Feb 182015
 

Sunday Express: Health chief slams statins (15 February 2015)

Two weeks ago, Obhi wrote to the Rt Hon Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, the Chair of the Commons Health Select Committee, to:

“… urge the Committee to investigate what I consider to be the chronic regulatory
failure which has led to the current dietary advice, the medical guidance to doctors and the
near-exclusive allocation of public research funding to commercial medical research,
without any obligation to publish the results.”

On Sunday, an article in the Sunday Express reported that Dr Wollaston had called for drug companies to release all their trial data on statin medications, saying “I’m concerned there may be side effects that have not been reported. Drug manufacturers should release all their trial data on statins so they are available for scrutiny.” Dr Fiona Godlee, the editor-in-chief of the BMJ, has to be commended for having led the calls for transparency of the research results.

As you may have seen from the You must be nuts! Twitter feed, there have been several other interesting developments over the past two weeks. Over in the US, the draft US Dietary Advice 2015 guidelines are poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol. Meanwhile, researchers led by Zoë Harcombe concluded that “Evidence from randomised controlled trials did not support the introduction of dietary fat guidelines in 1977 and 1983“.

Unsurprisingly, NHS Choices, which continues to advise against eating cholesterol and saturated fat, quickly denied that this study was important, adding another web page to those recommended for deletion in Annex 1 of Obhi’s letter. Not even everyone at the NHS is convinced by the NHS Choices guidance, it seems. As part of its 100 days of change campaign, leading to NHS Change Day on 11 March 2015, story 32 revealed that:

“the Community Diabetes Team (Dietitians and Diabetes Specialist Nurses) launched a pilot programme of Low Carb Diet Groups, offering education and support for people with Type 2 Diabetes who wished to follow a healthy low carb diet and have the necessary support with their medication changes.”

Perhaps a clue to the reluctance to change the dietary advice comes from the news last week that researchers guiding the UK Government’s anti-obesity campaign had received hundreds of thousands of pounds of funding from the junk food industry. The BMJ published an editorial asking ‘Big food, big pharma: is science for sale?’. The editorial accompanied a 3-part investigation into Sugar’s web of influence (Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3).

It echoes a 2013 article by the previous editor of the BMJ, Dr Richard Smith: Is the pharmaceutical industry like the mafia? The article was based on his foreword to the book Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare by Peter Gøtzsche, the head of the Nordic Cochrane Centre.

The BMJ provided an interactive infographic to illustrate the connections between food industry companies/lobbies and members of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research Unit.

This brings us back to the astonishing revelation from Sir Rory Collins that his team would [future tense!] ‘carry out a “challenging” reassessment of the evidence which will include studying all reported side effects. Although the original research looked at the effect of statins on the heart and considered cancer risks it did not examine other side effects.’ Dr Malcolm Kendrick has called for an apology from Sir Rory Collins, who had called on the BMJ to retract two articles critical of statins last year because he claimed they over-stated the adverse effects of statins.

Last year, NICE had recommended extending the scope of statin prescriptions apparently primarily on the basis of assurances from Sir Rory Collins’ team that statins were safe. As mentioned in Obhi’s letter, NICE’s methodology is to carry out a cost-benefit analysis (to “assess whether treatments and ways of managing a condition are good value for money for the NHS“). However, by relying on the recommendations from Sir Rory Collins’ team, NICE’s analysis could not have taken account of the adverse effects of statins.

A more transparent analysis is provided by the NNT (the number needed to treat before 1 patient benefits). Two recent articles in the New York Times highlighted its usefulness: Can this treatment help me? There’s a statistic for thatHow to measure a medical treatment’s potential for harm.

For statins, the NNT for patients who do not have heart disease suggests that the harms outweigh the benefits.

We believe the adverse effects of long-term statin medication contributed to the frontotemporal dementia, muscle pains and cataracts of Obhi’s father over at least the past six years. In the light of the news that Sir Rory Collins’ team has yet to explore the adverse effects of statins, it would seem appropriate for NICE to retract all its guidance to doctors recommending statins in primary prevention. Evidently, it has no data to support its positive analysis of statin use.

Thanks to the transparency spotlight of social media, we look forward to a time in the near future when the dietary and medical advice, as well as medical research funding, will be guided exclusively by scientific evidence, rather than by money from commercial interests. We hope You must be nuts! – the business of dementia and Obhi’s letter will contribute to this call.

Meanwhile, we look forward to the world premiere of Statin Nation II in London on 28 February 2015.

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.

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.

Mar 062014
 
Justin Smith, producer/director of Statin Nation

In the seventh part of his interview for You must be nuts!, Justin Smith, Producer/Director of the documentary Statin Nation considers whether a low fat diet and statin drugs could cause Alzheimer’s/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 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.

May 042013
 

By the end of March, we had completed four interviews for You must be nuts! As I said in my first blog post, health journalist Jerome Burne was the subject of our first interview.

The next person we interviewed was Patrick Holford, the founder of the Food for the Brain Foundation and author of several books.

Patrick Holford,co-founder of the Food for the Brain Foundation .

Patrick Holford,
co-founder of the Food for the Brain Foundation .

Later the same day, we interviewed Paul Burstow MP, the former Health Minister who had overseen the creation of a fund for dementia research. He had also initiated a Parliamentary debate about dementia in January 2013.

Paul Burstow MP

Paul Burstow MP

Our next interviewee was Justin Smith, the producer/director of the film Statin Nation – the great cholesterol cover-up and author of $29 billion reasons to lie about cholesterol .

Justin Smith, producer/director of Statin Nation

Justin Smith, producer/director of Statin Nation

Yesterday, Enrique Nicanor interviewed Dr Stephanie Seneff, Senior Research Scientist at MIT for You must be nuts!

Interview with Dr Stephanie Seneff (Senior Research Associate, MIT)

Dr Stephanie Seneff, Senior Research Associate, MIT