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The Human Body Is Complex, but the Solution to Many Diseases Is Simple

This is a guest post from Physicians Committee member Garth Davis, M.D.

Obesity Week is a huge scientific meeting joining experts in medical and surgical weight loss to discuss the latest science pertaining to the disease of obesity.

dr-garth-davisThere were surgical discussions, behavioral therapy discussions, science on genetics, science on diet, etc. For a science geek, the meeting was fantastic. That being said, I did get the feeling that for the most part, we may be missing the forest for the trees. Let me explain.

Nutrition researcher and author Marion Nestle said, “The problem with nutrient by nutrient nutritional science is that it takes the nutrient out of context of the food, the food out of context of the diet, and the diet out of the context of the lifestyle.” This is no more evident than in these large scientific meetings. The studies that were reviewed looked at the minutest changes in the body. Nobody really talked about food at all. We talked about protein, carbs and fat, but never once was an actual food mentioned. I often wonder what these scientists think a “protein” is. What would they classify a bean, which is starch and protein? Or steak, which is protein and fat.

The other problem is that the goal of all the science was not to demonstrate a new way to eat but rather to find targets for drugs. For example, there were some interesting studies on brown fat versus white fat and how we could potentially discover a medication that could turn white fat to brown fat and thereby raise metabolism. On the surgery side, discussions centered around how we can improve the surgery and handle the complications that inevitably occur. If someone fails the surgery, what other surgery can we do? There was no real mention of what we should tell people to eat after we alter their GI system with surgery.

One presentation really showed perfectly how we have missed the big picture by delving so deeply into the biochemistry and physiology. A very intelligent scientist was reviewing her incredible research questioning whether pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction was the first step in developing obesity and diabetes. Her work was intricate and complicated. She demonstrated that consumption of heme iron, oxidizing substances, and acid may cause the beta-cells to stop functioning. At the end of her talk, someone asked her what she eats and she said a “low-carb diet.” What??!!!  A low-carb diet implies a high-protein diet, which implies a high-meat diet. Meat is the source of heme iron, oxidizing substances, and acid. Meanwhile, most low-carb diets avoid fruit, which is an excellent at scavenging oxidized substances and neutralizing acids.

There is great research showing that whole-food, plant-based diets are the best for weight loss, diabetes, and heart disease. Unfortunately, the medical community seems to believe it needs to be more complicated—or that patients just can’t follow such a diet.

The complexity of the human body and its response to food is fascinating, but the solution to our Western diseases is really much simpler than Western medicine will realize. Eat your fruits and veggies and get moving. That is far more important than any bit of science we discussed. There will never be a silver bullet miracle pill. Hippocrates’ ancient words will always hold true, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Dr. Garth Davis is a surgeon in Houston specializing in bariatric surgery.

It Doesn’t Take a Doctor to See What’s Fowl with Chicken Poop

mark-kennedy-usda

Legal counsel Mark Kennedy, Esq., reviewing documents outside of USDA offices.

“Warning! May contain feces.” It’s been more than a year since the Physicians Committee petitioned the USDA to require this label on chicken products. But last week, Physicians Committee director of legal affairs Mark Kennedy, Esq., finally sat down with more than a dozen USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) officials.

Fecal contamination in chicken is an ever-growing issue. Physicians Committee studies have found that a vast amount of chicken is contaminated with fecal matter. And it gets worse—according to a Consumer Reports study, 97 percent of raw chicken in U.S. supermarkets is contaminated with bacteria that could make customers sick.

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Following the meeting, FSIS officials are now reviewing the Physicians Committee petition to the USDA requesting that feces be labeled and regulated as an “adulterant.” However, officials stated that they rarely grant petitions unless there is significant pressure to do so.

Help us get the word out about the prevalence of fecal contamination in chicken! Share this blog with your family and friends—and you can even tweet to the @USDA with a link to our petition: http://goo.gl/2L8KXA.

Meat-Eating Falls to Lowest Levels in 3 Decades

The USDA’s latest figures show that Americans are continuing to turn away from meat. Meat consumption reached a high of 201.5 pounds per capita in 2004 but has dropped steadily since then, reaching 181.5 pounds in 2012, the latest year for which figures are available. The last time meat intake was at this level was 1983. These figures show that the average American is consuming 20 pounds less meat each year, compared to a decade ago.

In the post-World-War-II era, meat intake rose steadily. It began to decline a decade ago in the face of concerns about health, animal welfare, and the environment, as well as the ready availability of healthier foods.

Skipping meat has many advantages. People who avoid meat are thinner than meat-eaters. In a 2009 study published by the American Diabetes Association, meat-eaters had an average body mass index (BMI) of 28.8, well above 25.0, the upper limit for a healthful weight. But people who avoided animal products had an average BMI of 23.6. Avoiding meat also cuts the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease and improves blood pressure.

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