Jan 032015
 

Wishing all friends and fans of You must be nuts! a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.

Talking of a healthy 2015, a couple of days ago, Chris Ham, Chief Executive of the UK-based King’s Fund, identified Three challenges and a big uncertainty for the NHS in 2015:

– preparing for a spending review after the UK General Election in May 2015;

– much closer integration of health and social care;

– ensuring that the NHS has the leadership in place to deliver the highest affordable standards of care; and

– which political parties will form the coalition UK Government after May 2015.

If you have watched the film, you will realise that the challenges (and the health of many in the UK) could be reduced even before the elections by addressing apparent ethical flaws and under-regulation in:

– the dietary advice published by the NHS;

– the treatment guidance given to NHS doctors (about which senior health professionals have already called for an independent investigation); and

– the allocation of public funding for medical research.

To help with the first of these, here is the list we compiled for the film of NHS web pages which continue to discourage people from eating saturated fat (in spite of the evidence that eating saturated fat has nothing to do with increased heart disease and that a low fat diet could cause dementia):

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/Fat.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/video/pages/fat-the-facts.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/Eat-less-saturated-fat.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/SouthAsianhealth/Pages/Fat.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/1124.aspx?categoryid=51

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Obesity/Pages/Introduction.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/03March/Pages/Saturated-fats-and-heart-disease-link-unproven.aspx

Meanwhile, the following NHS web pages are among those which advocate eating more carbohydrates (in spite of the evidence that a high carbohydrate diet increases the risk of dementia, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer):

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/starchy-foods.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/healthy-pregnancy-diet.aspx#close

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/eight-tips-healthy-eating.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/loseweight/pages/the-truth-about-carbs.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/Healthyeating.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/eatwell-plate.aspx

https://www.healthystart.nhs.uk/food-and-health-tips/healthy-eating-in-pregnancy/

If you know of other official UK websites offering similar dietary advice, please post them in the comments below so that we can add them to these lists.

You are welcome to use the lists, for example, to encourage the UK Health Secretary to take these pages offline for revision in line with the latest scientific research, as most of those commenting on the pages had recommended long ago. The 1950s low-fat dogma (and not scientific evidence) on which all of the above NHS web pages are based has been widely discredited.

Yesterday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron fired the starting gun for the General Election. All the major UK political parties are looking for ways to reduce the country’s budget deficit. Fixing the above web pages and the guidance given to doctors could save the NHS billions in drug and healthcare costs while easing the pressure on health professionals.

Could 2015 be the year our health stopped being harmed by the national dietary guidance and the drugs cocktail prescribed routinely to older people?

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government. – Thomas Jefferson (1809)

Dec 212014
 
Poster image for You must be nuts!

It has taken much longer to complete the film than we had intended when we published the 3-minute prequel on New Year’s Day 2014!

The prequel shows the puppets Alph and Chah-Lee in bed on a Saturday evening – the eve of the start of the film.

Now (at last!) everyone has the chance to see what Alph shows Chah-Lee ‘the next day’. After making a few technical adjustments following its unlisted test publication on Vimeo in November, the film is now on YouTube.

Many thanks to everyone for the very positive feedback so far. We have started to add closed captions to the film in English so that the film will be subtitled automatically in the 163 languages now supported by YouTube. If you want to help refine the subtitles in any language, please let us know via the comments to this post.

Even though it was unlisted on Vimeo, over 700 people have watched the film so far in 37 countries. Thanks particularly to Deborah Walker and the Natural Health Radio team for helping to promote the film to their listeners. Deborah interviewed Obhi about how he has been applying his research to treat his father’s dementia and about the film. You can catch up with the interview here.

If you are looking for more details about the treatment given to Obhi’s father, Obhi wrote a guest post on the HealthInsightUK blog about it in August. The film’s Twitter feed (@youmustbenuts) highlights the latest developments on dementia, and the food, drugs and chemicals which may cause it.

