These days, the term fake news is being thrown around a lot. One person who’s particularly fond of this saying is the President of the United States, Donald Trump, who regularly uses it to describe what he considers to be unfair treatment of himself by the conventional media. I’m not a fan of Trump. I think much of his behavior is unfit for a president. I take issue with some of the things he says and does and find it concerning that he has so little regard for science. I do agree with Trump on one thing though, and that is that the mainstream media is filled to the brink with poorly-researched news stories, lies, dishonesty, and misinformation.
Journalists don’t just create their own spin on political issues and the statements of political leaders, they also print many untruths about other topics, among them health and medicine. It’s astonishing to me how much misinformation one can find about health, nutrition, and medicine in the mainstream press. Many journalists put pen to paper before they’ve read up on the topics they write about, the result being that mainstream media has has ended up becoming one of the least credible sources of health-related information.
One health & fitness personality that has been particularly unfairly treated by the mainstream media is Pete Evans, who co-hosts the popular Australian TV show My Kitchen Rules together with the French chef Manu Feildel and regularly shares unconventional diet and lifestyle advice with his followers. One of Pete’s mottoes is Food is medicine, and he regularly states that many diseases and health problems can be prevented and treated via healthy eating. Pete argues that what you eat can be your medicine or your slowest form of poison. For some strange reason, many journalists, as well as a worryingly high number of doctors and other health professionals, seem to take issue with these statements. For example, quite recently, a wave of newspaper articles like this one, which questions the idea that conditions such as type-2 diabetes can be effectively treated and prevented with diet, came washing over the readers of mainstream newspapers.
I find it perplexing that so many journalists and so-called health experts question the idea that a long list of modern diseases are largely caused by the consumption of unhealthy foods, given that this idea is very much scientifically valid.
Many journalists seem to be unable to think for themselves and don’t stand up against injustice
Many journalists behave in a similar manner as sheep. They don’t seem to think for themselves and make their own decisions, but rather follow the flock, copying the behaviors and actions of their peers. If other journalists start criticizing a documentary, book, person, etc. or put a particular spin on a news story, they start doing so as well.
Perhaps needless to say, not every journalists behave in this manner. Unfortunately though, a surprisingly high number do. One doesn’t have to look farther than the front pages of the most popular mainstream newspapers and tabloids to observe this. A popular story that is printed on one site is quickly reprinted on another one, typically with only minor modifications.
I find it concerning that this is the way big sections of the mainstream media operate, seeing as it means that the public is fed a lot of information that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted or subjected to scientific scrutiny. One flawed article that is published in a paper or on a website can quickly spread to nearby news outlets, perhaps mutating on its way. This diet of generic, dumbed-down news with shocking headlines intended to generate interest, clicks, and shares is in some ways analogous to the modern, western diet. It’s calorically dense, but nutritionally poor. It certainly doesn’t produce a thriving population.
Unhealthy eating is a fundamental cause of a myriad of different diseases and health problems
The journalists and health professionals who doubt that real food is medicine are not in touch with reality. Thousands of scientific studies and papers have proven beyond any doubt that unhealthy eating is at the root of a long list of diseases and health problems, including obesity and type-2 diabetes (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), and that non-western, traditional diets such as Paleolithic-type diets are useful in the treatment of many disease and health problems (7, 8, 9). We’ll never be able to bring the chronic disease pandemic we currently face to the curb if we don’t change the way we eat.
Here’s what a 2009 review paper had to say about this matter:
The evolution of the human diet over the past 10,000 years from a Paleolithic diet to our current modern pattern of intake has resulted in profound changes in feeding behavior. Shifts have occurred from diets high in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and seafood to processed foods high in sodium and hydrogenated fats and low in fiber. These dietary changes have adversely affected dietary parameters known to be related to health, resulting in an increase in obesity and chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and cancer. (5)
I’d argue that we don’t even have to look at the science on this matter to understand that the food we eat has a significant impact on our health. All we need is a basic understanding of biology and some common sense. Of all the things that our bodies are exposed to on a daily basis, food is very high on the list of things that induce the greatest and most powerful stimuli. The walls of our gut are arguably the most important barriers between us and our external environment. These “walls” are obviously not impermeable: various things are constantly passing through them in both directions.
Every time we eat something, bolus passes down into our intestines, where it’s subjected to enzymes and the actions of microbes. Nutrients, as well as a myriad of different compounds produced by the gastrointestinal microbiota, are released and absorbed into systemic circulation. These compounds reach the far corners of our bodies, including our brains, where they are used to build new tissues, broken down for energy, and/or affect the expression of various receptors.
Every meal you eat affects your health and well-being. If you eat an unhealthy meal, rich in sugar or refined fats, many aspects of your biology will be adversely affected as a result of the impact the meal has on your gut microbiota, gene expression, immune system, and intestinal barrier function. Over time, if you keep eating unhealthy food day in and day out, you’ll basically be walking steadily towards chronic disease. Conversely, if you eat healthy food, you can steer your body onto a path that is much less dangerous.
One of my goals with this site is to spread the message that real food is medicine. It should be common knowledge that healthy food is high on the list, if not on top of the list, of the most powerful medicines on Earth, but unfortunately it isn’t, in part because mainstream medicine has historically devoted most of its attention to pharmaceutical-based medical treatments, paying little attention to the link between nutrition and disease.
A healthy diet is obviously not a panacea; however, it can without a doubt help prevent and treat many diseases. Actually, I would argue that pretty much all diseases are diet-related, seeing as the food we eat has a significant impact on our immunity, gut health, and the way we express our genes.