Living a compassionate life begins by taking compassionate, loving care of your health and your self. This is the 2nd Compassion enabling each us to achieve The Great Healing – for ourselves and for our planet. This weekly 11-part series excerpts and adapts Chapter 2 of the new book, The Great Healing – Five Compassions That Can Save Our World.
. . .
In 2018, my health insurance provider was Health Net. An article in their newsletter, Keep Diabetes in Check,[i] suggested things to have checked with regard to diabetes when you next visit your physician. There is a photo of a father seated at a dining table with his daughter, his arm wrapping around her as he checks her blood sugar level by holding a lancing device and pricking the tip of her thumb. The father looks pleased, perhaps because he has this technology easily available, or because his daughter cooperates and she appears relieved that it didn’t hurt. This tool enables them to check her blood sugar level on this day and on others to come. There must be relief, even contentment knowing that, as her blood sugar rises, as she becomes pre-diabetic, and then diabetic, there are a suite of existing and ever-improving medicines and treatments awaiting her to manage her symptoms. A lifetime full of them. And their Health Net health insurance is in place to protect their family by paying a large percentage of their medical expenses that, if this young girl becomes pre-diabetic and then diabetic, will be vastly more expensive than most American families have the means to pay.
In 2014, the American Diabetes Association estimated that the cost of treating diabetes over the course of the remaining lifetime of someone diagnosed at age 40, is $211,400.[ii] This figure will prove to be low. In recent years, as Elisabeth Rosenthal notes in her powerful book, An American Sickness, “The cost of insulin and other products used to manage diabetes skyrocketed… The monthly wholesale price of Humulin, the most popular insulin, has risen to nearly $1,000, up from $258 for the average patient between 2012 and 2015.”[iii] In addition, the $211,400 estimate does not include treatment of the many other diseases that a diabetic person will be at increasingly higher risk. On top of that, this man’s young daughter, already diagnosed by her doctor and prescribed a lancing device to monitor her blood sugar level, is not age 40 — she’s not yet even a teenager.
People wonder how their insurance company can stay in business. How can it meet its obligation to cover the lion’s share of these exorbitant medical bills? Not just for this girl but for the thousands and thousands of people it insures. It turns out that insurance companies don’t mind. As an insurance company covers the medical expenses of its policyholders, it will raise its premiums to continue to operate as a profitable business. Maintaining proportionate profit margins means that the more health care costs an insurance company covers, the more premium revenue it will generate and the more profitable the insurance company becomes.
The smiles of the professional models in this photograph, this sweet daughter and loving father, are convincing and may evoke an emotion in the reader almost every parent can relate to: The satisfaction of protecting your child’s health and wellbeing.
But what will her path forward be? This sweet girl. And her doting father as well? Or the similar path millions of pre-diabetics are on? Will it be a healthy plant-based diet reversing the blood sugar warning markers her tests have revealed, enabling her to avoid diabetes and embrace an optimal, full life? Or will her future be a managed-care descent into pre-diabetes, diabetes, and an exponentially increasing risk of life-threatening disease?
The best way to get his daughter to the point where she will no longer need any more lancing devices and finger pricks is through a healthy diet — the foods this family eats. The same holds true for the father as well. If he was aware of this, he’d guide his daughter on that path. But he might not be. Most of us aren’t. Brady wasn’t.
“The body is a miraculous, self-healing machine when fed properly,” writes Dr. Fuhrman. “Through dietary excellence, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes melt away, and even advanced cases of atherosclerosis (coronary heart disease) resolve, removing the need for expensive, invasive, and usually futile medical care.[iv]
“This sensible approach, with doctor as teacher and motivator for healthier habits rather than merely prescriber of medication and doer of procedures, is not ‘alternative medicine’ or ‘holistic medicine;’ rather, it is progressive medicine. It is where medicine should have gone — and would have gone — if the financial incentives and political and economic power of the pharmaceutical industry were not so massive and influential.”[v]
For decades we have been told that the solution is calorie intake and exercise. Dr. Fung realizes that exercise is not the solution. You can’t exercise your diabetes away because exercise does not address the cause. You can’t exercise your fatty liver. Counting calories is not a solution either: “The caloric-reduction model was just wrong. It didn’t work… ‘A calorie is a calorie’ implies that the only important variable in weight gain is the total caloric intake, and thus all foods can be reduced to their caloric energy. But does a calorie of olive oil cause the same metabolic response as a calorie of sugar? The answer is, obviously, no. These two foods have many easily measurable differences. Sugar will increase the blood glucose level and provoke an insulin response from the pancreas. Olive oil will not. When olive oil is absorbed by the small intestine and transported to the liver, there is no significant increase in blood glucose or insulin. The two different foods evoke vastly different metabolic and hormonal responses… The entire caloric obsession was a fifty-year dead end.”[vi]
The cause and the cure reside in a whole foods plant-based diet. No junk foods, minimal processed foods, no sugary sodas or drinks, limited meat.
