DIET AND DISEASE

DIET AND DISEASE

The relationship between disease and diet has been well documented over the past five decades. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, over 80% of human cancer is caused by environmental factors. Those factors include smoking, diet, exposure to environmental toxins and alcohol. In other words, they are avoidable causes.

Even though this is well known the vast majority of doctors seem unwilling to make demands on politicians and business leaders to improve health in the most direct and effective ways. Could it be that there is a vested interest in keeping the sickness service running smoothly? The disease is big business. The corporate side of treating cancer is in a golden era. Spending on cancer medicines has hit a new milestone: US$100 billion in 2014 out of global sales of 1 trillion. Why would anyone be inspired to prevent a sickness that is such a cash cow? There is little doubt that the pharmaceutical industry is the driving force in forming medical policy.

A study published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition showed that the average medical student was given 23.9 hours of nutrition instruction[1]. That’s one day out of 15 years. Nutrition, like prevention of illness, gets pushed to the side in modern medical training (and therefore practice). Doctors don’t know much about nutrition, but they act as if they do. I regularly hear from clients, students and friends about absurd statements regarding diets and health made by doctors. We simply need to look at the facts to see that simple changes in daily habits could create profound improvements in public health.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women.  We know the causes of heart disease.  It is the one of the most preventable, and probably the most studied, of all of the non-communicable diseases.  Over the last few decades, study after study has shown that the two main causes of heart disease are smoking and diet.  A reduction of smokers has resulted in lower rates of heart disease, but we have done almost nothing to address diet and heart disease except allow misinformation and commercial influence promote “heart healthy” products.

  • About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. That’s one in every four deaths.[2]
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2009 were in men.
  • Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing nearly 380,000 people annually.
  • Every year about 720,000 Americans has a heart attack. Of these, 515,000 are a first heart attack and 205,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.[3]

Coronary heart disease alone costs the United States $108.9 billion each year.[4]  This includes the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.

The World Heart Foundation says:

The role of diet is crucial in the development and prevention of cardiovascular disease. Diet is one of the key things you can change that will impact all other cardiovascular risk factors.

Comparisons between a diet low in saturated fats, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and the typical diet of someone living in the developed world show that in the former there is a 73% reduction in the risk of new major cardiac events.”[5]

Diabetes

The number of adults in the U.S. with diabetes has tripled between 1980 and 2011. It is the seventh leading cause of death in America. Worldwide, the number of adults with diabetes will rise from 285 million in 2010 to 439 million in the year 2030.[6]

We know a lot about diabetes.  For instance, we know that type 2 diabetes accounts for between 90% and 95% of diagnosed adult cases. We are seeing more and more adolescents presenting with symptoms of type 2 diabetes. We know that diabetes contributes to heart disease, blindness and is the main cause of kidney failure and lower limb amputation. It causes over 73,000 amputations a year – that’s 1,400 a week[7].  ‘Management’ of the disease does not prevent these complications. It simply delays them. Yet we also know that diabetes is not only preventable, it is reversible.

Researchers at the University of Newcastle (UK) showed that using a low-calorie diet could reverse diabetes.[8] It has also been shown that diabetics who had bariatric surgery and reduced their weight by 15kg showed signs of recovery.  Thousands of people using alternative health care have experienced a complete reversal of type 2 diabetes.

Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, is one of the UK’s leading diabetes researchers. He sees successful management of type 2 diabetes as a curse.  “It is moving us away from serious attempts to cure the problem. We’re getting pretty good at keeping people alive longer,” he says. “And we’re seeing more and more obese younger people going onto tablets ever earlier. That means the population living with diabetes is rising.” There is too much focus on management, and not enough on prevention.

My own experience with people with type 2 diabetes is that those given a good diet and good exercise programme always see a dramatic improvement in their condition within two or three weeks. Most of them have reduced or completely come off their medication and are free of the disease.

Cancer

When medical people talk about cancer they focus on the survival rates so they can give us good news. Survival from cancer has doubled over the past 40 years, the death rates have fallen and over half of all patients now survive at least ten years. We can now keep people alive with the disease. What we hear less regularly is that the occurrence of cancer is continually rising.

