Surprise—There is No Health-Care Crisis – modern medicine needs to give more attention to the part nutrition plays in good health
We hear endless talk about a health-care crisis. But the facts are clear–there really isn’t one. The crisis is in medical care, medical insurance, medical procedures, and medical costs. All these come from the underlying problem of sharply rising costs for medical treatment of the sick.
For co-payers and uninsured alike, health care today is fast becoming a pay-more-for-less service system. Spending on doctors, hospitals, and drugs broke the $1 trillion mark in 1996, averaging $3,750 a person, and continues to climb. But we can solve all this and save billions of dollars and thousands of lives, keep people healthy and out of the managed care medical mill, and give the truly ill the best in modern medicine. The following true story illustrates the problem and what we can do to ease it.
Cherries to the Rescue:
An elderly woman in rural England suffered from debilitating gout. Her hands were so painfully swollen that the skin broke to let the infection drain. To make matters worse, the woman was allergic to the drugs that normally control gout. Her doctor had no idea what else to try. But a sympathetic relative consulted a natural healing reference book that advocated eating 15 cherries a day to arrest gout. In just two weeks of this seemingly odd treatment, all symptoms disappeared and the patient regained full use of her hands.
There is a scientific reason why the cherry cure worked. Cherries are rich in anthocyamins, natural chemicals that significantly lower inflammation by inhibiting the enzymes that cause it. Imagine alleviating a crippling disease with a tasty dessert.
This story shows the medical value of nutrition. It also exposes the dirty little secret of medical education. Students typically receive little more than a semester at best and a lecture at worst in nutrition, diet, and vitamins and their place in health. In my view as a health researcher, the medical profession today stands woefully ignorant of dietary knowledge.
Medicine is overly dependent on expensive, “high-tech” equipment such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and powerful drugs that often produce side effects as distressing as the diseases they are meant to stop.
As a physician and dentist, I recognize that new technology has its place. But relatively few conditions require it. A more sensible, cost-effective approach is to strengthen the immune system with diet and nutritional supplements so that the body can fight off disease and to rid the environment of toxic substances.
A strong immune system is the key to health–and it is not hard to achieve. As one example, a study was made of healthy elderly people who do 30 minutes of gentle T’ai Chi exercises a day. There was a marked improvement in immunocompetence (T-lymphocytes). This is a superb demonstration of uncomplicated, inexpensive health care in action.
King of the Vitamins
Although a sensible daily regimen of supplements (vitamin A, vitamin D, folic acid, beta-carotene, and selenium) is necessary to maintain a strong immune system, the king of nutrients is ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
Every cell, tissue, and organ and every medical condition and disease are, to some degree, related to ascorbate. The human body is actually a bag of electrical charges. Vitamin C is an electron donor. It helps make the cells behave in an orderly fashion, which is vital for health.
A connection has been established between nutritional status and school performance. The media report that, by all standards of measurement, American schools are in deep trouble. We have long been promised that more schools, more teachers, more books, more computers, and other exotic gadgets will solve the problem. So far, they have not.
Very little attention has been directed to the possibility that learning ability in children may be directly related to their health. In 1990, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that about 3 million children had blood lead levels high enough to affect intelligence, attendance, behavior, and development. The nation might benefit from less attention to the social implications of low student performance and more attention to stronger lead abatement programs and adequate nutrient intake.
With virtually endless studies showing the efficacy of diet, vitamins and minerals, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle, we may wonder why a U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) survey reported that only 1 per cent of Americans meet the minimum standards for dietary adequacy. This statistic shows clearly where we should be putting out attention and money.
Doctors, company health-care managers, government health agencies, and the public should look at enhancing and maintaining health as a win-win situation. Patients obviously would benefit, and so would companies and governments contending with ever-spiraling medical costs. Physicians would be freer of cost-reduction pressures from managed care and could tend to the truly ill.
Elements of Good Health
Specifically, what are the elements of a general health program? Here is an outline to get started:
Companies should hire a dietitian to counsel employees about a balanced diet. People tend to consume unhealthful foods. For example, the increasing number of people with diabetes eat too many carbohydrates and not enough protein, fat, and copper supplements. A U.S.D.A. study in the late 1980s revealed that almost 80 per cent of women and 70 per cent of men consumed less that two thirds of the RDA of nutrients. We should eat smaller meals more times a day and should graze, not gorge.
Help is readily available. A little research can uncover sources of information to help build a solid company health program at moderate cost.
The savings from these simple steps would be enormous. A study revealed that when the elderly were given a single multivitamin every day, infection-related illnesses were reduced by more than 50 per cent.
Extrapolating these results to the public indicates the exciting possibility that, from infections to heart disease and from cancer and arthritis, medical costs can actually be cut in half. Think of it: experiencing half the visits to hospitals and doctors, half the absenteeism attributable to illness, and half the medical costs. This is not a guess. Many studies point to similar prospects.
There are few comparable instances in which companies can obtain so much for so little outlay. There is everything to gain from sensible health practices and nothing to lose. That’s real health care.
(Adapted with permission from To Your Health! magazine, July-August, 1999.)
COPYRIGHT 2001 Vegetus Publications
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group