Updated: Aug 8
How long have you got to live? What will the quality of your future life look like? Have you thought about your health in retirement or just about your finances. This is fascinating. A 2022 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that, for people over 50 years old, not being able to stand on one foot for 10 seconds was associated with a higher risk of death from any cause within the next decade. Maybe you should practice your balance for longevity.
It is clear that generally people seem to ignore their future in favor of the present, even when they surely know that this is not a good approach. Look at the numbers of people who still smoke cigarettes or those who have taken up vaping. I have heard some people say they need to have some form of pleasure or vice, and this gives them “permission” to do something that they find enjoyable but is clearly very bad for their health, will reduce the quality of their life long term and shorten their life expectancy.
This same pleasure expectation could be driving the level of sugar we eat and drink, especially liquid sugars in soft drinks, sodas, specialist coffee beverages and energy drinks. So many people are consuming these drinks with no recognition of the damage they are doing to their body. Real education about diet and nutrition needs to be much stronger and more pervasive.
A recent survey of 2000 people in India found that 62% didn’t know what Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) was, or that it ultimately leads to pre-diabetes, then to Type-2 diabetes then heart disease then death. I would suggest that this is a world wide problem. Too much carbohydrate in the diet creating a massive and toxic glucose load for the body to handle, forces it to convert the glucose to fat, to get it out of the blood stream. What doesn’t end up in the liver ends us as belly fat. Even thin people can suffer from this.
Unfortunately many people have come to believe that somehow the food manufacturers, the pharmacy companies, our medical system and other associated institutions actually care about our individual health. Your personal doctor may care very much, but faces huge forces which minimize their efforts. All these groups including the ones that should be really focused on our health such as the diabetes associations, heart associations, etc are first focused on their profits. For example many of these associations accept funding from the very industries that create the toxic food, drugs and treatments in the first place. There are many well meaning people in these industries but perhaps they feel powerless to make any sort of change or just don’t know about what is really happening.
Individuals in health care seem to be caught up in a system that “requires” them to operate a specific way. If your cholesterol is above a specific level, then statins must be prescribed. Diet discussion is not on the table. Life style change is rarely discussed. There is little time available during a standard appointment to assess life style and dietary habits. Doctors seem to only really learn about nutrition if they choose to study it personally. Medication or surgery is the “standard of care” and failing to follow this standard apparently will invite censure. The stories of Dr Gary Fettke in Australia and Professor Tim Noakes in South Africa are evidence of this control. When I said to a local doctor that I was considering a ketogenic diet, his response was “even if I thought it was the best thing for you, I would not be able to recommend it”.
The primary focus of business is to remain in business and continue to compete in their often very competitive market and we need to understand and expect this. We have seen this play out just recently with the European food company Danone. The company’s ex-CEO and chairman Emmanuel Faber, four-year leadership had made him a star among environmentalists and climate activists. He named his strategy “One Planet, One Health,” and created a carbon adjusted earnings per share indicator, linking Danone’s success directly to its environmental performance. Danone’s performance soon lagged behind big competitors such as Nestle and Unilever and he was ousted by some small stakeholders who maneuvered him out in a coup. Climate based decision making was at odds with profit.
When food companies modify their food to make it taste sweeter while being cheaper to manufacture with lower quality ingredients, they are following their mission to maximise their profits. We must expect this. When tobacco companies who, evidence showed, knew the dangers of tobacco, paid doctors and influencers to claim that tobacco was not dangerous, they were doing the same thing. The confusion created by this approach delayed for years the clear understanding that smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease.
When sugar sweetened beverage companies donate to heart foundations, children’s charities, diabetic associations and fund studies that create doubt about the role of sugar in sickness and obesity, they are seeking to maintain their profits. When these companies lobby governments to water down restrictive measures that might impact their revenue, such as limiting advertising to young children with cartoon characters on cereal (packeted sugar) boxes, they are upholding their responsibility to maximise the return to their shareholders. They are not focused on the health of their customers despite the marketing claims on their packaging. Note: for real information about a product, read the back of the packet.
Take a look at the ingredients list in the nutrition information panel, usually on the back and in small print, on different hazel nut spreads and see the level of hazelnuts and the level of sugar. My guess is 11% nuts and 88% sugar. Nuts are expensive and have a limited shelf life. The high sugar levels like this in children’s food helps train their taste-buds, unfortunately setting them up to “dislike” food that is less sweet.
