The difference is that now people know it is within their grasp to live longer, better and healthier lives. But to avoid repeating this trio of adjectives, let us compound them all in one. After all, if you live a healthier life, you are bound to live both longer and better. How do people know that they can live healthier lives? Because their universities, other scientific establishments, their governments, the media, experts, eggheads and pundits all pound the same message: now you can live a healthier life. Who are the people to dispute the joyous earful? They listen and accept. Unfortunately, only few understand the tortuous rationale, and even fewer the crucial implications. Rationale and implications—these are my injunctions for this article.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, the killer diseases of humanity have been infectious contagious diseases like cholera, the plague, yellow fever, smallpox, typhus, etc. By the middle of the 20th century, such diseases had all but disappeared. Towards the end of the century but also now, up to 8 out of 10 overall deaths in western societies are caused by chronic degenerative diseases, like high blood pressure, other circulatory problems, heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, various cancers, and so on.
Pathologically, however, these two sets of diseases have absolutely nothing in common. No disorder in the second group may be traced in the diseases of the first. Moreover, most chronic degenerative disorders were either unknown at the beginning of the 20th century, or played a very minor role in overall mortality and morbidity. Even more amazing from what we know today, no such radical change in disease patterns has ever happened before in the long history of humanity—why then during the 20th century?
What chronic diseases have in common
To answer this question it helps to ask another one. Namely, what do all these chronic degenerative diseases have in common? The answer is as simple as it is revealing: They are all food related. Despite other predisposing factors that may be hereditary or environmental, most chronic degenerative disorders are food dependent. They can be provoked by the wrong nutrition, and prevented by the right one. But because during the 20th century we have strayed further away from the eating habits of our ancestors than ever before, to the point of eating at least partly against the instructions of our genes, chronic degenerative disease is the result.
Ask yourself, when did our ancestors eat precooked foods, fast foods, junk foods, trans-fatty acids, vitamin- and mineral-deprived grains, fruits and vegetables out of season and out of most nutrients, citrus fruit with no trace of vitamin C, salt, fat and sugar as if our life depends on them, rather than our death.
Additional, if unspeakably sad proof of the link between eating against the instructions of one’s genes and degenerative disease, is that even our house pets have begun to die of chronic degenerative diseases, previously unknown in these species, because we have so radically changed their diet too.
Yet all these degenerative disorders are also chronic, that is protracted. They take a long time to develop. No one ever got cancer overnight, diabetes from a handshake, or high blood pressure from a French kiss—well, may be momentarily, but not as a pathological condition. Therefore, we should be able to prevent these diseases from developing. How? Simply by reverting to, or close to, our ancestral diets which successfully kept such chronic degenerative diseases in check over the past millennia.
Degenerative disease is not caused by a pathogen that has suddenly flared up out of nowhere. Potentially it is always with us—not us as humans, but us as living organisms. Untimely degeneration is the price we pay for shunning nature, for spurning the ways of our forefathers. That is why you hear so much about traditional diets, ancestral eating habits, etc. This is the rationale.
Now, for the implications. Central to all this, is the notion of health. But what is health? Is it the medical notion of freedom from disease? Or is it the WHO definition of a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease? Most governments have opted for the medical model. Understandably, since the WHO variety seems clearly unattainable for the life of most governments.
So for example, RDAs or by whatever other names are known the government recommended daily amounts of various vitamins and minerals, are tuned towards avoiding deficiencies and nothing more. But most nutritionists will not hesitate to inform you, that these values are ridiculously low for sound health, never mind complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.
Which definition do you buy? Think carefully before you answer this question for yourself. For each one of them has different implications, in terms of health, wellbeing, life span, nutrition, lifestyle, and cost. The motto, “you can’t get something for nothing” applies here with unusual rigor. If you want complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, you can’t do it by adhering to RDAs and similar suggestions, aimed at attaining the lowest possible level of health, that is, freedom from deficiencies. You have to work much harder at it.