New Thinking in Health Education
||Most of us are
resigned to lead ordinary lives. Secure in the daily routine of job,
commute and the week's laundry, there's no reason to question the
balance. There are those who dream of something more: wild secret
fantasies of intigue and adventure in some faraway exotic paradise,
indulging in the pleasures of life while riding off into the
crimson-red sunset. And then there are the select few who live their
Most of us are resigned to the predictable future of growing old with everyone else, with its attendant consequences of Alzheimer's, incontinence and nursing homes. There will be 1 million American centenarians by the year 2040. If your goal is to soar with the eagles--to reach for and grasp a full active life well beyond 100---then you must seek information and act on it before your time is up. And you must realize there is more to this game than diet alone, especially when vested financial interests do not share your goals.
Since the Industrial Revolution beginning in 1848, Western society has fundamentally altered the biological basis of human existence (diet and environment) from which health arises. Chronic disease is now considered normal. Well people are disappearing.
U.S. Health Care
Despite its armamentarium of powerful drugs and aggressive treatment strategies, conventional medicine demonstrates scant progress against the growing specter of resistant infections, autoimmune disorders and environmental afflictions of unknown origin. Heart attack patients, after undergoing heroically complex surgical procedures, are served the same abysmal foods that brought them to the hospital in the first place. President Bush was served steak on the night of his heart scare. U.S. soldiers returning from the Persian Gulf War were welcomed back with first-class medical treatment, ice cream and hot dogs. America has the world's most expensive health-care system, yet we rank 16th in life expectancy. No intervention with drugs or surgery can erase a lifetime of self abuse.
Each year, nearly 400,000 Americans undergo heart bypass surgery for blocked coronary arteries. Most patients believe surgery will correct their problem. However, it is an immutable law of biology that a disease cause dby a detrimental diet cannot be corrected by surgery. We ignore this principle at our peril.
Following heart bypass surgery, 50% of bypassed arteries clog up within 5 years. Following balloon agioplasty, 33% of dilated arteries clog up within 4-6 months. Each heart bypass operation replaces only 6 inches of an arterial system, but leaves the other 60,000 miles of total length. In most cases, these procedures do not improve survival.
By treating symptoms with drugs or surgery while ignoring the underlying cause (diet), treatment often becomes an expensive exercise in futility. During recent doctor strikes in Canada, England, Israel and America, the death rates actually fell. Dubious and mercenary procedures lie at the core of America's health-care crisis.
In 1985, the National Research Council recommended that U.S. medical schools include more courses in nutrition. Since that time, the number of medical schools offering nutrition courses has dropped. U.S. medical schools receive large endowments and grants from pharmaceutical companies.
The Practice of Medicine
Most physicians practice early detection or treatment to the exclusion of prevention. Doctors know that a 10% fat diet can prevent or reverse degenerative disease, yet few make this recommendation. There are several possible reasons:
Insurance coverage - there is no realistic reimbursement for nutritional counseling.
Tradition - doctors are not comfortable requiring behavioral change.
Compliance fear - doctors are afraid people won't do anything if the changes are too drastic.
Peer review fear - doctors don't wish to practice differently from their colleagues.
Expectations - patients expect doctors to perform procedures, but successful prevention means no procedures performed.
Lack of nutrition education - most physicians receive less than 3 hours of nutrition training during medical school.
High-tech training - MDs trained in high-tech procedures think nutrition is beneath them. Real doctors don't talk about food.
Personal eating habits - fewer than 20% of doctors have improved their own diets.
Economics - moderate fat reommendation (20-30% fat) insure the continuing supply of cancer and heart disease patients. Patients generate profit.
The healthiest, longest-lived people on earth have no access to modern medicine. They practice prevention. Profound social changes will occur when it's no longer considered normal to die young. The medical profession, pesticide industry, cattle ranchers and general public all share the same philosophical aspirations for a better world. There is, however, disagreement over the best way to get there.
During the 1950s, dentists became so successful in promoting prevention (dental hygiene) that their efforts resulted in fewer cavities, fewer patients and a tougher environment to make a living. Several dental schools have since closed. This economic lesson is not lost on the medical profession.
