health

Time to break the prescription drug addiction cycle

Craig Sams offers an alternative perspective on the culture of prescription drug addiction, saying a natural solution could be more effective in treating depression

A conversation took place three years ago between a good friend of mine and her doctor. Her husband had left her and she was extremely depressed. She went to see her doctor.

The doctor gave her a prescription for a very addictive 30mg pill that she would have to take every day for the rest of her life. She would sometimes be more prone to suicidal thoughts and less inhibited about acting on them. If she ever tried to stop taking them because she couldn’t stand the side effects, the doctor would not be able or willing to help. She eventually went cold turkey and now experiences periodic electric shocks in her head; which other people who have given up call ‘the zapps.’ Some people reduce the level of addiction by gradually reducing the dose level from 30mg to 26mg to 24mg to 22mg, right down to 6mg or 4mg, at which point it is much easier to get off. But no drug company provides that means of escape. If you go on the internet, there are some people in Holland who will provide you with reduced dose pills that make it a lot easier and safer to give up, but neither the NHS nor any drug company or doctor will help you with that.

What the doctor could have said: “Go out to a field and select half a dozen psilocybe cubensis mushrooms and eat them. Sit down in a comfortable spot and let them take effect and enjoy the journey. If that doesn’t do the trick completely, repeat after five weeks and you should be fine.”

Of people who take psilocybe just once, 94% experience a dramatic remission of anxiety and depression. The New Scientist recently called on the government to allow mental health researchers to study psilocybin. They do now, but the subjects have to buy it on the black market which invalidates the clinical results. If everybody who was depressed just took a few mushrooms the drug companies would be out of business.

Patrick Holford, the nutritionist, therapist and columnist in NPN, has just released a compelling rap called ‘Big Pharma Man: it’s a grand scam – he don’t give a damn’. It describes the criminality, fines, fraudulent research and cover-ups that have led to millions of lives being ruined by drugs that don’t work and are addictive. Just Google ‘Drug rap Patrick Holford’ and enjoy.

President Trump didn’t get any money from Big Pharma to get elected and so he has dared to say he’ll take action to deal with America’s opioid epidemic, where four out of five heroin addicts started on prescription opiods; drugs that are more addictive, expensive and dangerous than heroin. Meanwhile, Americans will continue to die at a rate of more than 1,000 a week from opioid overdoses. The makers of the drugs keep a database of doctors. Special attention goes to the ones who run ‘pill mills’, dispensing drugs at huge profit for themselves. These are doctors who swore the Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm. Hah! When Purdue, manufacturers of the opiod medication, ended up in court it paid $600 million in fines, and the executives who were found guilty of the criminal charge of selling OxyContin ‘with the intent to defraud or mislead’ paid $35 million. If someone sold $50 worth of heroin they would go to jail for a few years. These pharma guys get off light; the fines are insignificant compared to the billions of dollars they continue to make.

In my view it’s time to legalize all drugs, make them all available on the NHS, then let informed people choose how they want to get well instead of spending lives of misery hooked on drugs that have terrible side effects, which are treated with more drugs that also have terrible side effects. The alternatives are safer and cheaper.

Is it any wonder that I haven’t been to a doctor since 1965? I just say no to prescription drugs.

Let bodily fluids and solids (and food) be thy medicine

Craig Sams imagines the health farms of the future where ‘super healthy’ humans are raised.

Until just over a decade ago the missus and I would go to Shrubland Hall Health Clinic up in Suffolk, where we’d enjoy vegetarian food, bracing country walks, massage, pilates and other healthful activities and return refreshed and invigorated. They closed in 2006 and more recently we go to Amchara in Somerset, which offers a vegetable juice fast, yoga, massage and colonics. Amchara are big on probiotics, which you have, with psyllium, with every liquid ‘meal.’ Their therapy is designed to break your bad dietary habits and restore your gut flora. But is this enough? What if your gut flora are too degraded to be restored? What if candida or other ‘bad bugs’ are in control? What if the ‘good bugs’ have been wiped out and can’t re-establish?

The average kid has 17 courses of antibiotics before they reach maturity. Doctors carelessly prescribe them to adults too for minor problems like runny noses or tummyache, problems that could be cured by a day or two of bed rest or fasting. Antibiotics destroy your gut flora. So do steroids, some vaccines, stress, alcohol and low fibre diet. The resulting gut dysbiosis is associated with colitis, IBS, multiple sclerosis,autism,anorexia, depression, OCD, migraines and Parkinson’s disease.

A particular dangerous side effect of taking antibiotics is Clostridium difficile. It’s a disease that was practically unknown until the advent of antibiotics. Now 30,000 Americans a year die from it and about 5000 in the UK. Clostridium takes over your gut flora after the 10,000 different bacteria, fungi and archaea in your gut are wiped out by a dose of antibiotics. Some of the good bugs survive, mainly by hiding in your appendix until the antibiotics are stopped. Then they can try to combat the Clostridium. If they fail the triumphant Clostridium leads to diarrhea, abdominal pain and in about 6% of cases, death. The conventional cure is more and stronger antibiotics. This works in about 25% of the cases but has a 50% relapse rate. There is another cure that has a 90% success rate, though. That’s faecal transplantation, also known as stool transplantation. It works for colitis, IBS, candida and other gut diseases, not just Clostridium. Only one hospital in Britain offers it as it’s a bit complicated. First you have to find a ‘donor.’ This is a person who has a completely healthy gut flora with no traces of infectious diseases such as AIDS or malaria. These aren’t easy to find. What’s more, faecal transplantation is a messier business than popping pills. A typical treatment programme would require 10 days of daily transplantation. But when it is done properly it can prevent a lifetime of misery and pain.

