If you’re a man and standing among a group of ten men, statistically, 4.7 of the men will develop cancer. That’s almost half!  If you’re a woman standing among a group of ten women, 3.8 of the women will develop cancer.

Nearly a third of the adult population, twenty years and over, are considered obese.

The incidence of diabetes for those aged 30 to 39 has increased 70% in 8 years, from 1990 to 1998.

As bad as these numbers are – cancer, obesity, and diabetes are not the most pervasive causes of death in our culture. Heart disease is, killing one out of every three Americans. 

What about technological advances?

As more people become ill and fall prey to these diseases, we would hope equipped with our great technological advances and squeaky clean facilities, that doctors and hospitals would be able to help us.

Unfortunately, inadequate care by medication error, physician error, and adverse effects from surgery and drugs kill 225,400 people per year. That makes our health care system, designed to save us, resulting in being the third leading cause of death in the United States!

12,000 deaths per year due to unnecessary surgery. That’s 32 people a day!

7000 deaths per year due to medication errors in hospitals; 19 people each day!

20,000 deaths per year due to other errors in hospitals; 54 people every day!

80,000 deaths per year due to infections in hospitals; 219 people every day of the week!

106,000 deaths per year due to negative effects of drugs; 290 fatal drug reactions every single day in our country during this era of extensive scientific knowledge and advancements. This last category represents patients who die from the “noxious, unintended and undesired effect of a drug,” which occurs at normal doses; not overdoses. These medications are approved and administered following correct medical procedures, and still 106,000 people die from these unintended reactions to the “medicine” that was supposed to make them healthier.

That is incredibly tragic and avoidable.

Most of this is preventible.

So how do we avoid becoming a victim of the health care system? The answer is to stay healthy and prevent disease.

What is the best way to prevent disease? Healthy eating, moderate activity, adequate rest, and avoiding health damaging habits or behaviors such as smoking, recreational drugs, and excessive alcohol. Is there one behavior more effective than all the others? Yes, and that’s healthy eating.

If healthy nutrition practices and their ability for disease prevention were better understood, we would not be putting toxic and potentially lethal substances into our bodies. We would not be frantically searching for the latest and newest medication to alleviate the symptoms of disease, while rarely doing anything to address the fundamental cause of the illness in the first place.

There is no such thing as a quick fix or a magic pill.

Even though many companies pursue these goals to make money by developing, patenting and commercializing these quick fix, “miracle” drugs, they don’t really solve the problem of the reason a person becomes ill in the first place.

Health is really quite simple once you understand the basics of how a body functions and why it needs the best nutrients available.  (By the way, this is exactly the reason My Health and Wellness Advisor exists. To bring this knowledge, in simple, easy-to-understand terms to people, so they may improve health and not need to rely on the health care system to maintain health.)

Calories are irrelevant.

To help you understand how the body functions, let’s first do away with referring to food in terms of calories. Calories are truly irrelevant. You may not agree with me, and were probably taught to count as a guide to determine how much food to eat to maintain a healthy weight. However, a calorie is merely a measurement of heat; the unit to indicate the amount of energy that foods will produce in the human body.

The body requires nutrients to function, not calories. Calories measure the heat that result from eating food, but do not provide any useful information as to the nutritional value of the food. If you eat 100 calories of broccoli, the resulting nutritional benefits received from the broccoli are much different than those received from 100 calories of butter.

Nutrients matter.

More important than measuring calories, is measuring the amount of nutrients received by the body. Each food contains nutrients. One category of nutrients are called macro-nutrients (meaning large), and are classified as protein, fat, and carbohydrates. The other main category of nutrients are called micro-nutrients (meaning small), and are further divided into vitamins and minerals. Food also supplies enzymes, fiber, and phytochemicals (or phytonutrients).

As food is broken down into smaller pieces through the process of digestion; it is these smaller nutrients (vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fiber, and phytochemicals) that offer substances which create chemical and hormonal reactions within the body. These reactions produce energy, repair damaged cells, create new cells, boost the immune system, along with other functions.

Phytochemicals

As an example, consider the phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables. There are an estimated 900 different phytochemicals, and more are still being identified all the time.  These compounds are unique because they are considered “non-nutritive”. By definition, nutrients are chemical compounds, found in plant and animal foods. These are necessary for normal growth, development, maintenance, and repair of the body. In contrast to nutrients, phytochemicals do not provide energy and are not necessary for sustaining life. However, they are very important because they appear to protect against certain diseases. (Perhaps it is time to expand the definition of nutrients?)

Phytochemicals are involved in a variety of functions, which include stimulating the immune system, antibacterial and antibiotic activity, regulating detoxification systems, decreasing platelet aggregation, reducing blood pressure, altering cholesterol metabolism, and modulating steroid hormone concentrations and hormone metabolism.

Health is synergistic

If you are like most people, you have been conditioned to think of nutrition in singular parts, breaking it down and analyzing the work of each vitamin and mineral (such as vitamin A or calcium) as a single linear function. In reality, these reactions do not take place separately in a vacuum. Each reaction, which is driven by the exchange of electrons between molecules, resembles a nuclear reactor and leads to another reaction, and another and another. The whole action is synergistic, working together to maintain balance in each of the human body’s systems.

Whole foods or supplements, which is better?

Now might be a good time to also change the way you think about buying vitamin and mineral supplements. As an example, taking beta-carotene in capsule form is never as beneficial as getting beta carotene from a food source. The capsule, containing only one nutrient, does not provide the entire range of nutritional benefits from a plant source such as carrots (which also contain beta carotene). In addition to the beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, carrots also provide water, enzymes, fiber, biotin, vitamin K1, potassium, vitamin B6 and phytochemicals. Vitamin A promotes good vision, growth, development, and immune function. Biotin plays an important role in fat and protein metabolism, Vitamin K is important for blood coagulation and can promote bone health. Potassium is important for blood pressure control. Vitamin B6 is involved in the conversion of food to energy.

Place the beta carotene capsule in one hand and a carrot in the other. There is no comparison. The benefits are not even equal. The synergistic nutritional benefits in the network of chemical reactions that result from eating the carrot, greatly outweigh the isolated single chemical reaction of the beta-carotene supplement.

This is just one example; the same holds true for almost every other vitamin and mineral supplement. Vitamin D is an exception. We do not need to consume Vitamin D. Our body can make all that we need by being in the sunlight fifteen to thirty minutes every couple of days. However, if you do not get out in the sun, you may benefit from taking a Vitamin D supplement. Consult with your doctor before doing so.

Plants give life.

Phytochemicals are almost exclusively found in plants. They are only present in animal foods, to the extent, that animals eat plants and store a small amount in their tissues.  Therefore, people who eat primarily animal products deprive themselves of many of these vital nutrients, offering disease-protecting benefits, while vegetarians and vegans do not.

Eating more plant-based foods, provide greater protection against disease, illness, and the need for hospital stays, surgery, and prescription medications; and therefore also providing greater protection from potential death from medical errors and negative reactions to drugs. Prevention is key. According to T. Colin Campbell, PhD of The China Study,  “Everything in food works together to create health or disease”.

We hope, if you are not already doing so, you make food choices that bring about health. To help us get this information to others, and make a major improvement in the health of our nation, please consider donating or become a member of MHAWA for as little as $25 per year. Join the Wellness Revolution.

Sources:

National Cancer Institute

America’s Healthcare System is the Third Leading Cause of Death, Barbara Starfield, M.D. (2000)

Journal of American Dental Association, 2009