Archive for the “News and Reviews” Category

My plan was to write one more post tonight before leaving town this weekend for the low-carb cruise.  However, I forgot I was scheduled for an hour-long podcast interview today, and I’ve still got work stuff to wrap up.  Oh, and that speech thing I’ll be doing on the cruise … Chareva and I still putting it together.  Then there’s packing, getting the dogs to the kennel, etc., etc., before the weekend.

So I’m going to wish you all a happy and healthy couple of weeks until I return from the cruise.  I’ll check comments, but I won’t be posting.  The Older Brother has agreed to sit in the Fat Head chair while I’m gone, even though he’ll be on vacation part of that time himself.

For those you coming aboard the cruise, see you soon.


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Some months ago, fans from Down Under left comments saying I should meet Australian chef Pete Evans someday.  The name sounded familiar, but my brain didn’t provide details.  So I went online and learned that he’s a hugely popular chef in Australia, with best-selling books and top-rated TV shows.  He’s also an enthusiastic promoter of real food/paleo diets.  Yes, I thought to myself, I suppose it would be nice to meet him someday.

Mere weeks later, he emailed me to ask if I’d be interested in sitting down for an interview during his next trip to the U.S.  When I mentioned in my reply that we live on a hobby farm now and raise chickens, hogs and vegetables, he wrote back to say let’s still do the interview, but I’ll come to you and we’ll film a cooking episode as well.  I replied that I’d be fine with that if he promised not to kill my girls by feeding them bone broth.

I’m sure you Australians get the joke.  For Americans and others who may not … remember when a group of dieticians in North Carolina went after Steve Cooksey for offering advice to diabetics that goes against ADA guidelines (i.e., advice that actually works)?  Cooksey is a blogger.  Imagine how ferociously dieticians would attack a celebrity author and chef with a huge following if his advice was contrary to theirs. That’s what Pete Evans is dealing with now in Australia.  He’s recently been accused (loudly and publicly) of endangering the lives of babies and children by including bone broth and liver in recipes for the wee ones.

And so, as he told me today, it’s a good time to be away in the U.S.  He’s here on a whirlwind tour, shooting interviews and/or cooking shows with Mark Sisson, Nora Gedgaudas, Dr. William Davis, Jimmy Moore and Dr. Terry Wahls, to name just a few.  Tomorrow he’ll be shooting an interview with Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms.

He and the crew showed up at 9:30 this morning.  Despite the exhausting travel schedule (and despite being called everything short of a baby-killer in the press), Pete was energetic, enthusiastic and cheerful all day.  He’s intelligent, optimistic, quick-witted, and understands that becoming a target is part of the deal when you go against the grain-pushing nutrition establishment.  In other words, he’s exactly the type of person I tend to like immediately.  And so I did.  Within minutes, we were chatting like old mates.  (Hope I’m using the Australian term properly.)  We even played a short round of disc golf before he and the crew left.

Chareva and I let Sara and Alana skip school today so they could watch the filming. They hung around, watched the setting-up process, asked questions and generally charmed Pete.  His two daughters are around the same age, so it’s probably no surprise he ended up including our girls in the shooting – much to their delight, of course.  As we walked around the farm filming, the girls got to serve as occasional tour guides and collect eggs for the cooking segment.

For the interview segment, Pete and I talked about Fat Head, the Wisdom of Crowds, the health benefits of real food, and why people like us (including him) are electing to move to farms and raise more of our own food.

The cooking segment will, of course, end up in one of Pete’s cooking shows.  The interview may go in a TV show or it may be included in a documentary about food as medicine.  Or both.  It will likely be autumn before the TV segments air, but I’ll be sure to announce if and when they’re available online.

As I mentioned in previous posts, Pete’s upcoming visit was our motivation to wrap up Chareva’s spring project before today.  We didn’t want to take him on a video tour of half-finished chicken coops and fences.

We got it all done, but I feel lucky to be alive and well after my first farm-work accident.  I’ll cover that in my next post.  Meanwhile, here are more pictures from today.


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It’s been a long time since I’ve posted letters from viewers.  Here are a few from the files.  Their letters are in regular text; my replies are in red italic.

Mr. Naughton –

I don’t have a big long e-mail like some other people, but I figured I’d send you a short note.  Today marks two years exactly since I took my “before” picture the day after watching Fat Head for the first (and certainly not the last) time.  So of course I had to take an “after” picture, even though I’m still losing.

