Shane Ellison’s 10 Health Myths Revisited

I Agree 8/10 With Shane Ellison’s Pharmaceutical Industry Products Myths

Only Take These Drugs If There Is No Natural Alternative

Shane Ellison makes war on the Pharmaceutical Industry

Shane Ellison makes war on the Pharmaceutical Industry.

I took exception to Shane Ellison’s video attack on my colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry (PHARMA).

I blogged my objections, under the title, “A Masters Degree In Science! In Defense Of My Colleagues In PHARMA.”

This generated somewhat hostile responses from certain readers. I found this interesting, so finally gave in, and read his book.

 ‘Health Myths Exposed: Learn How To Avoid Deadly Health Myths – Add 10 Years To Your Life’

It turns out that I largely agree with Shane Ellison. Much to my surprise.

Context of this post:

In spite of it's overly aggressive tone, this book is well written and I highly recommend it to my colleagues in PHARMA.

In spite of it’s overly aggressive tone, this book is well written and I highly recommend it to my colleagues in PHARMA.

I would like to suggest that a little sugar would help the medicine go down. If he wants to reach the best target audience for effective change. PHARMA staff. If Shane Ellison can help change the name of AD(H)D to SHP, I sure would appreciate that. Then I’d only say things about him more kindly in future. One good turn deserves another. Not that Shane would care what I say. He is clearly not a conflict avoider. Which I respect, in certain respects.

(a) I watched the following video and did not like the total demonization of an industry in which I worked happily for 13 years. I saw no direct evidence of the ‘evil doers’ depicted by Shane Ellison.

I found the video interview somewhat offensive. I worked with many well-intentioned scientists attempting to find treatments for serious health problems. Including type I diabetes, a number of cancers, and neurodegenerative diseases. I did not agree with attempts to find drugs for conditions that can generally be fixed by life-style modifications. Such as type II diabetes and obesity. Or the block-buster mentality, of some.

All the drug candidates I worked on were rejected internally, or by the FDA. For safety concerns or lack of efficacy. This makes motivation of researchers challenging, to say the least – not much different to grant writing, I guess.

I did not meet any evil people. Scheming to get rich on treating symptoms with pharmaceutical industry products. Rather than finding cures.

(b) I don’t take physician-recommended pharmaceuticals. Unless I’m convinced of their value. Valium-no-thanksMy experience with effective drugs has included antibiotic treatments for both walking (mycoplasma) pneumonia and tick-borne fever (suspected borreliosis). Each of which just would not quit. I also used an ACE inhibitor for my stent-induced hypertension (220/120). On the recommendations of a cardiologist. Few of whom I trust with my health.

I use aspirin to protect my abdominal aortic aneurysm stent graft from inducing blood clots. Otherwise, I take as few pharmaceutical industry products as possible. All such drugs are chemicals, with potentially dangerous side-effects.

For instance, I briefly took a statin. For my severe genetic hyperlipidemia. Until I was fortunate enough to observe, first hand (I’m a veterinary pathologist by training), the muscle lesions induced in rats by statins. Thus, I am in agreement with Shane Ellison’s debunking of Myth #8.

I fixed my hyperlipidemia with diet and Ironman training.

Forget Statins!

I consider the doctor’s advice, when pharmaceuticals are recommended. But I decide whether to take them or not. Valium-Yes-Please

I rejected Valium, combined with a powerful anti-inflammatory drug, for jaw pain induced by stress. Electing meditation and a short vacation. The young, male doctor, who accurately diagnosed the condition, just could not understand my resistance to pharmaceutical industry products! He insisted on writing the prescriptions. Which I tore up and threw away. As I promised him I would. Nice guy, but I never went back there.

I accepted Valium gladly, for a crippling case of dehydration-induced vertigo/nausea.

(c) I consider pharmaceutical industry products to be the last line of defense against disease. The first line being life-style changes.

