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Ariesen Ahubudu Accomplished wordsmith of our time



By K. A. I. Kalyanaratne
Consultant – Publications,
Postgraduate Institute of Management,
University of Sri Jayewardenepura.
Vice President, Hela Havula

Who would not be enthralled by the songs ‘Purthugeesi Kaaraya Rataval Allanna Sooraya’, ‘Ko Hathuro Ko Hathuro Ko Apage Hathuro’ and ’Dakuna Nagenahira Batahira Uthura da Eka Kodiye Sevane? Such verbal creations were only possible as he was a Wordsmith par Excellence.

Wordsmiths are men of letters who possess some unique qualities among which are performance of the specialty to the highest standards, with unmatchable skills, and also malleability to use words, to turnout creative and original pieces of work, conforming to the norms of the language. Their writings are eloquent due to the variety and richness of the vocabulary they are able to draw. Such specialists have acquired this skill through a life committed to experimenting with words, particularly their usage in different settings, and continuous researching the meanings of words. Ariesen Ahubudu made use of his wordsmithery through his exhaustive array of roles as writer, playwright, lyricist, poet, lexicographer and journalist.

Ariesen Ahubudu – His initial
guiding influence

Under the tutelage of that master wordsmith Kumaratunga Munidasa, Ariesen Ahubudu tasted the richness of the Sinhala language in all its varied facets. His ‘Kumaratungu Asura’ (Association with Kumaratunga Munidasa) spells out in sufficient detail Kumaratunga’s influence over the shaping of Ahubudu’s character, and how he became an accomplished wordsmith. Of course, his close association with such scholars like Jayantha Weerasekara, Jayamaha Vellala, Abiram Gamhewa and Raphael Tennekoon, had for sure, a marked impact on his future literary works.


Ahubudu – The Lexicographer

One of the main tasks of a wordsmith is to indulge in lexicographic pursuits. Words being the basic component of a language, a key mission of a wordsmith is to explore and inquire into the etymology of words; i.e. how they are formed and the rules followed in their formation. The clarity of a sentence is determined by correct word-usage and syntactic perfection. Ahubudu was on a crusade to zealously discover the etymology of the two major components of the Sinhala language, namely, nouns and verbs.


Two Epic research publications: ‘Lanka Gam Nam Vahara’ and ‘Arutha Nirutha’

Two of his publications that showed his etymological prowess are ‘Lanka Gam Nam Vahara’ and ‘Arutha Nirutha’. ‘Lanka Gam Nam Vahara’, a monograph of the place names of the island is an epic research on the origins of the island’s place names. Aelian de Silva, Chartered Engineer and Linguist, providing an introduction to this lexicon says

“The author has brought to bear his extensive knowledge, not only of the Sinhala language, but also of the long history of the Sinhala people. His knowledge of Sanskrit, Pali and English has placed him in good stead to handle this important task. Such attributes are very essential to intelligently collate the place names, to study the effect on them of linguistic norms, and to analyse them in the light of the historical background…”

Herein Ahubudu’s task had been a painstaking one. In many instances, where the correlation of words and their meanings have got blurred due to subsequent historical developments, he went to the extent of correlating their meanings with the topography and other features. This has been, indeed, a ‘very intelligent approach, and one that has shed much light’ on the origins of place names. The index to this lexicon provides a collection of 1730 place names, and this collection, for sure, would provide a base for any future undertakings of a similar nature. As exposed in this lexicon Bimtenne (Bintenne) is now known as Mahiyangana, which is the Pali translation. From it our Sandesa poets coined Miyungunu. Bimtenne and Miyungunu are now considered as two different places!

Commonalities adopted in the
coining of Place Names

A further step taken in his ‘research’ has been to expose the common grammatical norms/structures that had been followed by our forefathers in coining place names. This exercise itself elevates Ahubudu’s endeavour to much greater heights. This is a task which would have been accomplished by a higher seat of learning. In short it is a monumental task. He has brought these names under nine categories, depending on the rules of grammar followed in their formation, and under each category he cites examples.

For example kirillapane has been formed by the combination of kirilla (cork-tree) and Pane which means ‘a place’. Herein he cites several other place-names that have originated in this manner, namely, Marapane, Tumpane (Tumbapane), Walapane, and Ulapane.

