Not Just and Alternative…
By José Hernández, Dietetics Student
The synergy of nutrition and lifestyle interventions is fascinating. The food choices we make every day and our behavioral patterns play a critical role in the cause, prevention and treatment of the chronic disease epidemic, which has become the primary cause of death worldwide.
There is a powerful scientific foundation to shift the conversations at the core of the medical practice and the making of public health policies to listen to what nutrition and lifestyle interventions can do to transform the conventional approaches of Western medicine. Instead of being focused primarily in blocking, interfering, or excising the biochemical or physical manifestations of disease, there is a more intuitive approach where the body, once provided with wholesome nutrients within an environment free of stress and toxins, is allowed to heal itself.
Scientific evidence of the potential of nutrition and lifestyle over pharmacological interventions is growing continuously. A recent study from 2009 published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, followed more than 20,000 people’s adherence to 4 nutritional and behavioral variables (non-smoking, 3.5 hrs. /wk. of moderate exercise, healthy diet, and keeping a healthy body weight/height ratio (BMI)); for those who successfully adhered to the program, the outcomes were impressive: 93% of diabetes, 81% of heart attacks, 50% of strokes, and 36% of all types of cancers were prevented.
Another study searching for “Intensive Lifestyle Changes for Reversal of Coronary Heart Disease” from 1998, patients with existing conditions of CHD adhered to a program consisting in a plant-based diet, moderated exercise, smoking cessation, and management of stress therapy, found a 50 percent reduction of all disease related deaths.
The HALE project from 2004, is yet another exceptional study of individuals 70 years of age, who began a healthy lifestyle program and after 10 years of consuming a Mediterranean-style diet, moderate physical activity, non-smoking, and moderate alcohol consumption achieved a 70% reduction in mortality by all causes; what is exceptional in this study is that the first approach to a healthy lifestyle for these individuals wasn’t until they were 70 years old! Proving it’s never to late to start with a wholesome diet and a set of small and progressive improvements regarding our own attitude towards life.
More related scientific findings are continuously being published all over the world. Healthful dietary patterns like the Mediterranean-style diet – which includes a well balanced array of nutrients from fresh colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, fish, seafood and seaweeds, olive oil, and a moderate intake of animal products and alcohol – combined with regular physical activity, and an adequate management of all sources of stress are associated with improvements along the whole spectrum of chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus type 2 or insulin resistance, high blood pressure, obesity, strokes, and metabolic syndrome among the more relevant havoc around the globe.
Recently I heard somebody say you should be given statins along with your cheeseburger and fries every time you visit a fast food restaurant. It is inconceivable to expect having a good health if we keep eating an unhealthy and toxic diet, avoid any form of physical activity, and have no control over our psychological stress.
We are at the position -and have the power- to takeover our own health; we now have the knowledge to halt the domination of our healthcare system by the pharmaceutical industry. The best medicine can be found in a wholesome, well-balanced diet and elimination of toxins, and can be supported by regular exercise and a relaxing environment; all these are variables that simply should be under our control, if we provide our bodies with them, even if we don’t completely understand how it works, the innate intelligence of our bodies knows where to go from there, and the only side effects from this medicine are weight loss, better sleep, longevity, higher energy, and an increasing state of well-being along with notorious improvement, and eventual elimination, of all those annoying chronic diseases.
Today, the most cost-effective way to deal with the worldwide chronic disease epidemic is not conventional medication and surgery; although, it is still a matter of controversy and intense debate, nutrition and lifestyle interventions have proven to be much more than alternative medicine, instead, it is pivotal medicine.
Jose Hernandez is a senior in the BS Dietetics program at Life University and Editor of the Newsletter of the Kappa Omicron Nu Honor Society, chapter Nu Omega.
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