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Diseases of Affluence
(let's reimburse doctors for apple peel prescriptions)

There’s no Darth Vader anti-hero or sinister villain behind a velvet curtain in a black leather lab coat (well, maybe a few). Our caregivers, parents, family, friends, doctors, scientists, snake-oil peddlers, celebrities, businesses, publishers, journalists, public institutions, associations, and universities are not wholly to blame. WE are creating many of our illnesses and deaths. This can be a bitter pill to swallow.

Here's a list of the top ten causes of death in the US in 2021*. Aside from accidents, nine would be considered preventable lifestyle diseases (with exceptions). Why? I would argue that a part of getting Covid-19, influenza, and pneumonia is a weak immune system, so lifestyle factors like stress, sleep, fitness, and food choices can play a role.​

  • Heart Disease - 693, 021 

  • Cancer - 604, 553

  • Covid-19 - 460, 513

  • Accidents - 219, 487

  • Stroke - 160,264

  • Chronic Respiratory Disease - 152,657

  • Alzheimer’s Disease - 134,242

  • Diabetes - 102,188

  • Chronic Liver Disease - 56,408

  • Kidney Diseases - 52,547

The current state of medicine focuses attention on these diseases as if they're separate continents not sharing oceans and molecules and air. However well-intentioned our medical professionals and researchers are, brushing off the connections between food and illness caused by poor nutrition, high stress, and a lack of sleep and exercise is dangerous. Whole plant foods are medicine. Full stop. Yet, healing patients without drugs or surgeries doesn’t make money for Big Medicine, Pharma, Education, Food, Beverage, Law, Marketing, and Public Policy. Let’s find an effective way to make eating plants lucrative, so it’ll get funding. Let's figure out how to make being healthy and not needing bypass surgery profitable for all.


It's time to make comprehensive nutrition studies mandatory in all medical schools and institutions. It's time to ask much more of our institutions, educators, curriculum developers, and practitioners. And it's time to consider taking health into our own capable hands.

I think we all appreciate the honorable doctors and healthcare professionals who sacrifice much in their own lives trying to take care of ours. We are forever grateful. It's just that most haven't been exposed to nutrition treatments for disease at medical school, in the mainstream scientific literature, or while working with patients. Instead of a laser-focused study of one enzyme, we would also benefit if we think of these "diseases of affluence" as one general malaise manifested in unique ways, but caused by two main factors: food and lifestyle choices (including fitness, sleep, unplugging, and love/support). 

I’ve painted an overly simplified picture to make a point: when clinical trials using whole plant foods diet and lifestyle interventions were implemented for one disease (heart disease), the SAME treatments had similar positive outcomes with another (prostate cancer). I wouldn’t mind having my taxes used for funding that. Check out the science by Dr Ornish at UCSF Medical Center. He even convinced Medicare insurance to include and pay for these interventions under the category of Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation because they're effective and consistently successful. More funding for researchers like Dr Ornish, more participating insurance companies, and more of these types of studies, please. 



As Dr Greger says: you’d think that if there were a low-cost, non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical solution to being sick that would save millions of lives and dollars every year, we would provide it for all… right?! This would be the default diet from which all others are measured... right?!

Because apples can’t be patented, studies about why an apple a day keeps the doctors away are not as abundant as say, dairy or egg studies sponsored by powerful dairy and egg interests. Studies are costly endeavors and receiving funds is a highly competitive market, so sound nutrition-focused study results about WPF need to be shouted from the rooftops, posted on YouTube (and everywhere else), and sent to medical institutions and universities everywhere. Apples rock.

The hard fact remains: whole plant foods solutions aren't reimbursable for doctors. Hence, we find ourselves in a pill-pushing, not so effective surgery-crazed healthcare culture in the US (as well as globally). When I contemplate this very uncomfortable reality, my blood pressure rises as fury permeates my chest. I’ve read that anger has two main effects: one that makes us sick and one that makes us act. Mine puts fire under my backside and gets me off the sofa.

* Sources: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Mortality in the US 2021 and the WHO. Also, the US death rate due to 'errors in healthcare' in 2021 is approximately 250,00. In 2019 (before Covid statistics), the tenth leading cause of death in the US was suicide at almost 50,000. Heart disease is also the number one cause of mortality worldwide at more than nine million (mostly preventable) deaths, making up 16% of the world's total. (By the way, 2022 stats are inconsistent/incomplete as of Aug 2023. This list will be updated when possible.)

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