Dr Paul Clayton graduated summa cum laude in Medical Pharmacology from Edinburgh University, prior to obtaining his PhD.
A former Chair of the Forum on Food & Health (UK), and Senior Scientific Advisor to the UK government’s Committee on the Safety of Medicines, he is currently a Fellow of the Institute of Food, Brain & Behaviour (Oxford).
He works with leading doctors and clinical scientists at centres of clinical expertise in many countries, designing and supervising pre-clinical and clinical trials of pharmaco-nutritional interventions.
Dr. Clayton’s books and e-books include Health Defence, After Atkins, Natural Defences, Out of the Fire and Let Your Food be Your Pharmaco-nutrition.
Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I am – or was – a clinical pharmacologist who went off-reservation a half century ago, and became obsessed with the pharmacological attributes of foods and food derivates.
I became aware that the world of natural pharmacology was more diverse than anything the pharma industry could produce, and more important in determining health – or the lack of it.
My books chart this journey, and show how simple changes in diet can be used to achieve better personal and public health outcomes.
What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?
I find the appalling state of public health today, and the consequent waste of human talent, deeply offensive. I see a public health system that is deeply dysfunctional, and want to put something better in its place.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
Anger and frustration with the current model of health care. And a handful of wonderful mentors I have been fortunate to meet along the way.
How do you deal with creative block?
I have never experienced it. There is too much to write about, the real problem is lack of time to write.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
The complexity of life is overwhelming, and one has to simplify in order to find transmittable meaning. The trick is not to simplify past the point of falsification, to try to always stay on the right side of that line.
These value judgements can be fiendishly hard, and often you can’t see whether you got it right until long after the book was published. In retrospect, I have often erred; we all do. All one can do is to try to get a little closer to the truth, next time.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
I like elision, and my cover and titles reflect this.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
They do not affect me at all. I write, in the end, for myself. Sometimes I am lucky enough to receive informed criticism, from other researchers who have more accurate or more up to date information than I did at the time of writing, and I am always happy to get this kind of feedback. It helps me to improve my understanding and refine my models.
How has your creation process improved over time?
Not as far as I know. But I may not be the best judge of this.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
I am unfashionably generalist. Feedback from specialists which confirmed my thinking in various areas has been very gratifying. Feedback from people who followed my recommendations and who experienced health benefits, is also positive. On the minus side, I am constantly surprised by the cupidity and stupidity of politicians in the health area, and in most other areas for that matter.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
My writing is an attempt to explain the science to myself, to begin with. If others find it useful, I’m delighted.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
A very general question. For myself, anger and frustration with the prevailing models of healthcare were the drivers to write. In addition, I have an overwhelming and probably deeply neurotic need to try to understand.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
What are your plans for future books?
None. But I’m sure something will turn up.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.
I try to be logical but – like you – I am human. At least, I can pass for one.