The ten myths (bolded and red) addressed in the book by Shane Ellison, Health Myths Exposed, with brief comments from FitOldDog (italics):

1. “FDA approved drugs are safe and effective.” This statement makes no sense to me, though I’m sure many people swallow the concept. All drugs come with side-effects, just read the insert, and proving better efficacy than existing drugs is part of the process for approval. More importantly, you and/or your doctor have to carry out an effective risk-benefit assessment before any drug is prescribed, and even then it is the patient’s decision whether to take the risks for the possible benefit. Disagree with Shane.

2. “Drug advertising promotes health awareness for consumers.” Sure they do? Whatever! – spot on, this myth is busted in my opinion. I never watch TV, ever, but I don’t believe this one little bit, given the nature of marketing and sales. Agree with Shane.

3. “Drugs improve the quality of human life.” Well, they can make it better or worse, and we’re back to the risk-benefit issue, so I don’t buy this as a simple myth. The question is more complex than that. Getting rid of walking pneumonia sure made my life better. Agree and disagree with Shane.

4. “Professional medicine reporting is honest and trustworthy.” I would suspect that most of the time it is, as pretty well every doctor I ever met had their heart in the right place. I’m sure some are open to bribery and corruption, but very few. I don’t agree with this as a myth based on my life experience, but I have no solid data. Agree and disagree with Shane.

5. “Nutritional supplements are dangerous and ineffective.” No idea about this purported myth, and I cannot imagine anyone just taking this argument at face value. Again depends which supplement and when. No useful comment.

6. “High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease.” This is certainly mythical in nature, because the body is a dynamic machine. The issue isn’t a fixed measurement of cholesterol in the blood, it’s cholesterol flux between body compartments – I would trust an HDL value over absolute blood cholesterol levels. False myth! Agree with Shane.

7. “Cholesterol is bad for you.” My Mom said about eggs being bad for you because of high cholesterol levels in the yolk, “Eggs make a whole chick, so they must be good for us.” I eat them every day based on this logic, which is interpreted by my brain, of which much is constructed of cholesterol. They’ve been taking too much of their own medicine, I think. Agree with Shane.

8. “Cholesterol lowering drugs, known as statins, are safe and effective at preventing heart disease.” These are dangerous muscle toxins. I blogged on this topic a while ago, when “A cardiologist on NPR finally made sense when it comes to statins.Agree strongly with Shane. (I won’t go near beta-blockers, either!)

9. “Ephedra causes heart attack, stroke and seizures.” I don’t know anything about this issue. No time to study the question, so no comment.

10. “Dieting is the cure for obesity.” Changing the nature of your diet, not the quantity, is the way to go. No one can handle feeling starved indefinitely if food is all around you. Just take out most of the carbohydrates, including bread, rice, pasta and potatoes (as in Paleo diet), and you’ll be surprised, favorably. We have been poisoned with addictive sugars by the food industry. That said, I found that I could complete a Half Ironman race on the Paleo Diet, but not a full Ironman – you just need some energy supplementation as carbs for this event. Agree with Shane.

Overall, I like Shane Ellison’s book, which is well thought out and nicely written. I watched his video again a few minutes ago and came away with the same negative feelings. This is not good marketing, and Shane Ellison has some excellent ideas that are worth disseminating more widely.

Comment on Ritalin and AD(H)D: Shane Ellison slammed Ritalin in his introduction to the book. Interestingly, I consider the widespread use of Ritalin in kids to be almost criminal. I attribute this misguided phenomenon to the name used for the condition being treated – Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This is not a disorder, it’s a phenotype. I have a dear close friend of this type; can’t run around a track more than once without getting bored. Me, personally, I’m on the other end of the spectrum, being a bit OCD, and I can happily run around a track for 15 miles (60 laps). So I came up with a better term, Saltatory Hyper-attention Phenotype (SHP). If this name were accepted it would change drug treatment into modified teaching approaches for healthy kids who can’t sit still reading a book for an hour. Of course their hyperactive – they’re bored!!!! When it comes to education, or running for that matter, one size does not fit all.

I appreciate your efforts Shane Ellison, and thanks for an interesting book. I also want to thank your supporters, as their comments on my blog post pushed me into buying your book.

