Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


As this is my last newsletter of 2018, I'd like to start by wishing you and your families all the best for a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year. But most of all, if you'll forgive me the indulgence, I would like to thank you for the support you have given me personally throughout the year.

I began 2018 several stones heavier, and I leave the year much lighter in so many ways. Along that journey I have been buoyed and elevated by the countless messages of support on email, via social media, and on the streets.

A journey that started with three books written by Michael Moseley, Aseem Malhotra and Dave Asprey has exploded into an obsessional amateur interest in nutritional science, cellular biology and the biohacking movement.

As you know well by now, I am determined that my experience in reversing type 2 diabetes helps inspire others while developing public health policy in the UK.

I have a nascent idea for a ‘remission for all’ movement - a self-organised group with one objective: to support the estimated two million UK citizens who can reverse their T2 diabetes.

I can't wait to get the independent commission on how to tackle the crisis of obesity in this country underway, and I want to take on the global sugar giants who power their billions in profits at the expense of our health.

To that end, last week I asked you to lend your support to the campaign for a Fizz Free February. I have been totally blown away by the hundreds of message I have received offering to help out.

In 2018 #FizzFreeFeb was just a local campaign in Southwark. In 2019, we are going national with the challenge to the makers of sugary, fizzy drinks. You really are making the difference. Thank You.


No truck with Coke


Coca Cola's Christmas truck tour is shamelessly marketed at kids. In half of the stops on its schedule there are above average numbers of overweight youngsters.

Yet a single can of "regular" Coke contains 35 grams of sugar, 45% above a child's recommended allowance.

That's why I have written to Coca Cola calling on them to stop handing-out free full-sugar Cokes to children anywhere. The nation's health cannot afford these kind of flagrant marketing stunts.


Sweet reading of 2018



This is not a recommended reading list. You definitely do not want to develop the obsessional interest in sugar and food production that I have this year. There are another two piles of books in my London flat. Add to this about 300 research papers and I feel just about equipped to say some bold things about nutrition, food manufacturing, public health, non-communicable diseases and exercise next year. Here’s to an active 2019! 


Hamlet's coming home

This Boxing Day - after nine months in exile - one of the country's finest grassroots football clubs is coming home.

Dulwich Hamlet were locked out of their Champion Hill stadium by rapacious developers who demanded £120,000 in back-dated rent and even tried to take their historic name away. All because they didn’t get their way with a planning application.

The club's very existent was under threat. That's why I joined the Save Dulwich Hamlet campaign put together by the Club, the Supporters Trust, the community and local businesses.

All united with one voice saying: We want our club back. Brilliantly, they won the battle to save their ground. And this Boxing Day they return to their rightful home.

With the help of the supporters, we've put together a video to celebrate this great day.
So let's have a big cry of: "Up The Hamlet!"



Throwing the book at the bookies


Two great victories over the gambling industry must rank among the highlights of my year. The campaign to reduce the £100 stake on fixed odds betting terminals was a brilliant success. Even when the government turned against the advice of its own minister Tracey Crouch who promptly resigned, common sense prevailed and the stake reduction to £2 will now come into force in April.

Secondly the betting firms also caved in under pressure and will now introduce a whistle-to-whistle ban on gambling ads during live televised matches. Both are great results for gambling addicts and their families. But there is still much, much more to be done.

This story about Ladbrokes splurging luxury tickets to sports events on a high-spending addict, and then paying off the victims of his theft with hush money is an absolute horror. It goes to the heart of the abject failure by betting companies to "help" problem gamblers and/ or root out stolen funds.


Let’s honour the heroes in 2019


In May I met John Ward, a former reporter on the Express & Star and witness to Operation Grapple, Britain's biggest nuclear bomb test. We launched a medal campaign in the Daily Mirror to recognise the 1,500 survivors, who like John suffer cancer and unexplained medical problems in their families.

