Campbell, Government, Big Food, Big Medicine, and Nutrition

In The China Study, T. Colin Campbell provides substantial insight as to the conflicts between science, government, the medical establishment, and the food industry in the fight over what constitutes proper nutrition. While he does a wonderful job articulating the mess we currently have, what he fails to understand is that this is exactly why we need to get government out of the business of recommending nutritional guidelines.

Right now, we have a system in which Big Food and Big Medicine–two establishments that wield the big money–pretty much dominate the ear of Big Government.

Big Food–which includes the meat and dairy industry, the fast food industry and related restaurant chains, as well as food companies that make products from meat and dairy–has a vested interest in protecting the status quo. They have hired guns in science and academia who wield a large degree of influence over government agencies, lawmakers, and their staffs.

Big Medicine–which includes physicians, insurance companies, medical services, and Big Pharma–is a similar opponent. While the medical world is increasingly aiming in the direction of prevention of disease, they place the emphasis on prevention that involves the work of medical professionals. Heart scans, angioplasties, bypass surgeries, radiological procedures, colonoscopies, pills, and injections–those are things that bring in the bucks for Big Medicine.

If you go vegan, you may reduce your chances of a heart attack to zero, but it makes no money for your cardiologist or your primary care doc. You’ll also hit many players in the Big Food industry in the pocketbook.

Unfortunately, Campbell seems to think that getting government on the side of the vegans is the answer to all of this. In fact, the better answer is to get government completely out of the business of nutritional guidelines and recommendations.

Ultimately, it’s not the government’s place to control what doctors learn, what doctors discuss with their patients, what citizens wish to eat, or what products Big Pharma and Big Food market to us.

Fact is, in the Internet, we have the best free market of information ever known to the world. And nutrition is not rocket science.

    If you have heart disease, a vegan diet may save your life.
    If you have naturally high cholesterol, an Atkins or South Beach diet is tantamount to pouring gasoline on a fire.
    If you have a high diabetes risk, getting your weight down will go far toward preventing Type 2 Diabetes. If you have Type 2 Diabetes, getting your weight down–and keeping it down–may eliminate your diabetes.

Do we need government to tell us any of those things? Of course not. We don’t know the “causation”, but let’s not kid ourselves: if you’re at risk, the actionable intelligence is there, and it’s on you to decide what to do with it.

People can choose to make their own decisions about nutrition. Dr. Esselstyn found that patients–once they realized the control they had over their disease via diet–were very willing to make the changes they needed to make.

The medical establishment needs to start deciding which team they are on: the side of the patients or the side of their pocketbook. Docs need not advise all patients to go vegan, but if I’m a cardiologist and I have a patient who has heart disease, you can bet that I’m going to be telling him that going vegan may save his life. If I don’t do this, then shame on me.

If I’m a primary care doc and I have a patient with diabetes (Type 1 or 2), you can bet that I’m going to be telling him that going vegan and getting weight control will cut the amount of insulin needed (for Type 1) and possibly even eliminate the (Type 2) diabetes altogether. If I don’t do this, then shame on me.

If I’m a primary care doc and I have a patient that is showing some signs of Alzheimer’s or related dementia, you can bet that I’m going to be telling him that he has nothing to lose by going vegan. (While we have not determined the efficacy of this approach with respect to dementia, it’s not like other therapies are working worth a rat’s posterior.)

If I’m a neurologist and I have a patient with MS, you can bet that I’m going to be telling him that going vegan may improve his overall quality of life by mitigating his complications. The science is unmistakable here.

You can also bet that if I have a patient that has found weight control to be elusive, I’ll be telling him that going vegan may succeed where other attempts have failed. The science may not be perfect here, but the pointers are strong enough.

You can also bet that if I have a patient that is in otherwise good health, but who eats a “standard” diet, and he asks me about proper nutrition, I’ll be telling him that at least cutting back the proportion of animal based products–and replacing that with plant-based products–will provide a foundation for long-term health.

On a different take, the patient is going to need to start taking responsibility for knowing what is best and what is not. This information is not restricted from you; it is readily available and is but a mouseclick or two away. You need not spend thousands of dollars on specialists to learn what is available at your library, or via the Internet. I don’t need government to do this for me.

Moreover, by getting the government out of the business of making nutritional recommendations, we will make the landscape more of a true free market. As more people cut back on animal-based products, Big Food will invest more capital in developing plant-based products that are healthier and taste good.

We may also see a driving down of health care costs without costly legislation. Fewer heart procedures, fewer chemo treatments, fewer surgeries…all of that means less strain on insurance costs. It also makes medical pricing for routine services more competitive. Traditional physicians (MDs) may see more competition from osteopaths (DOs) and even chiropractors and nutritionists over basic prevention of disease.

The critics will complain–with some merit–that we will see a lot of quacks emerge. At the same time, we have plenty of quacks now. They exist in the medical establishment, government, and all levels of industry. In the current setup, they are protected by government.

By getting government out of the business of nutrition, we might see a badly-needed shakeup in this area.

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