Chile recently introduced marketing restrictions, beginning in 2016, which have led to a 73% drop in children’s exposure to TV ads for regulated foods and drinks which exceed healthy levels of sugar, salt and unsaturated fat. Under the country’s new laws, child-directed creative content – such as cartoons, characters, toys or contests – which promote unhealthy products are now prohibited. Because of this strict regulation on programs attracting a child audience, TV saw 67% fewer unhealthy food ads using child-directed creative content. The downstream results of this include parents being encouraged by their children to avoid buying foods with warning labels and students reducing their sugar, saturated fat and sodium intake in schools.
Let’s consider for a moment what happens in the real world when a business sets out to create a “more healthy” version of a common food item such as a breakfast cereal. Real food ingredients are more expensive, require more costly handling and reduce the product shelf life, so the new food item will likely be more expensive than the competitors lower cost “fake” food. Cost conscious consumers will buy the lower cost item and eventually the “more healthy” item will disappear from the supermarket. In the USA and probably many other countries blueberry muffin mixes and many of the baked blueberry muffins do not actually contain any blueberries due to handling problems, seasonal availability and shelf life issues. Instead they contain artificial blueberry flavored and colored jelly chips. Your choices and your money drive manufacturers decisions.
Bread is a great example of the reductionist approach to maximise profit. Traditional bread ingredients were mixed up into a bread dough and then the yeast in the mix used up the sugars forming gas bubbles and causing the bread to rise, creating a light and fluffy loaf. But this process takes time and so most breads these days are made with ingredients that will create this rising dough much more quickly in order to minimize production costs. A traditional sour-dough loaf is perhaps the only bread these days where the dough is left for about 24 hours for the yeast to work completely. The sourdough loaf is therefore a lower sugar loaf and more healthy. It will have a lower level of gluten and less phytic acid than modern rapidly manufactured bread.
Faster rising modern bread processing does not enable the full release of nutrients plus assist the breakdown of grain derived anti-nutrients in comparison to a traditional loaf. Ingredients added to enhance shelf life and transportability also degrade the nutrition of the modern loaf. The result: a low cost loaf that will last multiple days but has a lower nutrient level and is less healthy. Is the bread maker trying to make healthier food? No. Not at all. They need to maximise profits for the shareholder and their low nutrient loaf is softer, lighter and designed to appeal to the consumer, while nutrition is a secondary consideration.
In some situations we observe manufacturers developing high quality and healthier food and beverages. However this only happens when the consumers begin to demand availability of this type of food. For example the arrival of low carbohydrate beer is a direct result of consumer demand for such products. Sometimes the demand appears to be satisfied by “fortification” but this usually involves adding back nutrients that were removed by the initial processing, which arguably still results in an inferior product.
Another example of the profit motive overriding health. Baby formula companies continue to promote formula feeding to mothers in 3rd world countries despite the impact of this approach reducing the health of children. The incidence of mortality from diarrhea in these children is much higher than breast fed babies. Globally, various attempts have been made to improve infant and young child feeding practices, including the International Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes–The Code, the baby friendly hospital initiative, and the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. But I understand that compliance by big food companies is poor. The profit motive is too strong.
It should be abundantly clear to everyone that the pursuit of growth and profitability far far outweighs any thoughts they have of individual customer well being.
Let’s look at some examples of what is happening to our health.
From WHO, The number of people with Type-2 diabetes rose from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2022. From Health New Zealand, the diabetes rate in 2012 was 35.7 per 1000 people, while in 2021 the rate had climbed to 41.5 people per 1000. Data from the Ministry of Health’s Virtual Diabetes Register show the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in people aged 30 – 39 years has nearly doubled between 2006 and 2018. Data from the most recent national nutrition survey identified that 16% of the population aged under 45 years had pre-diabetes. It is estimated that in the Auckland region, over 40% of people of Māori, Pacific or Indian ethnicity aged 35 – 39 years have pre-diabetes. Younger people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, e.g. before the age of 40 years, have a higher risk of early mortality, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease and retinopathy than older adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
There are so many issues related to diabetes that are not being discussed widely. One example: pre-diabetes damages fertility for both women and men. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) reported to be a problem for up to 20% of women, can be a reaction by a woman’s body to elevated insulin levels. Dietary changes that drastically lower insulin can often result in increased fertility, however many web sites with fertility information do not mention this possibility. Is it more profitable to sell IVF programs?
Traditional treatment for Type-2 diabetes involves supplementary insulin to manage the glucose level. However the high levels of insulin and glucose are toxic and lead to many problems including obesity, heart disease, blindness, and nerve damage in extremities which can sometimes lead to limb amputations.
