Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 4th 2017 Contents A18 commentary
guardian.co.tt Tuesday, April 4, 2017
THE RUN AROUND AND BONE HEALTH
Osteoporosis, or weak,
porous bones among
the elderly due to
loss of calcium, and reflux of
stomach contents in newborn
babies, are two diseases now
in vogue, especially among the
They are being diagnosed so
often that it must seem if your
grandmother doesn't have osteo-
porosis and your baby reflux, you
are just not living properly.
Bone is living tissue that is al-
ways in flux. Bones are constantly
being broken down and, at the
same time, built up.
The state of your bones depends
to a great extent on which one of
In healthy individuals who get
enough calcium, vitamin D and
physical activity, bone production
exceeds bone destruction up to
about age 30. After that, destruc-
tion typically exceeds production.
Preventing osteoporosis de-
pends on two things: making the
strongest, densest bones possible
during the first 30 years of life and
limiting the amount of bone loss
Apart from calcium and vitamin
D, there are two things in child-
hood that make bones strong.
One is if you are lucky enough to
have been breastfed and the other
is physical activity.
Children who were breastfed
and run around outside in the sun
have strong bones .
After age 30, despite the talk
about taking calcium and med-
ication, there is little you can do
to strengthen your bones. It's all
downhill although you can slow
down the process.
Calcium is interesting. Because
bone is full of calcium, it's easy to
believe all you have to do is take
calcium and presto, your bones
become strong again. It's not so
The body is a bit more compli-
cated than that.
Everyone knows milk is full
of calcium, so everyone as-
sumes,with the help of some
judicious advertising, that if you
drink milk, either as a child or as
an adult, you will strengthen your
Unfortunately, drinking milk
does not translate into strong
bones. People who drink the
highest quantities of milk actually
have the highest cases of bone
fractures and osteoporosis. No
one knows why. Strangely, re-
search in this key area is just not
Whilst getting enough calcium
from childhood through adult-
hood helps build bones up and
then helps slow the loss of bone
as we age, it is not clear, though,
that we need as much calcium as
is generally recommended, and
it's also not clear that dairy prod-
ucts are really the best source of
In the USA, really massive
amounts of calcium, mainly
coming from milk (three glasses a
day!), are recommended for adults
despite there being little evidence
that so much calcium prevents
Other countries recommend
much lower doses.
The British for example have
established calcium requirements
for adults that are almost 25 per
cent lower than the Americans.
The Brits do tend to be a bit
more independent of business
interests than their cousins across
In countries such as India, Ja-
pan, and Peru where average daily
calcium intake is less than a third
of the US recommendation for
adults, the incidence of bone frac-
tures is low.
It's worth repeating that bone
fractures from osteoporosis are
most common in those countries
with a high intake of milk.
One reason for this may be
that the calcium in milk is not
absorbed as readily as calcium in
other foods such as fish, green
leafy vegetables, such as lettuce
and water cress, nuts and seeds
as well as in dried beans and leg-
Physical activity is important
for keeping bones strong. It must
be physical activity that puts
some strain or stress on bones
such as walking, dancing, jogging,
weightlifting, stair-climbing and
Not swimming though. Water
supports the bones.
Getting enough Vitamin D is
just as important to bone health as
calcium. Your skin makes Vitamin
D from sunlight.
It's hardly necessary for any
West Indian to take extra Vitamin
D, unless you are locked up. It's
people, especially if they are dark-
skinned, who live above or below
40 degrees latitude, where the sun
is weak, who need to take vitamin
Other vitamins are important.
One is Vitamin K, found mainly
in green, leafy vegetables. Think
callaloo or bhagi.
Low levels of circulating vita-
min K are linked with low bone
density. Supplementation with
vitamin K shows improvements
in biochemical measures of bone
Vitamin A, usually associated
with good vision, is important
too, but in a certain form. Too
much preformed vitamin A (also
known as retinol) can promote
fractures. Foods such as sweet po-
tato, carrots and spinach have the
best form of vitamin A precursor,
beta-carotene, which does not
increase your fracture risk.
An important limiting factor in
the development of strong bones
is the amount of protein that one
eats. The body needs protein to
build healthy bones but again in
As your body digests protein,
it releases acids into the blood-
stream, which the body neutralis-
es by drawing calcium from the
bones, thus weakening them. So
big hamburger or steak eaters have
weaker bones than vegetarians.
Finally the ubiquitous and
harmful sweet drink. In addition
to its link with obesity and dia-
betes, people who regularly drink
sweet drinks have lower bone
mineral density than those who
Sweet drinks have high levels
of phosphorous, which decreases
the absorption of calcium from
the gut into the blood stream and
contribute to weaker bones.