-k @FitOldDog

PS I wonder if Shane Ellison still lives in Bloomington, Indiana, because I’m going there on Sept. 3rd, and I’d like to meet him. I’m also hoping to meet the person in Cook Medical who made my AAA stent graft. Exciting, as without it I would probably be dead.



  1. Interesting. I didn’t watch the video but agree with most of your reasoned comments. I did work with a couple of 3rd grade boys who probably were hyperactive, whateveryoucallit. One literally could not sit still; he had to move constantly, without his medicine. Sometimes he and I would walk the hall and practice his reading by reading the posters, because he could not stay still and focus. As for running laps on a track….snooozzzzeeeee.

  2. I’m pretty sure it’s a phenotype, not a disorder, but the name leads to drugs instead of modified environment. In fact, SHP kids should be taught by SHP teachers, and they’ll all be happy rushing around from one thing to another. Thanks for the comment. I’m working hard on marketing-think. Cheers, Kevin

  3. Hi Kevin!
    I think it’s awesome that you’re taking a look at both sides of this debate. So many people just don’t bother. You’re amazing! I hope you won’t mind if I address a couple of things. I absolutely agree that cholesterol isn’t bad for you!!! We need it, heck we make it!!!! But when it’s high, It absolutely contributes to heart disease. Here’s why: first there’s vascular injury. Pretty much everyone has it but I’m confident in saying that high blood pressure is the worst cause. When that happens we have a cellular response to repair the intima (the endothelial lining of the arteries). With that comes macrophages, the formation of a thrombus and the proliferation of smooth muscle cells from the media (middle layer of the artery). What does that gave to do with cholesterol? Cholesterol is normally taken up via receptors of the surface of the endothelium. When intracellular cholesterol becomes to high, the cells down regulate receptors making it less possible for cholesterol to enter the cell. It floats around in the blood stream longer until it is eventually taken up (it’s half life is now extended) and this causes changes in the sterol like oxidation. When vascular injury occurs, cholesterol that has been oxidized is taken up by macrophages and forms foam cells. The smooth muscle proliferation forms a fibrous cap around it and you get an atheroma. Now, if this happens in the coronary artery, we get ischemia. This is the mechanism of atherosclerosis. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can find it anywhere as any cardiology text will explain it but I am more than happy to send you information on both lipid metabolism and atherosclerosis.
    As for the statins, I’m half with you there. No one should be taking statins or any other cholesterol med ( there are way more than just statins) unless they have shown that diet and exercise are not enough on their own. Most causes of high cholesterol are completely preventable and reversible without meds. However, statins carry a risk as all drugs do. Statins work by blocking the rate limiting step of cholesterol biosynthesis which up regulates liver LDL receptors and increases the extraction of LDL from the blood so that it can be turned into inactive metabolites and excreted mostly through bile. Overall adverse effects are around 3% with the most common being again symptoms and in at risk patients hepatotoxicity. At risk patients are those with any type of liver problem, gallbladder problems, and alcoholics. Additionally anything causing a decrease in renal profusion or renal insufficiency. And of course never ever in pregnant women.
    Are they effective drugs? Yes. Aren’t they super effective? No. My personal opinion is I would never prescribe them unless I felt it absolutely necessary.
    I appreciate you taking the time to read this, I hope you found it helpful!

    • Hi Kay, thanks for your kind words. I try to remain impartial, but I don’t always succeed. When it comes to cholesterol, I consider HDL a more important measure than blood cholesterol levels, as dynamics trump a static value – the depth and width of a river are not a good measure of water throughput. Your thoughtful comments are much appreciated. I can’t believe this comment stream has continued for so long. Hoping you have an enjoyable Thanksgiving, if you live in the US of A, that is, or if you don’t for that matter. Kind Regards, Kevin – off to feed people (family).

  4. Also, in regard to Rhabdo from statins, yes this does happen with severe cases of myopathy. Myopathy from statin use is less than 1% and typically occurs when statins are given alone and even though it is readily reversible once the drug is stopped, I certainly wouldn’t want to be the 1% that got it so I do agree with you but I did want to point out the the risk is quite small.