Despite their education and training, physicians, chiropractors, dietitians and government scientists have a track record of dying from the same degenerative diseases as everyone else, because they have the same diet as everyone else. You can do better.
Expert nutritional advice carries an air of reasonableness that often masks deeper, more vexing issues. Everyone, it seems, has a different opinion. At a time when contradictory studies and dueling authorities on both sides are the norm, it's little wonder why controversy prevails.
The airwaves are now awash in oat bran commercials, claims, counterclaims and hype--as are we. Wading through the muddled piles gets pretty slippery when droppings of nutritional nuggets lie thick on the ground. The best defense is to realize that dietary advice originating from government agencies and prestigious national institutions is, in fact, economically-driven. As always, the devil is in the details, not the headlines.
Powerful special interests often influence national organizations. Protect yourself by recognizing corporate tentacles, tactics and marketing practices. Do not gracefully surrender your youth by falling prey to deception. To beat the system, don;t play by the company rules.
Major industries know quite well that contentious issues are often adjudicated in the court of public opinion. Corporate public relations firms manipulate public opinion using various deceptive practices. Corporations often hire "third party" scientists to argue their case before the media. They represent themselves as independent and objective institutions, yet their positions closely follow those of their sponsors:
In 1990, the National Dairy Board hired a PR firm to promote growth hormones in milk.
The California Department of Agriculture claims that counties with the highest exposure to pesticides have the lowest breast cancer rates. This position conflicts with current evidence.
The Ad Council's Partnership for a Drug-Free America receives funding from the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries. Consequently their public-service ads ingore America's real drug problems, caused by legal prescription drugs.
Monsanto Corporation, which ranks among the 10 worst polluters, recently joined Earth Day USA and Business for Social Responsibility.
The American Council on Science and Health (funded by Burger King) promotes fast foods.
The U.S. holds the dubious distinction of consuming more meat than any other nation, with 70% of its protein from animal sources. Less fortunate nations forego that luxury and their low chronic disease rates contrast sharply with ours.
There's a parallel between our nation and the Roman Empire: the Romans ate themselves to death. Emperor Claudius I regularly served banquets of port-stuffed sea urchins, roast deer, jellyfish, flamingo and parrot. The Roman upper class suffered from lead poisoning because their aqueducts, water pipes, wine vessels and glazed cooking pots all contained lead. Meanwhile, the poorer folks enjoyed good health by doing without banquets and lead pipes.
Lest one believe that such indiscretions are a quaint oddity of the less enlightened and distant past, consider the billions spent by industrialized nations in waging war on degenerative disease (cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis) afflictions rare in developing countries.
Health does not spring from magic bullets or soundbites. Modern diseases of affluence arise primarily from dietary exess, not deficiency. The notion of excess doesn't sit well in corporate circles since it doesn't sell products.
To focus on products while ignoring the underlying cause is a formula ripe with failure. Isolated nutrients are not substitutes for the thousands of undiscovered essential components which whole foods likely contain. And isolated nutrients are no substitute for changing the diet either.
Studies report that increasing fruit and vegetable intake can cut cancer and heart disease risk by 35-50%. Therein lies the seeds of dangerous advice: that the way to counteract dietary intemperance is to eat more of something else. The underlying cause (excess fat and protein) is seldom addressed due to aggressive marketing by the meat and dairy industries.
In America, health is a business and most businesses operate by giving the public what they want. National institutions advocate 30% fat diets, while assuming anything less is "unrealistic and culturally unacceptable." Such cosmetic advice is arrogant. Consumers have a right to the information they need to make informed choices.
No one wants their life cut short. No one wants to waste away in a nursing home as a stagnant pond of body fluids, bedsores and clogged conduits tethered to an IV pole. Immunity from chronic illness requires building a fortress of knowledge, hardened against the vagaries of artful deception, ornamental government recommendations and deeply-instilled aberrations that corporations would have you believe.
This article was excerped with permission from the book Long Life Now by Lee Hitchcox, D.C.©1996. Dr. Hitchcox is a chemical warfare trained researcher, author and chiropractor with 10 years of clinical practice. He brings his unique perspective to bear on the critical health issues of our time. He currently lives in Marin County, California.
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