In addition to losing weight, the terrible acne I had for years vanished within the first few months and almost immediately the nauseating heartburn I got whenever I went more than a few hours without eating stopped.  It’s been two years and sometimes I forget I used to be fat.  I just feel … normal.  I can go on the amusement park rides I love without worrying about not fitting in the seat.  I can take up Judo without feeling guilty every time my partner has to pick me up.  I can eat my occasional junk binge with my friends without being paranoid people are judging the fat girl with the double chocolate peanut butter banana split (although I know I’ll be sick the next morning…).  I can just be… me.

So, without further ado, here’s my “before and after” exactly two years later (those are the same shorts, btw):

(From a reader who chose to remain anonymous)

That’s quite a transformation, Anon.  Isn’t it great to feel normal?

Dear Tom,

I know you’ve probably gotten a truckload of these letters (you know…if e-mails were physical things that could go in a truck. I’m regretting this metaphor. Pretend this never happened), but I’m adding mine anyway. It turned out to be way longer than I intended — sorry about that. Feel free to give me the e-mail equivalent of a polite smile and nod.

I’ve been obese (not just the bogus BMI definition, but my own “I-feel-crappy-and-way-too-large” definition) for most of my adult life. My friends and I are confirmed smartasses, so at first we would joke about our growing waistlines (“Don’t get between us fat chicks and the buffet!”). It stopped being a joke when I started getting shaky between meals. It got even less funny when I stopped being able to walk up a flight of stairs without huffing like a steam engine.

I tried Weight Watchers a couple of times, but never stuck to their plan. Sorry, but counting points is no less confusing or frustrating than counting calories. Of course, I blamed myself and my lack of willpower/laziness for falling off the wagon. I never blamed the fact that I just felt crappier on that diet — because that’s how you’re supposed to feel on diets, right? Right??

I did some farm work for a few years (if anyone ever needs a reason not to eat factory-farmed pork, I can give them an earful), and that at least kept me somewhat physically active. Nowhere near “in shape,” but I was at least doing a lot of walking.

Then I started freelance writing full-time, about four years ago. (Yes, I realize it’s an odd shift — farm hand to freelance writer. My work history has been … colorful.)

Anyway, that meant sitting at a desk all day. I was already, as I mentioned, too big before the desk work. Freelancing put even more inches around my middle, made me even more sedentary, and pretty soon I found myself so exhausted all the time that I couldn’t function without an hour-long (or two-hour-long) afternoon nap.

A couple of months ago, I was cruising the documentary section of Amazon’s streaming videos (I’m a docu-geek), and I ran across Fat Head. When the description said it was a response to “Super Size Me,” I was sold — that film had always rubbed me the wrong way, though I couldn’t put my finger on why.

To make an already-too-long story a tiny bit shorter, the points you made about how the body actually processes carbs made a lot of sense. I watched it again, and then started buying ALL THE BOOKS I could find related to low carb.

After convincing myself that the science was as sound as it…er, sounded in Fat Head, I passed the movie on to my mom (I get my “fluffy” body type from her), and started throwing away every bit of bread, cereal, and other junk in my house.

I started out with just restricting carbs to less than 100 per day, but I apparently have one of those metabolisms that can’t handle carbs at all, so I went on Atkins induction a week and a half ago. The first three days, I’m not gonna lie, were torture — I’ve always loved veggies and fruit in mass quantities. Cutting fruit for two weeks turned out to be harder than cutting the bread and sweets I thought I’d miss. And Easter Sunday wound up being the day after I started induction (planning is apparently not my greatest skill) — so I had to resist an absolutely gorgeous fruit salad and chocolate cake. I managed, but I think the fingernail marks will never leave my palms.

On Day 4, though, it was like a fog lifted. I woke up not feeling exhausted for the first time in … well, I can’t even say. I don’t remember a time when I ever woke up feeling refreshed and not like I needed to go right back to bed. And my mind felt sharper; it was easier to focus on work.

The cravings also seemed to just switch off. I know some people won’t believe me (but I’ve never cared much for what “some people” think anyway), but I haven’t craved anything sweet or starchy since those first few days.