What about other person-to-person transfers from the healthy to the unwell? At the Society for Neuroscience convention in November 2016 researchers reported on trials that show an injection of blood from a young healthy person can reverse Alzheimer’s and senile dementia, improve cognition and strengthen the heart and liver.

“Could the health farms of the future be real farms? Farms where the farmer is raising healthy humans? What a lovely way to make a living if you’re the one being farmed”

Could the health farms of the future be real farms? Farms where the farmer is raising healthy humans? What a lovely way to make a living if you’re the one being farmed. All you have to do is live in a stress-free and happy environment, eat a balanced diet of organic food, avoid antibiotics, alcohol and risky sex and earn your living by providing a ‘donation’ 2 or 3 times a day. Sure beats mining coal or driving a mini cab.

Imagine: “Welcome to Poucura Health Clinic, Mrs. Jones. We have diagnosed your problem and advise that your donor is Marlene, an extremely fit young woman who has a 100% success rate in curing Clostridium difficile in her donatees. You will stay with us for 10 days and have 2 treatments a day. If you are having forgetfulness issues (we note that you are in your mid 60s and missed an earlier appointment) we can also provide you with a memory-enhancing transfusion from Arthur, whose IQ of 155 reflects his mental acuity. Your diet during your stay will include high-fibre foods, probiotics and inulin to help accelerate the repopulation of your gut with immune-boosting flora.”

Exchanging bodily fluids has been a big no-no and the years of AIDS have made everyone even more cautious. But the war against diseases of modern diet is being lost and doctors are running out of weapons. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said “all disease begins in the gut, ” adding “let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” To fast track this we can pay people to be really healthy and then let their bodily fluids and solids be our medicine, along with food. Cures like this only last if they are followed by lifestyle changes. But it’s a lot easier to change your lifestyle when the gut flora that are telling your brain what to eat are the good ones that are always urging healthy choices.

1960s Rebels: Craig Sams, Health Food Pioneer from Victoria & Albert Museum

In conjunction with their exhibition You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970 (10 September 2016 – 26 February 2017), the Victoria and Albert have uploaded a series of videos interviewing 1960s Rebels including myself.

The late 1960s saw progressive ideas emanate from the countercultural underground and revolutionise society. Challenging oppressive, outdated norms and expectations, a small number of individuals brought about far-reaching changes as they sought to attain a better world. Their idealism and actions helped mobilise a movement which continues to inspire modern activists and shape how we live today.

Can I get my NHS no-claims bonus?

Isn’t it amazing that the ‘hippy diet’ the authorities once warned would corrupt a generation is now officially endorsed by the medical establishment, says Craig Sams

Your NHS No Claims Bonus is just one click away!

In 1965 I had the misfortune to be quite low in cash and lying by a roadside in Delhi unable to walk because of the debilitating pain and exhaustion of hepati- tis. The Holy Family Catholic hospital doctor told me I was in urgent need of hospitalisation, but their reception told me there were no beds. Maybe I should have tried a bit of baksheesh.

So, half walking, half crawl- ing, I ended up in Delhi General. After a day I knew I had to move on. I ended up in Peshawar, then Kabul, where a diet of unleavened wholemeal naan and unsweetened tea finally brought success. Within 3 or 4 days I was back on my feet and functional.

Since then I haven’t messed with my health — when you look into the abyss and realise how fragile life can be, you take more care. I never wanted to find myself in such desperate straits again — helpless, hoping someone can save you and feeling sorry for your parents who might never know what happened to their beloved son.

Since 1967 I have dutifully paid, like every good citizen, my National Insurance contributions which, in today’s money, amounts to about £400,000 over 44 years. During that time I have never cost the NHS one penny and haven’t taken up one minute of a doctor’s time with my health problems. That’s partly down to luck, but I cite diet as the main factor.

The experience in India trig- gered my interest in macrobi- otics and led to a career deci- sion to spread the word about healthy diet. This was the foun- dation on which my brother Gregory and I built Whole Earth Foods and which led, indirectly, to the founding of Green & Black’s. I’ve been OK almost all of the time, despite setbacks, bereavements, financial anxieties and stress from business competition. Sometimes I thought I was going mad, but I had seen enough of the dam- age anti-depressants can cause to know that I would never go down that route.

“IF I WERE A CAREFUL DRIVER I’D GET AN ANNUAL REDUCTION IN MY INSURANCE TO REFLECT MY CLEAN CLAIMS HISTORY. WHY NOT HEALTH?”

When Beveridge mapped out the NHS in 1942 his budget projections confidently predict- ed a steep decline in healthcare costs through the 1950s as indoor sanitation, better nutri- tion, clean water and health education would all reduce dis- ease and its treatment costs. Instead there has been a steady increase in sickness and chron- ic illness, triggered by obesity, environmental toxins, sedentary lifestyles and junk food. How disappointing it would have been for him.

