JACK KRUSE EPI-PALEO RX - 2013
[Text taken from the Introduction of Epi-paleo Rx]
Until the late 1800s, the leading causes of death were infectious diseases-like tuberculosis, pneumonia and syphilis. We can credit antibiotics and other developments for limiting their risk of death.
However, chronic Neolithic diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and others are now the leading causes of death, despite improvements in sanitation and personal hygiene.
While we successfully battled infectious diseases, we allowed industrialized food and corporations to marginalize the small farmer and lower the quality and nutrient density of food.
These food conglomerates favor industrial seed oils due to their lower costs. As heart attacks became the number-one cause of death in the 40s and 50s, the lipid hypothesis, which links heart disease to saturated fat, took root and campaigns promoting these profitable seed oils began.
The lipid hypothesis became medical dogma, cemented it in the national consciousness by the USDA Food Pyramid and media attention. This is well chronicled in many books, including Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, Micheal Pollan’s In Defense of Food, and Anthony Colpo’s book The Great Cholesterol Con, a book that challenges everything you think you know about heart disease.
During my first class in medical school, one of my biochemistry professors told us he was required to teach the lipid hypothesis even though he believed the data was badly flawed. In those days we received less than 10 hours of nutrition lectures in medical school. This was chronicled in 1985 in a landmark paper called Nutrition Education in U.S. Medical Schools by the National Research Council. Because of that paper and my teacher’s warning, I read about nutrition on my own. I went to the biochemistry department to speak with several doctoral students about and they gave me a book called Pure, White and Deadly by John Yudkin, MD. I remember reading it and realizing I was eating everything Yudkin said not to. The book was radical compared to how I was brought up to think about foods.
Unfortunately, I forgot about my teacher’s talk during my remaining years in medical school. The first two years of learning about the human body in medical school are like drinking water from an open fire hydrant. Even an optimal brain will forget details due to the shear volume of data, yet these first two years are when physicians learn 95 percent of the basic science that underpins the practice and art of medicine. My teacher’s comments registered but were not clinically significant at the time-I was only concerned about excelling on the exam.
After my internship year in general surgery, I began to see the wisdom in my teacher’s words. The dogma surrounding medicine is hard to fathom until you have lived through it first hand. I am at a loss as to why more physicians do not question many of the beliefs shoved down our throats when the treatments are clearly ineffective.
However, I kept these concerns to myself because I didn’t want to rock the boat as a resident and was in no position to change anything. Instead, I was hoping to complete a mentally, physically, and emotionally brutal neurosurgery postdoctoral program. At that time, survival meant more than finding ultimate truths.
During my fifth year of residency I caught a breather during a short stint of clinical research and realized how the system enforces dogma. I listened to a talk by a seasoned vascular surgeon about the causes of atherosclerosis. In the first part of his lecture, he implicated saturated fats and oxidized cholesterol as the culprits of the disease. But during the latter half, he said as he had gotten older he realized the disease he made a career of could not be cured by surgery. In fact, he said it could not be cured by medicine at all because of money, politics, and the industrial food complex, and because medicine had become lazy about distinguishing between causation and correlation in published research. His final slide pointed the gun directly at a declining diet in the United States over the last 100 years as a cause for heart disease.
This talk watered the seed my earlier teacher had first planted. I spoke to this vascular surgeon at length during the last 18 months of my neurosurgical training. Shortly thereafter, an article appeared in the Atlantic called “Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science.” In this article, Professor John Ioannidis, MD, PhD questioned whether drug companies manipulated published research to make their drugs look good. These drugs and treatments form the backbone of allopathic medicine. This article forced me to question much of what I had been taught about medicine, and how business, money, and politics affected medical decisions.
I then searched for evidence to support my intuition. I looked at the top 10 causes of death and the top market caps of medical stocks. The results were startling. It appeared the explosive growth of Neolithic diseases that killed millions of Americans and Europeans were linked to who profited from them. These were the statistics I found then:
The Top Ten Causes of Death In The United States of America
1. Heart disease: 652,486
2. Cancer: 553,888
3. Stroke: 150,074
4. Respiratory Disorders: 121,987
5. All Accidents: 112,012
6. Diabetes: 73,138
7. Alzheimer’s: 69,965
8. Influenza and pneumonia: 59,664
9. Kidney failure: 42,480
10. Blood poisoning: 33,373
Then I reviewed the market capitalization of stocks for the business that provided bullets for the war on these diseases. Generally, those who fare best in wars are those who stay neutral and sell their products to both sides. I found the revenues of giant multinational corporations that produce a large chunk of the world’s pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and agrochemicals rose exponentially along with Neolithic diseases.