And today, I felt compelled to write all this out and send it to you, because for the past two days I’ve felt downright wired. I’ve never had this much energy to burn — I have to go for a walk, or I’m going to climb the walls. For the past few years, I’ve barely been able to drag myself out of bed — “exercise” was a four-letter-word — and now I feel compelled to exercise.

I don’t have any impressive numbers to give; my body’s carb-sensitive metabolism has kept my weight loss fairly slow even on induction, and I didn’t bother getting a doctor’s approval before starting this so-called “fad diet.” I just know what my body is telling me: “This is how you should have been eating all along, you fool.”

So thanks for setting me off on this journey. It sounds hyperbolic, but you very likely added a lot of years to my life, and helped improve my mental clarity — so I’ll be a smartass well into old age. I hope you’re happy.

Angie (Slowly Shrinking Fat Chick )

Welcome to the journey, Angie.  If you’re already feeling that compulsion to move, I predict the weight loss will continue.  And even if it doesn’t, this is about feeling good and being healthy more anything.

And yes, of course I’m happy to know the world won’t run out of smartasses anytime soon.

Dear Mr. Naughton,

I wanted to thank you for your documentary and lectures bringing light to the lipid hypothesis fallacy. There is so much misinformation, and frankly I get sick of hearing the same nonsense from physicians and colleagues who do nothing but spout off “handed down information” (because clearly they didn’t do the research themselves!).

My story was sad, but is now more uplifting since I’ve discovered you. I have a Master’s Degree in Medical Biochemistry, so I have an intricate understanding of the human body at the biochemical level. Four years ago I was accepted to medical school. Within the first month we were being taught principles of the lipid hypothesis, but it didn’t add up with what I had learned in my 2 years of intensive graduate courses in biochemistry. After class one day I went to the professor and asked him a few questions to get clarification, and he became angry and frustrated with me.

The next day I was called to the Dean’s office for a meeting between the Dean and the professor due to my “lack of professional respect” and because the professor felt I was “questioning the authority” of his education. I apologized and kept my mouth shut after that, but later in the year when doing dissections in the anatomy lab I noticed some anomalies. The patient we had in our pod was an older woman who had died of CVD. We had limited information on the patient, but what we did know is that she was a life-long vegetarian (this info was given to us to explain her “small, fit frame”) with no previous cholesterol problems (no HDL, LDL, or vLDL out of range). Yet when we started cutting into her aorta and other cardiac arteries, they were all caked with massive plaque crystals! It was disgusting!  I remember vividly cutting with my scalpel and hearing the *crunch* of the plaque as we tried to unclog her vascular system.

Again, it wasn’t adding up: life-long vegetarian, no abnormal cholesterol count, and yet she had massive plaque in her major vessels? No wonder she died from CVD!!! I went to the anatomy professor with my findings, and again was told that I needed to keep my academic professionalism in check. From there, my confidence in our medical education system went downhill, and when I became pregnant I used it as my excuse to give up my seat and exit medical school. It was quite tragic…I had worked so hard to become a doctor, and now I wasn’t going to become one. To add insult to injury, I had accumulated $100,000 in student loan debt between undergrad, grad school, and my one year of med school.

My personal experience with the lipid hypothesis is even more compelling. I have always been “thick”. At 5’8″ tall, my “normal” weight was always around 150 or so. After med school and being pregnant with our son, I ballooned up 215 lbs and acquired gestational diabetes. Six months after having our son, I went down to 200, and a size 14/16. I was miserable and felt ugly, and my blood work looked dismal (triglycerides: 189, A1C: 7.5 — still diabetic).  Even my husband, Steve, gained weight (he went from 225 to 270 lbs).

So we did the conventional thing: joined a gym and started working out 3x per week. We also cut back on calories. My limit was 1500 kcals per day. After four months I had barely lost 10 lbs. Steve lost just 3 lbs more than me. I became frustrated and wondered what we were doing wrong. Then I remembered — oh, yeah … I’m a scientist! So I stopped listening to the “experts” and went back to the basics of my graduate studies in metabolic biochemistry. Two weeks later I had a plan of action. I would limit my carb intake to 30g per day, and do moderate exercise (like walking or biking) instead of killing myself at the gym.

Long story short, in just 7 months I went from 200 lbs to 128, and from a size 14/16 to a size 2! Similarly, Steve went from 270 lbs to 195, and from a size 44 to a size 36 in the same time frame! My triglycerides are now under 40, and my A1C is at 5.0 (not diabetic anymore!). And in case anyone is wondering, my cholesterol count is also perfect! I have redefined what my “normal” is.