Sir Jack Drummond was the man who named Vitamin A and B and who mapped out Britain’s healthy wartime diet that led to record levels of health, despite all the stress and strain of wartime life. Sir Jack was mysteriously murdered in 1953, or he would have been kicking ass at the DOH to make them do something about the Brits’ abysmal post-war dietary choices once they were free to choose.

If I were a careful driver I’d get an annual reduction in my insurance to reflect my clean claims history. Why not health? If a reduced level of claims reflects a saving in expenditure, what’s wrong with the principle extending to National Insurance? Charging people higher contributions/premiums for being sick all the time might be going too far, but rewarding people for conscientiously look- ing after their health shouldn’t be seen as reprehensible. I’d settle for a ‘cashback’ — or perhaps the money saved could be tagged onto my pension on retirement? Good national health policy should include carrots as well as sticks. The state offers no material incen- tive to look after one’s health, just confusing exhortations. A no claims discount would address this. I’m sure Beveridge would approve. And Sir Jack.

Hippy days are here again

Isn’t it amazing that the ‘hippy diet’ the authorities once warned would corrupt a generation is now officially endorsed by the medical establishment, says Craig Sams

Stop the press! Amazing news from researchers…

The British Journal of Cancer recently published a report funded by Cancer Research UK. The report says that 40 per cent of cancers arise from lifestyle factors including poor diet and obesity. Specifically: not enough fibre, not enough vegetables, too much meat and too much alcohol.

In 1966, full of the joys of discovering good health and vitality through macrobiotic diet, my girlfriend and I visited the macrobiotic bookshop in New York. Irma Paul, the owner, sat behind the counter looking morose, not at all the happy image of macrobiotics (Greek for ‘long life’ or ‘big life’) that I expected. She allowed us to look at the books but said that we could not purchase anything.

Her reason? The American Medical Association had recently urged the FBI to bust the bookshop for selling illegal books. The FBI took the books away and went over them with expert advisors from the American Medical Association. The result? The bookshop closed a few days later and the books were taken away, condemned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and burned. Reader’s Digest later ran a cover story calling macrobiotics ‘The Hippie Diet That’s Killing Our Kids.”

What was the evil message that brought such a fate?  Kiddie porn? Bomb-making instructions? No, much worse as far as the AMA was concerned: these books contained statements that too much meat, not enough fibre, not enough vegetables and too much meat and alcohol could lead to cancer. Exactly what the British Journal of Cancer article now states.

At the time the medical orthodoxy was that cancer was in the genes or just bad luck. Prof Max Parkin, a Cancer Research epidemiologist, commented on the new report: “Many people believe cancer is down to fate or ‘in the genes’…it’s clear that 40 per cent of cancers are caused by things we have the power to change.” I wonder where ‘many people’ got that wacky idea? Perhaps from listening to all the medical experts who told them for decades they couldn’t do anything to prevent cancer.

In the 1950s American magazines ran ads extolling the preference of doctors for Camel brand cigarettes. Oh dear. I wonder how many people took up smoking because of these role models…and died?

In the 50s Wilhelm Reich talked about the ‘Emotional Plague’ – a disease that parents gave to their children by beating them and abusing them, passing on sick behaviour from one generation to the next. He argued for sexual liberation and advocated condom use and economic independence for women. Several tonnes of his books were burned by the FDA and he died in prison in 1956.  Now it’s illegal to beat kids, women are liberated and child abuse condemned.

So, two pioneers of sensible thinking went to their graves bitter and disillusioned and didn’t live to see their ideas become accepted in the mainstream.

What about me? After discovering that the FBI, the AMA and the FDA were hysterically alarmed about macrobiotics, I figured it was at least as powerful as I had thought.

I went to the newly-opened Paradox macrobiotic restaurant that evening and decided then and there that my future would lay in bringing awareness of the joys of healthy eating to as many people as possible. It fulfilled my do-goodism and my revolutionary instincts.

What about the authorities? The same governments that burned books and chucked their authors in jail now support sex education and condom use and urge their citizens to eat more vegetables and wholegrains and to cut down on meat and booze.

Can you imagine any MPs or doctors nowadays plugging cigarettes or urging people to eat junk food and beat their kids?

Is More Research Really Needed?

Stop the presses!  Amazing news from researchers!

The British Journal of Cancer recently published a report funded by Cancer Research UK .  The report says that 40% of cancers arise from lifestyle factors including poor diet and obesity.  Specifically: not enough fibre, not enough vegetables, too much meat and too much alcohol.

In 1966, full of the joys of discovering good health and vitality through macrobiotic diet, my girl friend and I visited the macrobiotic bookshop in New York.  Irma Paul, the owner, sat behind the counter looking morose, not at all the happy image of macrobiotic (Greek for ‘long life’ or ‘big life’) that I expected.  She allowed us to look at the books but said that we could not purchase anything.  Her reason? The American Medical Association had recently urged the FBI to bust the bookshop for selling illegal books.  The FBI took the books away and went over them with expert advisors from the AMA.  The result?  The bookshop closed a few days later and the books were taken away, condemned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and burned.   Reader’s Digest later ran a cover story calling macrobiotics ‘The Hippie Diet That’s Killing Our Kids”

What was the evil message that brought such a fate?  Kiddie porn? Bomb-making instructions?  No, much worse as far as the AMA was concerned: these books contained statements that too much meat, not enough fibre, not enough vegetables and too much meat and alcohol could lead to cancer.   Exactly what the Britich Journal of Cancer article now states.