    • I’m not sure I agree. It is the issue of the tip of the iceberg. Just because a muscle doesn’t show histological damage, does not mean it did not struggle with metabolic stress. I do like talking to someone who thinks, and I would love to take Shane Ellison out to dinner – bet it would be interesting. -k

  5. If LDL is over 120 how to get it down to under 70 if you eat well and are an athlete? I had hep C and when I was cured, (last year) my LDL went up to 125. What to do? I agree that statin drugs seem horrific.

    • Hi Greg.
      My resting LDL, until I worked on it, about 40 years ago, was over 2,000 (with an HDL<20). An LDL of 120, as far as I'm concerned, is within normal limits. There is much too much scaremongering around blood lipid profiles. I finally fixed it (LDL<200, HDL>70) when I undertook Ironman training and modified my diet, which I have done yet again (moved from Paleo to Plant-Based, recently). Statins are serious muscle toxins, which can also induce diabetes, amongst other things. Boy, if my LDL stayed at 120, I’d never think about it again – I’m 72 years of age, and still doing Ironman. In fact, I don’t think about my blood lipids at all anymore.
      I am enjoying the plant-based diet, I must admit.
      Too many damn pills, and not enough useful life-style advice, from most MDs, in my opinion.
      Kind Regards,
      Kevin aka FitOldDog

  6. Why? What is the problem with beta blockers? You made the following statement”

    “(I won’t go near beta-blockers, either!)”

    • Hi Jane.
      Most physicians, and cardiologists are the worse, over-prescribe drugs for cardiovascular ‘issues,’ including an insane fear of cardiovascular issues. A cardiologist recommended beta-blockers for my AAA stent graft-induced hypertension. I’m an athlete. You can’t exercise on beta blockers – they won’t let you. We debated the issue, settled on an ACE inhibitor (my BP after the stent insertion went from normal to 220/120 – dangerous). Lipitor plus exercise did the trick, and within 18 months (which I expected) it self-corrected – a baroreceptor thing!
      Now, if I had ventricular tachycardia, or was recovering from open-heart surgery, fine! Beta blockers could play a valuable role in my survival. But hypertension?
      HORROR STORY: A friend of mine visited his physician (now ex-physician) about 2 years ago, for a checkup. His blood pressure turned out to be 140/80. The physician said he should bring it down to 120/70, so he prescribed a beta-blocker. I told my friend this was a bad idea, but he trusted his doctor (who does that?). Doctors are tools, not infallible gods. His blood pressure came down, sure, but:
      THEN he developed intractable, and somewhat incapacitating vertigo, a side-effect of beta blockers. It took weeks to go away, once he stopped taking the damn pills. The physicians have now decided that a, BP of 140/80 is not abnormal, especially in an older person (he is 74). So wise!
      This was insane prescribing.

      ANOTHER STORY: I had to visit a cardiologist in Cleveland, to get clearance for my second aortic surgery (bike wreck thing). A saw a young Iranian/Persian guy – I liked him. My BP was 160/90 at that moment, even though it was sitting generally around 130-150/75-95 most of the time. I was busily Ironman training. He said he was obligated to recommend beta blockers for my BP (the whole story of this BP thing is on my blog). I said, “No way!” I explained why, based on my knowledge of cardiovascular physiology.
      WANT TO KNOW WHAT HE DID? He gave me a hug, and said, he agreed with me, but he would get into trouble with the cardiology board, or whatever, if he didn’t recommend I take beta blockers. A cardiologist gave me a hug because I did what he knew I should, but couldn’t say.
      The system is so messed up.
      It’s not a health system, it’s a sickness system.
      Again, the medical Leviathan has both saved and threatened my life. Same with people who fix my car. Fortunately I know a lot about the body, and some about cars.
      Anyway, that’s why I won’t go near beta blockers, unless I really need them, which I hope I never do.
      Kind Regards and thanks for asking.
      Kevin aka FitOldDog

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.