It's Time to Ditch the Drug Habit

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                                           It’s Time to Ditch the
                                           Drug Habit

Nutritional programs are poised to do for degenerative diseases what antibiotics did
for infectious illnesses, and the potential health-care cost savings are enormous. The
social implications of the prospective changes in public morbidity and mortality,
which may represent as many as 25 additional years of healthy middle and old age,
will be even more significant.

Paul Clayton, a senior lecturer at the Insti-   But are such conditions inevitably degen-       A New Generation of
tute of Optimum Nutrition in London and         erative? A truly preventive medicine that       Malnutrition
a Royal Society of Medicine fellow.             focused on the pre-ill, analysing the meta-      Many national surveys (the biggest of
July 18th, 2003                                 bolic errors which lead to clinical illness,     which is the US Department of Agriculture             might be able to correct them before the         continuing survey of food intakes) reveal
1058035130027.html                              first symptom.                                   that malnutrition is common in developed
                                                                                                 countries. This is not the calorie/micronu-
Throughout human history the leading            Genetic risk factors are known for all the
                                                                                                 trient deficiency associated with develop-
causes of death have been infection and         chronic degenerative diseases, and are im-
                                                                                                 ing nations (Type A malnutrition); but mul-
trauma. Modern medicine has scored sig-         portant to the individuals who possess
                                                                                                 tiple micronutrient depletion, usually com-
nificant victories against both, and the ma-    them. At the population level, however, mi-
                                                                                                 bined with calorific balance or excess (Type
jor causes of ill health and death are now      gration studies confirm that these illnesses
                                                                                                 B malnutrition).The US survey measured in-
chronic degenerative diseases, such as          are linked for the most part to lifestyle fac-
                                                                                                 takes of classical micronutrients in terms
coronary artery disease, arthritis, oste-       tors - exercise, smoking and nutrition. Nu-
                                                                                                 of the RDA (recommended dietary allow-
oporosis, Alzheimer's, macular degenera-        trition is the easiest of these to change, and
                                                                                                 ances) values designed to prevent defi-
tion, cataract and cancer.                      the most versatile tool for affecting the
                                                                                                 ciency diseases. The incidence and sever-
                                                metabolic changes needed to tilt the bal-
Drugs can alleviate symptoms of these dis-                                                       ity of Type B malnutrition is worsened if
                                                ance away from disease (a point made by
eases, but they do lit-                                                                                                 newer micronutrient
tle to alter the under-                                                                                                 groups are included,
lying disease, which          Type A Malnutrition is found in developing countries. such as the essential
usually continues to          The new modern malnutritions is Type B, found in                                          fatty acids, various
deteriorate. Based on                                                                                                   fibre types,
the idea of the "magic        developed countries and usually combined with                                             xanthophylls,
bullet", developed in         caloric excess. This malnutrition worsens when few                                        flavonoids and so on.
the 19th century by           micronutrient groups are ingested.                                                        Commonly ingested
the founders of phar-                                                                                                   levels of these
macology such as Robert Koch and Paul                                                            micronutrients seem to be far too low in
                                                the recent World Health Organisation re-
Ehrlich, most drugs are designed to block a                                                      many developed countries.
                                                port Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of
single step in the complex process leading
                                                Chronic Diseases).                               The prevalence of multiple micronutrient
to the symptoms of illness; a strategy which
                                                                                                 depletion is due to several factors: We were
rarely cures, and is often associated with un-  All biological tissues are dynamic. Their ap-
                                                                                                 designed to live active lives, and to con-
pleasant side-effects.                          parent constancy disguises a state of flux,
                                                                                                 sume 3000 to 4000 calories per day. Now
                                                with the processes of decay and regenera-
Modern medicine is generally practised as                                                        no longer hunter-gatherers, we live seden-
                                                tion running in parallel. Bones are con-
crisis management: wait until the diagno-                                                        tary lives and require fewer calories. Our
                                                stantly being worn away and rebuilt, as are
sis, then start treatment. But by the time                                                       appetites have shrunk (but not quite
                                                joints. Atheroma is constantly accumulat-
symptoms of these diseases appear, dam-                                                          enough, which explains why so many are
                                                ing inside the arteries, and just as constantly
age has already been done to the body that                                                       overweight).When we eat less, we consume
                                                being removed. If the anabolic and cata-
drugs cannot address. The chronic degen-                                                         fewer micronutrients.
                                                bolic processes are in balance, tissue re-
erative diseases - like coronary artery dis-
                                                mains intact and good health is sustained.       Most processed food is depleted in
ease and Alzheimer's - have a long latency
                                                But if the rate of decay is only a little faster micronutrients, and more processed food
period before symptoms appear and a di-
                                                than the rate of repair, there is a net loss of
agnosis is made. It follows that the major-
                                                healthy tissue, a pre-illness growing every
ity of apparently healthy people are "pre-
                                                day until clinical illness finally emerges. In
ill". In their bodies are the seeds of the ill-
                                                many cases, this may be due to multiple
ness which will one day become overt and
                                                micronutrient depletion.
perhaps kill them.
                                                                                                                               Ditch the Drug Habit
                                                                                                                               Page 1 of 2 V 04.Aug.03
We Maintain Our Cars Better than Our Bodies!

is being consumed than ever before. Brit-         We have many palliative drugs, and many              into multiple pathologies. The best thera-
ish consumption of fresh green vegetables         ways of suppressing the symptoms of ill-             peutic response must therefore combine
declined 7 per cent in 2001-02, according         ness, but hardly any cures. When the phar-           micronutrients to normalise the terrain.
to the annual expenditure and food survey.        maceutical industry was founded on the
                                                                                                       So must we analyse each individual's nutri-
                                                  "magic bullets" of Koch and Ehrlich, it started
Many soils are low in key minerals, or have                                                            tional status and tailor a formula for him or
                                                  in the wrong place. It should have followed
become depleted due to overintensive                                                                   her? After all, different people have differ-
                                                  Pasteur who, towards the end of his career,
farming. Plants or animals raised in these                                                             ent lifestyles and eat different foods. One
                                                  came to the realisation that le terrain (our
areas are also depleted in these minerals.                                                             person may be depleted in vitamin E, me-
                                                  internal physiology) was all-important.
                                                                                                       thyl groups and omega 3 oils, another in vi-
Smoking, sunbathing, pollution and excess
alcohol all deplete the body of antioxidants.
                                                  Not A One Nutrient                                   tamin C, B12, copper and selenium. A third
                                                  Solution . . . We Maintain                           might be consuming suboptimal amounts
We become progressively more depleted             our Cars Better Than Our                             of isoflavones and lycopene.
in micronutrients as we age.                      Bodies!                                              Comprehensive & Universal
                                                  One problem for supporters of this argu-
Micronutrient Repletion                                                                                Program of Micronutrient
                                                  ment is lack of the right kind of hard evi-
There is now considerable evidence spelt                                                               Support is Best
                                                  dence. We have a wealth of epidemiologi-
out in reports from the WHO and other bod-                                                             While we do not have the resources to ana-
                                                  cal data linking dietary factors to health
ies that Type B malnutrition is a major cause                                                          lyse millions of individuals, there is no need
                                                  profiles/disease risks, and a great deal of in-
of chronic degenerative diseases. If this is                                                           to do so. The vast majority of people are
                                                  formation on mechanism: how food factors
the case, then it is logical to treat such dis-                                                        consuming suboptimal amounts of most
                                                  interact with our biochemistry. But almost
eases not with drugs but with multiple mi-                                                             micronutrients, and most of the
                                                  all intervention studies with micronutrients,
cronutrient repletion, or "pharmaco-nutri-                                                             micronutrients concerned are very safe. Ac-
                                                  with the notable exception of the omega 3
tion".This can take the form of pills and cap-                                                         cordingly, a comprehensive and universal
                                                  fatty acids, have so far produced conflict-
sules - "nutraceuticals", or food formats                                                              program of micronutrient support is prob-
                                                  ing or negative results. In other words, our
known as "functional foods". This approach                                                             ably the most cost-effective and safest way
                                                  science appears to have no predictive value.
has been neglected hitherto because it is                                                              of improving general health.
                                                  Does this invalidate the science? Or are we
relatively unprofitable for drug companies
                                                  simply asking the wrong questions?                   One should not fall into the trap of seeking
- the products are hard to patent - and it is
                                                                                                       to replace one "magic bullet" with another.
a strategy which does not sit easily with         Based on pharmaceutical thinking, most
                                                                                                       Nevertheless, pharmaco-nutritional pro-
modern medical interventionism.                   intervention studies have attempted to
                                                                                                       grams are poised to do for degenerative
                                                  measure the impact of a single micronutri-
Over the past 100 years, the drug industry                                                             diseases what antibiotics did for infectious
                                                  ent on the incidence of disease. The classi-
has invested huge sums in developing a                                                                 illnesses, and the potential health-care cost
                                                  cal approach says that if you give a com-
range of subtle and powerful drugs to treat                                                            savings are enormous. The social implica-
                                                  pound formula to test subjects and obtain
the many diseases we are subject to. Medi-                                                             tions of the prospective changes in public
                                                  positive results, you cannot know which in-
cal training is couched in pharmaceutical                                                              morbidity and mortality, which may repre-
                                                  gredient is exerting the benefit, so you must
terms and this approach has provided us                                                                sent as many as 25 additional years of
                                                  test each ingredient individually. But in the
with an exceptional range of therapeutic                                                               healthy middle and old age, will be even
                                                  field of nutrition, this does not work. It is like
tools in the treatment of disease and in                                                               more significant.
                                                  the mechanic who, confronted with a
acute medical emergencies.
                                                  chronically under-maintained car, insists on         We May Need Far-Sighted
However, the pharmaceutical                       a test drive after changing the oil filter; an-      Politicians
model has also created an                         other after replacing one of the spark plugs         None the less, there are some forces on
                                                  - and so on.                                         the side of pharmaco-nutrition. These
unhealthy dependency culture,
                                                                                                       include the manufacturers of the func-
in which relatively few of us                     Each intervention on its own will hardly
                                                                                                       tional foods now making major contri-
take responsibility for                           make enough difference to be meas-
                                                                                                       butions to Japanese and Finnish pub-
                                                  ured. To make the car run noticeably
maintaining our own health.                                                                            lic health. It could also come to include
                                                  better and last longer requires a com-
                                                                                                       some far-sighted politicians who grasp
Instead, we have handed over this re-             prehensive service. Similarly, to enable hu-
                                                                                                       that the next wave of health care will
sponsibility to health professionals who          mans to live healthier and longer lives, com-
                                                                                                       be food, and the point of delivery will
know very little about health maintenance,        prehensive nutritional support is required.
                                                                                                       shift from the pharmacy to the super-
or disease prevention. They are taught only       For example, in coronary artery disease it is
                                                                                                       market check-out.
how to manage disease, or rather the very         clear that there is no single weak link. Rather,
late stages of disease, when it becomes           Western diet and lifestyle can push
symptomatic.                                      haemochemistry and vascular physiology

                                                                                                                                      Ditch the Drug Habit
                                                                                                                                      Page 2 of 2 V 04.Aug.03

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