Dr Michael Mosley, the guy credited for popularising the 5/2 Diet and is always on our TV screens, chats to Carl Marsh about why he often is putting his body up for new medical trials and did indeed cure his own Type 2 Diabetes from doing so on one of his TV shows. He will be appearing at St David’s Hall on the 27th of February.
How much freedom are you given with selecting the subject matter for the shows that appear on our TV screens?
Some of the stuff I do is from things that I have come up with, while at times it’s others that decide such as the producers and the researchers for shows such as Trust Me, I’m a Doctor. Whereas with Eat, Fast and Live Longer was from part of a conversation I had with the editor of Horizon, and he asked me what I wanted to do, so I told him “I’ve got Type 2 Diabetes, and I want to get rid of it, and I want to make a film about it!”. So, we got some researchers onto it, and they came back to me and said, do you fancy this thing called intermittent fasting which I had never heard of. I then started looking into that, and it sounds really really interesting. There are lots of super smart people that work in TV, surprisingly enough, and particularly in the BBC science department, they all seem to have PhDs and backgrounds in science, so they know a lot of stuff. They throw a lot of ideas at me, and I throw ideas at them, so it comes out of that.
A lot of people will respect you for what you do because you do take this personal approach, you really do go into these things and make them a personal journey, I guess we will hear a lot more on your tour than you can get across on the TV?
100%! And I’ve learnt a considerable amount from doing that, and benefiting hugely. I will take you through the story of when I infected myself with tapeworm, and I will show you (the audience) shots of that, and its one of the most gruesome things that I have done! There is a lot of stuff that appears in the programmes, but there is also a lot of things that get left out. We shoot vastly more than ever appears on the screen so I will be doing a behind the scenes of how some things happened, and why they happened.
So it wasn’t shown on the TV where you infected yourself with tapeworm?
Well, I swallowed the tapeworm cysts as we got them from an infected cow in Kenya. So there is this lovely footage of this tapeworm growing inside of me! I might share it with the audience if they are up for it, I will just ask for a show of hands by asking how many of them want to see it. I want this tour to feel interactive, I want it to be informative and to educate the informed but also to entertain as well. I want people going away thinking ‘that’ was fun and also to tell other people about stuff that they have learnt which has surprised and delighted them.
You want it (the show) to be a two-way thing then don’t you?
Yep, I am going to be doing some myth-busting, so there is going to be some showing of hands when I ask “Do you believe this/do you not believe this, and then whatever?”. I then hope to surprise people.
Is there any subject matter that you wouldn’t touch upon?
(Thinks hard…) I… don’t think so no. If someone suggested to me that I did, actually no, I am quite happy to investigate almost anything. Some subjects will make you very uncomfortable such as when I did a series a while back called The Mind of a Murderer, and that was something that I don’t particularly want to repeat. It was spending time with people who had murdered small children, and it is profoundly disturbing. So there are some things where I have been there and done that, and I don’t want to go back again. I am open to investigating almost anything, as long as it sort of feels like it offers something new and exciting to say. What I don’t terribly want to do is just keep on repeating and retreading old ground. I have to say that the great joy of being in the science area is that science changes all the time, it evolves, so there usually is something new to say in medicine or science.
I’ve noticed that based on some of the things that you have covered, and it always seems like you are way ahead of your time such e-cigarettes, the Inside Porton Down and Should I Eat Meat shows that you did which were before the Salisbury poisoning and the now ever-so-popular topic of veganism, very topical subjects?
Even more so now, veganism is massively on the rise and Veganuary is a thing where people are not giving up meat for a month. Equally, what is quite clear from that is that you need to be careful because if you want to embrace the vegan lifestyle, there are significant risks associated with malnutrition and things like that. We did not evolve to be vegans, and so we have to be very careful that you are getting the right balance and I guess that’s what I am interested in by looking at what meat really does to you, and what the impact is on the environment. That is why I love diving into the detail of some of these things.
What is your take on veganism as I did an interview with Mathew Pritchard recently who is a huge promoter of the vegan lifestyle and he chose to become vegan based on him competing with a lot of elite athletes, who were all vegan, and they get more nutrients?
Ethically and morally, it’s going in the right place, and I do feel uncomfortable eating animals, but I think it’s unlikely that it’s necessarily a healthier lifestyle, I think it very much depends on what you eat. You can be a super healthy vegan or an unhealthy vegan if you just eat lots of rice crackers and stuff like that. The challenge is getting enough of the essential nutrients, so for example, in the UK a considerable number of women are deficient in iron, they are anaemic, and they are also deficient in things like iodine which you get from milk. If you cut milk out, you have got to get your iodine from somewhere else, you can get it from seaweed, but it is difficult unless you take supplements, though you need to be aware. A lot of people are influenced by Instagram and things like that where they just follow their heroes, they don’t actually take the time or the bother to kind of really understand what they are really getting into. It is not something that I have a great personal desire to do, but I think that at some point I will give it a go, just for the hell of it!