JOHN OLIVER'S MEDICAL DEBT RANT AND AMERICA'S BURGEONING WAISTLINES
IS THERE A LINK?
Without getting into the debate over whether medical care costs too much (who could argue otherwise?), I want to tell you why this problem isn't going away any time soon --- even if every single person in America were covered under the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care). It is easy to explain by looking at a study that came out on the same day.
The current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association carried a study called Trends in Obesity Among Adults in the United States, 2005 to 2014. In this study we learned that American women have finally cracked the 40% rate for OBESITY. And if you happen to be a black or Hispanic woman, the numbers are higher still (50% higher for black women). What's the connection between the two stories?
In interviews for the Oliver story, people were, as you might expect, ticked off at the cost of medical care in America. I don't blame them. But whose fault is it? In other words, what is driving the marketplace? I realize that there are any number of reasons that people get sick (or injured) --- many of them that will forever remain unknown. However, the majority of sick people in America have no one to blame but themselves. Think I'm being harsh? Let's look at the facts.
Inflammation is devastating our nation, not just mechanically (HERE), but as far as sickness and disease are concerned as well (HERE & HERE). Were you aware that obesity falls under the same category of illness as our nation's biggest killers (Chronic Inflammatory Degenerative Diseases)? That's right, the very same Inflammation that causes you to gain weight is the root cause of the diseases with the highest rates of morbidity and mortality, i.e. ARTHRITIS, CANCER, DIABETES, HEART DISEASE, AUTOIMMUNITY, etc, etc, etc. Stats like this don't even count health issues that simply make LIFE EMOTIONALLY PAINFUL. This is why obesity is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Writing in the same issue of JAMA, Harvard's David Ludwig (MD / Ph.D) agreed when he editorialized.....
"The new [obesity] rates signal a looming social and economic catastrophe..... Obesity and poor quality diet predispose to all of the major chronic diseases, but these risks have been mitigated over the past few decades by an increasingly powerful and expensive array of treatments. The data from the CDC report suggests that a tipping point has been reached, beyond which technological advances may no longer compensate. Indeed, higher resolution data shows that this trend has probably been underway for years.... Contrary to conventional perspective, recent research has shown that food affects hunger, hormones, and even genetic expression in ways that cannot be explained by consideration of calorie balance alone."
Pay attention as I walk you through what he is saying in this paragraph.
- OBESITY IS A FINANCIAL DISASTER: For women, obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or greater, or a waistline of 35 or bigger. When you have 60% of all African American and almost 50% of Hispanic women not just overweight, but obese, that's a problem. When four out of ten 'white' women are not just overweight, but obese, that's a problem. However, the real conundrum is that so far, throwing billions of tax payer dollars at this problem has done absolutely nothing to solve it --- or for that matter even slow it down. By some estimates, obesity costs the economy in the neighborhood of half a trillion dollars (CHECK OUT THIS INFOGRAPHIC to grasp how big a trillion dollars is). It's a chief reason that no matter who is paying for it, our current trajectory for healthcare spending is UNSUSTAINABLE.
- OBESITY IS RELATED TO ALL DISEASES: Mostly this is via jacked blood sugar. Sugar is massively inflammatory (HERE). Americans consume over thirty times the amount of sugar per capita that we were in 1900. And this doesn't begin to touch on the problem of refined and heavily processed carbs. It's not tough to understand that when you add the fact that almost all diseases have their roots in UNCONTROLLED BLOOD SUGAR to our national propensity for LIVING THE PROCESSED CARBOHYDRATE LIFESTYLE, we are floundering as far as our collective health is concerned Bottom line, because so many of us are so inflamed, too many of us are likewise obese.
- DRUGS CONTROL SYMPTOMS: Drugs frequently do a fairly good job of "mitigating" symptoms. A great example of this phenomenon are STATIN DRUGS. The problem is that they do this without actually changing underlying physiology. Take away the drugs, and presto.... the symptoms are back --- usually with a vengeance. Unfortunately, most classes of drugs (Statins are a great example here as well) have side effects. Side effects are not only an extremely serious problem (HERE), they are under-reported almost 100% of the time (HERE). This means that most drugs' risk-to-benefit profiles are extremely skewed in favor of industry --- the topic of my next post.
- WE'VE GONE PAST THE POINT WHERE DRUGS WORK: Drugs were never meant to do what they are being used for today. Obesity is the perfect example. Contrary to anything you've been told, other than METH and it's crazy side-effect profile, there are no good drugs for obesity (HERE). Contrary to popular belief, blood sugar drugs don't work as advertised either (HERE). It's one thing for a drug to be used to provide a person with, in the immortal words of Sgt. Pepper, "a little help". It's something completely different to try and use poly-pharmacy in the massive doses needed to control the symptoms of today's chronically sick and inflamed population. Despite this fact, Big Pharma continues to tout "EVIDENCE" that drugs are wonderful --- even in the face of facts to the contrary. In other words folks, we have entered a medical Twilight Zone where drugs aren't working as advertised --- despite BEING INCESSANTLY TOLD that they are. As I've shown you previously; a nation of extremely sick people who are living a very long time is the medico-pharmeceutical industry's wet dream (HERE). This is why there is only one person who is going to change your life and health --- you.
- FOOD MATTERS: Even though this is a no-brainer, when was the last time your doctor made a meaningful / helpful suggestion concerning your diet? THERE'S GOOD REASON this rarely happens. Dr. Ludwig talks at length in his editorial about the ways that food affects people, and in the quote above, mentions three specific areas --- hunger, hormones, and genetic expression. If you want to control your hunger and break your ADDICTIONS TO SUGAR AND JUNK FOOD, you are going to have to start thinking about a PALEO DIET or something similar (some of you might need to go "full pull" and look into INTERMITTENT FASTING or even a KETOGENIC DIET). Because most of our food is inflammatory; and inflammation attacks both the endocrine system and gut (HERE is a link that encompasses both), it's no surprise that our hormones are being affected --- sometimes in ways we can barely fathom (XENOHORMONES). And as for genetic expression, this one is simple as well. We've been taught for years that the be all, end all of medicine is the field of genetics. Wrong. Figuring out how to control gene expression through lifestyle (EPIGENETICS) is far bigger. It also means that you have to own responsibility for most of your health problems instead of trying to blame them on mom and dad's DNA.
- CALORIES REALLY DON'T MATTER: Food matters; calories don't. The venerable GARY TAUBES has beat this drum for at least two decades. He's right, and the scientific side of the medical community knows it even if the doctors in practice cannot get the propaganda they learned back in medical school out of their collective heads. If you want to understand why maintaining your weight is more than simply thinking of terms of calories in / calories burned, go back and take a look at the link on Ketogenic Diets.
As you can see, there was a lot of meat in that cherry-picked paragraph. None of it matters if you don't put what you've learned into action. Ludwig tells us that according years of research, calorie restriction does not work. Just like I agreed with most of what he said about drugs, I would heartily agree with him here as well. However, you can change your life without starving yourself. It's really not as hard as you may have been led to believe. Study (THIS POST is a great starting point) and then sit down and create a WRITTEN PLAN. It's a matter of knowledge coupled with action steps.