It's the first 30 years that are
important though. If children are
not allowed to run around outside
in the sun they will suffer from
osteoporosis as adults. It's as sim-
ple as that.
THE MOVING TRAIN
Last week the Prime Min-
ister visited Houston and
met with BP, Shell and
others. Following the meeting
his office announced that BP
was planning to invest US$5
billion in T&T in the next five
This is nothing new, comes as no
surprise and is the continuation of
an investment trend that started
In fact, in the last five years (2012
to 2016), BP invested US$5.5 billion
BP's plans to invest US$5 billion
in the next five years is therefore
not earth-shattering news to an-
yone who remotely follows the
energy sector in T&T.
It was also surprising to see that
there were some who believed that
the PM went to Houston, waved
a magic wand and BP decided to
invest US$5 billion here. The inter-
national oil and gas business does
not operate like that.
BP's heightened level of capital
expenditure (capex) in this country
started in 2012.
In that year, they conducted the
first phase of the Ocean Bottom
Cable (OBC) seismic survey and
drilled the Savonette 4 well which
survived sabotage and went on to
find one trillion cubic feet of nat-
BP went from having no rigs
drilling in 2010 to having three rigs
drilling in 2015.
In 2017 the company is drilling
two exploration wells (Savannah
and Macadamia) after an 11-year
hiatus from exploration drilling.
It's also preparing for first gas from
Juniper and TROC. These things
don't fall from the sky.
In October 2013 when he vis-
ited T&T, the BP Chief Executive
Officer Bob Dudley remarked that
because of changes to the fiscal
regime we would see increased
investments in exploration and
This means that the BP invest-
ment train was well in motion.
What caused the change in BP's
view of T&T? Firstly, we under-
stood that the fiscal regime had to
become more competitive to at-
tract investment and we delivered
on the reform by way of legislation.
Secondly, we understood that the
relationship between BP and the
Government was the most impor-
tant relationship in the country.
When I was Minister, it was a rela-
tionship based on mutual respect
and collaboration. One can only
assume that this has continued
and no one has since "bouffed up"
BP. One can only hope.
With regard to the fiscal regime
that governs our oil and gas busi-
ness, in the last 20 months, the
Rowley administration has made
It follows therefore that in-
vestment decisions that are being
made are done so in relation to the
fiscal regime that was in place in
September 2015. In Government
talk is cheap and action is a pre-
We also heard that the NGC/
BP negotiations for a new contract
had advanced and were nearing
finalisation. This new contract is
needed for the sanction by BP of
the Angelin project. This should
have all been completed in late
2016. It's now April 2017 and this
We also heard nothing about
whether the BP Angelin platform
would be constructed in La Brea.
If it turns out that BP decides to
construct this platform in the USA,
we should not be surprised.
On a personal level, I'd love to
see that platform built in La Brea
but one can understand if BP de-
cides to build it in Texas or Loui-
The just-concluded BP Juniper
project suffered no end of indus-
trial relations headaches, protests
The OWTU made no secret of
their involvement in these events.
The net result is the sacrifice of the
national interest for narrow sec-
The relationship between BP
and the Government is the most
important economic relationship
in the country. BP and the NGC
are the largest contributors to the
BP is the country's largest inves-
tor and the largest producer of nat-
ural gas. On the other hand, T&T is
important to BP as it accounts for
17 per cent of BP's global produc-
Both T&T and BP are locked in
a symbiotic dance. This is a rela-
tionship that has to be managed.
The BP investment train has
been moving at high speeds in T&T
since 2012. It's good to see it will
stay that way for years to come.
It is noteworthy too that the
Prime Minister was unaccompa-
nied by the public servants of the
Ministry of Energy and officers of
the relevant State companies.
Why weren't the senior public
servants of the Ministry of Energy
part of the delegation? Why wasn't
the NGC taken along?
The Prime Minster of Trini-
dad and Tobago ought not to be
discussing business such as the
forward drilling plan for EOG
Resources without the public
servants of the Ministry of Energy
being in the room.
And what of the NGC? Is busi-
ness being transacted on behalf of
the NGC by the Prime Minister?
If so what is the role of the Board
of the NGC? Is the Ministry of En-
ergy is being sidelined?
In all my international travels
to conduct the business of the
country, I was accompanied by
senior public servants, advisers
and officers of the relevant State
This trip has caused more ques-
tions than answers and the fact
that it coincided with the Shell
Houston Open golf tournament
generates even more speculation.
Kevin Ramnarine is a former Minister
of Energy of Trinidad and Tobago
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