Jul 212014
 
The Trouble with Medical Journals by Dr Richard Smith
The Trouble with Medical Journals by Dr Richard Smith

The Trouble with Medical Journals by Dr Richard Smith

In recent posts, we have seen that Dr Stephanie Seneff, Senior Research Scientist at MIT, was unable to get her paper published about whether the low fat diet and statins could cause Alzheimer’s until she deleted all references to statins. We have also seen that the financial reliance of medical journals on pharmaceutical companies exposes them to a potential conflict of interest – as revealed by Dr Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, in his book The Trouble with Medical Journals.

On Saturday, Kailash Chand, the deputy chair of the British Medical Association, described the guidance from UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommending that doctors “offer atorvastatin 20 mg for the primary prevention of [cardiovascular disease] to people who have a 10% or greater 10‑year risk of developing [cardiovascular disease].” as “a victory for vested interests over evidence“. The consequence of the NICE guidance would be that “millions more” would be given statin drugs.

Back in February, Zoë Harcombe had identified the potential conflicts of interests of the members of the NICE panel. In June, a group of doctors and academics wrote an open letter to NICE and to the UK Health Secretary about their concerns about the latest NICE draft guidance on statins. The Department of Health thought it was up to NICE to manage any conflicts of interest and NICE saw no problems with conflicts of interest in the guidance.

No doubt it’s entirely coincidental that the patents for statin drugs were due to expire in 2013, when similar new guidance vastly expanding the number of candidates for statin drugs was issued by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. After all, as the graph below shows, by 2013 even though some 64 million prescriptions for statin drugs were issued by UK doctors, the cost to the NHS (and hence the revenue of pharmaceutical companies) had dropped to just £150 million, compared to the peak of £740 million in 2004.

Statin use and cost in England 2002-2013

A similar issue of conflicts of interest has emerged with the publication of draft guidance from NICE recommending free bariatric surgery for diabetes patients.

As Dr Malcom McKendrick found, the tool to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease recommends statins for extremely healthy men over 58 and extremely healthy women over 63. This morning, cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra pointed out that, in 2008, an analysis of published statin trials had identified an increased risk of cancer caused by statin drugs for certain populations.

“Close inspection of statin trials reveal the specific populations at risk for the development of incident cancer with statin treatment. These include the elderly and people with a history of breast or prostate cancer. Furthermore, statin-treated individuals undergoing immunotherapy for cancer may be at increased risk for worsening cancer.”

Even the patient information leaflet for Lipitor, the bestselling statin drug, suggests that it may not be suitable “if you are older than 70”.

Meanwhile, as revealed by investigative journalist Nina Teicholz in her excellent, bestselling book The Big Fat Surprise, the dietary advice recommending a low fat diet since 1961 has been based on faulty science. The book traces the disaster trail of evidence against saturated fat, which it summarises as follows: “the early trials condemning saturated fat were unsound; the epidemiological data showed no negative association; saturated fat’s effect on LDL-cholesterol (when properly measured in subfractions) is neutral; and a significant body of clinical trials over the past decade has demonstrated the absence of any negative effect of saturated fat on heart disease, obesity or diabetes. … It seems now that what sustains it is not so much science as generations of bias and habit … .”

The same appears to be true of the medical recommendations of statins, whose rationale is based on the same faulty hypothesis as the low fat diet. Should we, as Dr Seneff suggests, look forward to millions of people suffering disabilities through long-term statin use? Even before the latest NICE guidance, the OECD concluded in December that the UK had become the ‘statin capital of Europe‘.

Instead of spreading enthusiasm for mass bariatric surgery to deal with diabetes, perhaps NICE ought to read this paper in Nutrition advocating “Dietary Carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management“. That means recommending a low carbohydrate, high fat diet, which was also found to be the best for weight loss in one of the few clinical trials in this field. This is already the official dietary advice in Sweden.

