HEALTHY BITE | Another “P” for Pandemic

As you know in our previous Healthy Bite episodes, we have identified many “Ps” on how we approach this pandemic. Well, I have another P that I think is a great addition to this list. This week, I had Dr Ross Walker as a guest to give us the annual healthy heart checkup we all need.

Join me in this Healthy Bite as I talk about the leading cause of death globally, how much do we need a coronary calcium score and insulin resistance. Let’s also touch on the pandemic, vaccines, and so much more.

Another “P” for Pandemic

Now this week, I had the pleasure of talking with my old friend and cardiologist, Integrative, dare I say, Holistic Cardiologist to Dr Ross Walker. Now, Ross, I’ve known for many, many years. We actually went to school together, so that is many, many years ago. He’s been my cardiologist for many years, and he’s written many books. Seven, I believe. He has a weekly national radio programme for two hours every Sunday night, Healthy Living on 2GB. Well, anyway, Healthy Living. It’s on 2GB.

Cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer in the world

Ross is always a wealth of information and I always love to catch up with him every year. For your healthy heart check-up and it’s great to touch base with him and get him to remind us where things are and what a problem it is – Cardiovascular disease. 

It is still the biggest killer in the world. I think something like 18 million people a year dies every year from cardiovascular disease. We’re so used to hearing of daily death rates. We’re talking globally here that equates to about 50000 deaths a day. So it is a big problem. 

Cancer is another big killer in the world

Another big killer, of course, is cancer, which I think is around 10 or 11 million, which a year globally, equates to 27000 deaths a day from cancer. Diabetes is another one. There is something like four and a half or five million people who die from diabetes each year globally and that equates to, gosh, I have to do the maths, but I think it’s about 10000 people a day. Daily death rates are something we become very familiar with. 

The importance of insulin resistance

One of the things that Ross covers in this podcast is the importance of insulin resistance, which of course often manifests itself as diabetes. Many people are borderline and that is all about how you process sugars and carbohydrates. Sugars in particular and carbohydrates in general, because carbohydrates very quickly get broken down into sugars.

The food pyramid, which was a wonderful construct by the U.S. Department of Agriculture trying to sell more grains endorsed by governments all over the world and by dietitians associations all over the world, we have been putting in a good plug there for dieticians. They endorse the food pyramid, which placed carbohydrates at the base of a healthy eating plan. It is a great model. It is a great model. As I’ve said many times for an economic, great economic model, for selling food and for then managing the inevitable diseases which follow. But I digress. 

Ross Walker reminded us that insulin resistance is a major predisposing factor to cardiovascular, poor cardiovascular health and predisposes. Ross also reminds us of the importance of cholesterol in the body and reminds us of how important it is to our brain, our cellular function, our hormone function while it is a very convenient metric way of measuring potential heart risk, we used to think the higher your cholesterol, the more at risk you were. Ross certainly puts that myth to bed and talks about the importance of actually having a coronary calcium CT score done, which gives you an indication of how predisposed you are to heart disease.

Coronary calcium CT score

Now, Ross has been doing coronary calcium CT scores for 20 years. He’s copped a lot of flak for that over the years within the profession. But as I share with him on the podcast, I was sitting one day listening at my desk and I do get the Australian doctor delivered to my desktop, and headline news about a year ago was the coronary calcium CT score, big breakthrough here is now the gold standard. 

If your coronary calcium CT score is zero, you may have a cholesterol level of seven, eight or nine. But that wouldn’t be a problem. But if, on the other hand, your coronary calcium CT score was over 100 or over 400 even worse or over 600 even worse than that, then you should take that more seriously.

It’s a more nuanced discussion than you may have already been exposed to in your own doctor’s surgery, and that nuanced discussion is a coronary calcium CT score, and if you approach your doctor and say, “Look, you’ve had me on on these cholesterol-lowering tablets for the last five, 10, 15 or 20 years, but should we do a coronary calcium CT score?” If he or she then says, “Oh, that’s all rubbish.” I read that as saying they don’t know anything about that. And rather than say, “Oh, that’s so interesting. Maybe we should explore it.” They would rather dismiss it as being irrelevant because they don’t know it. So I just alert you to that. 

