Zoe Harcombe walks through the BMJ green channel

Green ChannelLast week I pointed out Zoe Harcombe’s rather over the top reactions to the BMJ’s decision to retract misleading claims about statin side effects. She continued her crusade by writing a rapid response in the BMJ yesterday – which predictably references claims about the conflicts of Professor Rory Collins – and then urging her followers to inflate the ‘likes’ on the comment.

What is amazing about all this is not the content of her rapid response – or the fact she feels the need to validate the content through a show of popularity – but the declaration at the bottom, a requirement and indeed a term and condition for all authors submitting comments to the BMJ

Competing interests: None declared

Hmm, not sure about that.

I think its relevant for BMJ readers to know that you have written about statins fairly extensively, and are an open and prominent sceptic of their application. I think its relevant to declare that you are a member of the International Network of Cholesterol Sceptics, an organisation which state

Members of this group represent different views about the causation of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease..[…]…What we all oppose is that animal fat and high cholesterol play a role.

You know, maybe something along the lines of the below – submitted by Dr John Briffa under his comments on the article – would have been appropriate

 Competing interests: I am a paid author, journalist and speaker, and in my work regularly express views that question conventional wisdom regarding the cholesterol hypothesis and the appropriateness of mass medication with statins

Also I think its fair to point out that Zoe has a financial conflict that she has failed to declare, and I don’t think its covered adequately by describing herself as an ‘author’. Zoe sells diet and recipe books, and runs the Harcombe Diet Club, businesses which are based upon the promotion of low carb, high fat diet. She appears to makes a nice living from it.

The principles  of the diet which are emphasised – and are probably part of its success – are alternative to mainstream dietary advice:  it advocates the principle that saturated fat doesn’t raise cholesterol and that high cholesterol doesn’t cause CVD. Any acknowledgement that statins do reduce cholesterol and CVD would damage credibility – and potentially have negative financial consequences.

I think Zoe should be allowed to question whatever she wants, but I think she has a duty to inform BMJ readers of these facts. Bearing in mind the subject of her rapid response – the failure to declare conflicts of interest – this represents hypocrisy so delicious and thick, you could spread it on toast.


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