Chopsticks and Arthritis

NOTES FROM THE EDITORS

Chopsticks and Arthritis Larry Dossey, MD

A recent study conducted by American researchers has hit a nerve in China. A team led by Dr. David Hunter of Boston University School of Medicine examined around 2,500 elderly residents of Beijing, China for evidence of hand arthritis that could be attributed to using chopsticks.

The research team concluded that chopstick users indeed showed signs of arthritis more often than non-users.

Some in China were outraged. One Beijing physician said he has never seen a single case of arthritis that could be attributed to chopsticks.

From the Chinese point of view, the study smacked of cultural arrogance: Western physicians implying that something is wrong with the eating habits of 1.3 billion Chinese.

The researchers denied, of course, that they meant any condescension or arrogance, but the Chinese didn't see it that way. In any case, the controversy is a reminder that other countries often see us Americans as culturally insensitive.

Should we be emphasizing the perils of chopsticks, a 5,000-year-old custom that evolved to pick up healthy "small" foods like noodles, legumes, and fish?

Are we better off using knives, forks and spoons to cut, spear, and shovel in "big" foods like steak, pizza, and fries?

Even if the study is accurate, the Chinese are surely better off with a little osteoarthritis in one hand than with atherosclerosis in their arteries.

Reference 1. Arthritis study jabs chopsticks. Associated Press release (no author cited). Santa Fe New Mexican. December 3, 2003: A-1, A-4.

2. Hunter DJ, Zhang Y, Nevitt MC, Xu L, et al. Chopstick arthropathy: The Beijing Osteoarthritis Study. Accessed December 7, 2003 at www.rheumatology.org/press/am2003/pra19asp. Presentation 458 at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, Orlando, FL, October 2003.

Source: AT Newsletter, January 2004

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