This is Part 3 of a 5 part series summarizing the key points of the book How Not to Die and sharing my reactions as a proud junk food vegan and, thus, a suspicious reader from the start. Begin with Part 1 | Introduction >> Part 2 | Message >> Part 3 | Common Themes >> Part 4 | The Junk Food Perspective >> Part 5 | Final Takeaways
Throughout How Not to Die, alongside the nutritional findings of studies, Dr. Greger repeated some common themes regarding the state of health and wellness in our society. These were aggravating and often surprising.
Corruption in Healthcare and Food Industries
A common thread throughout the first part of the book was the issue of the current medical system, including a limited understanding of nutrition among medical professionals, the influence of major corporations or lobbying groups, and a host of monetary incentives which emphasize the use of drugs or procedures over lifestyle changes.
It would seem that doctors and medical care providers might not necessarily have poor intentions, largely, they’re just ill-informed. “Only a quarter of medical schools seem to offer a single course on nutrition,” says Dr. Greger. Sadly, people off the street know more about nutrition than their doctors! Without adequate nutrition education, doctors might be advising their patients to eat foods that are actually killing them.
In addition to a lack of information about nutrition and diet, medical professionals may be misinformed about the effectiveness of drugs. The same is true for the general public. Apparently, people believe that cholesterol lowering drugs are 20-times more effective than they actually are in preventing heart attacks. So people continue to rely on drugs because they overestimate the value of drugs to prevent disease or death.
|A Side Note on Colonoscopies
The “standard” colonoscopy procedure can actually be fatal, but people aren’t being given the ability to make informed decisions regarding the alternatives. Whereas most of the rest of the world prefers non-invasive alternatives, doctors in the United States get paid for procedures/procedure referrals, so they profit when you get a colonoscopy (or any other treatment). There are much less invasive/risky procedures, which most other countries recommend. Another aggravating statistic? In the U.S., the procedure costs thousands, as opposed to just a few hundred dollars in other countries.
On top of the already limited understanding of nutrition and wellness, doctors are being heavily influenced by lobbying groups which have infiltrated government standards.
Indeed, Federal dietary guidelines might have a conflict of interest. With major agribusinesses (including the Sugar Association, National Cattleman’s Association and Wrigley’s gum) providing input, can we really trust that the USDA has the public’s best interests in mind?
Power is really in the hands of the groups that have the money. In fact, a corporation that manufactures a food substance has the absolute authority to determine whether or not that food is safe for consumption! That’s right, the “Generally Recognized as Safe” (or GRAS) self-determination is the process which has allowed unsafe ingredients to enter our diets.
Follow the Money/ Pill Pushers
Similar to the self-determined safety of food, we have a “scandalously ill-regulated supplement market,” says Dr. Greger. We spend an astronomical amount on vitamins and drugs. Yet, the drugs don’t work nearly as well as people think they do. Unlike plant-based foods, drugs also often have negative side effects.
Doctors aren’t counseling their patients—they’re not being trained to empower the patients they are paid to serve. Instead, doctors are getting incentives and financial kick-backs to treat their patients with drugs.
But why aren’t fruits and vegetables being touted for their healing properties? There are plenty of studies out there determining the effectiveness of various drugs at treating diseases. That’s because there’s financial gain when a company can profit from the sale of a pill that’s claimed to be safe and effective.
Those claims, however, might not always be accurate. What we know about health, nutrition, and wellness is 100% skewed by those with the money—as is evidenced by the finding that pharmaceutical companies are only publishing studies that produce results in their favor, concealing the fact that their drugs don’t actually work. So, doctors get incentives to push prescriptions that cost you money…but they’re drugs that don’t necessarily work (and probably not as well as plants would) and whose side effects may make matters even worse!!
Take, for instance, studies on antidepressants.
“According to the published literature, the results of nearly all the trials of antidepressants were positive; they work! In contrast, FDA analysis of the trial data showed that only roughly half of the trials had positive results. In other words, about half the studies showed the drugs didn’t work….And what’s even worse, Freedom of Information Act documents show the FDA knew about it, but made an explicit decision to keep this information from the public and from prescribing physicians. How could drug companies get away with this?”
Dr. Greger in the video “Do Antidepressant Drugs Really Work?”
But who’s going to pay for a study of the healing properties of plants, which can’t be patented? Alas, there is no “Big Broccoli” to fund the research.
The SAD State of Nutrition Awareness
Do you suffer from SAD—that is, the Standard American Diet? Many of us do, or have spent entire portions of our lives victims of it. The sad truth about SAD is the abundance of misinformation out there. As a result, our nation’s diet is in crisis.
If doctors and medical professionals can’t even be expected to know about nutrition, do us common-folk even have a chance!? We’re taught very little (if anything) in school, and then spend the rest of our lives being bombarded by the latest “news” and government recommendations (which are always changing).
It’s no surprise, then, that so many still consume the “meat-sweet” diet. They still think it’s needed for things like protein and calcium, failing to realize that health-promoting plants can replace the disease-promoting animal products they’re consuming.
These themes were truly alarming. Realizing how poorly informed our doctors might be, and how much of a hand big businesses have in shaping the information we and our doctors receive has created a distrust in our medical profession to do its job.
But could I be anti-capitalist and do my own nutrition research and still be a junk food vegan? Tune in tomorrow to find out.
This 5-part series includes: