Diseases of the poor and the rich: what is the difference

Colin Campbell, an American scientist, conducted a large-scale study on the relationship between diet and health. He described the results of this global project in his book The China Study.

96% of the population from over 2400 counties in China were surveyed. All cases of death from various types of cancer were studied. Only in 2-3% of cases of malignant tumors is due to genetic factors. Therefore, scientists began to look for the relationship of diseases with lifestyle, nutrition and the environment.

The relationship between cancer and nutrition is clear. Take, for example, breast cancer. There are several main risk factors for its occurrence, and nutrition affects their manifestation in the most obvious way. Thus, a diet high in animal protein and refined carbohydrates increases the level of female hormones and blood cholesterol levels – these are 2 factors that can stimulate the development of cancerous tumors.

When it comes to colon cancer, the link becomes even clearer. By the age of 70, a large number of people in countries where the Western type of diet is adopted develop a tumor of the large intestine. The reason for this is low mobility, the use of saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, and an extremely low fiber content in the diet.

Scientists have found that one of the causes of illness of the rich is high cholesterol in the blood. When cholesterol is high, not only the heart can suffer, but also the liver, intestines, lungs, the risk of leukemia, cancer of the brain, intestines, lungs, breast, stomach, esophagus, etc. increases.

If we take the average world population as a basis: with increasing prosperity, people begin to consume more meat and dairy products, in other words, more animal proteins, which lead to the formation of cholesterol. At the same time, during the study, a positive correlation was found between the use of animal products and an increase in cholesterol levels. And in cases where the nutrients were obtained by people, mainly from plant foods, a correlation was found with a decrease in blood cholesterol levels.

Let’s take a closer look at diseases that are typical for people from more affluent areas.

One of the main causes of myocardial infarction – atherosclerotic plaques – they are oily in themselves, and consist of proteins, fats and other components that accumulate on the inner walls of the arteries. In 1961, scientists from the National Heart Institute conducted the famous Framingham Heart Study. The key role in it was given to the influence on the heart of such factors as cholesterol levels, physical activity, nutrition, smoking and blood pressure. To date, the study is ongoing, and the fourth generation of Framingham residents has been subjected to it. Scientists found that men with blood cholesterol levels over 6,3 mmol were 3 times more likely to have coronary heart disease.

Lester Morrison in 1946 began a study to identify the relationship between nutrition and atherosclerosis. To one group of patients who survived myocardial infarction, he recommended maintaining a normal diet, and to others he significantly reduced their intake of fat and cholesterol. In the experimental group, it was forbidden to eat: meat, milk, cream, butter, egg yolks, bread, desserts prepared using these products. The results were truly stunning: after 8 years, only 24% of people from the first group (traditional diet) remained alive. In the experimental group, as many as 56% survived.

In 1969, another study was published regarding the mortality rate from cardiovascular diseases in different countries. It is noteworthy that countries like Yugoslavia, India, Papua New Guinea practically do not suffer from heart disease at all. In these countries, people consume less saturated fat and animal protein and more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. 

Another scientist, Caldwell Esselstyn, conducted an experiment on his patients. His main goal was to lower their blood cholesterol levels to a normal level of 3,9 mmol/L. The study involved people with already unhealthy hearts – 18 patients in the aggregate had 49 cases of worsening heart function during their lives, from angina to strokes and myocardial infarctions. At the beginning of the study, the average cholesterol level reached 6.4 mmol/l. During the program, this level was reduced to 3,4 mmol/l, even lower than stated in the research task. So what was the essence of the experiment? Dr. Esselstyn introduced them to a diet that avoided animal products, with the exception of low-fat yogurt and milk. Remarkably, as many as 70% of patients experienced opening of clogged arteries.

Not to mention the landmark study Healing the Heart with Healthy Lifestyle, in which Dr. Dean Ornish treated his patients with a low-fat, plant-based diet. He ordered to receive from fats only 10% of the daily diet. In some ways, this is reminiscent of the Douglas Graham 80/10/10 diet. Patients could eat as many plant-based whole foods as they wanted: vegetables, fruits, grains. Also, the rehabilitation program included physical activity 3 times a week, breathing exercises and relaxation. In 82% of the subjects, there was a significant reduction in cholesterol levels, a decrease in blockage of the arteries and no cases of recurrence of cardiovascular diseases.

Another “disease of the rich” is, paradoxically, obesity. And the reason is the same – excess consumption of saturated fats. Even in terms of calories, 1 g of fat contains 9 kcal, while 1 g of proteins and carbohydrates contains 4 kcal each. It is worth remembering Asian cultures that have been eating plant foods for several millennia, and among them there are rarely overweight people. Obesity is often accompanied by type 5 diabetes. Like most chronic diseases, diabetes is more common in some regions of the world than in others. Harold Himsworth conducted a large-scale study comparing nutrition and the incidence of diabetes. This study covered 20 countries: Japan, USA, Holland, Great Britain, Italy. The scientist found that in some countries the population ate mainly animal food, while in others it was rich in carbohydrates. As carbohydrate consumption increases and fat consumption decreases, the death rate from diabetes decreases from 3 to 100 cases per 000 people.

Another remarkable fact is that during and after the Second World War, due to the decline in the general standard of living of the population, the diet also changed significantly, the consumption of vegetables and cereals increased, and the consumption of fats decreased, and the incidence of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer decreased significantly. . But, in turn, deaths from infectious diseases and others associated with poor living conditions have increased. However, in the 1950s, as people began to eat more fat and sugar again, the incidence of “diseases of the rich” began to increase again.

Isn’t this a reason to think about cutting back on saturated fats in favor of fruits, vegetables, and grains?


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