Five tips for good health

What was also so interesting in the discussion is Ross gives his five tips for good health, not just cardiovascular health, but applicable to all diseases. Those five things are… Look, I’m not going to spoil it for you have to go and listen to the podcast. He mentions it very briefly at the beginning of the podcast. I pull him up on it because I think those five elements are so important that they bear repeating not just once or twice within a podcast, then going into more detail, but at least once a year. Ross is always great to get that.

How is the pandemic being managed?

We also touched on the pandemic, and I invariably ask people how they feel it’s being managed. Interestingly, Ross was saying that he felt and he was also quoting something that he had recently appeared on the media with Peter Collignon, who is an immunologist, and he and Ross were lamenting at what has happened to the AstraZeneca vaccines. Now, AstraZeneca was one of the first vaccines that became available in Australia. 

I’m going to share with you my position on that. I actually did go out and get myself double vaxxed on AstraZeneca at a time when we were being told that 70% vaccination would return us all to normal living. I thought to myself, “Look, I never have had a flu vaccine. I’ve never had one. I have had other vaccines. I’m not anti-vax.” Like when my grandchildren were born and I needed to update my whooping cough vaccine. I went, I did go and get it. 

The vaccines that we’ve had in the past have been protein or attenuated viral, attenuated proteins or inactivated viruses that have been injected that float around in our bloodstream and our body recognises them and mounts an immune response. In the past, when we’ve had measles, mumps, rubella, polio, smallpox, cholera, hep b. 

Vaccine always meant to me, to my mind that meant we didn’t get the disease. That’s why I’m not anti-vax, because I think it’s it has a place in public health. There is no question about that. And with that protein or attenuated protein and viral vector, it’s been shown to be relatively safe over the last 40 or 50 years.

I mean, there is always going to be a reaction to something, and one has to balance out the community benefit versus the individual potential response. When you can overcome getting a disease and transmitting a disease, I think that’s the way I always understood vaccines to work and along came the coronavirus vaccines. 

The first ones that we’ve had available to us were AstraZeneca here in Australia or Pfizer.Pfizer is an mRNA vaccine which needs to be kept at very low temperatures. I think it’s minus 30 degrees centigrade and in dry ice, and it needs to be very carefully handled. Pfizer vaccine was that, and I think that quite it to about $20 a shot, a jab.

Why AstraZeneca vaccine?

Then the AstraZeneca vaccine came along at the same time. I liked that vaccine, as much as I can like a vaccine, and it was much less sensitive. It didn’t need to be stored at minus 30 or 40 degrees centigrade. It could be stored in the fridge and ordinary fridge. It was DNA based and it was not for profit as well. That was an appealing thing. I went ahead and had AstraZeneca for three reasons.

One, I didn’t want to I wanted to be supportive of the community and I wanted to get life back to normal, and I know lots of people in hospitality, in education, in tourism, in small businesses. In live that whose life had been disrupted. I didn’t want to seem petulant and not have a vaccine. That’s why I went and got the vaccine. Number one.

Number two, why did I choose AstraZeneca vs. Pfizer? Well, I kind of thought if something was produced overseas and required careful handling right to the point that it reached my arm, I felt a little bit uncomfortable about that because it seemed like there was a lot of stages there that needed to be carefully monitored, and I needed something that was a little more robust if you like, not just robust in getting to me, but probably robust in when it was administered. 

The other thing that I liked about AstraZeneca was it was not for profit. It was a not for profit jab that was costing the Australian government something like $2. And compared to Pfizer, which was $20. Okay. And so that’s what it was.

Now, actually, when I talked to Ross about this, I asked him about AstraZeneca being DNA, whereas Pfizer is mRNA and both get into the cells, which concerned me because remember all the old vaccines just floated around in your bloodstream. They didn’t actually enter the cell and start to change the way a protein or direct the way a protein is produced.

