Dr Paul Clayton 2013
Our society is very sick and very fat, and it is getting sicker and fatter.
An authoritative and depressing study recently predicted, on the basis of current trends, another 76 million obese adults by 2030 with an additional 6 to 8.5 million cases of diabetes, 6 to 7 million cases of cardiovascular disease and 492,000 to 669,000 cases of cancer in the UK and USA alone (Wang et al ’11). This huge burden of disease will cause dramatic and unaffordable increases in health care costs, already out of control at a fifth of GNP.
Things do not get any better after 2030; leaders in these fields forecast that by 2050 the incidence of diabetes will double (Boyle at al ’10), while Alzheimer’s Disease (Alzheimer’s Assocn ’12) and cancer (Bray & Moller ’06) will triple. In technical terms, we are going to hell in a handcart.
Given the growing mis-match between our spiralling healthcare costs and the wider economic environment, we will soon arrive (many would say we have already arrived) at an inflection point. We cannot blindly continue, as we have been doing for the last century, to medicalise and medicate our lives. Developing new drugs to treat the symptoms of these rising tides of disease is like applying new coats of paint to crumbling plaster while the foundations of the house disintegrate and rot.
We must return to basics and rebuild the foundations—which means re-designing our lifestyles and diets. The science we need to do this is already in place, and it is only political hurdles that are preventing the emergence of a far more effective and cost-effective system of healthcare than the one we now suffer under.
There is an emerging consensus that almost all the major diseases have, at their core, a common cause: chronic inflammation. Depending on your diet, lifestyle and to some extent your genes, continuous low-grade inflammation damages and destroys:-
►the linings of the arteries, leading to hypertension, stroke, coronary artery disease
►brain cells→dementia ►bone→osteoporosis
►cartilage → osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis
►the linings of the airways → asthma
►cells→cancer, auto-immune disease etc
This new Grand Unified Theory of Disease is transforming modern medicine just as the Grand Unified Theory of Forces transformed modern physics – and its implications are
staggering. It shows that the tides of chronic illness we see today are unnecessary. It also
shows that our apparently unavoidable and increasing risk of acquiring a so-called ‘disease of ageing’ as we get older is entirely artificial, something that could be neutralised if we could find a way of suppressing the chronic inflammation that sickens and kills so many of us.
Big Pharma makes a very good living from chronic inflammation. In 2010, global sales of drugs against overtly inflammatory diseases (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease etc.)
amounted to over $35 billion.
Now consider the vast numbers of people (between a quarter and a third of the population!) who suffer from intermittent or chronic pain (IoM ’11). The primarily antiinflammatory NSAID painkillers take the drugs bill up above $100 billion. Most of the rest of the drugs on offer do little more than suppress the diseases caused by chronic inflammation; and now we have a total global drug economy (Fig.1 below) worth in excess of $720 billion.
And as with petrodollars and cocabucks, pharmadollars can be extremely destructive.
Over 100,000 deaths a year are caused by adverse drug effects in the US alone (Lazarou et al’98) and another 100,000 die as a result of medical errors and other causes due to the medical treatment of avoidable diseases (Starfield ’00).
Pharmadollars are also deeply implicated in the systemic corruption of regulatory and
educational systems. For example, regulators such as EFSA and the FDA arbitrarily restrict manufacturers of food and supplements from giving out information to the public that people could use to materially improve their health; if I was on the Uni-Vite payroll I would not have been allowed to write this newsletter.
As the playing field is so sharply tilted to favour Big Pharma, and as public health has suffered so much as a result, the obvious answer is to take matters into your own hands.
Beating chronic inflammation via nutrition is cheap, easy, safe and considerably more
effective than relying on the tender mercies of the current healthcare model.
Numerous pre-clinical studies show that when animals are fed diets containing higher levels of the key anti-inflammatory nutrients, their risk of developing the signs and symptoms of the degenerative diseases linked with ageing diminishes dramatically (Willis et al ’09, Latour et al ‘13).
There is little doubt that humans react in the same way; similar findings have emerged in a
range of multi-national epidemiological studies. A Mediterranean Diet, for example,
which contains higher levels of antiinflammatory compounds than occur in our
depleted Western diet, reduces the risk of many diseases by around 50% (ie de Lorgeril et al ’99, Knoops et al ’04, Varraso, Fung, Barr et al ’07, Gu et al ’10).
The take-home message is obvious. Increase your intake of the key anti-inflammatory
nutrients – either in food or in supplements – and reduce your exposure to pro-inflammatory factors.
That means stopping smoking; taking moderate exercise; cutting back on sugary and starchy foods; switching from deep fried, grilled and barbecued to steamed, stewed foods.
Then enjoy good health!