His second lexicon is ‘Arutha Nirutha’, (Meaning and Etymology) an exposition revealing a new dimension in the art of formation and understanding the meanings of the terms in the Sinhala language. Ahubudu, in producing this lexicon worked on the primary premise that “Language used by the various people also helps us to deduce certain facts about their thoughts and aspirations and their knowledge of arts and crafts. That is because man and his language are always connected with words that reflect the environment in which man lived.” Preface to Arutha Nirutha). Herein he quotes Samual Johnson who said that “Language is the pedigree of the nation.” Thus, while Ahubudu brings to light the nation’s broad cultural environment by unearthing the hidden facets of the people, “examines the repetitive patterns relating to the formation of composite words in the language, and elicits the associated principles.

Given below is one of his etymological analyses:

Karawila (kariwila): (gourd = memordica charantia). This word derives its name taking into account its two main features. ‘kara’ is knot or cone. ‘wili’ is wrinkled or corrugated. Hence, Karawila is a combination of ‘kara’ and ‘wili’. (‘wili’ in the Sinhala Bodhi Wamsaya gives the meaning ‘wrinkled’ or ‘folded’).

A Wordsmith’s armoury of words sans grammar and idiomatic usage

If there is no grammar and idiomatic usage of a language only a jumble of words, utterly incapable of expressing one’s thoughts and feelings will remain. Ahubudu while enriching his diction over the years to ensure that he was rich and fully capable of expressing the nuances as well as the shades of meanings, mastered the grammar and idiomatic usage of the language. It is certain that Kumaratunga Munidasa’s two seminal works on Sinhala grammar, i.e., Vyakarana Vivaranaya and Kriya Vivaranaya, played a decisive role in strengthening Ahubudu’s acumen in the usage of Sinhala grammar. However, he had enriched the findings of these two researches, by creating a style of his own, with a fine blend of both classical and spoken idioms. This creative language, stood him in good stead, in his literary works, which included prose, verse as well as drama. J. E. Metcalfe in his ‘Improve Your English” says “Grammar is the basis of a language, the framework on which ideas are hung, and the loftiest imagery of thought can fall flat if ungrammatically expressed. … In all phases of human life there is a need, indeed a desire, for discipline, …The discipline of language is the thing called grammar.”

However, Ahubudu’s approach in disciplining Sinhala was quite different from that of many other publishers of grammar-books. What he did was to re-express grammatical rules in a simpler manner, targeting the young ones, especially school children. As he had been a successful teacher for long years, he knew the art of expressing even knotty grammatical rules in a manner that appeals to the young ones. ‘Detu Rukula’ is mainly aimed at students sitting the GCE ordinary level examination. Ahubudu had also judiciously decided to have a separate publication on ‘separation of words’ in Sinhala, titled, Sinhalaye Pada Beduma. (jointly authored with Liyanage Jinadasa). His decision had been primarily induced by the confusion the students faced in the separation of words in their writings.


Realization of Unique Characteristics
of the Sinhala Language

Every language has its own unique characteristics. This, in fact, is the personality of a language. It is this realization that helped Ahubudu to create literary works without debasing the grammar, language-structures as well as word-forms, as well as to create new words to express new ideas without making them feel as ‘foreign bodies’ or intrusions. The principle followed is to adopt Sinhala verb-roots in the coining of words; a principle that is being adopted by world languages like Russian, French, German and Japanese.

The following verse appended from the song ‘Dakuna – Nagenahira’ alone would be sufficient to show how clever Ahubudu had been not only in the coining of words but also in elucidating completely new meanings to the traditional meanings.

“Ipaduna apa hata lak polove – Suru viru kam upatin huruwe.

Dakvamu daskam lakkam viskam – Vismavamin mulu lo.”

This verse provides a set of new meanings to the traditional renderings provided by our lexicographers. Viskam = marvels; Lakkam = products of Lanka ; Vismavamin (coined as a single word from the two words vismaya and mavanava. Resultantly, in place of two words to express ‘creating wonders’ the Sinhala language has now been enriched by a new word ‘vismavayi’ to express ‘creating wonders’. This word could either be used as a verb by conjugating it as vismavayi, vismavati,vismavami, vismavamu… or as a noun which could be declined as vismavanna, vismavanno, vismavannee…

Malleability of Language

Malleability of language is the capability of stretching a language into different shapes, as demanded of by the occasion or the literary genre, similar to how William Shakespeare began to adapt the traditional styles to suit his own purposes. Any writer who is rich in his diction when uses a language constantly and consciously the ultimate result would be the development of a writing style of his own. In fact, his style of writing becomes unique to him. It is why the style of Gurulugomi (in the Amavatura) differs considerably from that of Dharmasena thero’s Saddharmarathnavaliya. Raphael Tennekoon’s writing style is a product of his own, which is full of satire and locally spun words, as seen in his ‘Gemi Bana’.