In this case, the spike protein. There was a new technology, and I think that bears repeating those vaccines, the Pfizer, the Moderna, the Johnson and Johnson, which isn’t here. But the AstraZeneca, which were new technology which involved getting into the cell to produce a spike protein.

Now I did ask Ross about that, and I think Ross’s legend and Ross said, “No, no, it doesn’t get into the cell. It’s not DNA forget it. It uses the adenovirus.” Now, the adenovirus has been around for a long time, and this has been the cause of, I think, some confusion here because practitioners like Ross and I have another friend who is a trained nurse who has worked in oncology departments for the last 30, 20 or 30 years, very knowledgeable. A nurse. He lectures and teaches nurses. 

He gave me a similar response on an AstraZeneca that uses old technology. It’s old technology. It’s not new technology. Here’s the thing. It is old technology. The adenovirus has been used for a long time in many vaccines before, so I accept that. But it is a different technology.

Let me just quote with you here. The University of Oxford partnered with the British Swedish company AstraZeneca to develop a test coronavirus known as, I’ll reduct the code number there, but it’s the AstraZeneca. “A large clinical trial…” This article was written in May 2021. “A large clinical trial showed the vaccine offered strong protection with an overall efficacy of 76%. 

The relative risk VS the absolute risk

The relative efficacy VS the absolute efficacy

Now, this is another bugbear I have with this whole pandemic and with so-called experts. We’re always being told the relative risk versus the absolute risk and the relative efficacy versus the absolute efficacy. And that’s an important distinction.

When you are trying to sell a pharmaceutical product, you will only quote the relative risk or the relative efficacy. You will never quote the absolute efficacy. If you are going to sell the pharmaceutical product, you will always quote the relative risk or efficacy, not the absolute risk or efficacy. Let me give you an example of this, and I’ll use the statins as an example. Statins have been sold to doctors because it has been said that it reduces the risk of heart attack by 36%, a third.

Now, if your doctor could give you something that reduced your risk of heart disease by a third, you’d be negligent to not prescribe it, which is exactly why busy, well-meaning medical practitioners have been prescribing statins for the last 20 or 30 years when you have presented in this surgery with high cholesterol. 36% is the relative risk. 

When I put it to you like this, your chance of getting a heart attack is three in a 100. And if you took this medication, it would reduce your risk from three in a 100 to two in 100. Would you like to take this drug, which has some side effects about a myopathy or neuropathy, meaning tingling in the fingers, fingers and toes or weakness in the limbs? Or it could affect your memory, or it could affect your liver function. Would you like to reduce your risk from three in a hundred to two in a 100 by taking that medication? You might go, “Hmm, that’s the absolute risk, is it? Yes. No. 

I don’t think I will do that.” But if I said to you, “I could reduce your risk of heart attack by 30%, then you would say, “Yes, I would definitely take that.” And reducing your risk from three in a 100 to two in a 100 is a 33 or 36% reduction. Therein lies the difference between relative risk – I’m trying to sell you this medication or absolute risk – I’m trying to give you the information which will allow you to make an informed decision, and that is the difference between relative risk and absolute risk. When we hear an efficacy of 76%, that is a relative efficacy. I believe the efficacy relates to something. The absolute efficacy is less than one percent. But I digress.

About AstraZeneca vaccine

I’m back onto the AstraZeneca. Whatever happened to AstraZeneca? Okay. And what is the mode of action? “Now, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is studded with proteins that it uses to enter the human cells. These so-called spike proteins make a tempting target for potential vaccines and treatments. The AstraZeneca vaccine is based on the virus’s genetic instruction for building that spike protein. But, unlike the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccines, which store the instructions in a single strand RNA, the Oxford vaccine uses double-stranded DNA. The DNA inside an adenovirus. 

These researchers added the gene for the coronavirus spike protein to another virus called adenovirus. Adenoviruses are common viruses that typically cause colds or flu-like symptoms. The AstraZeneca team used a modified version of a chimpanzee adenovirus to do this. And therein lies the…” That’s the rub because adenovirus has been used for a long time.

