Diseases of Affluences
Change happens slowly in social and preventative medicine. When there are no new drugs or pieces of machinery to get everybody excited, sometimes new research findings get skipped over or ignored.
There is no better example of this than Dr Alice Stewart. She was a physician and epidemiologist (the study of patterns in disease) specialising in the effects of radiation of health in the department of social and preventative medicine in Oxford.
One problem she looked at was the rising incidence of cancer among children. Usually you would expect to find a correlation between poverty and disease, but in this case the children who were dying seemed to come mostly from affluent families.
What she found should have stopped medicine in its tracks. At a rate of two to one, the children who had died from cancer had had mothers who had been x-rayed when pregnant. This flew in the face of conventional wisdom and it took a full 25 years before the British and American medical establishments abandoned the practice of x-raying women.
Had Dr Alice Stewart found a new marketable drug that halved the risk of death from cancer in children, do you think this would have gone ignored for 25 years? When the answers to health questions involve educating patients, ceasing an existing practice or a change in lifestyle, doctors are quick to declare the new method unsustainable or unrealistic.
Our modern lifestyle of processed foods, sugar and excess carbohydrates, coupled with limited exercise are increasing our risk of developing type 2 diabetes, asthma, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, obesity, hypertension, cancer, alcoholism, gout and some types of allergies.
Nearly half of all cancers diagnosed in the UK each year are caused by lifestyle choices including smoking, drinking and a bad diet. Seventy-six percent of lung cancer deaths are caused by a combination of smoking; low fruit and vegetable intake; urban air pollution and indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels. The dangers of smoking have been well documented with many public health campaigns.
Public health campaigns on the dangers of other environmental factors have been slow to catch on.
For example, nearly 10% of the risk of breast cancer in women comes from being overweight or obese.
For gullet or oesophageal cancer, 50% of the risk to the average person comes from eating too little fruit and vegetables. Another 20% comes from the consumption of alcohol.
For stomach cancer, 20% of the risk comes from having too much salt in the diet.
Where are the anti-cancer health campaigns for a change in diet?
Studies have shown that for every portion of fruit and vegetables your risk of oral cancer reduced by half, risk of oesophagus by 20% and of stomach cancer by 30%.
People with the highest intake of fruit and vegetables have up to an 80% reduction in their risk of laryngeal cancer. Coupled with that, an increase of only one portion a day reduces the risk of lung cancer by 14%.
In the UK, only 33% of women and 37% of men are consuming the recommended five portions a day. For children the numbers drop to 7% for girls and 22% for boys. Is it any wonder as a population we are getting more and more ill?
The Primal diet or the Paleo diet, is a modern nutritional plan based on the diet of our ancestors. The diet consists of mostly meat, fish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruit, berries, mushrooms and other foods that would have been available to hunter-gather societies in the Paleolithic period. As the diet is based around vegetables and meat with minimal carbohydrates, it follows that getting your five a day and more is guaranteed.
Switching to a low-carb diet or following the Paleo lifestyle will drastically reduce your risk of developing cancer.