Book review: The Health Delusion – How to Achieve Exceptional Health in the 21st Century by Sophie Tully BSc MSc


The holy grail of ‘health’ in today’s fast-paced world seems like another of those goals to be aimed for, rather than actually achieved and experienced; instead of a natural, everyday state of existence, it seems almost elusive, as new ways of reaching it are constantly presented. Can it really be that humans are weak and susceptible to a barrage of chronic, painful and life-threatening diseases and we live in fear of the one that we will ultimately submit to? Think back just 70 years to the Second World War and our troubles were quite different. Despite the brutality and tragedy of the battlefield, and the harsh economic conditions brought about by the war, Britain’s domestic population was actually at its healthiest; people had to live on only what was required to sustain human life, rationed according to daily requirements. In addition, manual work was the norm, undertaken by those who were not called away to the war, in order to keep the country running.

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Back again to today and we see quite the reverse: humans are consuming more than their daily requirements, but from refined, nutrient depleted, high energy (= high calorie) foods and, having been transported to work (not walked), may well spend the working day sitting at their desks. Most are failing to meet even the minimum health recommendations for a balanced diet and exercise and even inaccurate public health messages are failing to be implemented. As a result, the population is rife with what may be considered diseases of the western world, almost all of which are completely preventable.

How did we get to this lamentable stage, where billions of precious pounds of the NHS budget are spent on containing and managing illnesses of poor lifestyles and diet, despite our highly advanced medical system and ever-expanding health and fitness industry?  It is to address these very questions that nutrition scientists Glen Matten and Aidan Goggins wrote their award-winning book The Health Delusion. The book’s introduction eloquently describes the inner thoughts and frustrations of many public health professionals in the battle with western medical practice, the food industry and the government, to reveal some basic truths about what really constitutes healthy living and allow happiness, longevity and medication-free living to be considered normal states. In choosing to tackle The Health Delusion, Glen and Aidan have taken on a challenge as gargantuan as the epidemic of illnesses they are working to prevent, and in doing so have written one of the most essential reading books of modern times.

The Health Delusion is a must-read for anyone wishing to untangle the complex and confusing web of mixed nutrition and public health messages and recommendations constantly emerging from both government and media. Discovering the real science behind the headlines and how these may be hugely and sensationally misrepresented in order to sell papers and products – often to the detriment of general health – along with what we should really be doing to achieve and maintain optimum health, is both eye opening and achievable. This clear and extensively researched book lays bare the vast inaccuracies many public health messages are based on and the (sad to say) sometimes nonsense recommendations from self-proclaimed health experts which often contribute to, and rarely reduce, the risk of chronic disease.

Covering everything from antioxidants to exercise, fad diets to foetal development, veganism to milk and meat, and fat to prescription drugs, The Health Delusion provides all the tools to understand, interpret and use evidence-based science to optimise health, together with the authors’ own professional health enhancing recommendations. The book is packed with interesting facts and statistics, clearly laid out for dipping into when required, and each chapter is summarised for easy reference. This accessible, digestible and entertaining book should be considered essential reading for anyone wishing to know what ‘health’ really means, whether you are a health-conscious consumer, a practitioner wishing to revise or expand your knowledge, or you are just plain interested!

Opening with the quote “I believe that if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions they will be moved to act” (Bill Gates), this book challenges anyone who reads it not to be moved to take action and stop the progression of western disease dead in its tracks. It deserves a place on the desks of all professionals working in public health.

About the authors

Aidan Goggins is an Irish pharmacist with a Master’s Degree in Nutritional Medicine. He is a firm believer in the necessity of a holistic approach to achieve true health, and that medicine alone is insufficient to stem the rising burden of chronic disease. He is a strong advocate of complementing medicine with nutrition and lifestyle changes to improve patient outcome and reduce undesirable effects.

Glen Matten has a Masters Degree in Nutritional Medicine and has a big interest in how nutritional approaches can promote health and prevent disease. His work spans private consultancy, teaching and lecturing, research, and corporate workshops. He is the author of The 100 Foods You Should Be Eating and has made numerous forays into television.

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Sophie Tully

About Sophie Tully

A trained pharmacologist, Sophie pursued her passion for health and nutrition by completing a master’s degree in Clinical & Public Health Nutrition at UCL, London. Sophie balances her Igennus role with her own private nutrition and health consultancy business working with elite athletes and the general public to achieve optimal health through lifestyle and dietary interventions. Sophie’s main research interests lie in the role of nutrition and lifestyle in inflammation, psychology and immunology. Sophie also lectures at the College of Naturopathic Medicine.