Western Diets Are Making the World Sick

April 16th, 2011

From NPR’s ‘Fresh Air': When physician Kevin Patterson described his experiences working at the Canadian Combat Surgical Hospital in Afghanistan, he noticed that the Afghan soldiers, police and civilians he treated in Kandahar had radically different bodies from those of the Canadians he took care of back home.

“Typical Afghan civilians and soldiers would have been 140 pounds or so as adults. And when we operated on them, what we were aware of was the absence of any fat underneath the skin,” Patterson says. “Of course, when we operated on Canadians or Americans or Europeans, what was normal was to have most of the organs encased in fat.”

In a conversation on Fresh Air, Patterson tells Terry Gross that the effects of urbanization are making people everywhere in the world both fatter and sicker.

“Type 2 diabetes historically didn’t exist, only 70 or 80 years ago,” says Patterson. “And what’s driven it is this rise in obesity, especially the accumulation of abdominal fat. That fat induces changes in our receptors that cells have for insulin. Basically, it makes them numb to the effect of insulin.”

He explains that the increase in abdominal fat has driven the epidemic of diabetes over the last 40 years in the developed world — and that he’s now seeing similar patterns in undeveloped regions that have adopted Western eating patterns.

Patterson explains that in his Canadian practice, where he takes care of indigenous populations near the Arctic Circle, there is a marked increase in the number of diabetic patients he sees.  “The traditional Inuit culture of relentless motion and a traditional diet consisting mainly of caribou, Arctic char, whale and seal has been abandoned over this period of time for Kentucky Fried Chicken and processed food and living a life very similar to ours,” he says.

Part of the problem, says Patterson, is that it’s so much cheaper for processed food to be flown into the Arctic Circle than fresh food.  “There’s no roads or rail access to any of those communities,” he says. “So a 4 liter jug of milk can cost you $10 or $11. But there’s a very clear parallel between that and the inner city. In poorer neighborhoods in North American cities, fresh food is either not available or extremely expensive compared to — on a calorie-by-calorie basis — compared to fast food available on every street corner.” Continue reading »

Cycle of Symptoms

September 3rd, 2010

By Carolyn Dean MD, ND: I’ve observed a disturbing trend among some clients who consult with me. I’ve even heard similar stories from cab drivers and customer-service people who are being treated for heart disease with no relief. I call it “domino drug therapy.” Here’s the scenario:

1. You experience a tremendously stressful event or series of events in your life. Here’s a partial list: surgery, a death in the family, divorce, job loss, sickness of a child, foreclosure, hospitalization or even running a marathon!

2. As a result, you experience headaches, insomnia, achiness in your body and exhaustion.

3. You visit your doctor for reassurance that you don’t have something wrong. But you’re nervous on top of your stress so your blood pressure is elevated. It’s called “the white coat syndrome.”

4. Your HMO doctor is an hour behind schedule and doesn’t have time to ask about your stress levels or find out that you haven’t slept well or eaten a decent meal in three weeks.

Continue reading »

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January 1st, 2010

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