At the time the medical orthodoxy was that cancer was in the genes or just bad luck.   Prof Max Parkin, a Cancer Research epidemiologist, commented on the new report: “Many people believe cancer is down to fate or ‘in the genes’ …it’s clear that 40% of cancers are caused by things we have the power to change.”     I wonder where ‘many people’ got that wacky idea?  Perhaps from listening to all the medical experts who told them for decades they couldn’t do anything to prevent cancer.

In the 1950s American magazines ran ads extolling the preference of doctors for Camel brand cigarettes.  Oh dear.  I wonder how many people took up smoking because of these role models?  And died?

In the 50s Wilhelm Reich talked about the ‘Emotional Plague’ – a disease that parents gave to their children by beating them and abusing them, passing on sick behaviour from one generation to the next.  He argued for sexual liberation and advocated condom use and economic independence for women.  Several tons of his books were burned by the FDA and he died in prison in 1956.  Now it’s illegal to beat kids, women are liberated and child abuse condemned.

So two pioneers of sensible thinking went to their graves bitter and disillusioned and didn’t live to see their ideas become accepted in the mainstream. What about me?  After discovering that the FBI, the AMA and the FDA were hysterically alarmed about macrobiotics, I figured it was at least as powerful as I had thought.  I went to the newly-opened Paradox macrobiotic restaurant  that evening and decided then and there that my future would lay in bringing awareness of the joys of healthy eating to as many people as possible.   It fulfilled my do-goodism and my revolutionary instincts.

What about the authorities? The same governments that burned books and chucked their authors in jail now support education in sex and condom use and urge their citizens to eat more vegetables and wholegrains and to cut down on meat and booze.

Can you imagine any MPs or doctors nowadays plugging cigarettes or urging people to eat junk food and beat their kids?

The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse

In June I was invited to give the keynote speech at the Sustainable Foods Summit in Amsterdam. The conference programme was so advanced it made me blink in disbelief - here were a bunch of corporate executives and sustainability managers from the world's leading corporations all working to create real standards of sustainable growth and methods of measurement in order to comply with their corporate statements of principle. Stalwarts like Clearspring and Whole Foods were there, but the general tone was very mainstream. I spoke about taking an ethical brand mainstream later in the day but for my keynote I thought I'd give it to them with both barrels. Here’s my speech:

"Today I would like to take for my text the New Testament, Chapter 6: 1-8, the Book of Revelation of St. John the Evangelist (I'd give anything for a picture of the audience's horrified faces as they prepared for the worst). You may recall it: it's where Jesus opens the sealed scrolls and summons forth the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - War, Plague, Famine and their faithful follower, Death.To understand sustainability we must recognise that the world's economy is still governed by legacy industries who have a massive vested interest in those 4 horsemen. Without them, or the fear of them, their shareholder value would collapse.War enjoys annual capital expenditure of $1.5 trillion. with the US leading the field, devoting 5% of GDP to military spending. As you'd expect with any capital expenditure, the return on investment is many times the value of the outlay - the cost of death and destruction of property in target nations is massive. Of course the at-home social damage is pretty high too as soldiers return home with attitudes to violence that lead to high domestic cost due to healthcare, suicides, crime and psychological problems.Plague enjoys good returns, too. The Avian Flu and Swine Flu panics exposed Big Pharma’s desperate quest for new disease threats. The side effects of medical intervention create a huge subsidiary industry and new diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and high cholesterol create an opportunities for profit. Death from medical errors in the US run at 200,000 a year, while correct intervention claims many more.Famine is perhaps most relevant to this conference. By destroying the natural fertility of the Earth with chemical fertilisers and killing off biodiversity with pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, GMOs and antibiotics agribusiness has created a global dependency on their chemicals to produce our food. 'Feed the world' is their mantra as they progressively starve the world. Now, except for organic farming, we are hooked on the drugs they sell to keep degraded land in production.We have to kick these bad habits but they are entrenched in our socioeconomic system and their proprietors will not give up without a fightSo how can sustainability triumph? It must be in all arenas, we must bring peace and prosperity, to all. It can be done, because things have changed.How have things changed?Debt - Wars, drugs and agribusiness have bankrupted our economies. First rule of a parasite is: don't kill the host. If American taxpayers had to pay for war, medicine and farm subsidies they would never have happened. Instead the Chinese, and Arabs loaned the US the money so they could continue to buy cheap consumer goods and oil. Now that the debt is dragging down our economy we wrongly blame the bankers. The rot started because our governments subsidised war/drug/ag with borrowed money because they were too cowardly to pay for it out of increased taxation.Transparency - the days of the smoke-filled room where a handful of powerful men decide the fate of the rest of us is ending. We know what’s going on.There is no future if there is not a sustainable future. A handful of companies worldwide thrive on war, sickness and a famine. Our governments bow to them. Monsanto's control of the USDA is the most obvious but it's the same everywhere, from the EU to India to Africa and Latin America.It is undeniable that peace brings more prosperity than war and avoids the burden of debtThat the creation of health is better value than the treatment of diseaseThat organic and sustainable farming gives better and more reliable yields than unsustainable petrochemical dependencyWe're right - we know we're right - they know we're right.But they won't give up without a fightIn Britain our new prime minister speaks about The Big Society - people doing it for themselves. The top down model is disintegrating everywhere. When people start doing it for themselves then different choices will be made. Companies that are ready for this seismic change will prosper. There can only be on future and by definition it must be sustainable.

