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As we have recently discussed diet and its effects on health, it seems reasonable to ask whether there is a diet that is demonstrably healthy. A recent investigation attempted to answer this question.

This study was aimed at developing a healthy diet score that is associated with health outcomes and is globally applicable. It used data from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study and tried to replicate it in five independent studies on a total of 245 000 people from 80 countries.

A healthy diet score was developed on the basis of the data from 147 642 people from the general population, from 21 countries in the PURE study. The consistency of the associations of the score with events was examined in five large independent studies from 70 countries.

The healthy diet score was developed based on six foods each of which has been associated with a significantly lower risk of mortality [i.e. fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, and dairy (mainly whole-fat); range of scores, 0–6]. The main outcome measures were all-cause mortality and major cardiovascular events [cardiovascular disease (CVD)].

During a median follow-up of 9.3 years in PURE, compared with a diet score of ≤1 point, a diet score of ≥5 points was associated with a lower risk of:

  • mortality [hazard ratio (HR) 0.70; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.63–0.77)],
  • CVD (HR 0.82; 0.75–0.91),
  • myocardial infarction (HR 0.86; 0.75–0.99),
  • stroke (HR 0.81; 0.71–0.93).

In three independent studies with vascular patients, similar results were found, with a higher diet score being associated with lower mortality (HR 0.73; 0.66–0.81), CVD (HR 0.79; 0.72–0.87), myocardial infarction (HR 0.85; 0.71–0.99), and a non-statistically significant lower risk of stroke (HR 0.87; 0.73–1.03). Additionally, in two case-control studies, a higher diet score was associated with lower first myocardial infarction [odds ratio (OR) 0.72; 0.65–0.80] and stroke (OR 0.57; 0.50–0.65). A higher diet score was associated with a significantly lower risk of death or CVD in regions with lower than with higher gross national incomes (P for heterogeneity <0.0001). The PURE score showed slightly stronger associations with death or CVD than several other common diet scores (P < 0.001 for each comparison).

Association of Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology healthy diet score vs. Events in those with and without prior cardiovascular disease in the four independent prospective studies (n = 191 476). Hazard ratios (95%) are per 20 percentile increment in the diet score. Hazard ratios (95% CI) are multivariable adjusted.

The authors concluded that consumption of a diet comprised of higher amounts of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and a moderate amount of fish and whole-fat dairy is associated with a lower risk of CVD and mortality in all world regions, but especially in countries with lower income where consumption of these natural foods is low. Similar associations were found with the inclusion of meat or whole grain consumption in the diet score (in the ranges common in the six studies that we included). Our findings indicate that the risks of deaths and vascular events in adults globally are higher with inadequate intake of protective foods.

The authors rightly stress that their analyses have a number of limitations:

First, diet (as in most large epidemiologic studies) was self-reported and variations in reporting might lead to random errors that could dilute real associations between diet scores and clinical outcomes. Therefore, the beneficial effects of a healthier diet may be larger than estimated.

Second, the researchers did not examine the role of individual types of fruits and vegetables as components in the diet score, since the power to detect associations of the different types of fruits and vegetables vs. CVD or mortality is low (i.e. given that the number of events per type of fruit and vegetable was relatively low). Recent evidence suggests that bioactive compounds and, in particular, polyphenols which are found in certain fruit or vegetables (e.g. berries, spinach, and beans) may be especially protective against CVD.

Third, in observational studies, the possibility of residual confounding from unquantified or imprecise measurement of covariates cannot be ruled out—especially given that the differences in risk of clinical events are modest (∼10%–20% relative differences). Ideally, large randomized trials would be needed to clarify the clinical impact on events of a policy of proposing a dietary pattern in populations.

Fourth, the use of the median intake of each food component as a cut-off in the scoring scheme for each diet may not reflect the full range of consumption or provide a meaningful indicator of consumption associated with the disease. However, the use of quintiles instead of medians within each study or within each region yielded the same results indicating the robustness of our findings.

Fifth, the level of intake to meet the cut-off threshold for each food group in the diet score may differ between countries. However, in sensitivity analyses where region-specific median cut-offs were used to classify participants on each component of the diet score, the results were similar to using the overall cohort median of each food component. Further, with unprocessed red meat and whole grains included or excluded from the diet score in these sensitivity analyses, the results were again similar.