When someone says, “Oh, AstraZeneca, it’s been around for a long time, this technology.” Well, I beg to differ here, respectfully beg to differ just for this. It can enter cells, but it can’t replicate inside it. That means the adenovirus can’t replicate inside the cells. The DNA from that virus can. AstraZeneca comes out of decades of research on adenovirus-based vaccines. 

In July, the first one was approved for general use, a vaccine that was used for Ebola. So the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID 19 is more rugged than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. That’s why they don’t need to be frozen at those extreme temperatures and transported around the world at those dry ice minus 30 or whatever it is temperature.”

“DNA is not as fragile as RNA, and the adenovirus is tough protein “helps protect the genetic material inside”, and as a result, the Oxford vaccine doesn’t have to stay frozen. The vaccine can be kept between two and eight degrees centigrade after the vaccine is injected into a person’s arm, the adenovirus is bumped into cells and latch onto the proteins on the cell’s surface. 

The cell engulfs the virus in a bubble and pulls it inside the cells. Once inside the cell, the adenovirus escapes from the bubble and travels to the nucleus to the chamber where the cell’s DNA is stored. The adenovirus pushes its DNA into the nucleus, and the adenovirus is engineered so that it can’t make copies of itself. But the gene for the coronavirus spike protein can be read by the cell and copied into a molecule called mRNA.”.

It’s semantics, perhaps, but it’s an important point of distinction. These vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna. AstraZeneca – I knew they’re using new technology, yes. AstraZeneca is using the adenovirus, which has been used for many years in research. I agree. But it is new technology. 

Let’s get back to what happened to AstraZeneca. Here we had a vaccine that is two points up against a vaccine that is $20. And if I was sitting on the desk of the PR and marketing desk of Pfizer and thinking, “How are we going to compete against a $2 versus a $20?” And there are adverse reactions in both.

You may have heard that many people, quite a few people, have suffered from myocarditis with Astra, with both actually, but also with Pfizer and Moderna. Both Pfizer and Moderna are a complication is myocarditis, particularly in younger males, and it is a serious problem. The thing with AstraZeneca was it caused clots in some individuals and we took a talk with Ross Walker about those individuals. 

Just the point being, both have side effects. Which side effect did you hear about? Which side effect was publicised in Australia? I asked a rhetorical question it was the stroke that’s all the clots associated with AstraZeneca, which were rare, but they did occur. In the same way, that myocarditis in men may be rare, but it occurs. 

The PR machine for Pfizer was clearly much stronger than the PR, not for profit of AstraZeneca and therefore Pfizer. Everybody was looking for Pfizer. That was the one I wanted. I went and got a Pfizer shot. I went and got a Moderna shot.

It was quite interesting to hear Ross talk about how annoyed he was that the AstraZeneca vaccine has been so maligned, and he just touches on the fact that the mRNA has its own problems, and I’ll let you listen to the podcast for that reason. 

I wanted to do this in this Healthy Bite to just clear up that point about the fact that, firstly, why I chose what I did and I’m not rushing off to get a booster. I can most certainly tell you that I took a hit for the team, for the community, but it comes up to a certain point where enough is enough as far as I’m concerned. 

The thing that has surprised me through this entire pandemic and many things have surprised me. To regular listeners of this podcast, you will know that I have been very well aware of the role of the chemical, food and pharmaceutical industries in all levels of health care. This is a story that I first got onto in about the mid-1980s in Dentistry, but then became interested in it in health from thereon. I wrote about it in my book A Life Less Stressed

This isn’t just the rantings of a dentist. These are the observations of many people far more qualified than I am to discuss this issue. The former Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Marcia Angell, The Truth About Drug Companies, and how they deceive us, she wrote a book, lost her job for that very reason. But she hadn’t had enough and talked about that.

Professor Peter Gøtzsche, one of the co-founders of the Cochrane Collaboration, wrote a book called Deadly Medicines & Organised Crime: How the Pharmaceutical Industry is Undermining Health Care

Media outlets

What surprises me during this pandemic, so I’ve been aware of the influence of industry, but what surprises me is how pervasive this influence has become, where it now affects media outlets, and I don’t call them news outlets anymore. 

