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Book review: ‘The Health Delusion – How to achieve exceptional health in the 21st century’ by Glen Matten and Aidan Goggins

‘We are what we eat’ reflects the understanding that our diet impacts our DNA, switching sections off and on after each meal. Hippocrates’ declaration ‘Let food be thy medicine’ demonstrated that he understood this - yet how much did we learn about nutrition in medical school - or since?

With our need to encourage lifestyle change and the paucity of dietitians, we are forced to talk nutrition daily.  We stay abreast of changing evidence around drug therapies, but can’t aspire to this with nutrition. Now someone has done it for us. Glen Matten and Aidan Goggins, 2 recent graduates of the scientifically rigorous MSc in Nutritional Medicine at Surrey University have read and distilled the peer-reviewed literature from medical journals into a concise and highly readable discussion on topics that matter –obesity, fats, the impact of maternal diet on future generations and keeping our brains healthy.  I was surprised by how much I learnt and just how rapidly the evidence-base is evolving, as it becomes understood that drugs alone are not enough for chronic disease management.

The irreverent writing style is reminiscent of Ben Goldacre, as they debunk the myths surrounding diets, fats and supplements and provides us with practical guidance on how to stay healthy to pass on to our patients. For those too busy to read the book, then it is perhaps one for the patient library or for patients to buy instead of spending their hard-earned cash on inappropriate supplements.

A good book spurs us to take action. I am re-energised to ‘talk nutrition’ with anyone who will listen, adding a 30 second message to chronic disease consultations, and encouraging interested patients to learn more. Personally, my lifestyle is fairly healthy but I have chosen to cut my selenium supplement from 200mcg to 50mcg and added vitamin D1000 IUs daily during the winter – to learn why, you will need to read the book!

Rating: 9/10

Dr Pam Brown is a GP in Swansea