Sixth, misclassification of exposures cannot be ruled out as repeat measures of diet were not available in all studies. However, the ORIGIN study, in which repeat diet assessments at 2 years were conducted, showed similar results based on the first vs. second diet assessments. This indicates that misclassification of dietary intake during follow-up was not undermining the findings.

Seventh, one unique aspect of the study is the focus on only protective foods, i.e. a dietary pattern score that highlights what is missing from the food supply, especially in poorer world regions, but this does not negate the importance of limiting the consumption of harmful foods such as highly processed foods. While the PURE diet score had significantly stronger associations with events than other diet scores, the HRs were only slightly larger for PURE than for most other diet scores. However, the Planetary score was the least predictive of events. The analyses provide empirical evidence that all diet scores (other than the Planetary diet score) are of value to predicting death or CVD globally and in all regions of the world.

So, what should we, according to these findings, be looking for and how much of it should we consume? Here is the table that should answer these questions:

Fruits and vegetables 4 to 5 servings daily 1 medium apple, banana, pear; 1 cup leafy vegs; 1/2 cup other vegs
Legumes 3 to 4 servings weekly 1/2 cup beans or lentils
Nuts 7 servings weekly 1 oz., tree nuts or peanuts
Fish 2 to 3 servings weekly 3 oz. cooked (pack of cards size)
Dairy 14 servings weekly 1 cup milk or yogurt; 1 ½ oz cheese
Whole grainsc Moderate amounts (e.g. 1 serving daily) can be part of a healthy diet 1 slice (40 g) bread; ½ medium (40 g) flatbread; ½ cup (75–120 g) cooked rice, barley, buckwheat, semolina, polenta, bulgur, or quinoa
Unprocessed meatsc Moderate amounts (e.g. 1 serving daily) can be part of a healthy diet 3 oz. cooked red meat or poultry

The website of the World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC) points out that public health is defined by the WHO as follows:

“Activities to strengthen public health capacities and service aim to provide conditions under which people can maintain to be healthy, improve their health and wellbeing, or prevent the deterioration of their health. Public health focuses on the entire spectrum of health and wellbeing, not only the eradication of particular diseases.”

The WFC then continues stating this:

As primary contact health professionals, chiropractors can play an important role as public health advocates. This can range from providing support and advice on health matters such as physical activity, diet, and fitness as well as lifestyle choices such as injury prevention and avoiding tobacco use. Chiropractors can also play a role in counselling patients and communities on the benefits of public health measures, especially as this relates to immediate health needs of each region.

I think that this might merit a few comments.

  1. Physical activity is undoubtedly an important issue for public health; however, there are clearly healthcare professionals who are in a better-informed position to advise on it than chiropractors.
  2. Diet is undoubtedly an important issue for public health; however, there are clearly healthcare professionals who are in a better-informed position to advise on it than chiropractors.
  3. Fitness is undoubtedly an important issue for public health; however, there are clearly healthcare professionals who are in a better-informed position to advise on it than chiropractors.
  4. Lifestyle choice is undoubtedly an important issue for public health; however, there are clearly healthcare professionals who are in a better-informed position to advise on it than chiropractors.
  5. Injury prevention is undoubtedly an important issue for public health; however, there are clearly healthcare professionals who are in a better-informed position to advise on it than chiropractors.
  6. Avoiding tobacco use is undoubtedly an important issue for public health; however, there are clearly healthcare professionals who are in a better-informed position to advise on it than chiropractors.
  7. Counseling is undoubtedly an important issue for public health; however, there are clearly healthcare professionals who are in a better-informed position to advise on it than chiropractors.

So, what is the real contribution of chiropractors to public health?

I would therefore argue that, on balance, the contribution of chiropractors to public health might be considerable …

sadly, however, it goes in the wrong direction.

Like ultra-processed food (UPF) itself, the subject of UPF is everywhere – radio, TV, Twitter, you name it, the topic crops up. I too could not resist writing a post on it a few months ago. And now I am publishing another one but one in a slightly more irritated mood.

Why do these endless discussions on UPF irritate me?

To start with, there is no uniform definition of UPF, and many commentators seem more than a little confused about what UPF actually is. One definition holds that Ultra-processed foods are foods that have been altered to include fats, starches, sugars, salts and hydrogenated oils extracted from other foodsThey contain ingredients, additives, and preservatives that are not normally used in home cooking. It seems obvious that discussions on UPF without a clear and understandable definition of the term are merely generating confusion in the general public.