After leaving medical school, I got a job working for an allergy company where I am still employed today.  But after watching your media offerings, I find myself compelled to go back into research to disprove the lipid hypothesis. It seems like a fruitless effort, though. After doing some searching, I have found dozens of studies conducted all over the world (USA included) which disprove the lipid hypothesis.  And yet our government — and worse, our doctors and medical schools — still promote it and teach it as truth. Why is that?!? Why, if the evidence is so plainly black and white, do doctors still promote this bunk? It boggles my mind. No one can convince me that the Food Pyramid is good for anyone, or that “eating fat makes you fat”.

It feels good to write all of this down. I’m sure you get a ton of fan mai”, but hopefully you can see how positively this lifestyle affects people so you keep going and spreading the word.  Just keep using scientific fact, and you’ll have GOOD scientists like me backing you up all the way!

Thank you for everything you do,

Thank you, Christina.  You learned the hard way that many doctors think they already know it all and don’t like being questioned.  But as you found out, sometimes we have to ignore them to get good results – and your results are great. 

Dear Tom Naughton,

I hesitated to send this email to you for a long time but I thought the good news must be shared with you. I sent you an email in July.  At that time, I had serious diabetic and heart issues. My weight was 240 pounds at 5’11″ tall.  I’d tried everything that people said was good for my health for a long time, such as brown rice or a vegetarian diet but the result was really bad. My blood sugar rate kept going up, from 140 to 200. My doctor told me I had to take 2000 mg of diabetic pills everyday.

Nothing got better at that time. I had to quit my primary job because I couldn’t work. I was hopeless.

After watched your video, I thought, hey, I’ve tried everything already, why not this? So, I told my family I am going to do this.  Although all my family said I was crazy and some of them even cried, I started your diet plan.

First, I decided to cut carbs. People say we Asians can’t stop eating rice everyday but I quit it. In the morning, I ate 2 eggs and some vegetables and 2 sausages. I went to Wendy’s and ordered double cheeseburgers without buns for lunch. I always added extra lettuce, tomato and onions. At night, I ate a kind of vegetable soup from Korea that has a lot of fiber and very little protein. I never felt hungry at all so I didn’t have to eat a lot at night. Total calories in a day was under 1500.

I tried this diet right after I watched your video. 14 days later, my weight went down to 220. My blood sugar went down from 200 to 120. A month later, my weight went down to 200. My blood sugar was between 80-100. I reduced my diabetic pills to 500mg/day. As of today, although I eat ice cream or cookies sometime, my blood sugar rate always fixed at 100.

My wife was shocked. Even my parents in Korea were shocked, because no one in Korea ever thought eating a hamburger everyday would make a miracle like this. Now, I have my life back. I work every day without any problem and I feel pretty good. In fact, couldn’t be better!

Mr. Naughton, I have no idea what led you created the video Fat Head but I want you know what you have done actually saves a person’s life. I deeply thank you for your efforts.  Only thing that I regret is, I can’t properly give thanks to you because of my poor English.


No worries, Jihyun.  As you requested, I cleaned up your English a little before posting.  But believe me, I understood your message.  I thank you in return for letting me know.

Mr. Naughton:

I do not normally do this, but I wanted to thank you for your film.  It had a huge impact on my life.  Just over a year ago I started a diet and came across your film on Amazon.  It changed the way I ate.  I watched the film over and over and even bought copies for friends and had a few get together where we viewed the movie.

In total, I lost over 40 pounds and I am down in the 190s on my 6 ft frame.  I lost the weight quickly and I have been able to keep most of it off.  My original goal was only 20 pounds lost but I just kept going following the guidelines in your film.

I was reminded today when I wanted to review the movie again and found it off of the instant video.  I will have to buy another as I have given away all my copies.  I still struggle with wanting the sugar (Reese Pumpkins are back out) but by eating in moderation and trying to avoid carbs whenever I can, the weight has not come back.

Thank you again.  Keep up the good work.


Thank you, Kris.  I’m always happy to sell copies of the DVD, of course, but Fat Head is also still available on Hulu, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.

