I’ve been a member of the American College of Physicians for a decade, and I receive copy of their journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, in my PO Box every month. Lately I’ve been reading Journal of Clinical Nutrition more than Annals. It’s the same old story, month after month, in the internal medicine literature. It seems we are near exhaustion of the different ways that we can add a pill or surgically manipulate a person back to health. I’ve been thinking of dropping my membership and moving the money to nutrition research.
What a surprise last week when Annals featured an study about low-carbohydrate diets.* The study included 85,168 women from the Nurses’ Helath Study and 44,548 men from the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study with an average of 23 years of follow-up. Researchers found that a high-animal-food, low-carbohydrate diet was linked with a higher all-cause mortality, including a higher rate of cancer deaths. A high-vegetable-food, low-carbohydrate diet was associated with lower mortality, especially in reducing the risk of death from cardiovascular events.
Not surprising was the editorial comment on this research, which argued that doctors should approach this information cautiously and consider carefully before they share this information with their patients. The reviewing doctors suggested that additional study should be considered before broad nutritional recommendations are applied. I disagree. I think the time is now to act courageously. We are in a health crisis in this country. The globalization of SAD (Standard American Diet) is leading to a nutrition crisis globally. It’s time to encourage the broad adoption of a plant-based diet. Of course, American doctors are going to be bored and underutilized, when the associated reductions in obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease leaves us twiddling our thumbs. We will have to think of what to do with all of our time once our pain patients and chronic fatigue patients feel refreshed and energetic. Insurance companies are going to cut premiums when costs for pharmacy and major surgery decline dramatically. You’ll be able to enjoy a long, healthy constipation-free life, hopefully dying from an accidental death right after you turn 100. With a postively puny rear end. I can get behind that.
*Fung TT, van Dam RM, Hankinson SE, Stampfer M, Willett WC, Hu FB. Low-carbohydrate diets and all-cause and cause-specific mortality: two cohort studies. Ann Intern Med. 2010;153:289-298.