Dysfunctional Nutrition

Holistic Nutrition – as in the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet – and Lifestyle Medicine are emerging as a complete and radical paradigm shift in health and medicine that is ushering in a radical new era in health care and the only realistic hope of solving the healthcare crisis. T. Colin Campbell’s book Whole, brings it all together at a conceptual level, and creates a framework for the transition to a more effective research model for the future, once we understand that the existing model is producing nonsense.

The simple, logical fact remains that if one premise is wrong, all ensuing conclusions must be wrong, and in this case pharmaceutical research as well as nutritional research have suffered from a failure to understand the profound nutritional deprivation of our modern food system which has led to 86% of our healthcare dollars being spent on treatments for chronic conditions that can only be solved by better nutrition, specifically a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet, and can only be “managed” or suppressed by all the pills and procedures of #pharmageddon, as per Dean Ornish, MD, in his foreword to the Handbook of Lifestyle Medicine.

The New Paradigm emerges

The dysfunction in our healthcare system is two-fold. First, the reductionist paradigm focuses on single drugs or nutrients affecting specific outcomes and then sets about proving that effectiveness with a secondary focus on safety, as in an absence of side effects. Once we understand that 37 of 40 leading causes of death respond better to a whole foods, plant-based diet than to pills and procedures, it becomes clear that literally all such studies are invalidated by the fact that they are not controlled for diet, as T. Colin Campbell forcefully argues throughout his work.

The second dysfunction, which is enabled by the institunional myopia of reductionist reasoning, is the perverse economic incentive by which the medical industrial complex (i.e. “pharmageddon) maximizes profits at the expense of patients, because more treatment means more profits, resulting predictably in the massive overtreatment of the US population, helped along further by the idiotic fact that the US permits the direct to consumer marketing of prescription drugs, dis-intermediating primary care physicians even further.

These two, taken together, must, of necessity lead to only one conclusion: ALL nutritional studies or studies of drug efficacy must be controlled for diet. Increasingly, this will bump into resistance because the overwhelming effectiveness of the #WFPB nutritional paradigm has made it morally repulsive to have a control group continuing to eat a standard American diet, as Dr. Dean Ornish has repeatedly argued.

In short, it can credibly be argued that, in the long-run, the first study in all cases must be the effect of shifting patients to a #WFPB regime, with specific drugs or nutritional supplements tested primarily on those who were not sufficiently helped by the nutritional change, with further classification as to if they kept the diet but responded to it insufficiently, or they simply could not maintain the diet.

The Story of White Rice

Historically, the emergence of so-called nutritional science has been a story of a series of accidental discoveries, that slowly congealed into a set of normative assumptions, but never formed a cohesive, evidence-based paradigm.

  • Protein was the first macro-nutrient that was discovered, and this circumstance has led to the idiotic focus on protein that is still with us today. The truth is, as per the research of T. Colin Campbell, that human protein needs are mostly in the 10-12% range (calories from protein), and men can get by on as little as 5%, women on as little as 3%. Animal protein moreover promotes cancer growth, while plant-based protein inhibits it. So, our primary problem in the Western world is getting too much protein, and not enough fiber.
  • We all know the story of scurvy and the ultimate discovery of vitamin C – at first all they knew was that citrus fruit helped prevent scurvy, so British sailors became known as limeys because of their reliance on lemons and limes as a preventative.
  • Another interesting anecdote pertains to The Story of White Rice, which is ultimately a story of how the white colonizers of South East Asia brought technology to bear and started to polish rice on an industrial scale, turning a very healthy grain staple into a nutritional disaster on an epic scale. It all started out with the discovery that beri-beri was increasing with the adoption of white rice, but somehow the conclusion was not, as it should have been, to go back to whole grain brown rice, but no – we kept on eating white rice, and got us some vitamin B1 (thiamine).

The above is the perfect example of why reductionist reasoning produces nonsense: true enough, beri-beri could be prevented by supplementing thiamine. However, that just fixed one part of the problem and allowed the underlying cause to remain unexamined and uncorrected. White rice is responsible to a significant degree for the epidemic of diabetes we are seeing today. So, if instead of stopping at the discovery of thiamine, we had looked into the causes some more, we might have gone back to eating brown rice right then and there, and largely prevented a human-caused epidemic.

It is clear then that the sort of whack-a-mole games that are achieved with most drug treatments in these cases are counterproductive if healing is the goal.

Dysfunctional Healthcare Fixes

To extend the above reasoning to today, it should be obvious that the problem we have is NOT that drugs are too expensive, but that we have a system that over-prescribes drugs, because it is based almost entirely on reductionist reasoning and the profit motive – profits from more treatment. We did not need thiamine supplements, we needed to stop polishing rice, and eat brown rice instead. By the same token ED-treatments, Statins, heartburn medications, and many others are superfluous and totally unnecessary in a vast majority of cases. These wrong-headed treatments hide the symptoms and allow the underlying disease to progress, leading only to more and more treatments over time.

Choose the Apple

A perfect corollary to the above is T. Colin Campbell’s observation that vitamin-C is absorbed 265x better if it is consumed from an apple, as compared to in tablet form. So indeed, an apple a day, may very well keep the doctor away. It all adds up to a devastatingly strong case that adoption of a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet is the one most urgent health problem we face, and it can eliminate 86% of wrong-headed healthcare expenditure in due course. This is worth pursuing, even if change takes a generation.

Another way of looking at these issues is that the overwhelming majority of so-called healthcare is indeed no better than symptom suppression that leads to deferred maintenance, and the bills come due when people retire and can least afford paying for the medical bills that result from this lifelong neglect and malnutrition. As is well known today, medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in this country.

Once this is realized, we can see how and why we can afford healthcare for all, on the condition that people adopt healthier lifestyles. Canada and Belgium have already dropped meat and dairy from their dietary recommendations, which is a first step. How long will it take before the rest of the world catches up? The cost of our dysfunctional healthcare system is at 18% of GDP and headed for 20%, even if it takes 20 years to make this transition, we can reduce that to 10% or less AND easily provide some form of medicare for all.

1 thought on “Dysfunctional Nutrition”

  1. I may be biased, but this commentary by Rogier van Vlissingen is music to my ears. Mr. van Vlissingen really “gets it”.

    My psyche is frayed after so many years hearing about one reductionism idea after another that creates more confusion than clarity. Unfortunately, as van Vlissingen explains, this is an extremely costly path that we have trod, going all the way from our personal health to planetary health! It’s time for society to wake up!

    Lest anyone believes otherwise, this is his creation, entirely.

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