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Diet and Disease

Dr Michael Mosley explores the lengths to which pioneering doctors have gone to uncover the connections between what we eat and what we die from.

In the third episode of Medical Mavericks, Michael Mosley charts the extraordinary lengths doctors have gone to to uncover the connections between what we eat and what we die from.

It starts in the 18th century with 28 year-old Dr William Stark. Stark is a little-known hero of nutrition and the first doctor to systematically record the effect of different foods on his health. At the time food was seen simply as a form of fuel, it didn't really matter what you ate. To disprove this, Stark decided to live on nothing but bread and water, then slowly add new foods one at a time. He continued this punishing dietary experiment for nine long months. Tragically, just before adding fruit to his diet, he succumbed to scurvy. Stark died because he didn't know about vitamins and was unable to make the connection between his worsening health and the food he had been consuming. In fact, much of what we know today about which foods contain nutrients essential to our health is knowledge slowly and painfully acquired by self-experimenters.

Men like Dr Joseph Goldberger who, through eating a dying patient's excrement, found the true cause of a dreadful epidemic and changed forever what goes into our food, or like Dr Victor Herbert who proved the health benefits of folic acid by living on thrice-boiled hamburgers, marshmallows and jelly, a diet that almost killed him.

In the programme Michael Mosley also repeats the experiment of Dr Hugh Sinclair, who lived on nothing but seal meat and fish oil for six months to demonstrate its effect on his blood.

Finally, Michael meets Dave who practises Calorie Restriction, a lifelong self-experiment with the goal of extending his lifespan by 50 years. Could diet really hold the secret of a life without the diseases of aging?

1 hour


Role Contributor
Presenter Michael Mosley
Producer Alison Gregory