Epigenetics - We control our future, not genes

Your Kids Are What You Eat - (and your Grandkids)

If I had a penny for every Daily Mail headline that screams ‘New Hope for Cancer Cure’ and then goes on to say that some scientist discovered a gene that causes cancer, I’d be a very rich man. Little ever comes of this - all scientists did was discover a gene that they found in someone with cancer. When I hear people say diabetes is hereditary I want to scream. Even if every British diabetic in 1900 and their descendants had been confined to breeding farms and forced to produce a baby a year their hereditary diabetic offspring would represent a miniscule fraction of the 2.5 million diabetics, and rising, in the UK. Diabetes, like heart disease and cancer, largely comes from environmental causes like overeating, underexercising, eating denatured food and being surrounded by a sea of manmade chemicals. There may be some genetic history that delays disease onset in some people, but genes are not the cause of diseases of affluence.Billions were spent mapping the human genome so that we could find cures for all our so-called hereditary diseases and in the end they found 25,000 genes, a humbling 5000 less than the 30,000 you’ll find in a mosquito. The genetic bonanza has failed to materialise but something useful did come of all that research - epigeneticsEpigenomes are the software that runs genes. Think of your genes as a computer, you never use the whole thing, but you activate different bits at different times. Epigenomes are the software that runs those bits - and you only use a few programmes at a time and then only a few bits of those programmes. They’ve just begun to count epigenomes and estimate they run into the millions. And they change all the time, depending on circumstances.

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) argued that acquired characteristics could be inherited. But this Lamarckianism was replaced by Darwin’s theory of natural selection and the scientific world for 150 years accepted that genes were the be-all and end-all of our makeup. But epigenetics has brought Lamarck back to centre stage.

He argued that if a giraffe stretched its neck to reach leaves higher up the tree, its kids would inherit longer-necks. Harvard research studied rats in mazes that took 165 attempts to run it perfectly. After a few generations, their grandkids could get it right after 20 attempts. Just think, if you did the Times crossword every day for 10 years and then had babies your kids would inherit a heightened verbal ability (or maybe just talk in riddles and anagrams). If you overeat then your kids will be predisposed to obesity. If you smoke... don’t get me started.

If we eat a moderate diet of organic food, live in an unpolluted environment and in decent conditions and take plenty of exercise we have the potential to gift our children and grandchildren with unimaginable levels of health, happiness and longevity. Coué’s mantra: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” could apply to all of mankind and, indeed, the whole planet, plants, animals and microorganisms.

Instead of the disease-obsessed fatalism of traditional genetics, we can have free-will optimism. Instead of passively accepting that we are locked in a DNA-driven destiny we can improve our genes and create the future that we want.

The healthy living movement has always been driven by an intuitive acceptance of this. There is a responsibility here, too - we owe it to future generations to do right by them. We may have bankrupted their financial future, but we shouldn’t plunder their piggybank of health as well. Epigenetics has proved that we can be masters of our own fates.

What’s stopping us?

Just Gimme the Drugs,Man - a critique of Big Pharma

Every now and then I clear my spam filter of missives from American lawyers offering me the opportunity to cash in on a bonanza from a class action lawsuit against one of the big drug companies. Huge amounts of money are being made by suing Big Pharma for peddling drugs that don't work, that they knew didn't work and that have awful life-destroying side effects. Respected scientists and medical researchers are shown to have conspired to distort the results so that patented drugs with few beneficial effects were prescribed to millions of gullible patients who wrongly assumed that they could trust their doctor. Just go to www.legaltube.com/breaking-news-hot-list.aspx for all the latest opportunities to get redress.

I'd love to cash in but I haven't taken a prescription drug in more than 45 years, apart from a handful of aspirin and whatever local anaesthetic my dentist uses to numb my gums. I suppose knowing that the life expectancy of doctors is just 58 years and that they are the 3rd leading cause of death in the USA (225,000 deaths a year) is enough to make me wary. But you can’t blame them for dishing out drugs that are backed by peer-reviewed research and articles in prestigious medical journals.

The EU authorities have approved drugs that are submitted on the basis of obfuscation (not mentioning negative outcomes in trials) and on pure fabrication of data. Research data and methodology are distorted to achieve the desired result or you can just make a false assertion and hope to get away with it. All the evidence, in the EU and the US, is that a lot of drugs get approved that are worthless or dangerous.

There is a show at the Wellcome Museum called High Society. It shows a great 1895 ad in which Bayer heroin and aspirin are advertised side by side - heroin being their ‘heroic’ non-addictive replacement for morphine. Selling drugs can be a nasty business, whether they’re legal or illegal.

WikiLeaks revealed that Pfizer paid $75 million to settle claims in Nigeria over killing 11 children and leaving dozens disabled by trialling Trovan on kids with meningitis. Hernia sufferers who had the Kugel mesh patch ended up with all sorts of horrible bowel injuries. Denture creams can cause zinc poisoning. Drugs for diabetes and acne are linked with worsening rather than restoring health. GlaxoSmithKline paid out £475 million last October including £60 million to the whistleblower who alerted authorities to problems with their antidepressant manufacture. More than 13000 lawsuits have been filed against them over their anti-diabetic drug, Avandia, amid claims that at least 83000 heart attacks by 2007 arose from a drug that was known to cause heart attacks as long ago as 1999.