When we step back a little and look at modern medicine we see a huge number of “diseases” that are not actually cured by conventional treatment. They are only “managed”. Managing a disease does nothing to identify what has caused the problem in the first place and therefore by “just managing it” we are doing nothing to restore the patients original health.
Standard Type-2 diabetes treatments only manage the condition to try and prevent it progressing, and I understand doctors are taught in medical school that it is progressive and can not be reversed. See below for programs and organisations that are successfully defying this view and reversing this disease. Why does conventional medicine ignore these programs?
Alzheimer’s disease, also known as Type-3 Diabetes, is considered progressive and not able to be reversed, but Dale Bredesen (The End of Alzheimer's Program: The First Protocol to Enhance Cognition and Reverse Decline at Any Age) is showing that some reversal is possible.
Hypertension is managed with many different medications. These don’t reverse the condition and the drugs must be taken for life. Often the condition gradually worsens over the years, requiring additional medications. Some people are on 3, 4 or more of these medications for life. Are we looking for the cause?
The standard of care for heart disease includes prescribing statins to lower cholesterol. Again these drugs are generally taken for life and have huge numbers of side effects including muscle pain and weakness and there is evidence that they can increase the risk of some cancers. This is not a cure, it is management. What is causing the cholesterol to be high and is high cholesterol really a risk? With more than half of the heart attack patients in hospital having normal or low cholesterol, perhaps this “risk” is overstated. In 2022 the optimum level of LDL cholesterol was defined as less than 100 mg/dL, however this report (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ahj.2008.08.010 ) stated: "In a large cohort of patients hospitalized with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), almost half have admission LDL levels <100 mg/dL." Interestingly their conclusion was not that perhaps this measure was flawed, but instead that the measure needed to be even lower.
The standard of care for many cancers is chemotherapy, but this just targets cancer cells in the process of dividing and while it can be effective for these cells, has no impact on cancer stem cells. Many cancer cells fuel on glucose and dramatically reducing glucose availability can weaken these cells making them more susceptible to treatment. However for whatever reason this metabolic approach is not widely known or practiced despite its discovery in the 1940’s and earning Otto Warburg a Nobel prize for his work. It doesn’t fit with the conventional thinking that cancer is a genetic disease. This thinking is now beginning to change.
Many of these diseases are able to be identified as developing over time before they become critical. It is a credit to health organisations that we are seeing more and more testing to identify the early signs of these problems. For example regular blood tests for kidney disease, liver problems or pre-diabetes. Unfortunately the budgets for health organisations do not seem to extend to the level of regular testing that we need. In the USA I understand that medical insurance often doesn’t cover this type of preventative testing.
One really incredible way to teach people about glucose is to have medical professionals, patients and influencers wear continuous glucose monitors (cgm) for a period on order to learn how to control glucose. A survey ( https://doi.org/10.2337/cd19-0037 ) where a group were given CGM’s resulted in this conclusion: "Overall, 90% of participants in our survey felt that they had adopted a healthy lifestyle after using CGM, and a high percentage of the participants who used CGM reported food changes (i.e., limiting or excluding high-GI food such as white rice, cereals, and sugared beverages) and also increased physical activity, especially after meals."
An example where more prevention could be beneficial is the Coronary Arterial Calcium scan (CAC) which can identify the level of calcified plaque in blood vessels and is apparently very very accurate when it comes to identifying impending coronary artery disease leading up to a heart attack. In many countries this is not available and in the USA it is not always supported by insurance. A regular use of this could identify people who could receive one-on-one counseling to assist with lifestyle changes to avoid a mortal heart attack. Putting money into this preventative measure could save huge amounts later.
It would be great if the government, the health organisations and associations who have chosen to provide health guidance would unshackle themselves from the profit motives of Big Food and Big Pharma. The guidance that people would receive would change dramatically overnight. For example diabetes organisations have yet to accept that Type-2 diabetes is reversible and promote this, perhaps because this would alienate a number of their funders. Defeat Diabetes Australia (https://www.defeatdiabetes.com.au/ ) has a Type-2 Diabetes remission rate of 66%. What a huge saving to health costs it would be if their approach was rolled out country wide with education to ALL physicians and healthcare providers. This is not a unique result. Virta Health in the USA (https://www.virtahealth.com/ )is experiencing similar results. Dr David Unwin in UK was awarded the UKNHS innovator of the year award for his work de-prescribing medicines and bringing Type-2 diabetics into remission with diet change, but despite this, his approach has still not gone mainstream.