But there are, of course, lists of UPF that might render the subject a bit clearer. The trouble, however, is that these lists reveal disagreement among each other. Thus they are prone to generate even more confusion.

Next, there is the evidence – and there is lots of it. It suggests that the regular consumption of UPF is bad for virtually every aspect of health. And if there is no evidence that it is detrimental for a given condition, it probably is merely because nobody has yet bothered to do the analyses. The trouble is, however, that all the relevant research comes from either basic science or epidemiology. This means that causality is unproven.

A further problem is that even the experts don’t know what the alleged causal factors in UPF are.

  • Is it the processing?
  • The additives?
  • The sugar?
  • The fats?
  • If so, which fats exactly?
  • Is it perhaps a complex inter-play of some of these factors?

If we want to make progress, we need to know! If not, we cannot possibly begin to avoid the health-threatening effects of UPF.

The final and arguably biggest problem is that UPF is everywhere. Nobody living in an industrialized country and earning a regular living can avoid consuming UPF. This means, I fear, that all the current hype about UPF is not just irritating but possibly counter-productive.

Imagine an average person trying to make sense of these discussions. She would soon give up and conclude that all these ‘clever’ experts know nothing at all. Her foremost concern is to make ends meet. In the end, she will carry on as before. Alternatively, she might even conclude that, as the even experts do not make sense, UPF cannot be all that bad after all.

After reading about and listening to the arguments around UPF, I ask myself this: would it not be more productive to apply more common sense and focus on a few nutritional messages that are 1) solidly based on evidence and 2) an average person can actually follow?

A Nutrient Mix Designed at the Dr. Rath Research Institute is Effective Against Different Types of Coronavirus.” With these words (and the picture below), the ‘Dr. Rath Research Institute’ recently announced its sensational finding on Twitter.

Clicking on the link they provided, got me to the following article:

In this new study we wanted to find out whether certain natural substances could help fight against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), and another type of coronavirus known as HCoV-229E which infects humans and is associated with the common cold and its symptoms.

The importance of the study relates to the fact that COVID-19 is still a big problem, especially for older people and those with weak immune systems. Current approaches using RNA- and DNA -based vaccines are not effective in preventing the infection and spread of SARS-CoV-2, or its variants such as Omicron. The anti-viral drugs used against the pandemic are similarly not fully effective. It is therefore important to develop other approaches, especially those involving safe, natural substances, that could be used alongside or instead of conventional treatments.

For the study, scientists at the Dr. Rath Research Institute used a combination of natural substances including vitamin C, polyphenols, and other nutrients. They gave the nutrient mix to mice infected with one or other of the two types of coronaviruses, to see if it could reduce the numbers of viral particles and spike proteins in the animals’ lungs.

Based on our earlier work using human cells growing in culture we already knew that the combination of nutrients in this mixture was effective in controlling key cellular mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 infection, including inhibiting the multiplication of the virus.

We had found that the nutrient mix could inhibit an enzyme, RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), which is needed for a virus to make copies of itself. The mix was also effective in preventing viral spike protein from binding to cell surfaces and entering cells. It additionally worked in decreasing the number of so-called ACE2 receptor proteins, which are expressed by cells in the lungs, blood vessels, and other organs, and that help the virus to get into cells.

In this latest study the nutrient mix was administered daily to mice infected with either SARS-CoV-2 or HCoV-229E, to see if it could reduce infectivity in terms of the amounts of viral particles and spike proteins found in the lungs. Infected mice in the control group were fed a normal diet without nutrient supplementation. The amounts of viral particles and spike proteins in the lungs were evaluated using special molecular-based tests. We also examined the effects of the nutrient mix on the presence of immune cells in the lungs, as an indication of tissue inflammation.

The results showed that, compared to mice in the control group, the nutrients significantly reduced the amounts of viral particles and spike proteins in the lungs of infected mice. Moreover, the mix was equally effective in mice infected with either of the two types of coronaviruses. This indicates that the nutrients affected common mechanisms of infection and were not specific to a particular type of virus. It also explains the results of our previous studies, which showed that the nutrient mix was effective in stopping SARS-CoV-2 and several of its mutated forms, including Omicron variants, from entering the cells.