“It is predicted there will be 23.6 million new cancer cases worldwide each year by 2030, if recent trends in incidence of major cancers and population growth are seen globally in the future. This is 68% more cases than in 2012, with slightly larger growth in low and medium HDI (Human Development Index) countries (66% more cases in 2030 than 2012) than in high and very high HDI countries (56% more cases in 2030 than 2012)”[9]

The following figures are from a study that analysed statistics from 1975 to 1994 on the incidence of all cancers. The findings indicated that while the incidence of some cancers was decreasing, others were rising at an alarming rate. (The most dramatic decline was in cases of lung cancer, as a result of fewer people smoking.) There are some shocking figures in the report.[10]

  • A contemporary black woman’s risk of breast cancer is 54% greater than was her mother’s at the same age. A white woman’s risk is 41% greater than her mother’s.
  • Men today are three or four times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than their fathers.
  • Excluding cancers linked to smoking, or where trends are confounded by changes in diagnostic procedure (breast and prostate; see below), relative to the previous generation, rates increased on average 13% in black women, 52% in white men, and 67% in black men. There was little change in white women.
  • For non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which was analysed separately, the rates today relative to 25 years ago have almost doubled in white women, nearly tripled in black women, more than tripled in white men, and more than quadrupled in black men.

We can start looking at preventing cancer or we can continue to find ways to try and extend our lives with drugs by 6 months, 8 months or even some years. This ‘living with the disease’ usually means that the quality of life is extremely compromised. Living with the disease is also increasingly expensive.

Numerous studies from the past thirty years link breast cancer to dairy food. Prostate cancer has been linked to the consumption of animal foods, particularly barbequed foods.  But this is not a popular message for media to cover – and it doesn’t go down too well with food producers or pharmaceutical companies either.

Organised medicine presents its successes to us with a flourish, and brushes its’ unfortunate failures under the carpet.  If medicine were really successful in creating health we would need fewer hospitals, and medical services would not labor under stress.

We are not condemned to continue feeding the money machines that both medicine and nutrition have become. There are things we can do to get out of this mess. We could stringently investigate the pharmaceutical industry’s hold on the health care industry. We could independently test all drugs and assess their value. We could insist that all approaches by the pharmaceutical lobbies to physicians and politicians are transparent. (Pharmaceutical lobbies have spent over 2.3 billion dollars to directly influence law-makers and 183 million on political contributions since 1998.) At the time of writing, the industry has already spent nearly $10 million on the 2016 American elections and is expected to spend more.

Diet is a major cause of disease. This is good news – we can change our diet pretty easily. In the late 1960’s a revolution was brewing that challenged medical and nutritional mythologies, and it wasn’t generated from within the professions. A rebellious public were asking increasingly difficult questions that generated some stunning changes. The dietary principles we teach at MACROVegan Centre are aimed at the prevention, and reversal of the major diseases that plague our society. We also teach the practical life skills on how to make your healthy diet a practical and tasty one.

[1] American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, April 2006

[2] Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD. Deaths: Final data for 2010. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2013;61

[3] Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Blaha MJ, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2014 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2014 ;128

[4] Heidenreich PA, Trogdon JG, Khavjou OA, et al. Forecasting the future of cardiovascular disease in the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011;123:933-44. Epub 2011 Jan 24

[5] World Heart Foundation, 2014 Report

[6] Shaw JE, Sicree RA, Zimmet PZ. Global estimates of the prevalence of diabetes for 2010 and 2030. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2010; 87:4-14

[7] National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014, American Diabetes Association

[8] Newcastle University, Reversal of type 2 diabetes: normalisation of beta cell function in association with decreased pancreas and liver triacylglycerol. July 31, 2013

[9] Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Ervik M, et al. GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.0, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 11 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2013.

[10] Dinse, GE, DM Umbach, AJ Sasco, DG Hoel and DL Davis. 1999. Unexplained increases in cancer incidence in the United States from 1975 to 1994. Annual Review of Public Health 20: 173-209