Public Health Collaboration (PHC) founder and director Sam Feltham hopes to save the NHS billions by helping diabetics live real food lifestyles.

Sam Feltham wants to change the state of the nation’s health.

As the founder and director of the charity Public Health Collaboration (PHC), he wants to save the NHS money by getting health information and resources to doctors and the public, supported by a scientific advisory committee and patrons.

PHC runs various schemes and projects to this end, such as its ambassadors programme which currently has “just shy of 300 volunteers”, who are “in contact with local GP practices to give them better lifestyle information to hand out to their patients”.

How to prevent diabetes

At the heart of all this activity lies the concept of ‘real food’ with a low-carb slant.

One of the members of PHC’s scientific advisory committee is Dr David Unwin, a GP famous for putting type 2 diabetes into remission through a low-carb diet.

“David’s example is just incredible,” says Feltham. “It started off just under £30,000 a year that he was saving, and now it’s up to £50,000.

“If we extrapolated that across the 9,500 GP practices across the country, that would be a saving of half a billion pounds a year for the NHS — and that’s just on drugs for diabetes.”

Of the £10 billion a year that type 2 diabetes costs the NHS, Feltham adds, only £2 billion is spent on drugs, so the potential savings are huge.

And, he insists, they’re realistic because Unwin helped 50% of his type 2 diabetic patients into remission, and 90% of those with pre-diabetes into remission.

Similar success nationwide is “the idea”, says Feltham.

“I’m absolutely hopeful for it, because it’s coming to a point now where it is so obvious that [support on low carb, real food eating] is at least one of the options that people should be offered.”

From web design to snowboarding

Feltham has worked in various sectors, from website design to snowboarding, before working in health.

As a personal trainer, he grew a fitness bootcamp business to 10 locations across the UK, and developed a YouTube channel and podcast.

He conducted what he calls “overfeeding self-experiments” for YouTube, using himself as a diet guinea pig to demonstrate that “not all calories are created equal”.

Sam the guinea pig

Feltham’s one-man studies involved putting himself on three different diets for three weeks each, with a three-month washout period in between.

For the first diet, he ate 6,000 calories a day of “low carb, real food”.

 “According to the calorie formula,” he says, “I should have put on 6.1kg, but I actually only gained one and a quarter, and I lost 3cm from my waist as well.”

His second diet was “low-fat, fake food” – again 6,000 calories a day – and he gained 7.1kg of weight and 9.3cm around his waist.

The third diet was very low fat, real food and vegan. He didn’t manage to eat as many calories this time because of the fibre he was eating, but nevertheless gained 7.8cm around his waist.

“To put it in perspective,” he says, “the daily recommendation for fibre is 30g, and I was eating 175g a day. My wife was rather unhappy with that — it wasn’t pretty!”

He adds: “The idea is that even if you have similar net calorie surpluses, you can end up with different results, because your body does completely different things with the food that you’re eating.”

Then, with a grin: “That caused a bit of a storm at the time.”

Setting up the PHC

Yet he fell into a “philosophical quandary” as a personal trainer, wanting to tackle the underlying health issues straight-on.

And in March 2016, following a successful online crowdfunding campaign, Sam closed down his fitness business to focus all his attentions on a brand new PHC.

“And we’ve been going from strength to strength ever since.”

Public policy or personal choice?

I ask Sam whose responsibility good health is: the government, doctors, or individuals.

“It’s a two-way street,” he replies. “The government is responsible for trying to help the population reach its full potential…

“But then, at the same time, people need to take personal responsibility for themselves, pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and make changes.”

Different personal circumstances mean it isn’t easy for everyone to make changes, though, and government can make a big difference.

“Because if your food environment is just fast food shops and a newsagent that has sweets and crisps plastered everywhere, you’re really up against it.”

Cost of living

Another obstacle that many people face is the rising price of food, which may make healthy living seem unattainable.

“It is absolutely possible to have a completely real food diet on a budget,” he insists, and directs me to booklets on the PHC’s website that suggest real food meal ideas that cost less than £2.

“Let’s just take some quick examples,” he says, “You can have a 200g pork chop for 64p. Then, a portion of carrots is 6p, and a portion of broccoli is about 12p.

“So that’s under a pound, and if you’re happy to eat real food carbohydrates on top of that, a portion of potato or rice is approximately 15p.

“Then slather it with butter — that’s it. It’s not terribly expensive.”

Local politics

Feltham’s ambitions to bring about change are not limited to food and nutrition; he also wants to be a local city councillor in his hometown, Winchester.

“I have this need to try and do my best to improve things,” he says. “The way to do that locally is by becoming a city councillor, to affect things that irk me that the local council have done. That’s why I’ve tried to get involved in that.”

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