The American Heart Association has identified seven key health factors — “Life’s Simple 7” — that determine cardiovascular health. They are: “not smoking, physical activity, healthy diet, body weight, and control of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.”[vii] Of the seven, the final five are all determined primarily by the food you eat.
David Katz, M.D., the founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, stated in 2018, “Whole foods, close to nature, mostly plants, are good for people. That never changes… you’ll find that most experts agree on a few fundamentals of nutrition: that vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and plain water should make up the majority of what people eat and drink. If there is such a thing as a ‘best’ diet, that’s it.”[viii]
“Dr. Kim Williams, former president of the American College of Cardiology, has called heart disease ‘a 99% food-borne illness.’ With the accumulated evidence available today, it is clear that heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, is the result of nutritional folly. This fact makes almost every cardiac-related hospitalization, every death, every stroke victim’s injuries the more tragic. We know this is all needless suffering and needless premature death,” states Dr. Fuhrman, “because these people could have learned to eat differently.”[ix] Other studies have demonstrated conclusively that meat contributes to obesity to the same extent as sugar,[x] that a diet heavy in animal proteins increases stroke risk by 47%,[xi] and significantly increases the risk factors for both diabetes[xii] and type 3 diabetes (Alzheimer’s).[xiii]
The same holds true for cancer. A Harvard School of Public Health study involving 89,000 women over a 20 year period found that, “Compared with women who had one serving of red meat a week, those who ate 1.5 servings a day appeared to have a 22% higher risk of breast cancer. And each additional daily serving of red meat seemed to increase the risk of breast cancer by another 13%.”[xiv] [xv] In addition, researchers at Yale linked high meat intake to increased risk of cancer of the stomach and esophagus.[xvi]
An eight year study involving over 100,000 French adults published in 2018 in The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), revealed a 10% increase in cancer risk among those whose diet included a 10% increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods which were defined as “foods that undergo multiple physical, biological and mechanical processes to be highly palatable, affordable and shelf stable.” These included sodas, sugary snacks and desserts, mass-produced breads, processed meats, frozen or shelf stable ready meals, and breakfast cereals.[xvii]
Regarding the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias, Neal Barnard, M.D., founder of the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine, cites several studies that show that people whose diets are lower in saturated fats (milk and dairy products, meat) have less than one-third of a chance of developing Alzheimer’s than those whose diets are higher in saturated fats. One study confirmed that people eating a primarily plant-based diet have a significantly lower risk of developing memory problems (Mild Cognitive Impairment) as they age. Another study discovered similar results with people whose diets were lower in trans fats and processed foods.[xviii]
Regarding depression, a 2018 meta-analysis published in Molecular Psychiatry, which reviewed 41 studies on diet and depression, found that people whose eating regimens included high amounts of processed meats and the trans fats found in junk foods had increased rates of clinical depression.[xix] [xx]
Dr. Goudelock understood the path that Brady was on and that, over several years, the teenager was unable to correct it. This pediatrician was highly skilled and trained as a doctor but not as a nutritionist — so he made Brady and his mother aware of the hazard, and he provided a resource. He referred Brady to New Impact and a path to healing.
Brady and his mother would soon come to understand the benefits of preparing their own meals, eating whole foods and a plant-based diet.
This is the cure, and the solution. Poor nutrition is the fundamental, overriding reason for our current disease pandemic.
It’s not a secret virus from Russia or some weird gas secreting up from middle earth. Aliens are not weakening us and thinning us out prior to landing.
