I am not that crazy
Dr Michael Mosley is an award-winning TV presenter and New York Times, bestselling author. Born in Kolkata, he studied Politics, Philosophy and...
Dr Michael Mosley is an award-winning TV presenter and New York Times, bestselling author. Born in Kolkata, he studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University before working for an international bank. He was then trained as a doctor at the Royal Free Hospital, University College London.
After qualifying he joined the BBC as a director, producing hugely successful award-winning series like ‘Supervolcano’ and ‘Pompeii’. As a presenter, he has made numerous series for the BBC and the international market including ‘Inside The Human Body’, ‘The Young Ones’, ‘The Truth About Exercise’, and ‘Eat, Fast, Live Longer’. He conducts experiments on himself to provide viewers with the evidence behind health claims so that they can make their own health decisions. He has busted many myths in medicine and states that he will continue to do so.
Winner of two Emmy’s and a BAFTA Dr Michael was named Medical Journalist of the Year by the British Medical Association. Recently he attended a programme in India to talk about his show ‘Trust Me I Am A Doctor’, where he shared definitive answers to health-related questions.
Being a student of arts what made you choose science later?
I originally learned science at ‘A’ level and then decided to do something different and chose politics, philosophy and economics. However, I had always been very interested and curious to know what makes the body and the brain work? How does a human body work? This is the reason I decided to become a doctor. I was trained for five years at a medical school in London and became a doctor.
What inspired you to take a plunge into journalism?
I was always been interested in writing and so worked for the BBC. I enjoyed journalism so much that it made me stay. I think it was good decision to stay back in journalism rather than practicing medicine because by doing journalism I can reach a lot of people and tell them about new science.
Tell us about your show?
In ‘Trust Me I Am A Doctor’, which airs on Sony BBC Earth, we look at a lot of evidence behind different forms of diet on health. Some of the most recent things we have been doing is to gauge the impact of traditional foods like turmeric, health benefits or impact of coconut oil, etc, which are integral part of Indian cuisine. We genuinely discover new things and it also makes it more interesting to watch because you never know what is going to happen.
What challenges did you face while doing ‘Trust Me I Am A Doctor’?
The main challenges were getting Universities to work with us. As part of it, we do studies with the big varsities like Oxford and Cambridge. In order to do the experiments, we have to get ethical permission, which is passed by the ethics committee to make sure that everybody is safe so that the experiments can move ahead. We also have to recruit lots of volunteers, like in some experiments we have around 100 to 200 people taking part and we have to be careful about their health, have to do routine follow-ups. We have to do proper scientific studies, which takes quite a lot of time and efforts. I think it is worthwhile because what we do is unusual.
In order to prove to the people to make healthy decisions, you conduct experiments on yourself. Why?
I do a lot of experiments on myself because there is a long tradition of science and inventions of doctors doing an experiment on themselves. And then in some ways, it is the most ethical thing to do, because if you’re going to recommend or try something it is more important that you try it yourself. Because that way you can be sure that it is safe and also effective. It makes it look good on television as people realise that I only recommend things that I have tried myself and also I get benefits from these. All the things that I have learned from being a science journalist; I have incorporated them into my life. One of the big changes was when I discovered that I had type two diabetes, which is most common here in India, six years ago. While I was under medication, I decided to see that if there was any another way and that made me invent the fasting diet. And I was able to cure myself of type two diabetes without any medicines. I think that it was quite an important message to put out there that if you have the type two diabetes for a year or less than that then following right diet will restore good health.
What are the risks involved in doing these experiments?
We get approvals from experts before we start to make sure whatever I am doing is safe. Sometimes they are unpleasant and uncomfortable. For example, I did a programme called ‘Infested’, where I deliberately infest my body with parasites like tapeworms, lice, malaria parasite, etc and they grow inside my body. During one episode I infected myself with a tapeworm – a parasite that can grow to many metres inside the human gut. The tapeworm is safer than pork and fish tapeworm as they are dangerous and can infect the brain and cause seizures. And this experiment was not very pleasant but it was very interesting to do, but I was confident when I did it that. I was able to get rid of the tapeworm with medicines. I was also confident that it wouldn’t do any serious damage to my body otherwise I would not have done it because I am not completely crazy (laughs).
What difference do you find in the education system here and there?
I was trained in Oxford and London Universities, which are very good educational establishments. The educational institutes in India or in the United Kingdom learn very little about the impact of food on health. We learn lots about human anatomy, the action/reaction of drugs but we learn very little about food and nutrition. I think that it would be very helpful if we add it to the curriculum.
By: D Shreya Veronica