More than ever before, public authorities offering medical and dietary guidance must be not only free of bias but also be seen to be free of bias. They must also base themselves on rigorous science, in full knowledge of any negative effects. At present, this does not seem to be the case. In particular, the data underpinning the NICE guidance is unavailable, due to an agreement with a manufacturer of statin drugs. A wider problem is that, according to Dr Ben Goldacre and All Trials, some 50% of trial results are never published.

In spite of the scientific evidence to the contrary, most official dietary advice continues to recommend avoiding saturated fats, pushing people towards genuinely unhealthy trans fats and their substitutes, and a high carbohydrate diet – all of which have negative effects on health. A similar approach for statins could turn out to be yet another “very large, human-scale, uncontrolled, unmonitored … experiment” on the entire population, with a similar negative, long-term impact on our health – particularly that of our older relatives. Some doctors even see a risk that people in Western nations are suffering from a culture of over-intervention and over-medication. But then, as we will see, statins are not the only medication prescribed routinely to older patients which have serious adverse effects, particularly on their brains.

May 182014
 
Justin Smith, producer/director of Statin Nation

In the ninth part of his interview for You must be nuts!, Justin Smith, the Producer/Director of the documentary Statin Nation, talks about the influence of pharmaceutical companies, the ‘trouble’ with medical journals, the impact of conflicts of interest on the information published about statins, and how both the medical community and the general public have insufficient information to judge whether or not the benefits of statins outweigh the risks.

He refers to the book The trouble with medical journals (2006) by Dr Richard Smith. Dr Smith worked for the British Medical Journal for 25 years (from 1979 to 2004) and was its editor for the last 13 years of this period. According to Wikipedia, in his book, ‘he contends [that] medical journals have become “creatures of the drug industry,” rife with fraudulent research and packed with articles ghost written by pharmaceutical companies. He has also written about the limitations and problems of the peer review process.’

An edited version of the book’s introduction was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in March 2006.

Mar 152014
 
Justin Smith, producer/director of Statin Nation

Last week, the UK’s Daily Telegraph published the article Low fat foods stuffed with ‘harmful’ levels of sugar. It analysed the sugar content of a range of food and drinks marketed as ‘low fat’.

In the sixth part of his interview for You must be nuts!, Justin Smith, the Producer/Director of the documentary Statin Nation, considers whether a low fat diet could lead to a high carbohydrate diet. Apart from sugar, he talks about the effect on blood sugar levels of eating grains.

In September 2012, a study by the Mayo Clinic found that a high carbohydrate diet raised the risk of dementia in older people by a factor of almost 4, compared to a low carbohydrate, high fat diet. “When total fat and protein intake were taken into account, people with the highest carbohydrate intake were 3.6 times likelier to develop mild cognitive impairment.”

Neurologist Dr David Perlmutter’s bestselling book Grain Brain: the surprising truth about wheat, carbs and sugar – your brain’s silent killers highlights the connection between eating grains and dementia.

Jan 082014
 
Justin Smith, Producer/Director of Statin Nation

This is the first part of our interview with Justin Smith, Producer/Director of the investigative documentary Statin Nation. In it, he explains the background to his decision to make Statin Nation.

Since we filmed the interview, with the backing of a crowd-funding campaign which reached its initial target in record time, Justin has started to make Statin Nation II.

A few days ago, he published the first intro clip from Statin Nation II, which looks at the new cholesterol guidelines introduced in the US last month.

Apparently, these new guidelines are set to double the number of people taking statin medications.

The crowd-funding campaign to finance Statin Nation II is now close to its second target. If you want to see the rewards on offer and contribute to the crowd-funding campaign, visit the Statin Nation II web page.

Coming soon: Part 2 of our interview with Justin Smith, in which he explains why he thinks that there has been ‘consistent misinformation about what constitutes healthy eating’.

Jan 042014
 

While we put the finishing touches to You must be nuts!, we will gradually upload the full interviews we have filmed with Jerome Burne, Paul Burstow MP, Patrick Holford, Dr Stephanie Seneff and Justin Smith. They will be embedded on the interviews page of this website for future reference.

