“Pills always cause harm”: BMJ editor-in-chief calls for lifestyle changes over medication

low carb GPs

As chronic disease rates increase and the pharmaceutical industry grows in size, are we in danger of believing that popping a pill can solve problems caused by an unhealthy lifestyle?

BMJ editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee certainly thinks so. She cites new US guidelines that would label more than half of adults aged over 45 as hypertensive, exploding rates of type 2 diabetes, and a market for drugs for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease of an estimated $1.6bn by 2020, pointing out that all of these conditions could be addressed by adopting healthier lifestyles. She cites a recent review led by a Cambridge University professor finding that:

Whether by calorie or carbohydrate restriction, weight loss has been shown to improve glycaemic control, blood pressure, and lipid profile and is the key to treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes

Fiona Godlee has made a point, since she took up the position of editor-in-chief of The BMJ, of standing up for what she believes in. She has, in the past criticized the corruption of medicine and science by the pharmaceutical industry. She also stood behind a decision to publish a critique of the US dietary guidelines by Nina Teicholz, after a correction was published about one of the references. Godlee has spoken up in the past about the way diabetes is treated, describing the way insulin is “pushed” on to diabetic patients as “a scam”. Now, in the latest edition of the BMJ, an article by Godlee describes the growth of the pharmaceutical industry and the growing number of people to be put on medication as:

An appalling prospect. Pills can’t be the answer to diseases caused by unhealthy living. As well as unsustainable cost for often marginal benefit, they always cause harm. Rather than medicating almost the entire adult population, let’s invest our precious resources in societal and lifestyle change, public health, and prevention.

The BMJ: Pills are not the answer to unhealthy lifestyles

Increasingly, people around the world are dramatically improving their health and either reducing or eliminating their need for medications by following a low carbohydrate diet.

Related content

Dr. Jason Fung: Vested interests and evidence-based medicine

Kristie Sullivan: My medicine cabinet

Dr. Ann Fernholm: Groundbreaking study: low carb is an effective treatment for fatty liver

Related guides

A low carb diet for beginners

How to normalize your blood pressure

How to reverse type 2 diabetes


  1. RT
    Dr. Godlee is truly to be commended. The more physicians and journal editors there are like her, the less likely it is that there will be another Tim Noakes-type witch hunt or muzzling of doctors such as Gary Fettke. I particularly admired the courage she showed in refusing to retract the Nina Teicholz article in the face of unjustifiable pressure from CSPI and the pseudoscientific Argument-from-Authority crowd. Respect!
  2. jenny
    I totally agree with this comment that Dr. Godlee should be praised for raising to attention the contents of article, I am sure people out there who have had weight loss and experienced as indications article raise that have shown benefits and excellence of results, surely speaks volumes of the general situation overall.

    The public and world I am sure from a personal view point not medical I point out, will benefit overall, from Doctors who are now starting to be brave enough to speak out, raise root awareness of areas not clearly explained by Doctors and the medical Industry, generally, basically challenging the conventional system to indicate there are options, there are areas to be addressed, areas of severe doubt questions of how illness and especially situations of diseases re "unhealthy living", I have to stand up take my hat off and applaud such Doctors as Dr. Godlee and others, for doing so

    My plea to Dr. Godlee "please do not give up to challenge this area generally", we need Doctors as yourselves to stand up and speak loud and clear on the issues raised within, under the power and jurisdiction within their profession to do so, that the general public may not hold, in order, to hopefully gain constructive results overall.

    We are in your hands, and until the system, the Industry listen to Doctors like Dr. Godlee and others, perhaps the best approach is to take is

    "the best medicine is in our own hands", its our bodies, and ensure we change lifestyle and eating first and foremost over and above popping a pill"

    Surely in this day and age, it should be incumbent on any medical professional to ensure lifestyle change and eating habits change depending on circumstances and medication, if required, as a last resort only, and perhaps the system should bring in all its Medicals to give them new teachings and updates on low carb eating plans, general lifestyle changes that can assist many ailments and problems, so they can address and decide which options to recommend, instead of what seems currently no options given to many patients, its a simply case, you have high blood pressure "take a pill", this will still allow you to eat salt, this does not make good medical sense surely, would not be more sensible to simply, reduce salt intake, if cooking with salt do not put at the table or cook with salt place at table, or cut out as much as possible?

    Thank you for an excellent article raising valid and not unwarranted comments overall.

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