Crucially, we found the nutrient mix affected not only the virus itself; it also reduced the ability of the virus to enter cells by decreasing the number of ACE2 receptors on cell surfaces. In the presence of inflammation, which is commonly associated with infections, there were similarly less ACE2 receptors on cells. Nutrient anti-inflammatory effects were also observed in the lung tissue of the mice.

In conclusion, our study showed that the nutrient mix could help reduce the infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 and the associated common cold virus HCoV-229E in mice at different stages of infectivity. The fact that different mechanisms were affected simultaneously demonstrates the superior efficacy of nutrients compared to drugs, the latter of which usually target only a single mechanism and allow the virus to escape by mutating.

The unique composition and efficacy of our nutrient mix has been awarded US and international patents. While more research is needed in order to fully confirm its efficacy in human clinical trials, the application of this safe micronutrient combination as soon as possible should ultimately benefit people worldwide and save on healthcare costs.

So, the claim that a Nutrient Mix is “Effective Against Different Types of Coronavirus” rests on some lousy experiments on rats?

Might we call this misleading or dishonest?

And what is the Dr. Rath Research Institute?

Could it belong to the Dr. Rath Foundation?

The very foundation that once published this about me:

Professor Edzard Ernst: A Career Built On Discrediting Natural Health Science? 

Professor Edzard Ernst, a retired German physician and academic, has recently become a prominent advocate of plans that could potentially outlaw the entire profession of naturopathic doctors in Germany. Promoting the nonsensical idea that naturopathic medicine somehow poses a risk to public health, Ernst attacks its practitioners as supposedly having been educated in “nonsense”. Tellingly, however, given that he himself has seemingly not published even so much as one completely original scientific trial of his own, Ernst’s apparent attempts to discredit natural healthcare approaches are largely reliant instead on his analysis or review of handpicked negative studies carried out by others.


Maintenance of cognitive abilities is of critical importance to older adults, yet only a few effective strategies to slow down cognitive decline currently exist. Multivitamin supplementation is used to promote general health; however, it is unclear whether it favorably affects cognition in older age. This study aimed to examine the effect of daily multivitamin/multimineral supplementation on memory in older adults.

The Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study Web (COSMOS-Web) ancillary study (NCT04582617) included 3562 older adults. Participants were randomly assigned to a daily multivitamin supplement (Centrum Silver) or placebo and evaluated annually with an Internet-based battery of neuropsychological tests for 3 y. The prespecified primary outcome measure was change in episodic memory, operationally defined as immediate recall performance on the ModRey test, after 1 y of intervention. Secondary outcome measures included changes in episodic memory over 3 y of follow-up and changes in performance on neuropsychological tasks of novel object recognition and executive function over 3 y.

Compared with placebo, participants randomly assigned to multivitamin supplementation had significantly better ModRey immediate recall at 1 y, the primary endpoint (t(5889) = 2.25, P = 0.025), as well as across the 3 y of follow-up on average (t(5889) = 2.54, P = 0.011). Multivitamin supplementation had no significant effects on secondary outcomes. Based on a cross-sectional analysis of the association between age and performance on the ModRey, it was estimated that the effect of the multivitamin intervention improved memory performance above placebo by the equivalent of 3.1 y of age-related memory change.

The authors concluded that daily multivitamin supplementation, compared with placebo, improves memory. Multivitamin supplementation holds promise as a safe and accessible approach to maintaining cognitive health in older age.

These findings are surprising, not least because similar studies have thus far failed to demonstrate such effects. A 2013 trial, for instance, concluded that, in male physicians aged 65 years or older, long-term use of a daily multivitamin did not provide cognitive benefits.

Judging from the abstract alone (unfortunately, I have no access to the full paper), this seems to be a rigorous trial. It was conducted by multiple researchers of high standing. One is therefore inclined to believe the results.

Yet, one might be wise to be cautious.

Provided that a full analysis of the study does not identify major flaws, I would still want to 1) have a plausible explanation as to the mode of action and 2) see an independent replication before I accept the findings.


The study was partly funded by the National Institutes of Health. The vitamins were provided by Pfizer Inc. and Haleon, the makers of the supplement used in the study.