Ariesen Ahubudu, in his long years of engagement as a writer, had developed that quality of language-malleability, the end-product of which has been his unique style of writing. The base of his language is the richness of his diction which suits different occasions and different literary genres. A writer’s most prized possession is his or her own unique writing style, which is the single most valuable investment a writer can make. The rules are about what a writer does; style is about how the writer does it. 


Vocabulary and Style to suit
All Literary Genres

Unlike prose which is the most common form of writing, Ahubudu, armed with his rich vocabulary and styles discovered through long years of indulgence in versification, showed his prowess by producing works belonging to a host of literary genres: mainly poetry, lyrics and drama. Poetry is accepted as the most intense form of writing among a nation’s literary works.


Ahubudu’s Usage of Words
in Song-lyrics

His poetic and lyrical creations are so exhaustive, that it would not be possible in the space provided to comment on every one of them. The ‘Sakvithi Kith Resa’ (The Collective Fame of the Universal Monarch) compiled and edited by Shrinath Ganewatta, President, Hela Hawula, contains a near total collection of Ahubudu’s song-lyrics. Appended below are two stanzas from the song lyrics of ‘Ko Hathuro’, a song coming in the film ‘Sandesaya’. Ahubudu being blessed with an unboundedly rich vocabulary did not come across any impediment in expressing his sentiments. How wonderful are the new word-clusters he had created to express new meanings as well as to teach a lesson to budding lyricists as to how words could be selectively used to generate new tastes and experiences. Aren’t Kaduwata kaduwai heeyata heeyayi Papuwata papuwai new expressions to accentuate sentiments? A further secret is the choice of words, and that too, to fall in line with the tune.

“Ekakuth apa gen nesuwath hathuran
Un gen seeyak helapiyav
Kaduwata kaduwai heeyata heeyayi
Papuwata papuwai dee palayawu.”


The word combination ‘maruwatath maru wune” in this song expresses several meanings. It’s a literary device normally referred to as ‘pun’. The literary meaning of the combination of these words is that they surpassed even Mara in the act of killing. However, the hidden and subtle meaning Ahubudu wishes to convey is that ‘they brought death even to Mara (demon causing death and destruction to others.)

Ahubudu’s Poetic Compositions

Even if taken as a separate entity, his poetic compositions could be considered as an ‘industry’ of its own. His poetic compositions by way of its volume is incomparable. Two of his compositions that stand tall among the rest of his works are ‘Rasadahara’, an epic poem, and ‘Pareviya – Sama Asna’ a poem that is akin to our Sandesa poems of the Kotte period and the period immediately thereafter, as it contains all the ingredients of the compositions of that genre; the only deviation being that while all our Sandesa poems are happenings confined to the country, Pareviya is devoted to the loadable act of getting a pigeon to carry a message of peace to the three leading countries of China, Russia and the United States of America.

Here again Ahubudu performs miracles with his rich diction and creative-clustering of appropriate words. This is, indeed, a miracle that could only be performed by a high caliber wordsmith. Through his rich verbiage and masterly use of words he draws an enthralling imagery. The messenger ‘pareviya’ (pigeon) is made to realize the rejoicing atmosphere borne of the spring-time by painting a colourful picture, through such words as,

“Mal gomu gumu gumu ganvannee
Mee vadavale peni puravanne
Kurulu sarin kan pinavannee
Mulu lova uyanak karavannee”

Through this verse Ahubudu makes the spring-environment dance in ecstasy. These words also manifest how supple the Sinhala language is. In the same poem the pigeon while flying over Africa he hears the agitation of the Africans against their European rulers, as the African natives now remain a downtrodden community. See how ferociously the poet expresses their feelings:

“Sudda udda padd lav
Bellen alla holla lav
Atten yutten beri nam ovu
Ketten pollen sun kerelavu

Negita varo negita varo
Rotta ma negita varo”

This is a combination of short words and a unique metric composition.

