There is no book that has all the answers (you'll gather I am not religious). However here is my review of one that I think contains a great deal of well researched fact and advice.

"The 10 Secrets Of Healthy Ageing: How to live longer, look younger and feel great" by Patrick Holford and Jerome Burne

I have had to be very careful with this book. From the start I could see that it matched my opinions, and promoted habits that I already have. There was a danger of my being uncritical. However I am glad to have been trained as a scientist. Even taking the most critical view of the book I find it profoundly convincing, informative and helpful. It is not an academic book but it passes the tests for intellectual rigour. The facts presented are quoted from sources that are listed in an extensive bibliography, and there is a good reading list. What's more the ideas presented in the book are confirmed by other sources. As examples, today I heard on the radio that large doses of Vitamin D help tuberculosis sufferers to recover much more quickly. A recent BBC2 Horizon programme described the latest in research into the benefits of fasting. There was an article on Medscape ( a few weeks ago that suggested better prognosis for heart sufferers using high doses of vitamin D. I am happy that the book contains good information well presented.

It is impossible properly to summarise the messages of this book. We are in a time of unprecedented long life. The authors believe that everyone can remain fit and healthy for far longer by changing their diets and physical habits. They want to see people confined to bed or wheelchair for the minimum possible time, saving the people misery and the country money.

How do they suggest we do this? They present ten ways, which can be very roughly summarised as avoid drugs, exercise regularly, eat a good diet, fast from time to time, take vitamin and mineral supplements, and of course avoid tobacco and alcohol. I already knew, and have acted on, much of the advice in this book. As a result, when I used its excellent bioage calculator I was delighted to find that my physical age is eighteen years less than my real age. However the book taught me much that I did not know, particularly about the effects of supplements and the required doses.

The cliche is 'everyone should read this book'. Well they should. Being realistic, young people, who believe that they are invincible, probably won't. Anyone who is concerned about his or her health or being advised by a doctor to overcome diabetes, high blood pressure, fatness, or raised cholesterol by taking drugs, really should. Anyone of middle age or older, who wants not to finish up fragile, overweight or brain dead, but instead to carry on dancing, cycling, love-making, swimming, running or just feeling good, definitely should. So should people who are caring for older people. Well, that's a lot of people.

My thanks to the authors for this excellent book. It should be given away by every GP's surgery in the country. That really would slash the NHS and social care budget.

A few adverse comments:

There are however three minor points about the book that I would like to mention. First the index is extensive but sometimes poorly structured. There were several items that I wanted to look up but could not find an index entry. I found them eventually indirectly as a sub-section of another item or a single item where it should have been a sub-section. For example when I wanted to look up 'stone age diet' I found there was no entry for 'diet'. Strange, since that is the subject of this book. There were others that I did not note down. The second point I question is over what is a 'natural' human diet. On page 86 Holford suggests that it is the 'Stone Age Diet'. However, as soon as we moved out of Africa, humans have had a very wide range of diets, from the blood and milk of the Masai to the blubber of the eskimo, the very low fluid diet of the nomad Arab and the spicy vegetarianism of some Indian groups, all of whom seem to thrive. Finally as a scientist it was strange and off-putting to see references to belief in a 'higher being' being regarded as necessary to happiness. Such nonsense does not belong a book promoting a scientific approach to health and could lead people to question Holford's rationality.

As part of the offer in this book you can sign up to email news from Holford. I did, and the email I received today worried me. It contained the following:

"Every day the earth receives something like 50,000 lightning strikes and, consequently, has a supply of 'free' electrons that change the electrical charge of your body, if you make contact for long enough. Our ancestors will have been 'grounded' naturally all day long because they walked barefoot which allowed the conductive exchange of anti-inflammatory, anti aging electrons with the earth and connection to earths rhythms. Today we wear insulated shoes with rubber or plastic soles, disconnecting us from the earth.

"Could it be that connection with the earth, the exchange of ions that effective 'ground' you, and a synchronisation with the earth's electric potential and frequency has a direct effect on health?"

What utter drivel! To have a significant increase in surplus electrons in our bodies we would have many thousands of volts on us. We don't and any that we might get, by carpet friction for example, is lost as soon as any part of our body touches almost anything. What are "earth's rhythms" and "earth's frequency"? The earth's "potential" is steady and always at, or over small areas very near, zero volts. That's why earth wires work as safety devices. How can you synchronise with something that doesn't vary. It means 'keep in time with'.

This qualifies as 'fruitloopery' as defined by New Scientist and I shall be sending it to that magazine. Patrick, stick to what (I hope) you know about and withdraw and forget about this rubbish. It has damaged your reputation in my view as a scientist.


(C) Peter Scott 2012

Last edit 24 December 2015