Exercise 1

A. Listen to four people talking about alternative medicine. Answer these questions for each speaker.

Did they have any treatment?

Yes     What treatment did they have?

           What for?

           Was it successful?

No      Why not?

B. Listen again. Which speaker…?

___ 1   doesn’t believe in alternative medicine of any kind

___ 2   was told by a doctor to use alternative medicine

___ 3   had been trying traditional medicine, but it hadn’t worked

___4   doesn’t really believe in alternative medicine, but was willing to try it

___ 5   thinks alternative medicine only works because of the placebo effect

___ 6   felt better with fewer than the recommended number of treatments

___ 7   might consider repeating the treatment as a last resort

___ 8   was having one alternative treatment when he / she was given another type of alternative medicine



Speaker 1   chiropractic; for a slipped disc; successful

Speaker 2   osteopathy and acupuncture; bad back, bad cold, and painful sinuses; successful

Speaker 3   no; she doesn’t believe in it

Speaker 4   acupuncture; inflamed tendon in foot; unsuccessful


1   Speaker 3

2   Speaker 1

3   Speaker 4

4   Speaker 2

5   Speaker 3

6   Speaker 1

7   Speaker 4

8   Speaker 2



I’m not sure if I’ve ever had experience with what you would call alternative medicine, I’ve used chiropractic, but not everyone considers chiropractic to be alternative. I had been doing some sort of extreme exercises in the gym and I got a slipped disc and the pain was excruciating, and although my boyfriend at the time was an orthopaedic surgeon he told me to see a chiropractor, ha, and I must say it worked really well. The only problem was that although I felt fine after, I think, three or four visits, the chiropractor wanted me to keep coming back, and so I ended up having to make an excuse for not going back, I said that I was leaving the country basically, but it worked!


I’m very skeptical, you know, about alternative medicine, all sorts of alternative medicine, in fact I don’t believe in them, except I guess osteopathy, if you can call that “alternative” – but the only time I’ve had something that you would really call alternative medicine was when I went to an osteopath because I had a bad back, and at the same time as having a bad back, I had this really awful cold, terrible pain in my sinuses, and I could hardly breathe and the osteopath said, “I can give you a sort of acupuncture, but it’s with very small needles that they put in your ear,” and I was lying face down having the osteopath deal with my back, and I could hardly breathe, so I said “OK,” so he put these tiny needles in my ear, and I’ve got to admit that the next day I was almost completely better – I felt so good, and it convinced me really that– in the sense that it definitely wasn’t a placebo effect because I didn’t believe in it, but I really felt much, much better.


I don’t use alternative medicine, because I think it’s a waste of time and it doesn’t work. If alternative medicine worked, it wouldn’t be alternative, it would be actual conventional medicine. The reason that it is alternative is because we don’t have any solid proof that it works. You only ever hear anecdotal evidence that it’s worked for individual people, that’s not real evidence, and I would say to anyone who’s heard stories like that, look up “the placebo effect.” There’s no evidence that alternative medicine works beyond the placebo effect, and so as far as I’m concerned it’s a waste of time and money, and at its worst it could even be dangerous or harmful if people are using it in place of real medicine that might cure their very real illness.


So, having had endless pain as a result of this inflamed tendon in my foot, and after loads of antibiotics which seemed to take a very long time to have any effect, I decided to try acupuncture. It just so happened that the doctor who was doing it was somebody that I’d known from the doctors’ group where I used to go to, so I went to him, and it was an extremely pleasant experience, but unfortunately it didn’t do any good at all, however if I was very ill or something and had tried like all sorts of normal cures I think I’d give it a try again.

Exercise 2

A. Look at these infographics. What medical advice do you think each image represents?

B. Listen to the radio program and check your ideas.

C. Listen again and make notes for each piece of advice about what we should really be doing.



A   You should eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

 You should drink eight glasses of water a day.

 You should eat 2,000 calories a day (if you are a woman).

D   You should sleep eight hours a night.

 You should exercise 30 minutes five times a week.

 Children shouldn’t spend more than two hours a day looking at screens (computers, TV etc.).


A   We should really be eating more than five servings a day of fruit and vegetables, and possibly ten.

 We should really be drinking whatever we want when we feel thirsty.

 The number of calories we should really be eating depends on our weight, height, the amount of activity we do, and our metabolism. Some people need more than 2,000 calories a day, some less.

 We should really be sleeping about eight hours a night.

 Exercise for 30 minutes five times a week and more if you spend most of the day sitting down.

 We should just decide what is best for our children and for ourselves.


Think about your average day as a series of choices. You get up, you choose what to eat, you decide whether to go for a run, whether or not to have a second helping of dessert. You’re constantly making decisions based on what you want versus what you think is good for you. But how do you know what’s good for you? Nowadays we are bombarded with research and statistics telling us what we should or shouldn’t do – but are the numbers really right?

First of all, the classic advice to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Does it really make a difference? Well, it’s a lot more useful than just saying “eat a varied diet,” because how do we know what that really means? But five servings may not be enough. A World Health Organization study found that in the countries with the lowest levels of heart disease, the average person was eating around ten servings a day of fruit and veggies. So although five will do you good, more might be better. In the US, by the way, only one in ten adults eat enough fruit and vegetables each day.