Mr. Naughton,

Thanks for making your documentary.  I never bothered to watch Spurlock’s movie since I’m a pretty natural skeptic, and I’ve virtually ignored government “nutrition” standards for my whole life—at least I thought I did.  I never considered watching Fat Head either since I lumped it in with all the other “documentaries” that are really only pushing political agendas.

I grew up pretty fit and healthy.  At 5’-10” I was 150 lbs. when I graduated high school and only about 155 six months later when I enlisted in the US Air Force.  That began a decade-long imposition of government nutrition standards via military chow halls and various public-university dining plans.  In the first six months of my enlistment I gained 30 pounds, and I’d estimate that maybe half of them were good, lean muscle mass.  By the end of college I was pushing 200 lbs.  I’ll stipulate that I had a very cavalier attitude toward nutrition and ate almost entirely for pleasure, frequently chasing multi-cheeseburgers with lots and lots of soda and midnight runs to the truck stop for enchiladas with rice and beans.  I was incredibly active and really not that interested in my physical appearance so I continued to eat whatever I wanted from the (frankly, daunting) wide selection of approved foods on offer.

Shortly after graduation I married my college sweetie—an event followed closely by a desk job, three kids, a graduate degree, an even-better desk job, and another kid.  For the first time in my life I started thinking about my health.  I tried at times to kick sodas, cut calories, increase the amounts of whole grains, reduce fast food, get more exercise, and all the other conventional advice you sort-of gain by osmosis with this crazy society.  I’d get bored, or frustrated, or depressed; and in a blink I’d be back to my old eating habits.  Sure I was getting ever so-slowly fatter, but at least I was mostly happy.

I only need to mention that I’m adopted to clarify that I had no idea about my family health history.  Through the course of time I managed to partially reconnect with my paternal biological family, and I learned that we’re prone to all sorts of metabolic problems—one uncle was even no-kidding diagnosed with a food addiction, another recently received a Type-II diabetes sentence, and my grandfather died before 70 due to the complications of diabetes plus obesity.  Learning these things set off alarm bells, but I continued to struggle in my own way without really caring.

Then I turned 35, and seemingly overnight my health became an issue.  Energy levels were just gone.  Walking up a short set of stairs left me winded.  My blood pressure was high and my body was achy all the time.  The mirror wasn’t showing me any signs of “real” obesity, so I hadn’t bothered with the scale either.  Under the constant pressure of life events, I false-started at several more of the same attempts to improve my health.  I made no progress, and still the worry was growing.  I was loathe to start working with a doctor because my wife was having such a terrible experience with hers—all they want to do is put her on meds—and because I was afraid of what I might find out (and what it would cost to “treat” it).

Finally this year at the age of 37 I got serious.  I had tipped the post-holiday scales at a whopping 245 lbs.; and according to the government standards I wasn’t just obese, I was a class-II fatty.  Even though I knew it was an arbitrary standard, it was still an objective number and I drew my line in the sand.  I wasn’t just going to improve my health, I was going to improve my overall fitness—but how?

I made a few small changes to my life to accommodate my new motivation, but I still needed a plan lest I fall right back in to my old ways.  I started researching not just weight-loss but actual nutrition and fitness, and that’s when I discovered a clip on YouTube titled “Why You Got Fat”.  The skeptic in me tried to dismiss it, but my ignorance demanded I look in to it further.  I read the book by Mr. Taubes, watched a few of his lectures and interviews, and then stumbled almost by accident across Fat Head.  Talk about clarifying the issue.  Suddenly it all made sense.  And I knew what I was going to do.

That was 13 weeks and almost 34 pounds ago.

I’m halfway to my goal, and in addition to getting leaner I’m also stronger, faster, and much happier with how my body is performing than I’ve been in over a decade.  My BP is down to almost normal and a lot of the worries I’d been having are gone.  Now I only worry about getting enough protein so I can go for that 200-lb bench press I’m working toward.  And as excited as I am for my own success, nothing makes me happier than the improvement my wife has made.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all if she’s completely off meds by the end of the year (thank God that she refused to go on statins right from the outset).  I have every confidence in reaching my goals, and I’ve implemented what I’ve learned (in no small part due to your movie) throughout my household.  We haven’t become carb zealots, but we’ve been able to make much smarter choices now that we have the information that’s been critically lacking in our society.

All that is a really long winded way to say thanks.  Thanks for helping to spread the truth.  Thanks for your YouTube channel and the clip that finally got me launched in the right direction.