So what does the EU do to improve its control over these scandalous risks? It collaborates with drug companies to crack down on herbal medicines, Ayurvedic and Chinese Traditional Medicines that have been used with remarkably few if any negative side effects for hundreds of years.

Why not crack down on the drug company CEOs? Fines are not enough. They make a fortune out of selling drugs to state-controlled health services. They can easily take the occasional fine in their stride. If a customer of a dope dealer dies it’s front page news and the evildoer has his money confiscated and goes down for a 5 stretch. Why not chief execs?

The Alliance for Natural Health is doing its best to stop this nonsense. Give them money. Sadly, our own Government has no power in this arena - drugs, like agriculture, are controlled in Brussels by unelected Commissioners (in Russia they used to call them Commissars) who collude with drug companies to make sure that your health is under their control, not yours. Read Big Pharma by Jacky Law for an insider’s view into how the drugs business works.

From time to time I take home-grown drugs: comfrey, nettles, viola, hawthorn, wormwood, fennel, melissa lemon balm, to name just a few illicit or potentially illicit medications that help support my generally reliable good health. I grow them myself in my garden, organically. Soon I may face prison if I don’t cease and desist from what could become criminal activity. To the barricades, comrades!

 

 

Trans Fats are crap fats

Artificial fats are bad for you

People sometimes accuse the health food industry of scaremongering but they are rank amateurs compared to the slick, professional and well-organised tropical fats campaign that created national panic in the US in the 1980s. With full-page newspaper ads screaming “Stop the Poisoning of America”, the orchestrated campaign blamed palm and coconut oil for America’s heart disease epidemic. Within months every major American product had ‘no tropical fats’ on the front of the label and ‘hydrogenated fat’ on the ingredients list where natural fat had been. The American Soybean Association was pleased as punch – soya oil is the raw material for hydrogenated fat. In Britain in the 80s health authorities and hospital dieticians encouraged people to give up butter and switch to high-polyunsaturate margarines. But to have high polyunsaturate levels you need high levels of hydrogenated fat. As a result there are millions of Britons who have heart disease (they’re the lucky ones, the rest are dead) because they followed this well-meaning but misguided advice. So why do manufacturers use hydrogenated fat? If you’ve ever seen it you’d understand. It comes as fine sand-like granules that won’t melt when you hold them in your hand, but do melt at food processing temperatures. They set hard while a food product is still warm, giving structure and texture to foods as diverse as bread, biscuits, margarine and cakes. They provide a plasticky scaffolding that holds together other food ingredients, enabling more air and water to be added to a food. In 1993 Whole Earth Superspread was launched and our ad prompted a complaint from the makers of Flora to the Advertising Standards Authority because we said hydrogenated fat was bad for you. While we argued and appealed the hydrogenated fat content of Flora fell from 21% right down to less than 1%. The Interheart survey, described in 2004 by The Lancet as the most comprehensive and rigorous study ever of research into heart disease, concluded that salt, stress, dietary fat, sugar etc were all minor causes of heart disease. The two major ones, responsible for 80% of all heart disease, were smoking and an imbalance between Low Density Lipid and High Density Lipid cholesterol (the ratio should be 2:1). The issue is not how much cholesterol you have (the argument that has put millions onto anti-cholesterol drugs) but solely what the ratio is. Hydrogenated fat slows down the loss of LDL and accelerates the loss of healthy HDL cholesterol, so the ratio swings out to 3:1 or 4:1, where the LDL starts to clog up the arteries. The HDL cholesterol is slippery and lubricates the circulatory system. There are also links between hydrogenated fat consumption and obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer disease. Transfats (another name for hydrogenated fats) interfere with Omega 3 metabolism, underpinning the market for fish oil to rectify the deficiency. The track record of the health food trade is unedifying. Many vegetarian and vegan products have historically depended on hydrogenated fat. Vegetarian and vegan margarines relied heavily on it. Hydrogenated fat is now rare in a health food shop. It has always been illegal in organic products. Forget about government doing anything about transfats. It subsidises rapeseed and soya – the oils that are usually hydrogenated - to make them cheaper than natural fats. In the US the battle was finally won when a lawyer called Stephen Joseph sued McDonalds in 2003 for reneging on their promise to reduce transfats and was awarded an $8.5 million settlement. In the US transfats now have to be labelled on the nutrition information panels. Manufacturers are scrambling to replace hydrogenated fat with natural fats, aware that consumers now avoid products with the former. In Denmark no food may contain more than 2% trans fats. In Britain, thanks to consumer pressure, Marks & Spencer and Tesco have promised that by mid-2006 all their own-brand products will be free of transfats. For 30 years hydrogenated fat has been promoted by major advertisers and the National Health Service, and subsidised to keep it cheaper than natural solid fats. The cost of cheap food has been higher health costs. The Danish example offers the only way forward – ban the stuff. Now.

Educate, Educate, Educate

How important is an understanding of food and nutrition to society? How do we measure the importance people place on food quality and how do we increase the value they place on it? We know that consumers who care most about food quality, healthy diet and biodiversity are the most likely to be consumers of organic food. So education is about getting down to the roots of people’s understanding and helping them make the connections.