It’s all about the food…
. . .
“The ambitious book’s five chapters highlight compassionate approaches toward animals, self, the land, community, and democracy. Erickson’s writing displays passion, clarity, and a grasp of every topic he tackles.”
— Kirkus Reviews
[i] Health Net News, Keep Diabetes in Check, Spring, 2018
[ii] Xiaohui Zhuo, Ping Zhang, Lawrence barker, et all, The Lifetime Cost of Diabetes and Its Implications for Diabetes Prevention, Diabetes Care, American Diabetes Association, 2014 Sep; 37(9): 2557-2564. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/37/9/2557
[iii] Elisabeth Rosenthal, An American Sickness, New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2017, pg. 186
[iv] Joel Fuhrman, M.D. Fast Food Genocide, New York, New York: Harper Collins, 2017 pg. 78.
[v] Joel Fuhrman, M.D. Fast Food Genocide, New York, New York: Harper Collins, 2017 pg. 97.
[vi] Jason Fung, M.D. The Obesity Code, British Columbia, Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2016 pgs. 31 and 69
[vii] Benjamin EJ, Blaha MJ, Chiuve SE, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2017 At-a-Glance, A report from the American Heart Association. Jan. 25, 2017 Circulation. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000485 https://healthmetrics.heart.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Heart-Disease-and-Stroke-Statistics-2017-ucm_491265.pdf
[ix] Joel Fuhrman, M.D. Fast Food Genocide, New York, New York: Harper Collins, 2017 pg. 75.
[x] Wenpeng You and Maciej Henneberg, Meat in Modern Diet, Just as Bad as Sugar, Correlates with Worldwide Obesity: An Ecological Analysis, Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences 6:517, Jun. 8, 2016, doi:10.4172/2155-9600.1000517, https://www.omicsonline.org/peer-reviewed/meat-in-modern-diet-just-as-bad-as-sugar-correlates-with-worldwideobesity-an-ecological-analysis-74168.html
[xi] Reuters, Red Meat Linked to Increased Stroke Risk, Fox news Health, Nov. 27, 2015, http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/11/27/red-meat-linked-to-increased-stroke-risk.html
[xii] An Pan, Qi Sun, Adam M Bernstein, et al. Red Meat Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: 3 Cohorts of U.S. Adults and an Updated Meta-Analysis, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 94, Issue 4, Oct. 1, 2011, Pages 1088–1096, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.111.018978, https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/94/4/1088/4598110
[xiii] Mark Reynolds, REVEALED: A ‘Western’ Diet Increases Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, Express, Aug. 28, 2016, https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/704723/western-diet-increases-risk-Alzheimer-disease-red-meat-dairy
[xiv] Maryam S. Farvid, Eunyoung Cho, Wendy Y Chen, et al. Dietary Protein Sources in Early Adulthood and Breast Cancer Incidence: Prospective Cohort Study, British Medical Journal, Jun. 10, 2014, BMJ 2014;348:g3437
[xv] Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Red Meat May Raise Young Women’s Breast Cancer Risk, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/red-meat-may-raise-breast-cancer-risk/
[xvi] Yale University, Animal-Based Nutrients Linked With Higher Risk of Stomach and Esophageal Cancers, YaleNews, Oct. 15, 2001, https://news.yale.edu/2001/10/15/animal-based-nutrients-linked-higher-risk-stomach-and-esophageal-cancers
[xvii] Thibault Fiolet, Laury Sellem, Benjamin Alles, et al. Consumption of Ultra-processed Foods and Cancer Risk: Results from NutriNet-Sante Prospective Cohort, The BMJ, BMJ 2018; 360 Feb. 14, 2018, https://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k322
[xix] Lassale C, Batty GD, Baghdadli A, et al. Healthy Dietary Indices and Risk of Depressive Outcomes: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Observational Studies, Molecular Psychiatry, Sep. 26, 2018, doi: 10.1038/s41380-018-0237-8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30254236
[xx] Good Medicine, Healthful Diet Helps Prevent Depression, The Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine, Winter, 2019, Vol. 28, No. 1, pg. 5 https://p.widencdn.net/ayfskf/2019-No.-1-Winter-Good-Medicine