Bettendorf, IA (not far from the map of your childhood neighborhood in the movie)

If my dad hadn’t been transferred to Illinois, we might have been neighbors, Tim.  Congratulations on the impressive weight loss, and I wish you and your wife continued good (and ever-improving) health.  Wave to the old neighborhood for me.


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I was recently the guest on Vinnie Tortorich’s Angriest Trainer in America podcast.

I haven’t met Vinnie, but I’ve listened to his podcasts.  I like the way he thinks. We had a great time talking about a variety of topics — so much fun, he didn’t notice the recorder stopped as we were talking.  So the podcast ends in the middle of a sentence.

No worries. As far as I’m concerned, that just means we need to do it again sometime.

You can listen to our interview here.


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Dr. Malcolm Kendrick is the Mark Twain of medical writers, wielding his own pen warmed up in hell. Hell, in this case, is a modern medical system designed to persuade doctors and the public that nearly everyone with a pulse is abnormal and in need of treatment.  In fact, I can summarize Kendrick’s latest book Doctoring Data by paraphrasing Twain himself:  “If your doctor doesn’t read the medical literature, he is uninformed.  If he does read the medical literature, he is misinformed.”

I first became aware of Kendrick when Dr. Mike Eades recommended his book The Great Cholesterol Con.
I ordered a copy and expected to be educated.  I didn’t expect to laugh my ass off while being educated, but that’s Kendrick’s style.  He attacks nonsense with facts and logic, yes, but also with a razor-sharp wit.  (If you don’t read his blog, you should.)

As Kendrick has made clear many times, he’s not anti-medicine.  He is a doctor, after all.  Take surgeries and the true wonder drugs out of the picture, and many of us would be far worse off, if not dead.  I’d be limping around on a ruined knee, deaf in one ear, and unable to raise my left arm above chest-level.  So much for doing farm work and playing disc golf on weekends.

But Kendrick is very much against the nonsense that pervades much of preventative medicine these days.  The nonsense is driven by what he calls doctored data.  In a nutshell, the system works something like this:

Even though you’re probably fine, you undergo a lab test at your doctor’s insistence, and lo and behold, you’re diagnosed with a previously unknown “disease” … which was discovered just in time to coincide with the approval of a new wonder drug … which was approved based on suspicious data … from a study designed and run by the drug-maker … which paid key opinion leaders to sit on a government committee that wrote the treatment guidelines … which instruct your doctor to prescribe the new wonder drug … which produces nasty side-effects … which must be treated with more wonder drugs. Oh, and you also need to stop eating anything that tastes good.

Here’s how Kendrick describes the situation in the book’s introduction:

It has become exceedingly difficult to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Lying in the sun… “Do not do that, or you will die of skin cancer.” Eating a bacon sandwich… “You mad fool, the saturated fat in that will raise your cholesterol levels and you will die of heart disease.” Putting salt on food… “That raises blood pressure and you will die of a heart attack or a stroke.” Drinking an ice-cold gin and tonic after a hard day’s work… “If you drink more than 15 units a week you risk dying of cancer and liver failure.” Hey ho, what jolly fun.

At the same time we are being cajoled to undergo ever more screening tests to pick up the early stages of cancer and numerous other diseases. As if this were not enough, your GP will be haranguing you to have endless measurements of blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, to name but three. As if good health is only really possible through constant monitoring by the medical profession.

As for the elderly, it has become virtually impossible to find anyone taking fewer than four or five separate medications. One of my jobs is working in Intermediate Care where I help to look after elderly people, many of whom have suffered an injury or fracture of some sort. When patients enter this unit, the average number of medications taken is ten. That is ten different drugs, to be taken each and every day, some of them three or four times each day. I suppose it saves on buying food.

At the same time, the boundaries that define illness have narrowed inexorably. When I first graduated from medical school in 1981, a high cholesterol level was anything above 7.5 mmol/L. Over the years, this level has fallen and fallen to the point where a ‘healthy’ level is now 5.0 mmol/L. I suspect it will soon be 4.0 mmol/L. Anything above this figure, and you have an increased risk of heart disease – allegedly. Considering that over 85% of the adult population in the western world has a cholesterol level higher than 5.0 mmol/L this is a quite amazing concept. I will admit that I have never been that brilliant at statistics. However, it seems to me that attempting to claim that more than 80% of people are at high risk of heart disease stretches the concept of ‘average’ to breaking point – and well beyond.

