Let’s seize on Brexit as an opportunity to legalise good nutrition and outlaw bad food, says Patrick Holford.
Brexit, whether you voted for it or not, provides an unprecedented opportunity to end the tyranny of EU legislation that has banned hundreds of genuine health claims, outlawed words such as antioxidants, probiotics and superfoods, prohibited the combination of herbs and nutrients and failed to protect the sale of nutrients by establishing safe upper limits based on actual risks, which, for most essential nutrients are virtually non-existent. Of course, it is unfair to point the finger only at the EU. The UK already had and has a bias against the freedom to choose natural medicines and a distorted version of the truth regarding the role of nutrition as medicine, instead protecting big pharma interests by guarding the territory of medicines, licences for which is a major revenue stream.
I remember, for example, getting clobbered by the ASA for stating the truth that, during winter months it is impossible to get enough vitamin D from a well balanced diet and recommending supplementation. Although Public Health England have recently called for everyone to supplement vitamin D in the winter they are actually contravening the ASA rule that prohibits statements implying that ‘a balanced diet cannot provide appropriate quantities of nutrients’. This statement is simply a lie. Vitamin B12, as another example, is too poorly absorbed in two out of five older people for food alone to provide enough leading to accelerated brain shrinkage. This lack is a major driver of Alzheimer’s. However, even doctors are not even allowed to prescribe B12 to those with dementia, despite the clearest of evidence that B12 reduces the rate of brain shrinkage. Nor chromium, so effective in reversing insulin resistance, or magnesium which is effective in lowering blood pressure.
Also, nutrients that actually work medicinally, such as banned amino acids SAMe, GABA, tryptophan (above 300mg) – all available over the counter in other countries – fall foul of the medical directive’s ‘catch 22’. That is, if it works it’s a medicine and needs a licence, which is basically financially impossible for a non-patented, non made-made nutrient – just drugs. The US have a middle ground to allow genuine health claims to be made for nutrients without a medical licence. The truth about chromium, magnesium, SAMe and GABA can be said there, but not here. Why?
“As a consequence of Brexit EU laws have to be moved into UK law, and, in the process, there’s a real opportunity to make sure they are fit for purpose, which they currently are not”
As a consequence of Brexit EU laws have to be moved into UK law, and, in the process, there’s a real opportunity to make sure they are fit for purpose, which they currently are not. The original purpose of the Health Claims Regulations was to stop the likes of cereal companies claiming their sugar-laden cereals were heart friendly. How much difference has this really made to sugar intake? However, the downside was banning any sort of education about genuinely healthy foods. UK government, who actively resisted the 5% sugar rule, are still pussyfooting around taxing high sugar foods, or putting health warnings on them, which would, in my opinion, be a much more effective strategy.
We need to legalise good nutrition, and outlaw bad food to transform the unwholly mess eating refined and processed food has got us into. As George Bernard Shaw said: “Everyone always complains about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.” Now is a chance for all campaigning bodies in the health food and nutrition industry to get together, decide what we want, and fight for it. Viva la health revolution!
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