"Eat to treat"

Diet foodA new book makes the potentially controversial claim that Food is Better Medicine Than Drugs. Katie Baldwin met one of the authors

It's no secret that our diet can have a dramatic effect on our health. In recent years the trickle of health advice relating to food has become an inescapable flood.

We need to eat less fatty foods, more fruit and vegetables and less salt, more oily fish and less red meat. A new book goes one step further though. Food is Better Medicine Than Drugs by nutrition expert Patrick Holford and medical journalist Jerome Burne claims just that.

The authors say that generally there is too much reliance by conventional medics to hand out drugs at every turn and too much acceptance by the public to take them.
They claim many chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis or depression could be much improved by changing diet, eating certain foods or food supplements.

Before you throw away your prescription though, the authors are careful to point out that no-one should stop taking their medication without first talking to their doctor. They insist that they are not anti-drugs but question the science behind some drug companies' claims and want patients to ask their doctors more about what they are taking.

But they do claim that treatments without using drugs are nearly always safer or more effective than pharmaceuticals.

It seems people in Leeds are keen to find out more about these ideas. More than 100 people attended a recent seminar at the David Lloyd Centre in Moortown, one of a series taking place across the country to coincide with the publication of the book.

Mr Holford said the aim was to show there was a drug-free solution to some conditions.
"Most people have no idea that many specific diets and supplements out perform today's commonly prescribed drugs, without the side effects," he said.

"All too often GPs will turn round and say they believe in the best medication and there's no evidence for this nutritional stuff.
"In truth there's lots of evidence in the medical journals, it's just most doctors don't have time to trawl through it."

He stressed they didn't want readers to throw away their medication and said they didn't look at some illnesses, like cancer.

However he said people should be much more aware of what they were putting in their mouths.
"Most people in Britain are digging their own graves with a knife and fork," he warned.
According to Mr Holford, studies have already proved the effectiveness of some supplements which can raise 'good' cholesterol.

He said B vitamin niacin has been shown to do this, as has an Omega-3 fish oil.
For diabetes, he says the mineral chromium and the spice cinnamon reduce blood sugar as or more effectively than a commonly prescribed drug.

Red onions are good for eczema while olives, ginger and turmeric are said to relieve arthritis.
In the book, the authors tell the stories of a raft of case studies, including a diabetic who changed her diet so much that she could come off her medication.

Another was on a statin drug for high cholesterol but had unpleasant side effects. A change in diet saw his cholesterol reduce to a normal level within weeks.
Leeds woman Linda Robinson was keen to attend the seminar in the city after losing four stones through Mr Holford's low GL diet.

The 52-year-old from Cookridge said she had struggled on previous diets to keep the pounds off.
She said that as well as losing weight, Patrick's diet had also helped combat other health problems.

"The pain I used to suffer in my right knee has disappeared as have my occasional back spasms," she said.

"I have dropped four dress sizes and friends can't get over the new me. Some of them are now successfully following the diet also.

"Now that I have reached a sensible weight that I am happy with, I have no intention of falling back into bad habits. I consider the diet as a permanent lifestyle change. You couldn't pay me to go back to my old eating habits."