I am not a doctor or a nutritionist but I have been researching nutrition under the guidance of some very gifted and effective nutritionists for the past 11 years and I believe I have uncovered information that may help to explain the health crisis that the U.S. is currently in. Looking back 100 years, we see that disease rates were much lower than today. You can do your own research on this but I think you will find that cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and most others were all under 1 percent of the population.
To illustrate this, Dr. Paul Dudley White, who was President Eisenhower's personal physician, said just after Eisenhower's second heart attack, "When I graduated from medical school in 1911, we had never heard of coronary thrombosis" (heart attack). To repeat - "never even heard of heart attack." In fact, they were so rare then that the first article in the Journal of the American Medical Association about heart attack was written in 1912. Today, cancer is said to affect 20 to 30 per cent of the population, and the others are all in the same neighborhood. In all fairness, we must be doing something wrong. The research of Dr. Weston A Price may shed some light on this.
In the 1930's and 40's he traveled the world visiting 14 different indigenous societies, among them the Cherokee Indians, Eskimos, Melanesians, Polynesians, the Maoris, Aborigines, New Hebrides islanders, South American tribes and several others. None of these groups were on the main trade routes and had diets that did not include any kind of processed food, sugar or flour. He found that they all had excellent health, very little cavities, (an average of 1 per hundred teeth) no cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, mental retardation, birth defects or tuberculosis - or any metabolic diseases. The things they did suffer from were malaria, snakebite and accidents. They had excellent physiques and dispositions.
In the years following when they began to eat Western man's foods, especially white sugar and white flour, they began to develop all the above mentioned diseases.(as did their pets) Some of them also began to develop criminal tendencies, where they had been completely non existent before. He also observed that when they began to develop these diseases, that if they would revert to their traditional diets, many of them would recover. Price spent 9 years visiting these peoples, even coming back the next generation to document the changes that took place in their health. His book "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" has been "life changing" for many people, myself included, and documents his research complete with pictures, which some people say tell the story better than anything. This research shows two very important things:
1) That it is possible to live in perfect health. And
2) that these processed foods can in themselves create any number of nutritional imbalances and diseases.
It is also interesting to see that these indigenous groups had about 4 times the minerals in their diet that we do today, and about 10 times as much vitamin A, in the form of raw butter, cheese, blubber, liver, fat, or coconut oil depending on what was available to them. There are many articles, websites and reviews that enumerate the details and care that Price took, comparing hereditary, environmental and social factors in determining the causes of health and disease; and many doctors consider his work the gold standard of nutritional research. One such review can be found at http://www.journeytoforever.org/farm_library/price_byrnes.html.
As far as people in this country, cancer and these other diseases did not start to escalate to their current levels until the 1950's, just after farmers began spraying their crops with pesticides and herbicides. Contamination of the soil is the major consideration here, and there are hundreds of websites which attest to the effects on human health of the inability of polluted soil to convey mineral content to plants. On top of this, there are about 80 minerals that are essential for human health, and it is the current practice of farmers to "replenish" the soil with nothing more than Nitrogen, Pottasium and Phosphorus. (The "Big three" as they are called).
These three minerals are what is necessary for the basic formulation of a plant, but do not address the issue of nutrition, to anything but a nominal degree...According to many nutritional experts, this lack of minerals, and the vitamins and proteins and enzymes that result from them, are the reason for our much increased disease rates since 1950. At this point it should be mentioned that Organic farming would seem to be the obvious remedy for this situation. However, the laws on organic farming do not require farmers to replenish their soil with minerals, and according to my research, no more than 20% of organic farmers presently are in the habit of doing so. This makes supplementation almost mandatory.
Meanwhile some nutritionists have come a long way not only in explaining these diseases but also in curing them. Central to one prominent approach is the role of digestive enzymes, which are in no where near the quantity they were found in food 100 years ago in this country. According to Dr. Edward Howell, the world's leading researcher on enzymes, (from 1937 till his death in 1997), enzymes are life itself. There are enzymes present in every chemical exchange that occurs in the body. Howell did numerous studies with animals showing that when they were forced to survive on enzyme deficient diets, they invariably suffered any number of diseases.
If a person eats natural foods that have been grown in soil that has adequate minerals, as in the case of the indigenous societies above, health is generally excellent. But with low enzyme levels, the body has to draw on it's reserves of metabolic enzymes for digestion. This takes them away from other repair work and functions that are going on, and as time goes by can begin to extract a toll on health. Dr. Michael O'Brien recognized this and cured himself of cancer in the 1960's, as 1000's of people have since then using his methods. One of the things Dr. O'Brien demonstrated that was unknown until that time was that you cannot take too many enzymes (at least up to 1000 capsules a day) - they know where they are needed, and any excess simply strengthens your immune system.
Although O'Brien's methods have been highly successful, don't expect your doctor to start prescribing enzymes to you (although some do.) Most doctors do not have more than a few hours training in nutrition and more and more are learning from textbooks written by pharmaceutical companies and promoting their drugs as the means of curing disease. Enzymes are a natural substance and as such cannot be patented, so there is very little money to be made from them.