From food to water. The claim that we should drink eight glasses of water a day is widely attributed to a report by the American National Academy of Sciences, which estimated that we needed 2.5 liters of fluid a day, which is approximately eight glasses. But, and this is the key thing, the fluid doesn’t need to be water. For example, we already take in three-quarters of a liter of fluid from the food we eat each day. The eight glasses of water idea might seem fairly harmless, but it has created a belief that we don’t drink enough water. In fact the best advice is, if you’re thirsty, have a drink – water, tea, juice, whatever you feel like. If not, you’re probably fine.

Now the tricky question of how much we should eat – or, more specifically, how many calories a day we should consume. The standard guidelines are 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men. But this is a simplification. The actual amount you need depends on your weight and height, the amount of activity you do, and your metabolism – some people can eat like a horse and not put on weight. Every individual is different, and needs to balance their own food intake against their own calorie needs.

What about sleep? Well, for everyone who tells you they can get by on four hours a night, studies show that most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep to function well. If you regularly average less than seven hours, then you have an increased risk of depression, diabetes, and heart problems. But sleeping for more than nine hours a night has also been associated with an increase in health issues. So eight hours a night is probably about right, though a bit more or a bit less shouldn’t do you any harm.

On to exercise. You’ve probably heard that the recommended amount of exercise is a minimum of half an hour’s moderate activity five times a week. But even if you’re doing the recommended amount, it may not be enough if you then drive to work and sit at a computer all day. A review by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said that an average of 30 minutes daily may not prevent unhealthy weight gain in many people. The message? Do the recommended amount of moderate activity, but try to do more if you can, especially if you spend a lot of the day sitting down.

And finally, we all know how addicted our kids are to anything with a screen. But given the amount of panic there is about children watching TV, playing computer games or going online, there is surprisingly little research into the long-term effects of screen time. So, should we limit screen time to protect our children’s physical or emotional health? It’s a difficult question to answer. Obviously sitting down for too long is as bad for children as it is for adults, but a large-scale UK study of 11,000 children showed no relationship between screen time and emotional or social problems, or an inability to concentrate or make friends. So while the internet may be changing how our brains work, the idea of limiting screen time to two hours a day isn’t supported by research. Instead we should make up our own minds about what’s best for our children – and for ourselves.

Exercise 3

A. Listen to a radio program about American teenager, Ashlyn Blocker. What are the symptoms of her medical condition and what is its cause?

B. Listen again and mark the sentences T (true) or F (false).

1   Ashlyn’s condition isn’t life-threatening.

2   She sometimes hurts herself when she is making a meal.

3   When she was born, her behavior wasn’t normal.

4   Doctors diagnosed her condition when she was around two years old.

5   The staff at her school weren’t very co-operative.

6   When she was a child, her parents managed to prevent her from hurting herself.

7   Publicity has helped her cause immensely.

8   Her condition has been caused by an alteration in more than one of her genes.



Ashlyn doesn’t feel pain. Her condition is a genetic disorder.


1 F   2 T   3 T   4 T   5 F   6 F   7 T   8 F


Host   Hello and welcome to the program. Today, we’re looking at extraordinary medical conditions, and our first story concerns a young American girl named Ashlyn Blocker. Janice, tell us about Ashlyn.

Janice   Ashlyn Blocker has an extremely rare condition which means that she doesn’t feel pain. Now, you might think that this would be a good thing, but in fact, it can result in serious injury – or even death. To give you an example, Ashlyn can’t feel extreme temperatures. So, if she drops a spoon in boiling water while she’s cooking, she simply puts her hand in the water to retrieve the spoon. She doesn’t realize that she has burned herself until she sees that her fingers are red and swollen. This kind of thing happens to her almost daily.

Host   I see the problem. So, when did Ashlyn’s parents notice that something wasn’t quite right?

Janice   Well, um, as a baby, Ashlyn hardly ever cried, which is most unusual, and then when she was six months old, she didn’t seem to notice when she had a serious cut on her eye. At first, the specialist thought that she had no feeling in the eye, and so he sent her to the hospital for tests. Eighteen months later, the doctors gave Ashlyn’s parents their diagnosis: she had “congenital insensitivity to pain.”

Host   Wow. What did her parents do then?

Janice   Well, they didn’t know what to do, so they just did their best to keep Ashlyn safe. They got rid of all their furniture with sharp corners and installed the softest carpet they could find. At school, teachers watched her all the time. One person was assigned to make sure that she was OK on the playground, and the nurse always checked her over before she went back to class. But even then, accidents happened, uh, like the time she broke her ankle and ran around on it for two days before her parents noticed.

Host   Oh, how awful! Janice, how common is Ashlyn’s condition?

Janice   When it was first diagnosed, the doctors said that Ashlyn was the only person they had ever encountered who had it. Because the condition was so rare, there was very little on the internet. So, Ashlyn’s parents decided to go public to see if they could find anyone else like their daughter. First, they contacted their local newspaper, and then the story was published nationally. Their story appeared in magazines, uh, on the, on the internet, and Ashlyn was interviewed on TV. All the media attention finally put the family in touch with scientists who could help them understand what was happening to Ashlyn.

Host   What is it that causes the condition?

Janice   It’s a genetic disorder. Usually when we touch something hot or sharp, the nerves on the skin send electric signals to the brain, causing us to react. But in Ashlyn’s case, there is a mutation in one of her genes. This alteration prevents communication between the nerves and the brain and so the electric signals are never produced.

Host   Ashlyn sounds like a remarkable young woman, Janice; thank you for sharing her story with us. And now let’s move on to someone else with an extraordinary medical condition …

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