I have now seen the full paper [thank you Dan] and can confirm that the study was of high quality. Yet, it also has limitations, of course, e.g.:

  • the effect size is modest;
  • the study population is selected and thus the results are not generalizable;
  • the outcome measures were assessed remotely;
  • the success of blinding was not checked [I find it conceivable that some trial participants tried to find out what they were taking, e.g. by tasting the pills].

I had come across them so often that I had almost stopped noticing them: the ‘little extras‘ that make ineffective so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs) seem effective. Then, recently, during an interview about detox diets, the interviewer responded to my explanation of the ineffectiveness of these treatments by saying: “but these diets include stopping the consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, and other harmful stuff; therefore they must be good.” This seemingly convincing argument reminded me of a phenomenon – I call it here the ‘little extra‘ – that applies to so many (if not most) SCAMs.

Let me schematically summarise it as follows:

  1. A practitioner applies an ineffective SCAM to a patient.
  2. Because it is ineffective, it has little effect other than a small placebo response.
  3. The ineffective SCAM comes with a ‘little extra‘ which is unrelated to the SCAM.
  4. The ‘little extra‘ is effective.
  5. The end result is that the ineffective SCAM appears to be effective.

The above example makes it quite clear: the detox diet is utter nonsense but, as it goes hand in hand with effective lifestyle changes, it appears to be effective. A classic case. But SCAM offers no end of similar examples:

  • Acupuncture is useless but it involves touch, time, attention, and empathy all of which are effective in making a patient feel better.
  • Chiropractic is useless but it involves touch, time, attention, and empathy all of which are effective in making a patient feel better.
  • Homeopathy is useless but it involves a long, empathic consultation and attention which are effective in making a patient feel better.
  • Osteopathy is useless but it involves touch, time, attention, and empathy all of which are effective in making a patient feel better.
  • Reflexology is useless but it involves touch, time, attention, and empathy all of which are effective in making a patient feel better.

Do I need to continue?

Probably not!

The ‘little extras‘ are often forgotten or subsumed under the heading ‘placebo’. Yet, they are not part of the placebo effect. Strictly speaking, they are concomitant treatments comparable to a pain patient using SCAM and also taking a few paracetamols. In the end, she forgets about the painkillers and thinks that her SCAM worked wonders.

Even ardent SCAM proponents have long realized this phenomenon. Here, for example, is a paper entitled ‘Acupuncture as a complex intervention: a holistic model’ by ex-colleagues of mine at Exeter looking at it but coming up with a very different perspective:

Objectives: Our understanding of acupuncture and Chinese medicine is limited by a lack of inquiry into the dynamics of the process. We used a longitudinal research design to investigate how the experience, and the effects, of a course of acupuncture evolved over time.

Design and outcome measures: This was a longitudinal qualitative study, using a constant comparative method, informed by grounded theory. Each person was interviewed three times over 6 months. Semistructured interviews explored people’s experiences of illness and treatment. Across-case and within-case analysis resulted in themes and individual vignettes.

Subjects and settings: Eight (8) professional acupuncturists in seven different settings informed their patients about the study. We interviewed a consecutive sample of 23 people with chronic illness, who were having acupuncture for the first time.

Results: People described their experience of acupuncture in terms of the acupuncturist’s diagnostic and needling skills; the therapeutic relationship; and a new understanding of the body and self as a whole being. All three of these components were imbued with holistic ideology. Treatment effects were perceived as changes in symptoms, changes in energy, and changes in personal and social identity. The vignettes showed the complexity and the individuality of the experience of acupuncture treatment. The process and outcome components were distinct but not divisible, because they were linked by complex connections. The paper depicts these results as a diagrammatic model that illustrates the components and their interconnections and the cyclical reinforcement, both positive and negative, that can occur over time.

Conclusions: The holistic model of acupuncture treatment, in which “the whole being greater than the sum of the parts,” has implications for service provision and for research trial design. Research trials that evaluate the needling technique, isolated from other aspects of process, will interfere with treatment outcomes. The model requires testing in different service and research settings.

I think the perspective of viewing SCAMs as complex interventions is needlessly confusing and deeply unhelpful. The truth is that there is no treatment that is not complex. Take a surgical treatment, for instance, it involves dozens of ‘little extras‘ that are known to be effective. Should we, therefore, try to use this fact for justifying useless surgical interventions? Or take a simple prescription of medication from a doctor. It involves time, empathy, attention, explanations, etc. all of which will affect the patient’s symptoms. Should we thus use this to justify a useless drug? Certainly not!