1. Cardinal Health (healthcare): $47.9 billion
2. Merck (pharmaceuticals): $47.7 billion
3. Pfizer (pharmaceuticals): $32.3 billion
4. Glaxo Smith Kline (pharmaceuticals): $29.5 billion
5. Bayer (pharmaceuticals): $27.1 billion
6. United Health Group (healthcare): $23.4 billion
7. Bristol-Myers Squibb (pharmaceuticals): $21.7 billion
8. Pharmacia (pharmaceuticals): $19.3 billion
9. Novartis (pharmaceuticals): $18.9 billion
10. Amerisource Bergen (healthcare): $15.8 billion
11. WellPoint Health Networks (healthcare): $12.4 billion
(Source: Forbes 500, “2002 Revenue”)
For me, the coincidence was a bit too convenient. So I decided to take my suspicions further and look at the market caps of stocks in the industrial farm complex. I got through two prospectuses from Monsanto and Potash when I realized I had found an inconvenient truth. It appeared to me that all Neolithic diseases are tied to the people who make our food and then treat us for the diseases they cause. This rise in chronic disease has also coincided with the rise in industrial farming, and I learned about the routine dosing of animals with growth hormones and antibiotics. I read several articles in the Wall Street Journal about how profitable it was for farmers to feed animals from our government-subsidized grain stockpile, and about the federal mandates to sell these products to the world. The entire picture had been painted for me as to how large volumes of people could get sick from the same diseases, and why things happened the way they did the last 100 years in our country.
What I did not have a handle on directly, however, was what in our food was the root cause of the problem. So I read more business journals about the industry. I figured if I wanted to know about these things I should focus on the money trail.
I learned about BPA, DDT, and other environmental toxins and their effects on health. I learned how we imported the idea of making sugar from corn in 1977 to replace table sugar because high-fructose corn syrup was cheaper and sweeter.
Governments around the world approved chemical weed killers, many of which have since been banned, because they were highly profitable, despite never being tested on humans. There has been no political will to regulate the genetic modification of seeds, despite the troubling animal studies and lack of human testing. The federal government is impotent because it is a partner in the same business. The federal mandate is to sell our grains to the rest of the world. The United States became the number-one producer and exporter of grains in the 20th century, and it is very profitable still today.
The simultaneous combination of all these factors made me question the integrity of the entire process from the government to the grocery stores. It seemed plausible that “safe and government-approved” chemicals and foods were the cause of many chronic diseases plaguing our country. Toxins from these foods and chemicals can stay buried in our organs and abdominal fat for years. The research is now beginning to point to these chemicals as major endocrine disruptors in humans, and abdominal fat as the source of inflammation that underpins all Neolithic diseases today.
During this time, I was sliding down my own slope of Neolithic disease by gaining weight every year as I got older. This slide accelerated after my residency when I had freedom to do whatever I wanted. The similarity in my condition and that of my patients was not lost on me, but it did little to change my habits. Truthfully, I was in denial until a physician friend of mine came to spend a week with me. He was glad to see me but his first response was that I had become a “fat ass.” He then went on for an entire week how eating well was the key to staying fit and healthy. He even took me to the store and lectured me on Kerry Gold butter. It was fun, but I have to say, I thought he was California crazy!
Then, four weeks later, everything changed. I tore my right knee meniscus when I stood up to give a spine talk at a meeting. This physical setback led me to learn that the torn cartilage was caused by the inflammation of my ever-growing abdominal fat. This inflammation fueled hormonal disruption and caused leptin resistance. I never learned anything about leptin in medical school. I also had no clue about how incredibly important this link would be for me personally or in my career as a surgeon. Becoming leptin resistant allowed my joints to become susceptible to a major degenerative injury, like the one I sustained from little to no activity. This injury was the catalyst to my transforming change-the picture was painted and framed in my mind that day.
I immediately went back to the library and learned all I could about the relationships between leptin, obesity, and Neolithic diseases, and I set out to learn how to re-engineer myself back to optimal. It took 18 months of constant reading of new research and data to finally understand how the food in the standard American diet was directly related to my torn meniscus, my obesity, and my declining health. It finally dawned on me that I was no different than the patients I saw in my own clinic. That spark of insight led me to transform myself, my beliefs about food and nutrition, and the way I looked at disease as a neurosurgeon, including the ones in which I specialized.
The book, Epi-paleo Rx can be purchased at Amazon.