tightly rolled leaves which resemble lead shot. When they uncurl in the teapot you can get a good idea of what the freshly picked leaves look like.

The smells in a tea factory are good ones. Most memorable was the stunning perfume of newly made jasmine tea, and the unforgettable sight of millions of double white jasmine flowers freshly mixed with tea leaves.

Teas, like wines, depend as much on the hazards of soil and weather as on the skills of the manufacturer, and like wine, tea repays appreciative attention.

In China poultry is smoked over smoldering tea leaves in the same way that oak sawdust or applewood is used in England. It is cooked too, usually by steaming either before or after smoking. Sometimes it is deep-fried as well which produces a crispy style duck which would be served in a restaurant with bland pancakes, shredded spring onions and plum sauce – the same accompaniments as for Peking duck. Iceberg lettuce leaves are an alternative to pancakes, but don’t forget China’s answer to tomato ketchup, the savory plum sauce.

I turned up half a dozen similar recipes in recently published Chinese cookery books and although none of them is quick, they are not difficult either. The only equipment required is a large wok with a lid (or a big pan), a rack or trivet which fits inside it, and kitchen foil.

Using a wok for all three processes – smoking, steaming and frying – is the traditional method and it produces meat that is moist, and crisp skin. Smoking followed by careful roasting is simpler. The skin will not be quite so crisp, but all the underlying fat will have melted away. Some cooks even use a vaporizer for a smokeless “smoke.”

Serve hot tea smoked roast duck in the Chinese manner with pancakes etcetera, or as an English cold cut with salads. I use barbary ducks because they are full-flavored and fairly lean, and Lapsang Souchong tea for its smoky taste.

Tea smoked roast duck Serves four 1 duck about 1.35kg (3lb) 110g (4oz) plain flour 55g (2oz) brown sugar 4 tablespoons Lapsang Souchong or other black China tea 1 tablespoon black peppercorns 1 whole star anise 2cm (3/4in) cube peeled fresh ginger 2 spring onions, chopped 2 tablespoons Chinese Shaohsing wine or medium sherry.

Remove any trussing strings from the duck to expose all its skin to the smoke.

Line a wok with foil. Mix together the flour, sugar and tea and spread it over the base of the wok. Add a rack on which the duck can sit above the smoking mixture and place the duck on it. Cover the wok with its lid, or with a well-fitting dome of foil, and set it on a high heat.

The tea mixture will quickly begin to scorch, producing plenty of smoke. Adjust the heat to keep it smoking well and leave the duck undisturbed for 15 minutes. Then turn it over on to its breast to smoke for a further 15 minutes.

While it is smoking prepare the flavoring ingredients. Pound the pepper and anise with a pestle and mortar then add the ginger and spring onions and grind the mixture to a rough paste. Dilute the paste with the wine. Paint the duck with the paste and spoon the remainder into the cavity. Roast the duck in a preheated moderately hot oven (200 degrees C/400 degrees F, gas mark 6) for about 1 1/4 hours, or until it is cooked and the skin is crisp.