How on earth can these phantom pills be good for you?

The Good Life Letter

7th February  2009

  • How on earth can these phantom pills be good for you?

  • The pills you should ALWAYS avoid...

  • 3 steps to nature's liposuction

There's one story that I've been following with some
interest - the mass overdose of homeopathic remedies
staged by a group of protestors.

These protestors claim (and this is just my understanding of
it) that leading high street stores such as Boots should
remove homeopathic medicines from their shelves. At the
very least, they should NOT sell them alongside vitamins
and proven medicines, and should not promote them in the
same way.

Because the way they see it, homeopathic medicines are
totally useless.

And it's easy to see why they hold this view...

How on earth can these phantom pills be good for you?

I was going to start this section by explaining how
homeopathic medicines work, but stopped myself, because
that's what this debate and protest is all about... do they
work and how do they work?

So instead, I'll just try and stick to the facts (which is hard
for me - you should try listening to me speak about my
skills on the football pitch).

Anyway, here's the idea...

Homeopathic medicines take a core healing substance
(something that no one disputes has medicinal powers), and
then dilutes it again and again and again... until there is
nothing of the original substance left in it.

Well, that's the view held by the anti-homeopaths. They
claim that the substance is SO diluted that all healing
properties have been completely stripped away. And on a
scientific level, that view could well be right.

Study after study shows there is no scientific evidence that
homeopathic medicines work.

And the anti-homeopathic group are so incensed that these
remedies are being touted in the same way as proven
remedies and medicines, they staged a mass overdose of
homeopathic remedies, swallowing whole bottles of the
stuff outside various branches of Boots across the country.

"This stuff is nothing more than sugar-coated placebos" is
their opinion.

But those for homeopathic medicines have a different

They argue that even after the original substance has been
diluted time and time again, the mixture will still hold a
faint trace of that substance... a 'memory' of it that can
trigger the body to heal itself.

And there's a stack of anecdotal evidence that backs up that

So who's right? Can they BOTH be right? Can a remedy
that has no scientific grounding and really work?

Well, you know what my answer is to that last question...

Of course it can. They are many, many remedies in the
world that scientists have still not figured out HOW they
work, but work they do - and that's the important bit.

But I think this argument over homeopathic medicines is
about more than that...

I don't think the anti-homeopaths have a problem with
placebos. If someone took a course of polos, and it cured
them of cancer, I'm sure they'd be as delighted as everyone

What angers them (and this is just my opinion - so
apologies if you're on the protestors' side and I'm getting
your viewpoint skewed) is the fact that placebos should not
be promoted as a credible treatment in the same way as
scientifically proven treatment.

But the fact remains that homeopathic remedies DO help
some people, and it's recognised by the NHS as an
alternative treatment.

In fact, the NHS spent around £12million on homeopathic
medicines between 2005-2008, so it's obviously big

So what's YOUR view?

The level of anger over this particular medicine has
intrigued me for a long time. I have my own ideas - I've
even written about them in past issues of The Good Life
Letter - but I'd love to know what you think about this.

Was the mass overdose just a stunt by some alternative
health sceptics? Or are they right in saying that
homeopathic medicines shouldn't be sold shoulder to
shoulder with proven remedies?

One thing that IS clear though...

If you feel ill, or have a serious ailment you're fighting,
ALWAYS seek the advice of your doctor. That's a given.

And ALWAYS inform your doctor of any natural remedies
you're taking, or thinking of taking.

Anyway, talking of placebos...

The pills you should ALWAYS avoid...

Last week I saw an ad for yet ANOTHER magic weight-
loss pill.

Just pop a few of these down your throat and bingo! The
weight will just fall off.

Great eh?

So  how come I'm not convinced?

Well, the first thing that got me muttering was the fact that
it calls itself 'a traditional method of weight loss'.

Now that's interesting. I can't imagine prehistoric man
queuing up Flintstones-style at the shops, waiting in line for
a mammoth to pop a pill into their hands with his trunk.

In fact I can't think of ANY case where taking a pill was
the 'traditional' method.

So let's get one thing clear... popping a pill is NOT the way
to control your weight.

The idea behind these pills (and many pills like them) is
that they contain ingredients that speed up your
metabolism, and therefore burn off the fat (or at least more
fat than usual) without you having to lift a finger.

Well that's what the ads make it look like anyway.

But then, you get to the small print, which says the pills
will only work as part of an overall sensible slimming plan.

And in one swift stroke, the magic is shattered.

I mean, I could sell you a magic hat and GUARANTEE
you'd lose weight...

Oh, er, as long as you cut out the carbs, cut back on the
naughty treats, eat lots of fruit and vegetables and get some
exercise as well.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that if you followed the
suggestions of the packet without taking the pill, you'd
STILL lose weight.

So my advice...?

Ditch the magic pills and miracle breakthrough potions,
adopt a sensible, DO-ABLE, eating plan, and follow this
dead easy advice to help you control your weight

3 steps to nature's liposuction

- Kick start the day with breakfast.

For years I used to dodge this meal complaining I didn't
feel hungry in the morning, but you don't have to eat a
full meal for it to qualify as a proper breakfast. 
Porridge is one of the best ways to kick-start your
metabolism. It's meant to reduce LDL cholesterol
(which is the bad stuff), it's packed with nutrients like
vitamin E, zinc, selenium, copper, iron, manganese and
magnesium, and certain studies suggest it could even
protect you against cancer.

- Look at what you eat (without getting nerdy about it!)

I keep going on about this, but only because it's SO
important. But make sure you eat your five portions of
fruit and vegetables every day. In fact, that may not be
enough these days, because there's a certain argument
that the nutrients in today's fruit and veg is nowhere
near as strong as it was 20 or 30 years ago.

But I'm not here to nag you and make sure you eat like
a saint. I'm just suggesting that upping your fresh fruit
and veg intake will do you the world of good
(especially if you gnaw on a carrot or scoff an apple
rather than have always having a cake).

Basically, just make sure you're getting SOME fresh
fruit and veg. And make sure it comes from Britain. If
an apple has made two round the world trips before
ending up in your shopping basket, it won't do you
much good. Many of the nutrients will have faded after
all that travel.

And always, ALWAYS make sure you treat yourself to
some naughty foods. If you try and stick to a diet
written by some food fascist, you'll probably snap and
start eating rubbish because you think you've failed.
But any diet that tells you to kick all alcohol, all fat, all
sugar and all red meat is missing the point.

Life is here to be enjoyed, not suffered. So don't, under
any circumstances, be bullied into giving up all the
things you love. Just cut back on them - that's all.

- Get some exercise every day.

A half-hour walk at a fair clip will do it. Ideally you
need to go through 10,000 steps a day, which isn't half
as scary as you think. It's surprising how quickly they
mount up.

And it's surprising how great you feel when you start
hitting that 10,000-a-day target. If this is something
you're not yet doing, you should.

Right, that's enough of me rambling on for today. It's
meant to be the day of rest, not the day of rant. Ah well...

I'll be back again next week with more tips, ideas and
opinions to help your sort out the wheat from the chaff.

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