The reader sees through the word-drama the native Africans getting their men to rally round to defeat their oppressors! Herein Ahubudu has become a verbal artist. It is said that an artist dreams a picture and then pictures his dream.

Kalanaruwan Sumandas, a critique, providing an introduction to Ahubudu’s ‘Rasadahara’ says that the services rendered by Ahubudu to amplify and broad-base Sinhala poetry could only be compared to what Ravindranath Tagore did for Vanga poetry. Every line of every verse in the ‘Rasa Dahara’ manifests the poet’s cleverly coined word-clusters and imagery.

Ahubudu’s Contribution to the Sinhala Language and Literature

A recent publication titled ‘Viritha ha Arutha’ jointly authored by Prof. Wimal Disanayake and Shrinath Ganewatta, President, Hela Havula, attempts at establishing the harmony between meter and meaning. Meaning is based on lyrical composition. A poem is a piece of writing in which the words are chosen for their beauty and sound to produce an intensely imaginative interpretation of the subject. Based on this definition Ahubudu as a wordsmith, through his wondrous lyrical compositions has, for certain, stolen the hearts of the reader.

Cited below is an instance Ahubudu became a word-artist through his pen-brush to command a river to flow for the service of humanity. The poet while challenging the river to empty its waters to the sea, without helping the mankind, also indirectly challenges anyone to make a lyrical composition expressing the same sentiments, within the same or similar metric composition, to this effect!


“Emba ganga
Navatinu navatinu navatinu navatinu gangave.

Kanda kapav
Gal peralavu
Veli bandiv
Gamana bindiv


Conclusion – A Cursory Treatment

Ariesen Ahubudu’s life-long commitment delving deep into the origins of Sinhala words, unearthing the grammatical bases of our place names, rendering a yeoman service by reproducing rules of grammar to the younger generation, setting examples by way of showing how the language could be used malleably to express innate, inner and deep thoughts and sentiments, and making Sinhala both a lovable and lively medium that could be moulded to suit all occasions, demand a deeper analysis and research. Ariesen Ahubudu is a living embodiment of executing what he had found and preached, for the furtherance of the Sinhala language and literature. In this committed attempt he hailed through example that the Sinhala verse as a medium of expression is equal to such attempts that have been made by any other world language. Herein, his indirect message is “a nation which is incapable of poetry is incapable of any kind of literature except the cleverness of a decadence”. It is, therefore, apt to conclude this short essay with a quotation of Goethe (considered as the greatest German literary figure of the modern era), as it fits in well with the tasks and the mission Ariesen Ahubudu fulfilled during the tenure of his life.

“Knowing is not enough;
We must apply.
Willing is not enough;
We must do.”

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Sat Mag

Health benefits of veganism



That a vegan diet helps in reducing, and even removing diabetes and heart disease, is fairly well known. While generally higher in carbs, vegan diets are up to 2.4 times more effective at improving blood sugar management in people with diabetes. Vegan diets are also more effective at reducing total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, compared to omnivorous diets

But what effect does it have on other problems of the human body.

In a study done by C. M. Clinton et al. in 2015, 40 people with osteoarthritis followed either a whole-food, plant-based vegan diet, or their regular omnivorous diet for six weeks. The vegan group reported greater improvements in symptoms, energy levels, vitality, and physical functioning, compared to the regular diet group.

Since I have had rheumatoid arthritis for the last 20 years, I was particularly interested in this study done by R. Peltonen et al printed in the British Journal of Rheumatology, 1997. This study took 43 people with rheumatoid arthritis. Participants consumed either a raw, vegan diet rich in lactobacilli, or their habitual omnivorous diet for one month. Participants in the vegan group also experienced significant improvements in disease symptoms, such as swollen and tender joints, much less pain, joint swelling, and morning stiffness, than those continuing with their existing diet. A return to their omnivorous diet, after the study was over, again aggravated their symptoms.

A raw vegan diet is actually the answer to almost everything. But it is the most difficult thing to do. When I binge on rice and curries over several weeks, I give myself two days of just “green juice”- a mixture of whatever green vegetables/leaves we have in the kitchen, a few neem and coriander leaves, ginger, tomato, haldi, celery, beetroot, and a fruit, four times a day. This brings me back to good health immediately and makes me lose weight! In fact, every study done, on the effects of a vegan diet on weight loss, shows it to be far more effective than any other diet. I tried a vegan diet during the Covid lockdown and lost 11 kg in three months – without feeling hungry at all. In fact, now I eat only once a day and my feeling of fullness could be due to the higher intake of dietary fibre which can help people feel full. But it could also be because studies show that a vegan meal reduces the hunger hormone, ghrelin, less than a meat-containing meal, in healthy participants.