The sad truth is that most of the advice we are now bombarded with varies from neutral to damaging. In some cases it can be potentially very damaging indeed. Advising people with diabetes to eat a low fat, high carbohydrate diet, for example. As a piece of harmful idiocy, this really could hardly be bettered.

How about frightening people to stay out of the sun, or slap on factor 50 cream at the first suspicion that a deadly photon may sneak through 10 layers of protective clothing? Not necessarily a good idea, because without vitamin D synthesis in the skin, from exposure to the sun, there is a significant danger that we can become vitamin D deficient, which can lead to all sorts of other problems.

And later in the introduction:

So you trust the experts… right?

No, I do not think that would be the best way to go. In fact, long sections of this book are dedicated to an exploration of the role of the ‘expert’ (chapter six). The bottom line is that experts are just as prone to grasping the wrong end of the stick as anyone else, then hanging on for blue bloody murder. Far more so, in many cases.

If truth be told, my view of medical experts has become extremely jaundiced. At times I feel they are like those highly decorated generals in North Korea with the funny hats. They look splendid and important, but the only point of their existence is to suppress dissent and keep an idiotic regime in place. In reality, you are not likely to get much nuance from an expert. You are more likely to be ‘educated’ on the party line. Room 101 lurks.

I don’t have to convince a bunch of Fat Heads to be skeptical of experts, but the question remains: when we’re bombarded with medical advice, or with headlines proclaiming New Study Says Blah-Blah-Blah, how do we separate the gems from the garbage?  To a large degree, that’s what Doctoring Data is about:

Should you believe everything, or believe nothing? Trying to establish any type of system for establishing the truth is clearly not simple, and it is fraught with its own biases.

Having said this, I do think that there are certain ‘tools’ that you can use to analyse health stories and clinical papers. Using them will allow you to spot many of the manipulations and biases. These tools are not complete, and they are not some sort of mathematical formula, whereby a score of five means the paper is true, and a score of ten means it is untrue.

However, I believe that they can guide you, and give you a much clearer picture of what is really happening out there in the murky world of medical research, a way of looking at the world to try and establish the truth. Or something as close to the truth as can be achieved.

The truth toolkit: Ten things to remember, to help you make sense of a medical story; they are also the chapters of this book.

• Association does not mean causation
• Lives cannot be saved; we’re all going to die
• Relative mountains are made out of absolute molehills
• Things that are not true are often held to be true
• Reducing numbers does not equal reducing risk
• Challenges to the status quo are crushed – and how!
• Games are played and the players are…
• Doctors can seriously damage your health
• Never believe that something is impossible
• ‘Facts’ can be, and often are, plucked from thin air

The rest of the book is like an in-depth version of Science For Smart People.  Kendrick guides the reader through the process of how studies are conducted and how the numbers are crunched.  Then he shows how everything gets turned upside-down and sideways so researchers can declare that a new wonder drug or procedure will “save” hundreds of thousands of lives … even if “saving” a life means extending it by an average of three months.

Statins, blood-pressure medications, various cancer screenings … as Kendrick repeatedly demonstrates with actual study results (minus the medical-industry spin), many of the sacred cows of “preventative” medicine don’t seem to prevent much of anything:

Those involved in cancer screening have even created their own, virtually-impossible‐to-understand language, in order to make their figures look stunning. Stunning they may look, but luckily there are other people out there who are less than stunned, and who choose to look a bit more closely.

The United States Preventative Task force reviewed all the data on Prostate Cancer screening (using the prostate specific antigen (P.S.A.) blood test) and came to the conclusion that it does more harm than good.

Lo, it turns out that the prostate screening test, which improves survival from 68% to 99% does not actually save lives – at all. Fantastic sounding cure rates, which completely bedazzle doctors, are simply meaningless.

In the chapter titled Challenges to the status quo are crushed – and how!, Kendrick cites examples of how results that challenge prevailing medical opinion are squashed … or fudged, or simply ignored.  For example, one study was published with the title Excess deaths associated with underweight, overweight, and obesity.

