Last week I delivered a keynote lecture at the Public Health Collaboration annual conference in Manchester where I explained to an audience of over 200 made up of doctors and healthcare professionals that we have a complete healthcare systems failure. This failure is rooted in an epidemic of misinformed doctors and misinformed patients relying on biased research and biased reporting in the media to make wrong choices. We have doctors practising defensive medicine, instead of providing the correct care.
We have doctors practising defensive medicine, instead of providing the correct care.
The medical curricula has also failed to teach trainee and doctors to look beyond simply prescribing medication for every ailment. The situation is so dire that research conducted by one of the cofounders of the Cochrane Collaboration Peter Gotzsche in 2015 found that prescription drugs is the third leading cause of death in the US and Europe after heart disease and cancer. Referencing the billions in fines that the majority of the top ten drug companies have incurred in the last decade for illegal marketing
of drugs and hiding data on harms in the last decade Gotzsche concludes that the behaviour of the pharmaceutical industry fulfils the criteria for “organised crime” under US law.
Because the system has become so corrupted by commercial influence trumping what’s truly best for patient’s health honest doctors can no longer practice honest medicine especially as we’re often making clinical decisions for patients
based upon biased and manipulated information.
Many of the drugs which are commonly prescribed have a marginal benefit at best and often cause more harm than
good. They simply give the patient an illusion of protection.
And where is the real health crisis? As of now, 60 per cent of adults in the UK are overweight or obese and one in three children is overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school. Diseases linked to obesity are dramatically increasing. The cost of treating Type 2 diabetes in the UK to the NHS and lost economic productivity is already running at £20bn per year.
By 2035, that will have risen to £40bn per year, a situation that is simply not sustainable. What is clear is that the risk factors for obesity are in our environment and diet. It is now becoming virtually impossible to avoid processed food.
Even in hospitals, there are outlets selling processed food and junk food. When I was practising as a cardiologist at Harefield Hospital, I operated on a man who had suffered from heart disease. I went to his bedside afterwards and counselled him to review his diet and exercise regime and he countered with ‘how do you expect me to make changes when the nurse had just offered me a meal of burger and chips?’
From that point, I was on a journey to see how poor diet contributes to more early death than poor physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption combined.
My latest book takes a closer look at the village of Pioppi in Southern Italy where the average life expectancy is 90 years old almost a decade more than the average tour de France cyclist. And guess what? there are no gyms and no prescribed exercise! This village, where I filmed my documentary The Big Fat Fix, was first pinpointed in the 1970s as a place where dietary norms seemed to have an amazing effect on longevity.
The book, The Pioppi Diet, tries to cut through the misinformation that has sprung up surrounding the so-called Mediterranean diet, which has been misinterpreted for decades. For example, so-called ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol is actually good for you if you are over the age of 60 and will not increase your likelihood of getting heart disease. You can’t outrun a bad diet and no amount of exercise will make up for eating refined sugar and processed carbs.
As a qualified doctor for over 15 years It’s become very clear to me that good health rarely comes out of a medicine bottle. Dietary changes are more powerful than anything when it comes to a healthier and happier life.