What effect does a vegan diet have on the brain? Scientists Medawar, Huhn, Villringer and Witte, reviewed 32 studies done on the effects of plant-based diets on cognition, and printed the results in Translational Psychiatry.

This is what they write, “We found robust evidence for beneficial effects of plant-based diets versus conventional diets on weight status, energy metabolism and systemic inflammation in healthy participants, obese and type-2 diabetes patients. Considering neurological or psychiatric diseases and brain functions, the systematic review yielded in six clinical trials of diverse clinical groups, i.e. migraine, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. Here, mild to moderate improvement, e.g. measured by antibody levels, symptom improvement or pain frequency, was reported in five out of six studies, sometimes accompanied by weight loss”

The most important thing they found was that the body’s inflammation was much less in plant-based eaters. “The reason could be due to the abundance of anti-inflammatory molecules in plants and/or their avoidance of pro inflammatory animal-derived molecules.” This is important because inflammation leads to obesity, cardiovascular disease and a higher risk of dementia.

A study by Song et al. estimated that statistically replacing 3% of animal protein, especially from red meat or eggs, with plant protein would significantly improve mortality rates. “This beneficial effect might however not be explained by the protein source itself, but possibly by detrimental components found in meat/eggs and milk (e.g. heme-iron, opioid-peptides, nitrosamines, antibiotics, dioxins).”

In a study done by Winston Craig on the “Health effects of vegan diets”, printed in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009, he writes :

 “A vegan diet appears to be useful for increasing the intake of protective nutrients and phytochemicals and for minimizing the intake of dietary factors implicated in several chronic diseases.” In a recent report by World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization (WHO/FAO), different plant food groups were rated with respect to their ability to influence chronic disease reduction. Cancer risk reduction, associated with a high intake of fruit and vegetables, was assessed as probable/ possible risk of heart disease reduction as convincing, and lower risk of osteoporosis was assessed as probable.

Data from the Adventist Health Study showed that non vegetarians had a substantially increased risk of both colorectal and prostate cancer than did vegetarians. A vegetarian diet provides a variety of cancer-protective dietary factors. In addition, obesity is a significant factor, increasing the risk of cancer. Because the mean BMI of vegans is considerably lower than that of non-vegetarians, it may be an important protective factor for lowering cancer risk.

Fruit and vegetables are described as protective against cancer of the lung, mouth, oesophagus, and stomach, and to a lesser degree at some other sites, whereas the regular use of legumes provides a measure of protection against stomach and prostate cancer. In addition, fibre, vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals in the diet, are shown to exhibit protection against various cancers, whereas allium vegetables provide protection against stomach cancer, and garlic against colorectal cancer. Foods rich in lycopene, such as tomatoes, are known to protect against prostate cancer.

Red meat and processed meat consumption are consistently associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Those with the highest intake of red meat had elevated risks, ranging from 20% to 60%, of oesophageal, liver, colorectal, and lung cancers than did those who ate the least. The use of eggs was recently shown to be associated with a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. Data suggest that legume intake is also associated with a moderate reduction in the risk of prostate cancer. Consumption of isoflavone-containing soy products during childhood, and adolescence, protects women against the risk of breast cancer later in life, whereas a high childhood dairy intake has been associated with an elevated risk of colorectal cancer in adulthood. Data from the Adventist Health Study showed that consumption of soy milk by vegetarians protected them against prostate cancer, whereas in other studies the use of dairy was associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Bone health depends on more than just protein and calcium intakes. Research has shown that bone health is also influenced by nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin K, potassium, and magnesium, and by foods such as soy and fruit and vegetables. Vegan diets do well in providing a number of those important substances. Results from 2 large cohort studies support an association between vitamin K intake and the risk of hip fracture. In the Nurses’ Health Study, middle-aged women consuming the most vitamin K, green leafy vegetables, had a 45% less risk of hip fracture. In the Framingham Heart Study, elderly men and women, who ate the largest amount of leafy vegetables, had a 65% decreased risk of hip fracture than did those who ate the least.”

