Research: Canadians Have Less Disease than Americans, Too

First the redcoats, now the red leaves! Last week Followhealthlife looked at a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing the British are healthier than Americans. This week new research indicates our neighbors to the north are healthier too. MSNBC reports:

Americans are 42 percent more likely than Canadians to have diabetes, 32 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, and 12 percent more likely to have arthritis, Harvard Medical School researchers found. That is according to a survey in which American and Canadian adults were asked over the telephone about their health.

This graph from the Associated Press shows additional health disparities found during this study:

AP_HealthyCanadians.gif

The knee-jerk reaction to this study (other than panic) is to point to Canada's national health insurance program as an explanation. Some researchers adhere to the idea, but others dismiss it as anecdotal:

Canada's national health insurance program is at least part of the reason for the differences found in the study, Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a co-author of the Canadian study said. Universal coverage makes it easier for more Canadians to get disease-preventing health services, she said.


James Smith, a RAND Corp. researcher who co-authored the American-English study, disagreed. His research found that England's national health insurance program did not explain the difference in disease rates, because even Americans with insurance were in worse health.

"To me, that's unlikely," he said of the idea that universal coverage explains international differences.

Research like this is fascinating. But it does little improve your health, no matter where you live. In the meantime do your own research. Check out all the research on a nutrient-rich vegetable-based diet and how it can protect against diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.

Report: One Third of Americans are Diabetic

According to HealthDay News a new study concluded that 30 percent of American adults are diabetic or pre-diabetic. Researchers also determined nearly 30 percent of diabetics remain undiagnosed. Steven Reinberg reports:

The number of Americans diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has now topped 19 million, and a new study says a third of adults with the disease don't even know they have it.


The researchers found that another 26 percent of adults had "impaired fasting glucose," a precursor to diabetes.

"So, if you add that together with the 9.3 percent of people with diabetes, that means that fully one-third of the adult population -- 73 million Americans -- have diabetes or they may be on their way to getting it," said lead researcher Catherine Cowie, director of the diabetes epidemiology program at the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Her team's report appears in the June issue of Diabetes Care.

Diet and Disease Prevention

A new study shows the British are healthier than Americans despite U.S. health care spending per person that is more than double what Britain spends.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes:

The US population in late middle age is less healthy than the equivalent British population for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, lung disease, and cancer. Within each country, there exists a pronounced negative socioeconomic status (SES) gradient with self-reported disease so that health disparities are largest at the bottom of the education or income variants of the SES hierarchy. This conclusion is generally robust to control for a standard set of behavioral risk factors, including smoking, overweight, obesity, and alcohol drinking, which explain very little of these health differences. These differences between countries or across SES groups within each country are not due to biases in self-reported disease because biological markers of disease exhibit exactly the same patterns. To illustrate, among those aged 55 to 64 years, diabetes prevalence is twice as high in the United States and only one fifth of this difference can be explained by a common set of risk factors. Similarly, among middle-aged adults, mean levels of C-reactive protein are 20% higher in the United States compared with England and mean high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels are 14% lower. These differences are not solely driven by the bottom of the SES distribution. In many diseases, the top of the SES distribution is less healthy in the United States as well.


Conclusion
Based on self-reported illnesses and biological markers of disease, US residents are much less healthy than their English counterparts and these differences exist at all points of the SES distribution.

No one is sure why the two similar cultures have such different results. Gina Kolata of The New York Times takes a crack at it.

The question of which country is healthier, Dr. Nortin M. Hadler, professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina and others say, turns out to be a perfect illustration of an issue that has plagued American medicine: the more health problems you look for, the more you find. And Americans, medical researchers say, are avid about looking.


The British, doctors say, are different.

"The U.K. has a tradition of independent and perhaps more skeptical primary-care practitioners who are probably slower to label and diagnose people and more reluctant to follow guidelines than their U.S. counterparts," says Dr. Iona Heath, a general practitioner in London. "I have heard it argued that the U.S. believes more in the perfectibility of humanity and the role of science than the Europeans."

Some people call it disease-mongering, says Dr. Lisa Schwartz of Dartmouth Medical School. She once calculated that if everyone had the recommended tests for blood cholesterol, blood sugar, body mass index and diabetes, 75 percent of adults in the United States would be labeled as diseased. And new diseases arise by the minute, she says, her favorite example being "restless legs."

Maybe it's overanalysis. Maybe it's stress. Maybe it's something else. We can all guess why it might be that Americans are "sicker" than Brits even though we spend more money on healthcare. (Your thoughts?)

But one thing is certain: the killer diseases in America today, afflictions like type-II diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, need not ruin your health no matter where you live. On Followhealthlife we have trotted out study after study showing that we could make a huge dent in those diseases by abandoning the standard American diet (SAD) in favor a diet based on vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

This post summarizes many of the benefits of a healthy diet in preventing disease. Here is a collection of some of the most important research behind Dr. Fuhrman's work. The role diet can play in precenting cancer is discussed in detail here and here. Dr. Fuhrman says you need not settle for diabetes and that there is a counter attack for heart disease.

