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 Before addressing the title of this article, it is worth looking at some North American statistics to put things into perspective. Generally speaking, infectious diseases that would’ve been a common cause of death 100 years ago have faded into the background. Instead, chronic degenerative diseases are now the leading causes of death in Canada, Mexico and the US; they are also the biggest burden on the healthcare system. A third of the global population is clinically obese and obesity rates in North American children are at an all-time high. Americans spend over $9000 a year each on health care. That’s more than double the global average. Canadians are not far behind at $4597 per year. Read it again and think about it. What does this all mean?

Chronic degenerative diseases are now the leading causes of death in Canada, Mexico and the US

Basically we are talking about shelling out top dollar for health care that doesn’t really work in the big scheme of things. Our medical system works well when it comes to infectious diseases, broken bones and emergencies; in other words at treating disease. Clearly it’s not that great at preventing disease. This should be self-evident in light of the above statistics. The question begs: why are we so focused on funding disease treatment with little attention given to preventing disease? Logically if we focused on preventing disease, the burden on the healthcare system would be less. So would the rates of chronic degenerative disease. A win-win situation.
These sentiments have been echoed by the United Nations in their 2014 World Cancer Report: “Despite exciting advances [in medicine], this report shows that we cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem….. we urgently need effective prevention measures to curb the disease”.
A study published in the Lancet has concluded that global cancer rates will soar 75% by 2030: “any reductions in infection-related cancers are offset by an increasing number of new cases that are more associated with reproductive, dietary, and hormonal factors…. interventions can lead to a decrease in the projected increases in cancer burden through effective primary prevention strategies…”
Now there’s no way that we can attribute poor diet and lifestyle as the sole cause of all chronic disease. There are a number of other factors that tie in here as well; factors that are beyond our control. But, of all the factors involved, would it not make sense to focus on those that we can control? It is now well known that diet and lifestyle are key factors in the onset of disease. For example: maintaining a healthy weight, eating a clean, plant-based diet, moderate exercise, avoiding tobacco and limiting alcohol have all been associated with a decreased risk in the onset of a whole host of diseases.
Being obese or overweight increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, reproductive problems, gallstones, cancer, metabolic syndrome, mental health issues and more. The medical care costs of obesity in the United States were estimated to be $147 billion for 2008 (almost 10% of all medical spending!). If current trends continue, the costs of obesity could reach 16% to 18% of US health expenditures by 2030. Among adolescents, the total excess cost related to the current prevalence of adolescent overweight and obesity is estimated to be $254 billion – $208 billion in lost productivity and $46 billion in direct medical costs. These numbers are absolutely staggering considering there are only 360 million people in the country.
The reduction in weight alone therefore not only decreases our chance of developing these chronic illnesses but also aims to lift a huge weight off the healthcare system. Reducing weight should be a primary focus for those individuals who are overweight or obese.
Inflammation is touted as the silent killer because it often presents subtle, almost undetectable symptoms that can be potentially fatal. Inflammation is a necessary process and is in fact the first step in healing. The problem comes in when we have inflammation that never subsides; becoming destructive. In addition to obvious diseases such as arthritis, chronic inflammation can help cause cancer, stroke and heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease and chronic lower respiratory disease and more. Further, Inflammation is an underlying culprit behind virtually all age-related diseases. So inflammation is related directly to all the leading causes of death listed at the beginning of this article. In other words reducing and controlling inflammation could go a long way in preventing most of these. The purpose of our discussion here merely scratches the surface.


According to nutritional pioneer Dr. Bernard Jensen “every disease is associated with some kind of nutritional deficiency”


With this in mind, it only makes sense to replenish missing nutrients and prevent disease in the first place. Instead, modern medicine treats the symptoms with potent drugs that come with a laundry list of side effects (which usually require more drugs to treat them). We have been conditioned to believe that optimal health equates to the absence of symptoms. The part we are not told is that the drugs don’t cure the disease. As soon as you remove the drug the symptom reappears. In addition to creating a dependency situation, this also drives up the cost of ‘health’ care dramatically. Making informed choices and investing in the future of our health lowers our risk for chronic disease and ensures that our quality of life is improved as we age; it also lightens the financial load on a stressed-out health care system.

i http://www.who.int/gho/countries/can.pdf?ua=1
ii http://www.who.int/gho/countries/mex.pdf?ua=1
iii http://www.who.int/gho/countries/usa.pdf?ua=1
iv Mensah G, Brown D. An overview of cardiovascular disease burden in the United States.Health Aff 2007; 26:38-48.
v http://www.alz.org/national/documents/Report_2007FactsAndFigures.pdf
vi http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)60460-8/abstract
vii http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm
viii http://www.who.int/countries/usa/en/
ix http://dpeaflcio.org/the-u-s-health-care-system-an-international-perspective/
x http://www.who.int/countries/can/en/
xi http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47067#.VfDTVhHBzGc
xii http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045(12)70211-5/abstract
xiii http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11795/
xiv http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/risks
xv Finkelstein EA1, Trogdon JG, Cohen JW, Dietz W. Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: payer-and service-specific estimates. Health Aff (Millwood). 2009 Sep-Oct;28(5):w822-31. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.28.5.w822.
xvi Wang Y, et al. Will all Americans become overweight or obese? Estimating the progression and cost of the US obesity epidemic. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008;16:2323–2330.
xvii Lightwood J, Bibbins-Domingo K, Coxson P, Wang YC, Williams L, Goldman L. Forecasting the future economic burden of current adolescent overweight: an estimate of the coronary heart disease policy model. Am J Public Health. 2009;99:2230–2237.
xviii http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110419091159.htm
xix http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26369677
xx http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26374569
xxi Chung HY, Cesari M, Anton S, et al. Molecular inflammation: underpinnings of aging and age-related diseases. Ageing Res Rev. 2009 Jan;8(1):18-30.
xxii Jenny NS, French B, Arnold AM, et al. Long-term assessment of inflammation and healthy aging in late life: The Cardiovascular Health Study All Stars. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2012 Feb 24.


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