Outlets like The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, are just media outlets. These, in my opinion, have become media outlets. They are not news outlets. When they reduced Nobel Prise winning medications like Ivermectin to a horse dewormer. As we know, there is something terribly rotten in their mark, and it ain’t the cheese. It’s the message.

When we see that kind of influence affecting media outlets, formerly referred to as news outlets, we know there is a serious problem here. Even I am shocked by that. But the pandemic has thrown up many, many challenges and I personally am shocked to hear how well-meaning people, and you may know many of these well-meaning people who may be one yourself, who have unwittingly become marketing and compliance officers for an industry that has repeatedly been found guilty of fraud and illegal marketing. 

In fact, if you went and googled, what was the biggest criminal fine? We’re not talking medical here. We’re talking what is the biggest fine for criminal activity ever issued in history? The answer to that question will come up. It may, depending on the search engine you use, it may come up. GlaxoSmithKline, it may come up Pfizer. But suffice to say, the pharmaceutical industry has been found guilty of fraud and illegal marketing over the last 20 years to the tune of $70 billion.

Now please go back and have a listen to the podcast I did. It was in the Summer Series called The Elephant in the Room, or the one I did just before Christmas called the truth in science or Trust the Science??? (with a question mark on it). Because so many people have become unwittingly become marketing and compliance officers for the pharmaceutical industry, and it’s been reduced to. 

Are you a vaccine or an anti-vaxxer?

Are you a vaccine or an anti-vaxxer? A lot of people have embraced the vaccination and booster programme with a well-meaning open heart. But I have to say, when I see the history of the pharmaceutical industry, when I see them also issued with emergency use authorisations, which absolve them of any liability using new technology, which is not a vaccination, it’s an mRNA and a therapy for treating people who are susceptible to this coronavirus. That’s essentially what we have and it’s been bookmarked or it’s been headlined as a vaccine. 

I think reducing the argument to are you a vaxxer or an anti-vax is oversimplifying it to a terrible degree. I think a lot of well-meaning people have been caught up in this and I’m disappointed, but I do think it behoves us to take the step back, look at the history of health care, look at the technology that’s being employed, look at the long term studies of this technology. There are none.

That’s my concern when I hear my grandchildren. I’ve got a six-year-old granddaughter, I’ve got a three and a two-year-old who is now able to get or will soon be able to get vaccines. Well, Hallelujah. No! Not Hallelujah… Oh my god! I would like to exercise the precautionary principle here. 

These so-called vaccines are not preventing the acquisition of the valve of the virus. Yes, they reduce your risk of hospitalisation and death, particularly for the more vulnerable of which children are most certainly not. Although from the media outlets there will be no shortage of stories and that, as the formerly referred to as news outlets, there will be no shortage of stories to push up this agenda.

I’ve identified many Ps in this pandemic. We could argue about the first five or six in which order they are – profit, power, patents, politics, psychosis and along there, at the bottom of the list, I believe, has been public health. 

Sadly, because we’ve not heard about prevention, we’ve not heard about the early treatments, effective early treatments that are cheap and accessible. We’ve only heard about early treatments that are patentable and things like hydroxychloroquine, which are often used in combination, not on their own with azithromycin or zinc or ivermectin in combination with doxycycline and zinc and vitamin D and magnesium all used in combination. 

These are all effective treatments. Have you heard about them? No, but I’m sure you’ve read in the media, formerly referred to as news outlets about, molnupiravir or remdesivir, patentable drugs, which are working together with the PR departments of some of the bigger pharmaceutical industries.

This week’s episode I cut off on a tangent, but I think there was a lot raised in this week’s episode with Ross Walker that I think required some kind of clarification. When Ross said that to me that I really needed to go back and check. I don’t like to be argumentative or confrontational in my interviews, but the Healthy Bite allows me respectfully to go back and explore this, I wanted to clear that point up. 

Ross is a wonderful practitioner and gives some wonderful advice. Have a listen to it. It’s your annual check-up and it keeps you on track. I hope this finds you well. Until next time. This is Dr Ron Ehrlich. Be well.



This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.