The result? Let's not wait around until researchers unravel the mystery of what makes English people seem to be healthier. Instead, let's do what has already been shown to be effective preventing and reversing the chronic diseases that are killing so many of us, starting with a plant-based, nutrient-dense diet that is effective in both Americans and the British.

Wal-Mart Going Organic

Wal-Mart, the nation's largest grocery retailer, will soon be selling a vast array of organic products, including organic produce, breakfast cereals, and macaroni and cheese. According to The New York Times the move is an attempt broaden its appeal to urban and other upscale consumers. The initiative has met mixed reviews, Melanie Warner reports:

Wal-Mart's interest is expected to change organic food production in substantial ways.


Some organic food advocates applaud the development, saying Wal-Mart's efforts will help expand the amount of land that is farmed organically and the quantities of organic food available to the public.

But others say the initiative will ultimately hurt organic farmers, will lower standards for the production of organic food and will undercut the environmental benefits of organic farming. And some nutritionists question the health benefits of the new organic products. "It's better for the planet, but not from a nutritional standpoint," said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. "It's a ploy to be able to charge more for junk food."

Nestle makes an interesting point. Just how beneficial is all this organic food?

In a previous post entitled "Is Organic Safer?" Dr. Fuhrman talks about organic produce:

Organic food is certainly your best bet, to further limit exposure to toxic chemicals. No one knows for sure how much risk exists from pesticide residue on produce, but here's what we do know: the younger you are, the more your cells are susceptible to damage from toxins. It seems wise to feed our young children organic food whenever possible.


Of course, wash your vegetables and fruit with water and when possible, use a drop of dishwashing detergent and then rinse well to remove all detergent residues for a little more efficient cleaning. Specialty pesticide removal products have not clearly demonstrated any more effectiveness than mild soap and water.

Besides the heightened exposure to chemicals and pesticides from animal products, the most hazardous pesticides are used on some plant foods responsible for the majority of the plant-food-related dietary risk. These foods with the most pesticide residue are: strawberries, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, cherries, apples, and celery. Imported produce is also more likely to contain higher levels of pesticides.1

There is another reason to feed our children organic food when possible. Organic food usually has more nutrients than conventional.2 One study performed at the University of California at Davis found that foods grown organically had higher amounts of flavonoids, which have protective effects against both heart disease and cancer. The researchers found flavonoids were more than 50 percent higher in organic corn and strawberries. They theorized that when plants are forced to deal with the stress of insects, they produce more of these compounds, which are beneficial to humans.3 Overall, organic foods taste better, and organic agriculture protects farmers and our environment.

But here's the important thing to remember: when it comes to nutrition, what you eat is much more important than whether it's organic or not. Processed cereal, frozen pizza, and macaroni and cheese don't magically become health foods when they're organic. And, watermelon or apples don't become unhealthy when they're not organic. Again Dr. Fuhrman:

The large amount of studies performed on the typical pesticide-treated produce have demonstrated that consumption of produce, whether organic or not, is related to lower rates of cancer and disease protection, not higher rates. Certainly, it is better to eat fruits and vegetables grown and harvested using pesticides than not eating them at all. The health benefits of eating phytochemical-rich produce greatly outweigh any risk pesticide residues might pose.

Continue Reading...

Using Healthy Food vs. Type II Diabetes

Most people don't know Type II diabetes can be prevented and reversed. Eat to Live explains how maintaining a healthy body weight with a nutrient-rich vegetable-based diet plan can help rid them of the disease. Dr. Fuhrman expounds:

Diabetes can take a severe toll�causing heart attacks and strokes, as well as other serious complication. More than 70 percent of adults with Type II diabetes die of heart attacks and strokes. The statistics are even more frustrating when you watch people gain weight, become even more diabetic, and develop attendant complications, all while under the care of their physicians.

This is a dangerous trend. Dr. Fuhrman points out that as our country's weight has risen, diabetes has increased accordingly. Dr. Fuhrman finds support in a recent headline appearing in Health Day News. The report printed in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine links an increase in Type II diabetes with overweight adolescents. Steven Reinberg reports:

"Among adolescents who have diabetes, the majority of cases are still type 1 diabetes," the inherited form of the disease, Glen E. Duncan, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Washington in Seattle said. "However, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, a condition once seen only in adults, has increased over the past decade," he said


"Roughly 29 percent of all adolescents with diabetes now have type 2 diabetes, and the prevalence of impaired fasting glucose�a risk factor or precursor to developing type 2 diabetes�is substantial in this population," Duncan added.

Based on this report, it seems poor dietary digressions set us up for failure. Dr. Fuhrman would agree. Years of consuming the standard American diet (SAD) leads us down the slippery slope of disease and premature death. Why not do something about it? Eat to Live provides the all the framework you'll need:

Type II diabetics adopting this approach can become undiabetic and achieve wellness and even excellent health. They can be diabetes-free for life! Almost all my Type II patients are weaned off insulin in the first month. Thanks to their excellent nutrition, these patients have much better (lower) blood sugars than when they were on insulin. The horrors of diabetes about to befall them are aborted.