There are considerable shades of difference in people’s priorities concerning food. One way to measure this is by total food expenditure. The average American spends seven per cent of their income on food, the average Briton 10 per cent and the average Frenchman 18 per cent.

Shopping, cooking and eating occupy one in six of our waking hours. So you’d think that understanding the importance of food is one of the key ‘life skills’ we should all have acquired as adults. Most food education of the public is focused on food safety and avoiding food poisoning from bugs that shouldn’t be in food in the first place. It’s clear that what we want to see is an understanding of food that will help ensure that people’s lives are productive, happy, healthy and not prematurely terminated by food-related illnesses. This makes sense for economic, political, social and ethical reasons, which should not need to be elaborated.

With few exceptions, in 12 years of primary and secondary education most children learn nothing about food, nutrition and health apart from tangential and reductionist references in biology, where the human digestive system and metabolism are studied. Home economics, a study previously restricted to female students, has been abandoned altogether as a result of curriculum changes. Yet this acted as a ‘feeder’ course for students who went on to study food technology. Students leave school able to calculate the collision time of two trains travelling at different speeds in opposite directions but unable to boil an egg or bake a loaf of bread.

Ignorance of the fundamentals of food quality and diet occur where a rational person would least expect. In the four years of medical education that a doctor undergoes before qualification, just four hours are spent studying the subject of nutrition and health. In most hospitals the dietician or nutritionist is a lowly staff member, who is not allowed to diagnose and whose main role is to issue pre-programmed nutritional advice.

But children do get information, I hesitate to call it education, about food. It’s worth considering what we are up against – and to some extent what we should emulate. British children are exposed to 10 TV commercials an hour for confectionery and other sugary, fatty foods. Between the age of two and 12 a Canadian child will see 100,000 television commercials for food. By the age of three one in five American toddlers are making specific brand name requests for food. In the US Channel One is a daily 12-minute in-classroom current events broadcast. It features ten minutes of news and two minutes of commercials. Companies pay up to $195,000 for a 30-second ad, knowing that they have a captive audience of 8 million students across the country.

Coca-Cola pays schools and supplies educational material in exchange for exclusive rights to position drinks vending machines in schools. In Colorado Springs Coke cut an $8 million deal with the school district to allow unlimited access to Coke machines and to allow students to drink Coke in the classroom. Elsewhere Pepsi contributed $1.5 million to build a sports stadium. In exchange the science curriculum includes a study of a Carbonated Beverage Company that includes a visit to the local Pepsi bottling plant. That was in Jefferson County, Colorado, home of Columbine High School. School busses are hotly sought after in the States by advertisers such as Wendy’s and Burger King. If you ever have occasion to fly into Dallas, look down at the Dr. Pepper and 7-Up logos on the rooftops of the two high schools near the airport. They’re part of an exclusive vending machine deal.

Pizza Hut run a ‘Book-It!” programme to encourage kids to read, the reward is a personal pan pizza. Hershey’s chocolate provide the entire curriculum for one grade’s maths, science, geography and nutrition under the title of “Chocolate Dream Machine.”

How can children possibly obtain a balanced view of healthy nutrition in the face of such overwhelming corporate influence? Is the answer to restrict such influence? ... or to buy our way into the system? I suggest that it’s a bit of both. The hierarchy of information distribution is flattening with advances in desktop publishing capabilities, in access to broadband, and with new channels of information dissemination. Luckily we’re in Britain, where newspapers exist on the basis of their circulation sales income. Readers respond to stories about healthy eating and organic food, so the press are valuable allies in spreading our message. This is very different to the US press, which serves the interests of the grocery advertisers who keep it going by buying dozens of pages of food ads daily. There has never been a food scare in America – the media are too intimidated. We have a persuasive story to tell and people, including journalists, who grasp it, find it holds together seamlessly.

The challenge is not that mountainous and we have already established a base camp near the summit. We don’t have to swing 100% of the population around to the organic worldview for it to prevail. What we need to do is create an educated bloc of consumers who manufacturers, retailers and foodservice companies ignore at their peril. We are well along the road already towards building this critical mass but we still need to broaden and deepen our reach. We’ve got the affluent elderly and the young, hip parents leaning most heavily in our direction, the young families and their grandparents. The lost generations in between are in our sights.

I’d like to quote the President of General Mills when asked about Genetically engineered ingredients in their breakfast cereals.. “Our research shows that 8-9% of American consumers will not buy a product if they know it contains GM ingredients – that’s too large a chunk of our customer base to ignore unless GM offers some real benefits elsewhere”.

Perhaps I should also mention Vladimir Illyich Lenin in this context, who said: “Give me 5% of Russia’s population as Bolsheviks and the revolution will surely follow.” He actually did it with a much lower percentage, but with unacceptable resort to violence.

It costs a company a great deal to develop brand loyalties. An educated consumer base can and will force changes from the bottom up in the values of well-managed brands that do not want to lose their expensively-acquired loyal customers.

So what other examples can we look to?