What I am attempting to make clear with this rant is that despite the efforts of many specialists, Pharma companies, health professionals, etc. There is only one person who can really make a difference to your health and that is you. Instead of just managing disease, it is necessary to find the cause and eliminate it. These diseases don’t develop overnight, they develop over many years before they become critical. You need to stop this progression and there is no future in waiting for the medical profession to initiate these changes for you.
We have a health disaster and people need to step up and take charge of their own health. You only have one life and your lifestyle will dictate the quality of life, plus your longevity. It is not great to live long if you live with serious health complications.
There are so many steps you can take to minimize the risk of the non-communicable diseases such as Coronary Artery Disease, Hypertension, Type-2 Diabetes, Macular Degeneration, Kidney Disease, PCOS, Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver, many different autoimmune diseases, Obesity, and maybe even Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
There are alternatives to the current standard of care that may keep you out of a medical system that despite seeming to care and having huge numbers of dedicated caring professionals, is locked into practices that are designed to maximise profit or is blindly following outdated standards of care that may not be in your best interest.
In 1995 Barry Marshall and Robin Warren of the Royal Perth Hospital won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for discovering that most stomach ulcers are caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Despite his discovery in 1982, Marshall was dismissed as an upstart who was pushing a hypothesis that had no credibility. Gastroenterologists resisted the idea. Outraged physicians found it hard hard to accept that the disease could be a simple infection. In frustration, Marshall did the ultimate cause-and-effect experiment. He swallowed a solution containing the bacteria, and promptly came down with an aggressive attack of the sort of gastritis that leads to ulcers. He then treated it with antibiotics to prove his hypothesis. His simple but radical treatment was ignored for over 10 years but is now the standard of care.
If you are still with me at this stage, then perhaps I have managed to show you that the medical system might be a great place for a broken leg but for prevention of non-communicable diseases, the best result could come from you taking an active approach to managing your own health.
We already know that most disease is related to diet. For many of the non-communicable diseases we experience today, it is clear that they are caused by intolerance to high levels of glucose or by systemic inflammation, very often due to ultra-processed food. For this reason, some people propose suggest that they are not diseases at all, but normal reactions to this intolerance. Three elements of standard diets seem to be primarily responsible: 1. Seed oils (vegetable oils) with their high polyunsaturated and possible oxidized content; 2. Continuous excess carbohydrate consumption with the resulting high blood glucose and 3. Excess dietary sugar.
What is the easiest way to change this? Through diet and exercise with diet making up 90+% of the treatment. Here are my suggestions:
Eat like grandma
Vegetables lots of them, especially leafy greens,
(But learn about antinutrients and toxins in vegetables)
Meat, all different meats.
Fish and seafood
Dairy, Cheese, but easy on the milk.
Keep the portions medium sized
Drink lots of water, green tea is excellent.
Restrict fruit to only 1 piece of fruit per day, berries are healthiest.
Completely eliminate seed oils (vegetable oils) from your diet. Replace with olive, coconut or animal based fats.
Drastically reduce the level of sugar you are eating and drinking.
Reduce starchy vegetable consumption, especially potato.
Reduce the level of grains in your diet, ideally to near zero. No bread, no pasta, no cake, no biscuits, no naan, no rice, no wheat based products. Healthy whole grains is a marketing slogan.
Stop eating ultra-processed food..
Avoid alcohol, energy drinks, soda, fruit juice
Get some regular daily exercise in the sunshine such as walking, cycling, swimming.
Supplement magnesium, zinc and vitamin K2.
Become an example to friends and family but don’t actively try to change them. It has become very clear to me that a change of this significance will only be acceptable to someone who is actively looking for change. Many issues will prevent people from taking these steps, even those who clearly need to make some sort of change for their health. If they see your results, they might decide you are onto something, but in my experience they are unlikely to become serious until the need is there. Even then it requires a huge leap of faith to turn your back on conventional but outdated dietary advice.
The types of resistance issues I have seen include:
Not willing to accept that your dietary message has any credibility
Being convinced that their doctor would advise them if this was real
Having an addiction to the foods they may have to give up
Seeing the change as too difficult, and restrictive
Not willing to step outside their learned understanding of what is a good diet
Just not believing that they need to make any change at all
This is not medical advice. It is my personal experience and my understanding from extensive personal research.
Find my book at https://amzn.to/3uiehfv, Seek professional medical advice before making dietary changes, particularly if you are on medication. Contact me at www.takebackyrhealth.com if you have questions.
Good health, George Elder, MBA, Diet Researcher, Dip. Nutrition