Ben Goldacre

It’s Susan’s and my eighth wedding anniversary tomorrow, and at the beginning of August it’s nine years since we met.  Happy and interesting years.  Within a very short time of meeting Susan I became aware of her fascination for nutrition and her insatiable appetite for every different nutritional theory, and I have long since got used to living in a house where both cupboard space and nutritional budget is taken up more by nutritional supplements than by nutrition.

I tried to take an interest for a while, but couldn’t get my head around the multiple apparently contradictory theories that were out there.  And it wasn’t that I didn’t need this information.  As the title of this blog will attest, obesity is my problem, and Susan’s is Chronic Fatigue, or M.E.  But I would read first this book, then that, and each would contradict the other, and I’d just throw them both in the bin and give up.

But then our very good friend, the lovely Kali Harmen introduced me to Gary Taubes and I was awakened to the world of nutritional bad science.  It totally opened my eyes, and since then I have been coming across examples everywhere, as well as a rapidly growing awareness happening across society.  And it falls out very simply at the moment, with the “low fat, high carb” people on one side, and the “low carb, high fat” people on the other.  It’s the low carb, high fat people who have the science behind them, and the low fat, high carb that has the politicians, big business, and even most of the public health and medical profession behind them, as Jaques Peretti‘s new BBC program “The men who made us fat” is explaining.

But things are changing.

I’m old enough to remember when people weren’t convinced that smoking was bad for you.  My GP, when I was first married in the very early 1970′s, used to carry around a tin (yes, a round tin) of 50 Player’s cigarettes in his pocket.  But gradually the science changed, and then the politics, and now we all know that smoking kills.  Not everyone (my Dad smoked all his adult life, and lived until he was 91), but the science is solid enough that we all know that anyone who smokes is endangering his or her health, badly.

And it’s the same with drink and driving.  When I was a teenager we thought it smart and fun to drive when very drunk.  We knew it wasn’t a good idea, but we did it anyway.  Now, my own (grown up) children won’t even have a glass of wine if they come round to dinner, and I’m amazed at how “grown up” they are.

Dr Ben Goldacre

Anyway; I digress.  I’m now delighted that, bit by bit, the nutritional quackery is being exposed, and the latest bit I came across concerns Dr Gillian McKeith, who I had always supposed was on the side of the angels.  Apparently, I’m wrong.  Apparently, for instance, she’s not a doctor.  I hadn’t given much thought to whether that “Dr” meant that she was a fully-qualified medical doctor, or whether it meant that she had a PhD in some relevant subject from an accredited university or college.  Apparently, neither.  Just a piece of paper from a correspondence course from a non-accredited American source.

If you have been a follower of “Dr” McKeith (she was recently taken to the Advertising Standards Authority for using the “Dr” title, and agreed to stop using it), you might like to read Dr Ben Goldacre‘s article in the Guardian about her.  It’s called “A Menace to Science” and is pretty hard-hitting.

I wanted to brighten up this post with a picture, and had thought of putting in a picture of “Dr” McK, but after reading a few articles about her, I discovered that she, or her staff, have been threatening people with law suits, so I chickened out, and decided that I’d put in a picture of Dr Ben (he really is a doctor: a medical doctor: studied at Oxford and UCL Medical School, and is currently an academic epidemiologist.  He’s also the son of Michael Goldacre, professor of public health at the University of Oxford.

So I guess he knows what he’s talking about.  Not that all epidemiologists do: there are a lot of them guilty of confusing correlation with causality, but I’m not aware of anyone catching Dr G at that yet.

I blog about this stuff because it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that we have to educate ourselves as best we can on this stuff, because we are being fed bad food and bad information by just about everyone around us, and it’s not clear who you can trust.  I’m not a scientist, by any stretch of the imagination, but I did have enough of a scientific education that I can recognise good science and bad science when it’s pointed out to me.

And I’m not an apologist for all scientists.  There’s a lot of science that doesn’t take into account other factors, and a lot of science that has led us down unhelpful paths over the years.  But suddenly, here in 2012, there is an upswell in good nutritional science, that may just change awareness in the same way that most of now will stop smoking if we can, and won’t drink and drive if we can help it.  Soon we will be cutting down on sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and other dietary carbohydrates, and eating more protein and dietary fat.  And we’ll be better able to judge for ourselves which advice to follow, and which not.

Denise Minger

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0307474259" locale="us" height="110" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Ni96jsZzL._SL110_.jpg" width="72"] [simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0865479186" locale="us" height="110" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51%2BnNG7qPoL._SL110_.jpg" width="74"] [simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0865478007" locale="us" height="110" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51JxCbEPXPL._SL110_.jpg" width="75"][simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0307450724" locale="us" height="110" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51YTfTtR%2B%2BL._SL110_.jpg" width="71"] So, get yourself educated.  Read Taubes, Goldacre, the Drs Eades, and especially Denise Minger (yes, I know it’s an unfortunate name, but Americans don’t use the same jargon as us Brits) then decide whether you want to get obese, type II diabetic, increase your risk of cardio-vascular disease and Alzheimer’s, or whether you’d rather have bacon and eggs for breakfast and a good rare steak for dinner!

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