And for the same reason, it is nonsense to use the ‘little extras‘ that come with all the numerous ineffective SCAMs as a smokescreen that makes them look effective.

The ‘keto diet’ is a currently popular high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet; it limits the intake of glucose which results in the production of ketones by the liver and their uptake as an alternative energy source by the brain. It is said to be an effective treatment for intractable epilepsy. In addition, it is being promoted as a so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) for a wide range of conditions, including:

  • weight loss,
  • cognitive and memory enhancement,
  • type II diabetes,
  • cancer,
  • neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Now, it has been reported that the ‘keto diet’ may be linked to higher levels of cholesterol and double the risk of cardiovascular events. In the study, researchers defined a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet as 45% of total daily calories coming from fat and 25% coming from carbohydrates. The study, which has so far not been peer-reviewed, was presented Sunday at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session Together With the World Congress of Cardiology.

“Our study rationale came from the fact that we would see patients in our cardiovascular prevention clinic with severe hypercholesterolemia following this diet,” said Dr. Iulia Iatan from the Healthy Heart Program Prevention Clinic, St. Paul’s Hospital, and University of British Columbia’s Centre for Heart Lung Innovation in Vancouver, Canada, during a presentation at the session. “This led us to wonder about the relationship between these low-carb, high-fat diets, lipid levels, and cardiovascular disease. And so, despite this, there’s limited data on this relationship.”

The researchers compared the diets of 305 people eating an LCHF diet with about 1,200 people eating a standard diet, using health information from the United Kingdom database UK Biobank, which followed people for at least a decade. They found that people on the LCHF diet had higher levels of low-density lipoprotein and apolipoprotein B. Apolipoprotein B is a protein that coats LDL cholesterol proteins and can predict heart disease better than elevated levels of LDL cholesterol can. The researchers also noticed that the LCHF diet participants’ total fat intake was higher in saturated fat and had double the consumption of animal sources (33%) compared to those in the control group (16%). “After an average of 11.8 years of follow-up – and after adjustment for other risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and smoking – people on an LCHF diet had more than two times higher risk of having several major cardiovascular events, such as blockages in the arteries that needed to be opened with stenting procedures, heart attack, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.” Their press release also cautioned that their study “can only show an association between the diet and an increased risk for major cardiac events, not a causal relationship,” because it was an observational study, but their findings are worth further investigation, “especially when approximately 1 in 5 Americans report being on a low-carb, keto-like or full keto diet.”

I have to say that I find these findings not in the slightest bit surprising and would fully expect the relationship to be causal. The current craze for this diet is concerning and we need to warn consumers that they might be doing themselves considerable harm.

Other authors have recently pointed out that, within the first 6-12 months of initiating the keto diet, transient decreases in blood pressure, triglycerides, and glycosylated hemoglobin, as well as increases in HDL and weight loss may be observed. However, the aforementioned effects are generally not seen after 12 months of therapy. Despite the diet’s favorable effect on HDL-C, the concomitant increases in LDL-C and very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) may lead to increased cardiovascular risks. And another team of researchers has warned that “given often-temporary improvements, unfavorable effects on dietary intake, and inadequate data demonstrating long-term safety, for most individuals, the risks of ketogenic diets may outweigh the benefits.”

Konjac glucomannan (KGM), also just called ‘glucomannan’, is a dietary fiber hydro colloidal polysaccharide isolated from the tubers of Amorphophallus konjac. It is used as a food, a food additive, as well as a dietary supplement in many countries. KGM is claimed to reduce the levels of glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.

The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of the consumption of gummy candy enriched with KGM on appetite and to evaluate anthropometric data, biochemical, and oxidative stress markers in overweight individuals. Forty-two participants aged 18 to 45 years completed this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Participants were randomly assigned to consume for 14 days, 2 candies per day, containing 250 mg of KGM or identical-looking placebo candy with 250 mg of flaxseed meal, shortly after breakfast and dinner. As a result, we observed that there was a reduction in waist circumference and in the intensity of hunger of the participants who consumed KGM. The authors believe that a longer consumption time as well as an increased dose of KGM would contribute to even more satisfactory body results.

These findings seem promising, yet somehow I am not convinced. The study was small and short-term; moreover, the authors seem uncritical and, instead of a conclusion, they offer speculations.

