The USA has never seen health like this before. Despite our knowledge about diabetes and the medicines available, more people are exercising, fewer people smoke, and even Obamacare….…. Why is our health getting worse?
Because we have yet to address the actual cause of the problem.
80% of disease is preventable with preventative habits…yet, 98% of our healthcare budget is spent on individual treatment and only 2% on prevention. Seems like that money could be better spent. It’s estimated that 12% of the US adult population is affected by five or more chronic diseases and accounts for 40% of all healthcare spending. Patients with five or more chronic conditions spend fourteen times more on health services than people with no chronic conditions. These are the rates of cancer incidence (number of new cancers per year).
The incidence of smoke-related cancer declined, as expected, because of a decline in smoking rates. The incidence of cancers detectable by better and more frequent screenings (like prostate and breast cancer) increased because we’re catching them earlier. But the incidence of most other cancers——especially those correlated with obesity and metabolic syndrome…things like uterine, pancreatic, and liver cancer — increased by about 30%. As a whole, more and more people are getting cancer every year.
Sure genetics contributes to that. Some cancers are purely genetic based. For example, a condition called Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is caused by a specific congenital defect that guarantees colon cancer development.
Overall, genetics only contributes ~20% of most cancers.
Smoking and diet’s contribution?
50%. The leading causes of morbidity and mortality are the most costly in the US. Cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and type 2 diabetes. Most of these stem from being metabolically ill and are heavily impacted by our food.
At least 60% of our healthcare spending is wasted on diseases that could have been prevented.
And guess where that money is coming from?
Social Security. But it’s only going to worsen because you need young, healthy people to pay into social security.
But what happens when the young and healthy are becoming less and less nutritious?
I mean, adolescents would never develop metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes. But that started changing in the 1980s.
So if the problem is metabolic illness…what’s the solution?
Real food. Unprocessed or minimally processed food. The answer is simple and easy, but doing that might not be for many people. But there’s no alternative. There is no magic pill that can fix metabolic illness. Most people know that eating crappy food leads to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease….I mean, they’re all related to obesity, right?
But what about most types of cancer, autoimmune disease, dementia, and even psychiatric illness? Is it really possible that those are related to eating processed foods?
Yes. They’re all becoming more and more prevalent over the last 50 years, which is the same timeline as our diet getting worse with processed foods.
— Cancer is being diagnosed at earlier ages than it used to. Over the last few decades, as we’ve consumed more and more processed food, the incidence of obesity-related cancers continues to rise. Think colon, liver, pancreatic, uterine, and kidney cancer. In fact, just last year, the recommended age to screen for colon cancer was lowered from 50 to 45 because of the rise in cases among young and middle-aged people. No doubt, genetics play a role in cancer, but there is a solid case that environmental exposures cause mutations in DNA.
For example, the UV rays from the sun damage the DNA in your skin cells, leading to skin cancer. But mutations in our cells occur throughout the body every day, like every minute. In other words, your cells initiate cancer all the time. But your cells, and especially your immune system, fix these mutations before cancer actually develops.
It gets nipped in the bud. Until it doesn’t. That’s when cancer promotion happens. That’s when the cancer cell grows and divides over and over again. And as wild as this may sound, highly processed food, like hot dogs, French fries, and Oreos, actually feeds those cancer cells precisely what it needs to keep growing and dividing. Let’s say you sink your teeth into a Krispy Kreme donut.
Doctor Mike Hansen, MD
Internal Medicine | Pulmonary Disease | Critical Care Medicine
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