Well, there you go: you clearly don’t want to be overweight or underweight.  If your doctor glanced at the journal article, that’s the conclusion he or she would draw.  Just one little problem: the actual study data showed that people in the overweight category (BMI of 25 to 30) had the longest lifespans.  But wait, it gets even better:

You may note that, in this study, even those in the obese category (BMI 30-35) had a lower mortality than those of ‘normal’ weight.

The overwhelming belief in the medical community is that being overweight is bad for you. It causes a host of diseases, which will inevitably result in premature death. To state that being overweight means that you live longer is the scientific equivalent of standing up and shouting that the Emperor is not actually wearing any clothes at all.

So why did the paper’s title declare that the risky categories are underweight, overweight and obesity?  As Kendrick writes:

If they dared to write a paper with this title… Excess deaths associated with underweight, normal weight, and obesity. …one of two things would have happened. Either the peer reviewers would have rejected it, or, had it been published, their names would be mud in the world of obesity research.

If the medical world crushes people who say being overweight won’t kill you any sooner, imagine how it treats people who say statins won’t save your life.  Time to call in the North Korean generals with the funny hats.

In the chapter titled Doctors can seriously damage your health, I finally learned the origin of a colorful phrase that means giving someone a load of nonsense:

If someone was close to death, or even apparently dead through drowning or suchlike, conventional wisdom was that you could save their life by blowing tobacco smoke up their rectum with a pair of bellows. So strong was this belief that hundreds of set of bellows were hung up around the Thames to revive those who had fallen in and drowned.

The hell with CPR, just blow smoke up someone’s backside, that’ll do the trick. How idiotic does this now sound? Pretty idiotic I would think. However, very intelligent people believed it was true. Doctors thought it to be true… Not, of course, that I would necessarily confuse doctors with intelligent people.

Sadly, each generation easily convinces itself that such arrant nonsense has become thing of that past.

But such arrant nonsense isn’t a thing of the past.  Doctors used to blow smoke up our arses; now they prescribe statins to beat down our cholesterol.  I’d rather take the smoke.

That’s the point of Doctoring Data:  there’s still a lot of nonsense in medicine – perhaps more than ever.  I can barely turn on my TV these days without seeing a commercial for some new drug, always ending with the line Ask your doctor about SuperlaBlex or whatever it’s called.

No, don’t ask your doctor if you need the new wonder drug!  The entire system of studies, reviews, approvals, guidelines, etc. is designed to convince your doctor that you’re ill and need that new drug.  You simply can’t count on your doctor (unless you’re lucky) to be skeptical of modern medicine.  You have to be the skeptic.  Doctoring Data teaches you how to be an informed skeptic.  As Kendrick writes in his closing:

How can Dr Kendrick be right, and all the highly decorated experts be wrong? Well, obviously, they are right about many things. However, when it comes to the area of preventative medicine it seems that every stick that can be grabbed at the wrong end, has been grabbed at the wrong end. Alongside this, experts seem obsessed with simplistic ideas where cause and association are hopelessly muddled. It has become a mess, in part driven by money. Things that are high should be lowered, things that are low should be raised. Yes, we have a drug for that… Kerrching. ‘Look for underlying causes? What idiot said that?’

So I decided to try and expose, if that is the right word, how data are produced. How statistics are used to terrify people, or falsely reassure them. Also, what are the drivers for this behaviour? I know I will be attacked for some of the things I have said. That is inevitable. However, that does not matter. What matters is that you, once you have read this book, can understand more clearly how and why data are ‘doctored’. You can then understand the headlines more clearly. Two sausages a day increase your risk of bowel cancer by 50%. Shock, and horror, and bollocks. You can make the decisions for yourself about what you can and should do to live a longer, healthier and happier life.


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I was recently a guest on the Body IO FM podcast.  You can listen to that episode here.

The hosts of Body IO FM are John Kiefer and Dr. Rocky Patel.  I became aware of them more than a year ago when they were the guests on an episode of Jimmy Moore’s Ask the Low Carb Experts.  It was a 90-minute Q & A with lots of good information, but their basic message came down to this:  ketosis is great, but most people get better results if they cycle in and out by having a “carb nite” once per week.  You can read an overview of the theory by visiting the CarbNite website.

That’s more or less what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years.  I stay pretty low-carb on most days, but on Saturday nights we usually go out to a nearby Mexican diner we like.  I’ll eat the corn tortillas, rice and beans with that meal.


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