Fruits and vegetables provide phytochemicals and vitamin C that boost immune function and prevent certain types of cancer. A meta-analysis on the effect of a plant-based diet concludes a beneficial effect on heart disease, cancer, overweight, body composition, glucose tolerance, digestion and mental health. You have only one body. Why don’t you take care of it ?

( To join the animal welfare

movement contact,



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Sat Mag

Sugar is the villain, not fat



By Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha

After the Second World War, with increasing affluence, the consumption of fat, sugar and fast foods increased notably, and concurrently the incidence of coronary heart disease stroke and metabolic syndrome (blood pressure, diabetes and obesity), in the U.S and Europe. It is reported that fast food outlets in the U.S doubled from 1972 to 1999 whereas obesity jumped by 113% and currently remains at 18.5%! Worldwide, obesity has tripled since 1975 and is now 9% whereas childhood obesity is even higher, being 10.9%, having increased more than tenfold across the world over the past four decades! Obesity is now a serious worldwide malady, especially of young ones for which diet is key, sugar being the main culprit!

However, since the 1950s the blame on heart disease and strokes has been laid squarely on saturated fat (SFA) consumption and elevation of blood serum cholesterol (BSC), and in the early 1970s the lipid hypothesis came into being and was globally accepted. It states that SFA consumption increases serum lipids and BSC which clogs arteries leading to heart attacks and strokes. Of the three types of cholesterol, HDL, LDL and VLDL the latter two, also called the bad cholesterol are believed to clog arteries via the formation of plaques inside blood vessels whereas HDL, the so called good cholesterol, scavenges the excess serum cholesterol and transports it back to the liver. The lipid hypothesis was based on the exhaustive research findings; but despite substantial evidence contradicting the findings, the medical authorities of the U.S, supported by the American Heart Association, stood by its decision. It was reported then that in the U.S, the people feared saturated fat more than ghosts!

However, despite substantial reduction in the consumption of fat and cholesterol, over the last five decades, the incidence of heart disease hardly decreased.

Overwhelming evidence

contradicting the saturated

fat- heart disease hypothesis

A major study relating to the lipid hypothesis was the Framingham study, a longitudinal cohort study, a type of epidemiological study, that followed a group of individuals over time to determine the natural history of coronary heart disease and strokes. However, the study failed to demonstrate the expected relationship of SFA and BSC. Interestingly, William P. Castele, M D, the Director of the Study, writing an editorial in the journal ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’ in July 1992 states that “in Framingham, Massachusetts, the more saturated fat one ate, the more calories one ate, lower the persons BSC, …. they weighed the least and were the most physically active”

Similarly, the Framingham Ischemic stroke study reported in the article titled ‘Inverse association of dietary fat with development of ischemic stroke in men’ published in the Journal of American Medical Association, by Gilman, M.W et al (1997), the authors reported an inverse association of dietary fat with the development of ischemic stroke in men; and the lowest incidence of strokes was with the highest saturated fat consumers. The duration of the study was 20 years and included 832 men.

A much publicised study by the anti-SFA lobby was the Seven Countries study of Ancel Keys, considered the leader of the ‘diet-heart hypothesis. He claimed establishing a correlation between SFA consumption and CHD . His demeanour was most confident and convincing, and many nutritionist of the day believed him and fell in line. However, this study was also subjected to a critical evaluation by a famous biometrician of the period, Wood W D P. In a publication in Statistician in 1981, he questioned how Ancel Keys selected the seven countries out of the 21 OECD countries. He pointed out that, statistically, there were 116,280 ways of selecting seven samples out of 21, and fewer than 10% of the samples gave a correlation coefficient equal to or more than 0.84, and his correlation varied from +0.9 to – 0.9 !

Then in 1990, a famous cardiologist at the time, Sir Walter Willet writing an eeditorial in the American Journal of Public Health’stated that ‘even though the focus of dietary recommendation is usually a reduction of saturated fat intake, no relation between saturated fat intake and risk of coronary heart disease was observed in the most informative prospective study to date’.