It was an amazing success - backed by new revelations uncovered by Mirror journalist Susie Boniface that the MoD used RAF pilots as unwitting guinea pigs in radiation experiments - we got 10,000 signatures on our medal petition. RAF widow Shirley Denson, who has battled for justice for decades since her husband's untimely death, was also able to meet Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and put the campaigners' case in person. This was the first time any cabinet minister has met the veterans, and I thank the Defence Secretary for his efforts.

I understand the government is in the process of a formal medal review and is also considering fresh medical research. I have urged Gavin Williamson to deliver a medal speedily as these heroes are in their 80s now, and to find a way to examine the genetic legacy their families are dealing with. I will keep the pressure up in 2019 to get justice for the veterans.


Panto villain


Mark Zuckerberg should be a shoo-in for this year's pantomime villain. But then again, there is nothing funny in his behaviour. From the day he refused to turn up before the DCMS Select Committee - and was empty-chaired by MPs - his contempt for our parliament and democracies around the world has been on full view.

Only this week two alarming investigations showed the abuse of Facebook's power.

The first, covered here by the Guardian, showed that there is no escape from being tracked by Facebook - however much we try. The second, in the New York Times, revealed that the platform gave Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify and others far greater user access than previously disclosed.  Once again Zuckerberg's social media giant is proven to have no respect for people's privacy and data. The case for a powerful independent social media regulator is now unanswerable.


The great Tory switch off



Some figures: 4.46 million homes have free TV licences because they have over 75s living there; 1.6 million of those older people are on disability benefit; 2.4 million older people living alone will lose out with the scrapping of free TV licences for over 75s. That is millions of the oldest and most vulnerable people in our society on the sharp end of a broken Tory manifesto promise.

Shamefully, the Tories have delegated the decision-making to the BBC. But as Gordon Brown - who introduced the benefit for over 75s - says: "Quite simply the BBC should not be making judgements about the distribution of income between social groups in our country."

That is the rocky road to taxation without representation. And, at a time of an alarming rise in pensioner poverty, we must continue to oppose it with all our vigour.


Reading the game

Daniel Gray’s ‘Black Boots and Football Pinks: 50 Lost Wonders of the Beautiful Game’ is wonderfully nostalgic and funny reminder of our recent football past. It’s a perfect stocking filler.

The Guardian’s Barney Ronay, ‘How Football (Nearly) Came Home -Adventures in Putin’s World Cup’ is a very funny account of following England’s surprisingly entertaining World Cup run.

We cyclists must stick together so I can’t fail to mention Geraint Thomas’ ‘The Tour According to G’ which is a great insight into winning the Tour De France.
Leap in: A Woman, Some Waves, and the Will to Swim by Alexandra Heminsley is an enthusiastic and very funny account of learning to swim. I bought this book after reading a paragraph on the book description:

“Believing that a life lived fully isn’t one with the most money earned, the most stuff bought or the most races won, but one with the most experiences, experienced the most fully, she decided to conquer her fear of the water.”

I’m hoping my 2019 will be the same. Good reading.




Falling on poor times


"Those who have been most affected are those with the least resources – those living in deprived areas – which could indicate a role for Government spending.”

That is Public Health England delivering the news that life expectancy for the poorest is falling for the first time since the Second World War. They date the fall back to 2011. You don't need to be neurosurgeon to work out the rest.

As the New Year approaches, we must renew our fight to end the cruel, vicious Tory austerity that is - literally - killing people.



Sporting gold


My favourite sporting moment of the year was Helen Housby's last-second winner for England's Netball team against Australia in the Commonwealth Games final. Such sheer unadulterated joy. If you've never seen it, do watch the clip of that very special moment here.

What is so heartening is that not only did they bring home the Gold, but they brought 130,000 more women and girls to get in touch and ask how they could get involved with Netball. Little wonder Tracey Neville's team picked up the BBC Sports Personality Team of the Year award.