There is a reason your mother told you not to discuss politics at the dinner table. It can be disruptive and divisive.
It’s not that different in healthcare. These days the divide between natural healing and drug therapy is almost as emotional as that between Republicans and Democrats.
We frequently hear from readers who prefer to avoid medications. They see drugs as dangerous and prefer to use food as their medicine.
We also hear from health professionals who are skeptical that lifestyle approaches can match the power of prescription medications. They point to the rigorous clinical trials conducted on drugs and the lack of good science supporting alternative approaches such as diet and exercise.
This polarization should start to shift with new research published in Circulation, the highly regarded journal of the American Heart Association (Dec. 4, 2012). The study included more than 30,000 volunteers at high risk of cardiovascular complications because of their age (55 and up) and their history of diabetes, heart attack or stroke. They were participating in two drug trials of telmisartan (Micardis), but the researchers also collected detailed information on dietary habits and evaluated them using standardized scoring methods.
The study ran nearly five years. During that time roughly 5,000 participants experienced a heart attack, stroke, heart failure or died from cardiovascular causes. Those with the healthiest diets were 35 percent less likely to die.
It won’t surprise you to learn that the survivors were following their mothers’ dietary advice, whether or not they paid attention to dinner conversation warnings: they filled their plates with vegetables, fruit and whole grains. They chose fish more often than meat, and ate nuts and beans more than poultry or eggs.
Their rewards included a 28 percent reduction in the risk of developing congestive heart failure and a 19 percent reduction in the likelihood of suffering a stroke. These benefits held up regardless of whether the subjects were in the drug or placebo arm of their respective trials. The investigators concluded, “Highlighting the importance of healthy eating by health professionals would substantially reduce CVD [cardiovascular disease] recurrence and save lives globally.”
What we see in this study is the value of a healthful diet. The data keep accumulating that foods that do not raise blood sugar or insulin dramatically are healthier for the heart, the metabolism and even cancer.
In one recent study colon cancer patients who had a diet loaded with bread, pasta, desserts and other refined carbs were more likely to have a recurrence after their chemotherapy treatments or even to die during the study (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, online Nov. 7, 2012). This was especially striking for those who were overweight.
Cutting back on carbohydrates can pay dividends for losing weight, lowering blood pressure, controlling cholesterol and reducing the risk of diabetes. Such meals can be delicious. Leading health experts offer their favorites in our book, Recipes and Remedies from The People’s Pharmacy (online at PeoplesPharmacy.com). Eating well can bolster the benefit from life-saving medications.

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  1. Lu
    Reply

    I take the fish oil capsules. My eye doctor recommended it for dry eyes… works great as I do not take any prescription drugs.

  2. TD
    Reply

    I know the value of fish. I do not like fish, except Long John Silver’s (fried, unfortunately) and fried shimp and shrimp cocktail. I would love to find a fish or fish recipe that does not have the fish flavor. Any help?

  3. DS
    Reply

    “These benefits held up regardless of whether the subjects were in the drug or placebo arm of their respective trials.”
    In other words, why bother with the drug, which these days may have “adverse reactions” such as death? As for “followed a healthy diet,” GRAINS, blah blah and not eggs–that sounds like the researchers decided ahead of time what a “healthy diet” is. As for the % of reduction in adverse outcomes, is this “relative risk” or some other manipulation of statistics?
    FATS do not raise blood sugar.
    Clinical trials are only short term. They do not show the dangers of taking drugs long term. The best example is PPIs. My doctor actually said “you do not NEED stomach acid.” Being a religious person, I wondered why God gave it to me if I don’t need it. Studies can be rigged to show anything a researcher desires to show. I prefer, as much as possible, to try natural remedies and traditional diet and adjust my habits accordingly.

  4. Karen
    Reply

    >In one recent study colon cancer patients who had a diet loaded with bread, pasta, desserts and other refined carbs were more likely to have a recurrence after their chemotherapy treatments or even to die during the study (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, online Nov. 7, 2012). This was especially striking for those who were overweight.
    Once again, insulin is fingered as a culprit and not named. What a PR firm it must use!
    Not identified here are the people who never get colon cancer in the first place because they eat a diet that doesn’t feed it.

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