A landmark happening of the epoch was the diametrically opposite stand taken by Paul Dudley White, M.D, famous cardiologist in the 1970 s to support Keys from what he did in 1956! He was the President then of the American Heart Association and later cardiologist of President Eisenhower. On invitation to a television programme to support the SFA- CHD in hypothesis in 1956, he said: “See here, I began my practice as a cardiologist in 1921, and I never saw an MI (myocardial infarction) patient until 1928. Back in the MI-free days before 1920, the fats were butter and lard, and I think that we would all benefit from the kind of diet that we had at a time when no one had ever heard the word corn oil” In 1961, Eisenhower suffered a heart attack and Keys diet heart hypothesis was the belief of the day. Eisenhower too was convinced by it; and apparently Dudley White changed his thinking through conviction or otherwise!

In regard to association of SFA and CHD then, the following conclusions can be drawn:

1. International epidemiology is flawed by confounding factors and selection biases;

2. Within countries, epidemiology gives little support for diet and heart disease;

3. Risk factors have largely been established by epidemiological studies, and only provide evidence of associations not of cause and effect;

4. Trends in CHD mortality not consistent with changes in amount and type of fat in the diet;

5. Less than 50% of CHD risk is accounted by known risk factors; and

no research has proved high BSC or High SFA intakes cause CHD

Villain remains at large

Concurrently with the evolution of the lipid hypothesis, Professor John Yudkin, the highly reputed British Physiologist claimed that sugar was a hazard to public health. In fact, reviewing the Ancel Keys’ data relating to the lipid hypothesis, he was astounded by the correlation of heart disease not with fat consumption but sugar. His research established that sugar processed in the liver is converted to fat before entering the blood stream. Ancel Keys was intensely aware of Yudkin’s research but called it ‘mountain of nonsense’, and accused of producing ‘propaganda’ in support of the meat and dairy industry. Sadly, the mild character Yudkin, did not positively respond to Keys. He was also vulnerable to attack by the British Sugar Bureau which dismissed his claims as ‘emotional assertions’!

Although Keys had shown a correlation between saturated fat and heart disease, he failed to exclude the possibility that the disease could also be caused by something else; but his Italian partner in the Seven Country Study Allesandro Menotti, re-analyzing the data showed that sugar was the food that correlated the most with heart disease deaths, and not saturated fat! It was too late as in most countries saturated fat hypothesis was already the official position!

John Yudkin retired from his post at Queens Elizabeth College in 1971 to write his book ‘Pure, White and Deadly’ which the current day nutritionists consider a masterpiece. The College, however, reneged on a promise for him to continue to use the facilities, as it had hired a fully committed supporter of the fat hypothesis to replace him, the man who built the nutrition department of the College from scratch!

Villain convicted

There is now overwhelming evidence that excessive sugar, in fact fructose, consumption in the key cause of the metabolic syndrome: hypertension, diabetes, obesity and heart disease, Alzeimer’s disease and cancer. Sucrose breaks down in the liver into 50% each of fructose and glucose.

In the US for example, the per capita sugar consumption has doubled in the last 50 years from 32kg to 63kg, and that is why despite the majority opting for a low fat diet with the advent of the lipid hypothesis, CHD rate increased. The global consumption of sugar is 23 kg per capita per year whereas, that of Sri Lanka and India, for example, are 23 and 19. The highest sugar consumer is UAE at an unbelievable 214 kg per capita per year!

Robert Lustig, M.D, a pediatric endocrinologist and a leading campaigner against excessive sugar consumption claims that fructose is a poison! Much of it is consumed via high fructose corn syrup, which is a major component in many of the sugary drinks such as coke; and 12.1% of the daily caloric intake of an adult American is via fructose. He states that hepatic fructose metabolism leads to visceral adiposity (abdominal fat accumulation) leading to all manifestations of the metabolic syndrome. Thirty percent of the fructose is said to be converted to very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) which block the blood vessels through synthesis of plaques. The LDL cholesterol, he claims is not as bad as we think.

Lustig in his much quoted 90 minute lecture titled Sugar: the bitter truth, uncompromisingly claims that sugar is the main cause of the global obesity syndrome. He argues that governments catering to the sugar mafia have overlooked the facts. It is sad that the world overlooked John Yudkin’s warning for half a century with catastrophic consequences! The American Heart Association now recommends only 9 teaspoonfuls of sugar per capita per day as against the average US consumption of 26!

In conclusion, whilst sugar is the main culprit, saturated fat cannot probably be totally absolved. Sadly the global food industry cabal too should be blamed for overlooking the health warnings. They have been hell bent on fighting one another for grocery shop space rather than heeding public health: and it is up to the governments now to be more resolute in controlling the food quality from the health perspective.