Regrettably, we are not able to include the full interviews in the film itself. However, by posting the full interviews here, this should allow those interested in knowing more to access the full and detailed explanations provided by our interviewees, who kindly gave us their time to contribute to the film.

This is the first part of our interview with Patrick Holford for You must be nuts! In it, he explains what he thinks could prevent Alzheimer’s.

Apart from being the chief executive of the Food for the Brain Foundation, Patrick Holford is the author of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Plan , as well as 34 other books in the field of nutrition medicine and psychiatry.

Jan 012014
 
Poster image for You must be nuts!

Poster image for You must be nuts!

I should introduce you to my friends Alph, Beel and Chah-Lee. They are puppets. You must be nuts! tells the story of how their exploration of the film’s interviews changes their lives.

Here’s the prequel:

The puppet family

Alph and Chah-Lee are husband and wife. They live in the UK.

Chah-Lee is the more health-conscious of the two. Every time a new diet becomes popular, she has been following it in the hope of returning to her once-slim figure.

Alph is the one I know best and through whom I met Chah-Lee and Beel. He is fascinated by current affairs and science. His iPad is his window on the world and we came to know each other through an online science discussion forum.

Beel is Chah-Lee’s Spanish father. He has travelled extensively and has lived in Spain, the UK, Latin America, the US and France. He met and married Chah-Lee’s mother while he was living in the UK.

Chah-Lee’s keen interest in health developed partly in reaction to seeing her mother gradually put on weight. As Chah-Lee was growing up, her mother started suffering health problems related to her obesity and diabetes.

As a result, after Beel had worked for many years as a senior executive, he and his wife decided to live in Spain. They set up ‘Beel’s Beach Bar’ together on its Mediterranean coast. Although Chah-Lee’s mother passed away a couple of years ago, Beel continues to run the bar.

The background to the puppets

Needless to say, Alph, Beel and Chah-Lee are fictitious characters. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Of course, Alph, Beel and Chah-Lee could be anyone – A, B and C – and they could be living anywhere in the world. Their dialogue is derived from various informal conversations with friends and colleagues over the past year about dementia, dietary advice, prescription drugs and/or what constitutes a healthy diet. It aims to cover all the typical questions which arise in any such discussion.

The puppets were kindly created for the film by Enrique Nicanor. His past credits include creating and animating the original puppets for the children’s TV series The Magic Roundabout and producing and directing the Spanish version of Sesame Street for its first three years.

Elisabeth Christ provided the voice of Chah-Lee, Enrique provided the voice of Beel and I provided the voice of Alph. Kaberi was the puppeteer behind Chah-Lee while Enrique was the puppeteer for Alph and Beel.

Amid the increasingly grim findings of my research and the challenges of caring for someone with dementia, Alph, Beel & Chah-Lee provided a welcome source of light relief. The two days of filming the puppet sequences were strenuous but fun. My father was our fascinated and patient live audience while we filmed the breakfast scenes over several hours on Saturday.

Wishing you a dementia-free 2014 … and beyond.

Jul 312013
 
My father on 4 May 2013

My father laying flowers at the bust of Rabindranath Tagore in the garden of Shakespeare’s Birthplace on 4 May 2013

The reason is quite simple: I wanted to share the information which I’ve been gathering while trying to treat my father’s dementia. By doing so, I hope to help others to avoid having to go through what my father has had to suffer … because what I have found – too late for my father, sadly – is that dementia is entirely preventible.

Until we started interviewing specialists for the film, I had found all the information online. However, the information is widely dispersed and often plagued by sceptical comments from ‘internet trolls‘. As a result, popular misconceptions persist, probably thanks to commercial interests.

For example, many people think Alzheimer’s is widespread today because people are living longer. In reality, Alzheimer’s/dementia hardly existed in 1960 even among 85-year-olds and the dramatic rise in incidence since then has been proven to have nothing to do with longevity.