Our own review of 2014 included 9 clinical studies. There was a variation in the reporting quality of the included RCTs. A meta-analysis (random effect model) of 8 RCTs revealed no significant difference in weight loss between glucomannan and placebo (mean difference [MD]: -0.22 kg; 95% confidence interval [CI], -0.62, 0.19; I(2) = 65%). Adverse events included abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and constipation. We concluded that the evidence from available RCTs does not show that glucomannan intake generates statistically significant weight loss. Future trials should be more rigorous and better reported.

Rigorous trials are required to change my mind, and I am not sure that the new study falls into this category.

The concept of ultra-processed food (UPF) was initially developed and the term coined by the Brazilian nutrition researcher Carlos Monteiro, with his team at the Center for Epidemiological Research in Nutrition and Health (NUPENS) at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. They argue that “the issue is not food, nor nutrients, so much as processing,” and “from the point of view of human health, at present, the most salient division of food and drinks is in terms of their type, degree, and purpose of processing.”

Examples of UPF include:

Ultra-processed food is bad for our health! This message is clear and has been voiced so many times – not least by proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) – that most people should now understand it.

But how bad?

And what diseases does UPF promote?

How strong is the evidence?

I did a quick Medline search and was overwhelmed by the amount of research on this subject. In 2022 alone, there were more than 2000 publications! Here are the conclusions from just a few recent studies on the subject:

Don’t get me wrong: this is not a systematic review of the subject. I am merely trying to give a rough impression of the research that is emerging. A few thoughts seem nonetheless appropriate.

  1. The research on this subject is intense.
  2. Even though most studies disclose associations and not causal links, there is in my view no question that UPF aggravates many diseases.
  3. The findings of the current research are highly consistent and point to harm done to most organs.
  4. Even though this is a subject on which advocates of SCAM are exceedingly keen, none of the research I saw was conducted by SCAM researchers.
  5. The view of many SCAM proponents that conventional medicine does not care about nutrition is clearly not correct.
  6. Considering how unhealthy UPF is, there seems to be a lack of effective education and action aimed at preventing the harm UPF does to us.

The UK medical doctor, Sarah Myhill, has a website where she tells us:

Everyone should follow the general approach to maintaining and restoring good health, which involves eating a paleo ketogenic diet, taking a basic package of nutritional supplements, ensuring a good night’s sleep on a regular basis and getting the right balance between work, exercise and rest. Because we live in an increasingly polluted world, we should probably all be doing some sort of detox regime.

She also happens to sell dietary supplements of all kinds which must surely be handy for all who want to follow her advice. Dr. Myhill boosted her income even further by putting false claims about Covid-19 treatments online. And that got her banned from practicing for nine months after a medical tribunal.

She posted videos and articles advocating taking vitamins and other substances in high doses, without evidence they worked. The General Medical Council (GMC) found her recommendations “undermined public health” and found some of her recommendations had the potential to cause “serious harm” and “potentially fatal toxicity”. The tribunal was told she uploaded a series of videos and articles between March and May 2020, describing substances as “safe nutritional interventions” which she said meant vaccinations were “rendered irrelevant”. But the substances she promoted were not universally safe and have potentially serious health risks associated with them, the panel was told. The tribunal found Dr. Myhill “does not practice evidence-based medicine and may encourage false reassurance in her patients who may believe that they will not catch Covid-19 or other infections if they follow her advice”.

Dr. Myhill previously had a year-long ban lifted after a General Medical Council investigation into her claims of being a “pioneer” in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. In fact, the hearing was told there had been 30 previous GMC investigations into Dr. Myhill, but none had resulted in findings of misconduct.

Dr. Myhill is also a vocal critic of the PACE trial and biopsychosocial model of ME/CFS. Dr. Myhill’s GMC complaint regarding a number of PACE trial authors was first rejected without investigation by the GMC, after Dr. Myhill appealed the GMC stated they would reconsider. Dr. Myhill’s action against the GMC for failing to provide reasoning for not investigating the PACE trial authors is still continuing and began a number of months before the most recent GMC instigation of her practice started.

The recent tribunal concluded: “Given the circumstances of this case, it is necessary to protect members of the public and in the public interest to make an order suspending Dr. Myhill’s registration with immediate effect, to uphold and maintain professional standards and maintain public confidence in the profession.”

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