How many fully healthy years do you expect to enjoy before succumbing to one or more chronic illnesses? In my home town, Middlesbrough, the average age at which this happens is 47 years …
As this ONS revelation hit the BBC news today, I was in James Cook University Hospital visiting a close relative who’s dying. She’s lying there with the life ebbing out of her due, at least in some part, to a reason that she could never accept, even though I tried to warn her about it for years – her atrocious diet.
Taking a break in the hospital cafe, I was surrounded by largely overweight people eating meals and snacks, none of which I could eat – not one single item – if I wanted to stick to a WFPB diet without added oil. And even a quick visit to the M&S shop inside this massive hospital complex, the largest teaching hospital in Europe, could offer me anything other than ridiculously expensive tiny portions of prepared fruits. And when I asked whether there were any vegan wraps, she said that they had discontinued the ones they used to sell because there was no demand.
Finishing my cup of black coffee, and leaving behind the rows of cheese and ham toasties, chips and cream cakes, I stumbled into 5 young nurses chatting excitedly as they entered the cafe. Each was morbidly obese.
At one time, I used to feel a sort of disgust when I saw the occasional fat person – I mean, why couldn’t they just get some damn will-power and sort their lives out? But now I feel an overwhelming sense of anger and sadness that so many people are suffering untold health problems simply because their doctors and their governments will not hold diet accountable as the root cause of the majority of their chronic illnesses.
Now that I am more aware of the links between diet and disease, how can I possibly blame anyone for being overweight or obese? Even doctors and nutritionists have little idea, so how can we expect the average person in the street to be sufficiently informed and convinced?
We’re bombarded at every turn with misinformation about the causes of this plague of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and other diet-related diseases. Walking through several hundred people, at least half of whom were either overweight or obese, in the endless corridors of the hospital, I wanted to scream out loud that the solution is in OUR hands, if only we could educate ourselves.
It could be argued that governments are doing with food exactly what they did with tobacco all those decades ago.
By odd coincidence, just after I started writing this blog, I received today’s email from Dr Greger in which he says: “I know some people don’t like my “political” videos and wish I’d stick to the science, but it’s impossible to understand the disconnect between the balance of evidence and dietary recommendations without understanding the impact of commercial influence.”
He went on to give a wonderfully blunt quote from a US District Judge who was overseeing the fiasco of the tobacco industry a few decades ago when they were trying to claim that smoking wasn’t bad for you:
“‘All too often in the choice between the physical health of consumers and the financial well-being of business, concealment is chosen over disclosure, sales over safety, and money over morality. Who are these persons who knowingly and secretly decide to put the buying public at risk solely for the purpose of making profits, and who believe that illness and death of consumers is an apparent cost of their own prosperity?’ Above all, the experience of tobacco shows how powerful profits can be as a motivator, even at the cost of millions of lives and unspeakable suffering.”
I will leave it to you to decide whether or not I have been too political…
Quotes taken from Knowingly and Secretly Deciding to Put the Buying Public at Risk. Michael Greger M.D. FACLM. March 8th, 2018