The mother of all healthy eating education programmes was The Peckham Experiment in South London in the 1940s which showed that, when a group of families learned the fundamentals of nutrition and healthy eating their children did better at school, crime rates fell, domestic strife was reduced and overall health improved. It was run by two of the eight founders of the Soil Association, which shows how deep our roots run on education. Prisons where healthy food has been introduced or where prisoners develop an understanding of vegetable gardening, farming and food production, show lower rates of violence and recidivism. We know what we are doing is the right thing for society.

So what are we doing – and what more can we do?

The Soil Association Demonstration Farms Network helps educate children in the origins of food with the aim that every child in Britain will have visited an organic farm and been educated in the fundamentals of food production by the age of 12. 100,000 kids visited an organic farm this year, there are 20 farms in the programme and we have funding to increase this number. Children remember 20 per cent of what they are told and 80 per cent of what they do, so farm visits have a real and lasting educational impact. Because organic farms usually have a mixture of crops and livestock the whole picture of food production can be studied. Demonstration farms include a farm trail that allows kids to see animals close-up, help them understand the connection between sustainable farming and care of the countryside, and the chance to buy fresh organic food from the farm shop or taste something at the farm café. The challenge is then to encourage an ongoing interest in wholesome fresh food – perhaps to offer box schemes.

Schools, hospitals, canteens in public and private enterprises are all targets for improving choice and nutrition. Public/private partnerships open the door to some possibilities. Sodexho is one of the world’s largest caterers, with interests in foodservice in schools, hospitals, factories and transportation. They now have an organic division, called Organica. It’s main customer base at this time is upscale events such as Goodwood, Ascot, Henley, Lords, weddings and banquets, but their eye is fixed firmly on a future where parents of children who have been reared organically will demand the same choices for their children at school as vegetarian parents demanded - and obtained - in the 1980s. If Italy can make locally sourced organic food in school meals public policy, then so can we.

Defra now have organic food available in their canteens and for committees and working groups. This began with UKROFS related activities but has now spread throughout the department. If they can do it, every organisation should be able to.

A missed opportunity this year was the Catering Conference For Schools, which took place earlier this summer. Next year there will be a Soil Association speaker at their conference, so attendance by organic suppliers could help open doors into this important marketplace and to increase our industry’s understanding of the mechanics of reaching this sector. A first step to getting organic food into schools is to educate the caterers who supply the schools. As I mentioned earlier, Sodexho are already Soil Association certified and on the inside track.

The Soil Association has made available a schools pack for some ten years that contains valuable and well-structured teaching aids that increase primary school kids’ understanding of agriculture, with an emphasis on organics. It’s a bit long in the tooth now, but got a positive response from schools where it was used as part of the curriculum. It needs updating, perhaps to include a DVD and video element. Perhaps a collaboration with the Guild of Food Writers would help to broaden its appeal and increase public awareness of the availability of this teaching tool. If Coke can spend $190,000 for a 30 second spot on schools TV in the US, let’s hope that there are some organic processors who can see the benefits of sponsoring something of genuine value and at a much lower cost.

There are developments in updating the food technology curriculum that can increase its appeal. Placements and sponsorship for students will help deepen their understanding and commitment to the organic way of thinking. Food technologists who understand the holistic environmental and nutritional picture about food will be well-placed for career advancement and I am sure that a well-constructed curriculum would not suffer any shortage of candidates. Our industry, as working environments go, is one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling, so placements will ensure future interest in our sector.

The Soil Association has a good record for putting on one day seminars that have helped bring real progress to sectors such as eggs, dairy, horticulture and meat production. A seminar that provided a forum for discussion relating to curriculum changes, catering considerations, and careers advice would attract interested parties from schools, colleges, universities and other interested organisations. Perhaps we can explore what shape such a seminar could take in this afternoon’s open forum.

I’m a member of the Caroline Walker Trust, which was established in memory of the eponymous campaigning nutritionist. Its Chairman is Peter Bazalgette, now best known for the Big Brother programmes, but who made his mark with the Food and Drink Programme. (Trust members, along with the Food Commission and the member groups of Sustain, such as Women’s Institute and Townswomen’s Guild, are our natural allies and we should keep the door open for their support of our goals). The Caroline Walker Trust have an award category for ‘student nutritionist of the year’. A similar award for a student who has shown initiative or undertaken a significant project to do with organic food could be introduced at next year’s Organic Business Awards. This would send a signal to students and their teachers that there are short term as well as longer term rewards in developing understanding of organics.

We are much bigger and more powerful than we think. How many of you realise that the global market for organic food, at £16 billion, is 6 times the global market for genetically engineered seed, at £2.7 billion? Yet the 4 companies in the world that sell genetically engineered seed have far more influence in universities, over governments and in the business community because they use their power in a coordinated, controlled, focused and selfish way. Our £16 billion pound global community numbers in the hundreds of thousands, from small producers to multinationals. We need to be organised and focused and clarify exactly what our medium and long term goals are. It would be great if we could create a set of key educational goals, a ‘Declaration of Intent’, so to speak, that we could all sign up to and that we could all support in a coordinated and cooperative way. We know we’re right and anyone who studies the issues of food and farming in any depth ends up agreeing with us. We’ve captured the moral, scientific and intellectual high ground. Now it’s time to get organised and capture the middle ground - the mass market. The Soil Association has proven that it has the capability to act as your vehicle for educating society at all levels – we need to expand and build on our successes so far. Your support and commitment is an essential ingredient. Let’s go for it!