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Sat Mag

Ranjith Rubasinghe’s journey into television (Part II)



By Uditha Devapriya

Continued from last Saturday

Never one to abandon his education, Ruba proceeded to obtain diplomas and qualifications in journalism from the University of Colombo (where he was taught by Edwin Ariyadasa), the Open University, and the Sri Lanka Press Council. How he balanced these pursuits with what one can only describe as a hectic, rigorous schedule is probably grist for another biography; suffice it to say that, among other important lessons, he learnt that “filmmaking is no nine-to-five business.” 20-hour shoots with short breaks were very much the norm then. “Basically, if you were planning to enter the industry, you had to be prepared to work on time, overtime, all the time. Shoddiness was never tolerated. Not once.”

But these are the same values that seem to be deteriorating in the industry today. That, Ruba tells me, is attributable to the race for popularity actors and directors are enmeshed in. “They are only interested in what they can buy with what they earn. They are not interested, at least not as much as their forbearers were in my time, in sustaining the industry that fed them.” In other words, consumerism and advertising, which by no means were lacking on film and TV back in the day, have come to monopolise popular culture now.

Unfortunately for Ruba, this has a personal bearing on him also: in the early 2000s, he made the decision to jump from the assistant’s to the director’s chair.

His first television directorial venture, Ruwan Sakmana, came out in 2002. Helped by the late H. D. Premaratne and scripted by K. B. Herath, it was telecast on Swarnavahini, featuring the likes of Deepani Silva and Janak Premalal. Five years later, in 2007, his second TV venture, Mosam Rella, got a slot on Rupavahini; again scripted by Herath, it featured a stellar cast: Tony Ranasinghe, Daya Tennakoon, and Grace Ariyawimal all took part in it. Like Ruwan Sakmana, it was half morality tale, half thriller, and it ends, again as with his first serial, with redemption for the protagonist and comeuppance for the villain. Sumitra Peries liked both: “they are good,” she told me, “not only because they are technically proficient, but because, seeing them, you can discern the director’s love for storytelling.”

Rubasinghe’s latest television miniseries, Yathrakaya, has a frustratingly long history. Shot in every conceivable location, from Anuradhapura to Nuwara-Eliya, and spanning 30 episodes, Ruba spared no expense to instil authenticity to the narrative, “which is basically about a man who, thought dead, is caught up in an investigation.” I’m surprised to hear that it’s based on a series of incidents which took place “a long, long time back.” Indeed, the minute he heard of the story, he had collected almost every newspaper article on it.

I put to Ranjith that he must have taken some effort to scout for locations. He agrees. “We went almost everywhere to be honest, from Anuradhapura to Dankotuwa to Negombo and to Gampaha and Nuwara-Eliya. We even shot a character’s death from a train accident ‘live’, taking advantage of a slow moving train coming from the Awariwatta Station in Katunayake. The driver didn’t know what we were doing. We heard the train sounding its horn frantically, but we waited until the last minute.”


, as with his previous ventures, was written by K. B. Herath, and it starred, among a galaxy of other names, the late Tony Ranasinghe; apparently the crew were putting together the final cut when he passed away in 2015. Having edited and reedited it, Ruba lobbied for sponsors for the finished product; that he hasn’t received word from them even today is cause for concern, especially since Rupavahini granted a slot for the show. Frustrated as he is by the patronage lavished on “mega-series”, he is nevertheless still hopeful.

For me, however, this is tragic. It is especially tragic since, given Rubasinghe’s enthusiastic ramblings about his hopes and dreams, Yathrakaya appears to be unlike Ruwan Sakmana and Mosam Rella. This one isn’t just a morality tale cum thriller; it’s more an epic thriller in the vein of The Fugitive or No Country for Old Men. God knows we’re missing that kind of film or miniseries these days. To have come up with such a production a decade and a half ago is laudable, and to not have scored points with sponsors yet is regrettable. “I still have hope,” he wistfully repeats. But hope can last only for so long. Where will we get the serials we deserve on our TV screens, if we don’t pay attention to getting their directors the money?

Rubasinghe has made his case there. It is up to us to listen, and up to sponsors to act. Perhaps we should listen harder, and they should act faster. We’re missing out on a lot.


The writer can be reached at



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