Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Cost, The Benefit

I read the following on a McDougall forum yesterday. Not saying I'm a McDougall acolyte; I read lots of forums. But this particular post struck a cord.
"Reading this*, I was struck by the general statements about diet preventable diseases. Heart disease, diabetes, etc - those things that people think a pill will fix. Well, I'm a RN in an ICU and here is what I see every day.

I see people - those same people that think the pills will fix everything - refuse to take those pills either because it is inconvenient ("it makes me pee too much") or because they just can't remember their meds correctly OR because they can't afford all the pills. The diseases stack up - its called "comorbidity" and with each disease (and its pills), they interact more and more and there are more side effects.

Heart disease isn't just a word that a pill or two will fix. It leads to (and looks like) this: Extreme shortness of breath - walking across the room will cause exhaustion and chest pain. Swollen legs up to 3-4 times their original size. Chest pain that prevents any sort of quality of life - forget playing with grandchildren, going fishing or to the casino, anything that might be something that seems "easy". High blood pressure that leads to strokes and difficulty with movement, thought, or eating and drinking. Imagine eating nothing but pureed food for the rest of ones life - steak gruel doesn't seem nearly as appealing as steak. Lets throw some arthritis in there - constant pain and difficulty of movement. Your recliner becomes your best friend and getting out of bed in the morning seems impossible because of the pain. Chronic pain does NOT go away with a pill. It doesn't go away at all as long as a person keeps doing the things that create it. Obstructive sleep apnea - now that one is fun - sleep in a recliner for the rest of your life, wearing a tight mask strapped over your face that forces the air into your lungs. And diabetes - first of all, it makes the heart disease a lot more likely. Think its all fixed with some insulin shots? Not so. It still leads to blindness, kidney failure (hook you up to a machine 3 days a week for 4 hours a day for the rest of your life - forget traveling with retirement. You're doing good to go to the store), amputations (didn't need those toes/feet/legs anyway) or wounds that just won't heal. I've seen wounds that tunnel 6 - 8" into a persons body that started with just sitting too long (easy to do, what with the shortness of breath, the arthritic pain, and the chest pain) - and these wounds don't heal. Because of diabetes.

And, the hospital becomes your best friend. Spending 6 months out of a year in the hospital because of this is not unusual. IV sticks, dressing changes, pneumonia, catheters, ventilators, and extreme boredom. Bad hospital food. Its really bad.

Makes some spinach look good, eh? When the disease is just a word, it is far less powerful than when it is an experience."
* This was the comment that started the thread:
"I was reading a message board on a local group and someone asked if you would be willing to change your diet if you knew it would cause irreversible health problems in later years.

Here is one of the responses:
'I am fully aware that my diet cause premature aging and will produce health complications down the road. But I am unwilling to change because I find it hard to deny myself the things I enjoy. It I had the will power, I would live on a diet of brown rice, broccolii and fresh berries...but I prefer chocolate cake and coffee' "
I think it's difficult to make changes when you're young, when you feel invincible. But what do you say when someone continues to eat hoagies and Coke, continues to smoke, willfully, aware of the consequences, and ends up as above?
Painting of Jelly Donut by Emily Eveleth.


Perovskia said...

Yeah. That about sums it up. I see that a lot at the hospital.

Pretty convincing argument if you ask me.

E. Stone said...

"But what do you say when someone continues to eat hoagies and Coke, continues to smoke, willfully, aware of the consequences, and ends up as above?"

I have friends who eat crap and their high cholesterol and heart disease is "genetic" Nothing they can do. So they continue to eat crap and take pills.

Bix said...


Even if you have a genetic predisposition, you can still improve the quality of your life, if not the quantity.

Anonymous said...

"genetic" is an excuse. people don't want to change

Manu said...

I feel like I should also say that taking it to the opposite extreme is also not good.

I have met many athletes, and especially prevalent amongst amateur ones that have no professiona guidance, that are so clean about their diets that they suffer many deficiencies.

1 or 2 cases I remember are females that exhibit patterns of vigorexia that had damaged their endocrine systems by a severe lack of iodine.

broccoli and brown rice IS NOT a good diet. If you can't get professional counseling I would sugest 1 doing your own research using reliable sources (not the internet, this site being one of the few exceptions to the rule) 2 varying your diet as much as possible just to ensure no chronic overexposure or deficiency and 3 use common sense.

The truth of the matter is that there are indeed people out there that can perform well and excel with sandwhiches and chocolate 1 they tend to be really active 2 genetics 3 they don't overconsume

ElDoubleVee said...

4. they are young.

Many effects of a bad diet don't show up until years later. So if you are young and have a bad diet you can often still perform well, but it will catch up with you. Just broccoli and brown rice may not be a good diet but neither is chocolate and sandwiches. It's not an either or choice.

And then there is the genetic argument, that goes it doesn't matter what I do my problem is genetic so why bother dieting. Let me try to understand this. If you have a family history of, say, colon cancer it doesn't matter what you eat, you will get cancer anyway. You have a tendency to get cancer and so you make sure that you fill yourself with foods that aggravate the condition thus increasing the risk instead of eating a diet that minimizes the risk. It seems to me if there is a genetic tendency for a disease then the smarter thing to do would be to act in a way to further reduce the risk, not act to increase the risk. Am I missing something?

RB said...

"The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite" by David Kessler discusses how the food industry manipulates salt, fat and sugar in foods to simulate our brain into wanting more junk food. The food industry wants to simulate our appetite not satisfy our hunger but to grow their markets (and our waist lines). The food industry wants us to eat more calories otherwise the industry only grows at the rate of population growth. The book explains how food addiction is just like drug addiction that effect the dopamine levels in our brain. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/louise-mccready/d-kessler-author-of-emthe_b_195676.html Craving junk food is not a simple individual weakness but is enabled by the food industry.

Anrosh said...

i have to agree with RB. the book mindless eating also says the same things. the author of mindless eating is also the advisor for creating plans and programs at weight watchers. he is also marketing prof at cornell business school --